Petty Review: Enter the Gungeon

Enter the Gungeon is a game with simple mechanics and ideas but it is extraordinarily hard to master. The basis of the game is pretty straight forward. Get to the end of a procedurally generated dungeon in order to obtain a magic time gun. There are four playable characters at the start. You pick one, enter the dungeon, and then try to survive. Shoot everything that moves until it dies or you die. That’s the whole game. 

The real nerd description that best fits Enter the Gungeon is rogue-lite. My husband described it as such. Of course, I immediately understood what he meant. I had no need to google its definition… Don’t look at my search history, it’s lying!

This game has an old-school pixel art aesthetic. It’s done really well. It has all the vibes of  Dungeons and Dragons combined with good ol’ ‘Murican gun love. It’s fast-paced, with no wasted time on cutscenes after the intro. If When you die one button press is all it takes to instantly restart and try again. Honestly, this made it really fun to play. The combat was simple to learn but hard to master. The fast pacing made it easy to keep trying. I like the style of it, fantasy western with a hint of creepy. 

So why is Enter the Gungeon part of my petty reviews? Because it is hard! Dang hard! Bathing my cat was easier than this game. I died so many times. At least half of those times was just because I was dumb. I kept trying and trying but I couldn’t make any progress. Every time I thought I was getting a little bit better at the game, Enter the Gungeon was ready to “lol. Nope:)” and immediately kill me. While there were moments I raged at this game, most of the time I wasn’t even angry. I died because I was dumb or just plain bad. My normal reaction to “You Died” was “Understandable”. 

Eventually after dying like 15 times without even coming close to beating the first boss (most of the time not even reaching the boss) the effort to get good at the game didn’t feel worth it. I didn’t feel angry at it, I felt tired. I felt tired of continually trying without anything to show for my efforts. The best word for this feeling is demoralizing. Beating the game seemed next to impossible. On rare occasions, I might like a rogue-lite game enough to be determined enough to finish it. This is not one of those times. 

Enter the Gungeon would have been far easier to play if they had added an upgrade system. So that every time you died you would have points of some sort to spend on improving maximum health, stats, or starting equipment. It would have made dying so many times feel less like a pointless slog. Whenever I died I would be able to work towards things that would make beating the game possible. They could have at least added a second mode where that was an option while still having the original “git gud” mode.

Maybe I’ll play it from time to time for fun. But I’ll probably never beat Enter the Gungeon. So I’ll never be able to write a true review of it. It’s a shame because it is a pretty good game. I like its style and gameplay. If you ever do try it, good luck. You’re going to need it. 

*Image does not belong to me. It’s a screenshot of Enter the Gungeon posted on a EuroGamer review

Persona 5/5R and Persona 5S Gameplay Comparison

Recently I just beat Persona 5 Strikers. I’m not done with the post-game stuff yet, but I’ve finished the main story. After experiencing the combat of both Persona 5/5R and Persona 5S I wanted to discuss my thoughts. Both combat systems are fun to play but they are a very different experience. I’m not going to go into detail about the nitty, gritty details of game mechanics. If you want that my suggestion would be YouTube gameplay videos. Instead, I’ll be discussing my thoughts about the games combat and dungeon exploration in general. 

One of my favorite parts of Strikers is that all of the Phantom Thieves are now playable characters in combat and dungeon exploration. (Except Futaba) Each character has their own unique playstyle and mechanics. Which I thought was a nice touch. It adds variety that is greatly appreciated. I was so happy to finally be able to play as Yusuke! Love him. 

If you accidentally die as Joker you just switch to a different character instead of getting an immediate “Game Over”. That makes things so much easier. It was always frustrating that when Joker died in Persona 5/5R everyone else immediately lost no matter what condition they were in. Gameplay-wise it makes sense, but logically it never did. I was very happy that this wasn’t the case in Strikers. 

So far, Persona 5S is the only Dynasty Warriors-type game I’ve played. This gameplay is characterized by hack and slash combat and facing huge mobs of enemies. It worked surprisingly well with a Persona setting. Now with real-time combat having skill is important. In Persona 5S learning attack patterns and dodging attacks becomes vital to defeat stronger enemies. It was a nice change having to get good at the game in that way. I do like the occasional challenge. In Persona 5/5R skill isn’t an issue in combat. Instead, the turn-based combat system prioritizes strategy and SP management. With the fast pace and jazzy music, it’s the best turn-based combat I’ve experienced in a video game. It’s a different experience from real-time combat. When done well I like it just as much. It’s a mental and a resource/time-managing challenge. 

Bosses are still pretty OP. In Persona 5/5R they have a massive amount of hit points. This is still true in Strikers. Bosses have huge health bars and a set of shields that the player destroys by exploiting weaknesses or getting critical hits. All in all, the boss fights from Persona 5S are equal to the ones from Persona 5/5R. They were challenging with epic music and story importance. They were just as much fun as the original. It was nice to be able to face off against bosses multiple times in Strikers. Due to the plot, you couldn’t do that in the original Persona 5/5R.

One thing that Persona 5S lacked was the time crunch of Persona 5/5R. You had to consider what you wanted to do with the time you have. Balancing the Palace exploration, Mementos exploration, confidants, and improving your stats. The entire game had a sense of purpose. There was always the pressure to “take your time” and do the most with what you currently had available. This is not the case in Persona 5S. You have all the time in the world to grind in the Metaverse and prance around in the real world. It made sense for how the game was structured. However, it was a real loss of that urgency of time being a limited resource. The pressure was non-existent because you always had time to spare.   

The dungeons themselves are easier to explore in Persona 5S. Not necessarily because of the enemies. The difficulty level you encounter in combat is comparable to Persona 5/5R. The Jails have less puzzle-solving than the Palaces. Puzzles can be frustrating at times but in all, they added to the challenge of exploration. Not only did you have to worry about enemies, but you also had to solve the puzzles built into the environment to progress. Strikers missed that opportunity. It reflects the shift of focus in Persona 5S, by making combat the star of dungeon crawling instead of the overall experience. However, I was impressed how it incorporated Futaba into the game with her hacking segments in the Jail. I thought it was a good way to get a non-combatant character involved directly. 

By necessity, Persona 5S changed how Joker acquires Personas. Instead of negotiating with shadows, now after every battle, there is a chance for a mask to appear which is collected and turned into a persona for Joker. It helps keep up the pace while dungeon crawling, but honestly, the original did it way better. The shadow negotiation in Persona 5/5R is quirky and interesting, sometimes frustrating. Yet it added character to the game and added depth to the enemies. I was honestly disappointed Persona 5S got rid of it. 

Honestly, the fact that Strikers is so different from the original games is a good thing. It was fun to play something that was simultaneously very different and familiar. The developers made a good decision about changing up the gameplay for the sequel to the story. If I were to only consider combat alone, I think I had more fun with Strikers’ real-time combat system. It’s a personal preference. Because I do think the original had a great turn-based system. I had fun with that too. They’re just so different it’s hard to compare. In the end, I think that Persona 5 Strikers lived up to all the hype and is just as good as Persona 5/5R. 

*Image does not belong to me. It is from the Persona 5S game and belongs to Atlus.

Free Writing Highlights: Video Games

I had writer’s block today. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t decide about what to write. I think it helped. 

Just for the fun of it please enjoy the funniest parts of my half-hour stream of consciousness writing on the topic “Video Games”. Unedited of course. 

  • Actually, this is take two with the timer. Naturally, when I tried to start writing Google Docs stopped responding. I had to refresh the page. Just another small irritant. Sigh. I really am an unlucky person.
  • Had to pause the timer again just now because my husband had to ask me a question. Gee dang. Two minutes in and I already broke the rules. Oh well. Might as well continue.
  • Video games, video games…. Like playing those. Duh. It’s why I have a blog.
  •  My cat is meowing at me. She wants pets and attention but I am busy right now.
  • Sum up with Shadow of the Colossus is really good. And STILL really hard to spell! This is the second time I misspelled it!
  • Because I like the strategy of the INTERRUPTED AGAIAN!! Arrrrgggh. What ever. Timer is back on. Will continue 
  • Oh speaking of evil, How many of you played Zoo Tycoon? Because man was I a jerk sometimes. 
  • I would cackle madly as the masses screamed in fear. This is my kingdom, I am the Goddess Supreme here! Your fate is in my hands!!! MWAHAHHAHAHAHAH!!! It was a lot of fun as a kid. 
  • Anyone else shocked at how fast the lions reproduced in that game? (Zoo Tycoon)
  • Like your brain was capa THis Had beTTER BE tHE lAsT tIME!!! Alrighty. Now that I have been interrupted yet again let’s continue on with this free writing. 
  •  I ONLY HAD TWO MINUTES LEFT SHAGGY!! GOSH DANG IT!! I WAS ALMOST DONE!! Sigh……

Don’t worry, normal content will still be posted Friday. Still, I hope this was amusing. My brain is a terrifying place. 

*Image by Colin Sabatier on Unsplash.com

Pocketful of Sunshine Monsters: Pokémon Sun

I may not have owned any consoles as a kid (read about that here), but even I knew about Pokémon. Growing up late ‘90s early 2000s Pokémon had a part in kid culture. There were trading cards, a tv show, and then there were the video games. I only saw a handful of episodes on Cartoon Network. It looked cool, if not odd. 

Later on, I had forgotten about it. I was a busy college student. However, a few of my friends started talking about the new Pokémon Sun and Moon games coming out. It made me remember the series and I decided to finally try it out. I bought myself a used 2DS and got the game when it was released. Pokémon Sun became the first Pokémon game I ever played. 

Verdict

Pokémon Sun (2DS/3DS): ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Nostalgia Bonus, Pokémon Sun (2DS/3DS): ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

The Pokémon video games series is well known for being formulaic. Add some new pokémon, create a new region, and make new characters then recreate the story of an 11-year-old becoming a pokémon trainer. While graphically, the games improved over time, the gameplay and overall story were repeated over and over with little changes. To be fair, the newest games Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee/Pikachu and Pokémon Sword/Shield made significant improvements in gameplay with how random encounters worked, but the story is relatively the same. It’s not a complaint, just an observation. After all, I enjoyed playing Let’s Go Eevee and Shield. 

Pokémon Sun at least provides a more logical reason for the entire journey. The island challenge is a well-known cultural coming-of-age ceremony. Normally there isn’t much of a reason for your journey, it’s just what you do as the main character. I also got invested in the sci-fi elements of Pokémon Sun. The fact that another dimension exists in this game was really interesting to me. Out of the three Pokémon games, I have played, this is the one that has the best story. This is why I think Pokémon Sun is still worth playing. Not for the gameplay, but for the story and setting. 

You would like this game if

  • You like animals. 
  • Want the gameplay of rock, paper, scissors taken to the extreme.
  • Are a collector at heart
  • Want to play a chill game that doesn’t require much effort or brainpower.
  • You have played so many Pokémon games, now you just want that sweet, sweet nostalgia. Ahhhh….. So comfy….

Story

Like all Pokémon games, this is a coming-of-age story. The main character and their mom move to Melemele Island, one of the Alola region islands. Alola is Pokémon’s version of Hawaii. When you get there you learn of the island challenge, a series of challenges set by the trial captains throughout all of the islands. You and a local boy named Hau, decide to undertake the challenge together. After all, no Pokémon game is complete without a rival. The two of you meet a girl named Lillie and her pokémon Nebby. Nebby is a unique pokémon that is often targeted by kidnappers looking to exploit him. Naturally, you help her out and become friends. 

Along the way, you encounter the local gang, Team Skull. This gang is made up of the people who quit the island challenge and now exist to cause trouble. They aren’t the only group you come across. While completing the island challenge, you are introduced to the Aether Foundation and its president Lusamine. The Aether Foundation aims to shelter pokémon when they are threatened. When visiting the Foundation’s base a strange dimensional wormhole appears and an unknown pokémon emerges from it. Despite your best efforts it retreats before you can defeat or capture it. This event adds a new layer of intrigue to your quest. What exactly are these extra-dimensional pokémon? Why are they appearing? Continue your journey to find out!

Gameplay

The gameplay of Pokémon Sun is very simple. It’s like the game was designed for kids instead of the twenty to thirty-somethings that make up the bulk of the players. Weird huh? You play as a spunky 11-year-old girl or boy starting their journey to become the very best like no one ever was♩. You travel along the paths to get to new towns and islands. In towns, there are Pokémon Centers and Poké-Marts. You can buy items at the Poké-Mart. Pokémon Centers are where you can get your pokémon healed. As you travel and defeat trial captains you progress through the story. You can freely interact with the environment and the people in the world. People will always talk to you and at times give you gifts. There are hidden items scattered about so it’s important to explore. Sometimes you will encounter an obstacle in the environment. Later on, you will acquire a skill that will enable you to get past these obstacles.

On the paths between towns, you encounter wild pokémon and pokémon trainers. The wild pokémon are in the patches of tall grass along the trail. When you enter the tall grass you can see rustling where there is pokémon. Once you walk around in the tall grass for a few seconds you will encounter a wild pokémon! You can either defeat the pokémon for EXP or try to catch it. There are other trainers along the trails. As soon as they see you they will challenge you to a pokémon fight. You can try to avoid them by walking around them but it doesn’t always work. Beating trainers in combat is how you earn money. I know it doesn’t make sense. Video game logic… don’t question it too much. 

The combat in this game is turn-based. Every time you encounter wild pokémon, trainers on the paths between cities, or do a trial challenge you will enter combat. You can have a total of six pokémon on your team. The pokémon in the first row will be the one that you start the battle with (by default that is your starter pokémon). Once the battle starts there are several things you can do: attack with one of your pokémon’s skills, use an item, switch your current pokémon for a different one on your team, and when facing a wild pokémon throw a pokéball to attempt to catch it. After your turn, the opponent has their turn. Most of the time they choose to attack. Sometimes trainers will use an item or switch pokemon but not very often. 

This battle system is easy to abuse. Every pokémon has a type or combination of types. Each type deals extra damage to certain types and takes heavy damage from particular types. For example, a fire-type pokémon is “super effective” against grass-type pokémon and is weak to water-type pokémon. If you abuse this system and constantly hit enemies with their weaknesses it makes battles a cakewalk. Note: if you are trying to catch a wild pokémon you don’t want to defeat it. Instead, you should try to lower its health then try to catch it with a pokéball. 

Worst Parts

  • Random Encounters. It would have been nice to know what pokémon was in the grass before running into it. At least you have the option to run past most areas where they spawn to save time. Not a bad mechanic but it does get tedious. 
  • It was easy to beat the game. I know, it’s a kid game. But still for the most part it was easy to breeze through challenges by picking out the optimal team then abusing the type matchup system. I’d like a little more challenge. I think Pokémon should add a hard mode.
  • All of the dang trainers along the paths. I just want to get to point A to point B. Can’t we do this later? I want to explore right now, not grind. 

Best Parts

  • Catching and naming pokémon. Some of them are so cute! There’s also that collector’s drive that makes it very satisfying. 
  • Poking fun at the logic of the world. Ah yes, I am 11, time to start my journey! Navigating dangerous wild areas, traveling to new cities, and taking down the local gang are all things that I, an unsupervised child, am capable of. All to become a master in animal fighting rings. 
  • Customizing your character’s style. 
  • Z-moves. They are flashy extreme anime moments of the game. 
  • Trading pokémon with friends. It was always interesting to see how they named the ones they caught. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the Pokémon Company, Game Freak, and Nintendo.

Petty Reviews: Monster Hunter World

I’ve seen Monster Hunter World many times. I always thought the game looked really pretty. The box art, in particular, is fantastic! There’s something epic about playing as a small human trying to take on massive, powerful creatures. I never got around to buying it though. There were always other games that I wanted more. Also, there were the games I already owned that I still had to play through. Lucky for me, Monster Hunter World was one of the games included on the Playstation Plus Collection. Since it was the low, low price of free, I thought I would give it a shot. 

I knew going into this that I wouldn’t be committing to a full playthrough right now. I have other games to finish, on top of having the rest of life’s endless hectic to-do lists. Instead, I decided to play just far enough to experience the combat. I wanted to see what the game was like. So I played through the introduction and the first quest. It wasn’t very long but it was long enough to put this game at the bottom of my priority list. 

There wasn’t one big thing that I hated in Monster Hunter World. Instead, several annoyances just piled on top of one another. None of these irritants is game-breaking. However, I didn’t feel like expending the time and energy to adjust to the controls. Maybe eventually I’ll return to this game if I ever finish all my games on my To-Play List. 

One of the first things that you have to adjust to in any game is their menu system. In Monster Hunter World there is a whole lot of things to look at in the game’s menus. It was hard to easily discover what was important, not without paying close attention to what you’re reading. There is too much information all at once, most of it irrelevant until you make more progress in the game. The text of the menu is a little annoying to read because the font is small. Maybe that’s not a problem on PC? It was certainly a problem on the PS5, playing on the couch several feet away from the tv. There are way too many pop-up tutorial windows to read. They had similar problems. Both have small text and a lot of information all at once. 

The gameplay itself felt odd. It had controls I wasn’t used to. I was playing with the PS5 controller. In most games X is attack but not in Monster Hunter World. In this game attack is Triangle and Square (or Circle? can’t remember). It felt awkward to play on the controller. Fighting felt clunky and unintuitive. I did not feel like an epic warrior that the art portrayed. My character was just as clumsy as I am. I ended up choosing to use a long-range option because it felt a little less awkward than the melee weapon options. The use of the trigger buttons to aim and shoot felt familiar to me after playing shooting games like Borderlands 2 and 3. Sadly while I found this easier to get the hang of, for what little I played, it’s not as much fun as swinging around a big sword.  

Another nitpick about the gameplay is that I can’t jump. The character automatically interacts with the environment. This is fine but not my preference in an open-world focused on combat and exploration. It would have been nice to have that additional freedom while running around. Especially since the beauty of the environment is the big selling point in this game.  

If a game’s story is engaging enough and the characters are likable and well written, I will be willing to overlook a lot of flaws in a video game. It’s why I like playing older games as well as modern ones. The experience is worth the frustrations. Unfortunately, Monster Hunter World doesn’t have much of a story. It is a basic setup. The main character belongs to a hunter guild and goes to a new area to do their job. The characters weren’t interesting, except the Palicos they are perfect. Character development and story are meant to be in the background. Instead, the focus of Monster Hunter World is the environment and the creatures you have to fight. That would have been fine by me if the gameplay was up to par. I didn’t start this game for the story, I wanted to see giant monsters and try to bring them down. Instead, it was a struggle to adjust to the basics of playing the game. 

Monster Hunter World has the potential to be a fun game. For me, the time and effort it will take to adjust to the controls and figure out how the mechanics of the game work aren’t worth it right now. This game would have been better for newcomers if they had gradually opened up menus and abilities based on story progression. The story itself is lacking, borderline boring. The game provides the bare minimum as a framework for how the world works and the main character’s motivation. Surprising how a world with such fantastical creatures could be so bland. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the Monster Hunter World developers.

Gaming as a Kid: Mixed Messages

Are video games an acceptable way to spend your free time or are they time wasters that lead to shouting matches and punishment? I certainly didn’t know as a kid. It seemed like the answer changed depending on the circumstances. Play over the allotted time or before homework, video games are bad. Playing educational games, video games are good. Any other type of game, video games are a waste of time. PC games, those are allowed. Console games, those are banned. You see why it took a while for me to figure out my answer to this question. 

Growing up I didn’t have access to any gaming consoles at home. Thanks to my older brothers. They are ten and eleven years older than me, a big age gap. During middle school and high school, they would pretend to go to sleep. Once our parents went to bed, they played video games in their bedroom at ungodly hours of the night. It was only a matter of time before they got caught by Mom. It was one of the causes for loud arguments between them. This happened multiple times. I wish I remembered how they got punished or if at some point Mom stopped trying to enforce those rules.  

Whatever the case may be, their rule-breaking had consequences for me as well. Mom told me, “I’m done with dealing with video games. Don’t bother asking me for any because it isn’t going to happen.” She was the type of person who said what she meant and turned what she said into what she did. There was no changing Mom’s mind. She didn’t stop there. My mom didn’t allow me to have a tv in my bedroom because of what my brothers did. Even though my brothers got to have one in their bedroom. It seemed unfair at the time. Now as an adult, I can definitively say it was an unfair verdict. Parents are free to limit video game access and control what types of games they play. Many video games are inappropriate for kids and kids shouldn’t be allowed unrestricted screen access at young ages (my opinion only, I’m no parent). That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is taking the privilege away from the one who didn’t do anything wrong. I never did tell her how I felt or tried to change her opinion. I knew it wouldn’t change anything so it didn’t feel worth getting her upset.

Luckily for me, this ban didn’t apply to the desktop computer we had. “Take what you can get” was my mentality so I didn’t openly question it. Internally I always wondered why one was worse than the other. Why did my parents think that PC games were more legitimate than console games? It didn’t make sense, as they both did the same thing. Money wasn’t the issue because they had been willing to buy my brothers a Super Nintendo and a Gameboy. (At least I am pretty sure this is what they had) Did it come down to PC gaming was easier to monitor and control? The family desktop was always in the dining room out where anyone could see what was going on.

Playing games alone wasn’t considered worthwhile. However, playing games with other people was fine. My parents didn’t care that I spent hours with my cousins playing MarioKart DoubleDash. They didn’t care that my best friend and I played games on her Wii during sleepovers. As long as I was having some form of social interaction mixed in, suddenly video games weren’t a waste of time. This didn’t change their opinion of video games but for some reason, it made them more acceptable. The value of healthy relationships outweighs the evils of gaming. At least that was my takeaway. I didn’t talk about gaming at other people’s houses much but my parents were aware of it happening. 

This isn’t the only way video games were portrayed as a moral gray area. At home, all video games, except educational games, were considered a waste of time. I was allowed my computer games but I was well aware of the opinions of my parents. Mom thought they were stupid at best and dangerous influences at worst. Dad didn’t care either way. Despite their opinions, they did let me spend my free time how I chose. Especially as I grew older, I got more freedom to control my schedule. Yet somehow it was demoralizing as a kid to be told that what I enjoyed was a ridiculous hobby by my mom. I had the freedom to choose my hobbies but if my hobbies were not “appropriate” to them I would be subjected to all of their negative opinions. The whole situation instilled a sense of shame for enjoying gaming while I was a kid. Naturally, as I am just as stubborn as my mom was, I disregarded their opinions, chose to not be ashamed of my hobby anymore, and continued being a gamer. 

Fast forward to today, when I openly embrace my gaming and nerdy interests. I even blog about them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with video games. Playing video games isn’t something to be ashamed of. Just because other people may not like my gaming hobby doesn’t make it any less valid. It doesn’t matter whether I’m playing solo or with other people. There’s nothing wrong with doing something purely because I enjoy it. That’s the answer I found. 

The Worst Game: Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric

Sonic the Hedgehog has a long history in gaming. The characters of this franchise are equally recognizable as Mario’s characters. When they first came out both Mario and Sonic games were considered fun classic 2D platformers. As technologies advanced they both created 3D games. Unlike Mario, Sonic’s transition to 3D platforming didn’t go so well. Some 3D Sonic games have game-breaking glitches and bugs, stories that are bizarre in a bad way (Looking at you Sonic ‘06), and broken speedy tracks that can cause motion sickness. While Sonic fans argue about which games are good, Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric is a true gem of a game universally hated by all players. 

Verdict

Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric (Wii U): ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

This game is a hot mess. It’s a buggy, unfinished beta test. I would never recommend this to anyone. Don’t waste your time or money.

Sonic Boom is the only Sonic game I have ever played. By the time finished that game I had a newfound hatred of Sonic. I never wanted to play another game with “Sonic” in the title. I still don’t want to play any Sonic games. To this day it is still the worst video game I ever played. It’s broken, the story is bland, the graphics have noticeable problems, and the characters are annoying. 

Despite all this, Sonic Boom has a special place in my memory. Back in the fall of 2015, my boyfriend (now husband) and I had just started dating. Take a wild guess at the first co-op game we ever beat together? Correct, Sonic Boom! Yes, I married him anyway. He wanted to play this game to experience all the glitches, bugs, and brokenness of this game. Naturally Shaggy wanted someone else to experience all this with him. So he picked me. And you know what? It was a really fun time. While playing the game we talked about how bad it was, made fun of it, and actively tried to see how we could break the game. The game was so spectacularly bad that playing it with Shaggy was a unique experience that we both ended up enjoying. At the very least, it made for some weird and entertaining date nights. 

You would like this game if

  • You like playing bad games and watching bad movies to laugh at them.
  • Are a big Sonic the Hedgehog fan who loves the characters so much they will overlook everything else. 

Plotline

It’s been so long since I’ve played Sonic Boom. The plot was bland and forgettable. Give me a few minutes to read an online summary to refresh my memory. Right now all I remember is fighting Dr. Eggman, Metal Sonic showing up multiple times, and some time travel stuff.

After reading the Wikipedia summary, it turns out I summed up the plot in one sentence. Yay? You would think I’d remember the giant snake called Lyric who is part of the game’s title. But no, it was that forgettable. 

The game starts normally enough, Sonic and the gang are fighting against Dr. Eggman. Suddenly they come across a doorway with ancient carvings of what appears to be Sonic and Tails. They get ambushed by Metal Sonic and are forced to go through these doors. There they find a giant evil snake called Lyric who remembers Sonic beating him a thousand years ago. They escape and find out that this big snakey boi tried to build an army to take over the world. A rebel of Lyric’s so-called army helps Sonic and friends travel to the past to defeat Lyric. Thus closing the time loop. Then in the present day, Lyric joins forces with Eggman to defeat Sonic. Once they find out the good little critters attempt to stop these villains. 

Gameplay

Sonic Boom had several different types of gameplay. It didn’t do anything well, but it did do a lot. Each of the four playable characters has different fight styles and tricks. Combat is so easy that it doesn’t matter which one you main. There are puzzle sections in the game with fixed camera angles. In these sections, you have to play as different characters and go through their sections. Each section requires unique character skills to progress forward. There are open-world exploration sections. You wander around trying to find things in an empty, buggy overworld. Whenever enemies show up you punch them with whatever character’s gimmick you feel like using. Then there are the running sections that Sonic games are famous for. These Hotwheel tracks on cocaine are filled with obstacles and enemies to destroy or avoid. It’s during sections like this where “Gotta go fast” is taken to the extreme. 

Worst Parts

  • Playing the game.
  • Motion sickness. I’m not even joking. There were a few sections of fast-moving chase scenes along tracks that were so jarring they caused motion sickness. Not just for me either. Shaggy experienced it too. 
  • “BoUNce PaD!!” every single time you used a bounce pad. Never have I wanted to murder talking animals more than while playing Sonic Boom. 
  • I’m not sure how a story about time traveling to defeat a humungous megalomaniacal snake and his army could be boring. Somehow Sonic Boom made that happen. 
  • The world around Sonic is pretty much empty of life except for the characters that show up in cutscenes. It’s rather eerie. Did they all die? Are they the only ones to ever exist in the first place? 

Best Parts

  • I broke a cutscene! I was playing Knuckles and somehow I ended up significantly farther ahead than my husband (I forget who he was playing as) on one of the speedy tracks. I got to the end, triggered the cutscene, and Knuckles was the only one of the four main characters standing there! The rest of them were invisible somehow. Because despite not being able to see them, they still said their lines! We laughed so hard at that. It was so funny! Most memorable part of the game. 
  • Mocking the game while we were playing it. 
  • Breaking the game. Both accidentally and on purpose. 
  • Telling gamer friends this was the first game we beat together. Their reactions are hilarious every single time.

*Image belongs to Sega, screenshot from Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric game.

Petty Reviews: Code Vein

Code Vein is one of the many Dark Souls-esque video games. These video games are designed to be extraordinarily difficult and unforgiving. Death is severely punished. Every time you die you respawn at your last checkpoint and lose all of your currency and progress. Part of the fun of gaming is overcoming high difficulty challenges and enemies. Dark Souls-type games take this to the extreme and are dedicated to the “git gud” mentality. I have not played Dark Souls or Bloodborne because I am not a masochist. 

Initially, I picked up Code Vein because it looked like an interesting anime game. When I realized that it is a Dark Souls clone I was a little bit scared. I almost put it back on the shelf. However, I decided to be brave and give it a try. It wasn’t that expensive. Plus, maybe I would enjoy getting bullied by a video game. 

For a while, I did have fun playing Code Vein. Making my perfect waifu was a good time. It made me relive my childhood of playing dress-up games. The combat was hard in a good way. It heightened tension while playing new levels. Returning to previous areas after leveling up was so satisfying. To be able to easily one-shot kill an enemy that had killed me multiple times before was a beautiful experience. 

Boss fights were brutally challenging. I had to look up walkthroughs and strategy guides more than once. One boss, Invading Executioner, was so hard! It made me so angry. I had to beat this boss. It was the only outlet for my unyielding rage. I don’t know how many attempts it took, but I finally won! Times, like this I played Code Vein out of spite. I didn’t want this game to beat me. 

Later on in my playthrough… Sigh, the game beat me. At least for now. I fully intend on returning to Code Vein and finishing it. Someday, I will return; and, I will win. 

The fifth area in the game (not counting home base) is called the Cathedral of The Sacred Blood. The area is very pretty. The whole level is designed like a massive white Gothic cathedral. When I saw it the first time I spent a few moments just panning the camera around, appreciating the view. The problem is that the map is hard to navigate because all the paths look the same with hardly any markers to differentiate them. I had already gotten lost more than once and had looked up a YouTube walkthrough. So I was already getting frustrated. 

Then came the mini-boss that broke me, Argent Wolf Berserker. Even now just remembering that rotten, clanking, empty-headed suit of armor makes me annoyed. I hate that guy! That stupid Berserker is the worst!

*5 minutes of petulant sulking later* Alright, now that I’ve calmed down let’s talk about why this boss fight broke me. Because while the Berserker is a hard fight there is more than one reason that made it exceedingly difficult. 

The other boss fights I had beaten were located very close to a respawn point. As soon as I died I would pop back up close by and try again. Maybe there would be one or two little dudes that I would have to kill or avoid along the way. For the most part, it was a short walk back to try yet again to defeat the boss. That’s not the case with the Berserker boss. He is located about a three-minute distance away from the respawn. If that was the only problem it wouldn’t be a big deal. However, there are enemies you can’t avoid, and if you run they will chase you. They aren’t just little dudes that die in two or three hits either. It takes effort to beat these annoying skinny knights. They are fast, have decent health, and it’s almost impossible to escape without taking damage. Heck, sometimes I died to those guys before reaching the boss!

Once reaching the boss you are stuck with whatever health and health items you currently have. It’s impossible to start the fight at 100% tip-top condition. Then you have the difficulty of the stage and the Berserker himself. The stage you have to fight on is way too small. You don’t get much space to dodge and run. The other boss fights take place in big arenas. This one doesn’t give you that. This makes avoiding hits and getting enough time to use a healing item very challenging. The Berserker has a big range. He’s slow but he hits hard. It doesn’t take much to kill you. Your NPC companion who tags along to help you fight the bad guys collapses at the slightest nudge from this jerk-wad. 

Naturally, after dying over and over again I did the smart thing and looked up a walkthrough. Two YouTube videos showed the best character mod and techniques to kill the Berserker. Playing a tank character mod was the best choice. Then use a giant two-handed sword to block attacks instead of dodging. All while trying to get behind this lumbering nitwit and stab him in back. The problem is that I hadn’t played that character mod the entire game. Normally I played character builds that let me be fast with quick attacks and long-range magic attacks. I had gotten fairly good at playing this style of character. Now I had to change my entire playstyle for this one guy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t good at it. It’s not my playstyle preference in Code Vein and I didn’t have much practice with this mod. 

All these things combined made me so frustrated that I decided to put the controller down and take a break. I had only meant to take a day or two away from Code Vein before trying again. Then I started playing other games and got distracted from it. Now it’s delegated to my game purgatory list. The list of games that I’ve started but then stopped for whatever reason. I tell myself “I’ll come back and finish this game. I will return. Eventually. I do want to finish it.” Someday I will return to playing Code Vein. Next time I will beat it.

*Image is a screenshot of Code Vein and was originally posted on an IGN walkthrough. Does not belong to me.

Thoughts on the PlayStation 5 Console

Recently my husband and I got a new PS5. I was super excited to finally get one! You can read about my reaction here. We bought the PS5 for multiple reasons. Our PS4 is starting to die. It has lost our save data twice. We had it repaired once. While it fixed the issue, we were warned that it could happen again. Part of the reason why we wanted to buy a PS5 asap was to replace our finicky console with a new one. If we were going to buy a new system anyway we might as well buy the newest one. The new games were a part of it, as my husband wanted to play the new Miles Morales game. And I am seriously looking forward to Stray. 

Now that I have been using it for almost a week, I have a lot of thoughts about the newest PlayStation console. The PS5 does make some dramatic improvements in the gameplay experience. Load times during any game you play are practically nonexistent. It’s so nice! The PS5 has seamless transitions between different locations. Playing video games no longer has any breaks in the immersion. This speaks to my impatient soul. 

Graphics on the PS5 are truly spectacular. We have a 4k television, but we could never really use it to its full capacity before. None of our gaming systems had 4k and all of our streaming services are basic packages without 4k. Seeing games at their best brings the art form to a whole new level. It was like getting glasses for the first time. You don’t realize how much detail in the environment you miss until you put on the glasses and everything is more beautiful than you could have imagined. Alright, this is a little bit of an over-exaggeration. Still, the PS5 makes everything so pretty!

Advertisements made a big deal about the haptic feedback of the controllers. I thought it would be a nice perk, but I didn’t care that much about them. After playing through their tech demo game, Astro Playroom, I realized just how impressive these new PlayStation controllers are. The trigger buttons adjust tension while playing games. You can feel resistance as you pull levers and shoot arrows with a bow. The controller vibrates and emits sound based on what you are doing in-game. You can feel the difference between rain and hail. Even running through tall grass, mud or snow had a distinct feel with the controller. As a bonus, holding the PS5 controller is more comfortable than the PS4 controller. 

Unlike the past versions of PlayStation consoles, the PS5 has a black and white color scheme with wavy lines. The PS2, 3, and 4 basic designs were solid black and straight edges. Does it feel almost modern business minimalist? I’m not an artist so I’m not sure how to describe it. Let me put it this way if it wasn’t a console the PS5 would be sold at Ikea as artistic room decor. I think it is trying to have a “fancy” vibe which is a tiny bit dramatic. Mood. Overall, the design is good.  

There are a few things I don’t like about the system. The first is the size of the console itself. It’s a real chonker. The PS5 was big enough that we had to rearrange our entertainment setup to have it fit on our shelf. Mildly annoying, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker or anything. 

I can’t use any of my PS4 themes on it. It makes sense, the menus are set up differently and my themes wouldn’t have the same level of graphics. It did make me sad that I couldn’t personalize my home screen. Also, it was initially occasionally irritating to figure out where things are in the menus because they are different than the PS4 layout. As you use the system, that learning curve becomes a nonissue. 

I wish they had expanded backwards compatibility. It would be so fantastic to be able to play all Playstation games on one system! Heck, I would have been happy if they extended it only to the PS3. PS3 games are the only PlayStation games we can’t play (not counting the PSVita and PSP).   

So, is the PlayStation 5 worth its price tag and hassle to buy? Yes, for us it was. The price is fair for what you get. At least for the one with the disc drive. We have many PS4 games and it would be a shame not to be able to use them with the digital edition. It runs well and makes significant improvements in the video gaming experience compared to the PS4. We can still play all of our PS4 games with better graphics and way less load time. 

Buying one was such a frustrating process. Sony botched the initial preorder release. Then scalpers took over the online sales making buying one that much harder. It is honestly a huge mess of everything going wrong. We were supremely lucky to be able to get ours on GameStop’s website. For most people who are considering buying a PS5, the best option is to wait. By waiting more PS5 games will be available and hopefully the process of actually obtaining one will be less painful. The system itself lives up to the hype. The struggle of obtaining one lives up to all the memes and internet rants.

We just got a PS5!!

PS5 Baby! WOOOOO!!! 

Holy crap was that stressful! My gosh… We finally did it…. We finally got a PS5…. I think I might be in mild shock. 

My husband, Shaggy, and I have been trying to get a PS5 since it first came out. We would try to get one by refreshing all the store listings tabs over and over again. More than once we tried that. On release day, I went to two GameStops to see if I could get in line and snag one. I couldn’t. We both looked up websites to see when stores would restock. I would keep an eye out for signs in Meijer when I went grocery shopping. We tried hard.

Finally, we found success. Shaggy made a Twitter account solely to follow a guy who posts updates about buying a PS5 and whatever the new Xbox is called. It was a little after 2 pm when new stock would be available for purchase. Naturally, he had a zoom work meeting right after his lunch break! So it was up to me. It was up to me to persevere, defy the odds, and defeat those unscrupulous scalpers with their fiendish bots. And today, March 9, 2021, I’ve done it!! I got a PS5 in my cart, made it through the checkout process without an error, and got a confirmation email. It was truly a team effort. I couldn’t have done this without Shaggy’s information. He couldn’t have devoted the 15 minutes of frantically refreshing pages over and over again before getting a console. This is what marriage is all about, teamwork and doing what the other can’t. 

I am so happy right now! Hard to believe it actually happened. I am still reeling with the sense of victory. Today is a good day. 

This is purely a reaction piece. The reason why it is being posted so much later is I didn’t want to flaunt the fact we were expecting a PS5 to be delivered to our apartment until it was in our hands. A little paranoid, probably, but better safe than sorry.

The Twitter user we got the information about the PS5 restocks can be found here.