November is Coming

November is Coming

Let’s think of this post as an update, shall we?

I mentioned earlier that I was looking to celebrate NaNoWriMo in a different kind of way this year. I want to write a post for every day of the month, possibly taking word count into account.

What can you expect?

1. More commentary on what I’ve been playing, maybe even venturing out to other platforms for now.

2. Small informational and research-based posts on different aspects of gaming.

3. Retrospectives on games I’ve had played in the past.

4. And anything else I can think of!

So because of this, I’m saving up the creative juices for the rollercoaster ride next month.

Stay tuned!

Did I Do That? Part 5

Did I Do That? Part 5

I have to say, I am kind of glad to start writing more often for the next month. This game is so expansive, I have trouble getting all of my thoughts into one post. Half of this one is going to cover what I got sidetracked from and didn’t write about on Monday.

Lothering—you know that town I mentioned before I went on a post-long tangent about the romance system? The one that feels like a tutorial but I never mentioned why?

If you talk to the different villagers, you will get a lot of sidequests that feel like they are there solely to teach you. I had different people asking me from traps, poisons, and potions—all things certain party members can make. As a rogue, I luckily already had the poison-making skill, and Morrigan had herbalism to make the health poultices. You then have to look around the outskirts of town for the items you need or—if you are a hoarder like me—you will already have the herbs and containers you need. If you really don’t want to go searching, you can even buy some parts from the same guy who wants you to make him poisons (which I really do hope he plans to use for self-defense like he says). What I loved was having a woman named Allison asking me to make her traps and having to tell her I didn’t know how. Then I immediately walked away and leveled up to learn how, and went back and told her I knew now! How convenient!

Ever read Go Dog Go?

“Can you make me traps?”

“No, I cannot make you traps.”

“Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

Repeat for emphasis

“Can you make me traps?”

“Why yes, I can make you traps.”

“Thank you. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

Nothing changed on the outside except my opinion. I was glad to be able to go back after learning, but for how realistic this game tries to be, it felt extremely…game-y.

Even with how odd acquiring the quest lines here were, I love the crafting element of the game. Despite being simplistic, I get a great satisfaction from putting the things I find to great use. Like I have mentioned many a-time before, I am a RPG hoarder, but it feels so good to be able to empty my inventory in a useful way. Instead of having the destroy all of the random bits of food and herbs I pick up–or sell it for next to nothing–I can turn what takes up multiple item slots into a consumable I desperately need. It gives me that same relief I get when crossing off a to-do list or finishing all of my leftovers before they get moldy.

And I do enjoy how this game approaches sidequests. The game doesn’t go overboard, keeping me from ever following the main questline. Way back when Skyrim was my main time sinkhole, I would spend hours wandering the mountains, going through caves and dungeons for the smallest quests, not even bothering with the main sidequest stories. Then I would come across ten more things to do before I ever finished what I was working on. I loved how expansive the game was, but it was hard to feel like I was making a dent in the world—not to mention nobody thinks differently of you no matter how many dragons you kill and people you save. But that’s a whole other complaint.

Here there are just enough to make the village feel alive. In Lothering, there is a board outside of the Chantry with requests much like a bulletin board at the local coffee shop. Here was a request from the officials to clear out the lurking bandits looking to profit on Ferelden’s increasing misfortune. I went out and found them and killed them and got my reward. What made it fun was the difficulty. The bands of robbers swarm you and have a large variety of fighters. They have must as many archers and ranged fighters as they do melee, making you have pick a strategy to survive. I died countless times from pure impatience, wanting to take these ten or so criminals head-on. Amateur tip: fight with the ranged tactic every single time. Slow and steady says the tortoise and the frustrated Dragon Age player.

There is one thing I wish I had realized a little bit sooner. When I bought this game, I got the Ultimate Edition with all of the DLC since it was deeply discounted. Too bad I didn’t notice until well into the game that all of these extras installed with the base game. For example, as I kept exploring the romance system, I found a bunch of incredibly specific, free gifts at the merchant’s shop. Without thinking any harder than, “FREE FREE FREE,” I brought them all over to my inventory and started doling them out. Abruptly Morrigan was so upset with me she wanted out of the party and Alistair, one of the members who is supposed to be the hardest to romance, wanted to go straight to the tent. Apparently these ultra-powered gifts were free in the game because I bought them with real money. They are part of a DLC bundle that give sthe player free gifts geared towards quickly speeding up and slowing down relationships. I have never been more grateful that I save about every other minute.

I also set out on my first real story mission after getting to my party’s camp before realizing it was another piece of DLC. It was a fun quest, giving me loads of backstory on the downfall of the Grey Wardens in the public’s eye, but it was not how I wanted to be spending my time. Instead of following up on those treaties that sound like manuals on how to prevent the apocalypse, I followed a white bunny named lore into a four-hour long rabbit hole.

At least now I’m off the Redcliffe to give Alistair a happy reunion. Can you hear my hopeless optimism coming through? Yeah, this game is teaching even me to give that up as soon as humanly possible. Stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 4

Did I Do That? Part 4

So it might have taken roughly fifteen hours, but I have finally reached the real start to the game and the story.

After Morrigan the mage–a witch from the wilds, an apostate–joins your party, you set off to try to get help to defeat the archdemon and the darkspawn. Alistair has the treaties stating loyalties to the Grey Wardens from different parts of Ferelden. Finally the game opens up, the near-apocalyptic world is your oyster but first–go through a town.

Your first real stop after your main heroes’ call to action is a small village called Lothering. Plenty of refugees have found their way here with little more safety than a bridge and some cobbled-together walls. Even the bandits have leaked through to the outskirts of town not to mention giant spiders. Weirdly this town feels like a self-contained tutorial. The significance of the Origins subtitle is pretty clear from the start. When I play RPGs, I tend to go for in medias res–no prologues, all confusion. Throw me in the deep end and let me spend fifteen hours working out what happened instead of spending just as much time playing out some of the more mundane parts of my character’s life. I can definitely appreciate the depth it gives and making the choices that land me where I am, but now that I am onto the main quest, it feels a little cheap in retrospect. No matter what move I made, Duncan would have still recruited me to the Grey Wardens, and Alistair and I would still be the only surviving members. Here I am still mourning the death of my cousin back in my alienage and no one alive knows the hand I played in his execution. Hell, it doesn’t even come up in personal party conversations. Whenever I’m asked about home, I only am ever prompted to mention my parents and whether or not I’m an orphan–nothing more.

And since this first choice, I have yet to feel like anything is life or death–merely a popularity contest. My plot decisions affect my present members’ opinions of me and the likelihood of me getting into bed with them. But then, since this game with an incredibly shallow romance mechanic forces me to value love and be faithful, I guess I only ever need to be concerned about one person’s opinion. I do like that there are other benefits to positive relationships because after spending a couple of hours at camp experimenting with this system, it isn’t too enthralling. If you do get a high enough relationship with a character, they receive passive stat bonuses. I love this because so far when it comes to the character I control, I only ever use myself or Morrigan (I can’t resist the spells, damn it). So since I typically let the rest of my party members roam free, giving them the ranged tactic to try to keep them safe–hey, they can’t say I don’t care.

Also, do you want to know the only other main way to increase someone’s love, friendship, or approval–whichever you prefer? Gifts. Not special, thoughtful gifts. Just random shit you find on the ground and or steal from locked chests. Each character does have their preferences, meaning there is a whole strategy on who to give what, but honestly, I overload one character with riches until they love me enough to become stronger and move on.

None of these things bother me though bccause I have a dog in the game who loves me no matter what and all is right with the world. I can pet him, love him, and even be him if I need to explore my animal instincts. If you brought a wildflower back from the wilds for the kennel master before you took part in the Joining, this nameless Mabari war hound comes and finds you. You can choose to keep him and name him and walk him and feed him and change his newspaper and…let him die in battle?

Eh, no perma-death, no problem.

I named him after my dog, Cooper, and spent a good hour frolicking him while the real Cooper poked his nose and my elbows and toes, wishing I was playing a point-and-click so I had a free hand. You can even make him wear a cone of shame.

So here I am playing a game where you can spam pretty girls and handsome men with trinkets and statues until they will shed their armor with you in your tent, and I can’t stop dressing up my dog. Priorities, my friends, priorities.

Now I have a question for you readers out there. Last year I finally won my first year of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, if you didn’t know) after trying for over five years. I was considering going for a second win but had a thought. What if instead of writing a novel that I will print out and immediately hide from the world I make content for my blog? Instead of only doing these weird written let’s play/first impressions/critiques, I would do small op-ed pieces and even research posts. For example, I would look into gaming terms that I have always made assumptions about before realizing that I never knew what they meant, e.g. horde mode.

Are you interested in this kind of content? They would be daily updates of varying length. I probably won’t aim for a word count as much creating variety.

Let me know in the comments! If there is something you would love to see me write about, go ahead and suggest it. You do not want to leave me with all of the power, or I might spend a month posting photos of Cooper the war hound. Choose wisely and stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 3

Did I Do That? Part 3

Better known as the blog where we rename bosses to better make jokes, i.e. orc=ogre.

Yesterday I took my first sick day from work and my first sick day from my blogs. Apparently days-old restaurant leftovers are only a good idea for your wallet, not your digestive system. But after spending eighteen hours in bed on Wednesday, I’m back!

Luckily I did manage to beat our friend the ogre with an identity crisis–granted it is one I imposed on him for comedic purposes. And you know what? Trial and error doesn’t even begin to cover it.

First I tried to do exactly what the Internet told me to do–give everyone a bow and force them to attack from far away. Here I made a miracle happen and got the ogre down to so little HP I couldn’t even make it out on the health bar. I decided that it was so little I could go into hack-and-slash mode and hit him head-on until he died. Ha. Ha. Hahaha. Too bad he interrupted my first attempt to heal. And then this was the closest I got to winning for an hour. Hahaha. Ha.

I did discover that using my character as bait was one of the best strategies. If I could get the ogre to follow me around, I could stay far enough ahead of him that I wouldn’t get badly wounded while my party members attacked him from across the room. I put on the heaviest armor I could–one of the best ways to attract enemies–and ran around like a blind goat in a thunderstorm. Unfortunately he wouldn’t consistently follow me. This strategy would work from the start half of the time, and, most of the time, I would accidentally run too close to my party, causing him to focus on them instead. No matter how much I danced around and threw acid at him, he still wanted to hurl rocks and smash everyone else. Then all I could do was try to switch to these characters and prolong their deaths as long as possible. If I switched to a party member the ogre was already focused on and tried the distraction strategy, he would forget who I was. And after all the time we spent together…

But really, I don’t know which it is–a prejudice against victims who can think for themselves or a fetish for AI.

I really hate admitting this, really I do, but the only way I won was atrocious–switching to easy mode. In my defense, my goal is to finish the games and be able to write about my progress. Keyword: progress. I even considered a post where I described my attempts in detail, but my turns stopped varying much after the first few. I either used archers, tried to distract him, or died too quickly to use any strategy whatsoever. Of course I turned the difficulty back to normal–oh, what a challenge!

But of course, sadly I was right. After winning the fight, everyone I had ever met died except for the people who saved me. Hopefully this means I am at the part where I get know people besides my silent character and Alistair, your typical faithful knight as far as I can tell.

Stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 2

Did I Do That? Part 2

Or better known as the prequel to Orcs Must DieOrcs Can’t Die.

So far I’m convinced that everyone I come into contact with is going to die. Anytime one of my party members hasn’t been able to gain experience, they end up dying in the plot. On my way to the Tower of Ishal, a mage and a tower guard joined me without even bothering to tell me their names (stranger danger) and help me fight to the top of the tower. But no matter what they do, they gain zero experience for what they do so their tragic deaths must be coming immediately after hearing their backstory–seriously, they’re complete strangers.

Also this is the confession of a RPG hoarder. Back in my Skyrim days, I bought a house entirely for my dragon bones and took every flower and animal skin that was within five hundred yards of me. Here I can’t seem to manage my inventory. My journey to the top of the Tower of Ishal is what I consider the first real story mission, not one made up of exposition, character motivation, and tutorials. This means there are loads more items to loot from chests and dead guards. Sadly I can’t use them as quickly as I can steal them. You wouldn’t think you would be full this soon but surprise!

Typically when I know it is a weapon I won’t use–which in many other games is clear right away–I sell it or break it down for its parts. Here though I keep holding onto everything because I don’t know what strategies I will really want to use. For example, right now I am really glad I didn’t sell off my extra short bows because after failing against the orc at the top of the tower multiple times, I looked up a strategy that suggested all ranged weapons. It’s instances like this where I feel as if selling something lowers my chances of winning the game.

Well, that really is the mentality of a hoarder, now isn’t it?

Here I also want to make sure I have something that fits the strengths of all of my party members. It doesn’t even do me any good to look up the party lists online because I still don’t know whose missions I will complete and who I will enjoy playing with the most. And with my luck, each mission is going to be best played with certain people, meaning I can never stop carrying around this pack full of longswords and roots.

The system is odd though. Here you are allowed seventy kinds of items. This means having twenty health poultices is the same as having only one. This took me a while to figure out, opting out of picking up small crafting items I already had when, really, I could have picked all of them up and then some. I also destroyed a dagger when trying to make room, figuring I had two and didn’t need them both. Hopefully some guards at least stepped on the shattered pieces of metal. Wait, you mean matter can actually turn into thin air in this world? Wish I could use that for more than not littering when emptying my backpack.

This also means that while I was fighting the mission’s end boss–which I still haven’t managed to do–I was trying to make room in my inventory. Whenever I used up one kind of health poultice, instead of freaking out, I was happy that when the battle ended, I would have that inventory slot back. And I wonder why I keep losing.

Now by Wednesday, I should have at least beaten this stupid beast if not finally reached a second real party member. Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 1

Did I Do That? Part 1

Note: This is obviously going to be spoiler-filled for the path I took for the game. I’d still say read it and don’t make the same mistakes as me, but read at your own risk.

Or better called–an ode to why I can’t ever play games with effective choices correctly.

I’ve played through my origin story and have officially joined the Grey Wardens and already feel like I single-handedly ruined the lives of everyone I’ve encountered. Whether my outcomes were unavoidable, I still feel guilty because of the choice mechanics.

I grew up in the land of linearity. I read everything in sight, overly-invested myself in TV shows, and watched the same movies over and over again. Even when I ventured out and read choose-your-own-adventure-style books, I would try to read every possible path and outcome, never committing to a choice. So here I want to save before every conversation and area transition in case I make the wrong dialogue choice.

Speaking of which, so many times I say something, and it comes out all wrong. I am a naturally sarcastic person. I say mean things, but it is always a joke in tonality. Every now and then I would pick a mean comment that was funny. I told one of the other Grey Warden recruits that it stunk to be stuck with them, and he took major offense and wouldn’t stop referencing it anytime I tried to say something nice. I hate there aren’t any choices that sound like me; all are two extremes–brown noser and sociopath. I feel embarrassed when sucking up and guilty when being rude.

I replayed an entire section because I did not choose the right answer to keep a girl from having to go to a labor camp with sexually-frustrated soldiers. But in that process I went from easily acquiring money as a gift for my upcoming arranged marriage in one conversation to horribly offending the same guests and getting nothing. Then I realized something cool might have happened if I had this money because I could give a coin to a homeless man and then who knows what would have happened!

These are the things that keep me awake at night.

And how I caused my cousin’s execution by accidental choice. That one stings a little too.

I’m playing as a female city elf who was placed into an arranged marriage on the same day as Soltris, my cousin. The arl’s son Vaughan crashes the wedding and kidnaps all the lady folk. Luckily my cousin finds us and together we fight our way through the castle. After finding Vaughan and refusing to take his bribe and leave, we are forced to kill him.

Once escaping, the guards come down and ask who is responsible for the massacre in the castle. I keep silent, hoping they would go away and then the village girl who was jealous of my marriage match rats us out. I get conscripted to the Grey Wardens, and my cousin gets taken for execution. If only I’d known not taking credit for my crimes would have consequences…

I’m also playing as a rogue because I wanted a challenge. Too often in RPGs, I play as a mage so that I can spam spells and set everyone on fire. Easy peasy. Rogues are typically thieves, archers, and assassins. I wanted to try playing more strategically, but I didn’t realize strategy was already forced down my throat. I knew the game had party members, but I didn’t realize I had control over them all. Of course I haven’t gotten to experiment too much because fighting with me is a kiss of death.

Now to keep going on with my most ambitious series yet. Let’s hope I don’t pull all of my hair out by the end.

Killing Him Loudly: The Finale

Killing Him Loudly: The Finale

By some miracle, I made it through the last two sets of levels of this game, and all of this convoluted murder about killed me.

My issues with execution continued to grow in the last levels. While it only took me approximately eight hours to finish more than half the levels, the last six levels alone took me three hours. It got to the point I would look up a video to try to time everything perfectly, do it all as accurately as possible, and still somehow have a bystander who wasn’t there in the walkthrough suddenly decide it wants to walk right beside my target for the duration of the level. Level 53 took me to separate days and an hour collectively–and that’s excluding the amount of time I spent with my eyes closed trying to quit seeing red.

The game doesn’t do much to add new mechanics to the last twenty levels. It does introduce the bodyguards which are fun–it answers my question of why these notorious people are always alone–but not even half of the last levels utilize this. The point is that you have to take out the guard first or he will alert everyone to your presence. Of course the realism it adds is diminished by how decapitating the bodyguard with a store sign when he is directly behind the bad guy goes unnoticed by his employer. I can tell this was added because having the target on high alert would add an impossible level of difficulty; he never leaves the bad guy’s side unless he is forced to. It would help if they provided more gameplay for luring him away then just choosing to ignore the bad guy-s common sense.

And he does have some. If you place any object in his line of sight that wasn’t there before, he goes on high alert and runs away. So having a tree tied down with a rope twenty yards away freaks him out but not the murder of his only companion doesn’t add up.

The bad guy’s names and origin stories continue to get funny. As the game escalates, you get more pop culture references and people who are only annoying, not evil. There is JustOne Beer who is an irritating teenage singing sensation–remind you of anyone? Even better is when you have to kill Kenny from South Park and Sauron from Middle Earth. Then there is the person who talks too loud on his cell phone while on a train. Granted they pick universal pet peeves when targeting people, so I felt no shame. You swim the backstroke in a crowded pool and smack me in the head, you are dead to me. Literally.

Now this game has a lot of Steam achievements, many of which just encourage you to try the levels over and over because it sets thresholds for how many people to kill, how much blood to spill, etc. The odd ones though seem to hail from its days as a Kickstarted indie startup. You get an achievement for sharing the game on Facebook and streaming on Twitch. The settings has a way to directly export to Twitch right from the menu. I can understand them trying to motivate players to simultaneously promote and play the game since it only got made through intense marketing; they were forced into this mindset from the start. It feels superfluous now. If your game has been out for this long, it should live off of its merit and normal marketing. Granted it isn’t really hurting anyone–it isn’t an in-game objective, thank God. It feels like the epilogue of a Pygmalion movie where the made-over person continues acting out for attention because they are used to going unnoticed.

For me, if a game is painfully difficult for me to finish, I want a payout, a reward. Between each ten levels, there are little pieces of exposition showing that the bad guys are on to you, so must be increasingly more careful. So I expected something similar for endgame. The organization I was working for was taken down. I had succeeded in my genocide of evil doers. But no. Instead I got was a “Congratulations! Keep playing and perfect the levels!” No conclusion to the loose story, and the game even breaks the fourth wall by admitting that was all it was–a game.

Now to start Dragon Age: Origins proper. Fair warning, this is going to be my first undertaking of continuous coverage of a large game, so be prepared. Also it may be broken up by the occasional adventure game because i just bought a pretty great game bundle. Stay tuned.

Killing Him Loudly: Part 2

Killing Him Loudly: Part 2

This game’s difficulty is growing exponentially for me and is making me remember that science has never been my friend.

I grew up with puzzles. I had loads of workbooks and puzzle anthologies that I would sit with for hours. I would connect all of the dots, fill in all of the numbers, and solve all of the word searches–that’s my expertise. What isn’t seems to be real-time execution of solutions. Kill the Bad Guy has made me remember that physics-based puzzles are by no means where my talents lie. The only ones I ever managed to play with any competency were the flash games where the number of solutions were limited, and I usually quit if the mechanics or levels opened up. Also seems like a relevant time to mention that Angry Birds can kiss my ass.

There was one level where the best solution was simple–saw down a tree and wait for the perfect time to push it onto the bad guy. I think I spend a half hour on this level trying to time this perfectly and started to think that maybe I was doing it the wrong way. A video walkthrough just showed me what I had thought I was doing, only a millisecond off. It took a dozen more tries to get it correct. This is a game where hints, cheats, and walkthroughs are useless after a certain point because you still have to be able to execute it perfectly.

It also gets more difficult because after ten levels, stealth becomes more a factor. So much for my “quick and dirty” approach from last week. Here you have to take security cameras, policemen, and innocent bystanders into account. The game will sometimes give you twenty different objects to associate and use for assassination, but only a few can be utilized without detection; even fewer leave civilians unscathed. There’s a machine in some levels that–for reasons that cannot possibly comply with the city’s code–shoot ninja stars at your discretion once it is powered up. More time than I can count has it flown out at top speed, decapitated my target, and then slain a police officer. You’d think the solid impact of a person’s neck would slow it down a little. But then again, me and science don’t always agree.

The riddles have become more obtuse for more reasons than one. A few examples, if you will:

“It’s thanks to him that I got this job. Sent him my full appreciation!”

Here is a secondary objective that I completed but cannot figure out why. I killed him by blowing open a man hole with a geyser, sending him flying. Now that is the only way I saw to kill him, meaning I don’t know why that would be the answer to the puzzle. My only rationalization was that I made him “full” with water, but that contradicts my previous statement. If anyone out there knows about this level, please let me know before I get dizzy from the circles I’m running in over it. This is one that is so vague it is hard to relate it any way to the level’s environment, making it a lucky guess like I did.

And another one:

“That one deserved the electric chair for sleeping with my mom!”

Now this one was obvious after observing the level–there’s a wire and a fire hydrant which means electrocution–but it was next to impossible to kill him this way. The straightforward method was to kill him with a sabotaged parked car. This one is more difficult in another way–easy to figure, hard to complete. You had to reroute him for him to go anywhere near the water and placing the blockade a millimeter too far to the left and he walks around it. It is unpredictable when he will act like a normal human being and when he will act like a Sim. Either he realizes that a dirty dinner plate can never fully block your path or you stand there until you piss yourself and die.

And one last one?

“A real killer doesn’t set himself any limits.”

This example is a whole new kind of objective. These have nothing to do with the murder. It is a separate task that needs to be done in conjunction with setting up the perfect crime. In this level, there were a few blockades around the town that needed to be moved–that’s it. But it took me a few tries to realize that this one had nothing to do with the way of killing.

Now I was planning on finishing this game this weekend, but with the increasingly difficult levels and thirty more to go, it’s going to take me a couple more days to do. Stay tuned!

Killing Him Loudly: Part 1

Killing Him Loudly: Part 1

So my original plan was to start playing and covering Dragon Age: Origins, but then I spent two hours trying to decide on my character. So instead, let’s talk about the best murder simulator since The Sims.

Kill the Bad Guy is a puzzle game where you are tasked with–as you might have guessed from the title–assassinating different bad guys in the world using your environment. I’m not entirely sure who I play, whether it is an invisible ninja who can teleport all over the environment or a god-like creature who gets a kick out of smiting people in Final Destination-style ways; it’s only important that you are all-powerful, the way I like it.

The graphics are simple and entirely white with the exception of the usable objects in the level and the target himself. You click on the various items and figure out which can interact and which can be broken. It starts off simple with you activating a car to go out of control when he walk in front of it, splattering his blood all over the side of a building. As the levels progress though, you are given more ways to kill him with pieces of the city. The most satisfying was when I could bust a gas line and then set it on fire. For the longest time, I only noticed the lighters and could not figure out what I was supposed to do. I’d try to block his path with them, but then he would run away in fear. Then I finally realized I could interact with these pipes crawling up the side of two different buildings. You have to set it alight right as he is walking through so he catches on fire and runs around until he dies.

What makes this the most fun is how the game is all violence with minimal gratuity. I’m not squeamish, but I do tend to feel uneasy with blood in games. Maybe it’s from growing up on cartoon games, but whenever I can turn off blood in the settings, I do. Here the only realistic violence is right when he dies and his blood splatters. It’s so cartoony though, and all of the villains are identical, so it let’s me have fun with the assassinations without feeling sick. I mean, you even get extra points for spilt blood, and I’m still cool with it; that’s a feat in itself.

The scoring system is similar to most puzzle games with self-contained levels where you have so many stars for how well you do except instead of the stars representing a score threshold, each one represents the completion of a different task. You get a star if you finish the level in one day–the equivalent of one try–if you find the passport and the target’s tooth after it goes flying from his body, and if you complete the secondary objective.

But let’s break a few of these down because they are what make the game a little bit more complex. Though it is simple, this is where the different layers come in.

Both finding the passport and the tooth act as a timed hidden object puzzle. You must find the document while simultaneously setting up the environment for the bad guy’s assassination. To get all five stars you also have to do this during the first day. You then have about five seconds after the guy dies to find the tooth. You can see the trajectory as it flies away from his body but are still crunched for time as you hunt all over the barren city sector.

Then the secondary objectives act as a riddle. Each one is vague–almost an oversimplified version of the Riddler’s environmental scan puzzles in the Arkham games–only pushing you in the direction of the way it’s wants the murder to go down. Some are fairly easy to guess after looking the level. I mean, you’d have to go out of your way not to kill them the way you’re asked. For example, one is, “They say water isn’t a good conductor. Let’s see, shall we?” Then there are fire hydrants you can rig and power lines you can cut, making the best way pretty clear from the start. The only time I killed him every other way was when I accidentally cut the wire too early, and it hit him instead of the stream I had made in the street.

You are also rewarded extra points for speed and how much blood there is, encouraging you to play quick and dirty. This is counter-intuitive to how I think of any game with assassination, but for this, it fits.

Now I can’t say if I’ll finish this up over the weekend or if I’ll get a real start to Dragon Age. Right now I’m curling up in bed with Phoenix Wright, and pretending my work week never happened. Stay tuned.

I Need a Hero: The Finale

I Need a Hero: The Finale

Note: I’m in the middle of switching Internet providers, and they never showed up yesterday to activate my new connection. So sorry for the delay. I’m writing on my lunch break. Assuming TWC actually shows up today, tomorrow should go on as planned.

Now to make up for the delay, two Top Threes–one that’s helpful and one just for lawlz.

Top 3 (Probably) Game-Intended Hacks:

3. You can create health potions and medicine with your notepad.

2. Abuse adjectives. While you get zero reputation points for words like “invincible” and “poisoned,” you can consistently rename Maxwell “fast flying regenerating super-strong Maxwell.” Also add the word “flaming” and all of its synonyms to your enemies.

1. Keep conjuring vehicles because they act like armor. When enemies attack, they only hurt your monster truck, not you.

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Top 3 Melodramatic Solutions:

3. Use a fighter jet in a full-frontal attack against a group of ninjas.

2. Then use the same jet to kill an angry cricket., making sure it only ever picks on someone its own size.

1. Give Wonder Woman a submarine to use as a weapon to beat up Cheetah. I thought she would ride around in it, but instead she picked it up and used it like a baseball bat.

After this Scribblenauts, I don’t think I can play another in the series without superheroes. They make the fighting mechanics so much easier. For example in the final battle, the mysterious archvillain clones himself multiple times. With Maxwell’s hand-to-hand combat pretty useless even with a sword, and using any kind of gun or flamethrower only enough for one or two enemies, it’s hard to manage a win. But all you have to do is conjure the members of the Justice League and then hover above them and supervise, avoiding any stray laser beams.

After finally finishing this game, I can say that this installment’s attempt to make it more of a traditional game is the only thing that made it weaker. The implementation of common tasks like escort missions and fetch quests don’t fit with the mechanics. Maxwell’s notebook gives you the power to help everyone without having to hold their hand, literally and figuratively. You can provide citizens with a vehicle that will get them there faster than if you stayed to help them. You can make exactly what the person is looking for instead of going to grab it for them.

The most absurd was when I ran across a guy upset about not having a donut. I made him one and gave it to him only for him to keep complaining about a donut shortage. A few minutes later I came across a bakery who wanted me to deliver donuts to three engineers and finally understood. But the donuts weren’t even special! They looked exactly identical to the ones I had made before. It just doesn’t fit with the game’s logic.

Now I’m sorry this game’s last installment is late and shorter, but I have to go make money. Stay tuned to find out what I decide to play next.