Pre-review: Nioh Last Chance Demo (PS4)

I’ve got this pre-review and a new game review coming in the near future, and this is possible because both games were free. I’m looking to publish a new book in the coming months, so that may help the financial crunch that’s keeping me strapped and gameless. (and bookless)(guh, being broke sucks)(I am incidentally attempting to go overboard with parentheses))

But so let me digress and talk about Nioh, which put out a last chance demo over the weekend. It is a demo and a beta, so there’s no guarantees that some of what I’ll talk about will be in the actual release. And in breaking with tradition, I’m going to give a verdict upfront. When the demo locked me out at 1:00 AM on Monday, my first question was “Would I buy this if this were the finished product?” The answer is yes, but I will probably wait a few months in the hopes of finding it at a discounted price. That’s more to do with me being broke and needing to be choosy about what one game I can buy in any month, and as Horizon Zero Dawn is also coming out in February, I would much rather get that first.

I played through the first mission twice and had two very different impressions of the game as a result of RNG. Given that the second playthrough was far more favorable and less negative, I kinda want to talk about it first. But some of those impressions won’t make sense if I take them out of order. So just be aware that while I’ll initially have a lot of bad things to bring up, eventually this review will get around to saying something nice to balance it all out. Continue reading


Extended re-re-review: Fallout 4…modded like a boss! (PS4)

It took FOREVER for Sony and Bethesda to get mod support on Fallout 4 on the PS4, at one point even looking like it would never come to pass. I was actually in a really long run on Dark Souls III when the update came out, and then I got Dark Souls, which also distracted me for a while before I could finally give this much desired feature a chance.

At first, I couldn’t get mods to work, but that wasn’t the fault of the mods themselves. For some odd reason, I started having lag in many indoor areas, lag so bad that I was seeing single digit frame rates and really bad instances of rubber banding. My character would literally take two steps forward and then one step back, and this was the case even after I deleted all mods and started a new game with the vanilla setup.

But after a few days of searching, I found a mod that cleaned up some extra debris, and that improvement in performance allowed me to start putting on other mods, some of which were for visual flair, like Simple Green. (Adding grass and leaves to the environment so it doesn’t look so barren and lifeless.) Another one I added allowed me to make any gun I wanted, just to see what I could get away with. (Funny story in that. I made a badass rifle before groaning in dismay because I had no ammo for it. I ended up having to craft a much less wicked .38 pipe pistol because that’s the more common ammo found in the early areas. Once I had some ammo to test my monster combat rifle, oh, baby, was it fun to use!)

I gave the mods a test run, completing one game on normal mode before I downloaded a mod that changed the time scale of the world to real time. Then I started a new game in survival mode to see if having a longer day/night cycle would address my problems with the constant prompts for food and water. Oh, and I also made a ring that gave me crazy amounts of XP for kills, making it much easier to level up and try out new perks that I’d previously left alone because I didn’t consider them essential. More on that in a bit. Continue reading


Game review: Dark Souls for Xbox360

I got a little amount of cash for Christmas, not enough for a proper new game, though. But as I’ve played something like 600 hours in Dark Souls III, I figured why not get the first game and see what’s changed? So I went to the local game shop, and as luck would have it, they had exactly one copy of the Prepare to Die edition in stock.

Before I get to the proper review, I want to address some complaints about the third installment. I see a lot of fans complain that Dark Souls III is totally different from the original game, and I gotta say, I’m not in agreement with that opinion. The third game is in many ways a refinement of all these ideas that started in the first. The menus and interface are more intuitive to use, the camera is less wonky, and the fast travel system is much, much better in the final installment. But almost everything else is quite similar. Many of the items and enemies found in the first game are in the third installment, and now having played the first game, and then gone back to play the third over again, I can see all the ways From Software is elbowing me in the ribs and going “Remember that? Wasn’t it great?”

And it can be great at times, when it isn’t being clunky or clumsy. The controls are so slow to react, and the dodge roll is pretty useless in most situations. I could hold the stick to the left, press the dodge roll four times, and go every direction EXCEPT to the left. I couldn’t reliably roll and execute a thrust attack because rather than thrust at the camera locked enemy, my character would instead attack thin air in whichever direction she was facing when she finished the roll. The camera lock is even more wonky than the later From Software games I’ve played, but I had to use it because attempting to fight without it often resulted in a gloriously clumsy dance where my character and the enemy both swung half a dozen times without either ever once connecting for a hit. Continue reading


Book review: The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue

The Boy Who Drew Monsters was my Halloween read, although I started it a day early. The first few chapters really sucked me in, but near the middle of the book it lost me, and reading the last chapters just dragged on and on because the story both loses momentum and does a terrible job of answering the questions its posed.

Jack Peter, or JP, or Jip, is an autistic boy who hasn’t left his house since almost drowning three years before the start of the book. Only that’s a lie the blurb tells, and he frequently leaves his house for trips to his therapist. Another lie the blurb tells is that he’s just recently started to draw monsters and they somehow come to life. Also not true.

Jack is a boy with extraordinary powers that he has always had, but no one noticed before, somehow. The circumstances of his near drowning are murky, but seem to be an attempted murder that backfired. His parents are friends with the parents of his best friend Nick, although I’m not sure how that can be when Tim had an affair with Nick’s mother, and everyone seems to know it even if it’s never explained when this all came out.

I guess that’s my real problem with the book. All the things I had questions about were glossed over, and the only question that did get answered in the end felt like a really, really stupid answer. I had so little interest in the story that it’s taken me this long just to write up a review.

I’m giving The Boy Who Drew Monsters 2 stars. If this is horror, it’s the kind of crappy PG-13 horror someone might make for a kid’s movie (assuming the one dull sex scene was edited out, that is). It’s never scary and wastes the potential it started out with. I can’t even think of anyone I’d recommend this to. There are better ways to waste time with. Navel gazing, for instance.


Game Review: Bloodborne for PS4

I took every last old game I could pry from behind the entertainment center to the game shop and traded them in for a copy of Bloodborne. It wasn’t enough, so I had to pay half the price in cash to get it. But I figured the game had to be worth it. I mean, I liked Dark Souls III, so From software could do no wrong, right? Wrong. They could do just about everything wrong.

When I first put in the disc I found the patch required 3.9 gigabytes and would take five hours to download. So I said, “Screw it, I’ll play without the patch to see what the difference is.” Without the patch, there is no offline mode. Without the patch, the loading screen will remind you every single time what game you’re playing. Aside from that, I can’t really think of anything the patch did. Either way, my character’s run animation can randomly drop to a treacle slow shuffle for no apparent reason. (I thought this was some kind of loading trick like in Max Payne 3, except I could hit the sprint button and move normally without the shuffle stepping.) My character can still catch the finger of a dead enemy and drag their stupid floppy bodies around like a giant piece of toilet paper. All the wonk I encountered in the first run is present in the patched game. I’m thinking the bulk of the patch was probably the DLC being added in case I felt like buying it, but I don’t. In fact after I beat the game, I ejected the disc and promptly put Dark Souls III back in.

“Aw, Zoe, you didn’t give it a fair chance,” say the From Software lovers. Yes, yes I did. I played every maze-like area with its collections of copy pasta enemies, beat every single boss, and played the chalice dungeons, even. I decided that if I’m going to play this only once, I might as well fight the last two bosses and get the “supa-secret” ending. (It’s not much of a secret for me because I’ve watched the whole game played on YouTube ages ago.) In total I’d spent close to 150 hours playing this, and you can’t give a game more of a chance than to try everything it has to offer. Continue reading


Book review: The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

The Ice Twins is one of the books I picked up to try and read outside my comfort zone, and the blurb certainly made it sound interesting. Nearly a year after a twin dies in an accident, the other twin suddenly starts claiming that her parents have mistaken her identity. Yep, interesting.

I was maybe 75 pages in and really not liking it when Cinzia, a friend of my husband, came over for dinner and was raving about how this was so, so good. I told her, “I’m trying to read it, but nothing is happening.” She said, “Yes, it’s slow to start.”

I think we have vastly different tastes and understandings of slow to start, because this book continues to grind on and on for roughly half its length before it decides to attempt shifting into second gear. And it fails and slips back into first before making another attempt one hundred pages later. It doesn’t help that the whole book is one long struggle with unreliable narration, or that the book has some really strange choices about comma and colon placement that had my inner editor making baffled sounds like “buh-wha-da-fu-is-dis-shi?” Continue reading


Game update: Galak-Z for PS4

Let’s get out of the way that this is not a proper review. If you want my review of Galak-Z, you can find it here. But as I wrote in that post, I planned to come back and give this another shot when season 5 came out as a patch, something set to coincide with the PC release. That came to pass finally and…folks, I am so, so angry.

The patch notes listed a new Arcade mode that claims to make the game less punishing, and a new endless mode with daily challenges and leaderboards. This sounded okay to me. Spelunky has daily challenges and leaderboards, and while I don’t play them every day, it has given me a reason to keep dusting it off every few weeks on my Vita and PS4. It adds life to a game I might have otherwise deleted long ago. It shows promise, in other words.

So I fired up Galak-Z after a lengthy 1.8 gigabyte patch downloaded, and I went to look at the story mode. Wait, where’s season 5? I thought maybe the problem was, I needed to play season 4 over again to unlock it, and because it’s been forever since I’d played, I thought it best to just start over on the new Arcade mode to get familiar with the controls again before taking on the tougher levels.

This reintroduction was a painful reminder of why I ended up disliking a game I wanted to love at release, and it’s actually much worse in several ways. The lag that plagued the game even in moments with no enemies on screen is now even worse, with the screen randomly freezing for upwards of two seconds. With nothing on screen, this is already enough to get me swearing. In the middle of a dogfight with multiple enemies, it’s a death sentence. And it happens CONSTANTLY. How can a game get a patch this large and still not address one of the biggest issues the core game had? No, better yet, how can a game get a patch this big and feel even more broken than it did on release day? Continue reading