Video Games of 2012 [GO]
Jan 4th, 2013 by Dan

Miami Marlins at Pittsburgh Pirates - PNC Park 21 Jul 2012

Even the Pittsburgh Pirates played video games this year.

Knock on wood, you guys, but I managed to get through 2012 without having all my video games stolen from my house while I was sleeping [EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s 2013 now, you dummy. You don’t need to knock on wood]. Should that even be an achievement?

2012 seems to be a shift in the status quo. Perhaps it’s because the new console generation hasn’t yet kicked off, but I feel like fewer and fewer AAA, big budget titles have been grabbing my attention lately. Of the 56 games on this list I feel like very few (about 12) were big, huge landmark games. Maybe that’s not all that different, but it feels different…

Also, like last year I do count games on this list that did not launch in 2012, but that I played, started, or beat in 2012.


Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – The weirdest thing about my time with this game was that I chose to play it in Spanish. It was fine practice and, off the top of my head, it taught me two Spanish words I had no use for before playing it (sotano and cachorro, meaning basement and puppy/cub/kitten, respectively), but it also featured very funny writing by Phoenix Wright’s creator and a bizarrely complicated story for such a slight-looking game. In fact, 2012 was kind of a year of interactive fiction, as you’ll see, so it’s appropriate to see GT get top billing. It’s also worth mentioning that the animation in this game is spectacular.

Rayman: Origins – Also known as the game where Min and I attained Super Saiyan level for the first time. No lie, guys, the treasure chest levels and the final Level of the Dead or whatever it was called was a zen-like achievement for the pair of us. If New Super Mario Bros. isn’t your bag, but you think you might still love platformers then you absolutely need to try this game out.

Chrono Trigger DS – Yeah, I played this in the 90s. Yep, it was my first RPG. The DS port added some marginal sections, including an epilogue that sets up for Chrono Cross in the most depressing way possible, but it also came with a new translation that I thought was interesting and brought some freshness to an otherwise “solved” game for me.

Earthbound – I wish I’d spent more time trying to replay Earthbound, but I just didn’t. Heck, I don’t think I got too far past meeting Buzz Buzz…Still love this game.

Cave Story + – How I long for dynamic difficulty level changing! Cave Story + is a fantastic Metroidvania-style pixel shooter, but my hubris determined I would play on the hardest difficulty, which means I’m stuck on Monster X until I can get my skills down pat.


Final Fantasy XIII-2 – Remember how everyone’s favorite character in FF XIII was Lightning’s sister and some guy no one ever saw in FF XIII? Wait…those weren’t your favorite characters? You don’t want to play another 40 hours as those chuckleheads and watch Snow, Hope, and Sazh from afar while playing a nearly incomprehensible story? Too bad!

Saints Row: The Third – I feel bad for you if you’ve never played Saints Row: The Third. I felt bad for myself for not having played it sooner than I did. For maximum awesomeness be sure to give your boss the Latina voice. It’s priceless. Seriously though, this game is the best open world game I have ever played. Period. It’s absurd, ridiculous, and nonsensical, but it’s winking every step of the way and I’m right there with it.

Rhythm Heaven Fever – When I first started writing this list I forgot that this little gem came out in 2012. Can you believe it?! Min, I know you don’t understand the appeal here, but this is honestly among my favorite game of this year. Did I spend $80 importing the soundtrack from Japan? You betcha. Goddammit this game is so good. It’s a must play for anyone with a Wii (or a Wii U). Seriously, go buy it. It’s incredible.

Devil Survivor 2 – Man, the Megrez fight is so stupid and I’m not properly equipped, demon-wise, to tackle it, which is why I never beat this game. It’s better than DS1, mechanically, but I just need to sit down and grind my way out of this and I really don’t want to have to do that…Bonus points for also pretty much being Evangelion


Mass Effect 3 – Hoo boy…What a shitshow this game’s release was…I wish I’d beaten it faster than I had because by the time I reached the ending, well, the internet had practically exploded with criticism. I spent more time wading in comments sections and forums defending the artistic integrity of a game that I honestly didn’t find that impressive compared to the rest of the year’s releases, but it just rubbed me the wrong way to see the fanboys demand changes from Bioware. I mean, whine all you want, but so long as Bioware doesn’t cave– What’s that? You say they did cave? They did change the ending as a response to fan whining? My respect for Bioware and this game flew out the window the second that happened. As far as I’m concerned, I played the real Mass Effect 3, but I never got the chance to enjoy it. Now that the doctors are gone from Bioware and the company is soliciting advice on what direction to take Dragon Age III, I find myself thinking, “Man, what happened to Bioware?” It’s a real shame because Mass Effect 3 was actually quite good.


Shadow Complex – Way late to the party on this one, but I was feeling that Metroidvania itch and, well, this game kind of scratches it. I hate the third dimension they added to the gun because it makes aiming a pain. Other than that it’s fine. Serviceable, really, but it also gets credit for being the first “autolog” type game that I can think of.

Jamestown – I don’t play a lot of vertical/horizontal shooters. Jamestown just happened to be out in a lull and I owned it from a Humble Bundle. It’s enjoyable enough and I dig playing it with multiple people, but it’s not going to set the world on fire. Playing the story in “funny” mode is fun too because the alternative is almost obnoxiously self-serious.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP – Cool music and a cool aesthetic, but it controls weird on the PC. I wish I had an iPad for stuff like this and that I put more time into this game.

The Walking Dead – I thought about separating this out into episodes across the series, but it seems cleaner to talk about this game in one fell swoop even though I started it in April and finished it in November. I know I said that Rhythm Heaven Fever was the best game of this year, but The Walking Dead is actually the best thing to have come out this year. I’ll grant you that it’s more interactive fiction than game, but even that’s not that important, really. I mean, would putting more puzzles in this adventure game make it any better? Of course not! The Walking Dead is the success it is because it’s a character-driven story of the likes we haven’t seen before. Lee Everett may not be making the galaxy-defining choices that Commander Shepard makes on a daily basis, but the stakes always seem higher as he does his best to shepherd young Clementine through a world that only gets worse and worse for everyone. That last scene in the jewelry store as Lee coaches Clem to safety…It touched me (and I’m sure most anyone who played it) in a way that nothing else this year could. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that everyone should play this game. It’s brilliant.

Fez – Speaking of brilliant, Fez has that in spades. We’re talking about a game where every detail feels deliberate and mysterious. That’s not an exaggeration either. With maybe one exception, there’s not a single puzzle in Fez that you couldn’t necessarily figure out in some way from clues in the world. They might be obscure, difficult to interpret clues, but they’re there. Add in a soundtrack that is hauntingly beautiful and a rotating mechanic that is as fun as anything else you’ve ever done and you’ve got the most interesting experience of 2012. I can still pull up intense memories of the empty solitude of some of the screens and the fitting music that made me feel isolated, alone, a little scared, and a little excited to discover a cube or an anticube. Fez was awesome, guys.


Diablo 3 – I’ve had this talk with Min so many times, but maybe I didn’t understand what Diablo was before I played D3. I’d only ever played D2 with my brother or a few friends. It was a small-scale endeavor and Torchlight, its closest analogue for me, was a single-player affair. There was no Auction House there to circumvent loot drops or other players to set up trades with on forums. There was the purity of the RNG and the thrill of the hunt. Diablo 3 awakened that feeling inside me that activates when I feel like I’ve been cheated. It was like I took the red pill and I saw the Matrix of the game for the first time when I realized what I’d have to do to beat the game on Inferno. I’ve never felt like a game’s systems were so transparently evil before (I don’t play Facebook games) and Diablo 3 soured me on Blizzard as a developer. Maybe next year you’ll see an entry about Heart of the Swarm, but as of right now, thanks to Diablo 3, I plan on never spending another cent on a Blizzard game (unless a new Warcraft RTS comes out. I actually like those).

Tropico 4 – Min likes to tease me about being an evil dictator when I play this game, but it’s much more complicated for me. When I play Tropico I don’t exercise my ability to rig elections or execute citizens at will. I do my best to be a benevolent leader and resist the control/interference of the US or USSR. I do my best to make the tropical paradise that I feel my people have been denied. It’s a deeply (and weirdly) personal experience for me. Plus the music is pretty sweet.


The Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb – Yeah, yeah, expansion pack for a game that I played relentlessly last year. I don’t care, guys, it was almost a new game with how much it added. If you read my blog and you tried/enjoyed FTL, you really should check this out.

No More Heroes: Paradise – I think I’m at assassin #7 or #6? It’s got its purposefully tedious parts in it and it’s so stylized that it’s hilarious, but it lost some steam with me and I never finished it. Whoops.


Spelunky – Forget what that other guy said about the best game of this year because Spelunky is awesome. It’s so sharp in the way that it plays. Die and it’s almost 100% your fault. Brutally difficult, endearingly fun and funny, and tightly controlled. I only wish I had more friends to play local multiplayer with.

Penny Arcade 2 – Not as funny as PA1 and not as fun as PA3

Penny Arcade 3 – PA goes 16-bit RPG. The combat is frighteningly difficult, but the game is tons of fun because of it. These new classes are super neat. It’s like they figured out all the boundaries to RPG combat and sharpened them to a knife’s edge. Really interesting, but easy to bone yourself with bad class selection.

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion – Each game takes forever, but playing a few matches with Min was tons of fun.

Greed Corp – Did not like. Sorry, Eric.

Puzzle Agent – Tried this before I went down the Professor Layton rabbit’s hole. Surprisingly funny and surprisingly well-written. I’m fairly certain that these didn’t sell well enough to keep making them, but I really enjoyed the setting and the story. Very cute.

Max Payne 3 – I’m the guy who’s never played a Max Payne game before so when I play this grimy, glitzy, greasy shooter I’m unburdened by Payne’s history. There’s no comparison to the way it used to be or the way I wanted a sequel to be. It’s just an awesome shooter with a dumb, but neat story. Brazil is here to stay as a setting and even though Rockstar characters are all deplorable assholes who I hate, I had a soft spot for Max and Giovanna. Pretty solid shooter.

Sonic Generations – Modern Sonic games suck. All of them. Everyone who thinks Generations is “not that bad” or “good” is wrong. You’re wrong.

BIT.TRIP.RUNNER – A rhythm game! I didn’t realize it before I tried it. The first boss fight sucks and I stopped playing after it. I hear that was a mistake.


Persona 4 Arena – I got a little bogged down by being forced to play other perspectives before finishing the main narrative, but the continuation of the Persona story was solid enough to make me interested in the game, even if I didn’t really care for the fighting mechanic. Guys, who knew a fighting game could have a sweet story?

Driver: San Francisco – Didn’t get enough in to say anything definitive, but I don’t really like the car mechanics.

Trine 2 – I don’t think either of these Trine games are for me, but I’ve only ever played 5 hours of a Trine game ever. It’s the physics model. I don’t like the imprecision in a platformer. I had the same issue with Little Big Planet.

Iron Brigade – The most frustrating networking experience of 2012. It’s a shame too because Min, Lee, and I should have loved playing this.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – Goddammit I love me some Counter-Strike. I didn’t put that many hours into this, but playing it with Simon and some of the old War Cry guys was awesome. If you have any interest in shooters, but you don’t play this…well I don’t understand you.

Orcs Must Die 2 – Not the best tower defense game, but I think I’m under 10 hrs with it so maybe it picks up?

The Last Story – Got so bogged down writing about this with David (remember that feature?) that I never continued it. Lots of promise there with characters that seem deeper than your usual anime bullshit, but I need to give it another 20 hours to be sure.


Mark of the Ninja – The tightest stealth game (mechanics-wise) you will ever play. Seriously, man. It’s pretty boss. The story is fairly dumb, but playing it is so much fun that you can’t help but smile. A solid win in my book.

FTL: Faster Than Light – I’ve recorded 31.5 hours of me playing this game as of when I write this sentence. A game that has such tight mechanics that you can’t help but love it. This was the year of roguelikes for me. FTL plays like the space sim you always wish you had. I don’t see myself getting bored of this game until I unlock all the ships. That won’t be for a while because I’m somewhat terrible with some of the ships, but I do love me this game.

New Super Mario Bros. 2
– More Mario platforming. Not the most inspired Mario game, but it has its moments. Not gonna set the world on fire and, like the first one, not my favorite Mario game.

Torchlight 2 – I can’t really claim to have played this game since the first day was a clusterfuck and I didn’t get past the menu screen. Had tons of fun chatting with Min and his cousin though.

Borderlands 2 – Until the very end of December I was the only one of my close video gaming friends who had this game. As a solo affair (and even as a group affair), the early parts of this game are pretty terrible/boring/tedious. In a group I’ve enjoyed playing this tons more. It’s just fun to have three friends rolling around Pandora with you. I hope we keep playing.

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy – I love rhythm games. I love Final Fantasy music. This game is beautiful and perfect and could only be made better with more FF VI music.

Kirby’s Dream Collection – Picked it up to own Kirby Super Star. Played a bit of that with Min. Lots of fun, but not gonna set the world on fire.


Professor Layton and the Last Specter – Played it for a few minutes because it was the only sequel I could find in the store. Based on those few minutes I bought the rest of the franchise.

Pokemon White Version 2 – I wish I hadn’t pushed Min and David to get Black and White because the Version 2s are so much better. There has never been a better put together Pokemon game. I’ve sunk over a hundred hours into this game playing it Nuzlocke style and I still have yet to defeat the Elite Four or Team Plasma. I’m not kidding, guys, this is the closest you can come to a perfect Pokemon game.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Ok, for realsies now, guys. This is the best game of the year. Just so much fun to play in Classic Ironman mode where every mistake is locked in place and humanity hangs in the balance. Tactical, turn-based combat has never been better implemented and every system works well. My only gripe is that you “can’t fail” the final mission in the sense that losing it sends you to the start. Losing an Ironman run in the final mission would be brilliant (and sadistic), wouldn’t it?

Professor Layton and the Curious Village – It has a fairly ridiculous plot twist that almost makes zero sense and doesn’t hit with any oomph, but you’re supposed to be here for the puzzles anyway. They’re fun and the characters are charming enough that I’m more than happy to spend hours upon hours just completing brain teasers.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted – I wish this was more Burnout Paradise instead. I don’t like the way the “campaign” is laid out with the unlocks for all the cars. I hate how I have to earn nitro every time I swap cars. It’s just not as good as the Burnout stuff. I’m sorry. That said, it’s so much fun to race at top speed in real-world automobiles. Super fun.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask – The 365 puzzles (one a day) and the fact that I bought it digitally are what keeps me coming back to this game over and over again since I haven’t yet beaten the previous iterations. Solid puzzle work and a great 3DS package, but I can’t wait to actually see the narrative.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box – More Layton, but on a train!

To the Moon – The Walking Dead kind of ruined this game for me. Everyone was lauding it as this grand, mature narrative, but then The Walking Dead goes and does something truly spectacular while To the Moon failed to really hit with me. The twist was neat and I dug the story, but I didn’t find it to be as amazing as I’d heard. It’s solid storytelling in a mediocre engine package, but it’s worth checking out for sure.


Hotline Miami – Certainly the game that’s inspired the most cackling laughter in me. Just brutal, ugly, sleazy, and weird. Hotline Miami has a kickass soundtrack and relentless gameplay. The bosses are kind of obnoxious, but it plays fairly sharply and I’d recommend it to almost anyone.

Nintendo Land – Fantastic in group settings, but somewhat lacking as a solo endeavor. I’m happy to own it and I think asynchronous information/capabilities makes for way more interesting games than the same old stuff we’re used to, but without a group to play this it can get a little boring.

New Super Mario Bros. U – Haven’t put a lot of time in it, but the course design is definitely superior to the DS version. Can’t wait to beat this with Min, but I’m not breaking down any doors to play it.

Donkey Kong Country Returns – I’m only two worlds in, but it feels slighter/weaker than the old DKCs. We’ll see how it pans out, I guess.


Sleeping Dogs – I’m getting open world fatigue pretty early in this one. Unlike Saints Row: The Third, this is more serious and I feel like not being ridiculous is to its detriment. Sleeping Dogs’ dating system is ridiculous and the cop story is fairly predictable, but I’m in love with the Hong Kong setting and the fact that this is a game not taking place in LA, NY, or Miami. Also really nice to see non-white protagonists. The Batman fighting style is neat, but, like I said, already hitting open world fatigue.

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors – I’m glad I played and finished this before the end of the year because it’s absolutely brilliant. Any game that uses the mechanics of the system its on is an instant plus for me and the final puzzle/revelation is brilliant. How many games make you think about morphic resonance and information transfer like this one? Just the fact that I found myself thinking about philosophical questions like Locke’s Socks/The Ship of Theseus and that it ALL MADE SENSE was really brilliant. Look, visual novels are divisive, but you shouldn’t let that get in your way. 999 has one of the neatest stories of the year (2010) and it’s easily one of my favorite games this year.

Sold Out – What I’ve Been Doing 23 July 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Jul 23rd, 2012 by Dan

No tickets available for today

“Hey Dan, are you still gonna buy tickets in advance?”
“Naw, that won’t be necessary” (Photo by Wonderful Malaysia & Veelzijdig Maleisie)

I was supposed to see The Dark Knight Rises with Min. We were pretty excited about it too, but I was a real dummy and I didn’t get tickets days in advance. Whoops. Maybe this week.


The Dark Knight Rises


Breaking Bad – This show came back this week, but I’m still in season 2. All of the praise being heaped upon it reminded me that I should be watching, so I’ve started pushing through again.

The Bachelorette – I…ugh…:sigh:…Listen, I love spending time with Tiffany, but sometimes it’s tough. Guys, guess what? Emily picked Jef. Yes, he spells his name with one ‘f’. If I write more words about this my brain might explode.


1Q84 – Things are starting to heat up. Oddly enough that’s with both of the principals kind of locked into their locations. I might finish this week, but we’ll see.


Usher’s “Climax” is a great song.

Video Games

Penny Arcade Ep 3 – Got to the bank, but things got super tough. Took a break.

Tropico 4 – Steam sale started and I got my hands on this as soon as I could. I love island management and the soundtrack is pretty sweet.

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion – Still the best 4X game I’ve ever played thanks to the time pressure of the RTS mechanics. Would love to play more multiplayer games with Min.

The Binding of Isaac – One more challenge left and it’s the hardest one. After that then it’s time to beat the game with all the characters again. Not looking forward to the ??? completion.

Spelunky – Keep getting frustratingly close to the City of Gold and then mucking it up. I’ll get it soon. Then I’ll make it to hell!

Burlesque – What I’ve Been Doing 16 July 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Jul 16th, 2012 by Dan


When you go to a burlesque show you pretty much expect dudes with mustaches like this. Maybe knives too. (Photo by tmronin)

The Peepshow (not the NV one, but a different traveling troupe) was in Harrisburg this weekend and Tiffany and I were super thankful to have something to do around York. Seriously, guys. It’s kind of boring up there. Knife throwing, sword swallowing, nail pounding, and, naturally, burlesque dancing were on the menu. It was lots of fun. I think it was their last show of the summer, but if you see that they’re coming to a venue near you, definitely check it out.


The Amazing Spider-Man – I don’t understand why everyone’s so mad about this movie. Ok, so it’s a reboot ten years after the last one, but who cares? Garfield and Stone are both orders of magnitude better than Maguire and Dunst as is Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben. It’s a fun movie and I hope they make more of them.


MLB All-Star Game – The National League blew out the AL by getting to Verlander early. It was a pretty sweet game, but I couldn’t get a proper feed the way I wanted so it was the first one I’ve listened to and not watched in like three years

Louie – This show is so impressive. Check it out.

Futurama – The Richard Nixon presidential run is a perfect example of a Futurama episode that bores me to tears. Nixon is such a safe target for “satire”…I dunno, the whole episode was pretty lukewarm, but I did chuckle when Nixon was a giant robot monster destroying everything.

Fashion Police – It’s kind of cute how much Tiffany loves to watch this and gets bummed if she misses it. I can’t complain.


Boston is awesome, guys. Enough said.


1Q84 – I’m really worried that Murakami let Aomame pull the trigger. I’m deep in suspense wondering if she actually did it. On the other hand, I understand why Murakami might feel like that character has served her purpose.

Video Games

Spelunky – Remains perfect, but my schedule this week has really kept me from playing all that much. Gotta keep at it!

Penny Arcade Ep3 – Sharp writing and sharper combat still. Got my second set of class pins and they’re really creative. I mean, I can be a Dinosorceror. That’s a class that transforms into a dinosaur!

Spelunked – What I’ve Been Doing 9 July 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Jul 3rd, 2012 by Dan

The cutest game to ever make you want to murder your entire family (Photo courtesy Giant Bomb)

Spelunky finally arrived last week and it was GLORIOUS! So good, as a matter of fact, that I managed to rack up 21 hours in it while taking a day off to go to Pennsylvania to celebrate the 4th. Spelunky is razor sharp, guys. Razor sharp.


21 Jump Street – I can’t think of another trailer in recent history that has inspired more ambivalence upon the people I know, but I was secretly amused by it. It turns out that it’s because it’s an amusing movie. It’s not as funny as The Other Guys, but it’s got a similar vibe. Plus it’s got almost every comedic actor working today in bit parts all over. It’s funny, but I wouldn’t spend more than $5 to see it. Oh, also, Dave Franco is like a little James Franco clone. It’s so weird!

Goon – Watched this again with Min since it was on Instant. The major reason this movie works is because it doesn’t make fun of Doug for being a oaf. He’s lovable and he means well and he just wants a place to belong. It’s really quite touching, just very, very violent.


Louie – I’m honestly shocked that something as surreal and arty as this show can be is on FX and is doing as well as it is. I don’t know how the man on the street feels about Louie, but I know that I’m constantly impressed by its reach. Great show. That speech to Pamela in episode 6 was beautiful.

Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine – Speaking of arty shows, how crazy is the opening theme to this one? I mean, it’s called “New Wuthering Heights”, for Christ’s sake! I wonder how much of the look of the show is based on budget, but that’s actually the show’s strongest point. It doesn’t look like anything else on tv and it’s certainly more mature than most of the other anime I’ve ever seen. Fujiko is an interesting character, but, seriously, there’s not a single episode without her topless (nor can there be! She’s nude for the entire opening song).


Heard a track by The Oneups this morning. Reminded me that they’re pretty good (if you like vidya game music)


1Q84 – Haruki Murakami has never met a plot that didn’t need metaphysical, sometimes bizarre sex to advance it. Not a problem, more something to mark on your Murakami checklist. I do wonder what this means for Tengo and I worry about Aomame. Will she make it through the narrative or will Murakami use her to further motivate Tengo? What is Tengo now? Is he going to be cursed like Leader was?

Video Games

The Walking Dead – If Spelunky didn’t also come out this week I’d be drooling over this to everyone. Telltale has really figured things out and they’re knocking it out of the park with each episode. Pick it up now!

The Binding of Isaac – Came so close to knocking out the penultimate challenge. I’ll get you soon, BoI. I’ll get you…

Penny Arcade Ep 1 – Finished off a replay of this to prep for Ep3. The game has decent writing, but I think it’s less funny than the other Hothead episode (that or it’s less fresh for me?). Still, easy-ish S-Rank.

Spelunky – Gaming perfection, guys. Perfection! What Spelunky has that very few modern games do is fearlessness. Derek Yu is so confident that his game is good and that it makes sense that he refuses to put in handhold-y player incentives to coddle and usher along gamers. No, you lose “everything” when you mess up and die…everything but the knowledge that you obtained on the previous run. You’d be surprised how much you learn from each death and how things behave. Obstacles that seemed tough to deal with for me are trivial now. I’m starting to see two or three reactions ahead (chess style) of everything I do. Death only comes when I’m careless. Spelunky is hard and it wants you to move quickly, which also makes it harder, but getting that knowledge allows you to just fly confidently

Skullgirls – I picked this up to check out a sweet fighting game and support Min’s cousin msh. The first thing we did, I kid you not, was watch the credits to look for her name. Congratulations on the game credit, msh. It’s a fine game with fine art and I think it’s super cool that you worked on it. Now if only they could put the move lists, you know, in the game proper…That would be nice. I’m glad they got an official tournament at Evo this year, but I hope they’re a bigger part of the tournament next year. It’s a sharp game.

Jamestown – Hadn’t tried this game multiplayer until this past weekend with Min. Lots of fun, but the final boss is so hard!

Penny Arcade Ep. 2 – Funnier than Ep. 1 and a little more creative in its puzzles and areas too. Didn’t dig the final boss/puzzle, but it was fine. Really pumped me up to keep going with Episode 3 even though it was midnight on Sunday.

Penny Arcade Ep. 3 – Had to play this on Insane, did you, Dan? Ugh….SO HARD! I fought the Crabomancer like 20 times, but I finally beat him. Finished playing at 2AM. Whoops! This game has razor sharp RPG mechanics that I LOVE and even sharper writing than the previous two episodes since they’re not leaning on the art or voice acting as much as they could before. Loving it so far, just wish there were steam achievements.

What I’ve Been Doing 2 April 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Mar 26th, 2012 by Dan


Seann William Scott is so innocently dumb in this movie, but it's actually quite good. (Picture courtesy nxusco)

Guys, Goon was really good. More later, but you should check it out. This week was a real scattershot weekend as I tried to play a bunch of games I didn’t give much time to before.


Martha Marcy May Marlene – The cult in the movie is an interesting contrast to the fundamentalist Christian society in Higher Ground and the hippie commune of Wanderlust. This movie really ratchets up the tension of not knowing what’s real and what’s not. Ideally they would have made Patrick a scarier presence, but the movie is still on pretty solid ground with what it accomplishes. Congrats on the fantastic part, Elizabeth Olsen. Keep it up!

Goon – This is a mostly sweet movie about a guy who had no place in life other than to fight on the ice. It’s done pretty well and it’s funny and it’ll definitely win you over. Alison Pill, who played Kim Pine in Scott Pilgrim, is great as a Canadian hockey girl and Seann William Scott is endearing. The violence of hockey and hockey fights is really the thing that might put you off the movie. It gets pretty brutal if you don’t like it.


Mad Men – Last week’s premiere was amazing and I totally loved it. Can’t wait to see yesterday’s episode tonight!

Breaking Bad – Finished the first season. The six episode arc they had to work with never went anywhere with any definitive statement, but I think they’re playing the long game for all the seasons. Doesn’t mean that it was bad, just that I’m used to a more dramatic season arc. The progression of Walter White from teacher to meth cooker has definitely been interesting as is the seething anger that lurks beneath hsi outside personality.

Happy Endings – A great tribute to all the sitcom tropes of old. Some really good jokes in there that helped keep it from being too hack-y (like it was when the episode started). Elisha Cuthbert’s Ellen was hilarious.

New Girl – I liked the episode, but I’m rather chilly on New Girl at the moment. It’s not bad, but it’s not amazing either.

Justified – Another table setter. The final two episodes of this season are going to be bananas. I’d like for Limehouse to continue to be a force in S4, but we’ll see if he survives the next two eps first.

Community – It’s entirely possible that this episode contained the first “boner” joke I’ve laughed at since I was 13. The Subway corpo-humanoid is the highlight of the ep. Also a highlight: “Put it in a letter, Jane Austen!”. Alison Brie is so awesome.

Up All Night – This show is kind of meh to me too. At least it’s enjoyable meh. I’d rather watch New Girl because Zooey Deschanel is cute, but this is the better show.

The Wire – Finally finished S1 and the commentary of S1. Can’t wait to get moving through S2 because S3 is amazing. I love the attention to detail in The Wire and the devastating verisimilitude of it all.


“Heaven” is one of the best tracks on the Persona 4 soundtrack, but it’s also pretty awesome to listen to any time. Don’t believe me?


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – I’ve got like 10 pages left. So tired of this book.

Video Games

Ghost Trick – Weird ending to this game. Just plot twist upon plot twist. Still one of the better story games I’ve ever played and excellent practice for my Spanish.

Devil Survivor 2 – Still haven’t caught the entire breadth of this story, but I do dig it. Interested in seeing where it goes, but my major play time will probably come when Min and I go to Vegas (he’ll probably sleep through the flight)

Mass Effect 2 – Slowly tearing through this a few missions at a time. For some reason I can’t stomach playing it for long periods of time. I think it’s because ME3 is clearly better and they’re so similar.

Poker Night at the Inventory – Put in a few mins to get some achievements and just play some poker. Still fun.

Jamestown – Was feeling like finally putting some time into the weird quasi-historical/quasi-sci-fi version of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia. Fighting the Spanish conquistadors and the Martians is weird, but fun. I like all the different ship types.

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 1 – I played and beat this many moons ago, but I wanted to play ep. 2 and that required playing this. Decent RPG and pretty funny still.

Sine Mora – Tried it out on XBL. I might pick it up when I finish a few other games. Seems interesting.

Pac-Man CE DX – Um…best game on my Xbox. Period. This game is so good I had to force msyelf to stop to play…

Galaga Legions DX – I was tired of only having like two achievements in this so I went and got to 11/12. Might not get the last one (more annoying than tough), but I’ll probably cave and just do it. Not as good as Pac-Man at all, but still fun.

Shadow Complex – Cave Story + made me think the same thing this game does: Why don’t game companies make more Metroidvania-style games? They’re really addictive and fun. Weird. Also weird: Nolan North in a half-tuck role that’s NOT NATHAN DRAKE! I think the shooting is a little awkward with the right stick because they added the whole 3D aspect to it, but otherwise fun.

“There are no commercial games for Linux.” “OBJECTION!” [Objection!]
Aug 18th, 2009 by Eric


Hi, I’m Eric and I’m a guest contributor to Dan’s blog. I plan on starting a column on Dan’s blog called “Objection” where I debunk rumors. I’m not sure how often this column will appear, but I’m sure we’ll get it figured out with time.

Today I wanted to debunk the rumor that there are no commercial games for Linux. First off, a really insanely quick primer. Linux (aka GNU/Linux to some) is a kernel (brains of an operating system) that is paired with a bunch of programs to make a fully-functional operating system. A Linux operating system package is called a distribution and a distribution can be compared to Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s OSX. Linux is free software, but that’s not the same as freeware as in that video game you downloaded off the ‘net last night that was fun, but over quickly. Although Linux is often given away for free, the free in free software refers to the freedom to do whatever you want with it. You can take all the code and change it and get new functionality. The duality of these attributes leads most people to make the following generalizations about Linux users: they are cheap and they are hackers.

Therefore, some major game publishers have written off Linux because they assume no one using Linux would actually pay for a game. This turns out to be very wrong, as we will see. Still, it is true that most major games are not developed for Linux. You won’t see a Linux version of The Sims 3, Red Alert 3, or Starcraft 2. Well, you won’t see Starcraft 2 for any computer system at this point. These can be run on Linux with some massaging, but that’s a topic for another post. So does that mean you’re left running clones of games from the 80s/90s?

Man, this game feels really, really familiar.  I feel like humming a russian song, but I don't know why...

Man, this game feels really, really familiar. I feel like humming a russian song, but I don't know why...

OK, I guess penguins make about as much sense as bubble-blowing dinosaurs, right?

OK, I guess penguins make about as much sense as bubble-blowing dinosaurs, right?

No! There are some independent games producers that have chosen to create native Linux games with great success. First of all, there’s 2d Boy’s “Word of Goo“. Now these guys are over-achievers because they have created versions of this game for Windows, Linux, Macintosh, and the Nintendo Wii.

The World of Goo

The World of Goo

World of Goo is an awesome and unique game whose closest comparison is Lemmings. And it’s really only like Lemmings in the sense that you have creatures you have to get into an exit pipe (in Lemmings it was a house). Whereas the major challenge in Lemmings is that the little guys keep walking non-stop, the major challenge in World of Goo is physics. Basically you have goo balls which can be arranged in a lattice structure (as seen in the above screenshot). You have to create a structure that will get you from the beginning of the map to the pipe at the other end. While this may sound simple at first, it’s made hard by the fact that the bonds between the goo balls have a jello-like consistency to them. If you build out to the right, the structure will start bending over to the right. It also sways in the wind. The amazing playability from this game comes in the fact that each level is unique (although your skills build up) and every few levels you’re introduced to a new type of goo ball. Maybe this one can be detached or that one only needs one bond between balls. And the environment has all sorts of hazards to kill your little goo balls. It’s a very fun game, it only costs $20 and it works perfectly on Linux. I played it on my old Fedora (Linux) computer which had the AMD equivalent of a Pentium 4 and a 128 MB graphics card. With only a few audio glitches (and they BARELY happened), the game worked perfectly. I’ve also run it on my laptop with Crunch Bang Linux and whatever crap graphics card the laptop has and it worked perfectly with only a slight slowdown in one scene with hundreds of goo balls.

One important thing to mention, the developers had the following to say on their blog: “More copies of the game were sold via our website on the day the Linux version released than any other day. This day beat the previous record by 40%. There is a market for Linux games after all :)”

The other major indie game I know of that’s produced with a native Linux binary is On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, the Penny-Arcade game.

A game with an insanely long title, but just as much fun:  On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness

A game with an insanely long title, but just as much fun: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness

I’ve played games like this one before, but I can’t quite remember them, so I don’t know what to compare them to.  It’s basically an RPG (NOT a jRPG, but not too far from that concept).  It has all of the awesome hilarity of Penny Arcade.  So if you like PA, you’ll like this game.  If you hate PA, you’ll hate this game.  It’s a testament to the fact that the guys behind PA know their audience that there are binaries for Linux, Mac, and Windows.  Try out the free demo and see if you don’t end up paying for the full game.

So, you see, there are commercial games available for Linux.  Even games like Unreal Tournament usually have a Linux binary.  These games are amazing and worth checking out.  Let me end by saying once again that there the commercial games that don’t work natively on Linux are legion.  But the fact is that more independent game publishers (which is where all the cool stuff is nowadays) are starting to recognize Linux as a good potential games-buying space  Especially now that the market is so sparse, Linux users will buy almost anything you put out there.  So having a Linux computer doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing on ALL games.  And, although it’s a topic for another day, there’s Wine for running some of the other games.

I hope you enjoyed, and until next time, this is Eric stealing the catchphrase, “OBJECTION!”

Game Overview: 16-Bit Runner-Ups Part 2: RPG Edition
Jun 10th, 2008 by Dan

Back on Saturday we took a look at two excellent games that didn’t quite make the cut. Today, we examine another three, all of them the superb 16-bit RPGs.

You know the drill by now about the “Table of Honor” and whatnot, so let’s just get down to the clue and game:

This first game I want to examine jumps out at you from the world of platforming. You might doubt his ability to manage, but once he jumps, you’re filled with utmost confidence. Yeah, it’s Mario’s RPG debut, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.

Runner-up: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

For some crazy reason, nobody in the Mushroom Kingdom will believe that you are Mario. You’re probably the most famous savior of the land, but it’s not your dashing mustache or your red overalls that will prove your identity, it’s your trademark jump. This running gag is probably my absolute favorite part about SMRPG. No matter what part of the world you’re in, someone will inevitably ask if you are really the plumber. The dialog will pause, you will be unable to do anything else until you finally push the jump button and prove your identity.

The rest of the game is full of comparable humor and character that exude from every pore. Dialog makes sense and is pretty slick, the story is actually not that bad for what you’d expect it to be, and, most importantly, that trademark tight gameplay that Squaresoft has always been known for makes for a great battle system and actually meshes pretty well with Mario’s more typical platforming roots. Battle returned to the more traditional turn-based type affair, but now your special attacks were powered up by timed button presses or other similar tests of button-pressing acumen. This system was so slick and exciting that every subsequent Mario RPG (sadly none of them Squaresoft created) and even the new Penny Arcade Adventures has got timed button presses for defense and interesting special attacks.

I’m sure that many were skeptical about SMRPG’s ability to be a valid, entertaining game when it was announced. Just adding a big-name RPG developer to a franchise character does not make everyone believe it will rock (just look at Sonic Chronicles, no one thinks it will succeed). That SMRPG is able to succeed on all fronts and still be one of the better RPGs on the console is a testament to the talent of old-school Squaresoft. What a great game…

I just can’t resist throwing in yet another video game commercial for this game. This one’s quite bizarre…

This next game was published in America by a company whose motto is “Serious Fun,” but it’s not the farming sim/RPG that you might be thinking of. The main character fights very sinister beings in order to save the world in this one. This one’s a bit tougher, but it’s Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals.

Runner-up Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals

This one might fall a bit outside of most of your game radars. It’s not A-list like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, not even B-list like Breath of Fire or the Secret of series (you can bitch and moan all you want about this, but you’ll never convince me that the Seiken Densetsu series is anything more than B-list). Lufia is a pretty firm C-list series, with regards to RPG popularity. There were two SNES games games and one gbc game in the series canon, with another gbc gaiden. That’s it, that’s the entire series. To be fair, it was mostly concluded with the GBC game, but I feel that they did leave it slightly open-ended.

Gameplay isn’t that special, it’s your typical RPG with turn-based battles. There was one notable battle mechanic in the capsule monsters that you could capture and have fight on your team. These monsters were computer controlled and could be leveled up and evolved by feeding them weapons and armor. The interesting thing is that this idea came about a full year before Pokémon was released. Pretty cool if you ask me.

What does make this game stand out and what earns it a spot on this list was its story. As a prequel in a time before prequels were cool (this was way back in Japan in 1995), Lufia II picked up the story before the events of Lufia & the Fortress of Doom (a game I never played). You were Maxim and, like most RPGs, you are told by a mysterious figure (a woman named Iris in this case) that you are destined to save the world. You head out to solve a monster problem for your village with your childhood friend Tia (you reluctantly bring her along) and from there you bounce from town to town solving problems and adding the brutally strong Guy to your party. Iris saves your life after you learn about the Sinistrals and you go on to add another party member, the female soldier Selan, before you finally learn the identity of the first Sinistral, Gades, after he brutally destroys an entire town.

Excited yet? Your party certainly is. They set off to confront Gades and make him pay for what he’s done. He responds by soundly kicking your ass. In yet another video game “oh shit, I hope I was supposed to die” moments, you are revived by Iris who revives the party and tells everyone but Tia that they are meant to confront this evil light with Maxim. Another dude, Dekar, joins the party and Maxim, Guy, and Dekar head out to kill Gades after learning from a lieutenant of the Sinistrals, Idura, that Gades plans on sinking an entire island. This time Maxim manages to kill Gades, but he still manages to activate the machine after all. Maxim heroically gets to the machine on his own, but deactivating it mostly kills him in the process. Iris teleports in, decides to be useful, and saves Maxim.

In the aftermath of this event, we are treated to a touching cutscene where Ti– no, wait, Selan (?) confesses her love for Maxim. I still remember this plot point coming straight from left field. You mean to tell me that Tia, who’s been hitting on you this whole game, isn’t gonna end up with Maxim? As a player, I didn’t mind, since Tia was annoying and Selan was arguably hotter (in that 16-bit way), but still, it really messed with me to see the developers not take the easy road, and I respect them for it. Tia honorably realizes she’s not gonna win Maxim’s love, tells Dekar that she loves Maxim the man, not Maxim the warrior, and sets off to find a man as good as Maxim to marry. That’s seriously the last you see of a character you’ve spent hours developing. The game sort of “ends” here as Maxim and Selan are married, buy a little house, and have a kid.

If you couldn’t guess by now, I’m a fan of these drastic world- or game-changing events in a video game. Be it the loss of Naked Snake’s right eye in MGS3 and how it affects first-person view from then on or something like the World of Ruin, these huge, irreversible events never cease to amaze me (I guess, if Iabsolutely have to I’ll admit that Aeris’ death is kind of cool in that way, but it never really had the same emotional impact on me as any of these other ones). Here I am, yet again thinking that I beat the game, and then Idura kidnaps your son and you’re forced to take up arms again. Iris comes in and claims that it was Maxim’s fate to die after the battle with Gades, but her actions have changed the future. As the gamer, you don’t yet know that these are lies. Heck, you don’t even know the huge twist yet at all (maybe you might if you had played the first game, but I certainly didn’t).

You do more quest-y stuff, Dekar dies after you kill Idura, and eventually you get to the final confrontation with the Sinistrals which is, not coincidentally, precisely the way that Lufia & the Fortress of Doom opens, which means that you fight the Sinistrals and kill three of the four. While trying to escape, only Guy and the elf Artea (he joined you in the second half) make it out alive. Maxim and Selan die, but are forever remembered as the heroes who vanquished the Sinistrals. It also turns out that this whole time your “helper” Iris was the Sinistral Erim. Erim is unique in that so long as she lives, the Sinistrals can be continually reincarnated. Also unique about her is her ability to take on human form, which some fans speculate is a result of the Sinistral Daos testing humanity. The real twist here is that Iris/Erim is later reincarnated as one of the main characters in the first Lufia game. By the way, you’re probably wondering why this game is even called Lufia if there are no characters named Lufia anywhere in the game. I can see your brains connecting the dots. Lufia is Erim and she is a character who fits a similar role to Tia in the first Lufia game to one of Maxim’s descendants. She didn’t change history by allowing Maxim to continue his bloodline, for Maxim and his descendants were always meant to counter and eventually defeat the Sinistrals. Erim makes one final appearance as a party member in the third Lufia game, as she gathers up yet another of the bloodline of Maxim and a crew of strong warriors. She builds them up this final time to destroy the Sinistral menace forever. Erim had tired of life as the Sinistral of Death and wanted her life to finally end.

I should also mention that Lufia II had a pretty solid puzzle and monster mechanic. Monsters appeared on the field and got to move every time you moved. There were also some pretty neat and difficult puzzles for the player to solve as he made his way through the many dungeons. I distinctly remember some of these being so tough (this is good!) that I had to consult old issues of Nintendo Power to figure out how to progress.

There you have it, a fairly convoluted plot and a game that’s ultimately average in its battle execution. Still, I can’t help but love Lufia II for it’s creative puzzles and that zany story. Prequels were still a pretty new concept to me back then when I played it and knowing what was to happen to Maxim and Selan made for some interesting, if fatalistic gameplay as I watched the drama unfold. There’s something cool about playing a game that fits into a pre-determined timeline. It’s both futile and awesome to fill in the details of a future you know will one day occur. I’d like to see more games try this with their storylines. Have a sage/oracle-type character tell you that completing the game will lead to your death. It could be fourth-wall or even within the game itself. Watching the main character grapple with what he knows to be the greater good at the expense of the personal good leads to good drama. They did it in FF VI with Terra, but the devs didn’t have what it took to let her die and not have a happy ending. That may be a good thing anyway, since I’m one of the few people who can be satisfied with an unhappy or unfair ending.

The Japanese commercial for this game is pretty lame, so here’s something that a fan put together for the 11-year anniversary of the game:

Yeah, the video’s not that cool, but it gives you a taste of what the game looked and played like. If you ever get a chance to play this game, I do recommend it. It’s well worth your time.

Our last game of the day had a mother of a time even getting released in America. To this day, the first and third game of this series have still never seen the light of American day. If you’re a fan of the Runaway Five, you also already know that I’m talking about EarthBound.

Runner-up: EarthBound

The brilliance of EarthBound lies not in its genre, but more in the originality and character that it brings to an already tired formula. How many sword and sorcery-themed RPGs does the video game market really need? (Answer: Don’t be stupid, sword and sorcery-themed RPGs rock!) Still, it’s refreshing to see an RPG take place in a modern setting like the country of Eagleland (a not-so-veiled reference to the USA). It’s hilarious to see that your weapons consist of baseball bats, yo-yos, and bottle rockets.

The story centers around Ness, a boy of tremendous psychic power who is tasked by a bee from the future named Buzz Buzz to destroy the evil force known as Giygas. Ness sets out from his hometown, Onett, and encounters and recruits Paula, Jeff, and Poo to save the planet. Along the way, they fight cultists, zombies, dogs, ninjas, bails out the Runaway Five twice, and eventually have their souls transferred into a robotic body to enable them to travel in time to fight Giygas. It’s strange, but in a quirky way. Even the final boss isn’t your typical encounter. You defeat the mighty Giygas by repeatedly praying, eventually getting the entire planet to unite and defeat Giygas in a Dragon Ball spirit bomb-type fashion.

EarthBound makes this list (just barely) because of the character that it exudes from every pore. Destroying the Happy-Happy cult is still one of my favorite situations in a video game mainly because of how bizarre it really is. Another plus for EarthBound is that it’s really hard. The game definitely doesn’t pull any punches with its difficulty.

Unfortunately for us US EarthBound fans, the series didn’t sell all to well when it first came out for the SNES. As a result, Nintendo decided not to release the sequel, Mother 3 (EarthBound = Mother 2), stateside citing poor sales of EarthBound. No matter how many fan campaigns tries to put together to bring Mother 3 to North America, Nintendo continuously refuses to release. Interestingly enough, the Nintendo of America guys actually love the Starman dudes, which I think is what has allowed the Starmen to still have a Mother 3 fansub in production without a cease-and-desist order being issued.

Many fans speculate that EarthBound’s upcoming release on the Virtual Console (it was rated by the ESRB => it will be coming out) will be a barometer to test the validity of releasing Mother 3 in Eagleland. You can bet that the day this game comes out anyone, and I do literally mean anyone, who is on my Wii friends list will receive a gift of EarthBound for the SNES unless they tell me they’re planning on buying it already. I just want to drum up sales because I’d love to see Mother 3 hit our shores.

Yet another Japanese commercial that doesn’t make too much sense. Enjoy!

With that, we’re almost done with our 16-bit all-stars. Just one more entry on Thursday to finish these guys off.

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