Life is too Short to Play Something that Doesn't Make You Happy
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 October 2015, 10:00 am
One of my friends on Twitter said, "Life is too short to play something that doesn't make you happy."  And when I read that I realized that's the philosophy I've been living by this past year.

Last December I got the desire to start working through my giant backlog of games.  And this is the one trick that allowed me to do it:

If a game doesn't make me happy, I stop playing it.

It sounds so simple, but in practice... it's difficult.  Once you get involved in the daily grind of a game it's hard to extricate yourself.  What if there are daily quests?  What if it's an MMO with a community of people you interact with?  What if you're half way through the story of a massive RPG?

What if there are so many forces driving you to keep playing the game that you're currently playing... but you stop having fun with it?

This last year, after 25+ years of playing games, I was finally able to get my head into a place where I can walk away from a game once I hit that point.  And it's made all the difference.

I sampled and played through my entire Steam back-catalog.  I finished all the core Final Fantasy games I wanted to.  I played every single PS3 game that I hadn't touched yet.  I finished all my 3DS games.  I'm caught up on the PS4 and Wii U games I've been wanting to play.  I played enough MMOs to get back into the swing of them on PC but not let them take over my life.

I have a couple RPGs left on my Vita, and that's it.  That's all that's left from a list that has been growing for years and years.

And for the first time ever, I can get entirely excited for the Fall releases!  They're usually an exciting time, but they also can feel like adding weight to an already unbearable load.  Not this year.  Not for me.

I'm ready to dive in and have fun!

Metal Gear Solid 3
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 October 2015, 10:00 am

With all this talk about Metal Gear Solid 5 lately it caught my eye the other week when MGS 3 and MGS Peace Walker were on sale on PSN.  I got both of them for my Playstation Vita for less than $9 total.

My history with Metal Gear basically went like this:

  • MGS: I loved this game, it was amazing at the time.
  • MGS 2: Um... weird... but still impressive for the time.
  • MGS 3: Utter frustration at controls and story.
Then I gave up on the series.  I thought I would pick up the story where I left off with MGS 3 and see what I thought of it now that I've had years of distance between me and the series.

I started up MGS3 and instantly felt frustrated.  The game kept yanking control away from me.  It was full of cutscenes and dumb radio dialog.  I mean, they tell Snake that it's a super secret stealth mission and time is of the essence but then immediately spend 30 minutes on the radio with him just introducing each other, making jokes, and shooting the shit.  And then introduce some more characters.  And then talk about philosophy.  And then, eventually, Snake gets to start his mission.

Now I know why I put down this game so fast last time.  It's trying to cram so much information down my throat before I even get to play that it's ridiculous.

Then I finally get out of the radio dialog window, walk 30 seconds across the jungle, and get another cutscene.

At that point I'm almost done with the game because I can't take pacing like this, but I think, hey maybe the gameplay will be amazing.

After the cutscene I have my first encounter with two guards.  BUT, there's no tutorial about the button configuration and the controls of this game don't match up to any modern standard.

So I gave up on MGS 3 for the second time in my life.  This time was much quicker than last time.  I remember playing at least a handful of hours the first time I tried this when it came out.

I've come to the conclusion that MGS 3 isn't a game for me.  But, I'm going to give Peace Walker a try and see what I think.

I did enjoy the first two MGS games, but at this point I doubt I could ever go back to them.  They're too much a product of their time.

Really, I'm testing out these games that I missed to see if there's any point in me picking up MGS 5.  I keep hearing people rave about how much fun they're having with it and I wonder if it might be fun for me too.

I Love the Modern Movie Theater
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 October 2015, 10:00 am
My wife and I have been going out to more movies lately and we recently discovered that one of the theaters near us has been completely renovated into an awesome modern movie theater.

We now refuse to go anywhere else.

What is it about this theater that makes it so great?  Well, let me tell you.

The biggest thing is assigned seating.  I can pick out two good seats online days ahead of time, buy my tickets, and know that I'm going to get those exact seats.  There's no need to show up early or wait in line.  We can show up five minutes before the movie starts and be in our chosen seats.

The seats themselves are all basically giant lazyboy recliners.  They're probably three or four times the size of a typical movie theater seat and they're super plush.  Plus, every other one has an armrest that goes up and turns the pair of seats into one big loveseat which is perfect for date night.

These seats are seriously awesome.

The rows are all super staggered vertically so that there's no possible way your view can be blocked.  Every seat that isn't right under the screen is an amazing view.

Plus, at this movie theater they have a bar where you can get adult beverages and take them into the movie with you.  It's not something I often partake of, but it's really cool to have the option.

All of these things together mean that we just refuse to see movies anywhere else.  I can't imagine going back to the typical movie theater setup.  We have to drive a little bit further, but the prices for tickets are the same as anywhere else and the experience we get from it is so much better.

I hope more theaters move toward this model.  I absolutely love it.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Fun
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 October 2015, 10:00 am

I picked up Disney Infinity last month, mostly for my kids.  The real tipping point for me was that it had both Star Wars (for me) and Inside Out (for my kids).  Star Wars, as you well know, is my favorite fictional universe.  And Inside Out has been my kids' favorite movie ever since they saw it.

Since my September was crazy I barely got to touch this game until a few nights ago.

Mostly my kids have just been playing in the "Toy Box" section of the game while swapping out characters and making up their own games with each other.  That's exactly why I got the game for them and they seem to be having a ton of fun with all the characters they love.

The Toy Box is great for kids, but I find it kind of underwhelming as an adult.  There's a ton of stuff to see and do, but none of it is directed enough to really drive me to do it.  That's where "Playsets" come in.

In Disney Infinity Playsets are much more of a traditional video game.  They have a continuous story, levels, quests, and an overall objective.  We currently have all three Playsets that are available, although more will come out for this version of Disney Infinity over the next year.

My daughter and I dug into the Inside Out Playset one night when her little brother went to bed early.  It's mostly platforming and we had a lot of fun together.  She could do most of the challenges but I had to help her in a couple tricky spots.  Overall, it was fun for both my 5 year old and me.

Then, over the course of two nights, I played both Twilight of the Republic and Rise Against the Empire.  They were great!

Twilight of the Republic is all about being a Jedi during the clone wars era.  Asoka and Anakin are the main characters that come with the Playset but you can pick up other characters like Yoda and Darth Maul too.  It was so much fun to have some decent lightsaber combat in a new videogame for the first time in years.  And if you're a fan of the Clone Wars TV show you'll recognize a lot of the characters in this Playset.

Rise Against The Empire was my favorite of the three Playsets.  It comes with Luke and Leia but you can buy the figures of Han, Chewie, Boba Fett, and Vader to play with as well.  It retells a simplified version of the Star Wars original Trilogy.  I loved getting to experience it this way.  The Playset hits all the high points in the original trilogy.  As long as you can get out of the very first (and only boring) questhub of the game on Tatooine the rest of it is a pure joy to play.  I especially loved piloting X-Wings and the Millenium Falcon in their iconic runs against the two Death Stars.

Disney Infinity runs a little on the expensive side, but I made the calculated decision that I would enjoy the Star Wars figures even if I didn't enjoy the game.  After playing through the Playsets I feel like I've gotten my money's worth.  And my kids are still having a great time in the Toy Box mode.

I'm really excited to see what the next Playsets are going to be.  Since I've already done the initial investment of getting the game bundle with the game itself and the figure stand... chances are good that I'll keep picking up Playsets as they come out.

Currently the next two announced Playsets are The Force Awakens (AWESOME!) and Marvel Battlegrounds.

INCOMING! Fall Releases Imminent!
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 October 2015, 10:00 am

One of the items on my Gaming To-Do List the other week was the generic "Fall Releases".  It's a big category and I'd like to dig into it more.

The reason I didn't list specific games is because I'm not sure what I'm going to pick up yet.  For one of the first times ever I'm near the end of my gaming backlog, so I'm really excited for the new Fall releases.  The release season has already started with games like Metal Gear Solid 5 and Super Mario Maker but it always seems like things truly get crazy in October and November.

Here are the games I know I'm going to get for sure.  I either have these pre-ordered or I plan on picking them up day one:
  • Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes (October 22nd)
  • Fallout 4 (November 10th)
  • StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void (November 10th)
  • Star Wars Battlefront (November 17th)
Two of those I already have paid in full and the other two I'll grab digitally right when they release.  But, that's not even close to all the Fall releases out there.  Here are the other games that I have an interest in and may end up getting:
  • Metal Gear Solid 5 (Released in September)
  • Soma (Released in September)
  • Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance (October 6th)
  • Rock Band 4 (October 6th)
  • Transformers: Devestation (October 6th)
  • Uncharted Collection (October 9th)
  • Minecraft Story Mode (October 13th)
  • Dragon Quest Heroes (October 13th)
  • Yoshi's Woolly World (October 16th)
  • DnD Sword Coast Legends (October 20th)
  • Assassin's Creed Syndicate (October 23rd)
  • Yo-kai Watch (November 19th)
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X (December 3rd)
This doesn't even include big name titles coming out on Xbox One (since I don't have one).  If I did then games like Halo 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider would be on that list.  And it doesn't include the games I've already picked up like Super Mario Maker, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Disney Infinity 3.0, and Armello.

It's shaping up to be a good Fall release calendar this year!

Is there anything you're particularly excited for?

Super Mario Maker Levels
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 October 2015, 10:00 am

In my household we've been having a lot of fun making Mario levels in Super Mario Maker.  My daughter has been making levels based on whatever her 5-year-old mind desires.  I've been trying to make themed levels.  My wife is having a lot of fun making super challenging levels and then making me play test them... and when I eventually figure out a way to finish the level she just makes it harder.  The other day my brother stopped by and made a level too.

It's been so much fun!

If you have Mario Maker come check out our levels!

My levels:

  • 36C6-0000-004B-BEBF
  • 7563-0000-004D-E3F3
  • 5E55-0000-0031-5D85
My 5-year-old's level:
  • E7CC-0000-0059-A20D
My wife's levels:
  • 027C-0000-0031-D43D
  • 8943-0000-0048-D0C3
My brother's level:
  • 2B0A-0000-0072-B6BA

If you've been making Mario levels please share them in the comments below.  I'd love to check them out!

Also... Nintendo really needs to find a better way of sharing and linking to levels.  Typing out all these level codes was ridiculous.

Star Wars Uprising
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 October 2015, 10:00 am

Have you ever had a bad game that sucked you in and you willingly spent hours and hours of your time on?  But all along you know it's a bad game?

Star Wars Uprising is a bad game.

I've also put more than 8 hours into it already.

I knew it was a bad game after about 20 minutes with it.  After playing through about 3 missions you've basically seen everything the game has to offer.

Star Wars Uprising is a mobile game set in the Star Wars universe that is essentially trying to be a mobile version of Diablo gameplay.  It does not succeed very well.

The game is riddled with bugs, crashes, horrible loading times, and just oddities.

There are currency systems on top of currency systems in dumb overcomplicated ways.  Get some gear?  You should upgrade it.  But to upgrade it you need to level it up first.  But to level it up you need materials.  But after it's leveled up to max you should upgrade it.  No, don't use materials for that, use components... obviously.  Don't have the right components?  Oh, you can upgrade those too.  Also, you could just spend real money to get better gear anyway.

The levels in the game are bland and quickly repeat themselves.  The tilesets are limited and the enemies quickly become uninteresting.

The main reason I went into this game was for the story... and the story is extremely weak.

This game failed to deliver on every account, despite me giving it the benefit of the doubt.

After my first half hour with the game I knew it was bad.  After an hour I knew it was really bad.  After playing for hours and hours I finally made myself delete it.

Somehow this game managed to suck me in even though it's not worth my time.  A big part of that is probably because it has Star Wars in the title and I know Star Wars is my weakness, but it still surprised me that I put over eight hours into a free to play game like this.

I'm warning you away.  Do as I say and not as I do... or whatever.  You probably won't like Star Wars Uprising, but who knows.  It might sink it's hooks into you the same way it grabbed me.

Star Wars Comic Catch-Up
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 October 2015, 10:00 am

At this point I've come to realize that I like comics in small doses.  I'm probably never going to be someone that has a pull list, buys a physical comic, or even keeps up to date on the series I'm interested in.

Instead, I like reading a bunch of related comics in short bursts.

Last week I picked up all the current Star Wars comics and played catch-up.  The series that I've been reading and am now up to date with are:

  • Star Wars (2015)
  • Vader
  • Leia
  • Kanan (the last padawan)
I also heard there's a Lando comic coming out soon.  I'll probably check that out eventually, but I haven't yet.  He was never one of those characters I found especially interesting.

Of the four series I still feel like Star Wars is the weakest one.  It doesn't introduce new characters and since all the characters are big names from the movies you know they have plot immunity.  That makes every confrontation and obstacle less interesting.

Leia was a short concise run of five issues which is now complete.  I really liked it.  It added depth to Leia as a character, introduced new characters, and let me learn a lot about Alderan.  It's especially interesting to see what happens to Alderan culture and heritage after the Death Star has destroyed their home planet.

Kanan is also a really good series.  It starts with order 66 from Episode III and has Kanan on the run from clone troopers.  He has to learn how to not be a Jedi since that will now get him killed.  It adds depth to a character that I already liked from the Star Wars Rebels show, but it stands on it's own just as well.  It'll be fascinating to see what direction this comic goes in next.

Vader started out super strong but is losing momentum.  I thought it would have a concise story arc but it's getting longer and more complicated.  I don't feel like the series is covering enough interesting new ground in each comic.  If the pace would pick up I would be happier with Vader.

I had a lot of fun catching up with all these series.

If I were to recommend one to someone looking to just try them out I would definitely recommend Leia.  But if you're a Star Wars fan they all have something to offer.

Poorly Drawn Lines
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 October 2015, 12:32 pm

I've been following Poorly Drawn Lines the webcomic for awhile now.  It took a little bit for the style of comic to grow on me, but ever since then I look forward to every time a new comic gets posted.  It's usually hilarious.

So I was super excited to get to read the Poorly Drawn Lines book early.  It's a collection of webcomics, original comics for the book, and a series of written passages by the same writer.  And it comes out tomorrow!

The comics are still as hilarious as ever.  It was rare for me to go more than two pages without actually laughing out loud.  I love the author's style of humor.

The written passages were a little bit of a letdown.  The author uses a lot of visual humor in the comics and once it's lost the impact of the writing is much less.  They were interesting diversions but the reason I liked this book was definitely for the comics, not the written passages.

I really appreciate that they included original content for the book too.  I remember reading a bunch of these comics when they originally were posted online.  While they're still really funny, it was nice to find new comics mixed in!

If you've never checked out Poorly Drawn Lines before do yourself a favor and go flip through some of the comics over there to see if you like them.  And if you really enjoy them after that, pick up the book once it's out on October 6th.

Expanding My Worldview, Thanks Twitter
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 October 2015, 10:00 am

Over the past few years Twitter has become my main social media channel.  And it just dawned on me that Twitter has changed the way I think about the world.

It wasn't in some revolutionary moment of social media championing or seeing a social movement spread.  It's been much simpler and more subtle than that.

What was the key that changed my worldview?


It sounds silly.  I mean, I've always known there were Timezones, right?  I've known how they've worked and I've traveled to other countries enough in my life to experience serious jet lag (most countries are across an ocean from the U.S.)

But Twitter is what finally made Timezones sink in.  When my typical work day is starting to wind down all my Western European friends are going to bed.  When I wake up in the morning I get to see what my Australian and New Zealand friends are doing with their leisure hours the next night.  I have friends around the world that wrap up their work day as I start mine.

Not to mention that I'm a freelancer and I work weird hours.  Sometimes I'm still awake at 4am working.  Other days I'm waking up at 5am to start my work day.  It's weird and random and I love it... but there's always one of my Twitter friends awake regardless of the hour.

The biggest change has come because I've internalized Timezones in a way that I never had before Twitter.  I now have a real life grasp on what's going on around the world at any time of day.

It's really cool.

So thanks Twitter.  I owe you one.

Revisiting Armello
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 September 2015, 10:00 am

The release of Armello snuck by me earlier this month.  Granted, my month has been crazy busy.  I was looking through my current Steam games the other night and saw that Armello was no longer listed as early access.

Since then, I've jumped in and played a bunch of games.  I thought it had potential when I bought it in Early Access and it's definitely come a long way.  Things are much more clear and make more sense at a glance now.  They done a lot to improve how information is displayed to the player and it goes a long way toward making this a great game.

It's still an interesting blend of board game and video game with a unique aesthetic style.  It feels the way that a tabletop/videogame hybrid should feel.  It's very cool.

I even branched out from the AI and played a few games with real people online.  Those were actually much more compelling than any of the AI games I had played.  The AI seems overly smart and vindictive against a single player playing the game.  Other players don't have this problem.  I think online games against real people will be my preferred way to play from now on.

Almost everything I've experienced has been an improvement.  My only gripe is that games are still a little bit too slow.  I wish they would crank up the animation speed of everything so that I could play games in half the time.  It feels like a lot of time is spent waiting for the other players or AI to take their turn.

But that's my only complaint.  I really like the game overall!

I can't recommend it at it's current $20 price point, but I would suggest you go to the Steam page and put this game in your wishlist.  You know it will fall to that magical $10 price point within the next Steam sale or two.  That's when you should buy it.

Call of Duty Black Ops II
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 September 2015, 10:00 am

I have liked Call of Duty games in the past.  These days it's extremely hit or miss for me.  That's why I typically wait until they get cheap to try them out.

Black Ops II fell to under $20 on Steam sale and I picked it up to try it.

Unfortunately, what I found was just another Call of Duty.  Nothing interesting or special going on here.  It didn't grab me or make me excited to play at all.  I know some people love the Black Ops series of Call of Duty games but I should probably come to the conclusion that they simply aren't for me.

After playing it for around half an hour I knew that I was completely done with the game.  This is where Steam Refunds come in.

Have I mentioned how much I love Steam Refunds?  I love them!  Now I can actually try out games that I'm unsure about.  As long as you play less than 2 hours of the game you can return it and get a refund no problem.

And that's what I did.  I refunded Black Ops II and now I have the money back in my Steam wallet... where it will no doubt be spent eventually.

Star Command Galaxies
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 28 September 2015, 10:00 am

This is one of the games I was referring to the other day when I said I needed to catch up on Steam games.

Star Command Galaxies is a game I Kickstarted.  It just released in early access to backers so I grabbed my key and jumped in.

The premise of the game is great.  You're the captain of a starship and you get to explore the galaxy doing whatever you want.

The execution of the game leaves a lot to be desired.  The tutorial is mostly broken, and super boring.  But jumping into the main game without being able to do the tutorial means that nothing quite makes sense.  It just feels clunky and broken.

I know that it's still early days for this game.  It even says Alpha right on the info on Steam.  I hope it gets better, because my short time with the game was nothing but frustration.

Star Command Galaxies is going way onto the backburner until it gets itself figured out.  Hopefully this game will be interesting eventually.  For now, stay far away from it.

Rainbow Six Siege Beta
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 September 2015, 3:25 pm

I finally got around to checking out the Rainbow Six Siege Beta.  I've had access since earlier this week but today was the first day I got to sit down and play it for awhile.

The main mode of the game feels a lot like Counter-Strike.  It's a 5v5 setup with terrorists and counter-terrorists.  The defenders are trying to protect an objective while the attackers are trying to find it and disarm it or gain control of it.

That being said, the pacing is slower than CS and the environmental interaction is cooler.  You don't move as fast in this game and that leads to movement throughout the environment that is more thoughtful.  But the most fun part is the interaction with the environment.  As a defender you can construct barricades and re-enforce walls/floor/ceiling.  As the attacker you can use weapons or breach charges to blow open walls, doors, windows, floors, ceilings, really almost anything you can see.  It makes for some dynamic gameplay moments.

In the end I was more frustrated with the matchmaking than anything else.  It seemed to keep glitching out on me or making me wait for 5-10 minutes at a time before I could get into a game (which would only last a few minutes).  Hopefully that can be chalked up to being in beta and not to having bad matchmaking.  That's one of those things where you'll just have to wait for the full release and see.

The other mode available was terrorist hunt, where you and a team of attackers have to breach a building and get rid of all the AI defenders.  I liked this co-op mode more than the competitive mode, but I tend to like co-op in general.

At this point I don't see myself buying this game for full retail price.  It doesn't do enough new to make it worth the purchase for me.  Maybe when it falls down to the less than $15 range I'll eventually get it.  In a way, I'm glad I got into the beta to experience the game because now I know I can write it off until it's on super sale.

The Magic Circle
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 September 2015, 10:00 am

The Magic Circle is a game that keeps popping up on my radar.  I haven't seen anything about it from major publications but there are bloggers and podcasters that I trust who have said it's worth checking out.

And it is!

The Magic Circle puts you into an incomplete game where the developers are fighting over what should happen in the world.  You quickly break out of the shackles of the pre-scripted game stuff and start messing with the game under their noses.

But it's not just one game.  It has all the assets they ever created for the game... and you can find them.  And exploit them.

It's a fascinating look at game development from inside a game still under development.  It's hard to talk about this game within a game but also outside of a game... but that's kinda what it is.

Ultimately, The Magic Circle was worth checking out... but then I got bored.  I logged out as soon as boredom started to creep in and Steam said I had played for 62 minutes.  I figured I probably wasn't going back so I got my money refunded and I'll end up using it for another game.

Have I mentioned how much I love these Steam refunds?  I feel like I can finally take chances on games and if they don't work out I can still get my money back.

It's a game where a trailer wouldn't give you a good feel for it, but if you have 15 or 30 minutes to check out a let's play it would definitely let you know if it's the type of game for you.

Dungeon Defenders II
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 September 2015, 10:00 am

Dungeon Defenders II is an Early Access game that I picked up on a Steam sale sometime in the last few months.

I kept seeing a couple of my friends pour hours and hours into this game even though it's only in alpha.  I figured there must be something worthwhile here if they're playing it that much.

And there is!  It's a fun tower defense and third-person shooter hybrid of a game.  It's much improved over the first Dungeon Defenders.  It's easier to play and more fun in the moment to moment gameplay.

Right now my main problem is that it's ok with random matchmaking but it would shine with a premade group of four friends over voice chat.  And no one else I know owns the game.

I'm guessing hype will rise for this game when it enters beta and then finally releases.  This is going to be one that I let sit on the backburner until I see more of my friends pick it up.  I can tell that it'll be a lot of fun with a premade group once more people are playing it.

Gaming To-Do List Check In
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 September 2015, 10:00 am

After having a crazy busy September all the way until now I thought it would be a good time to check in on my gaming to-do list that I started for Blaugust last month.  Let's see how progress is going:
  • Persona 4 Golden - I really need to make time for this game.  I loved playing it.  It's just been on hold.  I must make time for it!
  • Hearthstone - Still doing my dailies and playing enough to get weekly/monthly rewards.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening - I want to get back to this eventually, but with new Fall releases coming out I don't know when that will be.
  • FFX-2 - This is right up there with Persona 4 Golden.  I need to start carving out time for RPGs before all the Fall game releases drop!
  • Super Mario Maker - Almost all my gaming time (which has been very limited) has gone into this game lately.  I don't regret it at all.  This might be my game of the year![adding to list]
  • Star Wars Uprising - This mobile Star Wars game came out earlier this month and I've barely put a half hour into it.  I love Star Wars and want to see what Uprising has to offer.[adding to list]
  • Disney Infinity - I mostly got the game and figures for my kids, but I want to dive into the Star Wars playsets and see what they're like.  Especially if I can get my brother over to do some co-op Star Wars lightsaber action.[adding to list]
  • Steam Game Catch-Up - I have a handful of games that I haven't played yet.  Most of them are either kickstarters that just entered early access or games I grabbed on sale.  I want to try them all![adding to list]
  • Fall Releases - All the big games for the year are starting to come out.  September to November is always the biggest time of year for new releases.  I'm excited to pick up and try a bunch of these.[adding to list]
  • Lightning Returns - Tried it and didn't like it.[removing from list]
  • Valkyria Chronicles - I got tired of the hidden information in this game.  I'm done with it even though I liked my time with it.[removing from list]
That's where we stand.  Interestingly I'm now at 9 items, which is more than I had last time I checked in on this list.

I also kinda have a few big catch-alls in there with Steam Game Catch-Up and Fall Releases, but that's ok.  I'll end up trying out another bunch of games and realistically I'll only latch onto a few for any length of time.

I felt like I was almost at the end of my gaming backlog in August, but a month with lots of work and barely any gaming has let stuff pile up again.

I'm interested to see which of the Fall releases I end up putting the most time into.  Right now it's Super Mario Maker, but when Star Wars Battlefront comes out all bets are off.

Are there any Fall games you're especially looking forward to?

Crazy Schedule and Respect for Single Parents
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 September 2015, 10:00 am
A bit off topic today, but that's ok.  It's my blog.  I choose the topic :)

I've barely had any time to game at all since I got home from PAX at the beginning of the month.  For those of you not looking at a calendar, that's 23 days ago.

I got home, had one day with my family, and then my wife left for a trip to Europe where she was gone for a little more than 10 days.  The same day she left I had 4 clients all contact me that needed things ASAP and were in a panic.

I quickly went into overdrive for work and parenting.  I watched my two kids (both under age 5) and worked more than my normal work hours while they were resting/sleeping.  I basically did nothing but work and take care of my kids for 10 days straight.  That's including Labor Day weekend.

This is the trade-off of being a freelancer.  I normally get flexible hours, but if I get slammed with work I'm the only person who can do it.  I don't have any teammates or co-workers to cover for me so I can take time off.  And since work is so random, I need to work whenever I can.  I never know when I'll have a slow month or two.

So work I did.  And parent.  And oh my god, I don't know how single parents do it.  That level of effort and exhaustion is amazing.  My wife got home after 10 days and while I've still been doing a ton of work I now have my second half to help with everything else.  If you're a single parent you are amazing and I applaud you.

It seems like things are finally getting more manageable but September has been absolutely crazy for me.  You probably didn't notice because I had a huge backlog of posts scheduled because of all the writing I did in August (for Blaugust).  But now I've eaten through my backlog and need to get back into the swing of writing regularly.

Expect the posts to fall back down to 5 days per week soon, now that the backlog has been posted.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some gaming to catch up on.

Laura Croft Go
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 September 2015, 10:00 am

Laura Croft Go is a continuation of the Go series that Square Enix has started on mobile devices.  The previous Go game was based on Hitman.

I didn't know what to expect going into Laura Croft Go, but I'm always willing to check out new games on my iPhone.  I do enough mobile gaming that I'm always trying to find the next game I can sink a bunch of time into.

What I found was a puzzle game with a Laura Croft wrapping.  You move Laura around the level on a series of nodes and try to figure out the correct order of actions that will get you to the end of the level.

If the level indicators on the main screen are accurate I played through about two thirds of the game.  In the end I stopped because of the difficultly curve.  It was honestly way too easy for too long, then there were a bunch of levels that had a good difficulty set, and then they started getting really hard.  I got stuck on a puzzle and the only way to progress was to pay $5 to unlock the in game guide.  So, I was done.

I don't think I would recommend this game unless you are a huge Tombraider fan.  If you absolutely must experience all things Tombraider go right ahead and get Laura Croft Go.  If not, you can safely skip it.

Assault Android Cactus
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 September 2015, 10:00 am

The other night I saw a retweet on Twitter.  The developer of Assault Android Cactus was looking for any bloggers, podcasters, or non-traditional media people that were interested in trying the game out.  It had been on my radar for awhile, so I reached out and said I was interested.

Surprisingly, the developer gave me a Steam early access key!  So, I've been trying it out.

Assault Android Cactus is a twin-stick shooter where you get to be an android trying to destroy swarms of evil robots.  I think there's some sort of story, but it's very loose.  Mostly this game is about crazy twin-stick shooting action.

I've honestly been really disappointed in the twin-stick genre lately, most games haven't held my attention for more than a couple minutes.  With Assault Android Cactus I've found myself going back to play almost every night.

At times it's a shooter where you're absolutely demolishing swarms of enemies.  Sometimes you're falling back and just barely holding them off.  Other times there's a ton of room to move but lots of projectiles are flying around and it almost becomes a bullethell game of dodging.  I've honestly had a great time with it.

This is one of the few games I've played in the last few years that actually lets me get into a state of flow and for that it gets major props from me.  There's something both challenging and soothing in fighting these waves of enemies.

I've also been enjoying the different characters, with their unique weapons and loadouts.  It's easy to change characters between levels and get a slightly different feel to the game, even though the core gameplay experience remains.

There's some variety to find here too.  The bosses are all unique and fun.  There's an infinite wave mode.  There's a daily challenge mode.  And it seems like all of the game modes support 2 players simultaneously, although multiplayer is not something I got to try out in my time with the game.

Assault Android Cactus may end up being an evergreen game for me.  A game I can go back and play over and over.  Like I said earlier, I've been doing a fifteen to thirty minute play session of this game almost every night.  And that's perfect.  I could never sit down with Assault Android Cactus for hours on end but I can definitely keep giving it a few minutes here and there between other games.

The developer said the game is officially out on September 23rd.  That's tomorrow!  That's also why I'm posting this today, so that you can pick it up at launch if you're interested.

Since I got an early access key given to me I have no idea how much the full release will cost, but if you ever see this game on Steam for around a $10 price point I would grab it.  Especially if you're a twin-stick shooter fan.

Making Marios
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 September 2015, 10:00 am

My kids and I have been playing a ton of Mario Maker since it released earlier this month.  I love this game.

It has immediately jumped up to my number one evergreen game.  Whenever I'm not sure what to play I jump into Mario Maker and I have yet to walk away disappointed.

I still haven't mastered the level making, and I don't think that part will hold appeal for me long term.  But, I'm been playing Mario since I was 3.  As a 28 year old I'm really good at it by now.  I've beaten every Mario platformer.  Now, for the first time in years, I can find levels that are actually challenging for me.

You see, you can sort the levels by difficultly.  The system looks at the percentage of people who were able to finish a level and assign it a difficulty of easy, normal, or expert.  Whenever I sit down to play alone I play expert levels and I have an amazing experience.

The flip side of this is that easy levels are actually easier than levels in a regular Mario game.  That makes them perfect for my 5 year old.  She's pretty good at Mario anyway, but the easy levels seem to be the perfect fit for her skill level.

You can hunt for individual levels or you can do the 100 Mario challenge.  Hunting for individual levels gives you a options and filtering to sort through, which is greatly appreciate.  But, the 100 Mario challenge is it's own fun because it will literally grab random online levels and put them in a series for you to complete.  You can still set your difficulty, so your 100 Mario challenge will be tuned just for you.

I still intend to dig into the editor a little bit more.  I've been playing with it daily to unlock all the content, but I feel like I'm not very good at it.

That's ok, because Mario Maker provides me with the limitless Mario levels that I've always wanted.

(If you want to check out my favorite expert level so far, here's the Mario Maker code BA34-0000-0015-F84C)

Star Wars Lost Stars
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 September 2015, 9:00 am

Lost Stars is the greatest Star Wars novel I've ever read.  You need to understand how big of a statement this is from me.  Here's a partial look at what the old (now "Legends") timeline looked like:

That's only a partial list of books and I've read almost all of them.  This book is better than those.

The new timeline only has a few novels in it, and Lost Stars is the one I expected the least from.  It's the one that turned out the most amazing.  Last week I said that Aftermath is the best of the new books.  That's before I read this one.  Lost Stars is so much better.

You see, Lost Stars is billed as a young adult romance story.  The other novels that have come out are more traditional for Star Wars books and they deal with either the main characters of the movies or slightly expanding the timeline beyond Return of the Jedi in an adult book fashion.

Lost Stars is about how the events in the Star Wars universe look from the perspective of fairly normal people on a planet that is happily brought into the Empire.  It has a decidedly Romeo and Juliet feel to the main characters and the choices they make, but it fits so well.  They see eye to eye on a lot, make many similar choices for similar reasons, but also make a few key different decisions in their lives.  It's a story of two people who start out in the same place and grow in very different ways.

It seemlessly places characters in most of the main events from the original trilogy without ever feeling forced.  It adds a depth to the events of the original trilogy that I didn't even think was possible.  The perspective of people who aren't heroes and aren't high up in the command chain gives the Star Wars universe a radically different feel.  It's refreshing in a surprisingly insightful way.

I want to tell you all about specific events from the book but I don't want to ruin the plot.  I want to tell you all the little ways this book surprised me and how clever the author is.  But, I don't want to spoil it.

This is the Star Wars novel you should read.  If you only ever read one Star Wars book in your life it should be this one.  It's amazing.  Seriously.  Go read it.

Star Wars Aftermath
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 September 2015, 10:00 am

Star Wars Aftermath by Chuck Wendig is the first novel in the Path to the Force Awakened series.  Basically, starting with this one, there are novels coming out that fill in some of the timeline between the Return of the Jedi and the Force Awakens.

As you all probably know by now I love Star Wars, so I picked this up on release day and had it finished by the end of that weekend.

This is the first really good book in the new canon universe of Star Wars.  The others so far have filled in gaps between movies that we already know, but Aftermath truly gives us new information on how the galaxy is progressing after the fall of the Emperor, Darth Vader, and the second Death Star.

I've read all the new canon novels as they've been released, but you can honestly skip them all and jump right to Aftermath.  It's the best use of your time.

The galaxy is in turmoil after the events of Return of the Jedi and the rebel alliance is in the process of becoming the New Republic.  The Empire is shattered into pieces, but it still has strength that's dangerous.  Everything is standing on a knife edge and this book shows the first steps of what happens next.

By the end of the book there's an ensemble cast that I have already come to love.  I really hope they get a chance to write more books with these characters.  My favorite new character by far is Mr. Bones.  It would be spoilery to say who and what he is, but he kicks ass.

If you're a Star Wars fan this is a great jumping on point to get into the new canon expanded universe.  I highly recommend it.

Hearthstone Devices
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 September 2015, 10:00 am

I've been playing a lot of Hearthstone lately.  On top of the daily quests I'm also keeping up with the weekly Tavern Brawl and working my way through the class challenges in Solo Adventure.

One of the best things about Hearthstone is that it's available on basically every modern device.  You most likely own something that you can play it on.  I actually end up playing it on a bunch of my devices including PC, Mac, my iPhone, and my tablets.

In my experience the game is smoothest and looks the best on PC.  On Mac it doesn't feel optimized.  It's not something I would have ever noticed if I hadn't been playing many versions of the game.

It runs the worst on my Android Nexus tablet.  It's super annoying and almost unplayable.  I also tried the game on my brother's modern Android phone and it was also laggy.  It's easily the worst version of the game, but it's still playable which is something.

The platform I end up playing the most on is my iPhone 6.  I always have it with me, so it's super convenient.  Therefore, it gets the most playtime.  It runs fantastically on my iPhone but it feels a bit cramped.  They did smart things with the design to fit it onto a phone, but the extra step of tapping my hand of cards to browse through them gets slightly annoying.  It's also much harder to appreciate how cool the playfields are on a phone screen.  But, overall, I love the iPhone version of Hearthstone, it's great!

I think the best play experience for Hearthstone is actually on the iPad.  The game runs great, almost as smooth as the PC and definitely better than the other versions.  The form factor of the iPad means that the whole play field can be shown and all the cards fits nicely in the bottom middle of the screen.  There are no compromises made for a smaller screen the way they are in the phone versions.

It's funny that the best experiences I've had with the game are on the iPad but it's the version I play the least.  I'm almost always already at a computer or within arms reach of my phone when I decide to play, and walking to another room to grab an iPad seems like needless work.

Now that I've written this I should really make a better effort to play the iPad version of Hearthstone more often.  I truly think it's the best experience.

PS Plus Games for September
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 September 2015, 10:00 am

I got around to trying out the Playstation Plus games for the month.  It's always interesting to see what offerings we get.  Some are great, some are flops.  Either way, I always look forward to getting some games at the start of the month from Playstation.  Thanks PS Plus!

Here are some quick thoughts about the games for September:
  • Xeodrifter - is a game designed like a super hard Metroid game but with no guidance.  It was really frustrating to not know what to do or where to go.  This game needs to work on it's level flow big time.
  • Teslagrad - a 2D platformer with some interesting style and a magnetic gimmick.  I save most of my platforming for Mario games these days, but if you're a platforming fan there's a lot you could like in this game.
  • Grow Home - This game is both the most interesting and the most frustrating.  The concept is really cool.  You're a running/jumping/climbing robot trying to grow a giant plant into the sky.  You climb and platform your way up the plant and connect it to energy seeds which make it grow higher.  The frustrating part is the controls.  They don't quite feel ready for prime time.  They're kinda floaty and imprecise in a way that gets really annoying.  I would have loved to see what this game could have done with a little more development time.  But, if you're a 3D platforming fan you might want to check it out anyway.
We'll see what's they have to offer next month!  PS Plus game day is something I always look forward to!

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