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26th January 2020: You're Gonna Need A Bigger Shark

Over the last couple of weeks we've managed to play the new Jaws board game twice. Gotta say that, while it's got its flaws, everyone seems to quite like it. Inspired by its source material, though much more the film than the book, the game is split into two acts.

In the first act, the shark player uses hidden movement to swim around Amity Island and eat swimmers, while the human hunters search for the shark and try and stick it with barrels, as well as rescuing swimmers. Once the shark has eaten its fill, or once it has enough barrels attached to it, the game progresses to the second act.
The final confrontation plays out in the second act, as the shark tries to sink the Orca and kill the crew, while the crew attack back with their rifles, machetes and other equipment.

I'd read online before playing this that it is quite difficult for the shark to win, as the second act heavily favours the crew. While we've only played two games, this has certainly proven true so far, with the shark struggling to do enough damage to the boat before the crew bludgeon it to death with their hammers and baseball bats. I'm seriously thinking of tweaking the gameplay with some house rules, and maybe even making some custom resurface cards or ability cards that give the shark a bit more punch near the end.

The people of Amity attempt to survive the shark

The people of Amity attempt to survive the shark

A tense struggle on the water

A tense struggle on the water

The sequel begins

The sequel begins

The Orca takes some punishment

The Orca takes some punishment

Stupid Deaths is another board game we got to try recently. This is a short true or false game where players have to answer correctly in order to run away from the Grim Reaper who is stalking them around the board.

And also, I'm wondering how many more versions of Monopoly I will recieve as gifts? Seriously got to think of a way to combine them all into a faster and more entertaining mess of chaos and shenanigans.

Fearing the Reaper in Stupid Deaths

Fearing the Reaper in Stupid Deaths

Stebloke's many Monopolies

Stebloke's many Monopolies

21st January 2020: One L Of An Adventure

I'm still not sure how or why, but just recently my brain remembered very hazy details about a text adventure game I played with one of my class mates when we were at junior school, all the way back in the late 1980s. This was played on what was probably the school's only computer at that time, and was probably six or seven years before my family even had any kind of PC.

After some hunting around on the internet, I rediscovered the name of this game, which was L: A Mathemagical Adventure. As far as I can remember, I really enjoyed playing it and figuring out its puzzles, but looking back it was probably just because it got me out of lessons every now and then.
Thinking back, this was probably the first game I ever really got stuck into writing about, as I put together a file of maps and solutions as I went through the game. I'd probably still have that paperwork, or at least scans of it, if it hadn't been for one of my friends throwing it all away on one of the very rare days I was sick and off school, which just happened to be the day that the teacher had told everyone to tidy their desk drawers. I was absolutely gutted when I found out all my hard work had been in vain, and it could very well be one of the reasons why I've always been so protective and possessive about my shit as an adult.

To my initial delight I found that not only was this game available on an emulator, but that it was also playable online in a browser on the bbcmicro website. Seeing a chance to revisit my youth and recreate my maps I quickly grabbed some note paper, pressed play and got stuck in.

Like pretty much every game I revisit many years later, this one quickly proved itself to be a chore, being awkward, clunky and full of filler and puzzles that just aren't necessary to experience in order to finish the game. Also, the game is meant to help kids learn about mathematics, but as far as I can tell there is only one truly mathematics-based puzzle in the whole game. All the others are about patterns or observation that can mostly be brute-forced with trial and error. There are also some word-based puzzles, as well as a healthy sprinkling of moon logic that would seem right at home in your average 1990s point-and-click.

I started off pretty sure that I had completed the game back in the 80s, but as I was going through it, there were huge chunks of the game that did not seem familiar at all, so I started to think I was mistaken. Yet, I could fairly clearly remember tackling the "spider puzzle", and could still remember the principle of it. As it turns out, that puzzle is literally the last one in the game, so my initial assumption must have been correct.

However, there was no way I finished this game without some form of help. Even as an adult, this thing had me scratching my head. For most of the game I didn't actually search for any of the answers directly, but I did have to look for some clues as to what certain puzzles were about, as well as looking for aid concerning the strange quirks of the game.
However, the aforementioned spider puzzle defeated me. First, I started doodling attempts to solve it on some paper. Then I started to use photoshop so I didn't have to keep erasing. Then I spent the better part of a free Sunday writing some Javascript code. I limited the script to a few hundred loops of stepping forward and back through the path of the puzzle, thinking that would be plenty, and ran the script. But a bunch of attempts later and even that didn't get further than about three quarters of the way through.

By this time I gave up, deleted my script, and went looking for the answer. When I found it, I discovered there are 48 correct paths through the puzzle, which seemed like a lot until I also read there are more than 8 million incorrect paths! No wonder a few hundred loops through the script didn't get near to an answer. It now makes me wonder if my script would have eventually solved it if I had allowed it several thousand loops or more. But there's no way I'm writing all of that again to find out.

My original intention had been to create a really nice new set of maps and solutions to replace the ones I lost years ago. But by the end of it I just couldn't be bothered, especially as the end of the game was such a let down.

Behold the awesome graphics of the BBC Micro

Behold the awesome graphics of the BBC Micro

What is this? Modern day Hollywood?

What is this? Modern day Hollywood?

This was the puzzle I had the clearest recollections about

This was the puzzle I had the clearest recollections about

Well, they weren't lying

Well, they weren't lying

One of my many attempts to solve the spider puzzle

One of my many attempts to solve the spider puzzle

My map scribbles

My map scribbles

Managed a spare few minutes recently to have another little go on Sensible Soccer. In one of the games I smashed 12 goals passed the Annoying Gits team, but still couldn't keep a clean sheet as Robbie Williams had to go and poke one home.

The game is so cheesy and goofy, but it's one of the rare old games I seem happy to play on quite often.

Keeper literally jumps out of the way of the ball

Keeper literally jumps out of the way of the ball

Keeper dives when the ball is already in the net

Keeper dives when the ball is already in the net

27th December 2019: Bring Out Your Dead... Pool

Hot on the heels of a Marvel 3rd person action game comes another Marvel 3rd person action game. This time it was the Deadpool PS3 game's time to take the spotlight, but could I get the same kind of enjoyment out it that I did from the Spider-Man PS4 game?
Well, no. Not really.

I picked this up on my recent ebay console game shopping spree, and in the process contradicted my original assumption that The Last Of Us would be the final PS3 game I'd ever buy. Part of me wishes I'd left the whole game well alone, as I found there were more things wrong with it than right. But even with its flaws, it was not bad enough to stop me playing through it, so I guess that's something, right?

The main problem here was the gameplay itself, which kind of sucks for what is essentially a 3rd person brawler. The characters, the Marvel universe, the humour and the bat-shit crazy fourth wall breaking things that go on were all enjoyable. But when the fighting itself proves to be the annoying part, then the game has a problem.

True, some of these issues I think were down to the console itself. The frame rate, which at its highest and most stable was only 30fps, kept tanking at many points, especially when lots of enemies were on screen. This made the already sluggish combat seem even more so. It didn't help that the only melee weapons in the game which seemed to do any decent damage were the hammers, which were the slowest weapons to swing and made the fighting seem even more dull and boring.

There was also an issue with the counter attack mechanic. This is because both counter and dodge were bound to the same button, so many times I'd be attempting to dodge away but Deadpool would instead counter attack a villain that was about to attack him. Well fair enough, you might think, but when this refusal to dodge out of the way leaves the character open to an attack from another villain nearby then it starts to get annoying. And it's even worse than that as the counter attack animation is in slow motion, making the combat seem even slower and less responsive.
It annoyed me. Let's put it that way.

Another frustrating thing about the combat, which to be fair was a problem I also had with Spider-Man, was that the game seemed to think it knew where you wanted the camera to point. As soon as a fight would break out, the camera would start rotating all around like it was under the control of some tiny director living inside the console, trying to get the right angle for his next action movie. Well, it's not exactly easy to keep control of the camera when the thumb needed to operate the right stick is trying to press the action buttons.

The X-Men Legends PS2 games were also included in my shopping spree, after Scoob informed me he no longer owns them. When I borrowed them from him back in the day, I finished the first one but never went all the way through the second. My original plan was to continue the Marvel console love and plough into that sequel, but that can definitely wait for now. When I look back at the games I've finished this year, all but one have been games I've played with a controller. And the other one was a simple point-and-click. I think I just want to get away from that input device for a while. It's really starting to grate on me.

Well you never know unless you try

Well you never know unless you try

Purile humour incoming

Purile humour incoming

Making a clone Sinister dance

Making a clone Sinister dance

Tacos!

Tacos!

Rogue has a little too much Deadpool in her

Rogue has a little too much Deadpool in her

Literally dancing with Death

Literally dancing with Death

23rd December 2019: Stebloke-Man, Stebloke-Man, Does Whatever A Stebloke Can

So just got done swinging, punching and zipping my way through my first ever PS4 game, in the shape of Spider-Man. I was pretty sure I was going to get at least some enjoyment from this game, considering how much inspiration it takes from the Batman Arkham series, and how much I liked the first two of those games.

For the most part, this turned out to be true, though my early tactics spoiled the game for me a little bit and I found my attention waining towards the end. See, my initial intention was to 100% the game, and do every little thing all over the map. So every time I saw something new on the map I would go and do it before moving on with the story. This quickly became old, and I got fed up with hunting for bags, or doing research challenges and the like.
So I then changed tactics and decided to only do things on the map if they were on the way to my next story mission. This was ok for a time, but at one point in the story, just like in Arkham Origins, a load of people populate the map with guns and sniper rifles, all waiting to shoot your ass out of the sky as you swing by. This pissed me off back then, and pissed me off this time.
So in the end, I ignored the many, many things on the map that I hadn't done yet, and just straight lined the campaign, and I've got to say, this was the way to go. I just wish I'd done that from the start.

Flash kicking the Kingpin

Flash kicking the Kingpin

Yep, that dude's dead

Yep, that dude's dead

The game is not without its physics bugs

The game is not without its physics bugs

Shut yo mouth!

Shut yo mouth!

The Ste'n'Ste suit was the one I wore the most

The Ste'n'Ste suit was the one I wore the most

Spidey's still not figured out how to stuff someone into a trunk

Spidey's still not figured out how to stuff someone into a trunk

As mentioned before, the combat is definitely influenced by the Arkham games, but with some big differences that took me a little while to get used to. For starters, I kept pressing triangle to counter like in the Batman games, whereas in this one you have to press circle to dodge instead. My muscle memory, even these years later, just kept kicking in. Took me a while to shake that behaviour for some reason.
Also, the timing of the dodges was key. At first, I would try and dodge as soon as I got the warning, but I quickly found out that dodging too early just gives the attacker time to change the direction of their attack and they end up smacking you anyway. To get the best out of the combat in this game, dodging at the last second is required. Once I got used to it, and opened up a few more skills, I really quite enjoyed dropping into a big group of goons and beating the snot out of them.

Some things that annoyed me about the Arkham games also popped up here, like stealth missions, silly little puzzles, and missions where Spidey has been poisoned and you have to trudge through hallucinations. Thankfully, these elements were greatly reduced in this game, and took a lot less time to get through.

The story was pretty good, but there was nothing ground-breaking here, especially if you know anything about Spider-Man and his rogues' gallery. There was just one thing that happened at the end that I was a little surprised by.

Overall, well worth the play through, though I wish I'd not spent so much time swinging around the city trying to do all the pointless little stuff before just getting on with it.

Spidey falls through the world to his death

Spidey falls through the world to his death

The puzzles were very hit and miss

The puzzles were very hit and miss

Two cops diligently guard two very unconscious criminals

Two cops diligently guard two very unconscious criminals

No foreshadowing here or anything

No foreshadowing here or anything

Hallucination missions. Sigh.

Hallucination missions. Sigh.

Finishing off Mr. Negative

Finishing off Mr. Negative

15th December 2019: The Big Bugs

It's been over four and a half years since I finished painting my 40K Marine army, which at the time was the only full army I'd ever painted for any game I've played. Of course, I then went and wrecked it by adding more models to that army that still need painting, so until today I technically had no armies completed.

However, that has changed with the completion of my 40K Tyranids, which has been pretty much my only goal in wargaming for the last year or so.

While I'm glad I've got them done (though I still need to varnish them before I use them), I am a bit underwhelmed at the final results. The reason I sigh is not even due to my shit painting skills, but rather that I wanted them to look a bit more wild and strange when lined up as a full army. The biggest problem is, in order to get them painted as fast as possible, I cut some corners on the large infantry units, and their colours are more dull and bland than what is evident on most of the other units.

I also messed up some of the other units, like trying to do something weird with the Hive Guard only to have them turn out looking like very pale sea creatures. I also chose dark red and light blue for the Shrikes, the last unit I painted, completely forgetting one of the Zoanthropes had already claimed that colour scheme.

But while I'm a bit disappointed, I'm very glad they're done, and I suppose they look alright for a bunch of models that I've mostly collected from ebay over the last 15 years.

I really do wish I enjoyed painting, or at the very least I wish I could do it much faster. It would make all the models I've still got to paint look a lot less daunting.

Hive Fleet Odium Tyranid Army

Hive Fleet Odium Tyranid Army

Hive Fleet Odium Hive Tyrants

Hive Fleet Odium Hive Tyrants

Hive Fleet Odium Primes, Warriors & Shrikes

Hive Fleet Odium Primes, Warriors & Shrikes

Hive Fleet Odium Broodlord & Genestealers

Hive Fleet Odium Broodlord & Genestealers

Hive Fleet Odium Carnifexes

Hive Fleet Odium Carnifexes

Hive Fleet Odium Lictors

Hive Fleet Odium Lictors

Hive Fleet Odium Trygon & Raveners

Hive Fleet Odium Trygon & Raveners

Though I've made some progress on the painting side, I can not take my foot off the gas, not when I have a bunch of other armies and teams still to paint across a bunch of different games. Case in point, I still have another army of Tyranids to paint, this time in 6mm scale. These poor little buggers haven't been touched since the 90s, so are going to need some serious work to bring them up to date.
But I figured while I was painting Nidz, I may as well get these done as well.

Epic Tyranids up next...

Epic Tyranids up next...

10th December 2019: What A Dreadful Dirge

Oh what a journey I've been on trying to find some comfortable way of playing Dirge Of Cerberus. As stated before, I bought this old PS2 game after finding out it was playable with keyboard and mouse. Yet no matter what I did, I could not get the game to play as I wanted it to, either on the emulator or my actual PS2.

Firstly, I tried to get the emulator to work using the game's built in mouse and keyboard functionality, but it just wouldn't have it at all. I even tried other USB plug-ins, that people had reported having some success with in the past, but they wouldn't work on my machine. Maybe they were built for a different OS.

So, just to make sure keyboard and mouse actually worked, I tried the game on my PS2. Sure enough, the controls do work, but the mouse moved so slow I could barely get Vincent to turn with several sweeps across my mouse mat. My newest mouse may have had more success, as it has way more DPI than the crappy mouse I originally tried, but the PS2 would not detect that one. Typical.

So back I went to the emulator for my third attempt at trying to get mouse and keyboard to work. In this attempt, I changed the bindings that were set up for the controller, and rebound them to the keyboard and mouse. Now this way worked, to a degree, as the game assumed it was still picking up commands from a controller. However, it was still impossible to control as using the mouse motion to emulate the analog sticks was all kinds of janky, with delay and weird stuttery movements all over it.

With no choice than to play with a controller, I thought I may as well use the emulator as I could get some screenshots that way. This too caused its own issues. Using the software renderer, the game looks as it originally did, but the frame rate was unbearable, even using all kinds of speed hacks. Using the hardware renderer, I could get the game to run at its original 50fps for the most part, and could crank the graphics quality up. Though this threw up a weird problem with the skydome failing to render properly on the right half of the screen.
In addition, no matter what renderer was being used, most of the cut scenes would display in slow motion. I would understand if the emulator was killing my computer, but the CPU never went above 30%, and the graphics card usage didn't go above 70%, so I have no idea what was going on.

Still, some cut scene slow down didn't really stop me playing the game, so I soldiered on as best I could. But, as I suspected I would, I grew more and more frustrated with trying to play a shooter with a controller, and after the Shelke and Azul battle about a third of the way through the game, I decided to call it quits. I just was not enjoying it at all. The Shelke fight in particular exacerbated the problem, as she could move around way faster than I could even turn the camera, making it really hard to keep track of her.
Though I beat her first time, my shooting accuracy was shocking, and I had to use most of my healing as she could easily hit me as I tried to track the camera around to find out where she was. I just couldn't be arsed to force myself through it, especially not as I originally watched all the cut scenes on the internet a good decade ago.

Weird background graphics

Weird background graphics

Shooting the shit out of some aircraft

Shooting the shit out of some aircraft

Vincent channels his inner Chuck Norris on this Deepground soldier

Vincent channels his inner Chuck Norris on this Deepground soldier

How does he actually remote control that thing anyway?

How does he actually remote control that thing anyway?

I wonder where they got the inspiration for that weapon

I wonder where they got the inspiration for that weapon

Defeating Azul

Defeating Azul

I desperately needed to finish a game to avoid equalling my worst game-completing year since starting this blog. As the PS2 emulator was warmed up and ready to rock, I checked some lists on the internet to see what other games for that console I had missed, that looked like they might be fun. One such game that popped up on a couple of lists was called What's The Switch?, based on a 2000s cartoon called Kim Possible. I had fairly vague recollections of the cartoon, but thought it would be interesting to pick it up as it had a link to Dirge Of Cerberus, being that Kim's voice actress, Christy Romano, also voiced Yuffie in that game, as well as a lot of other Final Fantasy VII stuff.
So while I might not be able to complete Dirge Of Cerberus, I could definitely give this one a try.

The game is a fairly simple action platformer, though with increasingly frustrating platforming elements. I'm not sure if it was the emulator, my control pad, or just the game itself, but many times when I tried to jump or use the grappling hook, there was a slight delay on the character actually performing the action. It was embarassing, and annoying, to repeatedly just fall off the end of a ledge I was running towards because the character did not jump when I pressed the button, even though she still had a step or two left of ledge space.
As the levels progressed, and more hazards were introduced like lasers to dodge, or moving walls or platforms to jump or swing to, I got more and more cheesed off with the controls.

The fighting parts were more entertaining, if somewhat very simplistic. This is understandable, as this is essentially a kid's game. Even so, if there was a selection of different enemies on screen, who all needed their own techniques to defeat, things could still get a bit challenging. The hardest fighting parts for me were easily when I was trying to fight a bunch of enemies in the foreground, while some untargetable enemies in the background were throwing things at me like grenades or missiles, which were easy to miss as they approached.

It seemed like all the voice actors from the cartoon reprised their voice roles, which was cool, but while it sounded like the cartoon, it really didn't look like it, as the graphics in this thing were shockingly shite. I think they'd tried to make it almost pseudo 3D in appearance, and the way they'd designed the characters in order to accomplish this really spoiled the whole look of the game. They should have really stuck to 2D sprites and made them really match the way they looked in the cartoon.

Still, it's a much needed game done, and one that only took a few hours.
Now, I'd better go and play on my PS4, as I bought it in October and I've not touched it yet.

Shego insults Drakken

Shego insults Drakken

Preparing to fight some ghost monkey things

Preparing to fight some ghost monkey things

It's a typical mind-swap story

It's a typical mind-swap story

Shego packs a punch

Shego packs a punch

Bad graphics choices

Bad graphics choices

I don't think legs bend that way

I don't think legs bend that way

Someone's been playing Trine

Someone's been playing Trine

Smashing the end boss's monkey machine thing

Smashing the end boss's monkey machine thing

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