What Are You Playing This Weekend?

Calista Brill

Calista Brill, graphic novel editor

A comics editor from First Second Books shares her heroic effort to curb a Plants Vs. Zombies habit.

By Matt Gerardi • August 23, 2013

In What Are You Playing This Weekend? we discuss gaming and such with prominent figures in the pop-culture arena. We always start with the same question.

Calista Brill is a senior editor at First Second Books, a New York-based publisher of graphic novels whose catalog caters to all ages with a wide range of subject matter. (First Second published the video game-inspired Level Up, whose author The Gameological Society previously spoke to.) Brill talked to Gameological about unwinding with Sudoku and overcoming her crippling Plants Vs. Zombies addiction.

The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?

Calista Brill: Every weekend, I sit down on Saturday morning with the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, which, if you live in New York and you subscribe to the Times, it arrives on Saturday instead of Sunday. I eat oatmeal, and I make my husband help me with the crossword puzzle. He’s really good at the trivia, and I’m really good at the stuff where you have to have an instinct about the weird idiom of crossword puzzle construction. Usually we get that done in a couple of hours, and if it takes us longer, I just return to it through the weekend.

Gameological: Are you a pencil or a pen kind of person?

Brill: I’m definitely a pencil person. I’m not badass enough. I think there’s a category of 80-year-old New York grannies who do it in pen, and I aspire to get there someday.

Gameological: i heard that you had a little bit of a problem with Candy Crush Saga and Plants Vs. Zombies.

Brill: [Laughs.] Yeah, I don’t play a lot of video games, partly because I don’t have any self-control with video games. I like simple puzzle games—word and number games, like Sudoku and crosswords. Those are easy for me to turn away from. Even things like Tetris or Candy Crush, notably, I have a lot of trouble with. Candy Crush is one of those games that’s set up to make you want to spend money on it, and it’s incredibly effective at achieving that. After I spent something like $25 on it in one day, I thought, “This is not a road to anything productive or sane in my life.” And I deleted it.

With Plants Vs. Zombies, that was even more dramatic. I don’t even remember why I downloaded it. I think someone recommended it. I played through the full game once and then again. And then I think I was starting my third go-round, and I kind of thought, “I have spent probably 20 hours a week on this thing for the last couple of months. This seems problematic.” My husband is a computer guy, and after I had deleted it from my computer once and then downloaded it again, I made him delete it from my computer. And then I downloaded it again. So he had to fix my computer so that I would never be able to download it again. I don’t know what he did, but now I’m unable to install Plants Vs. Zombies.

Gameological: You know, there’s a second one now.

Brill: I know. My husband was out of town for a week earlier this summer, and I thought, “I’m going to be incredibly wicked and download it and play it and delete it before he ever gets back, and he’ll never know. That way he won’t have to be disappointed in me.” So I had heard about it, but it turned out it wasn’t out yet, so I missed my interval. I know it’s out now, but I’m sure I’ve got myself under control.

Gameological: You mentioned that you like to play Sudoku, do you have your own method or strategy for tackling those puzzles?

Brill: Not really. As serious players of number games go, I’m probably a pretty bad case. I like to play them while I listen to podcasts on my morning commute on the subway. It’s just a lovely, mindless thing I do with my hands and the part of my brain that doesn’t process language. Otherwise, I get sort of antsy just sitting there listening to my podcasts. I’ve turned into one of these people who needs to be doing 400 things at once for entertainment. So i’m not devoting my whole brain to them. I use them more as a soothing mechanism then anything else.

Gameological: I know what you mean. I play games on the subway while listening to podcasts because I’m afraid of looking at other people and them catching me staring.

Brill: Exactly. It’s very comforting to have your little smartphone that you can just stare at so you don’t have to deal with other human beings. I think people who don’t live in New York don’t get how important that is. It’s vital.

Gameological: What’s it like editing graphic novels and comics?

Brill: It’s really, really fun. I love my job. Mostly what it’s like is you just end up constantly being delighted and amazed and awed by the talent of the people you work with. I love comics. I’ve always loved comics. I will always love comics. It’s a form I feel really strongly about. My favorite thing to do in the world is read comics. I’m not a terrific artist. I can doodle, and I can put together a page of comics, but I’m never going to be near the level of the people that I work with. It’s really great to be able to have a way to contribute to the industry and [a way] of helping to make these books come into practice. I have a lot of talents that make me well-suited for the life of the editor, and it’s just really nice that I’m given the opportunity to work on these books to see them come to fruition and help and offer suggestions where I can.

Gameological: If you could turn a First Second book into a game—any kind of game—which would it be?

Brill: There’s a few of them that leap to mind. We have a book coming out this winter called The Glorkian Warrior Delivers A Pizza. It’s for kids. It’s by this guy James Kochalka who has a long-running autobiographical comic strip called American Elf and has also done a lot of really great kids’ comics, including a series called Dragon Puncher. He’s actually making Glorkian Warrior as an 8-bit video game, and it’s being released, in a sort of limited way, pretty soon. I think this fall.

We also have this amazing book coming out this fall called Battling Boy by Paul Pope, who is a legend of comics. He did Batman: Year 100 and an incredible book, Heavy Liquid. Battling Boy is a book that people have been waiting for for a long time, so there’s a lot of excitement around it. It’s about this young demigod who, for his coming-of-age quest, is plopped on this planet that’s under siege by monsters. He’s told, “Clean up the planet, and don’t even think about coming home until you’re done.” The book itself is almost structured like your classic, conventional video game structure, where he has to work his way up the bottom echelon of these monsters to the big boss who’s running everything from behind the scenes. The world that he’s occupying is really beautiful and interesting and entertaining visually. It’s kind of a riff on 1940s and 1950s America but with this twist. The only weapons he has are these magical T-shirts. Each T-shirt has a different animal on it, and when he puts on that T-shirt, he gains the attributes of that animal. This book is already half of a video game. It would be so much fun to play it. The world is also really elaborate and complicated with a lot of little backstory here and there that could be evolved in a great way.

And now, we put the question to you. Tell us what you’ve been playing lately, and which games—video or otherwise—are on your playlist for the weekend.

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194 Responses to “Calista Brill, graphic novel editor”

  1. Fluka says:

    I am spending my weekend trapped in a literal airy tower of Work, so very little.  I *wish* I could spend my weekend doing the following: throwing cars at people, throwing myself into cars, sucking both the people and the cars into a black hole, making the same cars and people get down via dubstep gun, doing barrel rolls, singing along to Paula Abdul, and having sweet inappropriate romantic relations with all of my homies.  But alas, Saints Row 4 is hundreds of miles away and must await my return on Monday.

    Instead, at best I’ll probably go back to my usual beloved source of work procrastination: FTL.  Because sometimes you just need to feel like everything is gonna turn out okay in the end!  (Spoilers: everything will not turn out okay in the end.)

    • Enkidum says:

      I can’t get anywhere on FTL these days. My usual strategy is to try desperately to save enough scrap to afford cloaking, but then I’m super under-powered in every other aspect of the game. 

      It’s a lot easier when you play on Easy, oddly enough.

      • Fluka says:

        I’ve *never* been able to get anywhere with FTL.  It’s a tribute to the game’s strengths that I still frikkin love it.

        • Enkidum says:

          First time I played on easy, I got all the way to the final boss, and he smoked me. Then I played, oh, another 10 or 20 games on easy and usually got to close to the end, but always got killed. Now I’ve gone back to Normal, for some reason. 

        • Fluka says:

          @Enkidum:disqus This all sounds really goddamn familiar.

          Except the first time I played, my ship caught fire on like the second planet and I died.  I learned to pay attention.

      • NakedSnake says:

        Ship boarding is where it’s at. Cheap to use and lots of scrap reward. Then I hoard a stockpile of scrap and near the end of the game build my ship around whatever other weapons and items I found along the way. I still can’t beat the game on Normal, but it’s been close at times.

        • Enkidum says:

          Motherfucker (a general curse, not an epithet for you) I just followed your advice and had 8 crew, 2 Rock who I kept teleporting and was doing really well on a bunch of ships in a row.

          Then I managed to hold off a couple of Mantis who teleported onto my ship for long enough to force them to go back, since I’d killed everyone on their ship. Woohoo. And then I just blew up that enemy ship. 

          With my 2 Rock on it. 

          ARGH. This game sucks. Never buy it.

        • NakedSnake says:

          @Enkidum:disqus I have definitely made that exact same mistake. It’s easy to forget if you’re targeting their gun with lasers while still damaging stuff with your away party. One thing that can help with that is ion weapons if you can get them. BTW, if you’re wondering about leveling up your crew’s fighting abilities, they get a lot of xp from attacking ship systems. So you can grind a bit w/o always fighting enemies.

          Incidentally: some good advice that would be of use to any player is don’t turn on autofire . Your attacks will be incredibly more damaging they all hit as a volley. The first attack drops the shields and the rest do the damage.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I get through often enough, but I haven’t unlocked anything in ages, so my motivation fell away.

      • EmperorNortonI says:

         I’m not really sure if the game is winnable on Normal.  I think the modes should be called Normal and Impossible.

        • Enkidum says:

          I just got to the second round of the boss fight on normal, in that long game I described above. Honestly, if I hadn’t lost two away parties stupidly (one by blowing the ship up, the second by teleporting onto a drone and watching them suffocate) and had to replace them at great expense, I think I could have won it.

      • CrabNaga says:

        Zoltan Ship Type A is probably the easiest way to play the game, since you get 5 free points of damage negation from all sources before you can even potentially get hit. Effective usage of the Halberd beam can cleave early-game ships in twain with one (salvo? volley? How do you describe a “single laser beam attack”?). Get about 5 levels of Engines and hope you’re lucky enough to get good weapons in the first couple of sectors.

        For a more glass cannon approach, I like to play as the Stealth Ship Type B, since it has a Glaive beam (3 damage a room!) to start with. However, your goal in the Stealth Ship is to max out Stealth and get a Shield Module within like, the first sector, or else you’re bound to lose. So as long as you’re willing to restart a bunch of times until you get lucky, it’s also a good way to go.

        • Enkidum says:

          So far I’ve only got one bonus ship (the Engi one, which is fucking useless for my style of play). I think I need to start aiming for objectives to unlock the rest.

      • DrKumAndGo says:

        At this point, I can beat Easy pretty routinely, but every time I figure that I’m ready to tackle Normal, I just get absolutely creamed. Thanks for sending me through a sector where every enemy had nothing but missile launchers, game. That was fun.

        I think I’m starting to derive some perverse pleasure from the denial-anger-bargaining-depression-acceptance process when you realize that you’ve just started the battle that’s going to kill you.

        • Chum Joely says:

          Hey! That totally sounds like me on XCOM: Enemy Unknown! I have two playthroughs going on different platforms, and it’s amazing to see on a mission-by-mission basis how much more brutal Normal is than Easy. Oh, 10 Chrysalids and a Cyberdisc with 3 Drones on a mission that was 2 Chrysalids and a couple of Thin Men on the Easy iteration? That’s only an order of 10 or so increase in difficulty, makes total sense.

          And similarly for the “seven stages of failing a mission” thing– I usually know pretty early that I’m not going to make it through, but I’ve gotten a lot more into playing through my failures. I guess in the back of my mind I am kind of imagining that I’m trying to fight an Alamo-type battle that is utterly unwinnable but will go down in history as amazingly well-fought given the circumstances.

  2. Merve says:

    Battling Boy sounds like it could be an incredibly fun, novel RPG. I’d play it.

    This weekend, I’m going to try to finish up Max Payne 2, which is a lot more fun and polished than the original Max Payne. If I have time, I’ll try to make some progress in Rayman Origins, or I might pick up where I left off in Costume Quest, the current subject of our Steam group’s bi-weekly game revue club.

    • NakedSnake says:

      I loved the original Max Payne, but it definitely felt like a rough-hewn game. The plot was, at times, wildly incoherent, and there were many distractions in gameplay (chief among them was Max’s crazy facial contortions). And then those parts where you run along an invisible blood bridge… ugh. I remember Max Payne 2 getting lukewarm reviews at the time, so I stayed away. But now I’m thinking: maybe it got lukewarm reviews b/c it was basically a better re-hash of the first game. Thoughts? Should I check it out?

      • Merve says:

        I’m about a quarter of the way through, and so far, it’s just a more polished game with less punishing gameplay. The story is a little more grounded this time around, but it’s a bit harder to follow. If you somewhat enjoyed the first Max Payne, you should probably check out the second.

        • Mike P says:

           Playing on steam?
          Man, I played that on the original XBox. I really like both Max Payne games. I should re-play them, me in my later 20’s may get more out of the story than I did in my teens.

        • a_scintillating_comment says:

          Awesome, glad you’re enjoying them.

      • MintBerry_Crunch says:

        It’s great! If only because I remember reloading quick-saves again and again, watching enemies rag-doll marvelously three seconds after a chucked grenade. 

        Physics, fun! (Well now it’s not as interesting, so you’ll just look like a sociopath.)

      • Bakken Hood says:

        I thought it was a big improvement on the first.  The first had its goofily quotable hard-boiled dialogue, but it wore thin early on; MP2’s unrelenting bleakness gets funnier as the game goes on, with just enough genuine pathos to keep the pain meaningful and darkly hilarious.  And it doesn’t have awful dream mazes.  And it’s more generous with bullet time, which offsets the cheapness of the gunplay.  Play it, it’s worth the pittance it costs now.

      • huge_jacked_man says:

        Max Payne 2 is a much better game than the first. 

    • Jackbert says:

      The mechanic of Battling Boy is the comic Animal Man, so it’s not novel to me. But I’d really like to play an Animal Man video game, so it still sounds fun. 

      • SamPlays says:

        An Animal Man video game that was true to the meta nature of the book would be pretty awesome. What we really need is an adventure horror game based on Alan Moore’s run of Swamp Thing.

        • Jackbert says:

          I don’t know if either series could be really adapted. They both seem pretty uniquely suited for comics, especially the meta nature of Animal Man. But the powers they have, taking power from animals and plants, would be fun to have in a video game.

        • SamPlays says:

          Where both are about existential issues, I think Swamp Thing would be better suited to a video game based solely on it’s thematic material (this is not a request, please don’t do this). Animal Man is so intrinsically tied to the format of a comic book that it would be kind of redundant (certainly misguided) to translate it. Besides, the early Kirby games did the whole absorbing powers thing pretty well already.

        • Roswulf says:

          @Jackbert:disqus is probably right that a full-on meta Animal Man game wouldn’t work, but I want more games to end with a conversation between the protagonist and the game designer about the preceding narrative.

  3. Enkidum says:

    I had no idea PvZ2 was out. Oh dear me.

    I’m supposed to be writing papers, as always. But I really think there’ll be a bunch more Ratchet & Clank in my immediate future, have the feeling I’ll be finishing the first game in the next week. And like @Fluka:disqus , a bunch of FTL, and if I get into work and have time, a bunch of the Binding of Isaac. Can’t play it at home because of a computer-specific bug :(. 

    I have to say I’m glad that I’ve never paid money for a f2p game, although I have sunk many hours into them avoiding paying money. Waste of damn time.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      It’s pretty good so far, and I haven’t paid a dime. I think Popcap and EA have done a surprisingly good job of walking that line between letting people pay for advancement and plants and not. There are plants I cannot use, like Squash and Jalapeno, without paying, but I found I haven’t missed them yet, and completing challenges of varying difficulty to move forward to the next world actually gets you more out of the game than if you just paid your way through. And the new zombie types and level designs have been lots of fun.

      • CrabNaga says:

        I’ve also been pretty impressed by the restraint they’ve used in the F2P mechanics. I don’t really miss the plants behind a paywall (except for maybe the Imitater), but I’m kind of annoyed that some of the boosts (like seed packet size) are also behind a paywall. Here’s hoping that when they release the Future World (or what I assume it’s going to be, according to the silhouette on the world selection screen), the whole world isn’t behind a paywall.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          You should be able to add one slot in the Pirate world with five pirate keys, I believe it is. I saved up on that world just to get that first.

        • CrabNaga says:

          @drflimflam:disqus Yeah, that’s what I did too. I meant it more that there’s currently 2 of those upgrades available, and only one of them can actually be unlocked without paying for it.

    • SamPlays says:

      I replayed the first Ratchet and Clank game many, many months ago and it held up surprisingly well. Going Commando is still the best of the series IMO. It had the right balance of sheer destruction (it had the best weapons), platforming and exploration. Later titles became much more focused on action and adopted a much more linear design to its levels. 

      • CrabNaga says:

        I think I preferred Up Your Arsenal, mostly because it was the first game to have the refined weapon upgrade system. Going Commando also had a bunch of technical issues (like weird difficulty spikes and those damn yetis), and I wasn’t a fan of the overarching story. Up Your Arsenal just felt like a more complete and polished experience to me.

        • SamPlays says:

          Story issues aside (it has never been a selling point through the series), what I enjoyed the most about Going Commando was the introduction of large, dynamic environments that actively encouraged exploration. I also thought it was the biggest jump in quality over the original whereas subsequent games seemed like slightly improved iterations. Once Deadlocked rolled around, it felt like a different series altogether with the refocus on action above everything else. What I liked about Deadlocked, despite being a very different game, was that it fully embraced its action game design – it felt like one big arena battle and there was a sense of strategy in how you had to approach certain situations. The PS3 games, on the other hand, felt like clunky attempts to blend heavy action with the early style of the series: great levels but they’re extremely linear and the primary focus is shooting with very little exploring. IMO, they were mere trifles of what made the series so good in the beginning. But these are just personal nitpicks and I’ve been a fan of the series all the way through.

      • Enkidum says:

        Something I keep wondering as I play through #1: why the sex puns in the later titles? Do they get notably more risqué or something? I was expecting some kind of not-quite-dirty banter, but instead it’s full of dweeby inoffensive arguing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just a surprise given those titles.

        • SamPlays says:

          No, the games remain tastefully PG so I’m not sure why they get marketed with those titles. Sex sells I guess? On a slightly deeper level (though not much deeper considering the games), the symbolic relationship between sex and violence may be invoked (though I doubt it). Sex as violence, mirror images of each other, etc. Who knows, maybe the Ratchet games are really a comment on the brutality and passion of going through puberty (I always assumed Ratchet was a teen/young adult).

  4. NakedSnake says:

    I love that little story about secretly downloading the game and hiding it from your spouse. I understand completely. I think that, in these situations, the spouse doesn’t actually care at all about you doing the thing you want to do. But maybe they care if you seem to care and you’re failing to control yourself. Or maybe they care not at all in the least, but you secretly are projecting your own self-shaming onto the spouse. For instance, sometimes I’ll come back from a weekend business trip and there will a selection of fashion magazines mysteriously in the recycle bin. I’m pretty sure that my wife loves fashion magazines but is embarrassed about reading them around me. For my part, I don’t care at all. I’m sitting on the couch playing video games – who am I to judge? But apparently when I am out of the house it’s “time to be bad” and buy a bunch of them. It’s stupid, but I feel the exact same way about playing stupid video games in front of my wife. I’m not sure if she has any awareness of the games I am playing at all (besides commenting on the music), but in general I think I try to play more classy/thoughful games on the big screen. But when she’s out of the picture, it’s Blood Dragons time!

    • Merve says:

      I played Sleeping Dogs in front of one of my friends once, and I ran over a bunch of NPCs. Now she thinks I’m a disturbed psycho killer. (It didn’t help matters that she’s Chinese…)

    • MintBerry_Crunch says:

      I don’t think I can name ten games that don’t end up with me tugging at my collar, making uncomfortable noises, and dabbing my forehead with a cloth for good measure in front of people.

      • Girard says:

        Seriously. It’s a sobering reminder of how dumb/embarrassing so many games are when you find yourself playing one in the presence of someone not inured to them.

        • SamPlays says:

          Social facilitation at its finest.

        • Merve says:

          That’s not a great yardstick for evaluating a medium, though. Imagine never having seen a play before after a lifetime of watching movies. The play would probably look pretty stupid to you.

        • SamPlays says:

          @Merve2:disqus Most plays look pretty stupid, though.

        • Girard says:

          @Merve2:disqus It wouldn’t look stupid, it would look different.
          Unless it were a play with Joe Madureira-lite set and costume design that was about, like, some muscly dude killing a bunch of shit without consequences and spouting bargain-basement dialogue.

        • Merve says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus: Well you’ve got to compare apples to apples in that case. There are plenty of plays with bargain-basement dialogue.

        • Girard says:

          @Merve2:disqus To translate it to something that someone is likely to walk in on you enjoying, I’ll analogize to magazines rather than plays. If I found myself caught in a common area reading Maxim magazine by a roommate, I’d be deeply, profoundly embarrassed. If I were caught reading some stupid L Ron Hubbard sci fi book, I’d be pretty embarrassed. If I were caught reading Omni or Nat Geo, I’d not be embarrassed at all. 
          Games still, on the whole, have more in common with Maxim’s adolescent masculinity or Hubbard’s trashy inconsequentiality than they do with your Omnis or Nat Geos. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that, when you’re eyeballs-deep in games.

          But get someone who isn’t desensitized to how stupid and adolescent even the ‘great’ exemplars of the medium are (::cough:: Mass Effect ::cough::), and they’ll throw its relative merits into sharp relief.

        • SamPlays says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus For the sake of consistency with your argument, I’ll pretend you said “balls-deep in games”. Lets not ruin things by making them classy, k?

        • Merve says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus: You’re really picking and choosing here. 90% of everything is crap.

        • Girard says:

          Sturgeon’s Law definitely holds, of course, but I’d still venture that the 10% of “non-crap” games are generally of lower quality than the 10% of “non-crap” books or films or whatever. (With some truly fantastic exceptions, of course.)

          The bar for a game to be ‘critically acclaimed’ still seems to be lower, which is why stuff like Mass Effect or Bioshock can be touted as paragons of the medium. You don’t need to dip into your Darksiderses or you DOA Beach Volleyballs to find stuff that is puerile and dumb, and there are vanishingly few games I can unreservedly praise without adding the caveat “well, for a game.”

        • Merve says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus: To an extent, “crap” vs. “non-crap” is a matter of perspective, based on the media that one is used to consuming. As someone who was raised more on video games than on film, for example, I’m more inured to the “crap” aspects of the interactive arts than to the “crap” aspects of film, and I hold negative opinions of many – if not most – of the critically-acclaimed movies I’ve seen. I’m just as liable to say “good story…for a movie” as I am to say “good story…for a video game.” From my perspective, the 10% of “non-crap” film is mostly not very good, and the 10% of “non-crap” video games are generally enjoyable. But I can only really speak to what I know.

          I worry that in comparing similar elements of video games and films, we lose sight of what works in their respective media are trying to accomplish, and the result is that we measure video games against the yardstick of film or use the language of film to discuss video games. That can be a valuable intellectual exercise, but it can also do a disservice to video games insofar as interactivity sets them apart from other media. There’s an excellent essay by Derek Yu, creator of Spelunky about the distinction between theme and craft, and it touches on some of these issues.

        • Girard says:

          @Merve2:disqus : But those tendencies tend to cut both ways, and often game creators, despite prioritizing the ludic formal qualities of their medium, still invoke elements of cinema and literature but treat them in a perfunctory or secondary way. I think it’s a bit dishonest to say that we can’t compare the writing or charaterization of a very cinematic, very narrative game like Mass Effect against cinematic and narrative artforms like literature and film simply because the designer was focused primarily on the ludic elements. If the ludic elements were all that mattered, the designer would have made Tetris or something. 
          And giving them a pass on a stupid, problematic, or hackneyed setting because it’s just window dressing for what games are “really trying to accomplish comes dangerously close to the “Eh, it’s just a game” mentality that has left games ghettoized in the larger cultural conversation (and made game designers complicit in that ghettoization).

        • Merve says:

          Well that’s not exactly what I’m saying. Sure, you can and should compare the narrative elements of a game like Mass Effect to narrative-driven works in other media. But if you ignore its interactive aspects, then you’re ignoring part of what makes Mass Effect, Mass Effect. At the risk of being tautological, evaluative criticism that centres solely on the narrative or visual aspects of a video game – those that would be immediately apparent as “dumb/embarrassing” to those unfamiliar with video games – is evaluative criticism only of those specific aspects the game. Without accounting for the game’s ludic or mechanical aspects, it’s not evaluative criticism of the sum total of what a video game is trying to accomplish.

        • Girard says:

          I also suspect that someone not inured to video games could find plenty at issue with the ludic/formal elements. The laughable ‘moral’ systems, ‘choices,’ and ‘romance’ mechanics in  Mass Effect are probably more glaring to someone who isn’t used to seeing them as a matter of course for unlocking more content.
          I remember sitting with a game-novice friend back in the PS2 era and watching her play Vice City for the first time ever, and she came across all of these frustrating mechanical failings that the bros who owned the system never encountered because they always acted well within the unspoken, arbitrary limits of the allegedly “open” world, stealing cars and shooting people. My friend decided to take a walk around town, got irritated that she couldn’t enter any of the cardboard storefronts, then wandered down to the riverside and drowned in ankle-deep water.

        • Merve says:

          @Merve2:disqus: That brings me back to the play analogy; if you’ve never seen a play before, you might be bothered that the sets don’t look more realistic. It helps to know the customs and traditions of what you’re experiencing when you’re experiencing it.

        • Girard says:

          @Merve2:disqus I’m not sure why not seeing a play before would condition you to see something realistic, when there is plently of non-realism and non-objectivism and so on in other media? That would be an aesthetic preference (or bias) not a media one. I don’t think the play analogy really holds at all, honestly.

          And that ‘on its level’ talk sounds again like it’s making an ‘it’s only a game’ concession. “Games can’t actually do this thing well, so we have to lower the bar a bit, down to their level.” Games aren’t necessarily artless embarrassing trash, and we can’t give them a pass for being so because they’re just games.

      • boardgameguy says:

        Sounds like a challenge…

        Portal 2
        Gone Home
        The Swan
        Any Mario Kart
        Mario Galaxy
        Thomas Was Alone

        Any objections/additions?

        • SamPlays says:

          The collective conscious of everyone watching you play video games is wondering why you’re into all of these silly kids games. 

        • MintBerry_Crunch says:

          To add to @SamPlays:disqus , it’s harder if we try to eliminate abstraction as much as possible. 

          Like, what am I as a grown adult getting out of playing one of these video games? Portal 2 is like sending a kindergartner to the navy. 

          Quite a few of those are pretty meta as well; Thomas Was Alone for instance. 

          Gone Home is where I see zero issues. And that was released only this month. . . so

        • Fluka says:

          Definitely Gone Home.  The game’s major accomplishment is that it tells a story about ordinary people in a (comparatively) naturalistic way.  Outside of things like Twine, I’m not sure I can think of any other game that’s really been successful at that (hell, almost not have tried it).

          I demonstrated Braid and Walking Dead to my mother at her request.  Braid was intriguing, though she found the quality of the prose sections to be a little silly, and one needs at least a little historical knowledge to appreciate why it’s so special.  She understood the appeal of Walking Dead a lot more…except for the violence.  I had to tell her to look away at least twice in the first 20 minutes (“Uh, please excuse me while I bash in this zombie’s head with a hammer click by click…Iamsosorrymom.”)

          Which is all to say that Gone Home is a damn unusual game.

        • DrKumAndGo says:

          Over Christmas, I got my whole non-gaming family to play, and become obsessed with, Flower, so there’s that. Ico and SOTC work well, too.

        • Girard says:

          Some objections:

          The writing in Braid is a little purple, pretentious, and embarrassing. The “soulful” self-serious narration narration of Bastion is likewise a little cringey.
          Mario Kart is good dumb fun, both some might find the kiddie characters and the extremely goofy/irritating voices a little embarrassing. “What the hell are you playing, who the hell is Daisy, and WHY DOES SHE KEEP INTRODUCING HERSELF?”

          Mario Galaxy is gorgeous and pure unadulterated video game fun. Though, again, some might find the voices embarrassing. And the doofy supporting characters like the penguins and stuff are kind of dumb. Also, when I play Mario games, while I’m captivated by the wonderful spaces I’m traversing, part of me is also a rather self-conscious that I’m typically killing every goldang thing that lives in that space.

          Portal 2 is hopelessly dorky, with its sci fi setting, science jokes, clever British humorist voice-over, and puzzley gameplay. It’s great, but getting caught playing it is like getting caught wearing a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy t-shirt.

          I think Gone Home, Unfinished Swan, Journey, and (to add one) Proteus might be thoroughly not-embarrassing games to play in front of others.

    • SamPlays says:

      I remember being REALLY into the ore mining in Mass Effect 2. My wife came in one Saturday afternoon and said “What the fuck are you playing?” Objectively speaking, she was right.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       In terms of “Games in front of the wife” I’m the exact opposite, “super serious” plot based games I keep for when my wife isn’t around because she always seems to have a way to cut through the pretension to point out just how ridiculous Mass Effect, or Bioshock or Red Dead Demption are.

      I usually go for cartoony games like Spelunky or Super Meat Boy or something with minimal dialogue like Dark Souls.

    • Carlton_Hungus says:

      Speaking of games awkward to play in front of spouses.  Anyone got any feedback on Tales of Xillia?  I’m jonesing for a good JRPG but to my discredit have never played a Tales game.

      • Chalkdust says:

         Hmm, it’s hard to talk about Xillia specifically without comparing it to other Tales games.  But the Tales series overall, compared to other JRPGs, hmm… big high fantasy universe, cosmic-level stakes, archetypical characters, a kind of simplified FFX sphere grid level-up system… so, in the mold of traditional JRPG fare.

        The series staple has always been its active battle system, which is real-time and controls kind of like a button-mashy action game.  You can move around the field freely, casting spells from the menu (which pauses the action) or seamlessly via d-pad shortcuts.  You have to consider positioning, as there are AOE and linear attacks, and you can do vertical stuff too, juggling enemies and slamming them into the ground to daze them.

        Every Tales game is variations on a theme, both in story, characters and game systems.

        So, the neat variation in combat is you can ‘link up’ with one of your teammates, which will toggle their AI to a supportive one.  They’ll try to position themselves behind whichever enemy you’re attacking, and if you can maintain this pincer, a variety of bonus abilities trigger depending on the character.  One guy will break enemy guards, one will steal items when the enemy’s knocked down, one will auto-guard against magic, etc.  So there’s a lot of neat little nuances within each battle.

        As for things to be embarrassed about, well, here are about the two worst things, so if you can cope with these you’ll be copacetic: The outfit of Presa, one of the supporting antagonists, and this skit.

  5. evanwaters says:

    This weekend I will be playing MOVING TO ANOTHER APARTMENT. I still don’t have everything packed. Still so much to do. Uuuugh.

    After that I dunno, I plan to just sort of lie down for a while afterwards.

  6. Jackbert says:

    Side things in Sleeping Dogs in a pathetic attempt to platinum it before summer ends. Finished the story this week. The ending was okay. Way too rushed. Liked the bit with the ice chipper.

    Running around in Rayman Origins because I got tired of RPGs and open-world games. Speaking of which, ditched Ni no Kuni because it’s looong and slooow. And now for a completely contradictory statement: might get Dragon Age 2 if I can okay the dwarf nookie with my mother.

    And of course my 2-hour-daily Animal Crossing habit. Anyone wants to check out my bougie town, let me know.

    • MintBerry_Crunch says:

      Sleeping Dogs.

      “Here, allow me to drill you a hole into your leg. You’ll never walk again for the foreseeable FIVE MINUTES.” 

      Damn it videogames. 

    • Enkidum says:

      You can tell her that there is no possible way Sleeping Dogs is better for you than DA2! 

      Oh, that could potentially backfire. Well, so be it.

      Sleeping Dogs is worth platinuming, at least it’s the only game I’ve ever done it on. Then I bought all the DLC because it’s just that good (the DLC is fun, but hardly near the same level). I do recommend reading guides to figure out how to get all the clothes – most everything else I did by myself, though.

      • Merve says:

        I don’t know why, but it makes me so happy that Sleeping Dogs has an achievement for buying ALL OF THE CLOTHES. Generally, the sillier the achievement, the happier I am.

        • SamPlays says:

          What’s the point of being a fashion victim if you’re not also rewarded for WEARING all of the clothes you bought?

          • Merve says:

            My theory is that it’s a meta-commentary on Steam: what’s the point of buying all those games if you’re not going to PLAY all of the games you bought?

        • SamPlays says:

          Much like all those books I haven’t read yet, or the movies still wrapped in plastic. That said, I’m pretty good at listening to a new album within a day of buying it.

        • Pgoodso says:

          Re: meta-commentary

          I totally bought the big Star Wars pack that was available during the Summer Sale that included the entire Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series, both KOTORs, both Force Unleashed games, and a few others.

          I have continued to play Borderlands and Secret World as if those games had never existed.

      • Jackbert says:

        Sleeping Dogs is our dirty little secret. Shhh. Hey, I have to rebel somehow. I don’t drink, do drugs, or fuck, so I watch people doing those things in a video game!

        I’d like to plat it, yeah. The side missions are genuinely fun. Especially the ones with guns.

        • Enkidum says:

          Eh, you’re only 14 (I think?). You’ll have plenty of time to start doing all those things, and mugging little old ladies, and so forth.  Then your mother will be sorry she didn’t let you play DA2!

          Or, well, maybe you should stick to doing it in a virtual world.

        • Girard says:

          KIDS THESE DAYS HAVE IT TOO EASY! Back when I was in high school I didn’t drink, fight, use, or fuck, but since it was PS1 times my only options for vicarious video game antics were, uh, taking Tifa on a chaste trip to the Golden Saucer, kicking dogs in MegaMan Legends, or playing “Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy” in Yoshi’s Island 2 on the SNES.

          I did manage to take in a fair bit of age-inappropriate manga and anime in my adolescence. I guess that was kinda rebellious…

        • SamPlays says:

          @Jackbert:disqus Lets keep it that way until you’re out of the house!

        • Jackbert says:

          @Enkidum:disqus : 15. I’m still negotiating. I’m selling Dragon Age as Mass Effect in a fantasy world. But that just makes me not want to play it.

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus : Oh yeah, I don’t fight either. I also consume age-inappropriate books and comics. Comics just have something saying “Suggested for mature readers” and I choose to interpret that nebulous statement to my advantage. A lot of the books are parental-assigned, actually. All they do is make me uncomfortable about ever having sex and the current state of literature.  

        • Enkidum says:

          It kind of is ME in a fantasy world. After playing a few Bioware games, I realized that they really are almost all the same, plot-wise at least. I mean, there is basically no difference at all between the plot of DAO and ME #1. And though you’d think the isometric RPG vs FPS would make a big difference, since you can slow both of them down to effectively turn-based games, it makes surprisingly little difference.

      • fieldafar says:

        Getting the achievements/trophies in Sleeping Dogs is also surprisingly easy(-ish). 

    • Cloks says:

      I think I’ve ditched Ni No Kuni as well. I was mostly playing it to get to the animated cut-scenes and those come much more infrequently after the first few hours plus I put it down for a week and pretty much completely forgot how to play it.

  7. Jer Link says:

    I think I’ve been sucked into Team Fortress 2. I’ve never really gotten into a FPS multiplayer arena type game before and I can feel tendrils of the pyro and the medic eating into my mind when I’m at work or otherwise away from my computer.

    I also started up Costume Quest the other day as part of the now bi-monthly game revue. the extra large heads and exaggerated facial expression on the children in the first cut scene made me think of Wind Waker, which made me squeel.

    I also really want to finish Portal at some point.

    • Enkidum says:

      Finish Portal. Then buy Portal 2, and finish it. They’re as good as their reputation.

      • Pandas_please says:

         I have a vague idea about what happens in Portal, having played some of the game with a friend when it first came out years ago, but I’m not super interested in going and getting a copy to play through now. How important is playing through Portal to enjoying Portal 2?

        • Enkidum says:

          Important? Not really, there’s a couple of jokes you might not get, but #2 is reasonably self contained. But honestly, it’s a superbly written game and it’s cheap as hell – you can usually get both for like 20 bucks or something.

        • Merve says:

          I don’t think it’s wholly necessary to play the first Portal before playing Portal 2, but you’ll miss quite a few references to the first game, and parts of the plot won’t make much sense.

        • Jer Link says:

           If you wait till a steam sale they are even cheaper than enkidum says. I bought them both for 7 bucks or something.

        • Girard says:

          You can beat Portal in an afternoon. It’s worth the meager time and money investment.

          If you got sick of the very slight Portal 1, you probably wouldn’t much enjoy the much longer Portal 2 (though the always-awesome Stephen Merchant might help you stick with that one longer).

        • Enkidum says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus has it. If you don’t like Portal 1, don’t bother with Portal 2 – it’s bigger and more varied, but it’s basically the same thing.

          If you liked Portal 1, then really, you might as well play it before 2. It helps provide context and it’s just a really really good game.

        • Pandas_please says:

           You’ve all convinced me, and I guess I’ll be playing through Portal this weekend, maybe some Portal 2 depending on how well the first goes down.
          Fortunately it’s one of the few games my Mac using self can actually play on Steam.

        • huge_jacked_man says:

          Just play Portal. It’s the superior game, it’s very short, and very funny charming (that is, if the internet hasn’t destroyed that for you yet). Portal 2 is more of a “cinematic experience” with lame puzzles made tolerable by Stephen Merchant . That said the coop levels in Portal 2 are supposedly  lot better.

      • doyourealize says:

        And then find someone to play MP Portal 2 with. Really, it might be the best time you ever have playing a video game.

    • Chalkdust says:

       Ah, Team Fortress 2… I dunno if I still enjoy playing it or if I like seeing fan-made videos more.  The characters are so delightful that I like to just see people playing around with them.  Case in point, this music video has been on my mind the past week.  The Source Filmmaker tool is magical when in learned hands.

  8. NakedSnake says:

    While everyone is talking about what games they are playing, I have a question: does anyone have any suggestions for 3DS games that actually make good use of the 3d function? It just occurred to me that I’ve had my slider all the way down at zero for like weeks.

    • Matt Gerardi says:

      Pushmo and Crashmo are two clever downloadable puzzle games that make pretty good use of it. It’s not essential, but the puzzles involve pushing blocks toward and away from the camera. Pretty much built for 3D. 

      Super Mario 3D Land also makes great use of it. A lot of it built sort of like a diorama, and there are a handful of platforming sections specifically built to be played in 3D. It’s also the best Mario game in years, so there’s that. 

      • NakedSnake says:

        OK! I was thinking about getting the New Super Mario Bros, because I felt a need to get a Mario game, but it’s good to hear that Super Mario Land 3D is a good 3D game and a great otherwise game.

        P.S. How funny is it that Nintendo is keeping up with the totally arbitrary “Super Mario Land” is for handhelds but “Super Mario World” is for consoles. It’s kind of endearing somehow.

        • Girard says:

          Nintendo has some weird sentiments about console/handheld lines that should never be transgressed. This manifests innocently in the Land/World naming conventions (though, sadly “Land” games also used to connote Nintendo R&D1 weirdness, but now they’re largely more of the same old EAD stuff). It manifests more maddeningly in their weird Virtual Console balkanization where games that originated on a console will only ever be played on a console, despite current handhelds being more than up to the task of playing an SNES game…

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          The lack of a SNES library on 3DS maddens me, yet also keeps my money in my bank account. So I’m of two minds.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        Gerardi is dead-on about Super Mario 3D Land. I usually have the slider down because I don’t enjoy the sensation of playing the game in 3D much, but that’s one game where I bust it out becuase not only does Nintendo use it very well, but some of the level designs are vastly improved with the slider up.

    • huge_jacked_man says:

      Luigi’s Mansion 2 has the best use of 3D in terms of making the game look good I’ve seen so far. Every room is like a neat little diorama and the 3D does help you situate yourself when fighting ghosts. Super Mario 3D Land makes good use of it gameplay-wise too. 

  9. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    When I was a young’un, crossword puzzles always seemed to be a dense maze of history, pop culture from before I was born, and wordplay. Now that I’m older and… uh… taller… they’re still impenetrable. But sometimes I recognize the pop culture!

    Not much this weekend. I’ll probably play Smash Bros. Brawl Friday night, given who I’ll be spending the night with. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to look at a few condos. Maybe a little FTL on the side because I still need to unlock most of the ships.

  10. EmperorNortonI says:

    I’ve been really getting into Wargame – AirLand Battle.  I got my regular gaming companion into it, and we’re playing co-op now.  It’s pretty awesome.  For those who haven’t read my previous words on the game, I’ll leave you with my analogy.

    Civ : Europa Universalis
    Company Heroes : Wargame – AirLand Battle

    I’ve also been playing a bit of Red Orchestra 2 again.  I got the game on release a while ago, but wasn’t too thrilled.  I’m still not happy about some things, like the zoom-on-aim added to rifles which makes the game even more of a snipe-fest, and even more hostile to the MG.  But the new Pacific Front maps are really fun, and with new maps and community tweaks the game is pretty fun.

    A friend of mine is going for the 15 ticket achievement in Ticket to Ride USA for iDevices.  I started playing for the 9 ticket achievement, and just barely managed to get it.  I’m convinced that 15 tickets is theoretically possible on only one extremely rare game state, and that the achievement is a cruel joke.   Normally I’m not much for achievements, but it was still kinda fun.

    I’ve also made progress in Rogue Legacy.  I’m trying to beat the double bosses at the end.  My first two tries went quite well, easily dispatching Johannes and doing some damage against the fountain.  But when I’ve run non-magic characters against Johannes, I just get crushed.  Spellsword seems the best bet at the moment.

  11. CNightwing says:

    Europa Universalis IV all the way! Except my family is visiting.
    Still, I hope to find a bit of time, so far I’ve freed Naples from the tyranny of Aragon (after they smashed themselves into Castille and had literally no men left), stolen Ancona from the Papal State, who then collapsed into Tuscany, and then (somehow) took Rome back off of Tuscany, even though they’d joined the HRE and had Austria to protect them, who were allied to Poland and Lithuania. The AI does not coordinate armies into a single stack very well ;)

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I tried to get into EU with 3 and after several hours I was still rather lost. Is EU4 any easier to get into?

      • CNightwing says:

        I never played EUIII, only CK2. I found it relatively easy to get into, though yeah, I made a few stupid mistakes on an initial game because I didn’t quite understand how some of the mechanics worked. The tutorial isn’t bad, there’s a tooltip option to bring up a (light) help text about any button you don’t understand and that has been useful.

      • Roswulf says:

        I agree with Nightwing. Coming from CKII, I found EUIII utterly impenetrable, but am finding EUIV relatively easy to grasp. I still don’t really understand the mechanics of combat, but I also don’t think it matters.

        I’d recommend trying the demo and starting with the (actually functional!) tutorial.

      • EmperorNortonI says:

         Everything before CKII was “Old Paradox.”  CKII and EUIV are “New Paradox.”  If you like Old Paradox, you LOVE New Paradox.  If you like New Paradox, but never played Old Paradox, then you’ll find Old Paradox utterly incomprehensible and unplayable.

        Because those games had issues, some of them stemming from game design, and a lot of them stemming from interface.  But the teams have learned a lot over the years, and it shows.

        It really shows.

  12. Girard says:

    In a few hours I’ll be playing Driving Test. Then I can start a lifelong game of Ruin the Planet Doing Something I Don’t Enjoy Doing But Am Obliged to by Circumstance And This Country’s Shitty Attitude About Transport Infrastructure!

    Game-wise, I’ve been playing Xenoblade. I thought I’d never get the chance with it being so over-priced these days, but it turned out a friend had a copy they trusted me to borrow without fencing it on eBay or whatever.

    I totally lost the Project Rainfall lottery when I got the annoying, ugly. generic Last Story last year! Xenoblade is a much more interesting game, even accounting for my exhaustion with JRPGs. There are some interesting WRPG wrinkles in things like the party member affinities (though something it feels like an ‘easy mode’ of Dragon Age, or something, where it’s characters’ opinion of you can only go up) and character customization. I like the way the sort of ‘chosen one’ cliche narrative abilities (like the portentious visions of the future, the preternatural speed and agility in combat, etc.) are actually incorporated as gameplay mechanics rather than just things that happen in cut scenes to raise drama or look neat. And the various varied vistas tend to be gorgeous, and seem quite detailed for a Wii game (Dolphin might be helping in this respect).

    I also like playing dress-up-dolls with all the characters and their armor. I finally found an outfit for Sharla that doesn’t look like a wanky fanservice nightmare (unfortunately, it doesn’t mitigate her weird boob-jiggle animation), and despite now getting some statistically better kit, am reluctant to upgrade her as the new shiny armor is some boob-window nonsense.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

      Fun fact: the meat industry actually causes more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector (including airplanes!) so eating a hamburger is worse for Mother Gaia than driving your Carolla across town.

      Takeaway here is we’re all doomed.

      • NakedSnake says:

        Yea but eating meat doesn’t end with me arriving at work. So it gets a pass.

      • Girard says:

        Yeah. I have some major guilt about becoming Part of the Problem, but that’s somewhat offset by the fact that my vegan-ness more than compensates for my starting to drive. (As long as I subscribe to the fiction that Life and the World are just big zero-sum games with a Bioware-style light/dark continuum where my moral status is simply determined by whether the net sum of my actions is negative or positive…)

        I also completely hate the act of driving, so I suspect I won’t ever drive somewhere that it isn’t completely necessary to drive to, which might help.

      • Pandas_please says:

         That fact wasn’t fun at all! :(

    • Girard says:

      Update: I passed my drivey test! I’m now officially part of the problem!

  13. Crusty Old Dean says:

    I might take one last stab at Pikmin 3. Or give up. “Formidable Oak” is killing me. I mean I guess I could make it if I spend like five game days on it, but that feels wrong and the sudden spike in difficulty just turns me off…

    • DrFlimFlam says:

       I’m playing Pikmin 2 (Wii version) for the first time and I need a bunch of fat purple Pikmin to make this bag collapse very early on in the game. I got to some cave dungeon (I like the cave dungeons so far) and this boss came out of nowehere and murderated half my squad. So I came back with more Pikmin and got EVERYONE killed.

      I’m sure I’m just playing sloppy, but man, kind of a sour taste after that one. I’m 90 minutes in and getting my butt handed to me already because I can’t see if my Pikmin are coming back before the giant worm goes bananas?

  14. DrFlimFlam says:

    I have been playing PVZ2 from time to time and Animal Crossing daily still.

    After my son’s birthday this week we have been digging into my son’s latest games in NSMB Wii, Kirby 20th Anniversary, and Pikmin 2, and we also bought Link to the Past from the Wii shop. Game still looks fantastic.

    It was lots of fun trying to start with the very first Kirby game in the collection, a Gameboy game in monochrome. I thought it looked remarkably good considering its age and platform, but it took quite a while to get my son on board with playing it. It’s like when I was a kid and groaned and moaned about black and white film.

    I’ll probably also get some more ME2 and Saints Row the Third in. I played ME3 multiplayer last Saturday night for the first time in six-plus months, and it was lots of fun breaking off the rust. So that could come up again.

    • NakedSnake says:

      Haha, I often wonder whether I will try to force my kids to play classic games (once they’re old enough to play games), and what their reaction will be once they do. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be a bit like classic rock – it’s for fossils when you’re growing, but suddenly cool once you want to be “all grown up”. Because playing Super Metroid is what adults do, of course. We’ll see.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        He loves Banjo games and will tolerate colorful sidescrollers. I figure that’s good enough.

        FOR NOW.

  15. duwease says:

    In brief, I’ve been playing Sealed Mode in Duels of the Planeswalkers, and the ‘trading cards’ convinced me to go back and play a bit of Hotline Miami in an attempt to collect the puzzle pieces.  I have no intention of actually *using* or *selling* the cards, so I’m not sure how my brain came to this decision.. probably just a thin excuse to play HM again.

    But my main game has been Dragon Age 2.  Just got to Act 3 last night, and I’m really enjoying it.  The criticism that the scope of the story is ‘too small’ falls completely flat to me.. I enjoyed the first one, but I also really dig the focus on fleshing out just one city, with its political and cultural clashes.  RPG’s should really make more attempts at stories like these, in my opinion.. there’s only so many ways a “save the world” plot can play out, whereas a more personal story has more avenues at its disposal (and they’re not as played out in gaming circles).  It brings back fond memories of Vagrant Story, which really stood out at the time for having a more personal storyline instead of focusing on spanning the globe to defeat a world-ending evil.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I am all about selling stupid Steam cards. I have $2.42 in my Steam wallet based on selling them, and I had made another $1+ before I spent that.

    • boardgameguy says:

      Collecting the clues in hotline:miami is a fun challenge. Getting the one in the TRAUMA stage is maddening though. All the others just take a keen eye and the usual destructive force.

    • Enkidum says:

      I haven’t played DA2 yet, but if I recall most of the criticisms weren’t so much about the narrowness of the scope (which I remember a few people praising, and I agree with you that we need more of that) but about the narrowness of the level design and gameplay.

      • duwease says:

        That’s a valid criticism, in that you spend a lot of time in the same repeated environments.  Yet it isn’t really bothering me much.. the differences between all the identical caves curving left-right-right-straight instead of some curving right-straight-left-left isn’t a real problem when the quests themselves have interesting storylines aside from ‘fetch this’ or ‘kill that’ (mostly).  I do miss some really scenic vistas, though, after being spoiled with how pretty Ni No Kuni was.  But to me, it’s a mild complaint.

        • a_scintillating_comment says:

          Agreed. Scope was refreshing. Seeing the same cave several times was not. It was easy to look past on the first game, but not so much on repeat playthroughs

  16. Cloks says:

    Saints Row IV. That is all.

  17. PPPfive says:

    Normally I don’t get a weekend so these threads make me seethe with jealousy, but this weekend I have a THREE DAY weekend, so I’m going to pour it all into Dragon’s Dogma: DA, which is far, far better than I was led to believe by various smelly reviewers, and may in fact be the best open world RPG this gen. Long sentence over.

    I also tantalisingly have GTA5 installed on my ps3, but it’s unplayable ’til release, so I’ll be staring at the little box that says ‘GTA5’ on my menu screen.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

       Congrats on a three day weekend. My weekends don’t start until Saturday afternoon these days, but two days off in a row whenever is good enough.

      • PPPfive says:

        Thanks! Yeah the 2 days together is key…the single day off is such a tease. It sucks to think that even though I can roam around and adventure for a straight 9 hours, I might want to do so for 10 hours, and then I will be all grumpy and  pretending-to-be-an-adventurery at work the next day

  18. indy2003 says:

    Just finished beating Bowser in New Super Mario Bros. U (World 8 was pretty tough in general, but the final Bowser battle was surprisingly easy). Definitely want to go back and finish the levels I skipped over on the way to the finish line (each world gives you alternate routes to victory at certain points, and there’s one world which you are able to skip entirely), but don’t know whether I’ll go collect all the star coins. The ability to save at any point (as long as you’re not in the middle of a level) makes that idea a lot more appealing, though.

    Anyway, playing that Mario title inspired me to go back and play the DS version of Super Mario 64. It’s still a lot of fun, even if a handful of the levels are exasperatingly vague in terms of what you’re supposed to do (seriously, when the game was first released, did anyone manage to figure out that you can only get that one star coin by shooting yourself out of a cannon and busting the corners of two distant walls without consulting a friend/guide?). Still, the joy and creativity demonstrated by the game easily overcomes the occasional frustrations.

    I think I’m finally going to dig into Saints Row III, too, as it should serve as effective counterpoint to all the warm n’ cuddly Nintendo stuff I’ve been playing lately.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Was surprised at the difficulty of NSMBW. I liked the first NSMB game because it was finally a Super Mario game I could beat. This one isn’t so easy. Especially in co-op, with people bumping into you or not keeping up.

      • indy2003 says:

        I have to admit, the co-op in NSMBW was often more of a hindrance than a help. My wife and I played it together, but we gave up somewhere around World 7 after dying a billion times on one level. NSMBU is tough, but it never offers anything too unreasonable, and extra lives are extremely easy to come by. I played it by myself, but the co-op is actually much more helpful this time around (a second player can use the gamepad to distract enemies and add blocks for you to jump on).

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

      PrimaGuides must have made a killing on Super Mario 64 because I’m also chugging through it and have no idea what I’m doing in half the levels I enter (that underwater lake/labyrinth level in the sewers makes no damn sense).

    • Merve says:

      did anyone manage to figure out that you can only get that one star coin by shooting yourself out of a cannon and busting the corners of two distant walls without consulting a friend/guide?

      If you’re thinking of what I’m thinking of, there are usually little lines that indicate where walls can be broken in the N64 version. Maybe they took them out in the DS version.

      • indy2003 says:

        They must have – never saw any such lines.

      • Carlton_Hungus says:

        But even seeing those lines back on the N64 just kind of looked like a polygon glitch.  I think I accidentally found that star trying to blast up to the floating island before realizing I had to ride the owl up.

  19. boardgameguy says:

    I’m having some friends come over Sunday for an afternoon of board games. I’m hoping to play at least one heavier Euro (Brass or Le Havre) and one middle to light weight Euro (Takenoko or Tempus). So we’ll see. I did plat a solo Mage Knight this week and feel that I may be spending more time doing that during the coming week as well. Love how all the characters are balanced differently.

  20. SensitiveSethPutnam says:

    I finally ponied up for Playstation Plus, so I’ll be playing the free games for this weekend, and all weekends in the foreseeable future.  Between Saints Row 3, Hitman, X-Com, and some indie stuff, I’ll be busy for a long while.

    I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner, I think it’s already paid for itself. 

    • Chalkdust says:

       Plus they just added Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien to the mix!  I have a lot of fun with that game, and Charles Martinet’s voice work triggers some weird ASMR in me.

      • Cloks says:

        I fully expected to play that game once and complain about a good concept being trampled by shitty execution like most of the bit. games I’ve played. I was dead wrong. I’ve put about six hours into it so far and it’s really damn fun.

    • PPPfive says:

      Not to be a shill, but it really is great. I have 25+ games on my hard drive, 2 of which I bought from the store, the rest are ps+…

    • Enkidum says:

      Yeah, I wish I’d done it a year before I did. Super good deal, and I’ll renew without hesitation next year. I basically don’t buy any games other than the PS+ discounts (and Steam sales / Humble Bundles, etc) and I have a backlog of just hundreds and hundreds of hours.

  21. Kyle O'Reilly says:

    Awww cool, a James Kochalka name drop. I love that guy.

    But I digress, this weekend I will probably be playing a smattering of different games between my usual Spelunky (which I got 25th on one of the daily challenges by the way.  No big deal).

    I tried the first few levels of Medal of Honor from the Humble Origin Bundle and from the get go I could tell it was gonna be a gross jingoistic shoot people type game, so I don’t know if I’ll go back especially since I left it during an excruciatingly boring, “here’s a laser tag targets over there” section.

    I’m currently in Hell on Rogue Legacy and am pretty sure if I get a Hokage to the boss without taking too much damage I can beat it easy. 

    Lastly, me and the wife rearranged our deck/sun room area so that I now have an area for my old cranky N64 and I’m getting to go back and discover how hard Super Mario 64 actually was.  I beat the first boss and I’m in the sewer levels under the castle.  They’re confusing as all hell and I’m not getting many stars here!.  What the hell Miyamato!?!

    • Merve says:

      I beat the first level of Medal of Honor last week. I must say, killing people who look like me isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. More than that, though, it was just hella boring. What the folks behind MoH don’t seem to get is that level design matters a lot.

      Also, the line “Please, I have a daughter” was spoken just half an hour into the game. For real.

      • Kyle O'Reilly says:

        They’ve managed to turn the enormous nation of Afghanistan into a corridor somehow.  I will enjoy have the extra gigs on my computer free after deleting MoH though for Burnout Paradise which is the next EA Bundle game I’m going to try and tackle.  I hear Avril Lavigne is on the soundtrack!

        • Roswulf says:

          Ah but think how much better centuries of violent, unproductive invasions of Afghanistan would have gone with MoH’s patented corridor-ification process.

          Edit: Er…better for the invaders. I make no comment on the betterness of the various invasions for the invaded.

  22. Passe_Partout says:

    I’ll be spending time in Milwaukee catching up with an old college roommate, but might take some time out to check on my town in Animal Crossing and continue my obsession with filling the museum and the detriment to my bank account and mayoral duties. Though I do wish the game gave you the option to act as tax collector and shake down your residents for the bells needed to finish a stone bridge that costs more than my house.

    I’ve also been trying to pick back up on Dark Souls. I managed to get to Anor Londo after finally beating Sif and Sen’s Fortress with some judicious help from summoned players, because all I ever managed to do to the Iron Giant was fall off the edge twice. My favorite moment so far came shortly after I got to Anor Londo and saw the view of the cathedral from the landing area. It made everything seem more vibrant and was a nice way of conveying how far that world had fallen into ruin.

    Sunday will be spent with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn attempting to level up my character enough to take on some of the group oriented quests. It’s my first foray into MMORPG’s, so I’m optimistic despite all the confusing jargon used by sites concerning characters attributes and roles. I really just want to beat the crap out of some monsters and have a good time. I managed to corral my boyfriend into buying a copy after I found out one of his friends was a die-hard fan of the game and I could conceivably have a party without having to attempt to meet new people online. That’s a prospect that scares me more than meeting people in person.

    • Merve says:

      Totally off-topic, but if your username is a reference to the French-language play Zone, then you’re my hero.

      • Passe_Partout says:

        You give my artistic taste too much credit. I took it from the book 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson. I also have a thing for keys. Sorry, to disappoint.

    • ZTO says:

      As a big Dark Souls fanboy, I encourage you to keep at it, even though parts of Anor Londo can be pretty maddening. The boss there is generally considered to be a large difficulty spike so your strategy of judicious summoning will certainly come in handy. That fight has great music though.

      As for FFXIV: ARR, it looks like you start entering the instanced dungeons around 15 through the story missions. The Duty system, the system by which you are matched for the dungeons, seems to take a lot of the social interaction out of partying, for better or worse. However, I don’t think the game allows you to enter with less than a full party (Tank, Healer, 2 damage dealers).

      • Passe_Partout says:

         Yeah, I have been reducing my stress levels by kinda taking a peek at what’s ahead try to prepare for it. That keeps me from getting frustrated and quitting for good.

        I completely missed the Duty System in the beta and instead tried out almost every class I could get my hands on, which made getting started easier. Some of the newbie guides I read made being a tank class sound too daunting and being a healer sounds kind of boring, so I deiced to go with a DPS class. Something about beating the crap out of monsters using fists makes Pugilist sound like a good time.

    • doyourealize says:

      Dark Souls fanboy #2 here. Like @ZTO:disqus , I say keep it up. Also, if you’re playing on PS3 or Steam, let me know and I’ll come give a hand if I can. Haven’t played in a while, but having someone to play with could get me started again. Especially in Anor Londo, where the boss won’t be easy going it alone.

      Either system, I’m still doyourealize.

      • Passe_Partout says:

         Thanks for the offer! I’ll add you to my friends list. Now that I can actually log into FF14, Dark Souls may be taking a backseat for awhile. The great thing about the game is there is so much left to explore, it’s always fun to come back. My goal now is to finish it before Dark Souls II comes out.

  23. aklab says:

    Still playing Final Fantasy Tactics. Just beat Riovanes Castle last night, yeeaaahh! Now I’m trying to decide whether to build Rafa and Malak into usable characters or just let them linger at the bottom of the roster. 

    Last weekend I started Mirror’s Edge, since I got it in the EA bundle, and I loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it! Then I got an inner ear infection. I can’t turn my head 90 degrees without being stricken with vertigo for a couple of hours, so this dizzyfying first-person parkour game had to go on the back burner for a wihle…

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

      I’m also working through Mirror’s Edge right now. I’m loving it, but it’s a lot more than just being a fun parkour game. It is so, so well-paced. The balance between action and story is close to perfect, and it’s very difficult for me to put the game down.

      • aklab says:

        Yeah, the pacing is just right. Each level is just short enough that I kept saying, ok, one more, THEN I’ll go to bed/work/whatever. And the few frustrating parts are spaced out with enough genuine exhilaration in between. 

    • Chum Joely says:

      I love that game too– might have to buy it now that I can’t just borrow it for free from work anymore (having changed jobs away from a video game company with a lending library). But even without an inner ear infection, it used to make me pretty dizzy when I had to play through a hard level more than 5 or 6 times…

      For the moment, my go-to game for wild excitement of that type is Driver: San Francisco. So dumb, yet so awesome. Four stars.

  24. ItsTheShadsy says:

    Right, so I finished Super Mario RPG! Using the Lazy Shell armor feels like cheating, but I blazed through the ending pretty quickly. It’s a much smaller and simpler game than I remember, especially considering how brief the most iconic parts were. But I enjoyed it all the same; it’s certainly an oddity.

    What classic game should I star on now? I feel like moving onto something for the PS1. I have a save of Final Fantasy VIII going, but that’s a huge time investment. Any shorter PS1 games anyone would recommend offhand?

    • aklab says:

      Ever played Brave Fencer Musashi? It’s a fun action-RPG that I always thought didn’t get enough attention. And it’s a good bit shorter than  a Final Fantasy. 

      • ItsTheShadsy says:

        I’ve heard the name thrown around, but I was leaning more towards the sort of realistic games coming out at the time, like Armored Core or the bizarre Treasures of the Deep.

  25. ferrarimanf355 says:

    I’m going to be in the Seattle area next week for a Dave Matthews Band concert at The Gorge. Someone recommend me a good arcade there.

  26. beema says:

    god 148 comments already? Guess nobody will read this then! 

    Anyway probably wont be anything unusual this weekend. But I wanted to share this, alpha gameplay footage of Survarium (new project from ex-STALKER devs). This is the first footage I’ve seen and it’s looking very nice! http://www.gamestar.de/videos/gamescom-2013,95/survarium,71554.html

  27. Mike P says:

    I am biding my time, finishing Fallout 3 like a good guy this time. I want to jump back into Dragon Age:Origins, but just haven’t. Its staring me in the face. I like it, but I forget to save, die, and have to re-do 2 hours of gameplay.

    Other great news, I am swapping my 360 for a friends PS3 to play Last of Us, and the Uncharted Series.
    Give me more fun, users of Gamelogical Society! I do not know what else to get! I feel like a 5 year old getting the SNES on Xmas day.

    • Enkidum says:

      Are you swapping it permanently? In which case, sign up for PS+ yesterday. Otherwise, shit, I dunno, look on the store for deals, there’s always good ones.

  28. doyourealize says:

    Man, I haven’t played Candy Crush Saga, but my Facebook feed always has someone recapping their exploits in that game. I have no idea what makes it so addictive, and I don’t think I want to find out. Someone actually posted that they would no longer be playing…like that’s newsworthy.

    I’ll be playing some more Amnesia, of which an hour or two at a time is more than enough, but only because my heart’s beating too fast. At least I’m making progress this time through. I also got Dead Space 3 from the Humble Bundle, and I’m kinda into that. It’s nothing I would have spent $60 for, but still fun. I’m also really into Elder Signs: Omens on my phone. It’s by the guys who did Arkham Horror and carries a lot the same themes (elder signs, ancient ones, difficult, etc.), but it’s addictive, especially with the expansion packs.

  29. Chalkdust says:

    EDIT: Whoops, this was meant to be a reply.

  30. huge_jacked_man says:

    I have a bunch of stuff to do this weekend but I’ll be taking Spelunky breaks… Loving that game so far.

  31. Chum Joely says:

    I think this weekend I’ll mostly be playing with the kids. They’ve been with their grandparents in the States for a week, and school starts next week, so it’s time to get in some serious family time before we get back into that daily grind.

    If anyone else out there gets into playing the new Splinter Cell, though, I’d love to hear about it. I haven’t been able to get my hands on my free copy yet, and even though it’s not really my favorite genre of game, it feels a bit special to me since it’s probably the last game I’ll ever work on. (Watch out for my secret identity as “Localization Integrator” if you’re intrepid and/or bored enough to actually sit through the credits.)

    • Merve says:

      Your parents named you Localization? What were Mr. and Mrs. Integrator thinking?

      • Chum Joely says:

        Oh Merve… And to think, not that long ago I heard you complaining about how dumb some of your students are… (patronizingly sad head shake)

  32. Pgoodso says:

    I’ll be playing a bit of Borderlands 2, actually. One of my friends is doing a 24-hour gameathon with Extra Life to raise money for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in November, and she was saving the Dragon’s Keep DLC for part of her long play. To assist her, I’m leveling up one of my characters to the new limit so we and a couple other friends can co-op the DLC, and I’m playing through the Hammerlock DLC to do it.

    Here’s the link if y’all wanna donate: