For reference, I started this post back on May 5, fully intending to finish it up and post it on on Sunday, May 7th. Which, as I’m sure you guessed, didn’t happen. Nor did I finish it in time for the following Sunday, or the Sunday afterwards.
Now, I’m still managing most of the things that I classify as “must dos” in my life. We’re all fed, and medicated, and wearing clean clothes every day. The bills are paid & while I cannot say that my house is exactly clean, it’s at least not messier than usual. I’m flying through my to-do lists at work. By most metrics, I’m doing okay, maybe even better than okay.
But what I’ve been less successful at is finding space in my life for things that bring me joy. I’m tired, I’ll say. I can do it tomorrow. But tomorrow comes and goes and I make excuses for myself instead of making space for the things that rejuvenate me.
If it’s true that sometimes, you need to spend money to make money – and it is – then it also stands to reason that sometimes, you need to spend time to make time. Now, I’m not 100% sure this is the answer here, but it’s the next thing I want to try.
I’ve tried being completely plan-less when it comes to my leisure activities, and I’ve tried being super-structured. Neither has really done the trick for me. While I have (mostly) accepted that some days need to be more rest-focused, it’s the in-between days that frustrate me the most. When I’m not up to the things I’d most like to be doing, but I could be doing something.
I’m hoping that taking a bit of time to make myself some “low-energy” lists will help. When I feel faded, my ability to make even completely unimportant decisions doesn’t work as well as it should, and I will frequently spend hours trying to decide on a movie, book, or low-pressure game that I can play on my Steam Deck in bed. I’m hoping if I make a list of things I am interested in but don’t require me to be fully present to engage with them, I can just work my way through that list, and funnel a bit of relaxation in with my rest.
Although I am – for the most part – a single player game kind of person, I will admit that I have a bit of a soft spot for two player co-op where communication is key. Operation Tango was a game already on my radar, but my typical puzzle-gaming co-op partner and I were unable to get anything scheduled, so I convinced my (somewhat reluctant husband to play through the first couple of missions with me.According to IsThereAnyDeal, this is the first time Operation Tango has appeared in a bundle, and it retails for $19.99.
I feel like I need to start with the one thing that Operation Tango does better than a lot of two-player, co-op required games. It does not require both players to purchase the game in order to play. As long as one player owns the game, they can direct their friend to install the free Friend Pass, and invite them to a game. Achievements are not available for players using the friend pass instead of the full game, and the person who owns the game needs to create the session, but otherwise, it allows the second player to engage fully with the content.
You’ll need to decide which of your team is going to play as the agent, and which as the hacker. I left the choice up to my husband, and he picked agent, and I was relieved. I expected that meant that I was going to be the one primarily working my way through databases and checking out security cameras, while he dealt with the actual threats, but there are definitely some places where even the hacker needs to be fast on their feet. Each mission starts with a little scrap of story, and then you’re each dumped into your side of the mission and you need to start figuring things out. You work your way through a sequence of objectives, and hopefully don’t get each other killed.
However, if you do, the penalty for death is almost nothing. You’re brought back to the precise place that you failed (or as close as you can be without getting caught in a failure loop), and any puzzles you’ve already completed stay that way. I feel like this cuts way down on the potential for one or both players to get frustrated, and I really appreciated this design decision.
I also liked that a lot of the information is randomized – you can’t just memorize the answers and speedrun your way through the game. If I was too slow in entering a code, it would always be different the next time. Which maybe drove my husband a little crazy, as he had to keep dodging lasers in order to access the terminal and read me the code, but it definitely adds replay value, beyond that of playing from the opposite perspective.
There are seven scripted missions, and an additional challenge mode, so if you’re satisfied with playing only a single role, you could be done with this game in half a dozen hours. The puzzles are also a bit on the simple side from a “figuring things out” perspective, so dedicated puzzle gamers might feel like the game is too easy. I personally don’t consider either of these things to be a negative – in fact, this would be a pretty good introductory experience to this type of game for someone who doesn’t have a lot of puzzle game experience.
Having played through the first couple of missions, this is definitely a game I would go back to. It’s a nice pick-up for a Humble Choice offering, but it’s really only going to have value for someone who has someone to play with, as there is no matchmaking of any type in the game. It’s been discounted to below $10 on various platforms, so there’s maybe not enough value here to pick up the bundle solely for this title, but if you’re grabbing the bundle anyway, and you have a willing friend to play with, you’ll likely get a few hours of fun out of it.
I had such high hopes for Owlboy. I didn’t necessarily think I would finish the game, mind you, but I thought I’d get further than I did. I’m trying to gently ease myself into more platforming games, but the big appeal for me with this title was that I expected to not have to worry about the persnickety jumping parts. I was playing a character with wings. Although I also sometimes have problems with flight in games, Owlboy is 2D, so I was sure I could handle it.
I did struggle a bit with the combination of flying and shooting at stuff, but I worked my way through the first dungeon area without too much trouble. However, upon exiting, I was greeted by a mechanic I hadn’t even considered – a segment of the game where you were expected to be stealthy.
But flying around avoiding the lights wasn’t too bad! In fact, for almost the first 90 minutes of the game, it really felt like something within my capacity. Until, in the Owl Temple, I encountered gnomes.
If you guessed it was another stealthy bit, well, you’d be spot on. Gnomes have terrible eyesight (meaning they only see a tiny circle of space around their bodies), but really excellent hearing. What that means from a gameplay perspective is you cannot fly. They will run as fast as their little gnome legs can carry them to the sound of flapping wings.
And did I mention that touching any of those vision orbs lead to being one-shot killed? No? Well that’s exactly what happens. And since Owlboy is a checkpoint-based save game, rather than a save anywhere game, I got very frustrated very quickly.
Of my just-shy-of-two-hour playtime, I’d say probably a quarter of that was spent trying to get through the god-awful gnome area. I have no idea if I was ever even close to escape. I’d figured out a good chunk of the path, but it felt like sometimes, when I just barely tapped the button to jump, the game registered it as a longer press and there were my wings, and then I was gnome-food.
Really, it’s too bad, because I was having a lot of fun with it up until that point. Maybe there was something I missed that would have made it easier? I don’t know, but I tried long enough to make me want to shelf the whole game. Chances are this wouldn’t be the last area with this kind of frustrating (at least for me) gameplay.
A couple of months ago, I revisited both 10,000,000 and You Must Build a Boat and I remembered how much I like a good old fashioned match-3 game with a little something extra. I spotted the recently released Dungeons & Jewels during Puzzle Fest last month, and although the discount wasn’t much, I don’t mind throwing a five at this type of game every now and again.
If you don’t care for match-3 gameplay, there’s nothing here that’s going to change your mind. It’s a dungeon crawl where you need to match a certain color in order to damage your enemy. In the screenshot above, you need to match any 3 (or more) white tiles to beat up that adorable little rat. Each time you make a match in the default game mode, your enemy will move one step closer. When it reaches you, you’ll take a hit of damage. Lose all your health, and it’s game over, so it’s important to get the right matches fairly quickly.
When you reach an enemy with multiple hearts over their head, you’ll need to make those color matches one right after another. If you can set it up so they cascade in the same turn, great, but back-to-back is good enough. The deeper you get into the dungeon, the more complex the matches needed becomes.
At the end of each floor, you’ll find a treasure chest with something inside that changes the game play a little bit. You’ll also unlock abilities that can be chosen at the start of a new run to suit your personal play style. I’ve been a huge fan of the club since I unlocked it – matching club tiles (which appear regularly throughout the run) will stun all enemies on screen for one turn.
There are four classes to choose from. The warrior is the easy turn-based option, where the skeleton is more challenging. If you prefer your matching to require speed, the rogue and the revenant change the base gameplay so that the enemies move based on time, not after you take a turn. A successful run shouldn’t last more than 20-30 minutes, and the variety of unlocks and gear drops makes for a reasonable amount of replay value.
Dungeons & Jewels is a pretty serviceable attempt to combine match-3 gameplay with roguelike randomness, and I enjoyed my time with it quite a bit. Although some might feel like it’s a little bit barebones, it’s got solid gameplay and is fairly impressive for a freshman effort. Currently, the developer plans to release more content in the form a free DLC, which is pretty generous, considering the price.
Level at least one more character to 70 in World of Warcraft.
Participate in #PlatforMonth
Play and write about one title purchased in March 2023.
Participate in the group review of the April 2023 Humble Choice.
Read or listen to at least four books.
Every single one of my goals this month should have been an easy win, and I still didn’t get through them all. Which is to say, it’s hard sometimes to guess where your whims are going to take you.
This month wasn’t so much about the drop in gaming hours (although they’re a bit lower than usual), but in the gaming variety. Three of those games were entirely on the Steam Deck (LIMBO, Here Comes Niko! and Tumblebugs), but even the allure of gaming in bed didn’t motivate me much during April. Doubling up on Sun Haven as both my co-op and main solo game of the month meant it blew away all the competition for time spent playing. Clearly, I’m a cozy phase.
I’m not at all surprised I’m in a cozy phase.
I didn’t get back to either of March’s Deck games-in-progress (Potion Permit and Aurora Bound Deluxe), and I wasn’t really terribly excited to start much new this month.
World of Warcraft
I really feel like I wasted my sub this month. I managed to log on for one whole and one partial raid, and then was scrambling to finish up my monthly Trading Post activities just under the wire. The only other times I logged in all month long was for a few minutes here and there to do crafting orders for guildies. I was uninterested in the Forbidden Reach, I didn’t want to do any leveling or gearing or world quests or anything the whole month. I even missed the Darkmoon Faire, and I never miss the Darkmoon Faire if I have an active sub.
I’m not sure yet if this is end-of-tier slump, or if I’m getting ready to take another break from the game.
Not being terribly interested in playing games certainly didn’t stop me from buying games this month. I picked up two newish releases in Moviehouse and Homestead Arcana, and I was gifted a copy of Dredge, which I had been really excited about but didn’t buy myself. Everything else was either bundles from Fanatical, or impulse purchases (mostly from the just-about-to-end Steam Puzzlefest sale).
Of course, instead of playing one of the many new-to-me games I bought, instead I immediately installed Tumblebugs, a game I’ve played to death in the past on other platforms, and have been using that to wind down at night on the Steam Deck. At least I’m playing something from my new purchases?
In total, including my Humble Choice and World of Warcraft subscriptions, my gaming-related spending for April 2023 was $111.00. Including the games I immediately activated from Humble Choice, I added 28 new games to my already too-large library.
I finished 8 books – all of them audio – during April. In fact, because I was on a hefty reading kick at the end of March as well, I managed to critically limit my Scribd account before it came up for renewal in April. As much as I love Scribd for what it does offer, I really wish it were a little more transparent about how the limits work. As it turned out, I had to put on series on hold due to the last book going unavailable, and as soon I as I listened to the first title from another, the rest of those books went unavailable as well.
It was at this point that I remembered that I had a library card and could get audiobooks that way as well, so I finished out my month with a couple of library titles. I have holds on a handful of others, so maybe I will do a better job alternating between services in the future. Maybe.
I also remembered this month that I do – on occasion – enjoy the company of the TV. So in a month that I skipped over this particular goal, I managed to watch one new-to-me movie, in Ratatouille, and two new-to-me seasons or series. I’m not counting the current season of Next Level Chef since it’s still being aired on network TV so I haven’t watched all the episodes, but I did watch the entirety of season 21 of Hell’s Kitchen and all six episodes of Wreck, which is a comedic horror series that originally aired on BBC. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the whole dark humor / slasher mashup, but it really worked for me and I binged the entire series in one night.
By far, the biggest turnaround for me this month was in the category of crafts. After almost two full months of not picking up a needle, I finally – very belatedly – figured out that the probably was not with stitching overall, but with the project I had been working on. Once I decided to pull it off the frame and pull something else from my stack of works-in-progress, it seemed like I was at my craft desk every time I could sneak a few minutes.
All in all, during April, I completed over 10,000 stitches, taking this project from 8% completion to 33% completion. Obviously, I still have a ways to go, but I haven’t really slowed down any, so I expect that I’ll continue to plug along at it without difficulty.
For anyone interested in the results of the sit down I had with myself earlier in the month, these were the conclusions I came to for what I’d like to work on.
First is that I’m giving myself the month of May to decide if I need an MMO break, or if it was just end-of-season slump. I don’t even mind paying primarily to raid-log if that’s the part of the game that is giving me joy, but I barely even did that this month. So, we’ll see what my play time looks like in May and how I’m feeling about it, and make a decision before my early June subscription renewal.
Second is that I would really like to cut back on how much time I spend mindlessly scrolling the internet, or taking forever to choose my next book / movie / tv show / game. The time that feels wasted as soon as it’s gone. I still have plenty of time to do just about everything I want to, and I’m starting to get closer to having my energy managed, but I am still losing a lot of time to figuring out what I want to and/or can do at any given moment. This might mean even more planning and lists, sure, but at least those things feel constructive when I’m doing them.
So, I’ve tried being kind and generous with myself, and you know what? It’s not working. I mean, it’s not like I don’t know that I feel more secure and accomplish more when I have a lot of structure rather than when I’m left to my own devices.
Although April definitely took me on some unexpected tangents, I am still not feeling great about where I’m at with all things nerdy, so it’s time to buckle down and see if I function better with more focused goals, or if it’s indeed time to reevaluate what activities I want to – and am willing to – prioritize.
World of Warcraft
On May 2, we’ll see the beginning of the second raid tier of Dragonflight, and while I would normally be completely jazzed, I’m instead cautiously interested. Patch 10.0.7 was a big flop for me – instead of being excited about the new content, I found myself unwilling to even keep plugging away at the old content. This past month saw me putting the least hours into World of Warcraft since I reactivated my subscription last fall.
I am looking forward to the new story content, so completing as much of that as time-gating will allow is on my to do list for this month. That said, I may be about ready to step away from MMO’s for a bit again, and how I feel about the new patch will definitely factor into that decision.
Community Game Along
This may be an oversimplification because we’re still outside of my gaming comfort zone, but #MetroidvaniaMay kind of feels like an extension of #PlatforMonth. I realize that metroidvanias are a mostly – but not entirely – a subset of platformers, but since I’m not overly familiar with what exactly makes a game a metroidvania, I’m trusting Steam tags and store page descriptions.
Although I may have lost my mind with these picks, I’ve chosen Owlboy (a flying metroidvania) and Song of the Deep (an underwater metroidvania), in hopes of not spending the month impaling myself on spikes when I inevitably miss a simple jump.
As far as co-op gaming is concerned, I expect it’s going to continue to be Sun Haven throughout the entirety of May. We’re making solid storyline progress, but we have set the slider to 30 minute days, so we get through about an in-game week per play session. If we continue at this pace, we won’t be wrapping up our first year for several months.
I took last month off from this, but I want to get in the habit of writing about at least one game purchased the prior month, as well as continuing with the Blaugust Reviews Humble Choice project.
I am currently super far ahead of my annual reading goal, but I’m going to stick with the four book goal since I sometimes go through long periods where I don’t touch a book. I’d rather far overshoot my annual goal than miss it.
I’ve also found a renewed interest in the television, so I’m going to add back the new to me movie and new to me season, series or mini-series goal for May.
But the most exciting thing for me, is that stitching is back in rotation. After packing up the project I wasn’t enjoying, I’ve found a new vigor for making tiny x’s. I’ve pulled out a WIP that was supposed to be a birthday gift for last year, and am making excellent progress. That said, it’s still a pretty damn big project, with a lot of work still to do.
However, I also need a win, so I’m going to set what is only a moderately high goal of 5000 stitches done during May, which averages out to about 250 stitches a day, five days per week.
…I had considered doubling that, but this will allow me to maybe check off another handful of goals this month instead of just the one.
Make at least 8 blog posts during May.
Complete the 10.1 story content in World of Warcraft.
Play and write about at least one game for #MetroidvaniaMay.
Play and write about one title purchased in April 2023.
Participate in the group review of the May Humble Choice.
Spend at least 10 hours gaming on the Steam Deck in May.
Read / listen to at least four books.
Watch at least one new-to-me movie.
Watch at least one new-to-me series, mini-series or season.
Here I am, sneaking in my thoughts on LIMBO on the next-to-the-last day of the month, when I actually played the game on the very first day. I kept thinking I would go back to it, and play some more. I didn’t quit because I was frustrated (thanks to keeping a walkthrough open on my phone while I played) but clearly, I also didn’t find the game compelling enough to return to.
Maybe it’s just that as I get older, it gets harder for me to get invested in games outside of my preferred genres. I’m still a huge fan of pure puzzle games, and I keep trying to convince myself that puzzle-platformers are adjacent enough I should be able to play and enjoy them. I think the key difference – for me – is that puzzle games almost always give you all the information you need about how the game works, even the ones which keep adding mechanics to increase the difficulty as you go. Puzzle platformers often rely on the mechanic of having to figure out how the game works as part of the puzzle part. You have to fail in order learn, and I’m not a big fan of forced failure.
I did think the art style was amazing; it’s truly impressive what can be done with a grayscale color palette. Otherwise, I was pretty lukewarm on the whole experience. I gave the game a little less than an hour, and in that time I made it just shy of the 1/4 mark. I just … I wasn’t having fun. The puzzley bits I managed to figure out myself felt super obvious and easy, and the ones I needed to consult a walkthrough for felt, in comparison, to be needlessly obscure.
And sometimes, games just don’t hit for me. This is a well-loved game, and I’m certainly not going to try to say that the more than 25,000 people who gave it a good review on Steam are wrong. It just wasn’t the right game for me at this point in time. Will I try again? I may. There was enough that intrigued me that I might blitz through the entirety of the game when I’m in a different state of mind.
I’m filling in for the incomparable UnwiseOwlagain this month on summing up our group review of the offerings in this month’s Humble Choice bundle. Every month, when the bundle releases, a bunch of us get together on the Blaugust Discord and hash out which games we’re most excited about and divvy up the titles for us each to look at during the month. Some folks just take a quick look, and some really go all in, but we want to give you a jumping off point to help you decide if this month’s bundle is going to be worth it for you.
Unfortunately, despite my best intentions, this post is coming out just a little too late if you were debating whether or not to pause – the automatic charge for this month’s bundle will have already gone through by the time this post goes live. However, if you were on the fence about activating your subscription for this month, you still have a few more days before the bundle rolls over to April on Tuesday, May 2nd.
If you’ve not yet had a chance to play Death Stranding, then this month’s humble choice is beyond worthwhile. For this title alone.
Naithin, Time to Loot
That said, it’s worth mentioning that the base version of Death Stranding was given away by Epic on December 25, 2022. While the Director’s Cut brings improvements, especially if you’re planning to play on an ultrawide monitor, it might not be quite as much of a draw for someone who already has access to the content from a giveaway.
UltrViolet of Endgame Viable also played this game back in November of 2019 on the PS4, and was pleasantly surprised by it. He found the whole concept was one that felt fresh, with a steady learning curve that kept going past the first hour or so, and excellent cinematics.
I guess that means this one gets two sets of thumbs up.
Aliens Fireteam Elite was also covered by Naithin from Time to Loot – shortly after it released back in August of 2021. While it’s clearly a lower-budget endeavor, it plays well, with all the parts combining to make a satisfying and enjoyable horde shooter. This one is probably more fun with friends, but perfectly playable with AI companions. Players who are experienced with the genre might find the standard difficulty a little on the easy side, but the upgrades & perks feel good, and the moment-to-moment gameplay is exciting. It’s not a game that will change your life, but if you’re fond of the setting, and looking to blow things up with some buddies, this game will likely satisfy.
StalkingVengeance of Cubic Creativity took a look at Rollerdrome, a cel-shaded arena deathmatch game. On roller skates, naturally. Featuring only light environmental storytelling, this one is all about the gameplay. You need to master clever skating and skillful dodging, as movement is the only way to get more ammunition to conquer the competition. It starts off fairly simply, but you unlock more weapon variety and harder enemies as you progress through the campaign. If that description isn’t enough to at least intrigue you, you’ll probably want to give this one a pass, but it’s fresh and interesting enough to warrant a try from anyone who finds the concept interesting.
UnwiseOwl of Leaflocker was scheduled to take on Life is Strange 2, but sometimes, well, life gets in the way, and although he had time to play the game, he hadn’t quite managed to write up his thoughts just yet. However, he passed on his verdict to me, which I now pass on to you:
If you’re interested in trying out a narrative game (more an interactive film than a game, really) and you don’t mind a little supernatural violence, you should play this. The Life is Strange sequel lives up to its reputation and is 100% a reason to get the bundle.
If you weren’t interested in – or didn’t care for – the earlier Life is Strange titles, this one probably won’t change your mind, but for fans of the genre, it’s another worthwhile entry.
UltrViolet of Endgame Viable was not overly impressed with The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante, calling it merely average. He appreciated the artstyle, but also felt like the storytelling was a bit drawn out, and that it took too long to see the results of the choices he was making. A plus for enthusiasts of this style of game is that the developers have made the text very readable – a key point of focus in a game that is made up almost entirely of reading. While this is a nice extra in the bundle for choice-and-consequences fans, the niche genre and low retail price probably isn’t going to encourage anyone to pick up the bundle for this title alone.
Paeroka of Nerdy Bookahs played a bit of Monster Camp, and discovered that this game has no save feature. The playthroughs are fairly short, however, so for some gamers, this might not be a deal breaker. This comedic dating sim encourages replay – not only are the multiple paths to take, but you can earn currency on your play throughs, which can be used to make purchases in the meta-shop. If you don’t care for dating sims in general, this probably won’t be the game that changes your mind, and since it fairly regularly goes on sale for half the price of Humble Choice, the best case scenario is this is a fun side dish to the main course.
Magi from IndieCator wrote about about Revita, a challenging roguelite with bullet-hell elements. He was very impressed with the array of accessibility options, which allow players to modify different aspects of the difficult, although you might have to hunt for some that aren’t in the “accessibility” section of the settings. It has the unique mechanic of trading health for upgrades, which makes the balancing act of being strong enough and being powerful enough particularly interesting. It’s also got an amazing soundtrack, attractive pixel art, and quirky characters. However, Revita also seems like the game in this months Choice that doesn’t quite fit with anything else. It’s quite possibly the most challenging game in the bundle. It has good reviews on Steam, but a sub-$20 asking price. Its target audience may not have a whole lot of overlap with the rest of the bundle’s target audience, so even though the game seems to be solid, it probably cannot carry the entire month.
Full disclosure: I’m enough of a variety gamer that I usually wait until everyone else has chosen their title(s) to review, and pick whatever is left over. This month, I was super excited about Founders’ Fortune. Unfortunately, for me, the colony-builder-meets-the-Sims-mashup style game play didn’t pull me in like I had hoped it would. In a lot of ways, it felt more like a bunch of features the devs felt were interesting just lumped together without any thought of how it would – or in actuality, wouldn’t – make a cohesive game. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either, and I’d only recommend it to folks who had run out of new colony builders or who specifically were interested in the social life-sim aspects of this particular game.
If you are interested in Death’s Stranding, and don’t already own it (either from a previous purchase or the Epic giveaway), this bundle is 100% worth it.
If you’d be willing to pay $12 for either Aliens: Fireteam Elite, Rollerdrome, Life is Strange 2, or Founder’s Fortune (or any combination thereof), you probably should grab the bundle.
The rest of the games are either forgettable, or can easily be gotten at a lower price by waiting for a sale.
This bundle is probably going to most appeal to gamers who like a more chill, casual experience, leaning heavily into story focused games. Challenge-motivated gamers will likely enjoy Rollerdrome and Revita, but won’t find much else here to their tastes.
One of my least favorite things about being a responsible adult is the sheer amount of things that need doing that always seem to get in the way of the things I most want to do. Jobs, housework, family obligations, all the things we need to do to care for our bodies; it all drains our energy and fills our hours, and most of us are stuck with scraps, trying to cobble together space for the things that rejuvenate us and bring us joy. Some folks are lucky and have a lot of overlap, but the rest of us simply make do through giant swathes of our lives.
But this is a universal problem, and while I could choose to dwell on it, I honestly don’t see the point. When things feel overwhelming and unsustainable, I will usually set my mind on a life tidy, of sorts. Toss out the things that don’t serve, fill the spaces those things leave behind with other things that prove more functional, or at least more satisfying.
What I don’t have the solution for is this: what do I do when the thing that is forever getting in my way is … me? I’ve been in a bit of a slump for awhile now, and the common denominator seems to be that I am stubbornly blocking my own progress. How do I manage my inner mule, that part of me that knows that if I just do the thing I will feel good about it, but that won’t let me start?
Here’s a great example, doubly so because I actually figured the problem out and implemented a solution. I had a cross-stitch project, that I had worked on through about the halfway point, sitting on my desk, untouched for almost two full months. There was nothing I could tell myself that would get my butt into the chair and that thread into my hands. I was bored with all my own excuses for why I couldn’t possibly work on it.
Finally, at the tail end of last month, I talked myself into working on another small project; something that would stitch up fast. I wasn’t sure if, maybe, the hobby had run its course for me, and that was why I was so resistant. But after kitting up something new, I barely put it down until it was done. I still wasn’t sure if that was a fluke, so I did it again, and I realized that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to stitch – I just didn’t want to work on that project anymore.
So, I took it off, the frame, gathered up all the parts, and put it away.
Since then, I’ve done over 7000 stitches. I’ve been sneaking off to my desk to do a little bit of stitching every time I have a spare few minutes. As it turned out, it wasn’t the hobby I was tired of, but rather, the project I’d been attempting to force myself to finish.
While I’m glad to have that problem solved, it has created a new one. My downtime activities are grossly out of balance, and I had been so sure I was finally finding a good rhythm. Now, my donkey-brain keeps telling me that this one thing, that yes, I am enjoying, is the only thing.
My donkey-brain and I are not friends, for the record.
More than 2/3 of the way through the month, and ManicTime tells me I’ve logged less than three hours all month in World of Warcraft. I’ve hardly touched my Steam Deck this month, and the only game I have had more than a passing interest in all month long has been my co-op game night pick, Sun Haven. Including my March wrap-up, this will only be my fifth blog post this month. Instead of moving forward in the direction of finding a better cadence for all things blog-related, it has instead gotten far worse than it had been for the past few months.
Later today, I am going to have a meeting with myself, and I’m not sure how it’s going to go. Perhaps the balance of things is still shifting, but I’m also not loving the feeling that I’m ignoring something that is, in fact, important to me.
Full disclosure: Here Comes Niko!is a game I never would have purchased (and certainly not at its asking price of $24.99). It’s a rare platforming game that draws me in as I’m not very proficient in the genre, but this was in a bundle I bought around the holidays, and I always at least look at the descriptions of bundle games to see if they’re something I might like.
The store page description of Here Comes Niko! definitely made it sound like it was right up my alley, despite the genre. And it is indeed cozy, but I’m not entirely sure I would have classified it as a platformer, myself. Instead, it felt more like a collectathon puzzler, which just happened to have some platforming mechanics to it, which just made it all the more appealing to me.
You play as Niko, the only human in an anthropomorphic animal world, and you’ve just started a new job as a professional friend. What does that mean? It means everywhere you go, you find someone who needs help, and help them. On each island you visit, there’s a handful of folks who have a problem, and also, have a coin burning a hole in their pockets. Collect enough coins, and you’ll be able to ride the train to the next island.
Folks who come in expecting a tight platformer are going to be outrageously disappointed by this title, however. The platforming is super floaty, unpleasantly floaty even. However, for players who are more interested in a cozy, combat-free collectathon experience, Here Comes Niko! just oozes charm. Each island is full of folks to chat with, puzzles to solve, and minigames to beat.
There’s plenty of things to collect on each island, and exploration is delightful, but some of the activities feel a little rough around the edges. The fishing quests, in particular, are outrageously irritating, and although I completed the one on the first island, I can see myself skipping them going forward if there are enough other coins to be earned. And normally, I love fishing in cozy games.
I feel like you get a pretty solid idea of what you can expect in the first few minutes, and if that gameplay loop works for you, you probably have a fun 6-8 hours ahead of you. Personally, I liked it more than I expected to, but that’s really because it leans heavily into the cozy and not very much into the platformer. On one hand, this is absolutely a game I can see myself going back to in short bursts until I’ve completed it, but it’s also not the type of game I feel compelled to fire up every time I have a few free minutes.