In Review – October 2019

With things returning – more or less – to normal around here, I found myself with more leisure time than I’ve had for several months. As a result, I did a lot of gaming, reading and watching throughout October, and this blog is WAY longer than I anticipated it being.


What I Played This Month

Haunted Domains – The first week of October was hectic as well, heck, so I picked something that I could play in REALLY little increments if needed. This creepy time management game fit the bill – each level is only about 5 minutes long! I didn’t finish it, but I would say I played to satisfaction.

Gourmania 2: Great Expectations – I remember really liking the first Gourmania, so when the second one showed up on Utomik, I thought I’d give it a whirl. It wasn’t great, but I managed to run through from beginning to end in under three hours, so, I guess I can’t say it was completely awful either.

Elder Scrolls Online – After barely touching ESO for almost a month, I started logging in daily again for the Dragon Rise event – not because the event interested me, but because I still needed two berries for my Onyx Indrik.

Dead Rising 3 – Completing the main story with the “S” ending took me just over 20 hours. By far, the easiest of the Dead Rising games I’ve played – I really enjoyed the more relaxed time limit, although I could have done with a LOT less driving.

Monster Prom – It took me a little while to “get” this one, but it has grown on me. It’s perfect for when I only have a little time to game (I read fast enough that the 60 minute game is about half that), and it oh-so-vaguely reminds me of Long Live the Queen, which I played obsessively for awhile.

Yoku’s Island ExpressI spent a lot of time confused, and ho-boy, I am bad at pinball, but I just kept going back to it over and over. I couldn’t really play in long bursts since using the controller makes my hands cramp after awhile, but it was charming and adorable. Despite one very frustrating part, I was able to finish the main story.

The World Next Door – True confession – I was totally in this for the frenetic match-3 game play, and that aspect of the game did not disappoint. It was super short, which, to be fair, I apparently missed a lot of side quests, but nothing that detracted from the actual combat game play. Overall, I was pleased for the $3 I paid.

Night Call – I’d never heard of this before browsing the XBox Game Pass for PC library, but I am so glad that I did. Totally captivating.

Taptiles – I had completely forgotten about this game, but I was in the Windows store looking for something else, and I re-discovered it. I was even going to pony up and pay for it to get rid of the ads, but apparently, it’s not a one-time purchase but a subscription? Oh no. I’ll live with ads, thanks.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine – It makes me a little sad when a really interesting concept becomes a mediocre (and sometimes frustrating) game, but I am going to poke at it for a little longer, because the good stuff is oh-so-good.

Viscera Cleanup Detail – House of Horror DLC – I only dabbled a little in this, to have something to keep my hands busy while I watched scary stuff on TV. Although I’ve enjoyed VCD in the past, this is a LONG level, and I’m not sure I’ll ever actually complete it.

This month I played 2 games on Utomik, 2 on XBox Game Pass for PC, and 7 from my own library!


What I Read This Month

I read five books this month – all of them ghost stories, and three from the Riveting Haunted House Mystery series. I abandoned one book, and have two in progress. Not bad, coming off a couple of months where I didn’t read much of anything at all. I’m at 22/30 for my 2019 Good Reads Challenge.


What I Watched This Month

The Boys – Although I initially wasn’t much interested, this is the dark and awful super hero show I didn’t know I wanted. I’ve been savoring it, so I still have a couple episodes left to go, but I’m surprised how captivating it is.

Halloween Baking Championship – I not only watched the new season, but devoured the past seasons available on Hulu as well. This also reminded me how much I hate waiting for new episodes.

Hallotober Movies Galore – I’m sure I missed some, but every chance I got, I tossed a horror movie on TV.


Whew, that was a lot. Sure, I deviated a bunch from my initial monthly goals, but I’m really satisfied with all the good stuff I got to enjoy in October.

One Year / Five Games

Oh, this is diabolical.


I might have missed this one entirely if Naithin hadn’t posted about it (and I read that right before bedtime too, so you bet I was thinking about it while I was waiting to fall asleep). Let’s be real – I probably couldn’t stick to this and would just take my beating. And I’m not so organized as to worry myself about categories – I’m just going to look at potential play times here.

Game One: World of Warcraft

I would definitely want an MMO, and this one was super-close. Like, I had already started writing about the Elder Scrolls Online close. But every time I’ve take an extended break from WoW (like, for example, now), I come back recharged and excited and ready to Do Stuff. Plus there’s pet battles. I can spend a LOT of time on pet battles. And I haven’t seen the Horde side of the last three expacs, so I probably wouldn’t run out of stuff to do, even if it wasn’t always the most exciting things.

Besides, I have a guild that’s been around for a good 10 years, and I miss those folks like whoa.

Game Two: Rimworld

I’ve been away from Rimworld a long time, but I haven’t forgotten how easy it was to lose myself in. Sure, all the changes since I played last would be overwhelming at first, but I don’t think it would take me too long to get caught up. Plus, I’m pretty sure there’s like 80 bazillion new mods I haven’t even looked at since I played last.

Game Three: RollerCoaster Tycoon Triple Thrill Pack

Another building game, you might be thinking. Yes. Another building game. There is SO MUCH content in this game, and I may even someday learn to build my own coaster that doesn’t kill people. This has the added bonus of being extremely low spec, so if something happened to my regular gaming rig, I wouldn’t be left game-less.

(this is where it gets really hard)

Game Four: Tales of Maj’Eyal

I’ve played enough of ToME to know I enjoy it, and there are currently over 1700 achievements to strive for. I can see this one holding my attention for many many hours.

Game Five: The Sims 3

Replayability and longevity have to be considered, and what game has more to do than Sims 3? I’ve played hundreds of hours already, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. Add in a whole bunch of self-imposed challenge modes like the ones here, and I would probably never get sick of it.


Well, that was uncomfortable. My interests are so varied and my library so vast. Cutting down to a single MMO and giving up all manner of mobile gaming were probably the biggest sacrifices.

Thank goodness this isn’t a thing I actually have to do, although it certainly makes me less apprehensive about my plans to seriously limit my gaming purchases in 2020 (more info on that soon).

The Nope List – October 2019

The monthly Nope List will chronicle the games that I tried out during a given month, but for whatever reason, they just didn’t click for me.

This month’s Nope List was made up of one game from Utomik, four from XBox Game Pass for PC, and two from my own library.


We Happy Few – Even for me, even for Hallotober, this was dark. It looks great, but it wasn’t particularly fun to play, and I just wasn’t feeling it. If it eventually finds its way into my library on the cheap, I might give it another go, but mostly, I just confirmed that this isn’t a game I want to spend serious money on.


Equilinox – I think this one was done in (perhaps too soon), by awkward controls. Every time I tried to look closer at something, I did the wrong thing, and it was just wholly unintuitive for me. No idea if or when I’ll give it another go – I can push past bad controls and UI when I’m really enamored with something, but having to plant grass and flowers on a blank canvas didn’t blow my skirt up.


Felix the Reaper – It looked and sounded great, but it wasn’t enough to keep me struggling to meet all the metrics on ever level. Just because I can memorize a series of moves and then replay levels doesn’t make it an enjoyable use of my time.


Ghost Cleaner – Like Peggle, but way less fun. It’s not awful, but it’s not all that good either.


Death Mark – I probably would have really enjoyed this, but I played for over an hour before hitting a place where I could save, and I somehow failed to save, and decided I wasn’t into it enough to play that first hour over. Ugh. If you’re not going to let me save anywhere at anytime, at least put the save points reasonably close together.


Creature in the Well – It just didn’t click for me. It’s a neat idea, but other than a neat gimmicky sort of combat, there just didn’t seem to be any reason to play it.


Prey – I don’t even have an excuse, y’all. Unless “I am bad at video game sometimes and kept dying a lot” is an excuse. I considered restarting and lowering the difficulty a notch or two, but … nah. Maybe some other time. On story mode.


Yet again, none of these games were so wretched I want to warn others off of them (and I have played some truly awful games from time to time), but for one reason or another, they weren’t for me, at least not at the time I played them.

Once I own a game, I usually give it a few tries to hold my attention before banishing it to the meh category of my Steam library. Games sampled on a subscription service might get another shot if I continue my sub or if they show up in a bundle, but I’m unlikely to purchase them in the future.

Quick Look – Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

For me, the biggest appeal of Where the Water Tastes Like Wine was in the concept of the “narrative adventure”. What I didn’t realize I was getting was a fantastic story-telling collectathon. After losing big at poker, you are tasked with wandering the United States collecting stories to pay your debt, and along the way, you’ll meet other wanderers like yourself and swap stories.

I kept an eye on it for awhile when it first released, and then it faded from my radar. When I spotted it on XBox Game Pass for PC, I knew I’d have to at least give it a shot to see how the concept panned out.


Let’s start with the things I thought were amazing. The voice acting in this game is top-notch. I am frequently guilty of pushing through dialogue as quickly as I can read it, but I found myself wanting to sit and listen to the stories rather than just reading them quickly. This is not a game you can play in the background – you are going to want to sit and take it all in. The music is also pretty fantastic, although with how slow you tend to mosey around the overland map, it does start to get a little repetitive when you spend too long in one portion of the country.

Then there’s the artwork in the stills. Simply stunning. So stunning in fact that when I started playing the game proper, I was a bit disappointed that wandering the countryside didn’t look better. It’s not bad, but it’s not up the quality I was expecting.

You should be aware that traversing the country is every bit as tedious as you might expect. You can whistle to walk a bit faster, but for me, it only served to distract slightly from the plodding pace. You can hop trains and hitchhike, but when you do so you lose control of how far you’re going to travel, making it easy to miss things along the way, and usually requiring you to backtrack significantly. I’m not sure how detrimental it is to miss stories along the way, but I had to walk back to revisit the major characters, so I picked up everything I could while I did so.

Also, the actual “game” mechanics feel poorly explained. Money can be obtained when you randomly search locations, or by panhandling or looking for work in major cities. This is important because travel will make you hungry and tired, and if you ignore either of those things for too long, they will kill you. In major cities, you have the opportunity to purchase items to refill your meters, or you may get lucky and find opportunities to rest or eat while looking for stories. If you get unlucky, and have no money, you may die. The first time it happened to me, I thought it was game over, but it’s not, so at least there’s that.

For me, the most frustrating part of the whole game is story swapping mechanic. The stories you pick up along the way are automatically sorted into categories and cannot be changed, and once you swap a story from a given category during a camping session, the other stories in that category are no longer available. There are plenty of categories, but you don’t know what types of stories your companions will request. Over the course of the night, you trade several stories, and I frequently struggled to match the requested type.

Stories may be scary, sad, hopeful, exciting, or funny. It sounds simple enough, but those categories have nothing to do with how the stories are sorted in the interface, and it’s not always easy to figure out which category a story fits into. I was really wishing that the game gave you some way to mark your stories once you discovered their category, but it looks like I’ll have to rely on trial and error and my memory.


Where the Water Tastes Like Wine really does keep the focus on the stories, sometimes to its detriment as a game. You can expect to spend 15-20 hours to complete the game, which requires getting all four chapters from all 16 potential companions.

One last note for completionists: This game has an unobtainable achievement, so unless you’re willing to resort to a cheat, you will not be able to get 100% completion.

Quick Look – Night Call

Usually, I like to do these little write-ups just after playing something new so it’s all fresh in my mind. With Night Call, I deliberately waited until the next day because I knew I was going to be thinking about the experience for quite awhile after closing the game.


In Night Call, you play as a taxi driver in Paris who has just returned to work after nearly dying at the hands of a serial killer. Instead of just returning to work and getting on with your life, you are also trying to figure out who almost killed you.

I played through the first of three cases – The Judge – in about two hours. While the experience as a whole was really engaging, I have to admit that the “solve a mystery” portion was comparatively weak. In the course of the game, you come across clues which are added to your board at the end of each night. The game automatically connects clues to some suspects, and it cuts down on the amount of deductive reasoning needed. I faithfully checked on any investigative points that came up, and was fairly confident when I made my accusation, but it also feels like it’d be easy to miss important context and make the wrong choice.

But the most engaging part of the game is not the mystery. It’s in the passengers you pick up, in the conversations you have with them. Sometimes, the most interesting thing you can do is say nothing over and over and let them unburden themselves. I would have gladly played for hours, just picking up fares and learning about the people of Paris, and by extension, my character.

Night Call is a brilliant slice-of-life sort of game that’s bogged down by unsatisfying mechanics (like the need to stay profitable or risk losing your job), and limited by the scope of only three scripted investigations. I want to know more about the people without being bogged down by the tediousness of “discovering” a killer whose identity I already know from the first play through. I was hoping that playing all three cases would unlock some sort of endless mode, but that doesn’t seem to be an option.

I don’t expect Night Call to have broad commercial appeal and be wildly successful, which is a shame, because what it gets right is mind-blowingly good. The tiny epilogue you get after completing the Judge was flawless. I absolutely plan to play through the remaining two cases, and am still debating whether or not to purchase the game outright, as I discovered it on XBox Game Pass for PC. I definitely want to see more from this developer.

Game Over: Yoku’s Island Express

Yoku’s Island Express is another game that I probably wouldn’t have picked up on its own – at least not for a long time – when it showed up in the August 2019 Humble Monthly, I figured it was worth a shot. As someone who isn’t particularly good at pinball or platformers, I didn’t go in expecting a whole lot.

But after roughly 7 hours, I managed to finish the main story of the game (despite my save file putting me a mere 37% completion), and for me, that qualifies as a satisfying game experience, especially considering how low my skill threshold is.

It was a near thing, too, because of this stupid vine filled with flowers I needed to spin around on. Out of my seven hours of play, it’s no exaggeration to say that at least two of those, I spent trying to get up to the top of this vine. For three days in a row, I would play for more than half an hour, just trying to make all those jumps and failing over and over. Finally, I told myself that if I couldn’t make it up during that play session, I was done.

Clearly, I just needed an ultimatum.

Otherwise, I found the game to be not terribly difficult, although I started playing with the keyboard, and since keys are NOT remappable, found myself using my Logitech controller instead. The pinball mechanics felt a whole lot more natural using a controller’s trigger rather than the left and right shift keys (which my brain thinks of as interchangeable, so I’m sure that was part of the problem).

That said, if something wasn’t absolutely required to progress, and I couldn’t figure it out within a few minutes, I just moved past it. Completionists might struggle more, but I decided early on that I would be happy if I could get through the story.

I did consult a walkthrough a couple of times in order to figure out where I needed to go in order to obtain a couple of required upgrades, but mostly, I muddled around a lot. Sure, I’d point myself in the direction of a quest, but if I got off track and ended up at the other end of the map? I would explore a little before trying to get myself back to where I needed to be.

Overall, I thought Yoku’s Island Express was clever, and generally felt good to play, but it isn’t going to end up on a list of my all-time favorite games anytime soon. In fact, it’s not even my favorite pinball-centric game (that title would have to go to Rollers of the Realm, which I enjoyed immensely). I doubt I’ll be re-visiting it for another play through, or even to seek out achievements and a higher completion percentage, but I definitely enjoyed playing.

The World Next Door – A Demo that Opened My Wallet

The demo of The World Next Door is short – if you pick up on the core game play loop fast enough, you could be done in 15 minutes. I died a few times, so it took me 20.

Still, that 20 minutes sent me right back to Steam to toss them some money for the full game while it’s on a 70% discount.


I’ve reached a point in my life where a game being short is no longer a point against it. Low playtime with limited replayability is fine by me, as long as it’s reflected in the pricing, and the current discount more than compensates for a 4-5 hour play time. But is it fun?

Yes. Yes it is.

Well, at least I think it is, but I like match-3 games of all sorts. This one is a little more frenetic than most, and includes a dodging mechanic (which I didn’t really get the hang of during the demo and was probably a good part of my handful of deaths).

Spells are cast by standing on a group of three or more tiles and activating them. No aiming is required – your spell will head towards the nearest enemy. You can also tether a single tile to you and move it to a new location. It sounds easy, until you realize that the enemy isn’t constrained by the board and will be firing at you the whole time.

There is very little planning going on, and a whole lot of hustle. The green tiles that are vaguely heart shaped will heal you, so if you find your health getting low, you still can come back, as long as you move fast.

The control scheme isn’t accessible from the main menu, only the pause menu, so I spent a little time smashing buttons that did nothing. The keyboard choice of Z X C Space was a little odd, but not uncomfortable once I knew what keys did what. That said, if you’re comfortable with a controller, it feels like that’s what the game was designed for, and is likely somewhat easier to play that way.

The art is lovely, the concept is delightful (why yes, I WOULD like to take a trip the world of magic and mystical beings!), and the combat is fun. Reviews on the game’s Steam page point to the story being the weak part of the game, but since it’s lovely to look at and fun to play (and oh, did I mention, on sale for $3?), I can forgive a less-than-stellar story.

As an added bonus, for folks who like this kind of thing, after beating the game’s story mode, you can play local versus with a friend if you have two controllers.

I’ve already added this gem to my Steam library, and am looking forward to seeing all of what The World Next Door has to offer.