In Review – May 2021

This was an underwhelming month for all things nerdy. Again this month, I had the most PC gaming time spent in Stardew Valley (most of that during my regular Sunday night co-op game). I also spent more time than I realized with Dorfromantik, a game I initially didn’t care for much when I bought it at the very end of April, but I was stubborn about, and eventually it clicked. For the rest of the month, that was my go-to game when I managed to squeeze in a few minutes of gaming here and there.

We spent one evening this month playing Among Us (which is still a lot of fun when we can fill a whole lobby with friends), and I managed to finish Seasons After Fall for #MetroidvaniaMay. Otherwise, I did a whole bunch of nothing this month where PC gaming was concerned.

I didn’t even touch anything on Amazon Luna, despite having paid for the month. It might be time to take a break from the subscription services for awhile. Gaming just wasn’t pulling me in – I found most of my down time was spent watching cooking shows on Discovery+ and poking at various craft projects.

I did a little better when it came to Switch gaming, but not much. At the beginning of the month, I absolutely devoured New Pokemon Snap, which validated my decision to pre-order it. I then spent a few days playing World Tree Marché: Gourmet Story, which I started out enjoying, because I’m a sucker for pretty much any cooking game, until I realized that it is basically a combination idle game & visual novel, and I wasn’t even a little bit interested in the visual novel bits. Oh well, at least now I know.

I did, however, manage to finish up the painting I was working on, and got about halfway through a new one before real life intruded and I needed to scramble to relocate my crafting stuff so that we could repurpose the room. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little disappointed – I’ve been using the space a lot to have a quiet place where I could recharge my introvert battery. However, we’ve already plotted a new crafting space for me, and although getting that straightened out isn’t at the very top of our to do list, it’s fairly close, and in the meantime, I’ll make it a point to catch up on my reading and spend some more time working on smaller, more portable crafts.

Hopefully by the end of the week, all the materials for this set of cross-stitch projects will have arrived.

I also have come up with a plan to get out of my gaming slump, and hopefully make more than four posts a month going forward!

Game Over – Seasons After Fall (#MetroidvaniaMay)

I don’t know that I’ve ever played a game with so many aspects I thought were absolutely spot on, and yet walked away strangely unsatisfied. Seasons After Fall is absolutely beautiful to look at, the soundtrack is haunting, and the voice acting is spot on. The story is sparse, but it was enough to make me want to see it through to the end. Unfortunately, once I passed about the 25% mark, I realized that in spite of all that, I really wasn’t enjoying the game play.

Now, I’m pretty much always willing to consider the fact that it’s just me, especially when dealing with a game outside of my preferred genres. I haven’t played all that many metroidvanias, mostly because precision platforming is not my thing, and combat while platforming is even worse. In fact, one of the main reasons I chose this game to play this month is the fact that there is no combat and the platforming is very, very forgiving. It seemed like that would make it a good choice for an ultimate noob to the genre.

But after spending four hours with it (on this playthrough – I previously completed about 1/3 of the game before wandering off), I’m not entire sure who this game is meant for. It’s not really story-focused, the puzzles are often frustrating and obtuse, and the platforming – and there’s a considerable amount of it – is super floaty. Normally, when I miss jumps, I know it’s my fault. In Seasons After Fall, even the same exactly jump feels different each time you need to do it, and I can’t imagine how frustrating that would be for a player with some actual skill.

On the upside, there are absolutely no fail states – although I did hit a couple of points where I briefly believed I’d screwed up in a way that there was no recovering from. More than once, I needed to quit the game in order to reset a mechanic I’d messed up. This wasn’t a deal-breaker, once I learned about it, but it did lead to a little bit of frantic Googling.

At about the halfway point, I found myself a walkthrough, and finished the game with that open on my second monitor. Figuring out puzzles wasn’t satisfying – I wasn’t feeling clever, I was feeling cheated by mechanics that were never really explained. I did really appreciate ability to change the season at will – watching the world change when switching between seasons made me smile almost every time. However, I feel like it was used so often in the exact same ways and became so repetitive, it couldn’t be considered a puzzle; it was just a set of powers that enabled you to get around the world.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit grumpy when the credits rolled and the game basically told me “OH SO CLOSE, BUT NO!” and I realized that if I really wanted to finish the game, I still had more to do.

In order to reach the actual ending, I need to backtrack for a missed achievement, which added probably 20 minutes to my play time. I’m not sure why I missed it initially – I believe I was already using the walkthrough at that point, but since I took a two week break between the first 2/3 of the game, and finishing it up, I couldn’t recall if I just couldn’t make it work, or I blew it off, figuring it didn’t matter all that much. As it is, I finished up with 19/21 achievements, but I have absolutely no desire to go back and complete the two I missed while playing.

(Incidentally, just over 16% of players finished through the credits, but only just 12% bothered to get to the real ending, so clearly, that was annoying to at least a few other people, too.)

I don’t know – I guess I just don’t know who this game would be a hit for. It’s too frustrating to appeal to people who aren’t really fans of platformers, and far too simple to appeal to fans of the genre. The basic mechanics are super simple, but the more puzzling-focused sections are poorly explained, tedious, and unsatisfying, even when I did figure them out without the walkthrough. I guess if, like me, you don’t mind using a walkthrough or consulting a video now and again, and – unlike me – you’re a fairly competent platformer, it might be a lovely, brainless way to spend an evening or two. I honestly don’t know anyone I could wholeheartedly recommend it to.

Still, I’m not unhappy that I finished it.

In retrospect, I don’t know that it was necessarily a great choice for #MetroidvaniaMay. I definitely think it qualifies, since there a large map, divided into discrete sections, and you need to acquire your seasonal powers in order to unlock further areas. However, since you unlock them all pretty early in the game, all the backtracking after that point is just to find new objectives rather than opening up any actual new areas. And maybe that is the real problem with Seasons After Fall – it overstays its welcome.

Plotting a Path Out of a Slump

I have been really deep in a gaming slump pretty much since I let my World of Warcraft sub lapse a little over a month ago. Other than a three day binge of New Pokemon Snap on the switch, I haven’t really been excited about anything gaming-wise. Part of it is that there’s a lot of other things going on right now, but another part of it is just that I have absolutely no patience with anything that has even the slightest learning curve.

Which got me thinking about how often I’ll fire up a game, and close out of it again in less than 10 minutes, which prompted me to toss up a poll on Twitter.

The results pretty much confirmed to me that I’m am ridiculously impatient!

I fully admit to having a lot of filler in my game library – I love bundles and tend to add a lot of things that I’m not sure about but might scratch an itch someday. I’m not terribly upset if those games never get played. However, I also have a lot of things I was really excited about when I added them to my library, and those are the games I’m going to target now.

I’ve gone through my Steam library and picked out fifteen games that I know I was excited to play. During the month of June, I plan to spend at least 45 minutes with each game. Not only will this get me playing more often, and giving these titles more than five minutes to capture my attention, I’m hoping to have enough to say about them to make at least a Quick Look post on each game.

There’s just a few days left to May, and I have a few more things to wrap up before I dive into this project, but hopefully, this space will be a whole lot more active than it has been this month!

Nerd Girl Goals – May 2021

Play to Satisfaction

For me, saying “Play to Satisfaction” gives me explicit permission to drop a game that’s not working for me, but also to grind away for nerd points if I’m really loving something. I’m trying to make it a policy for myself that I will always play to satisfaction – no more, no less.

I still have a few outstanding game-related stuff I’d like to finish up over the next few weeks, but there’s plenty of stuff I haven’t already talked about I’d like to add onto my plate this month.

Community Game-Along – #MetroidvaniaMay

For #MetroidvaniaMay, I’m going to revisit a game I was really enjoying when I first played it, back in July of 2018 – Seasons After Fall. I realize that it’s pretty damn simplistic as far as metroidvanias go, but that’s actually part of the appeal for me. It’s also a fairly short game with an estimated play time of about 6 to 8 hours. I plan to start a fresh play through since I remember very little about the game except that I really liked it.

Since (at least according to the Steam Tag system), I’ve managed to accumulate quite a few metroidvanias in my library, I am also going to select a couple of back-up games. These include Waking Mars, Steamworld Dig, and Hue.

Subscription Gaming Service – Amazon Luna+

I’ve always been sort of curious about cloud gaming services, and when I had the opportunity to check out the Early Access of Amazon Luna+ with a seven day trial, I finally decided to give it a whirl. The selection of games on Luna isn’t fantastic at the base price point (although they do offer a premium Ubisoft tier for folks who are interested in that), there were a few titles I was interested in checking out, so I’ll likely sub for a month and dabble in those.

It’s a little less expensive than XBox Gamepass for PC ($5.99 a month versus $9.99 a month), so despite the overlap of games that interest me, I don’t see any reason not to play them here, unless the performance is dire.

Nintendo Switch Games

Being a console gamer still feels so weird to me. In April, I barely touched the thing, other than to make sure it was charged just in case, until the final day of the month when New Pokemon Snap arrived, and then I barely put it down for a day and a half. What I have been doing, however, is watching price drops on Deku Deals and flushing out my library a bit.

Once I’m ready to move on from photographing Pokemon in their natural habitat, I’d like to dive into Rune Factory 4 Special, since it’s a series I’ve always been curious about, but never had access to.

Other Nerdstuff

I feel like it’s been a very very long time indeed since I’ve spent any significant energy on my non-gaming hobbies. Recently, I’ve returned to doing paint-by-number kits, and I’ve gone back to it hard.

While I’m painting, I’ve been listening to podcasts, which have renewed my interest in all things horror. I’m not sure if this is going to take the form of watching more TV shows, mini-series and movies, or spending more time reading, or just finding more horror-centric podcasts to listen to, but it’s definitely an old interest I’d really like to revisit over the next few months.

In Review – April 2021

This “In Review” post is going to be late because, well, I somehow forgot April only has 30 days, and also, I spent most of the last day of the month obsessively playing New Pokemon Snap instead of writing like I should have been!

April was a little less gaming overall, as I spent a bit more time reading, and listening to The Pike Cast and Horror Queers while doing paint-by-numbers. Sometimes, it’s good to diversify.

I let my World of Warcraft sub lapse, and didn’t really pick anything else up to fill in the void. I did have a couple of nights where I played Among Us with some friends, and I’m still working my way towards perfection in Stardew Valley (as well as continuing my co-op adventures on a different save). But I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired this month to dive into anything new or weighty as far as gaming was concerned.

Finally finished up the Dimensions – Blue Poppies kit I ordered back in March.

Community Game-Along – #CapcoMonth

I dabbled in three different games for #CapcoMonth. The first was Resident Evil 4, which gave me a killer case of motion sickness. Second, I went into Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, which I thought was ok, but too fiddly for my taste.

Finally, I spent about 10 hours (a few of which were when I had accidentally closed Manic Time after the game crashed) with Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. If I had started with this one, I might have actually finished it before the month was out, but with only a week or so to go in the month, it was just too big of a project to actually wrap up in the time I had allotted. I’m not sure yet if I’m done with it for the time being, or if I’ll continue to dabble.

Ongoing Gaming Projects

Again, I spent the bulk of my gaming time in Stardew Valley. The (sort of) recent 1.5 update adds a new mechanic of a Perfection Tracker, which is kind of like Grampa’s evaluation turned up to 11. Of course, I can’t resist a challenge like this.

I’m currently well into my fifth year, which is far far longer than I’ve ever played before, and I have just a little friend-ing left to do, and a whole bunch of money to make to finish the last couple things on the checklist. I’m playing less, because it gets a little dull after playing a few days, with so little left to chase after.

Still, I expect to wrap this one up in the next couple of weeks, and I may continue dabbling on a new save with an alternate farm layout.

The progress hasn’t been nearly as solid in Cook, Serve, Delicious 2!! – my fingers just don’t feel like they’ll ever be fast enough for the shifts I have remaining. Where at one point, I was zooming through 5 levels a day, now I’m lucky to get a couple a week, and most of those are just squeaking through with bronze. I’ve even started doing some scenarios on the “Zen” setting, where customers don’t get impatient, but doing any better than just merely passing the level is impossible.

I’d still like to unlock all the shifts, but I think I’m over #GoingForGold.