Quick Look – Ticket to Earth (#SciFiGameMonth)

Look, I know this isn’t the game I picked out to play for #SciFiGameMonth, but it’s super-duper-extra SciFi, so even though I still intend to sit down with Eliza sometime before the month is out, I’m counting this one anyway. Ticket to Earth is a turn-based RPG-lite with a tile matching mechanic that takes place on a non-earth planet in a strange dystopian world, with a fun comic book-inspired art style. That’s a mouthful, I know, but the way it all comes together, is so strange, and yet, at least for me, so enjoyable.

Bear with me here, because this is going to sound like a lot, but the game really does ease you into it gently. Each turn, you get two actions. The first type of action is movement, where you choose a color and can continue moving as long as there is another adjacent tile of the same color to move to – diagonals count. You cannot, however, backtrack. This not only moves you around the board, getting you closer to or further from enemies, it also adds damage to your basic attack, up to a cap determined by your equipped weapon, as well as charges up a special abilities based on the color tiles you’re transversing. The second type of action is well, an action, whether it be a basic attack, a special attack, or a healing or cleansing ability. There are other types of special abilities, for example abilities that provide buffs or debuffs or that change the color of nearby tiles, that do not use up one of your actions, and can be used at any point when they are charged. Each scenario will have a primary objective, and three bonus objectives. Initially, you start with one controllable character, but as you progress through the story, you will add more characters to your party, and be able to take more than one into battle with you.

Between encounters, there’s actually quite a bit you can do, again, doled out slowly through story-based unlocks. You can check the communications log, for information on what’s going on with characters you’ve met so far. You can upgrade or change abilities, purchase new weapons, forge gemstones and unlock talents, provided you have the adequate related currency to do so. The story is fed to you slowly between conflicts, and for me, feels just about right – you’re not getting bogged down in it, and since there is no voice acting, you can proceed through story beats as quickly as you can read; quicker, in fact, if you decide you don’t care about the story at all. Optional missions will pop up on the map from time to time, which are battles that aren’t required for story progression, but that you can take on in order to help your team get more powerful. Since I’m playing on the easier difficulty, I’ve mostly skipped over these thus far.

I’m about, and working on the second episode of the story. My party has grown to three people, which means there’s one playable character I haven’t met yet, since four character slots are shown. Individual battles aren’t overly long, so I’ve been playing this for an “in between” game when I only have a short period of time available. It’s not quite a coffee break game, but it’s also not unreasonable to play in increments of 30 minutes or less. I would say the weakest aspect of the game is probably the writing – so far, the dialogue ranges from fine to ridiculous, and the story is passable, but not memorable. If you’re not a fan of the combat style, there’s not really any good reason to push through playing this one.

Ticket to Earth was originally released in an episodic format, but all chapters are out now, so it’s a complete game, with an estimated play time of about 18 hours. Assuming that’s accurate, I’m not quite a quarter of the way through. The $15 price point seems pretty spot on, and the $3 I paid for it during this last Summer Sale was a steal.

Game (Almost) Over – Persona 4 Golden – #JRPGJuly

The good news is, I actually played a whole lot more Persona 4 Golden this month than I expected to. The bad news, however, is that I have reached a point where I don’t expect to actually finish the game. In a way, it’s sort of a shame to have spent almost 45 hours with it, but for me, there were just a few too many annoyances to get past, culminating in the solution to the Whodunit being wholly unsatisfying.

When a story is a twisty as this one is, there really is no good time to throw in the towel, because until the credits roll it’s always possible that unsatisfying story elements will slide into place in an epic A-HA! moment. In fact, when I last closed down the game, I didn’t intend to stop playing, despite being somewhat grumpy about the direction the story was taking. However, for me something had changed. Before the Big Reveal, I found myself playing at least a little every day, interspersed with a few marathon sessions when I wanted to see a particular story beat resolved before saving for the day.

Somehow, the appeal just disappeared. Sure, a big part of it was that I felt cheated by a major story point that – to me – made very little sense. But another, not insignificant, factor was the fact that I realized I was running out of time, and it was going to be impossible for me to do everything I still wanted to do. Being inefficient in the early game when I didn’t know any better meant that I just didn’t have enough slots of free time left to wrap up all the things I wanted to wrap up. I’m generally not a New Game+ player, so anything I couldn’t finish was going to stay unfinished, and that knowledge sapped my will to continue.

While it’s not that unusual for me to leave something unfinished, what is strange is actually deciding to do so, especially when it’s something I put this much time into. Did I get enough out of it? Yes, I think I did. There were characters I really loved, bits of story I really appreciated, and overall, I felt like it was a really solid game. I just wasn’t, necessarily, the right game for me. I tend not to pursue efficiency while gaming, and I’m not the biggest fan of time limits in a story focused game, even when they make sense inside of the plot, as they do here.

Quick Look – Persona 4 Golden (#JRPGJuly)

I’ve been playing so many shorter titles over the past year or so, it feels a little bit weird to be doing a quick look when I’ve already put more than ten hours into the game. But that is, of course, the good news – I’ve stuck with Persona 4 Golden for over ten hours now, which means I may just have broken my long streak of bouncing hard of JRPGs in general. The bad news is – at least for me – there’s still a lot of game left to go. Using the game play length estimate from How Long to Beat, I figure I’ve gone through approximately 15% of the game.

I do feel like I’ve finally gotten a handle on why JRPGs generally don’t work for me: one thing they all seem to have in common is the pacing of the early game is painfully slow. I would estimate that I wasn’t given a meaningful decision or bit of game play for about the first three hours, and that’s a long time to expect a player to hang in there to find out if they even like the gameplay loop.

Thankfully, this time, my patience was rewarded because I do (mostly) enjoy the game play here, both the life-sim style and the turn based combat of the dungeons. You will spend quite a bit of time with the former, where you build friendships (which are referred to in game as Social Links) and improve your character’s stats. The combat sections are firmly tied to in game dates, so you cannot jump into them until certain story beats are met. However, there are a lot of other things you can (and probably should) be doing, so it rarely feels punishing to need to wait. In fact, due to some early game blundering around, I have felt a little rushed from time to time, and that’s even considering that there are parts of the game I’ve either completely ignored or have yet to figure out.

The visuals on the boss designs are absolutely delightful so far.

I still don’t actually expect to get through the entire game this month – but I’m starting to lean towards the idea that I will finish a play through of the whole story. I am playing through on easy, and am consulting a walkthrough to make sure I’m not irrevocably screwing up my save file, so I don’t think I’m going to run up against a point where I just cannot continue. Thankfully, save points are abundant enough that – for the most part – Persona 4 will work for me to fill in some of the smaller bits of gaming time I have.

Game Over – Jojo’s Fashion Show 2: Las Cruces (#FashionGameJune)

For me, one of the best things about casual game sequels is that you know what to expect, and that’s going to be more of the same. After all, most casual game developers just keep doing the same thing once they figure out what works.

Not so with Jojo’s Fashion Show 2: Las Cruces, and as far as I’m concerned, the innovation here is definitely to the game’s detriment. Approximately half the levels function very similarly to the first game – you’re given styles, a few models, and a whole bunch of clothing, and you have the make the best outfits. Sure, some of the styles are even more outlandish than in the first game, but that’s fine.

The addition of male models & their associated styles was fine, for the most part. Most levels that had male models had them exclusively, so the game play was pretty much identical. It did get annoying in the late game when there were multiple genders of models in the same level, but without any corresponding increase in the amount of clothing available – more than once, I had to use multiple shuffles just to get enough pieces to fully dress a model, regardless of style, and I felt like the concept was cool, but it was poorly thought out from a play perspective.

What didn’t work for me was the new photo shoot levels.

No longer are you able to hover over the style types to get more details – you need to remember all the hallmarks of the styles and find the models that best match them. The timer on a lot of these photo shoot levels is super tight, and the models are often stacked up, meaning if you’re not careful, you may snap someone you didn’t intend. On the upside, the required scores aren’t too challenging, so you still rarely need to replay unless you’re going for perfect scores. I actually got irritated each time one of these levels cropped up, which they do far too frequently.

Overall, the second entry in the Jojo’s Fashion show series looks like an upgrade, but definitely wasn’t nearly as enjoyable to play. Every time I felt like I was getting into a groove, the rules would change, and it just wasn’t fun after awhile. Although my final play time was super close to that of the first game, it felt a whole lot longer, and not in a good way.

I know that I played all three games in the series many years ago, but my time with Jojo’s Fashion Show 2: Las Cruces has discouraged me from even trying to track down the third game. I wish the developers had believed in the old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Game Over – Jojo’s Fashion Show – #FashionGameJune

Okay, I know I’m usually scrambling the last week of the month on these, but man, I forgot how much I enjoyed these games, and I’m going to ‘fess up right here and now – I cheated because I started this one in May! I had a little bit of trouble tracking this game down initially, but you can play in browser on IWin, or purchase it from BigFishGames.

It took me just a little longer than I had guessed – just under four hours.

So, what is Jojo’s Fashion Show? It’s a casual game where you are given a style (or a list of styles), and you need to dress up your models in those styles to score points. You can’t take too long figuring out the best outfits, though, there’s always a timer going, and if you take too long, your model might be sent out onto the runway only partially dressed! You can access the style sheet from the model screen by clicking on the nameplate above a model’s head, which helps when it comes to some of the weirder details (like specific colors).

Some styles are fairly easy to figure out with common sense, like Bridal or Winter. Some, like Valley Girl or Flamenco Punk are a little less intuitive, but it doesn’t take too long to figure out which pieces of clothing are optimal and which others will do in a pinch. Scoring well on certain outfits will give you “power ups” which allow you to do things like shuffle available clothing or designate a model as a Super Model which will double that outfit’s score, and after playing a few levels, you’ll gain access to accessories, which can give you a little boost.

Another way to increase the score for your models is to follow the fashion dos for bonus points. Some of them are presented on level starting screens, but most you’ll learn by trying things out. Something that’s a fashion do in one style will still be something to look out for in every other style, so learning your fashion dos early and applying them often could very well be the difference between a four and five star show on some of the more challenging levels.

Which is not to say that the game itself is hard in any way – you never need more than three stars on any level in order to pass it, but if you’re looking for replayability, five star shows can be pretty challenging, especially in levels with several styles. Each level also has three signature outfits, which will then unlock in Dress Up Mode (which is an untimed alternate game mode that I skipped entirely). Beware though – Signature Outfits are frequently not great for your score!

I think the thing that surprised me the most is how much I still loved this kind of casual game – for the most part, I don’t play too many of these anymore because the cost to playtime ratio doesn’t feel compelling to me when there’s so many other options out there. Out of curiosity, I went looking and was surprised to see that Shockwave Unlimited is actually still an available service, and although it’s not likely to be something I use again, I’m glad it’s available, because it was a staple of my gaming life for several years.

Since the month is still young, I’m planning to dive into the sequel Jojo’s Fashion Show 2: Las Cruces for a few more hours of playing virtual paper dolls.

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.

Wrapping Up #CapcoMonth with Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

If I were the type of person to say that some games are a guilty pleasure, I’m pretty sure the entirety of the Dead Rising series would be at that top of that list. Combing a lot of brutality with even more absolute absurdity, I find just wandering around slaughtering hordes of zombies in these games to be super satisfying. I picked up most of the games back in 2017 from Humble in the Capcom Rising bundle (the same bundle in which I obtained the game I played for last #CapcoMonth – DMC: Devil May Cry). Although I played them somewhat out of order (starting with DR2 while I waiting for the PC port of the original to come down in price), I’ve played all four canon entries in the series from start to finish.

However, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is a non-canon retelling of the story in the second game, swapping out protagonist Chuck Greene for the star of the first game, Frank West. I originally planned to play it right after completing the second game, but I found it a little tedious to go through the story line back to back, so I shelved it. I briefly dabbled in it again back in 2019, but didn’t get much past the first case.

Since my previous choices for this year’s #CapcoMonth didn’t work out, I decided to give this one another chance to see if maybe the third time would be the charm.

Over the last week or so, I put about 10 hours into the game, just about reaching the mid-point of the main story, and spending a little time dabbling in the sandbox mode. All progress you make in the game holds, even if you elect to start the main game over. This is good, not only because the difficulty curves often feel like cliffs, but because the tight time limits on both story quests and side activities can cause you to hit a hard fail state without being able to prepare for it. It feels like it’s a game you’re meant to restart so you can learn the patterns of the events of these three days in Fortune City and be able to better optimize how you spend your time.

My first major failure came from being too far from the base when a quest popped – there was just no way to get back in time once I was informed of the new quest, causing me to be locked out of the remaining main story line. I could (and did) just revert to an earlier save, making it so I only had to redo a few hours versus the entire story. In addition to the tight timeline, DR2: OTR also makes use of a checkpoint system and limited save points; you’ll need to find a restroom if you want to have an actual save point to reload, but the checkpoints give you an autosave at most story beats and area transitions, so recovering from a death isn’t so bad provided you don’t exit the game.

I thought it might just be a case of both having been away from the series awhile, as well as having played the fourth game (which is by miles the easiest) most recently, but I was surprised by how punishing the game was. However, the general consensus is that this game is near the top when it comes to difficulty in the series, with only the first game being more demanding. Of course, the ability to play in sandbox mode, as well as to carry over progress into new saves means that you can – eventually – overpower the story.

However, that’s not nearly where I’m at now. I’ve hit a jump where I realize I’m going to either need to restart the story again or spend a lot of time leveling up in the sandbox to – personally – feel ready to take on what the game is throwing at me, and with the end of the month so close now, I realize I won’t even come close to completing this one in time to do a Game Over.

In fact, my plan is currently to take a few days off, and then restart the story with my bigger, buffer Frank West, and see if I can save a few more people along the way.

Quick Look – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (#CapcoMonth)

#CapcoMonth has not been great for me. My initial choice – Resident Evil 4 – made me sick, literally. I have never had motion sickness like that from a game, but apparently, it’s somewhat common for people playing the PC port. So I decided to wholly switch gears, and play a game I’d been really looking forward to – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

I really really wanted to like it, but I petered out midway through the third case.

I’ve always maintained that – at least for me – story is more important than gameplay, and in most cases, that’s absolutely true. I can put up with some really dull gameplay. What I don’t have a much patience for is fiddly gameplay that feels like it just doesn’t respect your time.

Maybe I would have felt differently if I had been playing this on a mobile platform instead of PC – I find myself more tolerant of pokey games when I’m comfy in bed. But by the third case, I was playing with a walkthrough up on my second screen, and the continual (and immensely slow) back and forth of the investigation sections finally made me realize, I just didn’t care enough to go through any more of them.

Which is a shame because I did enjoy the courtroom sections well enough, despite them also feeling pretty slow and finicky at times. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a game that revels in its profound ridiculousness, and it honestly makes the whole thing fairly interesting, especially since I frequently found myself unsure of where it was going to take me next. I could overlook the repetitive nature of reading through the full testimony before the chance to cross-examine, and I think perhaps even something as simple as a direct travel option between locations might have kept me playing. But going from the gate, to the employee area, and then through four screens to the trailer, and then back through those same four screens to the employee area for a fetch quest that would take me back to – you guessed it – the trailer was the breaking point for me. I didn’t want to go on.


That said – #CapcoMonth still isn’t over! With a little over a week left, I’ve decided to revisit the Dead Rising series. I have completed the main story of all four games, but I never did more than dabble in Dead Rising 2: Off the Record – my first attempt was right after completing Dead Rising 2, and that story was still too fresh in my mind to want to basically play it through a second time. Now, I’m a couple years off having played the game for the first time, so it seems like the perfect time to revisit it.

I’m not sure if I’m going to get through the whole thing in the time remaining, but we’ll see how far I can get.

Going Nowhere During #WayForwardMarch

Well, at least I can say I tried, right? Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse looks absolutely adorable, but it’s way too platform-y for me. I tried with the keyboard; I tried with the controller. I thought that maybe – just maybe – I was going to be able to poke my way through at least a bit of the game. And then:

Yes, this was the screen that did me in – I could get up one platform, usually make it to the topmost one, but that jump to the one on the bottom right? That one wasn’t happening. Over and over I went into the water, and former genies apparently cannot swim at all. AT ALL.

So back to my library I went to see what else I could find.

Now, Bloodrayne Betrayal is also more platform-y than I tend to prefer, but it’s the style of platformer that says “Oh, you missed? Try again.” rather than “Oh, you missed? DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE.”

What’s going to kill you here is the combat, which hey, that’s to be expected when people are charging you over and over trying to kill you. At first, it didn’t seem like there were any sort of save points, although thankfully there were checkpoints aplenty for all the times I died. However, I eventually got through the entire first “chapter” in a single sitting only to be greeted with this.

Okay, okay, I get it, I’m terrible. I probably could plow through the game given enough time and patience, but I don’t see a world in which I’d get a passing grade on any of the chapters.

Since I had one more WayForward game in my library (and no, I have no idea how I have come to have so many games that are decidedly Not For Me in my library), and in case the third time was the charm, I decided to give it one more shot with A Boy and His Blob.

And this one is – without a doubt – charming. The opening scene is gorgeous, and both the art and the music are just warm and comforting, but man, this game tells you NOTHING. Not a thing. I kind of wandered around, looking for sparkles to indicate that I was going in the right direction, and trying to avoid the black slime critters that insta-kill you on touch. I found my adorable little blob-friend, and played a bit to try out the jellybean-inspired transformation mechanics.

Unfortunately, although this one leans more puzzle than platformer, I just couldn’t get invested. Cute will only take you so far, and I didn’t even know this was a remake, so no nostalgia for me. It plays slow, and I never was really sure why I was doing anything that I was doing. I didn’t feel clever, and I didn’t really care what was going to happen next.


While it’s possible I didn’t give any of these games enough time (all told, I spent about an hour and a half combined on all three games), my library is vast, and although I can see the appeal of all three games, none of them are the right game for me. I have completely stalled out during #WayForwardMonth, and I’m okay with that.

Game Over – Best Friend Forever – #DatingSiMonth

Put dogs in something, and I’m going to at least be interested, if not immediately grabbing my wallet. So despite not being a huge fan of dating sims in general, I knew from the minute I first heard about Best Friend Forever, I’d need to give it a playthrough eventually. I played the demo during one of the Steam Game Festivals last summer, but I only got around to actually picking up the game a couple weeks ago.

Now, I read reviews before diving in, but logically, I would think that adding management aspects to a dating sim would increase the length. Not so here. A full play through took me just under two hours, and really, there wasn’t much I could have done differently to pad out that time. This is fine if you’re the type of person who replays dating sims multiple times to romance all the available characters, or to hunt for any bits of story the first play through might have denied you.

Unfortunately for me, picking a different dog to adopt holds more interest for me than pursuing a different romance route, and the dog choice is mostly cosmetic. The character I chose to date for my play through was the only one who felt right – in part due to my personal tastes, and in part, because there are only six characters to choose from! While I think it’s absolutely fantastic that you can choose your gender, and it doesn’t lock you out of any of the romance paths, none of the other characters really appealed to me, even if I were to disregard gender. It sounds like I’m complaining, and ok, I am, a little bit, but I was absolutely satisfied with the story route I chose. It was a great romance! There just … isn’t much left for me after playing the game through once.

For anyone hoping for deep management mechanics, you won’t find those here. Training your dog is simple, as is caring for them, once you figure out how the fiddly bits work. The interactable events during story blocks are a neat addition, but it really does amount to a bit of flavor. Now, it’s a flavor I like a lot, but there isn’t a whole lot of strategy going on here unless you’re chasing achievements or have your heart set on your new pooch graduating at the absolute top of his or her class. I’m sure it’s possible to fail puppy parenting classes, but I think you’d have to work a whole lot harder at that than you do at succeeding.

At first, you might think that motivation points are going to feel restrictive, but that wasn’t my experience – of course, I wasn’t feeling out different romanceable characters, so someone else might find it unpleasant not to be able to pursue every possible encounter. I appreciated that I needed to make choices, although the ability to spend time with everyone every week certainly would have increased the play time, but I think that would really be detrimental to the pacing.

My only other gripe would be the plot point you’re hit with after the second major event; I’m not sure what I was expecting as far as resolution for it, but it felt kind of cheap to toss in a moment of “bad things just happen sometimes” if it wasn’t a mystery that would end up being solved.

Best Friend Forever isn’t a perfect game, but it was a nice way to spend an evening. I likely won’t return to it unless it gets significant upgrades or DLC, so I’m glad I waited for a discount to pick it up. If you like dogs, dating sims, and a mostly light, fun story, I don’t know there’s much else out there that quite scratches this itch.