Quick Look – Midnight Protocol (#JustOnePercent 91/100)

Developer: LuGus Studio
Release Date: October 13, 2021
MSRP: $14.99


I’m honestly not sure if it’s unusual or not, but for someone who’s so very much attached to her computer (and has been for most of her life), I have never really had much interest in programming. Because of this, hacking games have never held much appeal for me – sure, it’s a cool concept in the abstract, but I always figured I’d have to know something about how to talk to computers to have it not just be a big ol’ confusing mess. While I won’t say that Midnight Protocol makes hacking simple, it wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as I had feared.

You play as Data, a pretty serious hacker who has just recently – and just barely – gotten away with it. A friend sets you up on a pretty basic system, and you’re ready to jump back into the game. Since your skills might have atrophied a little while you were locked up, they give you a couple of easy tasks to get you back on your sneaky cyber-feet, as it were.

The tutorial is maybe a little slow paced for people familiar with the basic concepts involved in hacking games, but it was just about perfect for me. By default the game is turn-based (although you have the option to change that to real time once you complete the tutorial for the first time), and on each turn, you get two actions. After each turn, the system makes an effort to trace you, and you are definitely going to want to accomplish your mission and get out before it does.

Each tutorial mission teaches you something else about the game, whether that be additional types of moves you can make, different nodes you might encounter while hacking, or more complex things you may run into which are trying to stop you from doing whatever it is you’re in the system to do. I can only speak for myself, but I made a lot of mistakes, even in the earliest levels, partially because I’m impatient, and also partially because I didn’t find the mechanics to be super-intuitive.

The graphics are super simple, but it really fits the aesthetic. The story is drip-fed to you, and once you complete the tutorial, you’ll find yourself doing missions to kill time between the arrival of emails which push things forward. For me, that’s where I started to lose interest; I just wasn’t invested enough in the game play to want to have to replay side missions over and over until I got them right. The missions are short enough, and it doesn’t take terribly long to reboot a mission gone wrong, but I just wasn’t jazzed enough about what I had seen to want to keep going.

I can’t say that I disliked Midnight Protocol, and it’s a game I might someday wander back to. Unfortunately I don’t have any basis for comparison to tell if it’s a “good” hacking game or not. What I can say is that it felt straightforward enough that if I get a sudden urge to play a hacking-focused game, this is one I would likely return to rather than looking for something else to scratch the itch.


SteamDB estimates that Midnight Protocol has sold between 5,800 and 16,000 copies on Steam. It’s currently got a Very Positive Steam rating, with the players who wouldn’t recommend it mostly referencing the random nature of the probability based gameplay elements and the missions that have hard turn limits as reasons they didn’t care for it. It is ranked 1131 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Epic Chef

I’ll play just about anything where cooking is a major game mechanic. Epic Chef is part of the October 2022 Humble Choice, and while it wasn’t my top choice for the bundle, there was no doubt that I was part of the target audience for this one, so I volunteered to take a loot at it for UnwiseOwl’s group review post. The game has no DLC, and is regularly priced at $24.99, although it’s been marked down as low at $9.99.


Let’s start with the elephant in the room, shall we? Epic Chef has a very distinctive art style that may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It certainly isn’t my cup of tea. Every humanoid you encounter feels like someone took a 3D model and squished it. All of their heads are nearly the same size as the rest of their bodies. To me, it’s almost a bit creepy, which is unfortunate, because I like the look of just about everything else in the game, but man, the people just feel wrong.

But there is more to a game than the art, which brings me to the next thing I kind of feel like I should definitely talk about. Epic Chef desperately wants to be funny. It wants you to guffaw your way through the game. For me, the humor was hit or miss, but in the first hour, I encountered at least one gag that some people might find very offensive. If you’re uncomfortable with humor around religion (specifically Christianity), you might want to just give this one a pass.

Since I seem to have decided to take the tack of covering the game’s major cons first, I’ll wrap up with the thing that put me off the game – the save system. This is one of those games that only lets you save when you sleep, and to make that extra annoying, it restricts you from sleeping unless it’s at least a certain time of day.

This might not be so bad, but the days can be long especially as the game is still teaching you things. I lost almost half an hour of progress because I assumed that going to sleep would be the thing to trigger the save point. In fact, it appears that waking up triggers it instead, and on the second night, you will be woken up before a full night sleep so that the game can drop more plotline on you. Seeing as I’d been trying to save and quit for several minutes already, I exited the game and was brought back to the first full day of play – a day that’s full of little tutorial quests I wasn’t particularly enthused to have to repeat.

While I realize it’s a lot of potentially polarizing elements, there’s a pretty neat little life sim game here. You’ve bought a (possibly) haunted mansion in the town of Ambrosia, and in this weird little town, cooking is king. Not only is it one of the main ways of making money, it’s a pretty key component of settling conflicts. You’ll likely win your first cooking contest handily, but it will also attract the attention of the local culinary guild, who’ll pay you a visit and inform you that you’re required to pay a fairly steep registration fee if you plan to cook professionally – which you obviously plan to do!

In order to make enough money to pay the fee (and also, to get yourself a real bed instead of a wooden board), you can choose to grow crops, forage and gather, or do quests for the inhabitants of Ambrosia. If you’ve played farming-focused life sims in the past, the mechanics will all feel pretty familiar, although the cooking part is fairly unique, in that you’re looking to create synergies, stir at just the right moment to collect maximum flavor elements without sacrificing a scrumptious aroma, and taking care not to overcook anything. The explanations aren’t super-clear, but new concepts are introduced slowly enough that you shouldn’t get overwhelmed.

I don’t know if Epic Chef is a game I’ll be going back to anytime soon, mostly because of the stingy save points, because I’m of the opinion that any game that forces you play more than 15 minutes or so without an opportunity to save doesn’t fit my life. However, I was enjoying it enough that without this particular pet peeve, I probably would have stuck with it. Obviously, if you feel the same, this isn’t going to be your favorite game in this month’s Humble Choice, but if you’re okay with some vaguely unsettling character models, irreverent humor, and infrequent save points, there’s a fairly interesting game here.

Another Roadblock or What Happened to the #JustOnePercent Posts?

As I am sitting down to write this, it’s been over two full weeks since my last post for #JustOnePercent. This is quite a bit more of a significant slump than I was in the first time I talked about hitting a project block back in May. It’s not the first time I’ve dropped games, or rearranged my schedule due to other things getting in the way, but it’s definitely the largest gap I’ve had to date.

At this point, I’ll be coming up short of my monthly 12 post goal again, but even considering the games I dropped off my list last month & this month, I’m not really concerned about not finishing the project overall. I have no intention of throwing in the towel.

Instead, I thought I’d write a little about each of the games I passed over. In truth, the primary reason was that life got in the way, but I did manage to play at least a little of four of the five games I originally had planned to write about. The one I skipped entirely got dropped due to being more than a year from release – I’d misread a date and only noticed it when I went to sit down and start the game.


EMBR

Developer: Muse Games
Release Date: September 23, 2021
MSRP: $19.99

This was one of the games I selected to play on the Steam Deck, and I put about half an hour in during the beginning of September. I fully expected to go back to it, but I lost track of the days, and actually sat down to play it one day after the game’s first anniversary. Sure, I could have fudged the numbers and went back to it, but I was irritated with myself, and not in the best head space, and just decided to skip this one and get the next two done.

As it turned out, my next scheduled game was Dandy Ace, which was released on Steam in March of 2021, not in September at all. Discovering this when I was already feeling overextended and frustrated pretty much put the nail in the coffin of September posts for me. I decided to take a few days break, to clear my head, and try to get one last post done before the end of the month.


Heliopedia

Developer: Sokpop Collective
Release Date: October 12, 2021
MSRP: $4.99

Overall, I’ve really liked all the the games I’ve played from Sokpop Collective. They are usually a simple concept, well-executed, and don’t tend to be obtuse or overstay their welcome. It’s entirely possible this is also true of Heliopedia, but I just couldn’t figure it out. I had no idea what the game wanted me to do, really. But given my condition at the time I attempted to play, I really can’t tell you if this was all me, all the game, or something in between – which seems most likely. Most of the last week of September for me was straight up exhaustion, and I did very little that I didn’t absolutely have to do.

Again, I elected to not push myself, as I knew that I would be doing a disservice both to myself and to the game, and vowed to do better with the new month coming, and most of the things that had been complicating my life and sapping my energy having been resolved.


Raccoon Arrival

Developer: Julian Fokin
Release Date: October 12, 2021
MSRP: $7.99

Well, I did say most of the things. I attempted to play Raccoon Arrival the night before the day I had scheduled to post about it. I knew it was supposed to be a walking sim with light puzzle and collection elements. I knew it was supposed to take about an hour to complete. I was ready to play through to the credits.

Less than 10 minutes in, I was completely stuck. I’m not sure if I screwed something up and soft-locked myself, or if I was missing something super obvious, but I could not progress. It was too soon for me to be really invested, and too close to having struggled with the last couple of games I didn’t get done in time. I put it aside, promised myself I’d start fresh and try again.

I did not start fresh and try again. I sat down, started moving things around to see if I could finagle being behind schedule-wise, and eventually decided to skip this one and move directly onto the next game on the list.


Changes

Developer: Et Al Games
Release Date: October 12, 2021
MSRP: $9.99

For what was now the fifth time in a couple of weeks, Changes had me questioning if maybe my brain fog had gotten to the point where not only could I not manage to write about gaming anymore, but perhaps I couldn’t even figure out basic puzzle games anymore. I usually do fairly well with puzzlers that don’t tell you what to do and instead leave you to figure it out. Not so here. Even after reading the rules, I was struggling to navigate the menus, never mind actually complete the puzzles.

I feel like if a game isn’t going to explain things, it has to have crystal clear precision with its user feedback. If I can’t tell if the thing I just did was good or bad, helpful or not, it becomes nearly impossible to figure out what the game is requiring of me. This probably wouldn’t have been a satisfying gaming experience for me on my best day, and it certainly wasn’t my best day when I was playing it.


None of these games got the time it deserved, or a very good version of me as the player. In every one, there was something I liked, and something I wasn’t crazy about, but even not being 100% on task, I could see why people like them. That said, the best thing I could do for myself at the time was to put every single one back into the library, and resume project gaming when I felt like I was ready.

I’m nearly there now – I’ve been getting better rest, and starting to tackle a lot of things that I had to let slide over the past month or so. The rest of this week is heavily scheduled for project posts, as well as two quick looks from the October 2022 Humble Choice. I won’t be keeping to my preferred schedule, but I think I’m climbing up the other side of this particular roadblock, and hopefully, it’ll be a smooth ride from here to the finish line.

Steam Next Fest – October 2022 Edition – Part Two

Can’t get enough quick looks at demos? Here’s a bunch more I tried out during Next Fests this year.


Park Story maybe wasn’t going to be up my alley anyway, but the demo for this one really irritated me. The first thing that the game asks you to do is follow a cat, which disappears behind a tree, never to be seen again. At least not by me. I was hoping this one would be great on the Steam Deck, and I love me some puzzles and friendly ghosts, but with its release date right around the corner, I feel like I shouldn’t have gotten soft-locked in the demo in the first couple of minutes.

Pets Hotel is another game I really wanted to like, but the default settings on this one made me motion sick. It’s too bad, because the graphics are pretty good, and I am a sucker for games where you tend to adorable animals.

Aquatico is an absolutely beautiful city builder that takes place entirely underwater. It looks like it might take some time to really get all the mechanics, and I wish the tutorial section gave me a little less freedom and a little more guidance. Still, I can see myself losing a lot of time to this one, especially if it has scenario-based gameplay, and isn’t just a sandbox.

Dredge is a horror fishing game, and that alone earned it a place on my wish list. There’s something weird going on around this tiny island, and your job is to catch enough fish to feed the people, make enough money to improve your boat, and never ever get caught out in the open water after dark. I’ve got mixed feelings about the packing-style inventory puzzle that limits how many fish you can bring back per trip, but everything else about the game so far really appeals to me.

Undecember is an ARPG that looks phenomenal, but everything else just seems a bit bland. Since it is also a mobile game, I’m interested to see if it comes with a purchase price on release, or if not, what monetization strategy it’ll employ. Given that this isn’t my favorite genre, and nothing about the gameplay blew me away, I won’t be rushing to grab this one in a few days when it becomes available.

Post-apocalyptic colony sim Floodland was probably my favorite demo experience this time around. I expect it to be complex, and the learning curve to be steep, and I’m still 100% here for it. Just playing through the tutorial scenario was fantastic, and I had to force myself to stop playing, since full release isn’t too far off now.

Steam Next Fest – October 2022 Edition – Part One

We’re right now in the latter half of the third Steam Next Fest of 2022, and this time around, I’m mostly just wishing that game demos would make more of a comeback outside of these limited time events. I’ve only selected twelve titles to look at this time around, but man, it was a struggle to pare it down so far. However, since I am behind on absolutely everything right now, I knew I had to be selective.

If you’re curious about the other Next Fest posts I’ve made this year, I’ll drop some links for you.


If you mixed up some Dorfromantik with some Islanders, you might end up with something pretty close to Reefland. You get random tiles with which to “paint” your island, and you’ll need to be mindful of what types of buildings you connect with each other, and where your natural resources are located. It’s a neat concept, and very pretty, but I’m not sure that for me it is different enough from other games I already own I haven’t played as much of as I would like.

Right & Down is a super simple dungeon-crawler concept. Each level is a game board, and you can only move either to the right or down to reach the exit on the opposite corner. Sounds simple enough, but different abilities come into play with the correct series of moves. Do you skip that healing potion to the right and move down and complete your spell cast? It’s got an ultra-casual coffee break vibe, but I can see this being a compulsive one-more-run sort of game.

Full disclosure: I backed Wanderlost on Kickstarter, so knowing I was going to be playing this eventually, I didn’t want to spend too long on the demo. This zombie-survival game feels like it still might need some balancing, and it would definitely benefit from an interactive tutorial. The demo goal is to survive for 5 days – I didn’t even make it one before getting eaten by a crocodile!

While I find they’re better suited for mobile gaming than PC, I’ve played (and enjoyed) a bunch of Doodle God games. However, I’m not sure that Doodle God Universe brings anything new to the table – it’s pretty, but it felt awfully familiar. The 3D renders on the planet are pretty, and the little minigames you unlock by creating some resources are kind of fun, but I’ve always felt that this franchise is way overpriced on PC, and I don’t expect this iteration to be any different, so I’m not likely to pick this one up until it shows up in a bundle.

I almost skipped Potionomics entirely, despite the fact that I very much would like to run a magical potion shop. However, this game suffers from the inclusion of a card game haggle system that – for me – added nothing to the game play. I played the demo through to completion, but found it a bit tedious, so I’ll likely be giving this one a pass.

Diluvian Winds was my favorite game of this first half dozen. You step into the role of a lighthouse keeper, who feeds and houses travelers in exchange for work. Each day, you’ll have the opportunity to assign tasks, such a building or gathering, and each night, you’ll need to feed your workers and tend the lighthouse fires. It’s a neat management concept with adorable animal friends, and a charming art style. This one is definitely staying on my wishlist.

In Review – September 2022

  • Twelve posts for the #JustOnePercent Project
  • At least six posts unrelated to the #JustOnePercent Project.
  • Work up a list of pre-expansion goals for World of Warcraft.
  • Reactivate my World of Warcraft subscription.
  • Read / listen to any three books.
  • Pick up at least one core rulebook for a rule-light TTRPG system.
  • Finish up current stitching project.
  • Decide on my next two stitching projects and order supplies.
  • Figure out if there’s enough new-to-me stuff on Netflix to justify restarting my subscription.
  • Plan at least six Discord events, with at least one being a new type of event.

Until I sat down to do this, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to cross off a single line item for September. This was an absolute disaster of a month for me, full of health issues, a lot of stress in our household and with extended family. Our car finally hit the point where it was no longer safe to drive, and with everything else going on, we realized we really couldn’t afford to be without transportation for several months, so there was scrambling for a replacement car. All of this was on top of the last couple weeks of September and the first week or so of October being insanely busy for us anyway.

To top it all off, we took in a cat that had belonged to an elderly relative that passed away this month, and I would love to pay the pet tax and show you a photo, but she’s barely come out of hiding when anyone was around. She is eating, drinking, and using her litter box, so we’re trying to play it cool and let her adjust at her own pace, but we plan to continue efforts to integrate her into the household this month.

Instead, you get a photo of the new-to-us temporary car we’re planning to drive throughout the winter until we can get the new car we actually want ordered and it arrives. Guess we’re still on gas-powered for a few more months while we figure out the details. Still, we’re super grateful that a friend of ours was getting rid of their old car, and that it needed only minor work to be road-worthy.

September was a lot y’all, and I’m not at all sorry it’s over.


GAMING

Data taken from ManicTime.

#JustOnePercent

The nine games I covered in September were Milo and the Magpies, Tiny Robots Recharged, The Artful Escape, Kraken Academy, I Am Fish, Gas Station Simulator, Gamedec, Guild of Ascension, and If On A Winter’s Night Four Travelers. I played I Am Fish and Guild of Ascension for less than one hour, so they are absent from the chart above.

Continuing to be slightly ahead in the beginning of the month is probably the only reason I didn’t completely botch keeping up with project stuff this month. I spent the first four days of the month down with a stomach bug, but I thankfully had the first two project posts pre-scheduled. After that, posting started to get spotty, and a couple of times I really found myself scrambling. I never really got my rhythm back during the entire month, and I ended up dropping the last three titles completely (although one – Dandy Ace – shouldn’t have been included in the first place as I noted down the date it was released on Game Pass rather than the date it was released on Steam).

I did a complete play through of both Milo and the Magpies and If On A Winters Night Four Travelers. I had intended to also go back after I did the post and complete The Artful Escape but it was removed from Game Pass before I got a chance to go back to it.

The biggest surprise of the month was how much I enjoyed Gas Station Simulator, considering it was a title I wasn’t overly interested in. It’s significantly more frantic than most of the simulation titles I’ve played recently, and I think that really worked in its favor.

Non-Project Gaming

I played a lot of World of Warcraft in the beginning of the month in an attempt to get myself up to raid requirements when we had a shortage of people for our first raid in September, so it was no surprise to me that it took the top spot of the month. However, having Disney Dreamlight Valley following it closely was a bit unexpected. This was totally a game I installed to try out, intending to play just long enough to fight the FOMO and confirm I wasn’t into it. Apparently, I was into it; despite not being overly interested in the decorating and fashion aspects, I have been enjoying the quests, gathering and farming parts of the game. It’s very low-key, which has been perfect for the night’s I’ve been too worn out to do much thinking, but when I didn’t just want to watch TV.

I also spent more time than I had expected to when I re-started Shapez. I planned to play just enough to get some screenshots and see the changes for my post for the group Humble Choice review. Instead, I played for almost 20 hours – although at least some of that was idle time. I remembered really liking the game, but I had forgotten how satisfying the A-ha! moments in it can be.

The only times I’ve picked up my Steam Deck this month were to either play project games or install things I thought I wanted to play, but lost interest in actually playing before the install was even finished. Yep, the whole month was like that – I feel like I was either all in or all out, and I was mostly all out.

Gaming Related Spending

Although I had three subscriptions this month (Humble Choice, Game Pass, and World of Warcraft), September was only a moderately spendy month. I grabbed a BYO Bundle on Fanatical for a whopping $3, and then spent another $15 on the Humble Career Break Bundle. My last pickup for the month was an impulse buy of Slipways on a recent sale, which, you guessed right, I have yet to even open, although I did install it both on my desktop and my Steam Deck. Overall, I spent $68 this month on my gaming hobby.

EVERYTHING ELSE

READING: I bought the FATE Core System rulebook from Drivethru RPG right at the end of August, and once I finished devouring that, I didn’t touch another book in any format for the rest of the month, although I did listen to an Actual Play on YouTube which I enjoyed quite a bit, and which helped solidify that if I do decide to run any kind of table top game in the nearish future, it’ll be in the FATE system. I like that it will work for a variety of settings with a bit of tweaking, and I’ve even made my own fillable character sheet with slightly edited skills, but I haven’t found the motivation or energy to even do a sample character creation session. It’s on my list, it’s just not at the top just yet.

Believe it or not, that’s the entirety of what else I did this month. On the one hand, it makes sense then that my gaming hours were up; I barely touched any of my other hobbies. I did get some stitching supplies ordered and organized, but I didn’t touch either of my current projects, nor did I set up either of the next couple. With so much else going on, and with stress having a pretty severe detrimental effect on my vision lately, it just wasn’t worth the frustration this month.

Over the last couple of days, I have started attempting to rebuild my routines and catch up on my sleep, so I’m looking forward to a more enjoyable October.

Nerd Girl Goals – October 2022

Now that autumn is well and truly here, spooky season is most definitely upon us, and I have dragged my sorry butt through the nightmare that was September, I am – at least mostly – ready to get myself back on this horse. With a new month, comes new goals, and I’m not going to dwell on last month’s failures, at least not until tomorrow’s post.


GAMING

#JustOnePercent

Planned games for the #JustOnePercent Project for October are Raccoon ArrivalChanges, Midnight Protocol, They Always Run, Grotto, Evil Genius 2: World Domination, Subway Midnight, At Eve’s Wake, Dogs Neatly Organized, To The Rescue: A Dog Shelter Simulator, Time Loader, and Dysmantle.

Assuming everything goes according to plan, I will do post #100 of this project towards the very end of October, which will technically finish the project, although I do still plan to cover another dozen games in November before calling it quits. Quite a significant portion of October’s games are things I grabbed in bundles, with a single Game Pass game, one on Utomik, and a few I picked up individually. This month, I’m hoping to play Subway Midnight, Dogs Organized Neatly, and Time Loader on the Steam Deck.

World of Warcraft

With the release of Dragonflight just announced to be November 28, 2022 and the pre-patch likely coming before the end of October, I’ve realized that I am probably going to have to let go of some of the things I wanted to wrap up in the twilight of Shadowlands. However, with the Winds of Wisdom buff also announced to be making a return from October 4th until the arrival of the pre-patch, I think this would be the best time to work on some character leveling.

I plan to prioritize my priest, warrior and demon hunter to finish filling out my stable of professions for Dragonflight. So far, I have five characters who are currently sitting at 60, so finishing three more would leave me with two characters who’ve reached Shadowlands content (mage and hunter), and two that are lagging far behind (monk and rogue). I expect that it won’t be a stretch to get three more characters through the current expansion content with 3-4 weeks of the experience buff, so that’s where I’ll set this goal.

I’d also like to finish all the shenanigans to obtain Dead Blanchy (if for no other reason than to get all the ghost horse related stuff out of my bags), as well as continue working through The Ember Court on my warlock. I’d also like to start cleaning up the basic Shadowlands-specific achievements that became way easier with some extra gear and a flying mount.

Other Gaming

There’s definitely other gaming-related things I’d like to do in October, but I really haven’t had the time over the past few weeks to really sit down and plan ahead like I usually do, so I’m going to keep the goals fairly general. I do plan to check out a game or two for the group review of October’s Humble Choice (spearheaded by UnwiseOwl). I’d also like to play and write about a couple of different spooky, horror, or Halloween-themed games during the month. I’m also planning to check out at least a handful of demos from the latest iteration of Steam Next Fest, which is slated to begin in just a few days.


Other Nerdstuff

Reading

For the first time all year, I am behind my annual reading goal, which I’m more annoyed about than I should be. I’d like to get through six books in October to not just get caught up, but every so slightly ahead again. I’m likely going to have to spend some time with either paper books or ebooks to make up the deficit, since I can read a whole lot faster than I can be read to.

Stitchcraft

This is another category where I’m not where I would like to be, so I really just want to make some progress on something this month, as well as order the last of my supplies for next years giant project and get everything all organized. I’ve still got two projects in progress, and two on deck, and I want them all done and in their new homes before the end of the year so I can go into 2023 with a mostly clean crafting slate.

Watching

Yet again, I’m somewhat stymied by the lack of preparation, but October is usually a pretty hefty watch month for me. Since I’m not sure what I’m going to have access to, this is again going to be sort of general. I’d like to watch at least one new-to-me season of something horror, re-watch one of my go to horror movie series, watch at least one new-to-me contemporary horror movie, as well as one new-to-me classic. I don’t see myself getting out and doing any Halloween activities this year, but I will do my best to make up for it in my pajamas with popcorn.

Krikket’s Clubhouse

I plan on bringing back the watch parties this month, which might just mean I’m watching scary movies on my computer alone every Monday night, and I’m pretty okay with that. For the most part, I plan to pick movies I watch pretty much annually, with the exception of the 2022 version of Scream, which I’ve been meaning to watch and haven’t gotten around to.

I also picked up a Halloween-themed mystery escape room game that can be played online, so I’ll be doing that at some point in the month.

I am still trying to mix up the types of events I schedule, in hopes of luring some lurkers in to participate, but at least for the next few weeks, I really feel like I should be sticking to things that are low-key, low-pressure, and bring me joy personally.


IN SUMMARY

While I want to do a lot this month, not all of it is a good fit for my bulleted list format. Which is probably for the best, since it would be nice to be able to check most things off when November rolls around.

  • Twelve posts for the #JustOnePercent Project
  • At least four posts unrelated to the #JustOnePercent Project
  • Finish leveling three more characters in World of Warcraft (priest, warrior, demon hunter)
  • Participate in the group review of the October Humble Choice.
  • Play & post about at least one horror game.
  • Play at least four demos from the October 2022 Steam Next Fest.
  • Read any six books.
  • Schedule at least four horror movie watch parties.
  • Order the remaining supplies for my 2023 stitching project, and get the floss carded.

Game Over – If On A Winter’s Night, Four Travelers (#JustOnePercent 90/100)

Developer: Dead Idle Games
Release Date: September 21, 2021
MSRP: Free with optional supporter pack ($3.99)


Given the size of my gaming library, it probably isn’t very surprising that I don’t often hunt around for free titles to play. I’ve picked out a handful of free titles to play as part of this project, and I’ve been mostly pleased by the quality of these games. In fact, I’ve had more success overall with games that are freely available for download than I have with some of the bargain basement paid titles I’ve picked up over the past several months.

If you enjoy point and click adventure stories, gothic horror, and pixel art, you should go and immediately download If On A Winter’s Night, Four Travelers. The game is fairly short – I finished in under two hours – but it’s very well put together. I played on my Steam Deck, and there were only a couple of parts where it was fiddly with having to manually activate the onscreen keyboard, and two instances where the item I was trying to find was almost too small to see on the reduced screen size.

The game is set on a train where people who don’t seem to know one another at all are exchanging stories of the last things that they remember. Clearly, this is not your average train trip; in fact, it appears to be some sort of masquerade affair, as the characters are all masked. As you play through each character’s flashback, you learn a bit about their backstories.

To say too much more about the story would definitely spoil the game, so I’ll refrain. However, I do want to make clear, this is, in a lot of ways, a horror game. There are a few very shocking scenes, and in a couple of places it’s almost unbelievably gory considering the art style.

The game play is pure classic point and click adventure, full of puzzles and pixel hunting. Unless you have a good memory, there are a handful of places that having a pen and paper (or taking notes in another window) will come in handy. There are no wild adventure-game-logic leaps you’ll need to make, but you most definitely will benefit from touching everything you can and keeping track of the information the game gives you.

If On A Winter’s Night, Four Travelers is the first title from Dead Idle Games available on Steam, but their two prior games can are available on Itch.io. Even with such a compact story to tell, I think the game certainly could justify a small purchase price, and there is an option to purchase a supporter’s pack to give a few dollars to the developers. Overall, this is a pretty solid title for a two-person team, and worth a play through for anyone who enjoys dark adventure games and has a couple of hours to dedicate to it.


SteamDB estimates that If On A Winter’s Night, Four Travelers has been downloaded between 24,800 and 68,300 times on Steam. More impressively, it’s only gotten a small handful of negative reviews. These few folks have pointed to rather trite writing and a recycled plot, as well as pacing issues. It is ranked 138 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Guild of Ascension (#JustOnePercent 89/100)

Developer: WhileOne Productions
Release Date: September 21, 2021
MSRP: $14.99


Guild of Ascension is not a game that was on my radar until it was given away as part of Prime Gaming back in April of this year. Even still, I wasn’t too enthused – “Tactical-Action-RPG with rogue-like elements” feels like someone took a bunch of buzzwords and mashed them together without any thought of how that would actually play. Now, having played it, I feel like it missed on almost every front – it’s barely an RPG, and there isn’t much of anything tactical about it. It’s a grid-based action combat dungeon crawler that would be probably far too easy if it didn’t get in its own way so much.

The game starts you off with two characters, and the only “customization” you get is choosing a starting weapon. I selected a bow, and a sword & board, which meant passing on the hammer. I don’t gravitate towards melee pretty much ever, and I would have liked to see a magic user or a stealthy choice. The tutorial is overly long without actually teaching you much, but I figured it’d start to make sense as I went into the tower and fought actual battles.

Instead of quests, you have “requests”, which you will likely complete without even trying. When you first enter a tower run, you are deposited in a campfire area, which you can return to at any time to use potions, eat food, and consume your experience points in order to level up your character. When you level up, you’re given the choice of improving aggression, defense, or taking a balanced or custom route. I wasn’t invested enough to play around with custom point distribution, because by the time I spent experience for the first time, I’d already figured out that the difference between winning and losing basically was going to come down to correct facing.

There was nothing that I liked about the combat, and since that’s the majority of the game, I wasn’t having a very good time. The game recommends a controller, but I decided to stick with keyboard and mouse. I don’t think I would have found the mechanics any more engaging using the preferred input method. Moving around the board is done with WASD, and basic attack is on left click, with charged attack on right. Once you do enough of these two types of attacks, you can use the Shift key to switch to special attacks, which did considerably more damage, but I kept forgetting existed.

The monkey wrench in the works is that the combat is still turn based, and the turns are a set length of time. Getting into position quickly is key – you can only aim ranged attacks in a straight line, and if you must be facing your target. I lost count of how many times I ran into position, forgot to turn around, and then fired my heavy attack at absolutely nothing.

Although most rooms in the tower are combat encounters, you will occasionally find merchants (who sell you upgrades called Privileges for a currency called Whishes), random events, or “challenge” rooms which aren’t challenging in the least. Wander around enough, and you’ll eventually find a key, which is used to unlock the boss room, allowing you to complete the floor. I stuck it out until I managed to kill the boss for the first time, but I already knew I wasn’t digging the gameplay loop, so I saw no reason to do it all over again, but a little bit harder. I didn’t even make it a full hour, but I’d seen all of this particular title that I wanted to.

For me, Guild of Ascension just didn’t work. I can’t point to a single part of the whole that I found to be above average, and with no story to speak of and weak narrative, there was nothing to compel me to continue on. Even loot didn’t feel rewarding – opening the large chest after an encounter should have been exciting, but I found the Privilege system underwhelming, and that was mostly what was in those boxes. Everything about this one felt like it was trying too hard.


SteamDB estimates that Guild of Ascension has sold between 820 and 2,300 copies on Steam. Those aren’t great sales numbers, but most of the reviewers liked it enough to recommend it, so it’s a genre mashup that works for some gamers. It is ranked 3691 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Industria

Today I’m going to talk a little bit about Industria, a game I added to my wishlist after playing the demo during PAX Online in 2020, as part of Unwise Owl’s group review of the Humble Choice for September 2022. Industria has no paid DLC, and retails for $19.99.


Despite having been on my wish list for quite some time, I knew I wasn’t in a big rush to pick up Industria. While I have nothing against a four-hour game, twenty dollars seemed a little steep to me for such a compact experience. Sure, the game’s store page makes it sound like a really interesting setting for an FPS, but the demo I played a couple of years ago was rough around the edges, and there wasn’t anything about it that made it a “must buy” for me. However, when it showed up in September’s Humble Choice, I jumped at the chance to be the one to give it a whirl.

Now, first person shooters aren’t my bread and butter by any means; they’re more of an occasional indulgence. When all the pieces come together, it’s a genre I can get pretty invested in. Industria has a pretty unique concept – going on a search for a missing person in a dangerous parallel dimension. However, a significant part of the early game relies a little to heavily on environmental storytelling, and doesn’t really get you invested. Then, the pacing is so very slow, and the combination meant that it just couldn’t hold my attention. If you’re only giving me four hours of game, I want to be all in right from the start.

A little more than half an hour into the game, I found myself stuck on a puzzle, and I had yet to encounter a single enemy that I had to deal with. Which is probably best, because despite picking up multiple ammo types, I also hadn’t managed to locate a gun yet. Now, I’ll allow for the possibility that I might have missed a weapon pick up; being unsure of where the game was leading me, I tended to just pick a direction and go that way until I couldn’t, but I feel like if a game is being billed as a shooter, it shouldn’t be squirreling away your first chance at a ranged weapon down a dead end corridor somewhere. You should either start with a gun, or trip over one pretty damn quickly.

I may have been a little more patient with a longer game, but knowing that playing through the entire game was going to be a fairly short affair, I found myself pretty irritated pretty much from the start. Was the lack of direction an oversight, or a deliberate choice in order to pad an extremely short play time?

Then there are the puzzles. Now, I normally don’t mind a puzzle or two in a game, even when they feel a little out of place, so they didn’t immediately turn me off. The first couple were simple enough, tiny speedbumps on the way to blasting my way through the story line.

But just as there is the first whisper of actual danger, I found myself needing to get through a gate to turn on some steam engines to power an elevator to (maybe) get to the person who ostensibly just saved my life by shooting a couple of robots. Having to hunt around for the correct chemicals to mix to be able to remove the rust on the gate mechanism was already tedious, and I had a recipe for that. Trying to figure out how to get the engines running with no instructions and no real feedback from the game was the last straw for me.

I wanted to feel the tension of being lost in a strange unknowable place. I wanted to care enough about the man I was searching for to press through the frustrating bits. I wanted to have the opportunity to shoot some baddies. That was when I realized the only thing I didn’t want to be doing was fixing the stupid steam engines, and I closed the game. I don’t expect I’ll go back to it.

Not only can I not recommend purchasing this month’s Humble Choice for Industria, I don’t even think I can in good conscience say it’s worth an install if you already plan to buy the bundle, at least not if you’re looking for a heart-pounding shooter with a good story. But if you’re looking for a slow-paced walking sim with passable graphics, questionable lighting choices, and spotty sound design in which you may have to – eventually – shoot at something, well, then this might be exactly the game you’re looking for.