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Capsule Review: Detective Grimoire

A short mystery game that has you investigating clues and interviewing suspects in a remote swamp to solve a murder. Its small scale, low complexity, and forgiving mechanics make it a solid intro to detective games. Gameplay consists mainly of visiting the various locations of the swamp, clicking on objects in the environment to inspect them for clues, and clicking on people present in each location to talk to them.

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Capsule Review: Forager

Forager borrows mechanics from a number of genres including idle games, building games, and action RPGs to create a unique mix that emphasizes resource gathering and progression based on upgrades and crafting. Chop down trees, mine metals and gems, defeat enemies, pick flowers, and so on, by clicking on the relevant nodes that spawn randomly on the map.

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Capsule Review: Squidlit

A short and simple 2D platformer that adheres to the technical limitations of the Nintendo Game Boy. Play as a squid who can walk, jump, and “ink” - hitting the jump button again in midair will shoot some ink downward, giving you a bit more air time and attacking enemies. Explore a few levels punctuated by boss fights, defeat enemies, solve a couple of puzzles, and find a couple of secrets.

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Crafting a Progression

Like many folks, I was skeptical when the early reveals of Animal Crossing: New Horizons showed that it had a significant crafting element. But when I thought about it, I started to get genuinely excited because I think crafting could be the key to solving the single biggest problem I have with Animal Crossing: its randomness.

A significant long-term appeal of mainline Animal Crossing games is customization. As you get more and more customization options like furniture and decorations and clothing and so on, you can increasingly make your own mark and express your own creativity and personality in the game’s world. The problem is that those options are doled out on a largely random schedule. You can plan to decorate your house in a particular style, but you can’t really take steps toward the goal - you mostly just have to wait and hope the relevant furniture and such becomes available. In the meantime, you make do with what you get - and even if you have most of the furniture in a theme, you might be waiting a long time for the last piece or two and have to make do with mismatched sets in the meantime.

It’s not yet clear exactly how crafting will work in New Horizons but if it follows the precedent established by other games, it could solve this cleanly. Crafting can provide a progression that allows you to actually make plans and take steps toward your goals, and often themed sets of furniture and such are all on the same tier of that progression, craftable with the same materials.

For the first time, my Animal Crossing home decor might reflect a purposeful progression rather than a random mishmosh of whatever the Nooks have deigned to sell. I like that idea a lot.

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Capsule Review: ALTER EGO: Self-Discovery Clicker Game

An idle/clicker game with visual novel elements and a handful of personality tests. Its theming and atmosphere are compelling and I can see the personality tests being interesting to many players, but the story doesn’t really go anywhere and the clicker gameplay just slows things. The idle/clicker mechanics are fairly standard.

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Time Enough for Chill

Here’s something I don’t understand - why is it so hard to find chill life-simulator (and especially farming) games that don’t have time pressure? (I complained about this before and it runs counter to best practices for making “cozy” games.)

Like, whenever I’m looking for relaxing games, Stardew Valley is always recommended. And that makes no sense to me. With the game’s short days that penalize you for being out too late, plus your slow walking speed, plus the fact that the villagers you’re supposed to befriend keep moving around throughout the day, I found it tense, not relaxing. I couldn’t freely wander around looking for someone because I was constantly aware of the ticking clock and the need to start heading home with plenty of time left on it.

When I look at other similar games, my eyes instinctively go toward the top corners of any screenshots to look for in-game clocks and I almost always find one. And I don’t get it. These games tend to also have stamina meters limiting what you can do between sleeps. Crops can usually only be watered or otherwise tended once a day. NPCs can only get one gift per day or whatever. There’s already plenty of systems to limit what the player can accomplish in an in-game day, guaranteeing the calendar will advance and the player will see birthdays and holidays and seasons. Why not let that be it, and have time advancement be under the player’s control? Why also tie in real-time pressure to punish players who aren’t thinking fast enough or planning hard enough for what is ostensibly a comfy, relaxed gaming experience?

Is it really just because everyone’s imitating Harvest Moon?

What if we did this instead: you wake up with your full stamina bar. Doing farmwork or other hard labor depletes your stamina bar, but walking around, shopping, talking to people, etc., does not. It is morning until you use up half of your stamina, at which point it becomes afternoon and everyone moves from where they are scheduled to be in the morning during that day/season to where they are scheduled for the afternoon. Once you use up all of your stamina, it becomes evening and everyone moves again. One could easily imagine townspeople manning shops and other services during the mornings and afternoons, and then in the evenings heading to the bar or park or social spaces. So you can do your shopping alongside your farmwork and such, and then once you’re done working for the day you can head into town and relax by shmoozing with the locals. And then it becomes nighttime when you go home, and when you go to bed it rolls to the morning of the next day.

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So there's a thing that games do sometimes that I...

So there’s a thing that games do sometimes that I need a better name for. It’s when totally innocuous actions that aren’t telegraphed in any way as consequential result in significant unrelated content being locked out and you don’t find out until hours later.

As nostalgic as I am for JRPGs, I feel like they are worse about this than any other genre. For example - I was lukewarm on Final Fantasy XII from the beginning, but the moment the game died for me was when I found out a few hours in that by opening a totally unremarkable chest I had locked myself out from ever obtaining the game’s most powerful weapon.

It’s a particularly brutal combination of Guide Dang It and Permanently Missable Content. I know this bothers completionists like me more than others, but it just seems so disrespectful to me. I can only think of it as the game saying “fuck you” to the player. So until I get a better name, the degree to which a game does this is its FUCKYOU index, for Flagrantly Unintuitive Conditions Keep Your Objectives Unobtainable.

#gaming #video games #completionism #Final Fantasy XII #backronym #the things you lock out if you recruit the first optional party member in Star Ocean First Departure are truly ludicrous #not only can you not get the best party member but even entering the room where it happens causes you to permanently lose another member #also you can't get the main character's best attack

Tags: Thought, TOPIC: Completionism, GAME: Final Fantasy XII

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Capsule Review: Reverie

A top-down 2D action adventure game in the Legend of Zelda mold, set in New Zealand and revolving around an invented legend based on actual Māori mythology. Play as vacationing boy Tai exploring the fictional Toromi Island, gaining new items and abilities as you explore dungeons, solve puzzles, and defeat bosses.

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