A fairly quiet week for Scanline. No excuses from us- we didn’t write much. We intend to step it up next week. Still getting back into the swing of things after my time off, and Ben- wait! I said no excuses. Gar, I am bad at this. I like excuses.
Here’s what we played this week.
Pokemon Black 2
A truth someone told me once- in elementary school, Pokemon is the coolest thing ever. Then in high school, it’s dumb stuff for babies. Then in college and beyond it’s the coolest thing ever again. My friend recently borrowed Pokemon White from another, and conversations with him got me itching to fail at Catching Them All again. I own one game (at least) from every generation of Pokemon, but the followups to Black and White never really interested me that much… I was skeptical that there would be much interesting changed given their short turnaround time.
My skepticism wasn’t entirely unfounded, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. While it is the same basic world, with the same Pokemon, there are lots of new areas, old areas have been changed or even transformed, Pokemon encounter locations have been changed, and the story is all-new, and like B/W, actually not complete garbage. More than that, though, it’s just fun to playing a Pokemon game again. To once again climb the ladder of gyms to grasp at the vault of heaven, and throw the Elite Four from their divine thrones. To be the CHAMP. We’re not there yet, but soon….
Every so often, a first-person shooter comes along that makes me wonder why it’s a shooter in the first place. Even if their weapons are unique or the virtual targets are smarter than the average bear, the wanton murder feels wholly unnecessary, rubbing against and contradicting everything else the
developer wanted to say. Of course, the alternative seems frightening at first glance; would a game built solely on exploring and interacting hold anyone’s attention, or would the “emptiness” drive players away?
Gone Home resolutely answered this question by setting me loose in a large mansion. With little
direction other than “Find out where your family went,” all of my time was spent rifling through their
home, connecting the dots myself. Though no one was around to greet me, the house was filled to the
brim with journals to read, posters to study and passages to explore. Not once did I find myself longing
for a few German guards to shoot, or evil ghosts to outwit. Instead I was enraptured by the story of this
teenaged girl and her family, following her footsteps through a period where self-published zines and girl
grunge bands were at the height of counter-culture popularity.
Gone Home is practically perfect, but its biggest strength is telling a quiet, personal story in a game
without throwing in RPGs and lightning powers. I’ve spent hours absorbing every nook and cranny of
their estate, and I’m already planning a return trip soon. Every time I hop back in, I find something that I
missed, something that makes the whole experience that much more special.
Saint’s Row the Third
With Saint’s Row IV on the horizon (Side note- disappointed by the name! After a name like “Saint’s Row the Third” I thought they would get sillier, but they went so plain!) I decided to finally properly finish up SR3. I sat down with the intention of finishing the game, and surprisingly soon thereafter, I had. The end of the game feels… abrupt? Jarring, even. I didn’t have any idea the game was over until… well, the events of the ending I got were pretty clearly the game saying “You’re done”, but the transition TO that ending was sudden. Spoilers, I guess- suddenly you’re on Mars with laser guns. Out of nowhere. It’s pretty funny, and the humor of it managed to dampen my displeasure at the story’s sudden resolution, but it still felt like the game should have been longer.
Perhaps I’m just sad because a game with so many amazing, crazy sequences- Deckers Die, the fight with Killbane, the bank heist, and more- had to finally end. Hell of a game, and I’m sure I’ll be picking up SR4.
Plants vs. Zombies 2
After the disastrous post-apocalypse gas-scavenging simulator known as The Drowning, I wasn’t excited to see that the sequel to the best tower defense game was also saddled with the free to play model. Would they start plopping me in unwinnable levels that force me to spend real money on a super plant, or using “energy points” that limit free play time to once every three hours? Thankfully, the good people at Popcap have found a way to work in-app purchases into the mix without insulting my
intelligence or ruining what made Plants vs. Zombies great in the first place.
In this time-hopping quest for an insane neighbor’s burrito, there are three money sinkholes: level unlocks, plant upgrades, and power-ups. If you’re good enough at the game, the first two will never be a problem; completing devilish bonus challenges accumulates stars that unlock the next set of levels, and opening new paths hands over the paid upgrades for free. The only cash traps left are the power ups, which offer hilarious ways to clear the whole screen (pinching heads, lightning currents, etc.) but cost far more than they’re worth.
Offering a free ride through skill has the potential to get dicey as the levels progress, possibly scaring
away the suspicious. Is an increased difficulty curve built to challenge the player, or is it meant to shake
down weaker players? Truth be told, it feels like one of the most lenient F2P models to hit the App Store, and the game itself is a smart iteration on a tried and true classic. There’s enough here to keep you occupied for a long time, provided you’re not turned off by free to play in general.
The number of fascinating things about Salty Bet is just staggering. Betting virtual money on awful AI MUGEN fighters with massively varying levels of quality while chat flips out is amazing. Trying to determine which fighter to bet on is a complex equation, with so much to consider. This character looks like garbage, so probably its AI is really shitty, but also probably the person who created it is an idiot who has no qualms with giving them a super that does a million damage, but then maybe the AI is too stupid to even use that super (I’ve seen characters do nothing but sit there and charge for an entire match, their meter long since full), and all the while the chat is full of people shouting out who you should be betting for, some of them honest and some of them trying to trick you into giving them your money.
If you talk to anyone about Salty Bet, they will always give you certain “rules”- Always Bet On DBZ, Never Bet On DBZ, All In On Swords, whatever. Let me give you the short version of what I’ve learned- it’s a hierarchy. Anything created in MS Paint is top tier, then any character from Touhou, then SNK character (except anyone with the KoFXIII tag on their name, they’re ass). Then anybody with a blade (the shorter, the better- knife users are super broken), then cutesy anime girls (danger- this one is pretty uncertain). Stay the hell away from anything DBZ. Their AI is so bad it’s actually kind of incredible.
Good luck, man. It’s a deep hole to fall into.