What day is it again?

This has been keeping me busy for the last couple of days:

I don’t know how familiar you are with Stray, but I’ve been jonesing to play it literally since the first moment I heard of it, before the PS5 even launched– it was originally talked about as, if not a launch title, something really close to it, and it just came out yesterday. I’ve got two livestreams up at the channel and I’m expecting a third Friday night; the game is short so I might finish it then or it might require one more (and then maybe another to try and snag the trophies) but I’ve been having an absolute blast with it. Even if you don’t normally follow my channel or video game YouTube in general, give this five minutes if you’re a cat person. It’s really cool.

A couple of reviews

Return of the Obra Dinn (PS4, played on PS5) was recommended to me on Twitter as a neat little mystery game that might be up my alley. I am fond of indie games that have unique looks to them, and I certainly haven’t played anything that looks like this in quite a while. For about the first half-hour or so, I hated it. The game is very obscure at first about exactly what is going on at any given moment and what you’re supposed to be doing, and the initial learning curve is steep. I beat it today after just over nine hours. The reason I didn’t post yesterday is because I sat down after dinner intending to just play a little bit and the next thing I knew it was 10:30 and my wife was asking me if I had any plans to come to bed.

The premise: It is 1807. You are … well, you’re an insurance agent, as ridiculous as that might sound, and the Obra Dinn, which had gone missing, has shown up at port in England, with all hands dead or missing. Your job is to find out what happened to them, using a weird little magic pocket watch to jump into specific moments in the past. There are 60 people to identify, between the crew and a small handful of passengers, and you must identify everyone on board and determine how they died. You have access, eventually, to all of the moments where anyone died, and you have to piece together clues using their jobs, ethnicities, associations on the ship, and dress to figure out who everyone is, and sometimes you need to trace someone back through moments of other people’s lives to figure out what happened to them.

It’s fucking fascinating. I’m going to play through it again to record a guide over the next few days. The game is four years old, so no one really needs a guide right now, there are plenty out there, but I’m going to enjoy explaining how clever I am.

Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World was also a Twitter recommend, and I started reading it the same night I started playing Obra Dinn, and so the night before I was up too late playing a video game, I was up reading the first half of a book and didn’t get to bed properly until past midnight. This is the cover to my edition but the quotes are different; mine describes the book as a cross between True Crime and Inception, and that’s about as accurate a description for the book as I could possibly imagine. It starts off as a rather gruesome police procedural/murder mystery and then before you know it Sweterlitsch has worked in time travel and the literal end of the world and “thin places” between universes and holy shit it’s a mindfuck.

This book is currently on my shortlist for the best books of 2022; I’m not a hundred percent certain it’s going to stay there, as it’ll depend on how well the book sticks with me. The first 2/3 or so are amazing and, again, I was up too late reading and blew through half of it the first time I picked it up, but one of two things happens toward the end and I’m genuinely not sure which: either Sweterlitsch sort of loses control of his narrative a bit, which has gotten quite complicated by the end, or my tendency to not be the universe’s most careful reader got the better of me and hurt the rush to the end a little bit. Or, entirely possible, both happened, but one way or another the worst thing I can say about this book is that 2/3 of it is phenomenal and it doesn’t quite stick the ending, which I figure is still worth a recommendation.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing the last couple of days. I no longer celebrate the Fourth of July, so we haven’t done anything America-related today, although my birthday is tomorrow so we had my birthday dinner tonight. I am full of pork chops and mashed potatoes and sheet cake. ‘Twas a good day.

In which I might have something, or maybe not, I dunno

I think I’ve ordered an Xbox Series X, to be picked up Friday from my local Best Buy. I’m not sure I actually believe it, though; I’m fully expecting to get to Friday afternoon with no notification that my Xbox is ready to be picked up, and the craziest bit is that I still haven’t completely convinced myself that I want one. The thing is, the new consoles have all been insanely hard to find– I literally camped at my computer and hit Reload over and over on Walmart.com to get my PS5, and for this Xbox I think I just had some phenomenally lucky timing. Assuming, again, that it’s not a hoax.

And here’s the thing: I’m going to get a Series X eventually, because of Bethesda. Microsoft bought them, and word is they’ll be exclusive to the Series X for a while, and I want to play their games. And I’m sure there’s a ton of indie stuff out there that’s Xbox-only, because I keep hearing about how good Microsoft is for indie developers. But, like, right now? Hell if I know what my first game for this thing is going to be, and it’s entirely possible that I’m going to bring it home without any plans to buy any particular games for it. There was a reason I was able to skip the entire Xbox One generation: there was never a single game that made it feel worth it to try and buy the console. Which, given that my Xbox 360 and my OG Xbox were both beloved consoles, never really made any sense to me. But, like, everything I want to play right now is on PS5. I can play Halo Infinite, I suppose, but skipping every Halo game since Halo 3 didn’t bother me any, so I think I can probably do without this one?

(Don’t come at me about which console is “better.” The better console is the one that has games I want to play. I don’t even know what a teraflop is and I don’t care which console has more of them.)

I recognize that this is the most First World Problem ever– waah waah I have the opportunity to spend hundreds of dollars of discretionary income on an expensive electronic device and I don’t know if I wannnnnnaaaaaaaaaa!!!11!11!one!!!! but it’s, like, genuinely bugging me. Right now I’m leaning more toward cancelling the thing than picking it up, which will mean that I’m not spending a ton of money right now but will still ensure that I’m spending the money later, because again, I’m going to want one of these eventually, I just don’t necessarily want it now. Like, if I come home with an Xbox Series X on Friday it’s going to have dust on it by March, I think. But … like, okay? Is that really that big of a deal? I’m taking up some extra desktop space for something that’s going to future-proof me for a while. It’s not like I don’t have the money; if anything, I’m in a better financial place right now than I’ve ever been in my life, and that’s only going to improve over the next few months unless something catastrophic happens.

At which point if they’re still hard to find I can try and flip the damn thing on eBay for $1000 or some shit like that, I suppose.

Bah.

Let’s livestream

The drywallers came in today and mudded and taped about 3/4 of the bathroom, and they’ll be back tomorrow to finish it off. Kind of impressed and kind of horrified that they’re working on Christmas Eve, but they’ll be done early, I guess. No pictures today because it just doesn’t look that different, but I think the next update might involve tile, so it’ll be a big one.

In the meantime, I’m gonna start streaming Far Cry 6 in about twelve minutes; this will be live while I’m online and you can watch a recording afterwards. Come say hi!

#REVIEW: Hoa (PS5)

I haven’t written a game review on here in a while, mostly because I’ve been confining most of my gaming to my YouTube channel, but I just finished Hoa last night and I feel like this one deserves a little bit more of a push. The Let’s Play isn’t going to run for a few weeks– the current game I’m playing is going to wrap up on the 30th and there’s a whole other game I want to play before Hoa runs, but I picked it up on sale and more or less on a whim– at $4.95, I’m willing to play ten minutes and decide I made a mistake– and it’s absolutely fucking delightful, and if you’re any kind of gamer at all you owe it to yourself to check this one out. It seems to have launched on basically every available system, so you don’t even have to have any particular device to play it.

Hoa is a platformer/puzzle game, only about two and a half hours in length– it will run five episodes when I stream it– and all of the art assets are entirely hand-drawn. It is absolutely gorgeous from start to finish, as you move through (mostly) naturalistic, wooded settings, interacting with fish and insects and other forms of wildlife along with the occasional robotic enemy. The game is divided into five or six zones, and the progression is pretty linear– you collect five butterflies in each level and then turn them in to … well, not a “boss,” because the game doesn’t have any combat at all, but a large denizen of the level, who gives you a new movement ability and sends you on to the next area. There is a story, but it’s kind of bare-bones until all the reveals come at the end, so I’m not going to spoil anything.

This is not a challenging game, and I don’t think it’s meant to be; it’s one of the few games I’ve played where I really feel like relaxation was one of the goals of the game designers, and the piano soundtrack (while occasionally a bit too loud) is just amazing. This is a great game to just play through and chill to, and it’s one of the very rare games where I feel like trying to speed-run it might be fun.

What pushes this game into territory where I’m raving about it is how it handles the ending. There is a big chase scene that is actually handled as a cutscene, which took me by surprise, but then the game does something completely unexpected once the game ends, and the way it handles revealing the parts of the story that had been opaque through endgame cutscenes is really impressive. This was a good game until the last half-hour or so and then shifted into something entirely more notable at that point, and I strongly suggest you play it yourself before watching me do it. It’s a steal at $4.95, and I wouldn’t have felt bad at all if I’d paid the full price. Definitely check it out.