marginalgloss

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About marginalgloss

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    London

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    Reading, writing, video games
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  1. The Good Place

    Yeah it's good. The new season reminds me somewhat of the better metafictional moments in Community; in the same way as that show, it is extremely self-conscious about its own indulgence of sitcom tropes, especially the clanking machinations required to introduce characters to one another. I hope it still has room left to surprise and excite by upending our expectations. I hope it gets weird. Community eventually became kind of inconsequential, but at its best it was fantastically strange.
  2. Better Call Saul

    I'm six episodes deep in the latest (fourth?) season. Funnily enough, the glacial pace, and the lack of tension/resolution in each individual episode, is exactly what I love about the show. On paper so much of what they are now covering is extremely boring, verging on the kind of 'lore' excavation that I normally wouldn't look twice at -- and there's plenty of sequences here that are deliberately intended to portray things which are dull, mundane, unremarkable -- but I still find myself utterly gripped. That we know (broadly) how it all ends doesn't bother me. I like the way the show uses its position as a prequel to open up ways of looking at and thinking about characters that the dogpiling cliffhangers of Breaking Bad didn't allow. And of course there's so much we don't know: what becomes of Jimmy/Kim, or Mike's family, or Howard. It also helps that it is consistently stunning to look at.
  3. Quitter's Club: Don't be ashamed to quit the game.

    I think I have given up on Metroid: Samus Returns for 3DS. I was tempted to pick it up at launch, but I waited quite a while so I could pick up a physical copy for under £30. I'm glad I did, and I'm slightly confounded as to how it received such overwhelmingly positive reviews on release. It is a perfectly acceptable version of a classic side-scrolling Metroid game that adds nothing to the genre and does virtually nothing to surprise or excite. You could buy all three Steamworld games on 3DS, and still have a bit of change left over, and you'd have a much better time. It plays fine. It is made very well. It looks nice, if unremarkable (and unthreatening). Some of the sound and music is what you'd want. Some of the puzzle design is good. But why bother exploring and solving the puzzles if the only reward is a paltry +3 missiles? Can't we do better than this today? It is devoid of environmental storytelling, or any meaningful sense of progression. Battling the same metroid-infected creatures every time, with only slight variations in the boss chambers, is boring. The whole thing feels strangely tired, indifferent, and humourless. I guess some of this repetition could be explained by the idea that it's essentially a remake of Metroid II for the Game Boy. Certainly if even half of what happens here was replicated on that little machine, I'd be impressed, but the 3DS version does nothing so impressive with the hardware by comparison. The ability to parry enemies and free-aim feel like a worthy concession to modern game design - no more awkwardly mashing jump while shooting - but the game never asks you to use those abilities in ways beyond the obvious. All of which got me wondering what could be done with a new Metroid game on Switch. Something more is required, I think, than a simple retread of the Metroid Prime games -- and I'm hoping they push the boat out as they did with Breath of the Wild. But if anything the format of the Metroid games has been tighter than Zelda, less prone to the fits and starts of innovation that make even the middle-ranking Zeldas worth replaying from time to time.
  4. Modest Tech: The NX Generation (Nintendo Switch)

    Thanks everyone for your very helpful comments! At some point this is going to be a thing I'm actually doing and enjoying instead of a thing I'm worried about organising, haha, oh god. Think I'm gonna go for Overcooked and the Jackbox Party Pack. I wonder if anyone has any strong feelings about Overcooked vs Overcooked 2? It sounds like the sequel is perhaps more challenging so I might go for the first game...
  5. Modest Tech: The NX Generation (Nintendo Switch)

    I have a slightly unusual quandary that I was hoping to get some advice on: I'm getting married in a few weeks, and as part of the thing afterwards we've booked the mini cinema room in the hotel. My plan is to plug in my Switch to entertain the kids (and some of the adults) for a while after dinner. Can anyone think of some local multiplayer Switch games that would be suitable for this occasion? In terms of content they would need to be suitable for everyone (i.e. 5 to 60ish years old) and easy to pick up and play without much guidance. I have an extra pair of joy-cons so up to four players is doable. Mario Kart 8 is the obvious candidate, and I already have that, but I haven't got much further. If anyone has any suggestions I'd be extremely grateful...
  6. Modest Tech: The NX Generation (Nintendo Switch)

    Last week my gf/fiancée gave the (semi-)surprise of a Switch as an engagement present. I got Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with it, and I picked up Mario Odyssey over the weekend. Both of those games are great! I'm sure nobody needs to be told this. It is early days yet but I'm extremely impressed by the device itself. The interface is much more responsive and user-friendly than the 3DS and Wii U. And I actually appreciate the lack of Nintendo non-gaming bloatware (video chat, AR cards, Face Raiders, etc). It feels less like a toy and more like a serious gaming-specific platform. The build quality seems good - I can feel myself being slightly precious around handling it in a way that I wasn't with the Wii U gamepad. Already I have a little of that new device anxiety; last night saw much futzing around with screen protectors, worrying about the dock scuffing the screen, warping and bending, etc. No doubt in a few months I'll have forgotten about it and it will resemble my phone, which currently looks like it has been through a washing machine full of gravel. We played a lot of Mario Kart 8 over the weekend. I played quite a lot of that game on the Wii U; she played hardly any of it in those days, but for some reason she is a lot more interested in playing it on the Switch than she ever was on the older system. (I wonder why that is; something to do with the streamlined start up/shut down, perhaps. It just feels easier to get into. Certainly I appreciate that they've ironed out a few things that annoyed me, like how if you started a local multiplayer race in the Wii U version with horizontal Wiimotes, there was no way to turn off motion controls other than by pausing in the middle of a race.) Anyway it occurred to me also that Mario Kart is actually a very difficult game to teach someone, once you get past the basics. The game offers virtually nothing in the way of a tutorial, so to learn about things like drifting, 'holding' items, where you can get boost-jumps, etc - all of which are pretty much essential techniques - you have to go outside the game entirely. (They have added help screens to the new version, but they're fairly cursory.) Once she started to get a feel for how drifting works we found it useful for her to race solo, and for me to watch her and just say things like '…and drift now...' - '...and pop the drift, now drift again...' - '...yo hit that big ass ramp'. Which was kind of fun in its own way, though weird for me; it felt like I was giving driving lessons or something? For my own part I'm all about discovering things for myself in games, and I don't want to mansplain to anyone, but she was insistent that I help. She's picking it up quickly. Soon I will be getting trounced, I hope.
  7. Help me remember that movie where...

    I cannot think of anything exactly like this but it sounds a bit like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas with a dash of Grave of the Fireflies.
  8. Recently completed video games

    I finished Papa & Yo on the PS3. I feel like this is one of those games that was talked about intensely on its original release, but which subsequently faded away into the background. But it's still worth a look. There is some really beautiful imagery at play here. I loved stacking and tilting the little favela houses like building blocks. The music is excellent too. And there's a long sequence at the end of the game - - which is absolutely spellbinding. It doesn't always play smoothly. I got stuck a few times on some unwieldy/repetitive puzzles. (The bit on the football field in particular.) Some of the imagery is a little direct in a way that's sometimes typical for games which lean too hard on their central metaphors. It is also notable as one of the few games I've played that feels like the product of a culture that isn't North American, European or Japanese. Perhaps that speaks more to my habits as a player but games from other parts of the world still don't receive the attention they deserve; in that way at least it felt very refreshing. A couple of other titles I finished on 3DS, mostly on my commute: Steamworld Dig 2. Yes, this is out on 3DS as well as Switch, and it's actually a very good version. It plays at a seamless 60fps (on New 3DS at least). The art looks a little pixelated around the edges, perhaps because it was intended for HD screens and then squeezed down to fit the 3DS; but the stereoscopic 3D is nice, and it's extremely useful having the mini-map on the second screen for a game like this. Anyway, it's another excellent Steamworld game from these guys - charming, whimsical, fun, pretty, thoughtful. Once again the basic format is digging down and sideways through cave systems, picking up treasure and upgrading your robot person, but you have a lot more movement options now, and you're very much expected to use them. At times you gotta go so fast it reminded me of Sonic. And I was surprised to find an emphasis on challenge rooms, almost in the style of Portal or Breath of the Wild. Some of them are puzzle-based but others are just really hard finger-twisting platform bits. Fortunately there's a lot of room to upgrade your character to get an advantage in those situations. Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia. Another very good handheld Fire Emblem from the Fire Emblem guys. The overall presentation is really nice; the characters are good fun, though there's fewer opportunities to hang out with them because they can't make babies; the story is fine, though I'm starting to tire of saving the world in these games. Since their chief appeal is in enjoying the interactions between your team, I wish they would build the story around that, rather than yet another trek to kill a wizard king who is also secretly a dragon. I don't expect much will change in the forthcoming Switch installment; if anything I suspect some of the RPG/open world stuff demonstrated here will be carried over into the next game. On balance this might even be a better introduction to the series than any of the other 3DS Fire Emblem games. Certainly the difficulty is better balanced than in the previous installments; I finished it on Hard Classic and I didn't encounter anything that made me want to snap the console in half. Perhaps that's because Awakening and Fates leaned very hard on the pairing up systems, and those are almost entirely absent here. Units can still have support conversations and give each other little boosts when placed side by side, but (as with the original GBA games) this isn't a huge deal. You can also rewind turns if you lose a character, which takes the edge off the threat of permadeath. A few peculiar design decisions: I'm not sure why they dumped the weapon triangle, since it takes a certain amount of depth away from melee combat encounters. Ranged units, particularly mages, end up somewhat overpowered towards the end of the game. The food and fatigue systems are totally inconsequential. And the reliance on enemies who summon endless waves of weak mobs comes to be quite irritating as well. (The likely explanation for all of these points is 'because that's how it worked in the original Fire Emblem Gaiden', but…….weh.)
  9. E3 2018

    I was very struck by the fact that almost all of the gameplay in the trailer for The Last of Us: Part Deux could have come directly from the first game. The ritual of sneaky approaches and stealth attacks that soon falls apart into scrappy shootouts and, eventually, running for your life - it's pretty much exactly the same stuff. (Although have they added a backstep/dodge move? I think they have.) But it had me totally gripped. And it looks astounding. I don't think I've ever seen the hair on the back of somebody's neck rendered in such loving detail. I watched the trailer for Ghost of Tsushima and thought it looked all right. Then I watched the trailer for Sekiro which seems to eat its lunch, combat-wise. I think I'm finally about to play The Witcher 3 so maybe that'll get me psyched for Cyberpunk. Little else has caught my eye so far. I was pleased to see that there really is a new Fire Emblem coming to Switch, for when I get around to buying a Switch, but the footage in the trailer looked a little rough to me. A bit budget, compared to the lush pocket-sized 3DS experience. But I'm sure it'll be good. Probably.
  10. E3 2018

    I worry that the title of Doom Eternal implies they might be doing something slightly different to a conventional linear single player game. Could it be that they've leveraged SnapMap (tm) to produce a sort of procedurally-generated world in which you could scamper around doing Doom, possibly with other players doing Doom too? Luv 2 do Doom but I don't know about Doom-via-Destiny. I watched the new Death Stranding trailer this morning over breakfast, as I have done for what seems like two or three years now. It looks entrancing, and I still have no clue what the game is or if it will ever come out. It occurred to me that the baby-powered clicky-flash arm is not a million miles from the directional sound indicators in MGS4 and Peace Walker. And presumably there is some more conventional combat in there that we haven't seen yet - what with your baby-man having a gun, and Mads Mikkelsen out there somewhere, also with a gun. But what happens in between, who knows.
  11. Recently completed video games

    I finished Life is Strange: Before the Storm. On the whole I was left quite disappointed by this. It's an extended prologue to the first game made by a different developer using a different engine and a different cast, and none of that would especially matter if the overall standard of the experience was kept high. But the whole thing feels sub-par - the video game equivalent of a straight-to-Netflix tie-in that nobody asked for. The quality of the voice acting by the temporary (and, it should be noted, strike-bustin') cast is…patchy, to put it kindly. It is passable at best, and sometimes flat. They managed to get Ashly Burch back to do Chloe for the 'bonus' episode and she makes such a vast difference to that character. The game doesn't look great. Some of the backdrops and character animations look hastily thrown-together, and there's a great deal of stuff that seems over-familiar from the first game. But the original had a lush, heartfelt quality to the art direction that was incredibly endearing. This game has a certain amount of the same attention to detail but for the most part it feels like a pale imitation by comparison. Perhaps I'm being unfair. I think the developers really tried to understand the tone of the first game, but for some reason they weren't fully able to recreate it. I can't deny it has some really nice moments. The little dungeons and dragons session in the first episode! The school play! The cute dog! I kept wondering why they couldn't have just made a game about these nice moments - just small, quality moments of character drama happening in this universe. Where the game trips itself up is when it tries to yoke everything to a hokey, half-baked attempt at grand tragedy. A couple of spoiler-ish things that especially irritated me:
  12. Movie/TV recommendations

    I finished watching American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. It's a really impressive piece of work: beautifully crafted, with a stunning central performance from Darren Criss. It's also one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences I've had lately. It flies closer to the sun than most shows I've seen in terms of - I don't know that 'glorifying' is the right word - but in terms of presenting the audience with a sympathetic story about a person who did horrible things. Because there's a strong argument for saying that these are not stories we should be listening to today. You could call it a toxic story. If you feel like depiction, especially through stylised recreation, equals implicit endorsement no matter what the context, you will probably find little to appreciate here. Part of this is because Criss, playing Andrew Cunanan, is so good; partly this is because the story somewhat struggles to find equivalent interest in Versace's life. It takes a while before it becomes apparent what the show is about, in a political or societal sense. For several episodes I wasn't convinced it was going to be about anything except stylised violence - but it is - and when it finds its grip, it digs in hard. I really think it is better than The People vs OJ Simpson. I liked that series, but it felt inconsistent to me - too many scenery-chewing performances from John Travolta and Nathan Lane, and I was never really convinced by Cuba Gooding Jr. (Also for me at least it was entirely outclassed by OJ: Made in America, which is a masterpiece.) But it feels weird to compare them because they've essentially gone full speed in the opposite direction with this season. This is a thing where - and perhaps this is because it was written entirely by a single author - every episode feels like a genuine unfolding of the next part of a story. It's novelistic rather than journalistic. I would be very surprised if I see anything better than it this year.
  13. Id's Rage

    New trailer with actual gameplay is out. Looks...quite good? Like they've welded the combat from DOOM to a generic openworld postapocalyptic world, with a light seasoning of the colour scheme from Splatoon. Plus points for Andrew WK.
  14. Recently completed video games

    I finished The Last of Us (on PS3) and The Last of Us: Left Behind (on PS4). I had this sitting on my account for years, but I told myself I wasn't allowed to play it until I'd finished the first three Uncharted games; I have now done this, albeit approximately at the same pace as they were originally released. The PS3 version is basically still fine, though it takes a million years to download/install. Some of the textures look a bit muddy today, and Naughty Dog's trompe l'oeil techniques for handling the mid/long distance have never stuck out more - but it still plays quite well. It sure was cool booting up Left Behind and being able to read all those signs on the wall. 60 FPS is nice too but not essential; I feel like these games are tailored for 30. The game is basically very good, even though the first few hours are…really quite bad. I went back to an old Idle Thumbs episode where they discussed this extensively just after the game was released, and I found myself agreeing with absolutely everything they had to say. There's stuff throughout which is really incredible but there's so much padding too. I found the combat very enjoyable but there's probably too much of it - and though I'm looking forward to the sequel, I sure hope they can find some better mechanics than just messing about with ladders. Oh god, the ladders. I think the best I can say for it is that I can easily imagine myself playing it again at some point. I feel like I missed almost all of the optional convos and Ellie's jokes, and I really want to go back and clear up that stuff. Even playing on Hard, there was never any point which makes me cringe to think of having to do it all again; whereas with the Uncharteds there are too many of those moments in all three games. Some disconnected, spoiler-filled points:
  15. That's quite an interesting interview although it is about as much detail as I was expecting (i.e. not much). Which is fine. I would have liked to have seen a question or two about how they feel now about working in proximity to the murkier side of the Hat Economy stuff they've talked about over the years, but perhaps it would be unfair at this stage. I confess I'm still a little confused about the existence or otherwise of Campo Santo as a company, just because this was commonly reported as Valve 'acquiring' them. But it sounds like they are all just Valve employees now with the company as a separate entity still owned by Jake and Sean? This is probably just me being ignorant about something, sorry. Excited as ever to see what comes next, anyway.