Previously: The Frigid North
Name changed for reasons that will become apparent later on. Now the original idea was to combine any fantasy setting that included cold north spaces, Tamriel, Westeros, Britain, or Azeroth, wonderful in principle, but coming to sit and think about it… I was scuppered. So thank you Alan for A: giving me the idea, and B: bringing his own Jenga tower with him, so that we could have a tournament. It’s wall building, we seem to like walls to stop encroaching peoples from marching south, and there’s a rather ominous metaphor to the whole thing I rather like.
Anyway, to the photo gallery.
Back to where it all began, if only for a little while. A few casual games of Love Letter over coffee and cake… which may or may not have been breakfast. The warmth that makes the Coffeehouse unsuitable for a summer meet (although for a quick brew it’s pretty good) makes it an absolute blessing in this chill.
Cal arrived with gifts! Sample stickers for the purposes of shameless branding and for selling on to you in the name of supporting the Meets, the prizes, and materials thereof. The first sticker adorned the Resolutions Box, more on that later.
Werewolf, chair stacking, Tsuro, cards against humanity, kingdomino, tides of madness… other games that I wasn’t really paying attention to because I was busy talking to people. We had a lot of new faces, and a lot of people who have become regular attendees that now feel like they’ve been with us forever. As we fast approach our second anniversary, it’s nice to see the mixture of old hands and fresh victims… people… people victims.
And we’ve brought back the Resolutions box! When I bust open last year’s efforts (most of failed to uphold our promises, myself included) a lot of people took a keen interest, and were pretty swift to enter into a cruel bargain with me this year… pinning their hopes onto a card, sealing it away, and placing their name upon the box, entrusting their very future to me, making me guardian, arbiter, and judge.
Sixteen competitors, sixteen games, tension, dirty tactics, heart failure, and a tie breaker that I don’t think we’ll ever forget. Would we have it any other way? Could we? For once, maybe have a competition that people can just enjoy instead of the genuine concern for our respective health? It’s not a quiz, dammit, it’s just Jenga. Here I thought it would be a nice and relaxing evening of good natured fun, only tangentially related to the theme of keeping frost zombies from marching south, or romans from getting too far north.
During the quarter finals we saw something I had never thought possible, a tie in Jenga, that could only be resolved by adding a second game on top of the tower! Congratulations Matt on second place, Hannah for the tense fight for third, and finally to Zach for demonstrating dexterity and steady nerves enough to reach first place.
The lesson, should we ever find ourselves in a tie break scenario, chairs are the answer, but we shall always do our utmost to prevent it. Thank you to everyone who came. Next month’s meet: February 28th, Meme Your Own Adventure, details on Facebook and Meetup soon. Expect the worst, and you won’t be disappointed.
I’m not much of a platformer, I dabbled a little in Sonic in college, got on ok with Little Big Planet, but just occasionally I’ll spot one that appeals to my sensibilities. Stick It To The Man somehow wormed its way from Steam’s front page, onto my wishlist, onto my library…
Ray suffers head trauma on a professional level, standing in the path of falling objects in order to get some practical data on hard-hat effectiveness. It’s a noble and pointless profession that calls into doubt everything you experience. His world is flat and cardboard, and filled with bizarre characters and broken physics: cars that drive vertically, triplets who are fused together beyond merely being conjoined, and actual ghosts who attempt to lobotomise the living. Things get weird when an alien crash-lands onto Ray’s head, and gives him strange psychic powers.
With his strange, pink, spaghetti arm stretching from his forehead, he reads the minds of nearby people, tears away walls of paper, hop from platform to platform, and gathers stickers that are oddly representative of physical or psychological objects and concepts that are the basis of your inventory. You have to run and jump through a cardboard world, a city infested with agents hunting for you and the alien in your brain, and the inside of your own head to confront the hijacking alien and your fairly boring past.
Characters are pretty one dimensional, but they’re literally two dimensional, and there’s nothing here to take seriously in the slightest. The comedy is a little on the nose in places, in fact it may be a little over the top on the self-reference and fourth wall breaking, but it’s more than enjoyable enough to keep dragging me along for another chapter because I feel like this game has surprises for me before it’s over.
The off-colour and distorted characters running through a world of roughly cut cardboard, crayon drawings, and stickers that are falling off at the edges give a toy-like feel that brings to mind Little Big Planet. Psychonauts has its fingerprints solidly on Stick It, the art style is strongly reminiscent, as are the outlandish characters, and a comparison is inevitable when dealing with a puzzle-solving platformer with a telepathy theme. If you’re looking for further proof, just keep your eyes peeled for a taxidermied Double-Fine easter egg.
The animation is fairly clean, it gets a little ropy as objects bend and twist, but there’s no realism to uphold that would break immersion. Ray hangs a lampshade on the outlandishness of the world straight away by commenting on how he forgets how much jumping he has to do to get from home to work and back. It leaves you feeling immediately at home in a world that shouldn’t function, and you can forgive a lot of the bizarre logic, like passing objects to and from thought bubbles and charging a battery in the mind of a patient undergoing electroshock therapy.
Death is resolved by having a replacement of yourself printed at your most recent checkpoint.
I like a decent puzzle solver, one that rewards observation and deduction. Failing that I’ll take something relaxing that requires a moderate amount of thought, even if you’re working towards a punchline. For a game that spends so much time in brains it’s not very intellectually taxing, and most of the puzzles can be resolved with a “blunt object” approach of simply charging onward, thoroughly exploring, and trying everything you collect with everything you can interact with until something… well, sticks.
Between the mind reading, barrelling around the inside of your own head, and helping people with their lives, you spend intervening moments evading the goons of the vague-yet-menacing government agency who are out to arrest, detain, electrocute, and otherwise inconvenience you in an effort to retrieve the alien parasitically piggybacking in your cerebellum. They ramp up the tension, and give you a few moments of earnest platforming, making you jump and run through the cardboard city. You can use their own thoughts against them as a weapon to confuse or disable them temporarily, but for the most part you’ve just got to get out the way, and quickly.
There are a few moments where cut scenes occur too frequently. They’re short enough, but when you’ve walked no more than three steps from one to another you might as well wonder why they bothered, and more infuriatingly it’s for comical moments that serve no purpose whatsoever, and not even for the best jokes, which are rather well hidden and worth doing some extra exploring to find.
In short there’s nothing groundbreaking to be found here, but as a casual game that’s enjoyable without being overly demanding. It’s also worth the odd chuckle in between the more frustrating moments. I just broke out of a mental asylum, and things are starting to get very good! Worth picking up for sure, especially if you’re looking for something to tide you over while the tortuously long wait for Psychonauts 2 drags on.
The infamous Steam Sale has come again, and amidst the veritable deluge of prices crashing to earth there are some serious bargains. I can honestly say I’ve bought more in this sale than I have done in years, a few of those curiosity pieces reduced to pennies, blockbuster titles of yesteryear brought to all time lows. Financially speaking the going has been good this summer if you’ve got a nice full wishlist so you can monitor the good deals when they come.
Steam’s efforts to gamify their sales process and engage their users in the buying process may- at one time – have revolutionised the retail industry, but their recent efforts have been a little lacklustre, repetitive, and at times a little sloppily executed. So let’s talk about the latest attempt, the sticker collection.
Every 24 hours you get the usual chance to cycle through your discovery queue ignoring the popular games, watching the odd trailer that catches your eye, maybe racking up an item or two for the wishlist, and collecting trading cards for the regular badge that you’ll never quite complete. The queue also earns you stickers, as do two other “quests” that change every day that get you further and further involved in Steam’s various community features. You slowly build up a sticker collection that build up various scenes of game characters enjoying typical summer activities, barbecues in the park, going to the seaside, time out in the wilderness with friends, that sort of thing.
And yet I find myself thinking that this may be one of the least interesting and blandly transparent, and maybe that’s because I’ve seen too many. Sure there’s plenty of new users who’ve never taken part, maybe aren’t aware of all of the community features they’ve got going on, and they’ve added a few lately that they probably want to shout about a little, and rightly so, they’ve put in the backbone to take their once barely known selling platform for their singular line of games and created a monster of the industry that’s stripped PC games from the highstreet and have forced the consoles to give deep thought to their business model… but that’s a different article, I’ll stop now.
Turning your engagement in a product and into the sale into a game is the perfect approach for Steam, but it requires some feedback, some reward, and filling up a sticker book with some mostly boring stickers? Ok, seeing Geralt of Rivia flipping burgers is entertaining enough but most of those stickers are cups. One of the pages has mostly cacti, and to be honest a few of them just don’t fit the background.
And I find myself asking unpleasant questions like: “What exactly do Steam levels do for me?” and “Why am I so entertained by collecting the cards?” I’m not in this to chase numbers, I find I want more out of my experience, and practically any amount of return on investment would make me far more interested.
I’m well aware that the Steam sales are a deal that benefits everyone, we get cheap games, Steam makes money, and the creators make money (although… no, y’know what, that’s another article again), so I’m not saying that the sales are a bad idea, far from it. But they have a motif to pursue, and right now it feels like they’re just rolling out the same recycled picture show and haven’t even reached the bar on that either.