Last Week’s Gaming – September 21st, 2020 – Can’t Ride the Blocks Boomerang for United Fireworks

Is It Wrong Celebration Scene

Well, what a week that was!

Last week started out strong. Games night, dents in work projects, all was looking great! I think that’s where I made my first mistake. I told the universe it was a good week.

PlayStation 5 went up for surprise preorders. Did you manage to snag one? And the Nvidia 3080 launch. It was every bit the s#!%show I thought it might be.

I know people are disappointed that they missed out on launch orders for both items. Many more people missed out on 3080’s more than the PS5. If you did miss out, remember more are coming.

Myself, I wasn’t lucky enough to snag a founders edition 3080, but I don’t think this is the end of the world. Not all of the cards are out yet, plus the downside of having tech like that day 1 is you are a driver guniea pig!

But enough of the downsides of last week. A great plus was heaps of gaming was had. Let me tell you what I have been up to!

Playing Can’t Stop is the first experience players will have with Board Game Arena. Can’t Stop is a simple push your luck game that enables players to start to come to grips with Board Game Arena.

The idea behind Can’t Stop is simple – roll dice and mark a position on a counter for that tower. You have three temporary markers you can use, and this will let you place three different values per turn.

You can roll the dice as many times as you like on your turn, with one condition. You need to be able to place/progress on of the three temporary markers. If you roll and can’t do this, you lose all progress from that round.

Reach the top of the counter, and you ‘win’ that column. When you win a column, no one can play on that column anymore. Win three columns, and you win the game.

Can't Stop Game in Progress
There isn't much to 'show off' with Can't Stop, but it is a fun filler game.

Well, I love me some Downforce, and we played a quick game on Board Game Arena to see what it was like. I have talked about Downforce a lot, so check out my reviews for gameplay thoughts.

Downforce worked well on Board Game Arena, but we got caught by a couple of quirks. Firstly – player powers are considered a variant? You can enable them (I haven’t worked out how yet), but, surprisingly, a core mechanic is ‘off’ by default.

Downforce Wild Ride Jumping Track Game in Progress
We had a lot of fun messing around with the jumps in Downforce

The other thing that was surprising (in a good way) was the default board was from the newest expansion – Wild Ride. We played the board that includes ramps, letting you jump your cars during the race.

Soon I will sit with someone and play another round, mainly to come to grips with using variants and expansions in Board Game Arena. Downforce is working great in this version, but if you want to play online, one player will need a premium account.

Downforce Wild Ride Animal Track Game in Progress
We didn't get to play this track, but I have played it in an early form. Can't wait to try it!

I haven’t played Hanabi for ages. The cooperative game where you try and put on a fireworks show was an old game night favourite. I was curious to see how it would translate digitally. Short version – I was impressed.

Players draw five cards into their hands, but the twist to Hanabi is you hold your hand the ‘wrong’ way around. This means you can see all the cards except yours.

On your turn, you can discard a card to gain a clue token. You can play a card, firing off a firework. Play a firework that is out of sequence, and you disappoint the crowd. Do this three times, and the show is over.

Hanabi Game in Progress
Playing cards before knowing values is a risky move in Hanabi

The most common action is to give a clue to another player. This is where communication comes into the game. You can provide a clue by touching cards in another players hand that match a colour OR a number.

This is where I see the most ‘cheating’ in Hanabi. There are such plays as touching two cards, saying “These TWO are Green”, then touching another card and saying “And this one is green as well”.

Playing Hanabi on Board Game Arena worked really well though. I usually can’t play more than two games in a row (barring quick knockouts), but if I wasn’t tired I could have played Hanabi all night.

Games day with Alpal and I got my rematch for Boomerang Australia! This week, I had a lot of sleep, I was mostly in good form, and I was ready to play. What I wasn’t prepared for was Alpal and Annabelle practising during the week!

So I came last again. It was still a heap of fun though, and that’s what counts. We also played another version – Boomerang: USA. Similar to Ticket to Ride variants, the core gameplay is the same, but scoring is a bit different.

Boomerang Gameplay
It doesn't look that interesting, but there is a lot going on with these 7 cards

For a bit of filler fun, I think Boomerang: Australia is the better choice. Boomerang: USA is a little more advanced, making the decision making the experience a bit more ‘thinky’. This could have just been coming straight off the back of playing Boomerang: Australia though.

Only one thing for it. I will just need to play some more. There is also Boomerang: Europe to investigate 🙂

Boomerang USA Final Scores
I did not do well score wise, but it was a lot of fun to try the different scoring

Alpal was hoping I had the mental capacity for this puzzle game. The idea is you have a bunch of blocks, and some cards show the shape you need to construct. You work together to create the shape. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, as usual, there are catches.

Firstly, the cards only show one ‘side’ of the shape. You don’t know what perspective you are looking at. And you only get two of those cards as common knowledge. Well, when playing two players.

You then have a card each showing another perspective. But you can’t show the other player your card, so you need to communicate the idea. On top of that, if you want to add to the challenge, there are modifiers. These add rules like ‘You can’t touch blue objects’, ‘Pieces can only be moved with two hands touching it’, things like that.

Mental Blocks Components
How can such soft and cute blocks make my head hurt so much?> Oh wait, maybe the name is a description...

I would only add this with more players, but you can even add a traitor mechanic. One player can be dealt the solution, and their job is to stop that object being created.

Personally, I think Mental Blocks is a great solo puzzle game. I am good at being given a solution and working out how to get there. I am not great at being given only parts of the problem and having to find the answer on top of the missing required information. I do that enough for work – I don’t want to play a game with the same frustrations to relax. And I don’t want others to experience my frustration when this gets to me!

If I had a copy in my collection, I would happily have it sitting on the desk while semi-watching TV or as a distraction. If you would like a challenging puzzle game, then Mental Blocks may be a solid choice for you.

Mental Blocks Gameplay
It looks easy once you see the solution, but there is a lot of out of the box thinking required

Alpal backed this popular Kickstarter, and we were both keen to play it. It was tense, it was fun, and I enjoyed it. I was curious to see how some of the other missions would play out.

And then… I thought about it. Similar to Marvel Champions, you have to use cards to collect enough items to clear objectives. The gameplay is simple, but both games share a common failing.

The game ends just as you get into the swing of it. There is a feeling of going through the motions and having an almost arbitrary win or lose condition met.

I will need to play this a couple more times to confirm what my gut is telling me. Right now, today, if you asked me if you should buy Marvel United, I would probably say no.

It’s not a terrible game, component quality is excellent (it is CMON), but I feel like it’s just a pretty cash in right now.

Marvel United Gameplay
Red Skill managed to knock out Cap, but we pulled together and won the day

Splendor – Steam

Sitting down Saturday night, I thought I would make a start on typing up this article. I didn’t feel like hiding in my office, so I bought down my laptop. Fire up my computer, I was met with the ‘4,935 updates required’ message. OK, that may be an exaggeration, but it was a lot of updates.

After all that, I didn’t feel like writing. But I did have a computer open on my lap, so why not play some games? I was pretty tired at this point, but Splendor is luckily a game that you can almost play on autopilot. 

I won’t go into too much more detail here, but if you want to see my thoughts on Splendor you can check out my review here

Splendor Score
So close, and yet so far. Being the first player is hard!

Elder Sign: Omens – Steam

Elder Sign is a board game I consistently thing I have reviewed, but haven’t 🙁 The physical version is fun, but you spend easily as much time setting up and checking things as you do playing.

Elder Sign: Omens is the digital implementation of the game, and it does a great job. I will review this game, and I will do my best to get it done in the next couple of weeks.

Elder Sign Campaigns
There are lots of different campaigns available, all with slightly different rules

One way to quickly explain Elder Sign is Yahtzee Legacy. It’s not entirely accurate, but it’s close enough. It took me a bit to get back into the swing of the game, but I had a lot of fun working it out again.

I won my first game in maybe a year? But there was a cost. I lost an investigator. Unlike legacy games, that just counts for this session. It’s been a long time, but I used to like trying to make it through the campaigns in a series. If I lost an investigator, I couldn’t use them again going forward.

Elder Sign is tough to explain quickly. Hence I want to get a full review up. This still might not be enough. So I think this might be among my first streaming session, definitely starting sometime in October. Hopefully, early October 🙂

Elder Sign Gameplay
To complete adventures, you roll die and match the patterns. Yahtzee, but not.

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? Familia Myth – Infinite Combate – Switch

So I am not going to write too much about this one today, because I have started writing the review. I will write up all my thoughts on this casual RPG, so keep an eye out for that review.

For the moment though, I have finished the game. All 16 chapters have been beaten. It was a slog to get to this stage, though. There isn’t much variety in play, and the story took ages to go through!

Is It Wrong Celebration Scene
The final boss has been defeated - everyone is happy!

Once the credits finished, I was presented with a new dungeon. Excellent, something new! And what does clearing these dungeons give you? Just a new challenge? Extending the story? Nope. It’s a hidden DATING SIM.

I am not amused.

This was always a niche title for people, but right now if you would like to play an anime based light RPG, I would say Pokemon then Fairy Tail. People that were looking forward to Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? would have already bought it.

Is It Wrong Date Points Reveal
Date Points? Look, this is common in Anime, but I was really hoping that the challenging dungeons weren't linked to this

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – September 14th 2020 – Boomerang Minute Hominid Letter Dungeon VII

Boomerang Score Cards

I don’t know how much gaming I will get in this week with PAX Online finally being here!

There is so much going on right now. GPU announcements, console announcements, even announcements for announcements – it’s crazy! But as always I managed to play something 🙂

If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter you would have seen I turned a sleepless night into staying up for the opening with Mike Pondsmith. I have been constantly enjoying the content, and I am looking forward to catching up on what I missed during the working day today.

But most of that is stuff I will talk about later. Today, I want to tell you about what I did get to play last week!

My Kickstarter version of 5 Minute Mystery arrived this week, and I was keen to have a play. I was not disappointed.

5 Minute Mystery is probably best described as a cooperative version of Guess Who. One person has control of a Codex, and must ‘enter’ the symbols described by others from a scene card.

If the code matches, you can draw a clue. The clues and the ‘culprit’ have coloured signs, and if the patterns match, you know if the culprit does or doesn’t have that clue.

5 Minute Mystery Components Mid Game
Not a lot of components are involved, but there is surprsing depth here

The 5 minutes is a bit flexible in this version. Different cases have different time limits, and if you run out of time, you can have one guess at the culprit.

It’s hard to summarise, so I will do my best to have a proper review done for when 5 Minute Mystery hits retail channels.

Alpal introduced me to this little gem on the weekend. The premise is simple – go on a four week holiday of Australia, taking part in as many touristy things as possible.

Boomerang is one of those ‘so simple it’s fun’ style games. I probably would have scored a little higher if I hadn’t spent the first two rounds looking for the catch!

The scoring of Boomerang is similar to a lot of Roll and Writes. It boils down to the collection and placement of some variety. The difference is instead of rolling die or drawing cards you have a 7 Wonders style drafting mechanic for your holiday!

Game in progress - Weeks travel
You draft the week's activities passing around cards between the players

The gameplay is quick once you get into it, and the challenge is subtle enough you don’t worry about it until it’s too late. This creates a ‘one more go’ knawing at you as you are sure you can score better next time!

The designer is credited as Scott Almes, of Tiny Epic game. I am hoping to play again with Alpal this weekend, and I will be looking into it more for my own collection.

Love Letter – Steam

I have had this in my Steam library for ages. My love of Love Letter (no pun intended) is shown on the site. I grabbed the digital version because I had the chance to, and intended to do a review at some point.

Well, what I have found is a single-player experience much better than I thought it would be!

Playing against three AI opponents, I expected to either be destroyed or my opponents to be so stupid there wouldn’t be a challenge. What I found was a very balanced experience that made me work for my second place position.

Love Letter Game in Progress
I pulled the Princess as the last card - what a great position to be in this round!

Bottom line Love Letter is the base game experience I have talked about before, so you know what you are getting. I would still prefer to play in person, but there is a surprising amount of flexibility on offer in this release scoring-wise.

If you enjoy Love Letter, grab this version when it is on sale would be my advice. What I would love to see is DLC/different versions available for some of the other versions. Come on Asmodee. You have all the groundwork here!

Resident Evil VII – PC Game Pass

I wrestled a little bit with if I should consider putting Resident Evil VII into Last Week’s Gaming. I have no intention of finishing Resident Evil VII on PC. I only installed it because it was free with Game Pass, and I wanted to see how it looked on PC.

Well, it looks AMAZING. The one thing I truly wish is that the VR mode was made available on PC. Playing Resident Evil VII on PSVR is the best way to play the game hands down. But Resident Evil on PC is without a doubt the prettiest way to play this return to the series classic roots.

Beaing searched for in the Baker House of Resident Evil 7
It's dark and grimy, but everything felt so immersive on PC. Only PSVR gave it a run for it's money.

The screenshots don’t show this as well as they could. All you see at the start of the game is a very run-down house. But it ran so well, and the feeling of ‘ick’ was so prevalent, it pulled me back me. I might do a Resident Evil stream to get the best of both worlds on this one.

Alien Hominid Invasion – PAX Online Steam Demo

Alien Hominid is a series I have appreciated others playing, but never got into myself. A cutesy art style coupled with bullet hell mechanics (think Contra) sounds excellent, but have never been my go-to gaming choice.

Well, in PAX Online this year, the scavenger game has to do with Dr. Exoskeleton. Here in Australia we never got the chance to do these, but this year we can!

What has this got to do with trying a game? Well, one of the checklist items bought the game to my attention:

Dr Exoskeleton Scavenger List
QR Codes and Brain Teasers - I am having fun with this

So I went to steam and downloaded the Demo for Alien Hominid Invasion. So far, I have only played the first stage, and I don’t know if the demo has anything to do with the scavenger hunt at all!

What I can say is that if you enjoy the series or run-and-gun bullet hell type gameplay, you should grab the demo yourself. Even as a casual observer of the genre, this was fun enough that I plan to finish the demo this week. Even if I am wrong about the scavenger hunt clue, it was a fun (if frustrating) little romp!

Alien Hominid Invasion Gameplay
What's happening on this screen? WHO KNOWS! But it was a heap of fun

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon: Familia Myth – Infinite Combate – Switch

I am now (I believe) halfway through the game. I am doing Bell’s sixth chapter, meaning I have one more Ais chapter and four more Bell chapters to go.

I have been enjoying Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls (I am not finishing the title – it’s huge!) because it’s been a pretty mindless grind fest. Do some side quests, complete the story missions, continue.

The Minotaur Boss looks like a deformed puppy in this graphics style
Story wise, I am at a pivotal moment for Bell. Pity the graphics don't match the situation.

What I am hitting is a wall to continue. The text portions are so long! There have been a couple of missions where it took longer to read the background than to complete the dungeon!

I always knew this would be a niche title. I never expected to be saying to people ‘this will change your mind on casual RPGs’. But even as a fan of the anime, the game is wearing out its novelty value.

If you were waiting on my final thoughts, right here and now I would say Fairy Tail is a better casual RPG anime game. You would have to be a real fan of Is It Wrong to want to pick this up, and honestly you probably already have it if that’s the case.

Hestia musing on Bells strange status updates
Story wise, this is very important. But it took about 4-5 minutes to get through all this text!

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – September 7th 2020 – Sweeper Temple Dungeon Final Commando

Menara - Placing piece carefully

A hard week calls for some light gaming

Oh wow, last week was a hard one. Don’t you love those unexpected out of left field weeks? Downside – I didn’t get to play many games. Too tired, couldn’t get my head around things.

Upside – I did get to play some games! Gaming should be about quality, not quantity. And I don’t mean you should only play ‘quality’ games. Sometimes, you just want to kick back and unwind. Kinda like trashy TV shows and movies 🙂

No, I mean you should really enjoy the time you spend gaming. And that, I did indeed manage to accomplish, so I call it a successful gaming week 🙂 True, I really only got to play on the weekend. But I have gone from mentally worn Friday night to feeling pretty good Sunday evening!

So I got to catch up with Alpal and Annabelle this weekend. It was great catching up with them, especially as I couldn’t go over last weekend.

The downside is we could only play one game. The game Alpal chose was Menara, and I am glad she did. We played for a good couple of hours, and it was a great time!

Menora - multi level tower constructed
We had already won this game, but we decided to see how much higher we could build

The players all work together to make a temple. Sounds simple. The catch is you draw cards that tell you what you have to do to help build the temple.

Sometimes it’s simple – play a couple of columns somewhere, for example. Easy. Then you draw a card that gets you to move a column up at least one level. Sometimes, you don’t have columns out. Or sometimes you do, but they are supporting other floors.

If you cannot complete a card, the penalty isn’t too bad. You just have to have an extra level on the temple by the end of the game.

Menara temple in disarray - I pulled the wrong column
It was a magnificent temple. Right up until I pulled the wrong column down.

We made some pretty impressive structures. I even managed to knock one down, losing that game for us.

Menara was just the game I needed to play on Saturday. Light gameplay, lots of good conversation with friends, and a sense of accomplishment at building some impressive structures.

I don’t know when I will be starting formal reviews again. In the meantime, if you are looking for a fun dexterity game give Menara a close look. It’s like the Ticket to Ride of dexterity games.

Minesweeper Genius – Switch

Sitting back on the couch, I decided to fire up the Switch as it had been a couple of weeks. My first thought was to set up the Switch and let it grab any updates.

But then I thought it had been a few weeks since I tried Minesweeper Genius, and it’s very easy on system resources. So I cleared another 20 stages, and I am up to the I level stages now.

Starting a new Minesweeper Genius Level
I seem to have made it far enough into the game that these levels are giving me a break

Minesweeper is one of those frustratingly simple logic problems. The basic rules are straightforward, but when your attention wanders, you make a lot of mistakes.

I still recommend Minesweeper Genius as a fun diversion if you enjoy logic games. Slowly but surely, I am going to clear all of the levels in this game 🙂

Is It Wrong To Try And Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon: Familia Myth – Inifinte Comabte – Switch

I have watched all sorts of anime over the years, and Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon: Familia Myth took me by surprise. It follows the story of Bell Cranele and his Goddess Hestia. Together they form a small familia and struggle to get ahead.

Of course, events unfold that thrust Bell into all sorts of adventures that have implications for everyone. The story itself isn’t original, but there are enough exciting takes on so many standard formulas that it makes for a fun light viewing experience.

Menu showing all of your travel options outside of dungeons
No need to run around town - everywhere you need to go is menu driven

So a couple of weeks ago when I was looking through the eShop, I was intrigued when I saw that they had made a game based on the manga/anime. I was intrigued, and on impulse, I bought a copy.

Finally sitting down with it for a couple of hours, I am glad I did. I don’t know how many others will get the same enjoyment I am. The first couple of chapters follow the anime fairly closely and use this as a story setting and tutorial section.

Example of combat. Characters are in a chibi style.
The dungeons all look the same, and the art style is perhaps overly cute, but it works well

This means unlike Fairy Tail, where you have to just go with it, you get to see all of the story unfolding from the beginning. Unlike the anime, you also get some more backstory from different characters perspectives. As a fan, I appreciate the extra info. As a player, seeing the same scene played multiple times did start to get a little samey.

There is also the way that the story is told in the game. Anything story or choice related is done with static backgrounds, character portraits and lots of text. And you will be reading a lot – there is no English voice acting in this game.

Conversation example
Get used to this view. Most of the game looks like this.

The actual combat is done in a light action RPG style. You have a button for magic, light attack, heavy attack and dodge. That’s it. Enemies have had a pattern to learn, and if you are quick, you can break some combos.

So it’s no Witcher/Breath of the Wild, but it’s a bit more hands-on than say Pokemon. Dungeons so far are very short, but they do get bigger and more challenging the deeper in you travel.

I stopped playing when I came to what I would call the first boss battle. The enemy is unlike anything I have faced so far, and the jump in difficulty took me by surprise.

The first proper 'boss' foe
The cute graphics style doesn't make this boss look mean, but it hits like a building

The game is very upfront about the length – there are 10 chapters as Bell, and 6 as Ais. This gives you a bit of variety, as Ais is already an accomplished character in the game. But after about two hours and taking it very easy, I am five chapters in.

I don’t see Is It Wrong To Try And Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon taking a considerable amount of time to finish. I think delays in completing it will be more my time constraints than demands from the game.

One thing is for sure – I have yet to see anything that makes me not want to finish the game.

Final Fight – Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle – Switch

After playing Streets of Rage and Battletoads last week, I forgot how much I enjoyed these old school games. So what better way to unwind than giving them a go?

Final Fight is probably my favourite old school beat ’em up. It’s a cliche story, the characters are mainly meh, and it’s designed to suck money with cheap attacks from enemies.

Opening of Final Fight - Barrels won't slow you down
It's almost a straight rip of from Double Dragon, but arcade goers my age all know this screen well

Even with all that, I have been playing Final Fight in various forms for almost 30 years. That has to tell you something about how much I enjoy this game.

Walk to the right, beat up the next group, smash the environment for points and health. Rinse and repeat. And yet, the controls are great, the graphics huge and clear (for the time), and you know if you practice you can get further than before.

Final Fight Subway Fight
Travel to all different parts of Metro City. Meet new interesting people. Beat them up.

Guy, the orange-clad ninja, is my typical character. The weakest in terms of dealing damage, but the fastest protagonist by far. This time I played as Cody, the balanced character and these days known for being in Street Fighter.

I couldn’t entirely clear the second level before dying. When I played this a lot, I usually wouldn’t need to continue until the fourth stage. Ah well, that is what time away does to you 🙂

I think I will go back to playing a couple of times a week. My main aim is to get back to the days of being able to beat the game on a single credit. It’s not a new gaming challenge, just something I can do to unwind a bit.

Speaking of just kicking back and unwinding…

Captain Commando – Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle – Switch

Where Final Fight has stood the test of time, I have only fleeting memories of Captain Commando. Think of it as a ridiculous retheme of Final Fight, and you have the main idea.

Why do I call it ridiculous? Well, you play Captain Commando or one of his team. You have Ginzu the Ninja, Mack the Knife (a mummified blade wielder), and Baby Commando. Yes – Baby Commando. You play a baby in a mech suit. As I said, ridiculous :p

Fighting Mechs in a Circus Ring
Fighting bad guys with mechs in a Circus Ring actually makes sense in Captain Commando

Combat isn’t quite as tight as Final Fight, and the enemies are much cheaper in their attacks. This was a game designed to get you to put in as many coins as possible. It’s set in the future Metro City (the setting for Final Fight) and you must defeat the Super Criminals lead by Scumocide.

Yeah, don’t play this for excellent writing 🙂

If I was offered the chance to buy Captain Commando on its own, I would pass without a second thought. But seeing as I purchased the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up bundle for Final Fight, jumping in for a round seemed a great idea.

Why wouldn't a future commando flying kick a samurai?
Future setting - check. Lots of tech and weapons - check. You know what's missing? Samurai!

I think I used about 23-25 credits to beat the game. And beat it I did – straight through from start to finish. This doesn’t count to me as finishing a game, because this style of play is the first form of pay to win I can think of.

Even if you can’t play this kind of game well, you can literally beat it by dying and continuing. When you land back in, you damage all enemies on the screen a bit. As as you don’t actually pay for credits on a console, anyone can beat Captain Commando.

Chasing a mad scientist on a motorised surfboard
Mad scientists can't fight hand to hand! Solution - make it a water chase

There are better games to play out there sure. And unless you were a fan of the genre, I wouldn’t say to pick up the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle. But if you do have some interest and can grab it cheap, there are worse games to sit down for an hour with.

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD