Unpacking a Stray Peglin Parable for the 7 Wonders of Planet X

It was a good week for gaming this week. Saturday games with Alpal involved a physical board game, which opens the door for a few things. Yes, I had to set up recording and stream an actual board to play Search for Planet X. I wonder what that could mean for the future?

Also, I finally got to play the game I have been teasing the last couple of weeks. Stray is available, and I managed to finish the game on the opening week! Alright, it’s a 6ish-hour game, but finding that much time can be hard!

I have a bit to talk about in a couple of entries this week, so let’s jump straight in.

7 Wonders: Architects

Looking for a game to end Saturday’s board game day, we decided to go with 7 Wonders Architects. Playing on Board Game Arena means Rabbit, Alpal and I can knock over a game in less than 10 minutes. All while smack-talking each other of course! It wouldn’t be Architects without jabbing each other verbally.

I still have the one bugbear – why can’t we pick our own wonder? I can see sticking to the official 7 Wonders Architects rules for ranked games, but in training mode let us have some fun.

We got stuck in another round of having the same wonders over and over for 5 games. I got stuck with the Colossus again, and Rabbit was stuck with the Pyramid. The only one that didn’t seem to mind was Alpal, as her golden throne of Zeus allowed for some high scores!

20220725 - 7 Wonders Architects - Not the colossus again
Hello Colossus my old adversary. 7 Wonders Architects needs to let us pick our own Wonders.

It doesn’t stop the gameplay from being fun though. I hope that I can break out 7 Wonders Architects physically soon, or play with more than 3 players. If I am lucky, maybe both? Yes, sometimes I can be greedy!

There is a games night I have been putting off going to which could give me the opportunity. I know a couple of people there enjoy 7 Wonders, and I am hoping Architects will allow some of the lighter game fans to join in.

Until then, Rabbit, Alpal and I will continue to fight over the cat!

20220725 - 7 Wonders Architects - My cat game was not strong enough this time
My cat game wasn’t strong today. Maybe the other cat game distracted me?

The Search for Planet X

Alpal has been talking about how much she has been enjoying The Search for Planet X. It was a game that had dropped off my radar quickly. I remember looking forward to it coming out, but was swallowed up by lockdown being announced all over the world. Luckily Alpal didn’t forget about it, and made the comment that she needed to send it to me to play. Being a logic puzzle, she thought The Search for Planet X would click with me.

It’s not often Alpal makes a comment about ‘making me’ play a game. When she lived up here, I would go to her place to find the game setup and ready to play. I can’t think of any game setup like this I haven’t enjoyed. So when I was looking for Century Golem games, I added Search for Planet X to my cart. I am glad I did!

The Search for Planet X is a deduction logic puzzle. Think Cluedo (Clue for the US) but on a larger scale. There are sectors each with a single astral phenomenon. Sectors can contain asteroids, dwarf planets, or nothing at all. Ultimately, you are looking for the mysterious Planet X. Search the skies!

20220725 - Search for Planet X - Most of the game isnt on the board
Player tokens are Observatories. Makes sense, as you search the night skies!

As The Search for Planet X relies a lot on hidden information, the board isn’t anything special. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a nice board, with some pretty artwork. It’s just not a board that will rope in anyone walking past. The bulk of the game happens on player cards, where you take notes and try to logic out what is where in the universe.

This brings me to one aspect that is divisive in the board game community – Search for Planet X is driven by an app. When you start a game, you can use the phone app or website to sync a 4 letter code to the same game. Then on your turn, you enter your action (research, survey, target etc) and the app reveals to you what you found. Take the note, clear the screen, and pass it on.

It doesn’t sound exciting, and ‘logic deduction’ can put players off as complicated. I haven’t even touched on scoring, which is the hardest aspect to convey. So app-driven, looks complicated, no visual hook? A lot of players will overlook Search for Planet X out of hand, which is unfortunate.

20220725 - Search for Planet X - The App
The app is a nice background with text information. Functional, but not exciting.

I had a ball playing Search for Planet X. And it was our most complicated setup for games day. I streamed the board on Discord for everyone to see, laminated some cards for Rabbit and I (Alpal has her own) and we all had the app. It worked well playing remotely over Discord.

I found Planet X first, but the scoring (that I haven’t touched here) meant Alpal wrecked me score-wise. It was still a lot of fun. Rabbit didn’t have as much fun, but by her own admission, she just may not have been in the mood. I thought she would have a ball, with games like Dinosaur Tea Party clicking with her so well. But Dinosaur Tea Party has a lot of eye candy to draw you in and doesn’t require extensive note-taking.

This is bought up because it feels like you will either enjoy Search for Planet X, or you won’t. It doesn’t feel like there will be much middle ground for players here. I enjoyed it, Alpal enjoys it, but Rabbit I think will mostly sit out.

20220725 - Search for Planet X - I found Planet X first but still soundly lost
My player sheet at the end of the game. If you don’t know about the game, it will look complicated and intimidating.

You may notice I haven’t gone into too much detail on the game itself today. Without going into a lengthy explanation, I can only really say I enjoyed it, and will likely play Search for Planet X solo soon. When I do, because I set up to stream the game for us to play, my plan is to make a solo playthrough video for YouTube.

Here I can go through a lot more in detail, and you can see if you might enjoy Search for Planet X yourself. Or maybe even the follow-up Search for Lost Species, coming out later this year. Lots of fun stuff to look forward to!

Peglin

It had been a while since I gave Peglin a go, and I had a half-hour free one lunchtime. There hadn’t been any new updates, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t ready for some fun play. Again, one advantage to Peglin is the fact it is so turn-based, as it’s based on Pachinko. So even if I got interrupted by work, I could walk away and come back to it easily.

Well, I don’t know what it was, but I had an almost magical run this week. Peglin is a roguelite, so every path and encounter is semi-random. This coupled with Cricuball’s increasing difficulties has had me stuck on Level 3 for a few weeks.

But not this week. My Peglin (I think that’s what my character is called) hasn’t had much luck on Cruciball Lvl 3. It has had some hard boss fights early on, with little chance of getting new equipment. This week though, I had a dream early run that gave me equipment early. Finally, my Peglin had a fighting chance!

20220725 - Peglin - Facing off against the final boss
My final loadout this run still made the final boss a tricky encounter

And I took that chance and managed to get to the final boss quite quickly. I even managed to earn a couple of Steam achievements that I thought would be out of reach. They are ‘Don’t Make Me Say It’ and ‘Walking on Pegshells’.

Walking on Pegshells is earned by hitting more than 1,000 pegs in a single shot. Not an easy task. What helped this run was my Peglin had an item that refreshed the board every six pegs. Couple this with durable pegs, requiring multiple hits to clear a peg, and the achievement was almost easy.

Don’t Make Me Say It is earned by doing more than 9,000 points of damage to an enemy. You can’t say that the Peglin devs don’t have a sense of humour!

So this week, it was hard for me to pick what my proudest Peglin moment was. Unlocking two hard achievements (at the same time no less), or finally clearing Cruciball Level 3. Guess what won?

20220725 - Peglin - That took longer than I expected
Now missing paths hurts me more, on top of all the other modifiers

The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe

It’s a quick summary for Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe today. I got in a bit of a Stanley Parable Tuesday, and I thought it would be a ‘normal’ Tuesday trying to find new paths.

I am not stepping around potential spoilers with the Stanley Parable anymore. The game is over 5 years old, and it’s been a while since the new version came out. So if you still want to try the game blind, it would be best to move on to the next entry.

I started the game, and as usual, I was presented with the sequel title selections. The Stanley Parable 8 was ready to start, and I was about to tear around the office again. Except for this time, there wasn’t an office to explore.

20220725-Stanley-Parable-Ultra-Deluxe-Not-what-I-was-expecting-when-starting-up
This isn’t my normal starting cubicle

Expecting the office, the Stanley Parable managed to surprise me with a new area. It’s not a major new area, but it’s not something I had seen before. A room with a button and some monitors. Hit the button, and the number 8 appears on the screens. And that’s it – there is nothing more to interact with.

The Narrator got quite annoyed that I wasn’t restarting the game. This lead to some funny lines as he assumed that I enjoyed the room more than ‘his’ game. Of course, this isn’t true.

But I had talked about trying to find new ways to keep the Stanley Parable interesting. Looks like the developers had planned out the timing of this surprise nicely!

20220725 - Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe - How do they know whats in my desk drawer
How did they know what is in my work desk drawer?

I still have no idea how close I am to playing for 24 hours on a Tuesday. This is all I have left to Platinum the Stanley Parable. It’s got to be getting close though. Maybe next week the Platinum will be unlocked?

Stray

Stray. The cat game. Meow meow meow meow. I have been looking forward to playing Stray since I saw its announcement with the PlayStation 5. Exploring a world as a small animal has a lot of gameplay advantages. Try Moss in VR as an example of this.

But like the majority of the YouTube and streaming world, I was keen to play as a cat. If you use the internet at all, you have probably been inundated with Stray gameplay. This is part of the reason this entry is going to be relatively short. The other is I am going to do my first proper review of Stray soon. So in a week or so you will hear a lot of my thoughts in more detail.

First up, I played almost all of Stray with Enzo lying on top of me. Did this help with immersion? Nope. Was it cute as hell? Absolutely!

20220725 - Enzo Curled Up
Enzo happily curled up while I was playing

And cute as hell describes the opening of Stray. You play as a ginger cat, playing with other cats and exploring the world. There aren’t any objectives or exposition dumps – you are a cat. That kind of thing isn’t important to you as a cat. You just are.

Stray uses environmental storytelling incredibly well, and the world is surprisingly detailed. Exploring the world of Stray is a fun experience, and while it sounds cliche, you do get out of it what you want. Do you want a casual experience where you go from point a to b? You will enjoy Stray. Do you want to explore a world searching for lore and building up the story of what has happened? You will enjoy Stray.

20220725 - Stray - Somewhere to sleep
You get to just be cat – who wouldn’t enjoy playing this?

I have heard people complain Stray devolves into a ‘standard 3rd person shooter adventure’. People that say this stopped playing about halfway through. I can see where the sentence comes from, it’s not a totally false summary. But this happens for one level and is an optional way to play it. That’s as much of a spoiler I will get into.

That isn’t to say Stray is perfect. Early on, you find B12. A little drone that acts as a translator and story focal point more than anything else. You as the cat become more of a vehicle for B12 than your own character. Well, that’s how I felt for a little while. An attachment does from between your cat and B12. While forced at first does become a very natural character attachment.

Don’t think cats can form an attachment? Scroll up and look at Zo happily curled up on me. That type of comfort around me didn’t happen in a day, but the bonds can definitely be formed.

20220725 - Stray - Meet b12
Meet B12

Yes, Stray is a short game. I think this works in the game’s favour though. While delayed, Stray is an incredibly polished experience that works well. The only big complaint I have is in the context-sensitive controls. This isn’t a problem with Stray exclusively though – getting the prompts right is hard to do development-wise. So I did miss some exploration parts the first time through as I wasn’t in the perfect position for the jump prompt to appear.

That’s it. That’s my biggest complaint about the game. Occasionally it was hard to hit the right spot for the prompt to appear. If that’s the worst I can throw at it, Stray is doing pretty well.

The humour is fun both in-game and in achievements/trophy names. Stray’s journey is a mixture of peace and adversity, and the pacing of that story feels right. There are cliches and tropes in the story, but also ‘Where did that come from’ moments as well that don’t feel forced.

20220725 - Stray - The puzzles are not the hardest in general
Most of the puzzles are about this hard to work out

Exploration is amazing in Stray, and while there are puzzles to be solved, they generally aren’t brain-breaking. There is an argument that a cat wouldn’t be solving a lot of these puzzles, but B12 would. It’s part of what makes the duo work so well together.

It took me about 8 hours of playtime to finish Stray and find 100% of the collectibles, including badges. There is a Platinum trophy on offer, and there is a good chance I am going to try and do it. I am going to play through Stray one more time ‘normally’ to try and memorise the best path to continue the story. During this run, if Rabbit isn’t watching me play, I might try and do some of the skill-based remaining trophies.

This means I can do one last run for the final planned trophy – finish the game in less than 2 hours. I usually enjoy these runs in the Resident Evil games. The world of Stray is one I definitely think I will enjoy exploring to nail this speed run.

20220725 - Stray - Great trophy puns
If you just act like a cat, you will generally be rewarded

So yes, I very much enjoyed Stray, and think many players will as well. If you have PlayStation Plus Extra or higher, you can play Stray for free. You won’t regret it.

Unpacking

Last year, Unpacking was a surprise smash hit. It won a heap of awards from the Australian Game Developer Awards up to the BAFTAs. After watching some of my favourite YouTubers relaxing their way through the game I can see why. Having Xbox Game Pass, Unpacking has been on my ‘One Weekend’ list for ages. Last week, I finally got around to trying it out.

The path to trying it out though has been interesting. As I mentioned, Unpacking is on Game Pass. I could have played it on Xbox at any time. But Sony recently had a sale, and I picked up Unpacking for PlayStation on sale. Why? I wish I could tell you. I’m going to say I was worried it would rotate out of Game Pass. Sure, that’s it. It’s not like I could have fired it up at any point while it was on Game Pass at all!

But Monday night, I wanted to play something but didn’t want to start a bigger game before Stray came out. I really need to go back to Horizon Zero Dawn at some point. I am worried I will have to restart it at this stage. My video games backlog challenge has not helped any of them get played either. Yikes. This kind of thinking started me down a depressing path. That’s why Unpacking jumped up as the perfect choice!

20220725 - Unpacking - who needs bed space
Who needs bed space? That is obviously where the big bears go!

I will say I am not playing Unpacking ‘properly’. By this, I mean I have turned off the puzzle aspect of the game. Under accessibility, there is an option to ‘Allow Items Anywhere’. This means I don’t have to put things where the game wants them, but I can build my own mini-narrative for the game. After having watched the game for about 12 hours on YouTube, I have watched a lot of the ‘puzzle’ being worked out. So, I set myself up for a bit of fun.

It was a chill time, pulling stuff out of boxes and finding places to put them. I know a few people that pack like the original box packers as well. Why put a pair of shoes in the same box, when you can put each shoe in random boxes? Box destined for the bedroom? Let’s put kitchen electrical items in there!

I have only unpacked the first two years in Unpacking, so I have a fair bit to go. It’s going to be interesting to see how everything comes together. Rabbit might even enjoy watching this one with me. That might lead to some arguments about where things live though! 😋

20220725 - Unpacking - Where is the airflow for these systems
I love the console setup, but where is the airflow!

It might be a few weeks before I come back to Unpacking, but to sit and unwind I can’t think of a better game at the moment. It might sound strange, but I get the same sense of relaxation and ‘zen’ focus as when I played Elden Ring. I find it funny that two so different games can allow me to have the same relaxed feeling. That’s what makes games so awesome though!

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know! 

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Until next time,

JohnHQLD