Plain old vanilla, Tetris... oh, where would I be without you? The original Nintendo release of Tetris is just so hugely important to me. As a kid, I first got it on Game Boy at launch in 1989, and subsequently, we got the NES version for our house as well, because even though we had TWO Game Boys with Tetris in the house, it just wasn't enough for all of us.
I have a lot of memories linked to that original game.
I remember one time, when I was about twelve I had to go under anesthesia for some minor surgery. It was super scary to me. My mom came with me to the hospital, and before the surgery we played GB Tetris together via the link cable. At one point the nurse came in to give me some kind of muscle relaxant prior to the anesthesia, and my mom told me years later that it made her super sad because it was the only time she ever was able to beat me at Tetris - as my little brain started to slow.
We also had this summer cottage we'd go to that belonged to my step-dad's mom. It was walking distance to a private beach. The cottage was nothing special - it was small, and the bedrooms didn't even have walls that went all the way to the ceiling. Sleeping there at night was SWELTERING. But, man, I don't know - special memories. Anyway, that cottage had a NES with a limited stock of games... Dr. Mario, Jeopardy, and Tetris. Basically, stuff that adults would enjoy. But wow, did I love playing Tetris there late at night when everyone else went to bed.
To say that Tetris is deeply embedded in my gamer DNA is an understatement. It's a desert island game for me. If hard pressed, it MIGHT be my #1 game of all time. I mean... it's Tetris.
Of course in the years since I've played many other versions of Tetris. In fact, Tetris 99 is my most played Switch game with nearly 200 hours on it - yikes! So going back to vanilla Tetris on NES is a weird experience. I had forgotten how many quality of life changes were made over the years.
You have no visual indication of where your piece will fall, so you have to judge it in real time.
You can't fast drop.
You can't rotate next to a wall.
You can't spin pieces once they connect with another piece.
You can't SLIDE a piece once it's connected - ouch.
The colors aren't unique to pieces, so I constantly confuse the L and its opposite.
There's probably more stuff I'm forgetting, but it's a lot deprogramming your brain when you go back to the original version. And yet, it's still totally compelling.
I recently got this little 10" LCD monitor to use as a way to play my N64 portably. I love having the option of playing games on a small screen while the TV is on in the background. Sometimes my wife is watching something (usually true crime shows) and I like playing games, while spending time with her. Sometimes she goes to bed early and I want to play a game with a rerun of The Office on in the background. Right now, Michael is hooking up with Donna and everyone's urging him to get out of that relationship, for example.
Anyway, this little monitor rules. I think it's usurped my other ways of playing most systems "portably." I had an Intec screen for my Gamecube, a Hyperkin Supaboy for SNES, and a MyArcade Retro Champ for NES. But this thing... this is awesome.
So I hooked up my Retron5 to this screen and fired up Tetris and it looks SO MUCH better than playing on the Retro Champ. Plus, I can use a legit SNES controller which is so comfortable.
I had read that the ultimate ending screen for NES Tetris was a UFO - which is awesome. But you needed to hit 120,000 in score for that. I had no problem hitting just under 100,000 regularly, but it took me two nights to finally see the UFO for myself, and I feel good, topping out at 124k.
Tetris will never get old to me, in any shape or form.
My wife and I have been trying to make an effort to give each other "a night off" during the week. The idea being that once a week if she wants to go sit quietly and read a book or if I want to just veg out and play a game, the other can tend to the baby during that time. Of course, the best laid plans...
But we're trying.
For some reason, I had been really in the mood to play Ducktales Remastered again. This is a game I've played and beat many times. I was a huge fan of the original NES game. Like, it's possibly a top ten NES game for me from my youth. And for the last decade, I've been a big fan of Way Forward who developed this remake.
From what I can recall, the critical consensus of Remastered was mixed at best. I don't care enough to research why that was. I think there were complaints about the overuse of dialogue. Which I guess could be a complaint. Except you can skip all the cut scenes. That, and much of the voice cast from the original Disney Channel cartoon reprise their roles here, which is super awesome in my opinion.
For those of us of a certain age, that Disney Afternoon cartoon show was mandatory. All those shows were: Chip N Dale's Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck and Talespin. But Ducktales was probably the best of the lot. The voice acting was great; the music ruled; and the animation was top notch.
And then there was the NES game. My goodness! Capcom absolutely killed it. They took the property and kept all the charm of the cartoon characters and put them into a Mega Man-esque game with levels that had branching paths. Oh, and Scrooge McDuck had a friggin' pogo jump! It's brilliant stuff.
When Way Forward was announced to helm the remake, I was thrilled. These guys had already made a name for themselves pumping out some awesome retro-style throwbacks like Shantae and Wendy: Every Witch Way on GBC, Godzilla: Domination and Sigma Star Saga on GBA; and Contra 4 and Alien: Infestation on the DS. I was a fan!
And Ducktales Remastered rules, you guys. No matter how many times I play this game, I'm always blown away by how smooth the animations look. It's really like playing the cartoon. And the remixed music? Brilliantly executed by Jake Kaufman. So good.
Anyway, the point is that this game is pure comfort food for me. And even though my night off ended up being about an hour since the baby is dealing with some acid reflux issues and I just felt too bad playing a game instead of helping out with comforting her, an hour with Ducktales Remastered was a nice little bit of downtime for me.
It's not a long game by the way. I mean it is just a remake of the original NES game. So it's the sort of game I can probably beat in just a couple of hours, really. So last night I really only got to play three levels, but that's fine. This game just always puts a smile on my face. And right now, short joyful experiences are pretty much what fit into my gaming life.
It's crazy for me to go back and read the above. The last time I played this game, my daughter was just a month old. Now she's about to turn two. Nuts.
Unfortunately, she still has tummy issues. My poor little girl.
But we've at least gotten a better handle on being parents and managing our time in the last two years. My little girl tends to sleep through the night with no problem - *knocks on wood*
Tonight, I felt like firing up Ducktales again and just wow - I really do love this game. This remaster is up there for me with Link's Awakening for being a modern remake that captures everything good about the original while modernizing it and making it feel NEW.
I picked up right where I left off in July, 2019. I knocked off the rest of the stages and beat the rest of the game in about an hour or so. But this game is just perfect for what it is. It looks great, it sounds great, it plays great, and it never outstays its welcome.
I've been hooked on Mini Metro all week. Here's a $10 eShop game that I only discovered while combing through Metacritic. It's the sort of game I'd probably have overlooked otherwise. I mean, if I had looked at screenshots it would have probably appeared way too simplistic to me.
It is simple, by the way. But also deep. Mini Metro tasks you with organizing subway lines in major cities. That's it. But unlike other such games (Railway Empire for example), this one is very arcade in spirit. You're not playing the long game here. Nope. You simply begin a line with three stops, and keep expanding using limited resources until you fail and it's game over. This adds an urgency to an otherwise chill experience.
Runs last somewhere between five and fifteen minutes for me. The result is a game that keeps me in a "just one more game" zone. And even though there is some stress that unfolds as your systems grow, the whole thing feels very zen. From the minimalist graphics (brightly colored lines on white background) to the atmospheric soundscapes, this is a really good zone-out game.
In short, this is like a Tetris-style city builder. You're playing survival. You will fail. But how long can you keep it going? It's a true score attack game where your biggest competition is your own high scores. I made a personal goal of hitting at least 500 on each map. My current high score is 1,400 on one of them.
Mini Metro is an awesome game. Highly recommended.
My first exposure to Fez was way back with Indie Game: The Movie. I'm sure I"m not alone here. I bet most people that watched that little drama went out and downloaded Fez along with Super Meat Boy and Braid. And the thing is this - all three of those games, I remember downloading them and playing them briefly and then never again.
But all three of those games have remained cult classics, or at least in the gaming conversation for all these years. Each for their own reason I suppose. While Super Meat Boy's developer went on to make the even more successful Binding Of Isaac, and Braid's creator made The Witness - which had its own critical acclaim, Phil Fish (the developer of Fez) actually quit making games... I think? I'll be honest, I really stopped paying attention.
But Fez just finally dropped on Switch, which must be like ten years after release right? And people are talking about it again. And they're raving. And I don't know, I figured I'd check it out again. I had just recently received some eShop gift cards for my birthday, so... this is 40.
So much has changed in the gaming landscape of the last decade. I mean, think about Indie Game: The Movie. The whole "indie" thing was so new and en vogue that an entire documentary could be made about the movement. Like, it was a big deal that three rather well produced indie games would make themselves known to the mainstream. How odd to think of now, because 37,598 new indie games were released on the eShop this week I'm guessing. And all of them were somebody's favorite game of the week. All of them were a "hidden gem" to somebody.
Honestly, it's a bit hard to view an indie game from a decade ago in 2021. Because indie games are HUGE now. And how to you compare it? Is it fair to compare it to OTHER indie games that had years of hindsight to expand upon? Probably not. So I'll try not to.
I will say this - I SUCK at spatial puzzles. I'm so bad. I don't do well with Rubik's Cubes or things like that. I was able to play (and enjoy) Captain Toad, but that's probably my limit.
That said, Captain Toad drew heavily from Fez. But also expanded upon it. PERFECTED it.
Look, Fez didn't click with me at the time. And it still doesn't click with me now. I don't like the way the controls feel. I don't like the platforming. I struggle with a lot of the spatial puzzles. I hate collecting things. And I really hate that I never know where I need to be going next. This game just feels like it was crafted to be a game I wouldn't enjoy. There's just so much in it that I don't enjoy.
The thing is, I understand why people would like this one. I commend the fine work done in creating it. It's impressive. But it is 100% absolutely not a game for me.
I received a copy of Monster Hunter Rise as an early birthday gift. The reviews for this one have been quite good, and I do find it interesting that this is a Switch console exclusive.
My history with the Monster Hunter series is limited. Back when I was heavily playing Xbox stuff, I got into Monster Hunter World and thought it was fantastic. Then sometime last year I went back and played Monster Hunter 3 on Wii U (and 3DS) and just couldn't get into it the same way. The obvious thing is that World (effectively, Monster Hunter 5) really sort of modernized and streamlined the game. Kind of. I mean, the Monster Hunter games are still really heavy and have mountains of menus to navigate and systems to understand. But World made a lot of strives to make the series moderately approachable. The other thing about MH3 is that I HATED the swimming sections. Thank goodness those didn't stick around.
Anyway, Monster Hunter Rise is the sixth mainline game, and it picks up where World left off. Meaning, it's also streamlined - as best it can be for a MH game. It also makes some interesting additions. For one thing, now you've got a dog that you can ride that can be really helpful not only for getting around quickly, but also for evasion during healing. The wirebug system is now used for gaining vertical mobility. This is interesting (and why the game is called 'Rise').
If you've never played a MH game, you should know it's a super slow burn. Probably the first 30 minutes was character customization, really. Then there's tutorials to play through - helpful ones, luckily. Quests come in various flavors as well. There's the main quests of course, but then there's side quests AND town quests, the latter of which tend to work as further tutorials and seem worth looking into.
In my first few hours, I attempted to play Rise solo. This was a pretty bad idea, and ALMOST resulted in me thinking I wasn't into the game. I think I had forgotten that one of the things that made World click with me was the (random) teamwork aspect, whereas one of the thing that made me bounce off of MH3 was that it felt so lonely and difficult to go alone.
Since switching over to playing the game with help requests turned on, it's made the experience way different, and way more fun. I've also gotten comfortable playing with a bow as my main weapon, at least for now. It just fits my desired play style. I think I've now knocked out three of the main quests, so I'm still really early in the game.
Monster Hunter Rise is really good. But it's also not really a chill game. So I tend to have this thing now where I play a few quests and then log out because it can feel too demanding otherwise.
I've done some experimenting with weapons now, and it seems like I'm more of a light bow gun guy than a traditional bow guy. It's nice to not have to get stressed out managing stamina with your weapon. I'll say that much.
My only one complaint about this game - and it's not really about the game play - is that MHR seems to drop connections way more often than any other Switch game I've played. I very rarely got connection issues in hundreds of hours spread out among Overwatch, Splatoon 2 and Tetris 99. Yet, in MHR I've experienced several in just the past few days. There's nothing as frustrating as losing all of your teammates during a hunt.
Whelp, I've cleared out all of the one star quests now, so I feel like I've made some progress. Which is cool. This game is a marathon, for sure. Haha.
Monster Hunter is such an unique experience to me. On the surface, it's not that interesting of a game. Like, there's a very specific loop to it with very little variation. You basically go out, hunt one big monster, let it soak up your attacks for a long time, kill it, come back, upgrade your gear, and repeat. And yet... somehow, it's totally compelling. It sucks you in really good.
There's no denying that it's super satisfying to best some behemoth. You're up against this gigantic beast that feels like an insurmountable obstacle. It fights back and hits hard. It tries to run away and hide. There are other, lesser creatures to worry about at times. Even the environment can work against you. But when you watch that monster fall, it does feel good.
Progress is slow in this game, but not glacial. Each upgrade to your armor and weapons is minor, but somehow feels major.
Right now, I've been sticking with a system of going back and forth between the single player and multiplayer quests. I've got 3-star quests open on the single player side, and 2-star quests in process on the multiplayer side. And I don't know what to say other than I'm having a pretty great time with Monster Hunter Rise.
Well, it took quite a few hours but I found something I DON'T like in Monster Hunter Rise: the rampage quests. Rampage is basically tower defense. I hated these in Monster Hunter World as well, and hoped that maybe they'd be forgotten in Rise. Nope.
These kinds of quests are tedious. They completely break the flow of the game. And even though it's a hub quest and I have help requests turned on, I've failed this one three or four times, and never had anyone join my game to give me a helping hand, which would have made it much easier to push through.
For now, I'm going to either take a break from Monster Hunter Rise, or just play more of the non-rampage quests and ignore this "urgent" request.