An Abundance of Things to Do

My friend, Jason, often asserts that I’d complete more of the video games I play if I wouldn’t play so damn many. It’s an argument I can’t really refute, but oppose anyway. Frankly, I just don’t want him to be right.

I joined online game rental service Gamefly umpteen years back, and have found that having access to every single game currently on store shelves actually makes playing all of those games more difficult. Instead of cost being a factor in what I do or do not play, time is the issue, now. Growing up, I’d only receive a new game twice each year — on my birthday (“Are you sure this Final Fantasy III or whatever it’s called is what you REALLY want for your birthday,” my mother might ask me a week before the day, her tone full of doubt. I was an indecisive child. “That’s $70. You’re only getting one.”) and Christmas.

Because I wasn’t financially able to play a dozen or more games each year — primarily because I was, like, 12 — I’d play the shit out of those two games. Final Fantasy III (or if’n yer Japanese) is something like 40 hours long. I played through that thing, start to finish, more than a half-dozen times. I used to cheat during the rafting sequence by setting a book on top of controller with the “turbo” function — a long-dead extra feature on third-party controllers that seamlessly translated a single button press into multiple button presses and, for some reason, gave kids bragging rights — and letting the game essentially play itself overnight, leveling up my party of characters without a bit of my involvement. It was awesome.

I don’t lavish nearly as much attention on the games I play these days. Instead, I struggle to whip through them as quickly as possible so that I can move on to the next thing. HavingGamefly enables this behavior. If something doesn’t appeal to me right off, I’m done with it. I rarely give games a first chance, let alone two or three playthroughs to truly enjoy them. If I really stop and think about it, it kind of bums me out. Which, by the way, is a stupid thing to be bummed out about. I believe these kinds of things are called “First World problems.”

Anyway, all of that is a long introduction to the fact that I’m playing a bunch of shit at the same time…all of it good. I thought I might take a few minutes away from bitching about writing to brag about some of the fantastic games that are out there right now. Without further ado, here’s what I’m playing:

Rayman Origins

Here’s another thing my friend, Jason, asks me frequently:

“Why do you like these fucking platforming games? They look frustrating as hell.”

Guess what? He’s right. They are frustrating as Hell, which is pretty damn frustrating, if I understand the Bible correctly. But, a good platformer, which Rayman Origins most definitely is, nails a nice balance between frustration and fun. Obstacles that result in death, which come pretty frequently, are almost instantly replayable, meaning there’s little downtown in which to stay frustrated. You always know you’re going to make that tricky jump across those obese birds this next time.


Well, then this time.


I’ll get it this time, and so forth…

The game is also gorgeous, which smoothly animated hand-illustrated characters and backgrounds making each level a pleasure to behold. Which is nice since you’ll be repeating the same sections over and over and over and over again. Piece of crap. I love you.

Dead Island

Opening with a delightful hip hop song called, “Who Do You Voodoo, Bitch?” — performed by one of the game’s four completely awesome protagonists at the beginning of Techland’s zombie apocalypse, open world game — which is immediately followed by scenes of intense violence, Dead Island is tonally a mess, but a pretty fantastic play. Despite the developer’s claim that this was a more “serious” take on the genre, the game plays out in glorious, B-movie fashion: Over the top characters, laughable melodrama and gore by the truckloads. I think I love it.

All four of the playable characters are great. There’s an embittered gun expert who hates rich people; an Asian cop who’s father was disgraced; a washed up Texas football player who killed a kid in while driving drunk; and Sam B, a one-hit wonder of a rapper who’s inane song during the game’s intro manages to be both the greatest and worst rap song in the history of music. Here it is, if you haven’t heard it:

Gameplay is a mix of speaking with quest-giving NPCs and wandering around finding loot — mostly melee weapons like machetes and nail-filled baseball bats. I’ve put about 26 hours into this thing and am still loving it. The moment-to-moment gameplay doesn’t change very much (Stigs says it “looks boring,” which may very well be true), but the combat is visceral and satisfying and occasionally…occasionally…just a tad bit scary. Sequel, please.


Yes, I’m still playing this.

And no, I wouldn’t like to hear an “arrow in the knee” joke. Thanks.


You better believe I’m digging this one. Anything that’s reminiscent of SNES-era RPGs and action adventures — primarily stuff like Secret of Mana — gets a thumbs up from me. I love the narration, and wish my daily life included something similar. Now, read the following passage in a deep, slightly Sam Elliot-esque voice:

“The man gets and and stumbles into the bathroom. He’s drops his knickers and stops to take a piss. The urine comes creeping out of him like the slow release of a long sigh. When he’s done, it’s off to the kitchen, still blinking the final grains of sand from his crust-lined eyes. He picks up the pot of coffee and curses when he realizes he didn’t set it to automatically prepare a pot for the morning. He puts the thing down and moves to the fridge, grabbing the big ole can of coffee grounds he found at the supercenter. It ain’t nothing like the stuff his mama used to make back when he was a pup, but it’ll do.”

Of course, said narration would complicate some things — say, goofing off on the internet when I’m supposed to be working.

Shadow of the Comet

I’m on a big H.P. Lovecraft kick right now, and I’m always ready to play a point-and-click adventure game. So, imagine my delight when I discovered this SVGA classic, which is abandonware at this point, so it’s up for grabs. Playing the thing required the installation of a DOS emulator, though. To think, I used to run DOS games all the time — typing in which drives to mount and which files to load like it was nothing. Now, I boot up that box, with its empty blackness and single blinking line awaiting my typing, and I’m frightened. Getting this game up and going was an hour-long pain in the rear; the reward — a creepy, story-driven experience that, so far, seems well worth the effort.


4 thoughts on “An Abundance of Things to Do

  1. Pingback: This is What I’m Talking About | Try to Write.

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