Backlog: Cut and (Curry) Paste

Backlog Header - Curry Folks: it's the weekend, and tonight I have a date with red curry -- and some friends, I guess.

In honor of the "superfood" that is curry, I'd like to give an unpaid shout-out to CT Bistro, a local restaurant here in the west hills of Portland. If you like Southeast Asian cuisine and the sexy sax sounds of Kenny G, then check out their website.

Seriously, how great is curry? Indian. Japanese. Filipino. Afghan. I'll eat it all.

Anyway: Spencer, Tyler and yours truly discuss our most-played titles from this second week of January. Read on! -- Aaron Thayer

Aaron: I had no idea what the fuck this game was before today

Spencer

Following a tripped fuse in my head, I fell headlong into the dream of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Here’s the result of this absurd, regressive backslide.

I grabbed a new hard foam dancepad to play Stepmania on (to hopefully become less of a flabby, wheezing mass), as the metal one was at risk of damaging the floors of the house. Though I’ll be decried by the Konami purists, hard foam is far more pleasant to stomp on, easier to throw into a closet, and ultimately much closer to what I was using in high school (outside of the arcades, anyway). Doesn’t hurt that I’ve had better luck finding song repositories and directories this time around, too. Next, I’m hoping to track down another cheap pad for parties and the like. Value Village, here I come.

An earlier trip to the same thrift shop netted a pair of 2001 issues of MacAddict, which caused made me start snooping around for an iMac G4 or G4 Cube to buy on the cheap. Thankfully, my girlfriend vetoed this impulse, pointing out the 1998 iMac G3 that sits largely untouched in my room. I decided to take inventory of my progress kitting out the Bondi Blue teardrop, only to find myself playing through a couple rounds of The Oregon Trail.

Also found on the OS 9.2.2 machine was an installation of SpectreVR. Think Battlezone. Then, add the most over-the-top early 90s cyberpunk nonsense you can imagine. Yeah. It’s like that.

Finally, I fired up Douglas Adams’s Starship Titanic, only to remember why I had stopped playing last time - the G3 tends to hitch on the excessive pre-rendered video. Cards on the table, I may end up buying a G4 anyway, or at least putting in more work on my still-troubled Win98SE machine. Starship Titanic may end up being the most expensive game I ever play - with the notable exception of Battlefield 3.

All this talk of classic gaming has prompted talks with my housemates. We’re now considering clearing the garage of the countless smirking boxes leftover from constant Amazon.com orders, and using the space for an auxiliary living room, with space for the OS9 and Win9x computers, my housemate Sandra’s older Atari consoles, and whatever else we see fit to assemble in there. Depending on how it progresses (and whether or not I get tied up writing on other topics here at the ‘Squatch), I may let you, the reading public, watch the project mature.

Tyler's been...abducted by XCOM's charm (apologies)

Tyler

I am a sucker for turn-based strategy games. Though I haven't played as many titles quantity-wise as other more popular genres such as shooters, the amount of hours I have put into them collectively I have no doubt dramatically exceeds any other style of game. From western hits such as Civilization and Fallout Tactics to eastern titles like Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre and Disagea, it would likely be rather embarassing if I could put an actual hour figure (more likely days...) onto my lifetime investment. Final Fantasy Tactics alone I've played on no less than three different platforms and likely invested nearly a hundred hours on each. My rant on the majesty of *that* game will have to wait for another time. Suffice it to say, turn-based strategy games, especially those with RPG elements, are my meth.

Though I'd been hearing wonderful things about it since October, I hadn't had the opportunity to give XCOM: Enemy Unknown a fair shake. My computer hasn't a prayer of running it and it was unavailable either digitally on the PlayStation Network Store or locally in Japanese retail. Thankfully however, I was able to rectify this mistake while I was visiting the US during the holidays. I've discovered that XCOM is no less potent than similar titles that have hooked me in the past. I've not yet completed the campaign but I feel I'm getting close, I've finally gotten the hang of teaching Ethereals the meaning of "Welcome to Earf!"

Our Game of the Year lists are always tricky business because we're not a strictly professional publication. As such, we have neither the time nor the means to play every game. Placement on the list will often come down to either majority rules or any individual's particular passion for a title. I was concerned in the early goings of XCOM that I might regret not pushing it higher on our list, but at this point I'm comfortable that we have it at #5. I'm especially satisfied because FTL is ranked higher on the list.

The two titles scratch a similar itch but despite being of a lower budget and fidelity, FTL is more successful in the narrative it allows players to craft for themselves and in the way it challenges them. In each title there exists familiar encounters that can go sideways very quickly. The key difference is finding you've dug yourself a hole you have no chance of climbing out of is a lot less frustrating in a 3-hour campaign as opposed to a 30-hour one. Hopefully someday I'll be able to complete XCOM's Ironman difficulty, but today is not that day.

All that said, I'm greatly enjoying my time fighting the enemy unknown. If I could make a suggestion of Firaxis and 2K Games though, it would be that all the *best* turn-based strategy games have made the transition to mobile/handheld platforms in some shape or form and suit them beautifully. I would love to see XCOM on Vita or even on iOS, à la Civilization Revolution.

Wei's wearing the 2007 TOTY (t-shirt of the year)

Aaron

Let's talk about Sleeping Dogs. Actually, I have a tangent that needs airing out. The dogs can keep napping.

The nature of Steam's seasonal sales is to induce poverty, which is only now obvious after several years of depleting my bank account. Now I don't intend to stop giving Newell et al. my earnings -- I'm cool with their evil monetary machinations.

However, I wonder if I'm devaluing games by the very act of "collecting" titles on sale. Most of the software I've purchased has had little value to me prior to being deeply discounted. Perhaps my attention is influenced by the cost, and that's the simplest explanation. Or maybe my natural desire to obtain things is to blame. I do love Pokémon, after all.

Either way, I have a catalogue of some 100-odd titles that, to be honest, sit neglected. Something like 20% of my Steam library has never been installed to my PC. It's, well, gross. And Sleeping Dogs is only moderately different: a product of spontaneity, an impulse buy if there ever was one. I couldn't resist the $16.99 pricetag (yes, I missed the $5 pricing error).

But I'm glad to have taken the plunge. Usually my Steam sale titles stagnate -- Sleeping Dogs hasn't had time to rest; pun intended. It's a quality game and the successor to the old True Crime series I once loved.

You should try it out, discount or not.