Backlog: Nearly Halloween Edition

'Twas a fog-filtered morning, of a mid-autumn day, that I found myself frittering minutes awayat a round of Dance Dance Revolution, no less -- an exercise I'm disinclined to confess. Stomping at arrows as they crawled up the screen, I found myself wheezing and sweaty, obscene to any houseguest or accidental onlooker. In a bathrobe and shorts, like a rookie meth-cooker.

This must be admitted, lest I waste your time:There's no scare, no horror, no fright in this rhyme, but a semi-morbid depiction precisely describing my morning, before I made myself nicely presentable, as Nick will be soon coming over so we can construct a game during our late October.

So suffice it to say, I'm off to the shower but be not (by this rhyming non-story) made sour, for here's this week's Backlog! And you'll find within notes from Aaron, Nick, Doug, and myself -- let's dig in.

- Spencer (with apologies to Edgar Allen Poe)

(Thanks to Sarah_Ackerman for this week's header image.)

Doug

Doug’s back on the track with Formula 1 2013. Spoiler alert: There are still cars involved.

Doug’s back on the track with Formula 1 2013. Spoiler alert: There are still cars involved.

So remember what I said a couple weeks ago about not buying games, taking a pass on the zeitgeist, and not giving in to pressure?

Yeah…I just went out and bought Pokémon Y.

I hope this doesn’t mean my point is null and void, because I absolutely don’t plan on getting anything else until the calendar turns 2014. (This statement is valid until I’m given good reason to buy ______ between now and January). But it’s another case where the zeitgeist has got me — and this time, it’s much stronger.

How strong? Other local English teachers in my prefecture of Japan started a Facebook group explicitly for the trading of friend codes and battling in Pokémon X and Y. Yes, we’re a merry group of dorks out here.

More of my thoughts on Pokémon are in this week’s podcast, so go give that a listen!

The other big thing I’ve been playing is Formula 1 2013. It’s a series I really enjoy — I’ve loved racing from small times and Formula 1 racing in particular since junior high school — and the games are great. Codemasters has made a game that’s got everything you would want out of an F1 game covering the 2013 year — all the cars, tracks, every detail is perfect. The career mode is still the meat of the game, and I’m getting used to the changes in this year’s edition. I’ve been encouraged to write more about my experiences here, so look out for that in the coming weeks.

I also still harbor a bad Civilization V disease, made even worse by Tyler gifting me the Brave New World expansion for my birthday (thanks duder!). I’ve spent time playing vanilla Civ V, Gods and Kings Civ V and now BNW between June and now, and the differences are stark. I want to get another game under my belt to chart the differences, but I really love all of them. I may give Brave New World a Game of the Year nomination -- it’s made THAT big a difference to the game and to my enjoyment of it.

Aaron

The Wolf Among Us' palette evokes the tone of Watchmen
The Wolf Among Us' palette evokes the tone of Watchmen

If I counted the hours I’ve spent burning my retinas playing Pokémon Y this week I would be ashamed. I would also, by a technicality in U.S. federal law, be legally classified as a 12-year-old boy on summer vacation.

At 27, shouldn’t I be reading about the tax code or applying for a mortgage or something?

To save myself more embarrassment, this backlog entry refrains from cataloguing my habits in detail. Instead I’ll use a bulleted list, which makes everything seem more official and legitimate thanks to the magic of formatting!

  • The Wolf Among Us: All I’ve accomplished so far is lodging an ax into the woodsman’s skull.
  • Gone Home: Every Oregonian must play this game. Or at least every Cascadian.
  • Pokémon Y: Oh shit. Oh no. What have I done to my life?

Nick

A loaded question.
A loaded question.

It's been a pretty slow couple of weeks for gaming on my end. As it turns out, picking up and moving your whole life across the country while searching for a new job and place to live can take up a lot of your free time. Who knew?

In those spare moments, I've been dividing my attention primarily between three portable games:

  1. Pokémon Y: If you listened to this week's podcast, you won't be surprised how horrendous the Sasquatch crew's collective addiction to Pokémon has been this time around. Now that I'm rocking five of the eight gym badges and pushing my team past level 50, I'm coming to appreciate the game's streamlined progression more and more. Gone are the days spent wandering aimlessly in the tall grass, haphazardly swapping my weaker pokémon out for their more-powerful brethren in order to soak up some much-needed experience. Thanks to a generous (and optional) experience-sharing system and greater experience gains from fighting and capturing wild pokémon, traversing the Kalos region is proving to be a relatively swift experience. There's no doubt I'll make it to the Elite Four at the end of the journey; the big question then becomes "what's the post-game like?" I guess we'll find out sooner rather than later.
  2. Hotline Miami arrived on PlayStation 3 and Vita earlier this year, and as of this month it's free for PlayStation Plus subscribers. Dedicated readers might recall that the original Windows release of Hotline Miamiplaced at the number-four spot on our Top Ten Games of 2012 feature, and I've always admired the game's wrenching intensity. hallucinogenic presentation and relentless pacing. Having spent a few hours grinding through the game again on my Vita, I'm disappointed I didn't play the game on a handheld originally. A dual-stick control scheme works surprisingly well for the game's twitchy combat, and the Vita's touchscreen makes locking on to distant targets -- a critical mechanic for surviving the game's later stages -- very intuitive. I've joked with friends that the best Steam games of 2012 are the best Vita games of 2013, but there's something to be said both for Sony courting and enabling some of the best indie developers to bring their games to PlayStation and for the handheld's capabilities as an online-enabled, digital-download-friendly gaming platform. If Valve ever got serious about building a handheld Steam device, I hope it'd be a lot like a Vita.
  3. Finally, I spent some quality time enjoying the wry, quasi-existentialist humor of the demo for The Stanley Parable. Spencer first tipped me off about the original Source-engine mod version of The Stanley Parable (which made his Honorable Mentions list from 2011's Game of the Year feature), and a brand-new version was just released for purchase on Steam last week. If you're on the fence about picking up the full version, I strongly suggest you check out the demo -- it gives you an appropriate understanding of the kind of narrative and play mechanics you'll use in the full game. Already planning on purchasing the game? Make sure you play the demo anyway -- it's entirely separate from the main game and exists as a Stanley Parable take on the concept of game demosDoes that sound strange? Good. It's totally bonkers. Go check it out.

Spencer

(image not found — we've sent a search party to make sure Spencer's still cogent)

I just beat the Elite Four. Dear god, someone please send help.