Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2020 (Part 3) – The Budget Friendly VR Guide!

When you buy an Oculus Quest and you DON’T have the kind of beast computer to take advantage of Oculus Link, one of the things you have to accept is that everything’s going to be pricier than you’d hope it would be.  There are almost no games below the fifteen dollar mark, and the sales are usually like five percent per game or a whopping ELEVEN percent if you buy five games bundled together.  That MIGHT be changing as I’ve seen a few deeper cuts in the last few months, but being on the cutting edge usually comes with a premium; even if the cutting edge is what, three years old now?  Fortunately for all of you, my thrifty and curmudgeonly attitude kept me from indulging in the more expensive fair which means I can pass the savings onto you!  Are there some fun and worthwhile experiences on the Quest without breaking the bank?  Let’s find out!!

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Drop Dead

Developed by Pixel Toys Ltd

Last year I highlighted Crisis VRigade as a fun throwback to old school arcade shooter that was marred by some unfriendly design choices here and there.  This feels like the more polished version of that very same idea, but unfortunately it also sands off some of the more interesting edges in favor of what I can only assume is maximum appeal.  Thankfully you don’t need to physically crouch down to avoid gun fire and I will give this game a HUGE thumbs up for that alone, but it’s also a very easy and barebones experience that feels like it’s doing the bare minimum to hit the necessary marks for a game like this.  The zombies move really slowly, the weapons don’t take long to master, and there’s always more than enough health, power ups, and whatever to keep you nice and safe.  The lack of required movement is definitely a plus here but it is yet another area where the game feels very limited in scope and imagination where games like say Superhot VR make the most of the space around you.  Now granted there were A LOT of light gun arcade shooters just like this so I guess I can’t fault them too much for being at about the same level, a bit more speed or more surprises would have done wonders for this game that otherwise is a bit of a snooze.   Out of all the games I bought on the cheap for the Quest this is the one that felt the most like its price point.  Not too expensive for a not too exciting game, but still fun enough to enjoy once in a while; especially with friends who may not be used to the platform.  Oh wait… we couldn’t have friends over in 2020, could we?

Continue reading “Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2020 (Part 3) – The Budget Friendly VR Guide!”

Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2020 (Part 2)

2020 is almost done, I promise!  Just a FEW more games to cover here and then a few more games in one last piece!  You can look at the games I’ve already covered right here, so let’s continue where we left off!

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Motherload & Super Motherload (PC)

Developed by XGen Studios

Back in the old days when I could still call myself a youngster, Steam was still in its infancy, online gaming as far as I knew was just on Xbox Live, and Flash was the primary way we played games on the internet!  There were plenty of standouts at the time (Cartoon Network had a pretty solid list of games under its belt) but one that still sticks with me to this day is Motherload; more or less the fore bearer of explorative digging games like SteamWorld Dig and Terraria.  I only learned a month or two ago that the developers had gone on to develop a feature rich new version of the game called Super Motherload on Steam, and it even came with the full edition of the original Motherload to really hammer home the changes XGen made in the intervening years.  Perhaps this is nostalgia talking, but the mechanics of the original game hold up AMAZINGLY well with a clear set of incentives and goals to work towards that are spiced up with well don RNG elements.  Sure, you could spend an hour only finding Iron and Silver ore, but the random chance of finding an artifact that will get you that new upgrade you’ve been grinding for is what keeps the game compelling and prevents the gameplay loop from feeling overly repetitive.  However, it’s also a game that could do with a few enhancements and that’s what makes Super Motherload such a great successor.  Smoother animations, streamlined mechanics, and more bells and whistles manage to retain the brilliance of the original design without getting bogged down in the limitations of the time.  Sadly I haven’t been able to delve THAT far into the new version to get a sense of its endgame (and if they retain the bizarre ending of the original) but it was kind of heartwarming to see something I enjoyed as a kid made for a new generation by the very same people who made that first game so much fun to begin with.

Continue reading “Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2020 (Part 2)”

Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #35

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

Despite some ups and downs in the story, I’m glad that the comic has moved away from WORLD ENDING CATASTROPHES to tell a much smaller and more character driven story with this whole Sonic take on Casino Royale!  What, am I the only one who sees it?  Come on, Rogue is acting super shady just like Vesper Lynd; it’s right there!!  In any case, will Sonic and friends uncover the many mysteries surrounding this story, not the least of which being the identity of the hooded figure?  Let’s find out!!

The issue begins with Sonic, Tails, and the living puppet Belle facing their greatest and oldest enemy to date; confusing action scenes that don’t adequately convey spatial relations!  Yeah, I know I’m a broken record on this, but these early pages are another example of the artist just not doing a great job conveying necessary details or relative threats.  The first thing we see low angle shot of them in a rather narrow but tall room (looking a bit like a silo) that is filling from bottom to top with badnicks.  Clearly they would have to find a way out by going UP, right?  No, it’s actually just a PYRAMID of badnicks and they decide to swarm on the side of the room that DOESN’T have the very obvious exit door.  Then as soon as they escape that room and are in the corroder, what I THINK happens is that a grabby badnick drops out of the ceiling to snatch Tails and Bell doing SOMETHING with her tail to save him. 

“Butt Boosters, don’t fail me now!!”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #35”

Super Comics: Sonic Bad Guys – #3

Sonic Bad Guys as well as Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

The last issue of the Bad Guys mini-series was a surprisingly great entry that did a lot to move the plot forward and develop these characters which needless to say means that there’s a lot to live up to in this one!  Starline remains one of the better characters in this series and it seems like IDW is heading in an interesting direction with him, but we’ve been down this road before with this character and he’s never quite lived up to his potential even at his best moments.  The same more or less holds true for the rest of the cast here as they all certainly proved themselves to be more interesting in here than in their earlier appearances, but can Ian Flynn carry this story to a satisfying conclusion or did he use his best ideas in the last issue?  Let’s find out!!

The issue begins with Dr. Starline in the dead of night; accessing his personal computer and recording a video diary to catalog his mischievous machinations.  I’m not sure why he would bother to keep a record of how he plans to screw over his villainous posse, especially within earshot of anyone still awake and grabbing a snack from the fridge, but then again I imagine Starline is the kind of guy who plans to sell his life story for a book deal and five part movie franchise.  Also, it all turns out to be moot because SURPRISE; it’s not actually Starline!  Mimic, with the help of Zavok, somehow managed to crack all of Starline’s security systems and know every last detail of Starline’s plan.  I can only assume that this bit of tricky with the video diary is to fabricate further evidence of his ACTUAL wrongdoing and send it to Eggman when all is said and done, but for now (and with a bit of coaxing from Zavok), they’re going to let his scheme play out until the moment they get what they want.

“You’re not going to need his body once we’re through with this, right Zavok?”     “…what?”     “Yeah, I figured if I gutted him and stuffed him, he’d make a great mantel piece back home!”     “You do you, buddy.”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic Bad Guys – #3”

Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #34

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

The last issue may or may not have been the start of a new arc (only time will tell on that front), but it did give us an interesting new set up that’s rife with potential!  No more zombots, no more world conquering jerks, just good ol’ fashion greed as Rouge and company are here to outwit the big wig running these Chao races!  Sonic IDW has finally acknowledged that Capitalism is the root of all evil (right after zombot viruses) and I’m very interested to see where it’s headed!  Do they continue to take this story into interesting and new directions as a refreshing break from the nonstop action, or was the last issue just there to set me up for disappointment?  Let’s find out!!

We begin our story of calculated lies and dangerous spy craft in the lovely dining area of the White Park Chateau where Rose is eating some sort of chocolate chip parfait and Cream has barely touched her very square waffles.  See, that’s the kind of quality you expect when you go to the White Park Chateau; waffles you could set a protractor to!  So why is she ignoring her delicious and structurally sound breakfast?  Well Rouge didn’t come back last night after meeting with Clutch, and if she’s not around to be a bad influence on her, then how else is she going to learn to be a jewel thief!?

“Don’t forget!  You promised to teach me how to use a lock pick today!”     “To unlock doors or to jab into a man’s eyeball?”     “Hopefully both!”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #34”

Super Comics: Sonic Bad Guys – #2

Sonic Bad Guys as well as Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

I couldn’t tell you if these books have been a huge success for IDW, but the fact that we’re on our second mini-series primarily focusing on original characters and NOT Sonic himself is probably a good sign that they’re at least hitting some reasonable targets.  Still not enough to get a full blown second series running, but I guess these things take time and I frankly don’t need the extra work on my end just yet.  For now, let’s stick with what we’ve got which is yet another issue of their Bad Guys mini-series primarily focusing on that enigmatic and smug jerk Dr. Starline.  What exactly does he have planned now that he’s got a crew to do his bidding, and how soon before it all blows up in his face?  Let’s find out!!

Following their very clever and VERY cool escape from prison (i.e. walking away from an explosion), Dr. Starline and his new allies are going full force against one of Eggman’s strongholds.  Well… MOST of them do as Starline sits on the sidelines and smugly pats himself on the back for how genius his plan is; said plan being to get back into Eggman’s good graces AFTER wrecking all his stuff and freeing his sworn enemies!  This particular phase of the plan, as explained to us in a flash back, is to steal something called Power Cores which were APPARENTLY in Sonic Heroes.  I vaguely remember that each character could get a minor upgrade in some way, but I don’t recall it involving floating color coated balls.  In any case, Starline manages to sell his scheme to his current compatriots; albeit with more than a little slight-of-hand.

“Where the heck did you get that coffee!?”     “Starline made it.”     “Yeah, I made it for ME!”     “And your point is?”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic Bad Guys – #2”

Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #33

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

Yes, I’m falling behind on these and not getting them out as soon as I should, but let’s see if I can successfully change the subject by pointing out that this is the first issue of the Sonic the Hedgehog series that does NOT have Ian Flynn listed with a writing credit!  Very few people have made as big an impact on the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise as this man has considering his tireless efforts on the comic book series (more or less picking up after the LAST guy who had such a big impact who we don’t particularly like to talk about anymore), and while he’s not done with Sonic by a LONG shot (he’s writing the Sonic Bad Guys series concurrent with this one), it’s a bit bittersweet to see an issue that doesn’t have his name on it.  Still, a change in voice can also be what this series needs as I’ve said on numerous occasions (probably to the chagrin of Mr. Flynn if he ever in a million years read one of these recaps) that the Zombot arc went on for way too long and that these globally devastating threats often left the characters floundering for development and focus.   Will things be different with the new writer Evan Stanley on board, or are the problems with this series not easily fixed by just giving the pen to someone else?  Let’s find out!!

Things have settled down a bit after Sonic gave an epic butt-kicking to Eggman’s giant robot in the last issue, so with this small bit of time before the NEXT world conquering threat makes itself know some of Sonic’s friends have decided to try and fix Omega who is just a robo-head at this point but is still in pretty good spirits all things considered.  Rouge managed to get the blueprints for Omega so that Tails can build him a brand new body, but there are two complications; Eggman’s blueprints are encoded so they’ll have to find a way to translate them, and even with the blueprints they don’t have the materials needed.  I’m not sure why they can’t just give him a DIFFERENT robot body as Eggman had no problem sticking his head on the giant robot, but in any case the team (which also consists of Sonic and Amy) has to spilt up to take on these two challenges.  Sonic knows of an abandoned Eggman facility that could have the answers they need so he’ll take Tails there, but before we go further I just have to ask, why are there SO many abandoned Eggman facilities!?  Starline just took one over as his base of operations in the first issue of Sonic Bad Guys, they were finding these things throughout the entire Zombot and Return of Eggman arcs, you’d think at some point that The Furry World Government would either claim them for themselves or blow them up to make sure they can’t be used against them again!  Well in any case, that’s just one part of the plan which means that it’s up to Amy and Rogue to find new parts for Omega.  Rogue has a lead on some guy name Clutch in a place called White Park Zone; the former of which is a new character but the latter is apparently a stage from Sonic 4 Episode 2 which I haven’t played yet.  They never did finish that trilogy, did they?  I guess that puts it right up there with Half-Life 2 Episode 3 as far as episodic games that never got finished, though I doubt as many people are broken up about the Sonic one not seeing the light of day.

“Sonic Xtreme?  He’s got a copy.”     “No way!  What about that Skateboard demo!?”     “Complete in box.”     “THEY DIDN’T EVEN RELEASE THAT!”     “No they didn’t.  And he still has it.”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #33”

Super Comics: Sonic Bad Guys – #1

Sonic Bad Guys as well as Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

So it looks like the Tangle & Whisper mini-series worked out for IDW because now we’re getting a story arc all about Dr. Starline and his cohorts, and you know what?  Heck yeah!  HECK YEAH I SAY!  IDW has done a REALLY good job with its original characters in this series and Dr. Starline is no exception, so a mini-series where we learn more about him and see him act maniacal is something that I can definitely get behind!  Is this the start of a great chapter in the Sonic IDW canon, or will starring in his own issue prove too great a task for the not so good doctor?  Let’s find out!!

The issue begins with Dr. Starline; gone from Eggman’s good graces and without his Warp Topaz, but no less determined to prove himself in the eyes of his idol.  Sure he admits that Eggman is an arrogant fool who betrayed him, but the guy is just so darn good at making robots and putting his face on things that it’s impossible to truly hate him!  Speaking of which, Starline’s first step in his master comeback is take over one of Eggman’s abandoned facilities full of robots and things with his face on it, and while he may not be able to fast travel across the world map, he’s still got a few tools in his inventory!

“I was hoping to save them for a line dancing contest or perhaps even a hootenanny.”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic Bad Guys – #1”

Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #32

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

Welcome back to even more Sonic goodness as we continue to get further and further away from the Zombot arc!  The last issue had some great character moments and gave us a fascinating new setup with Sonic out of the picture and I REALLY want this series to explore that idea a little bit more and maybe give Sonic a bit of dimension as he realizes his heroism is a lot more reluctant than he thought now that he has time away from it!  However, if the cover is anything to go by, it doesn’t look like this team of talented professionals will be taking the advice of one annoying critic on the internet and Sonic will be returning a lot sooner than I was hoping.  Still, do they manage to make his return to Mobius (I’m gonna keep calling it that AND YOU CAN’T STOP ME!) interesting and compelling in its own right or are we simply sprinting as fast as we can back to the status quo?  Let’s find out!!

The issue begins with Eggman crashing the party; piloting a giant robot with Omega strapped to the front of it like Mad Max in Fury Road.  I suppose it makes the robot stronger, but I thought the whole deal with Omega is that he WASN’T a particularly unique creation of the doctor and was just another drone who someone found a conscious.  Okay, MAYBE not so much a conscious as a RAGING HATE ON for Eggman, but six of one half a dozen of the other, and the bigger point is that I figured he could just MAKE a better giant robot than trying to attach a smaller robot for the additional RAM.  This is all needlessly nitpicky though and to the issue’s credit, it DOES do what I wanted this issue to do… sort of.  We’ll get back to the SORT OF part of this, but a good chunk of this issue are about the heroes trying stop Eggman’s giant robot without the help of Sonic the Hedgehog.  Oddly enough, the one who steps up to the plate is Vector, and I’ve got to ask again; ARE SEGA PLANNING ON DOING SOMETHING WITH THIS GUY!?  Maybe it’s just me, but for the last year or so Vector has been getting a higher profile in the Sonic universe; and not just in the comics!  That recent Team Sonic Racing game had him as the leader of one of the teams and he was certainly present in that Sonic Forces game, but then again it’s been going on for a while now and nothing BIG has happened yet.  If we’re building up to something with this character like his own game or something, I think they need to just get it over with instead of keeping us guessing for the next three years.

“EVERYONE!  MOVE OUT!!”     “You’ve got it, boss!”     “Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.  I’m just exploring my options and haven’t committed to anything yet.”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #32”

Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #31

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

We’re back with even more Sonic goodness, and sadly I have not lived up to the principals of my one true idol.  I have not in fact been “Going Fast” recently as I’m a good month behind on this book, though it is somewhat fitting that I’m taking a somewhat lackadaisical pace at reviewing these issues since the book itself is in something of a lull after completing the Zombot arc.  Yeah, let’s pretend I meant to do it like this.  ANYWAY!  With Sonic in another dimension and peace having been restored to his home, what will our heroes do now that they have some well-earned vacation days on their hands?  Let’s find out!!

Much like the last issue, this is mostly about reestablishing the status quo now that we’ve finally come to the end of the story arc, but where the last issue was a bit overstuffed with new conflicts this one manages to find the right balance between story progression and character building; starting off of course with Sonic who has found himself in the Sol Empire.  It seems that the cool blue dude lost his memory after crashing into the ground at what should have been terminal velocity, and so Blaze has to sit here trying to get him to explain not just who he is but how IMPORTANT he is and why he needs to get his memory back sooner rather than later.  What’s fascinating about this is that despite being told he’s essentially the woodland critter chosen one, he seems cagey and aloof in a way that clearly indicates how little he wants anything to do with whatever it is he’s expected to do now.  It definitely goes with the character as he’s been established as the first few issues of this series were about him trying to avoid responsibility and being free to go wherever he wanted before the return of Eggman eventually made that impossible, and I’m curious just how far this amnesiac version of him will go to refuse a call to action.

“Seriously; Sonic the HEDGEHOG?  What about me looks the LEAST bit like a hedgehog?”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #31”