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Real Neat Blog Award

Recently Megan of A Geeky Gal nominated my blog for a Real Neat Blog Award and to that I want to say thank you.

The Mask

It’s nice to know my ramblings about games are neat enough for a mention and not just me whinging to myself. I mean, they are me rambling or whinging but as long as it’s neat too that’s a good start. Megan set me and a bunch of other bloggers a difficult but fun scenario to theoretically survive. It’s a bit of a doozy and I’ll get to that but first, I want to give a mention to Megan and her great blog. A Geeky Gal is one of those blogs that I read a lot of on my commutes. The posts are just the right size and to the point which makes them perfect for a short ride to work. Specifically the anime related posts which I highly recommend if you’re like me and you like to watch anime but aren’t clued in to what’s good or not and tend to only know of the big name shows like Attack on Titan or One Punch Man. She recently did a 30 day anime challenge which was a fun read and I highly recommend you try that out if you haven’t. In fact here’s a Link for day one of that. So, thank you again Megan and let’s begin your scenario.

Really Neat Blog

The Rules:

  1. Display the Award Logo.
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  3. Answer the questions of the one who nominated you.
  4. Nominate 7-10 bloggers.
  5. Ask them seven questions.

The great and wise Megan has thrown me into a very interesting scenario:

Setting the scene: you’ve just woken up in the hospital. You don’t remember who you are or why you are there. The hospital is completely empty… You dress and head outside into the unknown. You must make some life or death decisions now.

Along with this, A Geeky Gal has provided 7 questions for me to answer and hopefully guarantee my survival. The first one is:

1. You need a partner for the apparent apocalypse that has taken place during your coma. Which video game character do you choose?

My answer is Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite. Not only is she just a great person to be around but as she as spent most of her life locked away, an apocalyptic world would still be full of wonder to her. I want that level of optimism in my life as no doubt I would be a moody bore pining for my PS4 or Netflix. To Elizabeth everything is new and exciting and I want someone to imbue me what that same energy, if I am going to survive I need to be raring to go and hopeful. Now on to a more practical side of Elizabeth, as I said she’s spent most of her life in a library. With the would reduced to a more basic state, that wealth of information in her noggin is bound to come in handy. With my knowledge of how the world was and Elizabeth’s knowledge of the base fundamentals of the world, I think our chances of basic survival are strong. Then there is her reality manipulation powers! With her powers I could bypass A Geeky Gal’s entire scenario by exiting to a new reality. But that’s no fun so we won’t do that. Nevertheless, Elizabeth has a knack for finding useful items either from her current reality or an arm’s length away in another. An invaluable skill  for the apocalypse if I’ve ever seen one.

Bioshock Elizabeth

2. Great monsters are now roaming the lands you used to call home… what fearsome video game creatures do you see on the horizon?

Honestly with this one I was torn. Giant beasts similar to Deathclaw’s in Fallout would absolutely terrify me but I’ve always thought in games, books or films that even though post apocalyptic monsters are scary, it’s other people that truly are the monsters. That’s why I’ve gone with a more Mad Max approach and chosen the No More Heroes rogues gallery of disturbing and psychotic assassins. These freaks lived their uncivilised lives in a civilised world previously and they were dangerous enough then. They killed for the thrill and to be number one in some weird assassins league that didn’t even seem to have an end goal. I don’t even think there was a prize besides a title! Imagine the lengths they would go to in a world with limited resources. I think this would be their paradise. No rules of society or even the rules of the United Assassins Association to determine who could fight who. It would just be a free for all with murder being their main desire and survival being just a necessity so that they could keep murdering. You wouldn’t want to run into one of these weirdo’s in a dark alleyway.

 

 

3. You must pick a weapon to defend yourself with. What video game weapon do you choose?

I’ve actually had this answer in my head for a long time. The book, The Zombie Survival Guide mentions this and from one type of end of the world crisis to another, the crowbar is the weapon for me. First off, it’s intended use of prying open things. With lots of building’s to loot and resources to gather, the crowbar is the best way to get the job done (besides the key obviously) effectively and quietly. It doesn’t require ammo or petrol to function and requires minimal maintenance. It also functions as a blunt and a piercing weapon. Sure it means you have to get up close to whatever still exists in this world or a No More Heroes assassin, but I would rather trust a classic bonk on the head to a potential rusty gun jamming or a blade being too dull. And the best aspect of a crowbar? I get to pretend to be Gordan Freeman, scientist extraordinaire!

Half Life Crowbar

4. You and your partner are seeking shelter for the night after a long day of fighting. What video game house/apartment/place do you bunker down in for the night?

This was the toughest of the questions for me. I originally thought of DK’s cabin in Donkey Kong Country simply because it comes with a stash of end of the world bananas! Then I remembered that they usually get stolen and also bananas don’t last very long before they go super mushy like baby food. It’s the end of the world so beggar’s can’t be choosers but still….yuck. More on that food issue later though. For my final answer I’ve gone with Sigismund Dijkstra’s Bathhouse from The Witcher 3. Whether the bathhouse is functioning or not, this place still works as a sanctuary that I would consider keeping as mine and Elizabeth’s base. If the water is still running or at least there, that is ideal for us adventurers to have a soak and relaxation after trudging the mostly barren land. The body can only withstand so much before it needs to be soothed otherwise it becomes stiff and rigged, which is terrible in a fight for survival. It would be a great place for a drink of water, to fill up containers and to clean our tools, clothes and gear. If the bathhouse wasn’t functioning as its name implies, it’s still a secure place with big wide rooms which make it ideal to spot any intruders. There is also a secret tunnel which connects to the sewer system for safer traversal in or out.  A handy place for the night and possibly longer.

Witcher 3 Bathhouse

5. You’re getting awfully hungry battling those scary creatures. What video game food is in your pack?

Cans and cans of pickles from Deadly Premonition. Known as The Pickles. Not the tastiest of food but super useful for the current situation. Being in cans, the food is protected from outside damage and also has an extended life compared to those pesky free range pickles. The can itself could also be useful afterwards as either a container or potentially the metal could be used as a weapon of sorts. The brine is also a super useful bonus. Brine is essentially salt and water. It’s used to preserve food for longer periods of time. If me and Elizabeth kill an animal for survival or an assassin for their meat. Again, I’m going to stress this is a hypothetical situation! Would I eat a person? That’s another question for another day and depending on what marinade I had with me. But if me and Elizabeth had too much meat to consume, it would be a shame to let it go to waste. Meat would be hard to come by and a valuable source of nutrients. Brine to the rescue! After cans and cans of pickles our backpacks would be sloshing around with gallons of the salty stuff. Find a way to encase the meat and brine together and voila, longer lasting food. Might taste a bit of pickles but nutrients is nutrients. I believe that brine would function as a good source of drinkable water. Obviously you shouldn’t drink brine in its briny state but if you can separate the salt and the water then you’re good to go. Elizabeth, with her wealth of knowledge should be able to manage that. She’s essentially my Bear Grylls in this scenario and the longer she can keep us from drinking our urine the better.

Can of pickles

6. You and your partner run across more survivors who ask to join your party, but one of them is a little shady. Which video game character is the wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Again, going with the No More Heroes angle, Travis Touchdown. Travis is one of my all time favourite video game characters but would I trust him on my team? HELL NO! The guy is out for himself. Yes, he has a weird morale code when it comes to who he trusts or who he has sympathy for but it is that very word, weird. I wouldn’t be able to process if I was on his good side or not and I believe he would cut me down the second I got in the way of his plans. In the No More Heroes world he wanted to be the top of the United Assassins Association simply because he wanted to be. In this post apocalyptic world, the league is essentially just survival of the fittest. He would still want to be number one of that and I would be a contender in his head. Not only that but you don’t trust a guy who buys a functioning beam katana off an eBay equivalent! You just don’t. Not only that but he worships wrestling, to the point that most of his fighting moves are wrestling moves. Have you watched wrestling before? The amount of turns and story plot twists are out of this world. In Travis’s delusional head, I think he would act in a similar manner just because he once saw it on TV. I can’t trust a guy like that. Also, he hides behind his shades, I don’t trust a man whose eyes I can’t look into. As much as I would love to have him on my team, he’s too much of a wildcard.

Travis_Touchdown-750x395

7. You hear of a place that’s been untouched by the apocalypse. What video game world do you hope it is?

This is short and sweet and pretty self explanatory. Super Mario Odyssey’s Luncheon Kingdom! It’s a kingdom of food. In a survival scenario it’s essentially the dream. Technically in the Mario universe it is a planet but it’s called a kingdom and so I believe it is accessible in my scenario’s reality. It would be the scenario’s version of El Dorado. There isn’t much opposition there either besides Goomba’s and if you pet them on the head they go squish so I’m not worried. My only hope is me and Elizabeth find it before those freaky assassins or before Travis ruins my day.

Mario Luncheon Kingdom

That was a great time! I really enjoyed those questions and I had a lot of back and forth on most of them. Now for my questions and scenario. Apologies for the lengthy questions but I wanted to set the scene a bit too much:

Scenario: You wake up to find yourself strapped to a cold metal table. You glance around and notice a lot of fancy technology but a bunch of stuff that bears a striking resemblance to video game consoles.  You see a bunch of moving things in the corner of your eye. They turn to look at you as you quickly look away from them. You spy a window and quickly realise that you are flying through space. Then it dawns on you, you’re aboard an alien spaceship.

  1. From the darkness you hear the things conversing with each other. It sounds eerily similar to a made up language you’ve heard in a video game. What games language do they sound like?
  2. One of the moving things starts shuffling towards you, as it gets closer you start to make out its shape. You can’t believe it but it’s a being that you know from video games. What is it, from which series and why does that particular being terrify you?
  3. The being realises that it has startled you. It clicks a button and begins talking to you in English. It explains that a translator has been activated and that it can still sense your duress. It says it wishes to play a song for you, a song of your choosing from video games to help calm you down. Which video game song do you pick?
  4. After you calmed down, the being clicks a button and you are released from the table. The being explains that it has been watching Earth for a long time and their race has a fascination with Earth’s video games. They wish to join Earth in its gaming culture and the being explains that they love local competitive video games. The being requests that the two of you play a friendly match together. It requests that you pick any game that has existed on any gaming system (PC included) but that the game must include alien races, as the beings find the exclusion to be upsetting to them. It doesn’t need to their species but something beyond Earth. The being suggests that if you win the game, it will show you around the ship. Realising that this may be your best chance to escape, what game do you pick that you feel confident in winning?
  5. After you win the match, the being praises you to all its fellow crew. They rejoice and hail you as Earth’s champion. The alien then requests you follow it around the ship. As you walk through the long corridors, you come across a wall of familiar weapons. On the wall is dozens upon dozens of weapons from video games. But, the weapons are half and half. The being explains that something went wrong and all the weapons were split in half and then merged with a random weapon. They all worked though and the beings liked the results so they kept them. Amongst the weapons you spot a weapon ideal for your current situation. You lunge for the weapon and proceed to go through with the act of escaping. What weapon fusion have you chosen and why? (For the sake of the following questions, it can’t be a weapon that would get you off the ship.)
  6. After your altercation with the being, you make a dash in the opposite direction from where you woke. As you run you hear a blaring noise and realise that the alarm has been sounded. You enter a new room and before you you see an escape pod. You go to enter the shuttle but quickly realise that you best prepare yourself first. At the back of the room and spy a row of containers, each with a spacesuit. The beings have created fully functioning spacesuits from video games. Each one with the abilities of their video game counterparts and fully stocked with oxygen. How convenient, you think! Which spacesuit do you take and why?
  7. After suiting up, you enter the pod. Before you is a mouse, keyboard and a display screen. The screen prompts you to press the Esc button to launch the shuttle. So you do just that. The escape pod breaks away from the ship and hurtles through space. The screen prompts you to type in your destination. EARTH you type. ‘Insufficient fuel’ the screen unfortunately tells you. The display then prompts a list of choices for you in the vicinity. It details a bunch of prototype worlds that the beings had set up. Each world has been created to resemble a video game world and has Earth’s atmosphere implemented on it. On the list you spy a place that you recognise from your games and you decide that that *Blank* Planet  is ideal for you. What planet is it and why?

My Nominees:

Nerfd

A Dame’s Gotta Game

Extra Life Reviews

HannieBee Games

Hundstrasse

shoot the rookie

Why We Play Games

Black Disc Gaming

Livid Lightning

Best of luck to the nominees, thank you again to A Geeky Gal and thank you for reading my Real Neat Blog post.

Devil May Cry V Review

DMC V is the latest instalment in the long running action series from Capcom. A return to its original version instead of the 2013 reboot. A return for the better, I believe. Don’t get me wrong, I never hated the 2013 Dante or Donte as some like to call him, but I also never really cared for him or the world around him. The characters of OG Dante and Nero were always characters that I enjoyed watching in over the top cutscenes and felt good to play as in game.  It’s over 10 years since we last played as OG Dante and Nero and so how does their return fare? I can happily say that after 10 years, they haven’t lost their touch.

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My main man Nero! This is how you do a Metal Gear Solid 2 Raiden situation. He’s different to Dante but in his unique way and honestly I think I prefer him too.

DMC V takes place in Red Grave City, a London-esque fictional location. A tentacle like flower has erupted through the ground and Dante, Nero and the new character V are on a mission to stop the evil behind this occurrence. This is shown in mission one and we as the player, are jumping into a story already in motion. The very first mission takes place during established conflicts and as you progress in the game you’ll discover character motives and what led up to this point. It works well for this flashy series. There is very little downtime in DMC V and this opening perfectly encapsulates this. The game is broken up into 20 missions with certain missions taking place around the same time but with a different character. This leads to cool moments where you can see V in the background of Nero’s mission, fighting a bunch of demons or upon entering a room, being able to join a fight already in motion. This ties in with the Cameo System but I’ll touch on that later. As you progress through the game you’ll play character specific missions as well as missions that have character choice. As you progress you’ll unlock specific character weapons and earn red orbs which allow you to level up your characters and unlock new moves or buy health or Devil Trigger increases. It’s a simple structure but it suits this style of game. Having the missions broken up into 20-30 minute missions means that you won’t tire of the same character or location if they’re not to your preference.

DMC V isn’t a revolution in storytelling but I had an immensely fun time with it nevertheless. This game is telling a more serious tale, more akin to the original DMC but with a healthy injection of cheese now and then. There is also a healthy amount of past game references which if you’re a fan of past iterations, you’ll enjoy. The Devil May Cry series is known for its bombastic and over the top cutscenes, cringey dialogue and all. DMC V is more retrained in that regard. It’s still stupid and charming but it feels more restrained than 3 or the antics of Dante and the second half of DMC 4. Is this for better or for worse? It depends on what you like. Personally I love the flamboyant and outrageous in these kind of games. It’s why Bayonetta is one of my favourite characters of recent years and why I love the anime/manga Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. The ridiculous has its place in media and the DMC franchise was one of the pioneers of that in gaming. There are still moments but this is a game where the stakes feel substantial and the physics more grounded, it suits what DMC V is going for, without pulling into Spoiler Town.

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Stylish cutscene with slow-mo and an amazing tune? Check

Most people don’t play Devil May Cry for the story they play it for the stylish gameplay and DMC V has that in spades. If you’re at all familiar with Dante or Nero then you’ll feel right at home with them in V. Nero plays very similar to 4 but with his new Devil Breaker functionality. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock new mechanical arms for Nero. Each arm offers a unique functionality with some specialising in crowd control, evasion or dealing large amounts of damage to a single enemy. Nero can only equip one arm at a time and can only hold onto a certain amount. If you get hit when using a Devil Breaker, the arm breaks. Each arm has basic functionality and a one time use function. You could go through an entire mission using the electric palm blast of Overture or you could use its one use feature to latch a high damaging sticky bomb to an enemy. Combine this with Nero’s ability to yank enemies towards himself and you’ve got a fun and unique character. Dante is a more varied combatant. Dante has 4 fighting styles that you can switch between with a touch of the D-Pad. He has his fast moving Trickster, the added melee abilities of Swordmaster, the extra ranged oomph of Gunslinger or the risky but rewarding counter style of Royalguard. Each of these styles can be upgraded to higher levels which unlock extra features for each style. As you progress in the game, you’ll also unlock new weapons which will in part will mesh with your upgraded styles too. These weapons range from a simple rocket launcher or set of gauntlets to the crazy weapon that is a motorcycle and cowboy hat. As you can see, Dante hasn’t lost his panache. Dante also has his Devil Trigger ability which lets him enter into his demonic state and inflict greater damage to enemies as well as gradually recover health. Overall, a character with a lot to learn but a fun character to play as.

Devil May Cry 5_20190311121712
Sure, why not!

Then there is newcomer V. V is a great addition to the cast of characters. He fits in well, even though he is a mysterious individual. In cutscenes and in his overall aesthetic, I must say that I am a fan of him. Gameplay wise though, I waver a bit. I think the idea behind his gimmick is really interesting and for the most part it works surprisingly well. V doesn’t fight like Dante and Nero, instead he utilises the help of Griffon, Shadow and Nightmare, 3 demons that he conjures to support him.  Griffon is a bird which acts as his ranged attack, launching projectiles and electric based attacks at enemies. Shadow is a panther-like creature which acts as V’s up close and personal attacks. Then there is the huge lumbering Nightmare who uses V’s Devil Trigger meter to appear. Often falling from the skies like a meteor or bursting through a wall (often revealing hidden secrets), Nightmare is the big bruiser of the gang and one that you don’t need to control. Just summon him and let him go to town on foes. The only thing you need to do with V is evade and finish enemies off with a killing blow. You can also make V read his book which will generate a steady amount of Devil Trigger. Griffon and Shadow you control with your range and melee attack buttons. Both companions have a health gauge though and if they take too much damage, they’ll retreat into a dormant state, represented by an orb on the ground, while replenishing their health. By placing V next to his inactive friends, they’ll regenerate their health faster. All this together creates a character where you are essentially hanging back from the fight and making your minions do your bidding. It’s a fantastic idea and suits V’s personality but when you add complex systems like this, complexities tend to arise too.

For starters, being so far back away from the action at times often leads to mistimed melee hits as your perspective is off. In a lot of games that wouldn’t be a major issue but the DMC series utilises a ranking system and the aim of the ranking system is to keep combat going so that you can raise your ranking. Then there is the fact that Shadow isn’t always where you want it to be. Often times I’ll click the melee button only for Shadow to have spawned next to me a split second before I hit the button. Making his close range attack completely whiff. I wondered if this was to my own lack of skill and to an extent I believe it is but I also saw a lot of people having a similar issue online. Shadow is difficult to orientate at times and in a game where calculated actions and precision yield better results, the experience suffers because of it. Not by a lot, but some. As I mentioned, there is a ranking system for individual battles and for each mission. Your individual battles and other factors will round up to your overall ranking for that level. With Nero and Dante I felt in control of my rankings but with V, I was less confident I deserved that D or even that S ranking. At times with V I was getting SSS’s for what I thought was pretty basic gameplay and then other times I was getting C’s because I couldn’t hit with Shadow. It felt like you ranked up quicker with V and the reason for that is because the developers realised they needed to add that because of his margin of error. Again, I do think I was playing him wrong at times but I tried different tactics with Shadow and I just couldn’t get consistent results. Not a major issue but on harder difficulties where you have to be deliberate, I can see V being a frustration at times. Other than the inconsistent Shadow though, I think he’s a great addition to the franchise.

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Bad kitty! Do I need to buy a leash? Attack the enemy not the air in front of it.

Another part of the rankings I want to mention is the taunting in this game. During combat you can hit a button to taunt. Not only are these taunts flashy or funny, they also can up your style meter and also act as a way to prolong your style from decreasing. These taunts range from V coughing, Nero playing eenie meenie minee mo with enemies and even scaring them away, to Nero putting his hoodie up or V using his cane to conduct an imaginary symphony to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries. Each taunt gives you a glimpse of their personalities and the fact that certain taunts only activate if you have a specific style ranking is a nice touch. It adds incentive to do well in battle and to vary up your moves as you will get less style points if you use the same move repeatedly.  The style system is a fantastic choice in design and I can fully believe the idea that each character is ranking themselves in their heads. It fits the tone perfectly. As does the soundtrack to the game. Each character has a battle theme that really helps to amp up the fights. Nero’s punk/metal Devil Trigger will never get dull to me and V’s goth style look perfectly lines up with his Crimson Cloud song. You get to listen to these great tracks while you pummel the ever increasing array of demons and let me tell you, there is an ample variety on display in this game. Most of the missions in DMC V introduce at least one new enemy and does so in remarkably stylish enemy intros. I never got bored with the cannon fodder in front of me and the end of mission bosses that lay ahead. While I enjoyed the majority of the boss fights, I am struggling to remember them all as I type. There are fantastic fights like the time manipulating knight and horse but a few forgettable entries compared to the likes of DMC 3, where even over 10 years later I still remember Jester, Nevan and most of the other bosses. This is understandable though as I believe there is a boss fight for nearly every mission. You definitely get your money’s worth regarding boss fights.

I almost forgot to mention the Cameo System which is probably because it feels like a bit of an after thought. It’s not a bad system but I felt that I barely saw it in motion during my game. Basically, similar to how in Dark Souls you can see players ghosts run past now and then, in DMC V sometimes you will have other players in your game or their ghost data anyway. I believe it is a live player most of the time but there is a belief that a lot of it is ghost data. For the majority of the missions you will have other people playing as a different character in your game. Most of the time you won’t interact with them. A lot of the time you won’t even see them unless you shift the camera around or go looking for them. You’ll hear the sounds of battle and you might see them in the distance. Certain mission will have your paths merge and you’ll have the opportunity to fight alongside the other player. But you have to be at the right place at the right time. It makes this feature quite lacklustre as I always felt that I was missing out on potential co-op action. Most of the time I’d get to an area to see my fellow player finishing off the enemies before I could even get there and then racing to the next zone. I like to take my time and look for secret missions or collectables in these games and so I wasn’t interested in rushing through the levels. I kept getting people who were doing that though which is understandable but it just meant I had fewer enemies to fight and therefore less of an experience. It’s a gameplay element that I’m sure when it works well, it works really well. I’ve started playing a higher difficulty and so I’m excited to go back through again and hopefully meet another player who is open to having a more co-op experience than racing to the end goal. But that’s a personal hope and maybe I was just unlucky with my experiences.

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*Sighs* Wish I could be that cool.

All in all I really enjoyed my time with DMC V. It had some of the best player-action gameplay I’ve had in a long time and features super satisfying gameplay systems. Not only that but the sound design on the weapons is great and the locations and graphics look amazing. And even though I would have appreciated a bit more cheese in cutscenes and dialogue, what was on offer was very pleasing to my eyes and ears. And that about does it for my review on DMC V. Feel free to let me know what you thought of this game in the comments. Thanks for reading.

 

 

Inventory Time: Metal Gear Solid’s PAL Key

The Metal Gear Solid is a bizarre series. Personally I’m a fan of it, I like the ridiculous and the over the top, and so the MGS franchise suits me well. Of all the crazy MGS stuff, and trust me if you haven’t tried the series, there’s a lot of bonkers stuff, one item in particular has perplexed me for decades, that item is the PAL key. The PAL key or the Permissive Acton Link key is an emergency disc that is used to activate or deactivate nuclear weapons. That’s all fine and good but it’s the actual disc and how to use it that I want to talk about today. Obviously this is going to contain spoilers for Metal Gear Sold but nothing too spoilery. If a memory card reading, gas mask wearing, levitating psycho hasn’t persuaded you to play the MGS series then my mild spoiler shouldn’t turn you away for good. With that, let’s talk about PAL, pal!

palkeyred

Towards the end of Metal Gear Solid you discover that the enemy, Liquid, has started the activation process for the nuclear weapons. Not good news. So you, as Solid Snake must deactivate the nukes. Previous plans have failed but you discover the emergency option, the PAL key. In an emergency, 3 discs of data can be input into 3 computers to either activate nuclear weapons or disarm nuclear weapons. These keys are one use and if you mess up the input order or input the same disc by mistake then you’re all out of luck. As Eminem said, ‘You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow nukes’. Pretty sure that was it or close enough anyway, clearly he wrote that rap whilst playing Metal Gear Solid. So Solid Snake checks his infinite pockets and wouldn’t you know it, he only has one PAL key. He gets on his walkie-talkie to his urine soaked scientist buddy Otacon and has a bit of a moan about only having one key. Otacon explains that that PAL key is a 3 in one key. It’s designed with a special Shaped Memory Alloy which allows the key to transform shape so that different discs within the key are readable by a disc scanner. I believe that’s correct, the MGS series is confusing. When in doubt, nano-machines did it. For those who are reading and don’t know what nano-machines are to the Metal Gear Solid franchise, they’re whatever you want them to be. It’s that bit from The Simpsons where Professor Frink asks a really specific question to Lucy Lawless about an episode of Xena where a really specific detail was wrong. And then she responds with this:

Simpsons wizards

Just replace wizard with nano-machines and you’re an expert on the Metal Gear Solid experience. Again, I must reiterate, I love the series for reasons like that.

Back to my PAL! So, this disc can transform and needs to transform for it to be used properly. How do you transform it? I hear you ask. Simple really, by severe changes in temperature. And by severe I mean Sweaty Betty or Chilly Willy. Rubbing the disc in your hands isn’t going to heat it enough and to cool it you can’t just seductively rub ice cubes on it like it’s Kim Basinger. Extreme temperatures are needed to get those 2 states and the 3rd state is just room temperate so that isn’t a problem. To get the key to cool enough you need to head to a freezer area of the facility and wait in that area for the PAL key to cool enough. Once it does, the icon for the item will change to a blue disc and you can then use it on the suitable computer. To increase the temperature of the disc sufficiently, you have to take Solid Snake to a furnace area and have him wait till the disc heats up. Once the disc is heated up, you must make your way back to the computers and input the disc into the correct disc drive. Sound like fun to do in a video game? Of course it is, everyone loves backtracking!

So where is my issue with this? Well, the existence of the PAL key is for emergencies. A trip to a freezer and then a furnace, does not sound like an emergency that is swift, and speed is usually what emergencies require. It’s not like a scientist can pop this PAL key into a microwave to heat it up. Have you ever put food in a microwave that had a small piece of aluminium foil attached to it? I have and I might as well have got the sparklers out and set up a bonfire. Then there is the case of the journey to and from the freezer and furnace. Solid Snake is a clone of Big Boss, the greatest soldier of all time. A high mark for fitness and stamina is required to earn that title. Him running to and from in a timely fashion I can accept. But a regular person? Unless they’ve got Usain Bolt in a lab coat, I don’t think they’re getting those discs anywhere sprightly. An average Joe scientist will be doing a run for 2 minutes, then with winded breath that becomes a jog for another 2 minutes and then a brisk power walk to the freezer. That doesn’t include the trip back or the furnace expedition. BOOM the nukes have detonated and the super mutants are being born.

Giant mechs that roar like a Bionicle T-Rex? Sure, I’ll bite. CD’s that require a hot water bottle and a slushie nearby? Yeah, OK Kojima, where are you hiding the glue? Anyway that’s my shower thought for the day. More than likely I’ll be returning to the MGS series in the future for Inventory Time but in the meantime feel free to check out my thoughts on The Legend Of Zelda’s Iron Boots. Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments. Take it easy.

A Couple Of Couch Co-Op Games To While Away A Couple’s Couple Of Hours This Valentine’s Day

You know that thing when a word doesn’t look like a word anymore? I’ve just done that to myself with ‘Couple’. Literally had to Google search it. Nevermind that though! The day of love is upon us! And I come bearing gifts of gaming knowledge, wearing a red sash I dangle gracefully above your head, showering ideas for you and your loved one on this day. And to be quite frank, if you don’t have a loved one this year, play these games anyway! You don’t have to share the loot with anyone, happy days! Personally, Valentine’s day isn’t a day for me or my partner. We literally get each other a card or write a note for each other, usually we order take away and watch a film or play games together. Nothing grandiose because in our eyes it’s not the product but the time being together that is important. A film is great but for me, playing games together is better. There’s more interaction and connectivity when fighting a boss together or solving a puzzle. And so with that, here are a few games to try this Valentine’s day. Some of these may be on my Gaming and Your Partner post from 2017 but I haven’t checked it. These are just games of the top of my head that I currently think are great games to play with your loved one or solo.

Diablo 3

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If you haven’t played a Diablo game before, you may be thinking that Diablo 3 sounds a bit much for Valentine’s day. And yes, while the games themes and visuals are more suited for Halloween, the gameplay is very much a Valentine’s day experience. Not only that but some people feel intimidated by Diablo 3. Because the series has such a loved history, especially with the PC community, the game sounds like it could be praised for its complexity. Wrong, in fact Diablo 3 is the perfect game to play hungover! I’ve done it and it’s a doddle. There is very little story, you’re constantly on the go and so there is very little down town. There are tons of difficulties and the basic enemies are easy to mow down. The game implements a very satisfying loot system too. When a legendary item drops with a loud dink and a ray from the heavens beams from it, you and your partner are racing to see which character class that item belongs to. It really is a non-taxing game and perfect for a lounging on the couch, vegetative day. If your partner isn’t as well versed in games as you are, this has very easy to understand mechanics and a lot of leeway in terms of difficulty and accessibility.

Don’t Starve Together

Don't Starve Together

My partner isn’t a full-fledged gamer but does like to dip her toes with games like this. More top down and rogue-lite kind of games. I never played this game until she showed me it. It’s a simple concept, you spawn on a random map and you have to build a base and gather resources to survive enemies and the seasons. It’s a game about seeing how long you can survive, just like real life! Playing it together is a great experience. 2 people looking for resources speeds up the whole process but also means that you go through those resources at double the pace. What I love about Don’t Starve Together is the delegations it requires to have a fighting chance. Sure you can both go off together in the same direction but you’re going to encounter the same stuff. With the clever mechanic of the screen splitting when players separate and merging back when both are together, it provides ample opportunity for solo adventures for a joint cause. 1 person might explore and find a scary cave to explore full of potential goodies, whilst the other player gathers berries and hunts animals for meat. Both players then grouping back up by the campfire at base, providing protection to each other but also sharing what they gathered. It really is a game that spurs on communication and team work and I’m all for it. See how long you and your partner can survive!

Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity Ori

If Diablo 3 is a light dungeon crawler, then Divinity: Original Sin is the heavier version of that. I possibly wouldn’t recommend this to very newcomers of games because it is quite slow at times and more plot focused but it does offer a great co-op mode. The whole game can be played in co-op and it’s a long game too. You both create a character at the very start and then begin your investigation into a murder in a sea-side town. What begins as a simple plot slowly unravels into more nefarious dealings and you, your partner and a few NPC’s must travel the land to solve  mysteries and defeat evil. Tale as old as time really. This is a full on RPG that is fully playable solo or co-op. Why I suggest it is because you don’t get that much. A game of this length and scope and that is 2 players hardly comes around. It won’t be for everyone though. Like I said, lots of dialogue to scroll through and micromanagement of gear and inventory can put a lot of people off. Not only that the combat is turned based. Both players will have to communicate and plan their moves as a team to succeed in a fight and while that is fun, there is a lot of waiting for your partner to take their turns. Again, not an issue for some but others will find the combat boring or too heavy which is a fair point if you want something more laid back. Similar to Don’t Starve Together, this also features the map split and merge function which can alleviate a lot of the waiting around time for you or your partner. While one player is in town selling their old weapons, the other player can be turning in quests or talking to NPC’s in another town or engaging in a battle with a troll. The game also has an amazing feature in the drop in and out function. For example, if your partner wasn’t fussed about playing the game, you could play it yourself. But, if you partner fancied playing it another time or a few hours later, they are able to jump back in and take control of their character. This lightweight feature makes this heavy game more manageable and accessible which is why I feel it deserves to be mentioned. It is also a brilliant game, solo or non-solo.

Overcooked 1/2

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I will always suggest Overcooked games to couples! The original was one of the first games me and my partner completed together and Overcooked is the kind of game that will progress your relationship years ahead or at least that is what it feels like. By that I mean, the game starts nice and light and you learn to cook a burger together in a restaurant whilst politely requesting ingredients and asking each other to do the dishes. By the end of the game you’re demanding fish from your partner so you can make the blasted sushi that customer 37 has been waiting for for 6 damn minutes and your partner is yelling at you that she can’t serve the customers because I haven’t done the dishes again! Sorry, it got a bit personal there. I was having flashbacks. This game can truly test your relationship at times but there is no other game that has made us closer, than when we’ve completed a particularly difficult level in Overcooked.  A simplistic idea with easy controls and a difficulty that scales nicely for the most part. Overcooked is an easy recommendation for Valentine’s day or date night and if you’re feeling extra daring, a double date night. Be warned, that night could end with 1 or 2 relationships coming to an end. Word of advice, wash the dishes before you have to be told to wash the dishes.

The Witness

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A bit different here as technically this isn’t couch co-op but I think this deserves a mention. The reason being is the simple phrase: two minds are better than one. Have you ever been staring at a puzzle or riddle for ages and someone just glances over your shoulder and solves it in one try? Remember how smug they look and how stupid you feel? Good news! The Witness can help you to relive that over and over again.  The Witness is a puzzle game set on an island. You walk around the land and find a variety of puzzles that gain complexity as you progress. This game will truly stump you at times and to be quite honest, I still haven’t cleared it. Me and my partner got stuck at a puzzle and I refuse to lookup the solution. You may fare better though. It is a great game to play with your partner or even just to ask them now and then if they can help with you a puzzle. It doesn’t require full commitment from both people which is a weird strength for it in this discussion. Your partner could be on the couch on a laptop or something and when you get to a puzzle, you can get them involved. Nobody can turn down a chance to outsmart their other half. Everyone enjoys figuring out puzzles too, it releases those endorphins and makes the individual’s head grow 3 times bigger that day. A beautiful, serene game that I fully recommend checking out and getting your partner involved with.

Bonus Board Game Recommendation: Love Letter

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With a name like that, you know it’s perfect for Valentine’s day. Yeah, while the others you can quickly download for you and your partner to play, this one will require going to a nearby board game shop if you have one or using Prime Now or similar. But, I also highly recommend this game outside of Valentine’s day. In fact, this is a staple for any time we go away anywhere. Even if only for a day, we still take Love Letter. It comes in a really small box that is perfect for travelling. Love Letter is a quick board game that consists of 7-14 rounds that can last several seconds to several minutes. With easy to pick up rules, several index cards to keep track of details and a basic premise, Love Letter is ideal for getting your loved one into board games. The game is simple, you have 16 cards and each card has a character on it. There are only 8 characters, each with a skill and point ranking. Each player begins with one card and when it is their turn they must pick up a card and discard a card. When they discard a card, they must activate that character’s skill. The round ends when all cards are gone from the deck or if a player has to reveal their card. Then the winner takes a token of affection and the first to 7 tokens wins.

Simple enough but what really makes the game is the characters. As I said, each character has a score from 1-8. At the end of the round if nobody has revealed their card, both players show their card. Whoever has the highest scoring card wins the round. You would then think that the lower numbered cards are the weaker ones but in fact they are the strongest cards to have. For instance, the Priest card is only worth 2 points. If you have this at the very end of the match, then more than likely you will lose. But when you discard it, it lets you look at what the other player is holding. Then if you have the lowest scoring card, the Guard card, this lets you guess what card the other player is holding when you discard it. Now, any reasonable player will try to discard their card when you see what they have but some situations won’t allow that. For example, the Princess which is the highest scoring card in the game and will guarantee victory if all the deck is depleted, is also the deadliest card to have. The text on the Princess card says ‘If you discard this card, you are out of the round’, so you can’t get rid of it, you just have to hope the other player doesn’t guess that card if they get the opportunity. For a game that only features 16 cards and only 8 different variations, there is a lot of minutiae. If you want something a bit different to video games for you and your partner then I highly suggest checking Love Letter out. For more of an in-depth look and a review on Love Letter, I recommend Michelle’s review at A Geek Girl’s Guide, here. If I can’t convince you to try this amazing card game then maybe she can.

And that’s it for me on this romantic day. Hope all you love-birds out there have a nice day and for all you solo players I highly recommend the video games I suggested. Each one has solo or online play and are all amazing no matter which way you play them. In my opinion anyway but feel free to let me know how you feel in the comments. Take it easy!