Wednesday, April 22, 2020

I have a Nintendo Switch Lite and Animal Crossing: New Horizons now

And wow, is it addictive. I didn't research the game much at all before getting it (I already knew enough about the Animal Crossing franchise to know it was probably my kind of thing), so the real-time aspect took me by surprise. It's kind of nice that the game was literally built to have a slower pace, though. Oh, and another thing that took me by surprise: wasps (so many wasps) and tarantulas (OMG). After my poor avatar passed out for the third or fourth time, I looked up whether that has any negative effects, and it seems like it doesn't. Thank goodness.

I played until way too late last night and managed to pay off the first bit of debt and acquire new debt. But at least I have a tiny house (with storage!), a bunch of flimsy tools, and the ability to cross the river now. I haven't actually crossed the river yet, but I hope to do it during my lunch break today.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Supposedly Stardew Valley-like games I own and am eyeing

I haven't been reading much lately, but I've been playing more Stardew Valley. I still love the game and have put hundreds of hours into it, but there comes a point when you'd like to play something new...but still similar.

I own a bunch of games that I bought because they were supposedly in some way similar to Stardew Valley:
  • My Time at Portia: Last played in January 2019. It had some nice character interactions, although it was clearly missing some of its voice acting, and the emphasis on crafting occasionally annoyed me. You have to craft a lot, and a lot of times the things you're asked to craft require you to learn to craft a bunch of other things first. I was also not a fan of the fighting. The first creatures you come across are fairly low level and not inclined to hurt you unless you hurt them first. Later on, however, you have to battle tougher monsters and deal with boss fights. The boss fights were an unpleasant surprise, and one of the reasons I eventually quit playing.
  • Garden Paws: Last played in April 2019. From what I've read, the game has changed a lot since I last played it. For one thing, apparently it now has fighting. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I kind of liked that it was completely nonviolent, but fighting must be a thing that a lot of people want in their games, since it keeps showing up. Back when I played it, I really liked the exploration and foraging aspects of the game - there were a lot of little islands and hidden places to discover, some of which took a bit of crafting and thought to get to. What I didn't like was how empty the NPCs felt. I can't even remember most of them, they made so little of an impression on me.
  • World's Dawn: Last played in May 2019. This one gets a giant NO from me, which makes me sad, because on paper, at least, it sounds like the perfect "Stardew Valley, but not" kind of game. I managed to play it for four hours before rage-quitting due to the number and kind of bugs I encountered. F12, which normally takes a screenshot in Steam, crashed the game. I was kicked out of a shop when it hit closing hours, and for some reason this meant that my dog, which had been accompanying me, permanently disappeared. The controls were clunky and impossible to properly customize. The list could go on. What's shocking is that this is considered a finished game. It felt like an Early Access game that still needed work.
  • Verdant Skies: Last played in February 2020. The character portraits are gorgeous, but the actual game art looks weirdly stiff and unfinished. The exploration aspects are nice, but after a while the world started to feel extremely small, and I never really got into one of the most unique aspects of the game, the gene splicing. The character interactions also didn't work as well for me as I'd hoped. That said, there's still a few NPCs I haven't met.
  • Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles: Last played in February 2020. The world is huge, the game is completely nonviolent, and there's lots of quests to complete and things to discover. One of the ongoing tasks involves finding kittens! And there are a bunch of cute animals in the game, even if you never really get into the animal taming aspect of it. That said, once you've built the Cloud Catcher or whatever it was, there's nothing much new to do unless you're a Steam achievement hunter or really want to complete all of the remaining quests. I doubt I'm that committed. As much as I love the kittens, for example, I'm not sure I can put up with the fact that some of them can only be found during certain seasons or times of day. I'm not sure I'd call this a very Stardew Valley-like game, either. There's almost no need to grow crops or keep animals, unless you're an achievement hunter, and there's no depth to your interactions with NPCs.
  • Littlewood: Last played in September 2019. Not as Stardew Valley-like as I'd hoped it would be, but not a bad game. It is, however, Early Access, and so you'll occasionally run into things that haven't been rolled out yet. I didn't encounter any game-breaking bugs (looking at you, World's Dawn), but I decided to quit playing for a while and wait until it was finally finished. On the plus side, game updates are pretty frequent, and the developer includes version numbers with the update announcements, which seems like a strong indication to me that the game will eventually be 100% finished.
Speaking of Early Access games, one of the things that frustrates me is that a lot of games listed as being similar to Stardew Valley in some way are Early Access, and have been for a few years. The game advertisements and many of the positive reviews talk more about their future potential than what players can actually do in them right now. A few I've been eyeing:
  • Fantasy Farming: Orange Season: This one looks quite nice, but from the sounds of things updates have been slow in coming. I've been looking at reviews, and it's tough to tell how much there currently is to the game, although this seems like one of the more finished Early Access Stardew Valley-like games out there.
  • Kynseed: This looks lovely...but the reviews that aren't glowing squee-fests indicate that it has very little content, and what it does have currently serves no purpose. I'd have expected better from a game created by a couple experienced developers. 
  • Peaceful Days: Something about the way it looks seems very amateurish, and the non-glowing reviews indicate that it doesn't have much content and is clunky.
  • Serin Fate: I'm not sure how Stardew Valley-like this actually is. It seems cute, but also potentially more focused on battles than I'd like. Also, again, it sounds like there are content and clunkiness issues.
Steam also keeps pushing games like Graveyard Keeper and Gleaner Heights at me, which, yes, seem Stardew Valley-like on the surface and are actually complete (I'm starting to loathe Early Access), but only in terms of overall gameplay. Story and character-wise, however, they both sound dark as heck, definitely not the warm fuzzy blanket sort of games I'd actually like to be playing.

At the moment, what I'd really like is to get my hands on a Nintendo Switch so that I can play Animal Crossing: New Horizons. But from the sounds of things the Switch is going to be nearly impossible to buy until sometime after the pandemic. In the meantime, if you have any Stardew Valley-like games to recommend, I'd love to hear about them and what it is about them that appeals to you.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

REVIEW: Sweat and Soap (manga, vol. 1) by Kintetsu Yamada, translated by Matt Treyvaud

Sweat and Soap is a romantic comedy manga. It's licensed by Kodansha Comics.


When she was a child, Asako was bullied for the way she sweated, and she's been painfully self-conscious about her body odor ever since. She now works in the Finance Department of her favorite toiletries and cosmetics company, Liliadrop, and although the company's soaps and other products give her happiness, she still worries so much about her body odor that it pretty much dictates her whole life. She keeps quiet and still so she won't work up a sweat, and she spends her work breaks reapplying deodorant.

Then one day a man comes up to her at work, sniffs her, and declares that she smells amazing and that, for the good of the company, he must sniff her every day. Natori is a planner in Liliadrop's production development. He's supposed to come up with ideas for the company's Winter soap lineup, but he's been drawing a blank. Asako's scent inspires him and, although the idea of being sniffed makes her anxious, Asako wants to help the man behind the soaps she loves so much. But what if there's more than just soap inspiration brewing between them?