VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

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Steam Page

Wow. Just wow. I don’t think there’s anything in this game that I don’t love. But that’s getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the overview of the game’s… story.

You play Jill (Julianne), a bartender. You get some crazy patrons in the bar. You listen to their stories, offer advice, and laugh about a drink named Bad Touch because you’re an immature little girl. You do all of this in a city aptly named ‘Glitch City’. I say it is aptly named because several times you’ll see weird distortions show up on the screen and a girl called ‘Anna’ will appear. But she appears to you and only you… which made me skeptical as to whether or not Jill is a robot… The mechanical suits that the paramedics also glitch out, meaning that those inside had a difficult time removing them. Nanomachines are said to cause weird reactions in a local AI population called Lilim (apparently ‘bot’ or ‘robot’ is offensive). Glitches be everywhere.

Information is dispensed to you either through conversations with customers, or through, and I kid you not, 4chan boards. And a blog/newspaper sorta deal. All of the 4chan/newspaper stuff is managed through your phone which you check every day religiously when you wake up.

The gameplay is visual novel style except instead of doing the normal thing where you pick one of several contrived responses to stuff to further the plot… you serve drinks! I don’t know. Maybe it’s the wannabe chef inside me, or the mathematician that loves following a special set of instructions, or maybe it’s just fun to roleplay something entirely foreign to me but this bartending aspect is quite fun. And the best part? You actually have to pay attention to what the customers are saying. This isn’t like visual novels where most of the text is just fluff and you can probably get through without even bothering to read. Some customers have special preferences, some customers have a usual, and it’s up to you to pay attention to what’s going on to keep up and serve the ‘right’ drinks.

I’m going to get emotional with you for a second. I have a friend I talk to almost daily. And they’re a wonderful person, truly. But they rarely ask how I’m doing. When they do ask how I’m doing, it doesn’t feel like they genuinely want to know how I’m doing. Rather, it feels like they think it would be impolite to continue talking without asking how I’m doing. And while I don’t really mind that much, it does bother me a little bit. So as I play this game, and I become part of a two person exchange, I feel better about communication? I’m not sure the proper way to express this. I guess the best way to sum it up is ‘In order for something to be gained, something of equal value must be lost’. I like how the ‘equation’ remains ‘balanced’ in this game.

I’ll be straight with you, I’m not sure that there’s an overarching story to really get involved with. And to be quite honest with you, I’d prefer it that way. I believe the best way to experience this game is you are a bartender just living your life. Your game route goes over the course of about a month. Not a lot of stories in life get wrapped up in a month. There’s only one mini-story that gets wrapped up, but it gets wrapped up in a way that makes sense and is timely in fashion. And perhaps that’s the beauty of this game. That it is just a little slice of life. It does make good sequel bait.

The aesthetic of the game is beautiful. The music makes sense and it’s also quite varied. You can just tell how much effort went into making this game a work of art. It’s not difficult to buy into the environment of cyberpunk city on the edge. The writing is very detailed. The most important part? The characters are consistent and they consistently make sense. I cannot stress this enough. This is where many visual novels fail. They make lousy characters and/or they make illogical characters. This masterpiece makes solid characters that behave exactly the way they should and no character design seems like it was made to fill a hole in the story. This is the type of game that made a story in which the characters exist within and without the story. Well done.

It’s amazing. It’s a polished piece of work that is well worth the money that I spent on it. It also has a ton of humour within it. I took a screenshot of a character being asked why they made their stage name red comet and where the ‘red’ came in and they said it was because it made them three times faster. Three times faster! For those of you plebes that have no idea why that’s funny, I’ll explain the joke. Back in like… 1980 (which may have been before my time but who cares) there was a mecha anime called Mobile Suit Gundam. A character named Char Aznable was referred to as the ‘Red Comet’ and his mech was painted red. This mech looked exactly like the other mechs, except that it was red instead of green. And it was said that his mech went three times faster than the other mechs, likely to emphasize what a great pilot Char was. Eventually the red one being ‘three times faster’ became a bit of a joke among popular culture. And now I wonder if the Flash’s red suit is what makes him go fast…

So with that it seems that I’ve given this one a positive review! I fully recommend the purchase of Vallhalla! This is the type of game that made itself exactly what it needed to be. It’s not long, it’s not hard, but it’s an enjoyable experience from start to finish.

Artemis Hunt

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VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

The Physics of Geizeer

Okidokes. So as many of my readers should know by now, I have a B.S. in Physics. I also happen to be very skeptical when it comes to sensationalist claims. Usually these take the form of some ‘Green initiative’. The goal being to appeal using virtue signal (saving the planet) while also claiming to be cheaper (economic incentive). Solar roadways were a bust. The Fontus water bottle was also a bust. But they still gathered a lot of traction due to being green and claiming to be cheaper and better for the world. And this hearkens back to the post I made about the lottery… what? I didn’t make a post about it? Maybe it was only a Facebook rant. Anyway there was a post a while ago saying that we could solve poverty by splitting the lottery jackpot among all United States citizens. They claimed we could give everyone about $4 million dollars!

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I don’t know whether @Livesosa or Philipe Andolini came up with this. However, the math is completely wrong. Everyone would get about $4. Enough to buy everyone a small pocket calculator to check their math. The worst part is that I tried to justify this by remembering that we in the states (and eventually the entire world) use short form when it comes to large numbers. What this means, for those of you not in the know, is that when we say ‘a billion’ what is understood is that we are referring to 1000 millions. In long form, ‘a billion’ would refer to a million millions. The problem is that the order of magnitude is off by a thousand, so I could not justify the calculation. In other words, people are just dumb.

Anyway, so I came across this new type of air conditioner. It’s called Geizeer and the hyperlink leads to their kickstarter. I plan to take on their claims and apply physics to evaluate their truth values. By the end of this post, we might be able to determine whether or not donating to it is a waste of money. So what are the claims?

CLAIM #1

The first claim is that you will be able to cool your home by 3° C for a (well-insulated) 12 square meter room. So first, we need to think about how large 12 square meters is. And this is where I often run into issues of convention. By my interpretation, 12 square meters would be the area covered by a rectangle that has sides of length three meters and four meters. So to put it into terms we Americans are familiar with, it’s about a 10′ x 13′ rectangle. Which is probably close to the size of my apartment’s floor now that I look around. So it’s not what I would call a small area. Because you want the room to be cool, not just a plane, let’s tack on a third dimension. Realistically you’re going to have an expanding ‘sphere of cooling’ because of the way temperature diffusion works. So our third dimension should be about the height of a room. The height of a room varies based on… well, the room really. So I’m going to stand up in my room and just guesstimate the height. [Will the real Artemis Hunt please stand up] Okay, looks like it’s probably close to nine feet tall. So that’s about 2.75 meters. So the dimensions of the final room which we will be considering for the sake of this thought experiment and calculation is 3m x 4m x 2.75m.

It also claims to cool the air by 3° C for this area. How large of a temperature change is that? Close to about 6° F. This is not a significant change. Room temperature is usually defined to be about 20° C or 21° C. This is close to about 68° F or 70° F. Just for the sake of consistency and to not have to do a ton of range calculations, let’s just stick to 21° C and 70° F being room temperature. The effective change in temperature would bring the room down to 64° F. But you’re likely not using air conditioner if the room is at room temperature. No, you’re probably using it to keep the house AT 70°. Which means your room is around 76° F.

All of this temperature stuff was just to give you an idea of the scale of changes going on. The calculations I’ll be performing are to lower a room from 24° C to 21° C. The first thing we need to do is figure out what equations we’re going to use. Perhaps you’re familiar with an old post of mine in which we did similar calculations, applying it to cartoon physics. We’re going to be using the same equations we used from that post, just with different things. So what equation do we need? Good old rapper name mcDeltaT

QMCDT

We want to figure out how much heat is necessary to change the temperature of a cube of air from one temperature to another. Now you’ll note that the equation refers to heat added. Initially you might be inclined to think that the equation is not applicable. After all, it says heat ADDED. However we want to cool the air! Surely we wouldn’t want to add heat to cool the air, right? Well, fret not, because the equation works both ways. Remember that Δ generally refers to the difference of a final condition and an initial condition. And I worded it that way intentionally; it has to be final condition minus initial condition. Subtraction is not commutative. The order in which you subtract things matters. And if you don’t believe me you can test it yourself. Subtract three from four and four from three and tell me whether or not you get the same answer both times.

Why am I emphasizing that the difference must be final condition minus initial condition? Well, let’s do a small thought experiment to demonstrate the concept. If the final temperature is higher than the initial temperature, then the  ΔT will have a positive value. If the final temperature is lower than the initial temperature, then the  ΔT will have a negative value. Mass m will obviously always be positive and specific heat c is defined to be positive. Just as a reminder, specific heat is the a measure of how much energy must be dumped into a mass to raise it by one degree Celsius.

So the only thing that can change the sign of Q, our heat added, is the sign of  ΔT. If the temperature increases,  ΔT is positive meaning heat was added to the system. If  ΔT is negative, that means heat was removed from the system. So the equation will still work just fine, we will just have a minus sign to denote that heat was removed from the system.

So now we need to figure out what and m are for the air. We know ΔT already (24° C – 21° C = 3° C). According to this source, the specific heat of at around room temperature is about 1.005 kJ/kg*K. So we’ll roll with that. What about the mass of the air? This has to be horrendously tiny. Well… the density of air depends on on its temperature and pressure. We’ll be assuming standard atmospheric pressure because that’s what most rooms you might be using this in will be at. We’ll also use the density at room temperature because it’s reasonably close to that. We’ll be reducing the temperature by about 12.5 percent. Also since we’re dealing with a closed system, we shouldn’t expect the volume (and by extension, mass and density) to change. So from the same page, we see that the density of air at room temperature and standard atmospheric pressure to be 1.205 kg/m^3. Now if we include the temperature change, we can see how much energy we need to remove from the system to produce the temperature change.

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Holy smokes, are there really 39 kg of air in my room? Probably not. Myself and my furniture displace a lot of the air so realistically the number is not quite as large. But 39 kg? That’s amazing! I wasn’t expecting such a large number, huh. Anyway, let’s carry on. So that’s the mass of the air in my room in kilograms. Let’s complete the equation to see how much energy we must add to the system to cool it by 3 degrees Celsius.

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You may have noticed that I put the units of temperature change in Kelvin, rather than Celsius. Surely that would be breaking the rules? No, it’s not. Well, not in the end. The Kelvin scale is a rescaling of the Celsius scale. The only difference is where the zero is placed. So a change in a degree Kelvin is a change in a degree Celsius. At the end of the day, we see that we need to add -119.891 kJ of energy to the air in the room to produce this temperature change. If it makes you feel better, you may say the same thing by saying we need to remove 119.891 kJ of energy from the air in the room to produce this temperature change.

Now we get into one of the most important laws of physics. Its use has guided our hand in thermodynamics through the centuries. It is practically one of our ten commandments. What I am referring to is the Law of Conservation of Energy. We want to remove energy from the air in the room. But we’re not going to dump it out of the room. Remember that qualifier in the claim. The room has to be well-insulated. This means that energy doesn’t enter the room, and energy doesn’t leave the room. The room is a self-contained environment. What does this mean for the energy? Well it can’t leave the room, so it has to go somewhere else in the room. The natural flow of heat is from higher temperature regions to low temperature regions. Now the Geizeer actually provided such a low temperature region. There’s some kind of gel pack in its center which has been frozen in the refrigerator. Its temperature would probably be comparable to that of something in your freezer. Heat flows from higher temperature regions to lower temperature regions. So the heat in the warm air will flow to this cool gel pack. As the energy leaves the air and is absorbed by the gel pack, the air cools down (and the gel pack heats up).

Unfortunately it becomes very difficult to evaluate the energy necessary to change the temperature of ice packs without knowing what they’re made of. If it’s ice, we’re good to go. I can easily evaluate the physical properties of ice. But it’s some kind of weird gel that I can’t get the material properties of, then my journey stops here. So let’s just look at the ice situation. I would imagine that if ice were better, it would be used instead of some gel. Therefore ice is probably the worse of the two materials to use for the ice pack. So if our calculations work for ice, then we can be reasonably sure that they would work for the gel. However if the calculations don’t work for ice, we may be stuck with no way to decisively conclude anything.

So we’re going to use that heat added equation. But we’re going to rearrange it to solve for mass. We know the specific heat of ice. By this source it’s… temperature dependent. Ouch. Well let’s at least figure out how cold it would be at the outset. If we assume that the inside of the freezer is maintained at a temperature, we can assume that when we remove the ice pack that it will be at that temperature. So what temperature would that be? Well, according to the USDA it should be at 0° F. Which is about -17.8° C. So when we remove the ice pack from the freezer it will be about -17.8° C as well. As the ice pack increases in temperature, its specific heat changes. So let’s use an average specific heat over the range of ice temperatures. The average specific heat from -20° C to 0° C is 1.9984 kJ/kg*K. So that is the value that I will use. Since the density also varies by temperature and we calculated an average specific heat, we should probably do an average density as well. In that case, the average density of our ice will be 918.28 kg/m^3

Now we need to figure out the mass of the ice. Granted, the entire block is not made of ice but we will assume it is for the sake of simplicity. But how are we going to do that? This is where I start doing some pixel math. Let’s use this image

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Assuming cubical symmetry we can probably figure everything out. So the box itself is 175 pixels tall. The kickstarter page lists the height of the box to be 134 mm. The length of the box is stated to be 144 mm. So let’s check the length to see if we get a comparable number. Doing another measurement I see that the box is 175 px by 175 px. So they have it as a square. What does this mean for our calculations? It means that the picture is likely not drawn to scale. If it is drawn to scale, then it means the resolution of each pixel probably has an uncertainty of 5 mm. But I’m too far in to pull out now, so forge ahead we must. Since it’s a square, let’s just take the average of the two lengths, or 139 mm and say that 175 pixels is 139 mm. Now let’s get the dimensions of the ice pack. And this is where we run into a bit of a problem. It’s not a simple object like a cube. So to get the volume of the ice pack, I’ll assume it is two separate objects. A rectangular prism on top of a rectangular prism.

First, let’s look at the bottom rectangular prism. Again, we’ll be assuming cubical symmetry, so its length will also be its width. And that length happens to be 120 pixels. Using our scale of 175 pixels being 139 mm, we conclude that 120 pixels is 95.314 mm. Now let’s get the height of the rectangular prism. Counting pixels, we see that it’s 44 pixels tall, or 34.949 mm. So the dimensions of the rectangular prism below are 95.314 mm x 95.314 mm x 34.949 mm. Now let’s attempt to approximate the cube on top. Now I’m going to display to you the box that I will be approximating our smaller rectangular prism with.

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Yes, some of the sloping sides are not included but the middle part isn’t entirely filled so this eyeballing should be good enough to give us some ballpark results. The length is 45 pixels and the height is 25 pixels. Wow, I free-handed that box, and got such nice numbers? Let’s convert those pixels to real-world measurements. Converting the pixel measurements, we get a length of 35.743 mm and a height of 19.857 mm. So the dimensions of the smaller prism are 35.743 mm x 35.743 mm x 19.857 mm.

Now we have the dimensions of the boxes. And it is here that we will convert our measurements to meters. Why? Because we have the density of ice in kg/m^3 and I don’t want to deal with converting cubic millimeters to cubic meters. Much better to start with cubic meters. So let’s do that.

Big Prism: 95.314 mm x 95.314 mm x 34.949 mm = 0.095314 m x 0.095314 m x 0.034949 m
Lil Prism: 35.743 mm x 35.743 mm x 19.857 mm = 0.035743 m x 0.035743 m x 0.019857 m

(Oh wow, I never noticed that the font wasn’t monospaced. I’m too used to programming)

We’re almost ready to use our heat equation. Now we just need to get the volume of our sum prisms. This happens to be 0.000342872 m^3. To get the mass of this ice, we multiply the volume we found ( 0.000342872 m^3 ) by the density we settled on earlier (918.28 kg/m^3) and what we get is a block of ice with a mass of 0.3149 kg. Before we go any further, let’s do a little bit of a check. Does this seem reasonable? Well, that’s about .7 lbs. It weighs about as much as a baseball. That seems about right for an ice pack. So our guess doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Alright! So we have our mass (0.3149 kg), we have our specific heat (1.9984 kJ/kg*K), all we need now is our change in temperature! If we permit the ice block to come into thermal equilibrium with the room, we will see a change in temperature of 39° C. Final temperature (21° C) minus initial temperature  (-18° C). I personally do not think that this would be the actual change in temperature, but we may as well do the calculation to see what would happen as time went to infinity. We do need to note a few things though. First, ice won’t exist above 0° C. Water will. So we can only do the heat equation for the energy necessary to raise the temperature of ice from -18° C to 0° C and the energy necessary to raise the temperature of water from 0° C to 21° C. We’ll have to use a different equation for the melting bit but that’s simple enough. It’s the mass of the object multiplied by its latent heat of fusion. The latent heat of fusion of ice/water being 334 kJ/kg. So here’s the process step by step.

  1. Calculate the energy required to raise the temperature of ice to 0° C
  2. Calculate the energy required to melt all of that ice into water
  3. Calculate the energy required to raise the temperature of water to 21° C

Simple enough, right? Let’s get at it. First, we need the energy required to raise the temperature of ice to 0° C from -18° C.

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11.3273 kJ. Alright, now let’s figure out how much energy we need to melt all of the ice

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105.177 kJ. Excellent, moving right along. Now the ice has been fully melted into water at 0° C. We didn’t add any mass, we didn’t take any away. it was only a phase change. The only thing that really changed was the density of water (it increased). The specific heat of water however, is very different from that of ice. The specific heat of water is 4.186 kj/kg*K. That’s one you memorize quite quickly whenever you do enough of these types of problems. Here’s the energy calculation for the water.

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Alright, now for the final step, let’s add all of these energies together. That’s 11.3273 kJ + 105.177 kJ + 27.6816 kJ = 144.1859 kJ. That’s how much energy that must be dumped into the ice pack to produce that type of temperature change. Now the question is… do we have enough? Remember how much energy the air needed to lose to drop 3° C? It was 119.891 kJ. We have 144 kJ of energy. So we do have enough… if we raise the temperature of the ice pack from -18° C to water at 21° C. Let’s figure out how high the temperature of the ice pack has to become to cool the room exactly. To do that, we first subtract the energy necessary to raise the ice to melting temperature and the energy necessary to melt the ice from the amount we predicted would be necessary to lower the air’s temperature. So 119.891 kJ – 11.3273 kJ – 105.177 kJ = 3.3867 kJ. Now we solve for change in temperature using 3.3867 as our heat added value. We get this:

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The water would have to be raised to a little over 2.5° C for this to work.

So what does this all mean? It means that in this worst case check, for which the ice pack is literally made of ice, that there is a place to put the energy we removed from the air to cool the room. In fact, we could even cool it a little bit more. Especially when you remember that we likely overestimated the mass of the air in the room because your room probably has furniture in it – which take of space that air could be taking up. Of course… that presents its own slew of problems which we will not be addressing. This blog post is long enough already and I still have another claim to address! So this part of the Geizeer gets a pass by my calculations.

CLAIM #2

In fact, using it for the duration of 24 hours will have an economic consumption of less than 1 cent.

Let’s check that one out. So the device facilitates the transfer of energy through the use of a fan. This fan is powered by a 3.7 V battery with a lifetime of 7 hours. This means that you must recharge the battery at least twice if you want to run the device for 24 hours. So it’s theoretically impossible to have it running all day however that doesn’t mean we can’t evaluate the claim of energy cost. The fact that I have no idea how much energy is required to charge a battery would mean we can’t evaluate the claim of energy cost. Maybe we can get around that though.

What do we know? We know the energy necessary to to cool the air as claimed. We know that each of these ice packs supposedly works for four hours. This allows us to figure out how much energy is being dumped into the ice pack(s) per day. This next calculation works regardless of whether or not the ice pack is ice or some kind of gel. The reason being that we’re calculating how much energy is being dumped into it per day, not whether or not there’s enough energy for the temperature change to occur. We calculated earlier that we need to remove 119.891 kJ of energy from the air. This is the work necessary to cool the air. We do this over four hours. This means we’re operating at about 8.3258 Watts (8.3258 Joules per second). Why have I done this conversion? Because the cost of power in the United States is rated by kW*hr. The average being about 12 cents per kiloWatt hour. So if we want to figure out how much this power would cost, we multiply by the kiloWatts we’re using and by 24 hours because we’re doing this by the day. We’re using 0.0083258 kW and we’re doing it for 24 hours, so the cost of the energy transfer alone is…

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The claim is false. If you ran it all day it would cost you a little over 2 cents. However that’s just the cost to move the energy from one place to another. It does not include the cost necessary to operate your freezer to freeze the ice packs repeatedly. It doesn’t include the cost to operate the fan. Realistically, it will cost you far more than 2 cents per day. But not all of that cost is going directly to the Geizeer’s operation. Your freezer was likely already running all day long anyway, so the addition of the ice pack probably doesn’t add an effective cost to your home.

Now we come up to the big question. Is it cheaper to run a Geizeer instead of your usual air conditioning unit? That’s a hard claim for me to work with and let me begin by stating that I AM NOT AN EXPERT. If your home is controlled by some central air system like mine is, it’s working for far more than just one room. It’s working for your kitchen, your bedroom, your dining room, your living room, and your guest room. That’s a whole lot more air than this little apartment room that I calculated the numbers for. Sure, it’s 2.5 cents for one small room, but when you add up all of the rooms, do the numbers still work out? I can’t say for sure. I did look up a site to figure out how to compare the cost. But the problem is it just depends on the size of the house and the type of air conditioner far too much. But their example is well over even $1 which I don’t see a number of these Geizeers in your home ever reaching. one thing to note, is that you need to buy the Geizeers, while you likely just pay for the operation of your current air conditioner. So if you buy a Geizeer, you’ll likely recoup the cost of the Geizeer at a rate of one Geizeer per month. So at the end of the day, looks like the Geizeer passes my test. Despite one of its claims being false, it does seem to be effectively cheaper to operate compared to an air conditioner. It’s also portable, while your window AC or your house AC probably isn’t. (Shower thought: Do people even use window ACs anymore? I haven’t seen them in forever… but I do currently live in Alaska)

So the Geizeer gets a pass! Thumbsup.jpg

Here is the link to their Kickstarter again.

Artemis Hunt

 

The Physics of Geizeer

Mirror’s Edge

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Steam Page

Hay Caramba. This game. Look, there are several cardinal sins in gaming. Two of the bigger ones are quick time events (or QTEs) and first-person platforming. Mirror’s Edge has both of these so there goes my ability to give it a fair review.

Mirror’s Edge is about a woman named Faith who works for a secret underground organization carrying packages whose entire training program is on rooftops. Irony ever present. Your group seems to have some beef with the government though I don’t think that’s ever explained. It’s never really explained who you work for either; or what you’re delivering and I don’t think we ever delivered a single package. So I’m not sure we’re in the right organization. Maybe we just have to take it on Faith that we’re doing our job (Har har, name jokes). In fact, I don’t see much point in the underground organization thing, Faith spends the entire game trying to get her sister off for a crime her sister didn’t commit. Seems like just about any occupation would do because it’s irrelevant.

The story is downright terrible. Maybe it’s because the game is so short and wasn’t meant to have a story. But they still managed to Jackknife  (oops I did it again!) so many little pieces together. Maybe it’s just because I’m me, but I don’t understand why people with guns insist on putting guns right up against the person they’re about to shoot. Seriously, are you the type of person that plays archer class and stands right next to the enemy you’re trying to kill? You have a RANGED WEAPON. Why are you using it in melee range? Why so close to people you absolutely KNOW have hand-to-hand training! I guess you know you have that same training, but do you really need to take that chance? Just sit back 100 meters and shoot the guy. Hell, 10 meters will do. Ugh. Betrayals happen for little to no reason, or at least no adequately explained reason. Maybe there will be a sequel that handles all of that. After all, the game was rather short. I just feel like you could’ve focused on one story rather than trying to loop together some two and a half stories.

Let’s talk mechanics. You know, I absolutely hate quick time events, but Mirror’s Edge executes them in an adequate way. Quick time events are horrible when there’s no way to know that they’re coming. It’s annoying to fail a quick time event and get sent back to base when you had no means of knowing that it was coming. But in Mirror’s Edge, the entire game is pretty much built on quick time events so it’s not as bad. It’s a parkour game. You run, you jump, you balance, it’s all fun. When things can be jumped on or something they colorize from white to red, making it easy to identify where you could go if you were so inclined. Only not all red things should be acted upon. So it’s eh.

The combat is really $#@!ing retarded. You can take two hits from any police dude. Two. They also have guns. You know what you have? Tattoos and a bad haircut. So if two hits seems unfair to you, you’re going to have a bad time. You can steal guns from cops but to do so requires running at the cop (who, unlike the baddies mentioned before are actually smart enough to use their guns from range) and then wait for them to attack you. As they attack you, you can do your counter attack which insta-KOs and steals their gun. Which, if you’re going to play this game would be a very important skill to learn because if you hope to win sometime today you’ll be using it a lot. And this is where the game went from quicky parkour to pain in the behind.

See, whatever you’re doing has to be extremely illegal because the cops in the city have nothing better to do than send whole squads of cops your way with helicopter support. HELICOPTER SUPPORT. And remember, you’re not even delivering anything! It’s insane the amount of public resources that get spent on you. Anyway, the game sends full squads of cops your way. Now normally, you’d think “Okay, parkour game. We’ll just parkour around them or through them or something”. Absolutely incorrect. The game spawns cops in such a way that it’s very difficult to do so. My first attempts were usually to try and skirt the cops. But eventually I found it easier to run at the cops, do the QTE, and use their gun to take out the other cops. And this is where Mirror’s Edge fails. It’s just not fun to have to parkour to a cop, pass a QTE, and then turn the game into a first-person shooter for a few just to pass the levels. It breaks the pacing and it involves a lot of restarts should you fail that QTE.

Also, who was in charge of skybox? Is there enough bloom in the game? I guess it might be to help emphasize the red on white thing, but seriously. Put down the lights.

You know what the worst part is? I could see this game working. If you remove the combat and focus on the parkour, I think it could be excellent. I feel like to do that would require sandbox gameplay though. Also, can we deliver packages for once? I mean, that’s kinda what I wanted to do. I imagined myself free-running away and around the cops delivering packages. Instead I had to fight the cops to take their package and then kill the other cops with it. What a shame.

In summary, good idea, poor execution. I have a feeling the story was put on the backburner and that’s fine, but trying to shovel in a second story of betrayal without fleshing out the first story means bad design. Too. Many. Guns. Guns kill the fun parkour style of the game. At the time of writing, the game is $20 on Steam. I would not buy it for this price. Wait for it to go on super sale for like $5.

Artemis Hunt

Mirror’s Edge

Cubicle Quest

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Steam Page

In my ongoing effort to conquer every small game in my Steam library I have moved on to Cubicle Quest. It’s an inspired JRPG, which reminds me of my other review of Ar Tonelico (which you should totally read if you haven’t already because it boosts my self-esteem). So let’s talk Cubicle Quest.

You play Bob, the most generic name ever, probably so you can easily project yourself onto him. You are a recent college graduate with a ton of credit card debt and college loans. As a recent graduate myself, I can vouch for having a ton of college loan debt, but credit card debt? I’ve never had more than $300 put onto credit. I’d like to think my experience is the norm. Otherwise – hooo boy. Credit Card companies must be making bank. The entire theme of the game has to do with life after school. You’re kicked out of the home of your parents; which, being honest with you, I don’t think is terribly likely. Most of my friends are about to hit their mid-twenties and they’re still with their parents. Playing Bob, you advance your way through your career, your social life, life’s many problems, and eventually conquer “Empty Life” – the final boss.

The story isn’t terribly inspired. If anything, it’s pretty much real life struggle. Finding a job, dealing with other people in your life, and dealing with real-world problems like depression. Most of the dialogue in the game is tongue-in-cheek fourth-wall breaking banter. Which, as I am sorry to disappoint you in saying this, does not make it any less cliche. It’s amusing to read, but then again I also laughed at Tyrion’s joke about a Stark, a Tyrell, and a Lannister entering a bar. My sense of humour is probably not the best to go by. Long story short – it’s a JRPG that’s aware of itself being a JRPG. Which doesn’t make it any better.

Can we talk about JRPGs? Let’s talk about JRPGs. JRPG has to be the type of game I like least, or it’s waaaaaay up there. Why? Because JRPGs are long. Because JRPGs more often than not include grinding. They include memorizing enemy types (which we’ll get to in a minute). They include all of this bananas stuff. I don’t like the idea of levels, wherein you lose because you quoted bigger numbers at the other person. This is why I often praise Dark Souls. While levels can help, most of Dark Souls is about resource management and positioning. Very little of it is about how long you spend in the Darkroot Forest grinding Cat Covenant members. In a JRPG, you can be the best micro-manager of resources possible but still lose because you took on a Level 15 boss with your Level 2 party. It’s a playstyle which promotes time investment of fighting mooks just so you can fight the boss. I just don’t like that sort of thing.

My biggest gripe with this game is enemy types. As near as I can tell, there are three enemy types (possibly four). Those are Work, Personal, and Human (and possibly Illusion). There are a series of skills on each your party members which can be effective against any of these types of monsters. The problem is, you have no way of telling what type of monster it is by looking at it. So you spend half the fight guessing which type is super effective until you find it and then you have to memorize it for future battles. Suppose you leave and fight other stuff in another area of the game. Fighting this other stuff is pretty rough, so you decide to grind back in the original area. Now you have to try to remember what type of enemies these were. It’s madness! It’s bonkers! This is not what I call fun!

Every item in the game, every piece of equipment is related to real life but effectively it’s a Find/Replace of your typical JRPG. Instead of ‘weapon’ you have ‘goals’. Instead of ‘armour’ you have ‘community’. It’s not terribly interesting and it doesn’t add anything to the genre. You don’t get points in the game’s favour just because you know what a Find/Replace function does. I mean, it’s amusing for the first two seconds but when you realize what has been done, the chuckle dies down inside and you slowly come to terms with your depressing life, unemployment, and lack of ambition…. what was I saying again?

The game presses out three things that fulfill you in life. These three things are home, lack of debt, and marriage. You have to have all three things to challenge the boss. Lack of debt I can maybe understand. I mean, who wants to spend their entire life effectively making nothing because every dime they make goes to someone else (college debt is slowly encroaching on me…). A home? Yeah, sure. I can maybe get behind that too. Not having to be accountable to someone else for the state of your home is pretty nice. I like being able to put a nail in my wall without having to fill out some paperwork for my landlord as much as the next person. But marriage? This is where I draw the line. Allow me to bring up a personal anecdote.

In my senior year of high school, in my European history class, everyone was forced to read The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. At some point or another, we were split into groups and tasked with the job of creating an alternate ending to the book. So this was probably after we had all finished the book. Well, I say ‘we’ very operatively. I don’t recall ever personally finishing the book because I just didn’t care anymore. I know protagonist kills one of his former tormentors and I think he goes to prison but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get out of this. So we’re talking about alternate endings and I can’t remember what my ideas focused on, probably PK’s boxing career, and another member of the group keeps trying to press this one idea. She agreed with everything else we said, whatever it was, but she kept trying to tack on a marriage. To the slut mentioned at the beginning of the book, oddly enough. I think she was referred to as ‘Couchy’ or something? Because everyone lays on her at some point or another? This partner of mine kept trying to force this marriage into the ending somehow as if that were the defining characteristic of a happy ending. Marriage. I’m not denying that marriage can probably make you happy (considering that I’ve never been married or even in a relationship in which marriage seems like a likely outcome) but I wouldn’t make it a prerequisite. So that’s a drag.

Oh, and this one comment is for the easily triggered: I did not find any way to have a homosexual relationship. Make of that what you will.

All in all, the game is decent enough to pass time, but I wouldn’t really want to play it? Like, if you have a long car ride and can somehow play Steam games on your phone (maybe in the future… future… future…) it wouldn’t be that bad but then I think – there are a ton of better games that I would rather be playing. So why play this one? If you like the snarky-sarcastic theme; some might even call it snarcastic. Though I’m not entirely sure whether snarky and sarcastic are synonyms. I can’t recommend this game as a ‘good’ game though. It has humour… and that’s about it. And humour can’t carry a game like this. It worked in The Stanley Parable because the game was narrative driven and fairly short with multiple endings. It doesn’t work in JRPGs because the bulk of the game is fighting, not narrative. So, sorry Cubicle Quest. I like the idea, but not the execution.

Artemis Hunt

Cubicle Quest

Kung Fu Strike – The Warrior’s Rise

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Steam Page

I don’t remember actively buying this game so I’ll assume I got it through a bundle at some point. I buy bundles all the time, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

So what do we have here? An action beat-em-up? About a disgraced warrior proficient in kung fu? From a royal family? Where at some point this warrior will be ‘killed’ and join a tournament for their replacement? Which they win? What? Have you seen this movie before, because I… actually don’t watch those sorts of movies now that I think of it. I don’t think I’ve ever really sat down and watched a kung fu movie outside of maybe Rush Hour. But even then, that’s not really what I’d call a kung fu movie. So I don’t really know where I got all of the tropes from. Probably anime. Anyway the game infuriated me so I think I’ll just sum up the story in a poem to cool off.


You play as a dude named General Loh
Good friend to a monk named Master Mo
To his temple you must go
And a display of skill you must show

To display your skill you kick his ass
Dude’s all talk, got a jaw made of glass
After which he gives you some sass
Then he tells you to go to a tomb under grass

Far across the land you rode
To an underground tomb, with dudes that explode
With their fat little faces with which they goad
You into destroying their humble little abode

If you thought the tomb levels were shitty
Wait til you go back to the city
And I’m sure you’ll think this next line is witty
You fight female assassins with nice paris of … eyes

You get poisoned and run
And I’m sure it’s fun
To fight with a health bar short a ton
Against several women with the era’s gun

They think that you’re dead but you survive
You go into training and come out alive
A tourney to replace you? They didn’t wait five?
So you set off for a bit of a drive

In the tournament you fight
Every boss until then, this just ain’t right
With only one health bar 9 foes you smite
In a fierce display of your terrifying might

You then storm the palace, where your brother await
He’s the king (emperor?) and it’s him you hate
Rebels join you, after you smash down the gate
Go tell him that there’s a funeral to which he is late

IT’S HIS OWN DAMN FUNERAL, HE GONNA BE TOAST
He got several bitches guarding him, they gonna be roast
After you finish kicking them coast to coast
Your brother sits down ready to talk the most

He blames his wife, typical man
But she takes the blame, says it was her own plan
To get revenge on your brother’s clan
The embers of war she would then fan

You take her down but our story ends here
Sequel bait for another game, or so I fear
Ain’t no way I’m playing it, let me be clear
That my hatred for this game is incredibly sincere


So when I started the game it seemed adorably bad. Sure, it seemed like Dynasty Warriors without the strategy. Sure it made my computer (my Pentium i7) chug every now and again. And sure, it seemed a little campy. The developers put a lot of effort into making it so bad that it was adorable. I kinda felt endeared to it. But as time went on, and the levels progressed, the game got harder. The game’s way of scaling up difficulty is to throw more attacks at you that you can’t block. And to throw more people at you to simultaneously do them. And I played the game on normal difficulty all the way through! The way you learn moves? You buy them. You get a bonus for completing a level for your first time but I wound up using that bonus gold to buy resurrection potions more often than not. Which are only good for one level. So while it’d be nice to use that move you just picked up, you’re going to have to grind for it. And good luck finding good grinding levels early on.

I should also mention that you’re being graded by your adherence to the martial arts or something.

And I wouldn’t be so frustrated with the combat if I could use these new moves without having to buy them. I wouldn’t be so frustrated with the game if it was consistent on what you can block and what you can’t block! The game says you can’t block enemies once they look red. Alright, but apparently you can block the monk with the staff’s spinning attack despite him being red? The only thing I found really consistent about the combat is being unable to block low sweeps. These are terribly annoying, especially when they’re the first part of a combo to take away a third of your health. Hit and run doesn’t often work especially well either, because the game will decide which enemy you meant to hit and if the RNGods are not with you that day, perhaps you forgot to offer your weekly virgin Hearthstone player they will instead have you move towards the thing you were running from and begin an attack which cannot be interrupted by you which will in no way hit that target. Bullshit.

Every now and again you’ll see prompts above the enemy’s head, either X or A (well I did anyway. I use a Steam controller) and if you press these you can break a block. One small problem. A happens to be the jump button. If you are in the air, you cannot jump. So you wind up being forced to take a counter attack despite your efforts to press the damn button because of game mechanics.

You know, this game doesn’t have to be that bad. The problem is that it’s way of scaling enemies up is to throw more of them at you. And sure, it takes some skill to fight multiple enemies at once and there were several times where I had to fight multiple bosses at once and it’s fine. What’s not fine is the sheer number of unblockable attacks coming your way in such a way that if you take the first one, you take all of them. Also! If you happen to block the first attack in a combo, THE COMBO JUST KEEPS COMING. I’m not sure if you can block the other hits in the combo (not for lack of trying). If you block the first strike in a combo, you should end the combo! There’s no point to blocking a combo of three hits if you can only block the first and be forced to eat the other two! When I figured that out, I started just dodging combos. Better to take no damage than some.

All in all, the game is terrible. It doesn’t scale well. It frustrates me to no end. At some point through the game I remember telling myself that this game is no longer adorably bad. Now it’s just terribly bad. But I was too invested, I had a page of notes for this review. So I stuck through to the end to finish it for myself (can’t let a game beat me) and for this review but I did not have fun for the latter half of the game. This is a solid no from me.

Artemis Hunt

Kung Fu Strike – The Warrior’s Rise

Sword of Asumi

Steam Page

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I should really make a habit of putting the Steam image in the review as well. I’ll try to remember it more often.

Alright, so I’ve been badge collecting and with most badges, I seem to get a discount coupon (If you pronounce it Q-pon I may have to stab you) upon completion. I bought this game off of one of those. It came out to like $2 and I figured, why not. So let’s talk about the game.

You play (surprisingly) Asumi. A young female assassin with big dreams of enforcing peace… by force. You start the game with an assassination and after completion you are tasked with another one to stop a terrorist threat. The codename of this individual is Raven. But your boss doesn’t know the identity of Raven, but they do know Raven is at this school. So you are tasked with infiltrating the school, discovering Raven, and killing them.

As you progress through your classes, go to parties, hang out with friends, you pick up intel on the identity of Raven. You can opt to find love along the way, and I like that your character Asumi can be straight or gay. It’s kind of refreshing to be able to court both men and women in these sorts of games. I feel like it allows the creator to be more open about the paths that the story can take, and create better characters. Not to say that the characters in this game are great. They’re cookie-cutter. But I think they can be more endearing since best friend girl can be more than best friend girl and socially awkward guy can be more than socially awkward guy. I dunno, maybe it’s getting to have your cake and eat it too. Oh, and while we’re here, I should mention that there are no explicit pictures. (Sorry-not-Sorry)

The visual novel plays out the way most visual novels do. You’re presented with choices along the way, pick an option, hope you don’t die. So let’s talk about the story. You may have noticed that at the outset, I mentioned that it was about an assassin. Perhaps that was premature. The story is supposed to be about Asumi undergoing espionage activities to discover Raven. What it turns into is a series of classes and dates, and only… I think 3? actual scenes that I would consider espionage related. Oh, sure, the dating and stuff is ‘intelligence gathering’ but I was looking for a more harrowing tale. The characters fit their moulds too nicely, and very rarely stray from them. They’re still likable, but they’re not terribly interesting. I feel like only one character other than Asumi was designed with a story in mind, and their story is rather lame too. But I feel like I might like theirs more… I wonder if the creators have a novel for them. (Doot-dadoo-dadoot) No, they don’t. Probably wasn’t terribly interesting anyway.

The novel is a quick read and easy to retrace. I didn’t bother to get all of the endings because I believe there are only two or three “legitimate” endings, and the others are just romance endings. Legitimate endings with a different love interest. Not terribly interested in all of that. It gets a pass though. I liked it enough to finish it. Probably because it’s so short and because of its theme. So I’m not sure if that’s a point in the game’s favor or not. It’s not terribly fulfilling to me as an individual and I don’t think that’s because I’m bereft of emotions. To the Moon (Yes, I will keep harping on this game like an angel with Parkinson’s) was an emotional tale and it got me to cry. In fact, it might be because this game isn’t terribly fulfilling with emotions. Everything seems to happen so fast. Maybe if the game took its time and focused on two character love interests it might have gotten a better shake at things. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Thank you for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Sword of Asumi

Dungeon of Zolthan

Steam Page

Before I dive into what I dislike about the game, I’ll mention what I like about the game. Or at least what makes it not the worst? Aesthetic commitment. With the exception of the final boss, the entire game has the feel of you being some kind of anti-virus program cleaning up the computer (Megaman did it better though). Of course the game never mentions any kind of story so your guess is as good as mine. Maybe that’s intentional, maybe we’re supposed to make the story for ourselves to give it meaning. Maybe in twenty years programmers will no longe release games. They’ll just give you a blank screen and say, “Now imagine that some stuff is going on”… Sorry, I promised to make this the “pro” section of the review. It has a nice 1980’s arcade style going on for it. Definitely a low-budget indie game, so I admire how they worked with what they had. Now with that out of the way…

Where do we begin. Okay, so picture a song you hate. For me, that song can be… Oh, I dunno… let’s say… ehh… what’s that Taylor Swift song? Hold on – let me Google her discography…

[One Google search later] SHAKE IT OFF! THAT WAS THE SONG! Christ, I had an ex that would play that song non-stop in their car. Ouch. Anyway, picture like ten to fifteen seconds of this hated song, probably near the chorus, and loop it. This is what Dungeon of Zolthan is like. The same track, over and over again. It took me about 105 minutes to finish this game. I had to deal with that pain for over an hour and a half. And you’d think that the music would change for the boss fights right? NOPE. Okay, so the tempo increases and the pitches change… BUT IT’S THE SAME DAMN SONG. What an annoyance.

Dungeon of Zolthan is a platformer. I hate platformers. I don’t hate this game because it’s a platformer though! I hate this game because of how it implemented platforming. Super Mario is what I would call well-executed platformer. This is not a well-executed platformer. So you get enough health to take maybe two hits before dying. This is why I compared it to Super Mario. Which normally wouldn’t bother me. I mean, sure, that’s a slim margin of error, but that’s what the early arcade games were all about, right? Well it gets worse. See there are spikes. You slightly touch these spikes, you die. Instantly. Why? WHY? And it wouldn’t be bad if they weren’t EVERYWHERE. I don’t think there are a handful of ‘screens’ where there aren’t any spikes. Hell, the final boss fights you from behind spike walls through which you must dash and be careful to to dash into the wall from which they hang or else you’ll stop and hit the spikes. It’s total bogus.

Let’s talk about boss design. There are a few games with what I’d consider good boss design. Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight (my previous review), Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (wow, I see a pattern here), and Dark Souls. These are all games in which, if you fail enough times you can just memorize the boss’s attack patterns. After knowing these attack patterns, you can react to them appropriately. There is none of that in Dungeon of Zolthan. Dungeon of Zolthan just chucks the bosses at you. It seems to have adopted Three-Phase Boss fights. The first phase where you essentially look at the boss. The second phase where they speed up attacks or themselves. And the third phase in which they do it again. The only distinguishable difference between these phases is… well… attack speed and movement speed. I don’t even know if this is really what’s going on. The attack pattern only really changed for the third boss in which jumps occurred more frequently. This is how bad the boss design. I could be making sense out of nonsense, it’s really hard to tell. It’s not good boss design.

So at the end of the day, annoying music, poor level design, and poor boss design. Thank goodness the game is only $1 or I’d say it’s overpriced. Might still be. I would definitely pass on this game. There are better platformers out there that far surpass this game. Support this game only if you want to chuck a dollar the way of an indie developer (which I support – indie developers are the life of the gaming industry). Still, don’t expect much from Dungeon of Zolthan. Sorry mate.

Artemis Hunt

Dungeon of Zolthan