Kirby Squeak Squad (DS, E10+)

Another Kirby game, another feeling like an opportunity was missed. Unlike its DS brothers with their rainbow trails and Kirby swarms, Squeak Squad doesn't bring any significant gameplay changes to the table and instead channels the Cave Offensive game from Kirby Super Star. A handful of the bosses being tough for a Kirby game are all the challenge this game has to offer, but that's mostly because they take up way too much of the screen.

Now, there's a school of thought that says it's okay for Kirby games to be so easy because if you want a challenge you can go for all the hidden stuff. First of all, go back and read my Yoshi's Island quickie from last month for my thoughts on that cliche. Second, even getting 100% in this game is easy. Third, the rewards for collecting the treasure in Kirby Squeak Squad is abysmal. Wario: Master of Disguise also had treasure chests to collect, and while that game's treasures didn't do anything their delightful flavor text provided all the incentive I needed to get them all. In Kirby Squeak Squad, there's a set of stars you need to find to access the final world, but the rest of the chests contain garbage like alternate colors for Kirby, pinup artwork, and a map to what I thought was going to be a bonus world but was just a museum of powers.


Nova: Annihilation Conquest (Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Sean Chen, Kindle eBook)

Nova is often hailed as one of the best, most interesting superheroes in the medium. I don't know if these people are referring to an earlier series or the state of comics is even more dire than I thought, because all I saw here was the adventures of a pair of knuckleheads who can't follow instructions, or even think.

This particular series takes place just after the Civil War event ended and Marvel still cleaning up the piles of stupid fouling up the place (sometimes by applying a bottle of even more stupid). As luck would have it, while the Civil War was happening on Earth the entire Universe was having hanging by a thread. A galactic police force known as the Nova Corps as well as the entire Xandarian civilization were all wiped out save one human, Richard Rider, and an AI known as the Worldmind. And instead of, say, rebuilding the Nova Corps, Rider takes it on himself to do the work of the entire Nova Corps by himself. This leads to him getting burned out and seeking a vacation on Earth. After catching up on the aforementioned Civil War, he leaves Earth which is where the real fun begins; he gets himself nearly killed because he ignored the Worldmind's instructions, then ends up infected with a hivemind virus because somebody else ignored the Worldmind's instructions, and then tries to get himself rekilled by again ignoring the Worldmind's instructions.

Sure, it's only the first six issues of the series, but this didn't leave me hungry for the rest of the story. At least it made some elements of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie easier to understand when I watched it in July.


Thor: The World Eaters (Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry, Kindle eBook)

This miniseries follows a massive war that ended with Odin and Loki being killed and Asgard ruined and somehow fused with Midgard (Earth), but I don't think being more familiar with that story would have made this any better. The real problem here is that at the end of the story, nothing had been accomplished. Most of the miniseries is the Asgardians trying to put their city back together while Baldur mopes about what a lousy king he'll be (wait, I thought Thor was supposed to inherit the throne?) and Thor mopes about his dead brother, despite the fact it was Loki who caused Asgard's fall, while occasionally cutting to the titular World Eaters picking off one of the other worlds of Yggdrassil.

In fact, not only does World Eaters fail to accomplish anything, it undoes previous events when Thor turns a street urchin into Loki and brings Odin back to life while he's at it. Then when the titular World Eaters finally link up with the Asgardians for the final battle, I could not figure out what the fuck was going on or what the Blood Legion was or what Odin ex Machina Thor pulled to wrap it up within four pages. And then it concludes with a misadventure with a villain I'd never heard of before called Grey Gargoyle that has fuck all to do with the World Eaters. When you're padding a story that already wasted most of its space, you done fucked up.


Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition (PC, E)

Guacamelee Gold was my game of last year, thanks to its colorful visuals, cathartic punchy combat, and light-hearted tone. Super Turbo Championship Edition takes what was essentially a fine painting that was complete on its own and slaps some glittery rainbow stickers on it, and winds up being the weaker of the two versions. It adds a couple of new areas, some back story for Tostada, the Intensio power which is basically Rage of the Gods mode, and some new enemies, but doesn't incorporate these things into the game very well. The new areas are just detours you have to go through after a boss aribtrarily blocks the route you took in the original game, and the way you're given the Intensio power is equally phoned in. The new enemies are just black versions of existing enemies that take more hits and occasionally teleport so you have to chase them back down. Even the attempt at fleshing out Tostada falls flat; we find out she died in a volcanic eruption... and that's it. We don't even learn how she came to guard the luchador mask. El Diablo is more developed than her.

The most notable addition is a new boss, the skeletal chimeric band shown in the screenshot, that makes my OCD flare up like an allergic reaction to incompetence. Notice how one of the boss' heads is a horse? Well, when the boss is facing left, the horse is on the boss' right. But when the boss is facing right, the horse is on its left. If I wanted to be extra-cynical, I'd call it the embodiment of how much thought Drinkbox Games put into its additions. But since I'm only in my normal-cynical mode, I'll just say they fucked up.



Dark Matter (PC)

There was a controversy when this game was released, as it cost $15 yet was super short and didn't even have a proper ending. Since then the developers patched in something resembling an ending, but what all these articles forget to mention about the ending is the trip there is deeply unpleasant.

Dark Matter is ostensibly a Metroid-style exploration shooter, only with everything that was actually good about Metroid stripped out. Your character is so sluggish and the hit detection is so dodgy that all you can really do is tank enemy attacks and drip-feed yourself recovery items. Additionally, there's armored enemies that you're told to use nanite-enhanced weapons on, only they show up before you get any nanite-enhanced weapons. And the story is a proud graduate of the University of Tell Don't Show. The gist is you're the lone human survivor on a ship that stayed in hyperspace for too long on its way to the Dead Space universe, and your only company is a computer that tells you stories of troops of soldiers massacred by the space bugs or angels of light that turned everything around them to ash... but all you ever do is slowly shuffle through identical, boring, poorly lit hallways while shooting three or four species of giant bugs. The whole thing is just a cliched, plodding, broken mess even before the abrupt ending.

There was one point in the game where I had to find and activate a console, but clicking on it didn't do anything. Apparently it automatically activates when you get close to it, but I was hoping it was a game-breaking bug so I'd have a reason to stop playing. If that doesn't tell you how agonizing this game is, I don't know what will.


Thor: Season One (Matthew Sturges and Pepe Larraz, Kindle eBook)

I'm just not having any luck with you, am I Thor? Here we have yet another retelling of the origin of Thor, but while the Landgride/Samnee retelling took a comedic angle this one goes down a more existential route as Don Blake realizes his entire life was a lie and he's just a mask Odin created to contain Thor. Otherwise it's the same story from Thor's inception; Thor does a stupid, Odin exiles Thor, Loki starts some shit, crippled physician discovers he's Thor and ruins Loki's shit. Oh yeah, and crippled physician performs spinal surgery on the Allfather.

What really boggled my mind in this version is that Loki tricked Thor into attacking the frost giants, and while Loki is standing right there taunting Thor with "Oooooh, I hosed you good bro!" right in front of him, Odin does fuck all. And later, Odin still decides to make Loki the heir to Asgard in Thor's absence.


Please, Don't Touch Anything (PC)

This is one of the weirdest things I've played in a long time. The entire game takes place on a single screen, and you have to use clues found around the screen to figure out what buttons to press to cause any number of surprisingly results. Some of these results are delightful mindfucks, some are humorous, but a lot are just forgettable.

At first the puzzles (for lack of a better thing to call them) are easy enough to figure out, although they tend to rely on your ability to notice seemingly meaningless details and find a connection between two completely unrelated things. Eventually things get convoluted as you try to figure out which number goes into which panel, and some clues are hidden in other endings. Some are just tedious. One of the solutions requires you to press a button 666 times (seriously) to make a panel of symbols drop down. You have to shut off all but four of them to actually trigger the ending, but those four symbols are shown in another ending. That ending is very simple ending to get, but even if you have seen that ending you may not have noticed the four symbols in the corners of the screen before the game closed. And even if you did, you probably had no idea what they meant and didn't memorize them. You can reactivate that ending (that is, if you even know which ending shows those symbols), note the symbols, then press the fucking button another 666 times, but it's all too tempting to just look up the answer.

Rating: ???

Maskerade (Terry Pratchett)

I came to the realization while reading this that the Granny Weatherwax Discworlds are my least favorite. As much as I try to picture Weatherwax and Ogg being played by Bea Arthur and Betty White respectively, I find their chemistry misses more than it hits. Sometimes you've got great scenes like Weatherwax looking through Ogg's book of naughty recipies, but most of the time you've got scenes like the one where Weatherwax is blowing all of Ogg's money on a dress for the opera. But my least favorite character has to be Nanny Ogg's cat Greebo, an ugly, cantankrous, foul-smelling, daughter-banging mashup of all the worst cat cliches I can think of.

The book actually comes alive during the parts with Agnes and the opera where there's this murder mystery going on and everyone but Agnes is treating it like a show in itself, but it doesn't last long before the two witches come to hex everything, intentionally or not.