Sunday, April 5, 2020

Girl On A Motorcycle

A while back I wrote a post on how I don't have backlogs of games and don't entirely understand what they are. As usual, that turned out to be mostly a semantic problem. Almost everything is.

I may not have a backlog but increasingly I do have more and more games installed on my hard drive. There's a very straightforward reason for that: people keep giving them to me.

When I say "people", of course, I really mean "game companies". When I got into gaming, back in the 1980s, no-one ever gave games away. Oh, you could get "free" games with magazines. I got a ton of those. But you had to buy the magazine. And that cost about the same as buying a game.

As time went on, the price of games went up and up. Way beyond the price of magazines. Beyond even the annual subscription to a magazine. And the games I liked, MMORPGs, made you pay an up-front fee and a subscription. Keeping your hard drive clear wasn't a problem.

Then we had the Free to Play revolution and everything went the other way for a while. Instead of having to choose you could play all the things. So I did. My hard drives filled up with 30gb, 40gb, 60gb installs of games I'd play for a few weeks and then forget all about. Most of them are still there. I just bought more hard drives.

I'm watching Doom Patrol at the moment, the sweariest show I have ever seen. Swearing seems really funny all of a sudden.
Until recently, they were all MMORPGs. I didn't do single player. But at some point I was persuaded to sign up for Steam and at some later point I began to use it.

Once I had Steam, I was able to start trying things other bloggers recommended. Increasingly people I followed were drifting away from MMORPGs and writing about all kinds of games. I tried Dr. Langeskov and Doki Doki Literature Club on recommendations and liked what I found. Can you say "gateway drug"?

Somewhere along the line I installed Twitch. I think it was to watch a livestream, quite possibly one of the early hypefests for EQNext. Twitch began giving games away because now everyone was giving games away. It was some cross promotion with Amazon Prime because Amazon owned Twitch somehow and I had Prime, because it was free for three months and I got used to using it, (Can you say "the first hit is free"?) so I started downloading those too because why not?

Note to self: play more games.
Now I had games coming at me from all over. Endless free trials and free to play games from the MMORPG developers, monthly free single-player titles from Amazon/Twitch, free games from Steam...

And still they came. I installed Nox so I could play Android games on my desktop and that opened up a whole new free game ecology. I keep reading about free deals from Epic and EA and XBox Live on PC and who knows what-all else. So far I've resisted those but I'm sitting here and I might be sitting here for who knows how long - a month? Two? - and my resolve is weakening.

Not that I had much resolve to begin with. I mean. it's free stuff, right? And it comes to my house. I don't have to go and get it or speak to anyone or really do anything other than click a mouse a few times. Why would you not?

I remembered yesterday that it was a few days past the begining of the month so I went to see what Twitch had for me. An exit strategy, that's what. Now that Amazon Games is about to become a thing Amazon is distancing itself from Twitch. I don't know how social they're being about it.

Where do I start?
Amazon asked me if I'd like to deal direct and now I have a new folder on my third drive called Amazon Games. They offered me a choice of five titles for April and I picked two: Earthlock and Kathy Rain.

I tried Earthlock this morning. I lasted about fifteen minutes. The game itself seemed okay. It looks pretty enough. The plot, the tiny fragment I saw of it, might have been cribbed from the pilot of an uncomissioned Saturday morning cartoon from the late 1980s but there's nothing much wrong with that. The characters and the dialog wouldn't have challenged a seven year old but they had a certain naive charm. The combat, while pedestrian, was not without amusement.

The problem was the camera. It didn't have one. Rather, it did but I wasn't allowed to use it. You get to see what the game shows and that's that. In a 2D game, not a problem. In three dimensions with WASD controls, no. Just no.

Why do they have four beds in a room for two?
Kathy Rain is much, much better. I haven't played for long, maybe forty-five minutes, but I can say already that I'll be playing this until I get to the end. It will have an end because it's a point and click adventure mystery and they have to.

I was pretty much sold in the first thirty seconds. It has one of the most in medias res openings I've ever seen. No introduction, no tutorial, nothing. It loads, you see a room with someone at a desk, the door opens, Kathy walks in, hurls herself on the bed and starts to talk about how the room is spinning and she's about to throw up.

Her roommate, acting like this happens all the time and isn't worthy of notice, drops a revelation that instantly sobers Kathy up and next thing you know you're watching her take a motorbike ride to her estranged grandfather's funeral.

Go make it happen
Kathy wears black leather, rides a motorcycle and drinks to excess. In her backpack (it's an adventure game - of course she has a backpack) she has a journal, a taser and a pack of cigarettes. I have buttons. Go ahead, push them.

I'm not quite so sold on the retro 90s pixel art. As I've said before, I was glad to see the back of that look when technology killed it. I have no nostalgia for bad graphics. I spent a while trying to get it to look crisper but no dice. I'm getting used to it. It's starting to look good. (Can you say "habituation"?).

I also assumed, wrongly, that this was a game that actually came from the period it depicts. Not so. It was in fact released in 2016. It was a critical hit, won a bunch of awards and it currently has a "very positive" rating and four and a half stars out of five on Steam, where you can buy it for £10.99, if you like paying for things you could have for free.

I'm getting Morninglight vibes.

Everyone reading this probably played the game years ago, although I can't recall anyone mentioning it. Not going to stop me posting about it, anyway. If I do I'll try and avoid spoilers. It's just about conceivable someone is even further behind the curve than me.

So there we have it. Free games. You get a lot more than what you pay for. And literally in the time I was posting this I've acquired another. Paeroka flagged up something called Regions of Ruin, free on Steam as I write. It looked interesting so I downloaded it.

Seems I am building a backlog after all. (Can you say "addicted"?)


  1. I seem to have Kathy Rain although I don't remember why. It looks up my alley, Joan Jett as Nancy Drew, and I figure I'll try it eventually. Thank you for the no-spoiler policy!

    1. I wish I'd thought of "Joan Jett as Nancy Drew"...


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