Game review: Dream Daddy

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If you’ve been anywhere on the internet this week, you may have heard about a little game called Dream Daddy. It’s a daddy dating sim, where you—no wait, come back! It’s not creepy, I promise. You’re a single dad and your goal is to date other hot single dads who all coincidentally live in the quiet little cul-de-sac you just moved to with your daughter.

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I’m not a connoisseur of the dating sim genre. I’ve played a couple that seemed to be entirely about showing off artwork of sexy anime boys or girls, with poorly written dialogue and no character development to speak of. I’m not going to claim that there aren’t any good ones out there, since, as I said, I don’t play many of them, but that was my prior experience. But good news: Dream Daddy is not one of those games. It’s really well written, with funny dialogue, developed characters, and an ongoing story-line about your relationship with your daughter that is really sweet. The dads are likeable and your character has a good chemistry with all of them.

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This screenshot might not demonstrate the good chemistry I just mentioned but I loved it too much not to include it.

The premise, as I briefly mentioned before, is this: You are a single dad of an eighteen-year-old high school senior named Amanda. Your spouse (you can choose the gender, and whether or not you adopted Amanda or whether she was born to you and your partner) died a while ago and you’ve decided to leave the house you lived in for the last twenty years and move across town for a fresh start. Amanda is hoping to get into art school, and will be moving out of the house by the end of the summer, leaving you alone. Before she does, she really wants you to make some friends in the neighborhood so you don’t retreat into yourself and stay home alone all the time, as is your wont. You’re shy and a bit socially awkward, but you’re game to make the effort to meet new people.

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The main character is literally me.

The first thing you do in game is create your dad persona. Dadsona? You have a number of options to choose from—not just the usual facial features and hair color and body type, but also whether or not you’re cis or transgender, which I found really cool and inclusive. Once you’ve settled on your appearance and a name, you and your daughter go explore the neighborhood and start to meet the other dads.

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Got a pretty intense stare there, Glasses.

Once you’ve had a chance to meet them all, you peruse DadBook and ask other neighborhood dads out on dates. Actually, they’re not necessarily dates, per se; for the most part, you’re trying to make friends. You might play a father-daughter mini-golf game or help chaperone a school field trip. Each date has its own little minigame. Depending on how well you do on that, and how well the other dad responds to your conversation choices, you get a grade.

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You can date all the dads twice, but you can only go out with your dream dad on the third date, so I recommend saving just before you make that choice. The correct choice, of course, is Mat the hot barista and indie band aficionado, but I’d understand if you want to make an inferior choice just to see how it turns out. Actually I liked Craig the dudebro gym rat and chick magnet too, and of course I had to try seducing Robert, the one who looks like he’s going to shank you in an alley and steal your wallet. He’s actually well worth the effort, as long as you don’t screw up your first meeting with him, like I did.

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You and me both, knife dad.

I love the various tv shows they reference throughout the game. I would 100% watch Long Haul Ice Road Paranormal Ghost Truckers or Tiny House Hunting Amish Triplets: Extreme Edition or even Shark Tank But With Actual Sharks. The sense of humor is great. There are SO. MANY. PUNS. And all the dads are good dads. Even the ones who have difficult or rebellious kids are still decent guys who try hard to be the best dad they can.

The only drawback for me was that I wasn’t a big fan of the voice acting. There’s no real dialogue in the game, except for maybe a line if you finish a date with a high score. Mostly it’s just “Oh!” or “What?” or “Hmmm…” with every single line of dialogue, which repeats so often that it was hard not to visualize the voice actors in the recording studio, making noises into a mic.

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This game was produced (and voiced by) the Game Grumps, a group of Let’s Play Youtubers. It’s well worth the $15 price tag, especially if you try to get all the potential endings. I’ve played it for 7 hours and haven’t finished the game with every romantic option yet. In short, I highly recommend it! Get it here on Steam.

 

 

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Game Review: Rust

Last week, many players of the survival sandbox game Rust woke up to a sudden, surprising change in their characters—half of them were now female. This was a permanent change, and was linked to players’ accounts so it would stay the same across different servers. Previously, the game had randomly assigned skin color and, oddly, penis size as well. The latter actually is an issue because unlike in most games, you start off completely naked and most players stay that way. Since there are extremely few games that require players to play as anything other than mysteriously endowed white men, some players found this extremely disconcerting. Game dev Garry Newman responded in an op ed in the Guardian.

Inevitably, there are people who like it and people who don’t. Some players have praised what we’re doing. Like us, they think that who you are in the game, your race and gender, makes no difference to the actual gameplay – and are happy to have the diversity. Others aren’t so positive. They feel that playing a gender or race that doesn’t match their own is detrimental to their enjoyment.

These articles were enough to make me want to play it, and since I already got a copy of the game in a Humble Bundle, I decided to give it a go. Mostly, I just wanted to know what size my penis would be. Continue reading

This is, in fact, a review of ARK: Survival Evolved

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Last August I bought ARK: Survival Evolved, the fun new early access dinosaur survival game, and just barely made it to the character creation screen before having to ask Steam for a refund, since it demanded way too much of my old, laggy laptop. This week, with my new iMac and 24 GB of RAM, I bought the game for a second time and tried again.

ARK: Survival Evolved is set on a 48 square kilometer prehistoric island (apparently called “ARK”) full of dinosaurs. Well, I say prehistoric; there are hints that things are not exactly as ancient as you might think. First, when you wake up on the beach, naked and shivering, you find a glowing crystal implanted in your wrist. This is where you access your inventory and crafting menu. Second, there are massive glowing towers in the distance, and every so often beams of light will descend from the heavens, carrying supplies.

Continue reading

This is not a review of ARK: Survival Evolved

I was going to review ARK: Survival Evolved, which is the new survival game involving dinosaurs, still in early access. It looks awesome and I’ve seen some funny playthroughs, but unfortunately on my computer, it plays at 1 frame per second. And this is after it takes half an hour to start up.

I made it to the character creation screen, which is really detailed and gives you quite a lot of freedom with body type and skin color. Unfortunately, if you try to click and drag the character to a different position, it takes a second to respond, and then goes too far, so you go from full frontal view, to a nice view of your character’s scalp, to an up close and personal view of your character’s lovingly crafted crotch folds.

I’m fully aware that my three-year-old laptop is just not powerful enough for this game, but considering that I can run most games, and that this was all the way down to its absolute lowest graphic settings, I feel like maybe their requirements are excessive. Or maybe I just need a new computer.

Still, I’m sad that Maddy Longlegs is never going to see the light of day.

Able to reach objects on high shelves in a single bound.

Able to reach objects on high shelves in a single bound.

Game Review: Fallout Shelter

"Hmm...Raider?"

“Hmm…Raider?”

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few days playing Fallout Shelter, and it looks like I’m not alone—in just a couple days, Fallout Shelter has knocked Candy Crush out of the App Store’s top three games, something that hasn’t happened in three years.

Some background: Bethesda, the company behind such games as the Elder Scrolls series (most famously Skyrim), the Doom series, the Dishonored series (and yes it’s now a series! Woo!) and, of course, the Fallout series, released the iPhone app Fallout Shelter as an aperitif before the release of Fallout 4 in November. Everyone quickly went from talking about the Fallout 4 trailer (including the most pressing question: does the dog die?) to the app in no time flat. Kotaku posted a guide with tips on how to play the game. Sci fi and fantasy author Mur Lafferty talked about how weird she feels when she makes her shelter dwellers breed.

I feel like I just failed a perception check.

I feel like I just failed a perception check.

The game itself places you as the Overseer of a new Vault in the Wasteland. The short of it is, nuclear war has destroyed the Earth, and anyone who was lucky got into a Vault (or fallout shelter) before the bombs dropped. Outside the Vaults, mutated beasts and bloodthirsty raiders roam the wastes. Inside the Vaults, it’s a happy and productive utopia.

Knock knock

Knock knock

As Overseer, you get to build up your shelter, making sure to keep up a steady supply of food and water for your Dwellers and electricity for the Vault itself. You start with a line of Dwellers at your door, waiting to take shelter. Each of them has SPECIAL skills—strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility, and luck. Most of them are pretty low on everything, although you might find a rare or legendary Dweller with higher scores. The traits help them with their jobs. Strength is good for power plants, perception is good for water treatment facilities, agility is good for food preparation, and so on. Don’t ask me why. Dwellers love to work, and are blissfully happy if you assign them a job that aligns with their highest skill.

Is there anything you people are good at?

Is there anything you people are good at?

You need to keep your power, water purification, and food production at a high enough level to keep your Vault running. Low power means rooms go dark and Dwellers stop working. Lack of food means health drops, and lack of pure water increases radiation poisoning. You can heal your Dwellers as long as you have the supplies, but an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure or however that saying goes.

In order to add more rooms and upgrade your Vault, you need currency, and that means bottle caps. You can get caps by completing challenges, or by sending Dwellers out into the Wasteland to scavenge, or by forcing your Dwellers to work extra fast by rushing a room’s production. These last two have risks—Dwellers can easily die in the Wasteland, and rushing a room can cause a fire or a radroach infestation. Still, it can be worth it, since upgraded rooms produce more.

"Oh what a day! What a lovely day!"

“Oh what a day! What a lovely day!”

Everything is time based. The diner, for example, produces a certain amount of food every few minutes. Adding Dwellers with high agility scores lowers that time, as does upgrading the room. Placing up to three diners next to each other merges the rooms together to increase efficiency. However, some things take a lot longer. If you put a Dweller with a high strength score in the weight room, for example, it could take twelve hours in real time for her to increase her strength to the next level. Dwellers out in the Wasteland find better loot the longer they stay out, which could mean many hours away from your base. When you call them back, it takes them half as long to come back as the amount of time they’ve spent out there, so a Dweller who has spent 6 hours in the Wasteland will take 3 hours to return with the loot.

I had to pay 300 caps to resurrect this guy.

I had to pay 300 caps to resurrect this guy.

To increase the production of your Vault and keep things running smoothly, you’re going to need more Dwellers, but once you get past the first rush, new recruits are few and far between. In the later game, you can add in a radio room that entices new Dwellers to come in from the wastes, but that can take a long time. The best thing to do is just breed your Dwellers, and that’s where things get…odd.

Putting two Dwellers of the opposite sex together in the living quarters starts off an odd courtship ritual that involves bad pickup lines, awkward dancing, and an eventual sprint into the back of the room. After a matter of seconds, the male Dweller struts out happily, while the female trudges out, hunched over and massively pregnant. It’s… a little weird, although both of them have 100% happiness for a while, so I guess they enjoyed it? The female returns to work, and the only difference in her behavior is that instead of whipping out a gun or her fists when danger shows up, she flees, waving her hands in the air and screaming. Apparently pregnant women and children are effectively immortal, taking no damage from raiders, radroaches, fire, starvation or thirst.

It was around this point that I started to feel weird. It takes a while for mothers to have their babies, and then for the babies to grow up, so I’d usually get all of the women pregnant before I closed the app for the evening. Seeing all those pregnant ladies in their matching yellow sweaters and massive bellies working happily in the power plant made me feel a little creepy, like I was running some sort of cult.

"Subjugate"

“Subjugate”

Immediate family members can’t procreate, although it can be hard to tell who is related to whom after a couple generations of breeding. I ended up giving each female baby the same last name as her dad, and each male baby the same last name as his mom, to avoid that awkward moment when I stop in to the living quarters to see how a couple is doing and find them saying “It’s so nice to spend some time with family….” Dwellers don’t seem to get jealous, and don’t mind in the slightest if their partner from one child hooks up with someone else the next time around. In fact, a few times I’ve sent two or three couples into the larger living areas and have noticed them switching partners repeatedly before they eventually settle down. I’m honestly not sure what causes that.

The app is free and has no ads, which is where the in-app purchases come in. The game uses lunchboxes as its reward system. Each lunchbox has four cards in it, each of which could contain things like caps, guns, outfits, new Dwellers, and so on. You can win lunchboxes in a challenge, but after the game tutorial ends, they’re rare. If you’re impatient, you can spend real money to buy them: $0.99 will get you one box, $3.99 will get you five, $9.99 will get you 15 and $19.99 will get you 40. All those extra caps and items can be handy, but building up your base too quickly can easily overwhelm the delicate balance of power, food and water management and bring your Vault to its knees.

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Ultimately, it’s an addictive game, although I admit it does make me feel odd on occasion. My Dwellers are deliriously happy, but are they really, or is that just the face they show me, the Overseer? Sometimes if you zoom in on a room, you’ll catch one Dweller warning another that the Overseer is watching. Dwellers work zealously toward their goals, but once their room reaches it, they slack off and wander around until you come by and collect what they’ve produced, at which point they sprint back to their positions. There’s that breeding thing. Surely not all of them are heterosexual or want to have kids, yet they march off to do their duty and are happy about it. They’ll even head off cheerfully to their deaths in the Wasteland without complaint if you ask them to. Maybe they want to be here, or maybe they understand that being in a Vault is a lot better than being outside it.

Believe me, they are.

Believe me, they are.

I’m going to give it a four out of five stars. There are a couple minor bugs—sometimes pregnant ladies get stuck in the living quarters and you have to close and reopen the game to move them—but on the other hand the game is free. My only recommendation is to get it for your iPad if you have one, since phone screens can be a little tiny. It’s only out for iOS right now, but it should be coming out for other platforms eventually. So even if you’ve never played a Bethesda game before and don’t intend to in the future, go ahead and download it, and try not to let your moral qualms bug you too much.

Game Review: 7 Days to Die

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.12.13 PMMy gaming buddy Mel bought me 7 Days to Die a few days ago to replace Minecraft, since she can’t join the server at the moment. I’d watched a Let’s Play of the game a while ago and it looked interesting but was still in early alpha, so I hadn’t checked it out. Right now it’s on alpha build 10.4 and is a thoroughly enjoyable game. If they iron out the remaining bugs, it would be well worth the money.

Come at me bro

Come at me bro

7 Days to Die is a sandbox survival horror zombie game set in a post-apocalyptic world. You have the choice between a pre-built world or a randomly generated one, both of which have a range of biomes from snowy woods to barren desert to fire-scorched wasteland. During the day, zombies roam around, stumbling at half your speed, hunting you if they sense you nearby. At night, they sprint at twice your speed and will break through anything including solid stone if they know you’re on the other side.

Spider zombies run like dogs at night which is kind of terrifying.

Spider zombies run like dogs at night which is kind of terrifying.

In terms of user interface, it’s very similar to Minecraft. You collect resources like wood and stones and plant fibers, and can use them to craft tools or building blocks to build your base. You can mine for iron, or you can melt down metal things you find in a forge. Your hunger and thirst levels are very important, and making sure you cook your food or boil lake water before drinking it can mean the difference between life and death. You can hunt animals or grow your own crops. You can also make guns or crossbows or land minds to assault other players on the same server.

Motor oil. That should come in handy.

Motor oil. That should come in handy.

Where 7 Days excels is in going a step beyond typical survival horror games in its realism. The things you build can only hold so much weight, and sometimes you might climb out onto a second floor balcony to escape a zombie and find the whole thing collapses under your combined weight. If you drink untreated water, you can get dysentery, which doesn’t go away until you take antibiotics, which are surprisingly hard to find. Uncooked or spoiled food can give you temporary food poisoning, which will definitely slow you down. A broken limb needs to be splinted until it heals. Neglecting your hunger and thirst levels reduces your overall wellness, giving you fewer hit points to work with. If you hunt a deer and collect its meat, the smell of the meat can lure in zombies for as long as you carry it. The more time you spend in an area and the more noises and scents you make, the more zombies will be attracted to it, and the more you risk calling down the horde.

Less realistic: the zoms that stroll along riverbeds.

Less realistic: the zoms that stroll along riverbeds.

The horde is the truly scary part of the came. It’s not quite like the raging horde in Left 4 Dead, but only because zombies are far more likely to kill you in 7 Days. A pack of twenty zombies sprinting toward your base in the darkness and clawing through the walls can destroy days of work, and the more noise you make fighting them, the more zombies will come your way. Mel and I holed up in a farmhouse and naively lit it with torches in our first play-through, and on day seven, the horde tore through that place like butter, collapsing our barn and ripping the house to pieces. They even destroyed our couch. Using a gun only called in more. It’s the kind of game where stealth is a better option than trying to mow down the enemy with more firepower. It certainly makes the game more stressful when you choose to crouch in a dark house, listening to the footsteps of a half dozen zombies crunch through the gravel on the other side of the wall, praying they won’t sense you.

Hosting your own server is ridiculously easy with 7 Days. You don’t even have to port forward. After months weeping over my Minecraft server, the ease of this game is refreshing. Servers are also customizable, so you can change the difficulty level, percentage of day versus night, the length of a 24 hour cycle, whether you drop all your inventory on death or just some of it, and so on.

There’s an option to play a server in creative mode, so you can access all the objects in the game and build your own base easily. Some objects are only accessible in creative mode.

You're probably wondering why I called you all here.

You’re probably wondering why I called you all here.

The game has its flaws. The main issue I have with it is the extreme lag. Half the time things run smooth. The other half of the time, especially when a horde is spawning in, the game slows down to a crawl, and everything moves in extreme slow motion. It feels like fighting off a horde of zombies while swimming through honey. But sometimes it’s laggy even with no discernible reason. Walking through wasteland is especially hard.

Sensible apocalypse clothing.

Sensible apocalypse clothing.

You start the game in your underwear, and lose any clothes you found whenever you die. My character spends nearly all her time in a bra and panties (and seriously, a strapless bra? Really? Was she on her way to a formal party when the apocalypse started, and she somehow lost her dress?), and occasionally in a hat or shoes if she finds them. Armor covers you up, but only to a certain extent.

Much better.

Much better.

And honestly, it’s so easy to die that some of the debuffs like being infected or having a broken limb aren’t much of a drawback, since you know you’re going to die from one hit soon anyway. I’ve never used a splint or antibiotics in the game because there’s no point. Sure, dying often means I’ll lose wellness points and have fewer hit points overall, but it’s really impossible to stay alive more that five or ten minutes at a time even with all the food and antibiotics you can eat.

You drop a backpack full of your inventory whenever you die.

You drop a backpack full of your inventory whenever you die.

Overall, I’d give it three out of five stars. The score will go up if the bugs are fixed by the official release. Is it worth the money? I’d wait for a Steam sale, honestly, but I do think it’s worth it.

Game Review: This War of Mine

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.06.34 PMA few days ago my friend Mel recommended I check out This War of Mine, because I don’t spend enough hours a day playing video games already. I’ve played it for 29.6 hours since then, and the only reason I haven’t played it for more is because I was at a Christmas party yesterday.

In This War Of Mine you do not play as an elite soldier, rather a group of civilians trying to survive in a besieged city; struggling with lack of food, medicine and constant danger from snipers and hostile scavengers. The game provides an experience of war seen from an entirely new angle.

I’ve played through it three times, reaching day 42 the first two times and 22 on the third. The game can last anywhere from 30 days and up, but generally 30-40 days. I guess I was just unlucky on my first two tries.

You start the game with one to four survivors (usually three) squatting in a half-destroyed house. You’re living in the city of Pogoren, which is in the middle of a war. Everything has been shelled, and most buildings are ruined. Snipers keep you in during the day, but one survivor can go out and scavenge every night under the cover of darkness. You can scavenge in a number of different places, though some places might be blocked by fighting, and if it’s winter, the snow can keep you from getting into others. You’re not the only scavenger out there, and a lot of the people you meet can be dangerous. Staying home can be dangerous too; if your defenses aren’t good (or even if they are), you can be raided by other desperate survivors.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.09.40 PMThere are twelve possible survivors–seven men and five women–and you get a random assortment each time. More may show up later, although you never seem to get more than four at a time. The locations available in the game and the dangers in each one are also randomly selected, making each play-through a little different. Sometimes you have a while to get ready before winter starts; sometimes the game starts in a blizzard.

Your survivors all have four stats: happiness, hunger, illness and wounds. Each of those has five levels: for example happiness ranges from content to normal to sad to depressed to broken. Illness can go from normal to slightly wounded to wounded to seriously wounded to lethally wounded. If any of the stats gets too low, the survivor can die, which will seriously bring down the happiness levels of everyone else in the house.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.19.51 PMThe game was inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo, and is influenced by real events. 11 Bit Studios, the developer of the game, partnered with the charity War Child and their campaign “Real War is Not A Game“, which encourages games to demonstrate the realities of war. It’s a brutal game and really gives you an impression of how incredibly difficult it would be to live in this situation. It’s also very addictive, being just challenging enough to keep me playing again and again. I bought it for $19.99 on Steam and think it was well worth the price. Five out of five stars.

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