Thursday, April 27, 2017

No One Noticed the Cat (2007)

No One Noticed the Cat (2007) is a fluffy romance/adventure, well aimed at the middle school market. Boy and girl meet. They get married. There's an evil queen. Good triumphs in the end. It's all what you would expect, with a cat providing a bit of a twist. The highs of this book aren't very high, and the lows aren't very low, giving this book a very even keel. While this book shouldn't make anyone's must read list, but if you find it available and have a few minutes, you'll have a nice time.

Like all McCaffrey books, the villain is both smart and dumb at the same time.

You may feel temped to hold realism up to the adventure, but don't. This book has all the realism of a cartoon. If you think about it too hard, you'll ruin the charm.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Deerskin (1993)

I honestly don't know what Robin McKinley was thinking when the wrote Deerskin (1993). While technically readable, if not wonderfully so, I found this particular book so full of fluff, so pulled one way then another, that I lost all connection to the lead character. Meanwhile, I found the overarching story so thin that skimming at excess speed did nothing to undermine it.

This book was not for me, and that's okay.

While Robin usually includes interesting fantasy elements in the story, the fantasy elements in this story felt tacked on using nine inch nails. The romance felt tacked on as well. We hardly get to spend any time with the hero, barely getting to know him. So with both the fantasy elements and the romance elements feeling superfluous, the results simply didn't satisfy any of my interests.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Seven Sacred Beasts (2013)

Seven Sacred Beasts (2013) is a JRPG released by Kemco on the Kindle Fire. It's a basic monster evolution and fighting RPG, containing all the mechanics that you've come to expect from the genre. You capture monsters, evolve monsters, and fight monsters. To add some spice, there's a competition. All of that sounds like a nice relaxing grindfest of monster-fighting-fun. But wait, there's more, because between the various fights are interminable cut scenes where the characters yak and yak and yak. Oh My GOD, will they ever shut up? This game would have worked well enough as a monster-fighter with a light plot.

If that's not enough, you'd think that a game featuring a tournament would feature the tournament as the end fight. You'd be wrong. The whole thing is really about a final boss battle. I understand following convention, but isn't that taking convention a little too far and a little too literally?

As a monster fighter, the game is a lighthearted grindfest appropriate for anyone. Go team! As an RPG, it feel like somebody dropped a piano from the third story. Don't play this game for the story.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Alphadia

Alphadia is such the epitome of a JRPG that even with all the words removed, you could still figure out what's happening with little to no trouble. An ordinary young man gets into an adventure, finds out he's special, quests to save the world through numerous dungeons with random monsters, and then saves the world by fighting a boss at the end three times.

Most games implement formula with some freshness, but this hits the formula like three day old donuts. The story will mildly entertain you at best, but has no heart as the story implements the JRPG formula in the most straightforward and dull way possible, by using the formula as a story. Flat soda has more perk.

I felt that the game was aimed at the younger JRPG player. If you have a kid that likes this sort of game, the mechanics are mostly straight forward and simple, so even by going wrong, they can't go too wrong.

The game itself is easy to play. Set to auto, almost every combat is winnable simply by picking the hardest hitting characters. A few combats did need actual player participation, like the final fight of the final boss's three fight death match.

I don't give the game many stars, but it did amuse me for a while. If you need a game where you wander about and bash monsters, this will scratch your itch.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Portal (2007)

Portal (2007) catches lightning in a bottle. It's is a humorous first person puzzle video game developed and published by Valve. In this game, which is essentially a 3-D puzzle platformer, you use a portal gun to create teleportation points to solve physical puzzles. The gameplay develops wells, moves snappily along, and then throws you into the deep for an outrageous final level.

The humor and the storytelling in this game is top notch. There's just enough of this game to really make it work, giving you a good game play experience, while not so much of it that you're tired of the game by the end. Just like a good story, the game play adds hints of what's coming up, so when game play changes, you've been forewarned.

The game itself walks a nice line between challenging and frustrating, so even though you sometimes fail, you don't walk away in disgust or shout in anger.

What makes the game really work is the computer. Apparently, you are in an abandoned complex and the computer running you through scenarios isn't quite right, producing a very twisted comedy. They didn't need to make the computer that upbeat and that passive aggressive and that intolerably evil, but they made it all work out wonderfully.

Then there's the end song which is just the icing on the cake. My wife and daughter have been singing it for a week because it's so catchy and twisted.

The software itself was stable the whole time. I experienced no crashes.

I bought my copy for $5. If you can get this on sale, do so.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Swordbearer (1982)

The Swordbearer (1982) by Glen Cook is the dark fantasy version of a YA novel. If you know Glen's writing style, you'll recognize the disaster about to unfold. Unlike most YA novel, this one gets the inherent fantasy of boys and young men to murderously destroy all their opponents through powerful weapons and getting all the power.

The book itself progresses well enough until the middle, where the story bogs down and becomes just as series of events. Despite all the battles and all the addition of more powerful magic equipment, all momentum is lost. The powerful magic items becomes meaningless. The conflict becomes meaningless. Even our hero becomes meaningless. (In fact, the conflict is meaningless, which only adds to the meaninglessness that already exists.)

While this story is an interesting direction to take the unwilling hero story, it's a direction that shouldn't be repeated. It's a mediocre tale, one filled with themes that will to on to make his Dread Empire and Black Company stories ring like steel.