Telling Lies to Me

Telling Lies is Sam Barlow’s spiritual successor to his massively original game Her Story. Her Story was a researcher’s dream. You were an unnamed protagonist poring over video clips of a mysterious woman who may have killed her husband. The search engine and your wits were your only friends, forcing you to use keywords to find new clips. You delved further and further into a rabbit hole of lies and deceit. Telling Lies is this concept on a grander scale.

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You begin the game as an unnamed agent in a dark room plugging in a hard drive. Through various video clips you follow the lives of four different characters. An FBI agent, a nurse, a video call girl, and a revolutionary. I won’t delve further into their backstory because it would give away some of the twists and turns but each one has their own unique and crazy story to tell that you have to discover through careful dissemination of data. Just like Her Story I had a notebook I kept handy throughout and wrote down everything I could think of as each revelation struck me.

It’s boundless fun trying to slowly piece together a puzzle, and it leaves a lot of difference in the way you play depending on what you decide to research. If you want a change of pace there is a game of solitaire that you can play in between searches. There is one thing that is off though, you can’t beat the Solitaire game….or at least I couldn’t. It’s missing a single King card which is seemingly a metaphor for the hidden pieces missing within the stories, but ends up being more symbolic of my overall disappointment with the game. Just like that missing King card the game always feels like something is gone. A cloying need for closure leaves you, and you’re left wanting more.

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The clips are one sided conversations that are taped, because of this you have to piece together the different conversations. The issue is you’re left with 8 minute clips that are quite boring, and it become difficult to trudge through after a bit. The search engine only shows you a limited amount of results usually earlier clips within the timeline. So if you search a character’s name for instance 20 results might be available, but you will only see 5. I disliked the fact it felt like we weren’t seeing every thing like in Her Story.

The acting in Telling Lies is fantastic, but I just never felt connected to its core story or its cast. I wonder if my enthusiasm for Her Story hurt this game in the long run. I still think about the story and the acting of Her Story, it left an indelible mark on me. Telling Lies doesn’t have that lasting impact. It feels broken.

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I’d hoped for a lot more, and while the game is longer, more ambitious, and honestly more well rounded as a game. It’s just slow and overall unsatisfying. When I finished the game I didn’t feel like anything had really happened and it left my mind quickly. Until I wrote this review I hadn’t thought of it much at all.

If you’re looking for a short 3-4 hour research filled video fest this is the game for you, but if you’re looking for something a little bit deeper I would go back to its predecessor. Telling Lies just doesn’t hold up in the long run.

7/10

Pros:
Great acting
Interesting concept
Ambitious

 

Cons:
Story is slow and boring
Clips don’t engage based on style
Feels like something is missing

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September Reads 2019

September was a very busy month so it became a Thunderdome to see which books I would actually finish. Below were the winners of the reading contest, but I didn’t feel like a winner for finishing them.

The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup

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Reason for reading: Book of the Month choice for September  (hey look I finished one in the same month)

Søren Sveistrup’s best known for creating the television series The Killing and while I never got a chance to see the show I’ve always heard tremendous things about it. So when I saw his debut novel offered up as a Book of the Month choice I snatched it up quickly. The basic premise of the novel is that there is a serial killer terrorizing Copenhagen killing women and leaving behind ominous chestnut dolls afterwards. Basically just a show-off, look I have a hobby and I do lots of arts and crafts!  When the police begin to investigate they discover the chestnut dolls have the fingerprints of a child from a previously solved case. Could the child actually be alive? And what’s behind the sinister killings of the Chestnut Man?

The story revolves around two police officers Naia Thulin who is a cop just doing their best to get a promotion and Hess who was kicked out of their previous position in the Hague and has a dark past. It’s a very good cop/bad cop dynamic we’ve seen a million times with just that small smattering of sexual tension. They don’t get along, so why not imagine them living a long and unhappy life together?

The problem with the character development is that Hess is very good at his job despite getting ousted from the Hague.  Frustratingly he gets told that there is nothing to all of his assumptions which pushes the plot into “meh” territory. If someone stopped and agreed with Hess this book would probably be 200 pages less than it is. That’s never a great feeling.

Søren’s writing for the first act is engaging and dramatic. You really get swept into the story wondering which turn he’s going to take, but by the third act the book has lost its steam. It turns into a ditch. You don’t really care who the killer is because it feels like every “dramatic moment” has been forced on you. The honestly laughable ending makes it feel even more futile. Chestnut just didn’t live up to its own hype. It believes it’s a gruesome twisty thriller when in fact it’s a snooze fest with characters that are not believable or engaging.

If you’re looking for a gruesome fluff read it’s the one for you, but otherwise I’d stay away.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight

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Reason for reading: If you’ve read anything by me you know I need freaking help

I’m a perpetual people pleaser, as well as a lover of alliteration apparently. Always seeking a new self help book that will somehow make all of my crazy make sense I decided to pick this one up during a Kindle sale. Sarah Knight like a lot of us fell under the intense spell of Marie Kondo when her famous the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up came out. She quit her job and started getting her life together by tidying what she terms her “f*ck budget.” In order to do this she waded through all of the things in her life stressing or inconveniencing her.

She sets out to teach you the methods that she used to do this without being a massive jerk to both friends and family alike. This is a parody book, and I knew that going in, but I don’t know if Sarah does. She seems to flip back and forth between being facetious and holier than thou.

The book simply doesn’t work on any level. It doesn’t feel like it has enough new or engaging information to be a proper self help. It’s not funny enough to be a decent parody. It feels like she just learned a bunch of new swear words and is going crazy with them. Swear words should be used sparingly for maximum effect. They’re like exclamation points in the middle of your sentence, when every other word is an f bomb then your whole paragraph can become decimated. This was a completely barren wasteland by the end of her f**k usage.

The narration feels like someone telling you terrible dad jokes they found on Reddit and laughing at them. It’s okay for a little bit, but after awhile you just want them to be more original.

At a little over 200 pages it should be a breezy read but I struggled up this like Sisyphus. Definitely avoid. There are better books in both the parodies and self help genres.

 

Well we have reached the end of September. Me being me I’ve of course accumulated more books, and I hope to finish more in October. I recently got a new job so I’m hoping once things settle I will have more time overall. More blogs soon!

 

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Lorelai to Me

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Lorelai has some difficult themes involving depression, alcoholism, abuse, and suicide so fair warning.

Lorelai is the last installment of the R. Michalski “Devil Came Through Here” trilogy. You play as Lorelai (really want to make a game where the title character never appears) who is an emo Sylvia Plath living in a small flat with her alcoholic mother, baby sister, and abusive stepfather. All the makings for a fun heartfelt game. Her neighbor Zack or Meth Shaggy as I like to call him is in love with her and tries to help her out whenever he can. Unfortunately one night her mother ends her own life and Lorelai ends up murdered by her stepfather. Upon waking in purgatory Lorelai comes across the “Queen of Maggots” who gives her the opportunity to try to make changes in her life and save her baby sister.

If you’ve played Downfall or The Cat Lady you know Michalski’s style is a Nine Inch Nails video that is hand drawn. The graphics and controls of this game are as pretty and simplistic as the other games, the difference here is the story. While it’s more gruesome and cruel then ever it feels forced. Like a stew of sadness, let’s just throw every difficult topic we can think of into a broth and let it simmer for 20+ years.

Lorelai doesn’t leave a lasting impression nor does it really achieve anything new in the cult series. It feels like its tension is oddly paced trying to force emotion out of you rather than it building naturally like in Downfall or Cat Lady and a lot of the moments are there for pure shock value. Cat Lady and Downfall created an underlying unease that games like Silent Hill 2 did so masterfully. I want to feel my skin crawl, not watch blood be poured everywhere. I’d watch the Shining for that or go to a Gwar concert.

The side characters range from couldn’t care to couldn’t care less. The main characters I mentioned in the first paragraph are the ones that draw your focus and everybody else just feels pushed into the plot with no real meaning or design.

This is very linear gameplay with few puzzles and more dialogue then in the past. In fact I’d say it borders on visual novel in a lot of respects. My interactions were minimal and mostly placing items together. This installment also offered up more bugs for me. Towards the end I had silhouettes of characters that shouldn’t have been there anymore stuck in frames.

I think this suffers from being overhyped in my brain. I will admit my bias wholeheartedly. Having absolutely adored the first two installments I was really hoping for a nice cap to the series, but at the end of the day Lorelai left me wanting. Several questions didn’t feel answered, and I didn’t feel like it really resolved the series as a whole.

My chat tended to agree as I played this on Twitch. People started losing interest halfway through calling it “Depression Simulator” which is apt. It really does feel like you live more in flashbacks of Lorelai working or dealing with a Crow style cosplayer more than then the story progresses you.

Overall gorgeous graphics. Good music. Simple gameplay. Not so great story.

6/10
Pros:
Great art
Good music

Cons:
Story feels forced
Leaves you wanting as a trilogy ender
Simplistic gameplay

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August Reads 2019

So I read a few things in August, but not nearly as much as the previous months. No I’m not counting down to the New Year in the amount that I read. I was moving, and dealing with a life break detailed in another blog. Now that I’m back to streaming part time and other content creation plus job searching (maybe I’ll discuss that soon) I’m playing a never ending game of catch up. Even though I was a mixture of tired and busy that no amount of coffee could touch I did get 4 books cranked out during the month.

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

Reason for Reading: Book of the Month club pick for July

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The Gifted School was my July pick for Book of the Month. A subscription service I just recently became part of as a birthday gift. The story is set in the smallish town of Crystal, Colorado where a group of wealthy liberal families become aware of a magnet school opening up in their small suburban town. The catch is the children being admitted to the school have to take a series of aptitude tests to prove they are “gifted.” What ensues is a series of families competing to see who is the best through their children, replete with lots of interpersonal drama.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s well written for what is essentially the plot of most CW series. The characters felt three dimensionally broken and real. The drama played out while I sipped my wine with enthusiasm. While I had to look up ski terminology because I don’t have a 6 figure salary it felt like I could relate to vicariously trying to live through other things when in doubt of your own situation. Bruce really understands what type of book he’s writing and doesn’t pace out the tension too much like most books of this type. This isn’t the next great classic, but if you’re looking for a fluff book to pass your quiet hours in the evening it’s a solid pick.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Reason for Reading: Interested in story

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This is one of the few books that I have to say that I watched the movie before I read it. Honestly I’ve always been interested in the book after hearing that Ransom took their fascination with Victorian photographs and created a story out of it, but the movie was there so it happened. Gimmicky books have always been my jam, looking at you S. and House of Leaves, but this was sadly not my jam.

A gimmick is great for a book, but the story itself has to be sound around it. Something felt lacking the whole time I was reading Miss Peregrine. It truly felt like it was a series of unconnected photos with a story strung together over a campfire. Cool, but ultimately not as satisfying unless you have Smores.

Jacob’s grandfather is killed under mysterious circumstances so Jacob sets off to his grandfather’s old orphanage in Wales to learn about his past. What he discovers is a mysterious woman named Miss Peregrine running an X-Men style school for the “gifted.” Jacob then falls in love with his grandfather’s old love interest (kinda weird) and tries to save the children from perils that befall them (usually his own doing).

Jacob is a diva, the kind of diva that asks for just the blue M&M’s in their dressing room. He is dumb and severely obnoxious. I think Ransom is aware of this because at one point even Miss Peregrine seems to get fed up with him. This was by far my favorite part of the book as I was mentally begging for someone to stop humoring this teenage terror.

The other characters are as two dimensional as paper, and feel like they’re there specifically there to be a sounding board for Jacob’s stupid questioning. The story starts off strong but meanders in the middle and essentially just leads to a cliffhanger for book two. The whole thing felt like Pirates of the Caribbean 2, so much potential wasted.

I’m very tempted to read the second because I’m a masochist and I did enjoy the photos but it’s very low on my list of to-dos.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Reason for Reading: Enjoy VlogBrothers

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So this was a major no from me.

April May (yes that’s the character’s real name) is a struggling 20 something artist in New York City. With her nose to the grindstone she doesn’t appreciate the truly remarkable things that make us all human surrounding her. One night on her way back from her job she finds a Transformer like robot standing outside a Chipotle so she does what anybody would do. She called her videographer friend at 2 am and has him travel to meet her to create a vlog. I do it all the time, it’s why nobody will answer my calls now.

After the vlog is released April and her friend are catapulted into intense and vast stardom as the first finders of a series of robots appearing all over the world that they dub “Carls.” After a period of time the Carls begin to create a dreamscape when people sleep where they can collectively solve puzzles. What do the Carl’s want and is April ready for the fame that is now her life?

What follows from this synopsis is a weird series of lectures about social media and society sandwiched into a book that makes less sense than most social media posts. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is about internet fame, social structures pervading our lives, and our general disillusionment as a people but its execution of these laudable topics is so poor.

It is told from April’s perspective in a weird vlog transcript style. Phrases are caps locked for humorous effect, memes are pulled from old databases, and Facebook streaming is used by April as her primary streaming service (let that sink in). It tries too hard to be modern and engaging which is going to make it outdated quickly as well as annoying now.

There are more holes in this book then in an Indiana road. I won’t go into the specifics of every single one as some are spoiler filled, but I was often asking myself “What?” at various turns.

Hank has some great points and it is clear he thought them out but what he has here is a series of vlogs with a story written around them that makes it clunky and unbearable in spots.

The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood

Reason for Reading: Book of the Month August

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A thousand times no m’lady. The Reckless Oath We Made capped off my bad reading experiences for the month.

Zee has a shattered hip, a thousand bills, a 5 year old nephew, a messed up family, oh and one knight that follows her around. Trying to be a modern day Don Quixote Gentry hears voices in his head telling him that he is Zee’s champion and must protect her from whatever befalls her. It’s an interesting concept, but Zee is A HORRIBLE PERSON. I’m talking grade A level terrible.

Her sister works at the local prison where their father was held for a bank robbery years earlier. One day she is involved in a prison break and Zee decides that in order to help her nephew and herself she must find her sister by any means necessary. This means using Gentry in the worst of ways and generally being an ass to everyone she meets. I had very little sympathy for the decisions she made or her plights since she was so abominably selfish.

Gentry is an interesting character but really ends up getting abused throughout the story and since Zee is the hero it feels unsatisfying throughout. The writing was engaging for about the first third before it became tiresome and repetitive.

Definitely skip on this one unless you want a weird half romance novel.

Alright we have reached the end of our trek through book land. Let me know what you’re reading in the comments below!! I’m always looking for new things to add to my Goodreads.

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Blair Witch Way Do You Go?

Set in 1996 two years after the eponymous film of the same name Blair Witch takes us back into the Black Hills forest. Yet another person has gone missing in these damnable woods, this time it’s a young boy named Peter Shannon. Was he kidnapped? Did he decide like others before him that camping is fun? Or was he captured by the witch of the woods?

A search party is formed with our not so trusty protagonist charging ahead. Ellis is a former cop who sets out in search of the missing boy with his trusty dog Bullet. He’s trying to redeem himself from the mistakes he’s made in the past by being a hero this time around. Spoiler alert: He’s pretty terrible at it. Someone with severe issues walking into a known haunted forest? What could go wrong? Now if you haven’t snoozed off from this description, let’s continue.

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We’ve been on a Bloober games kick lately having recently just played and finished one of their other titles “Layers of Fear 2.” Boy, do they love some circuitous gameplay. We have yet another game that involves a lot of walking around and timed events. There are some things that Blair Witch does very well, but a lot of stuff that it does not. It’s not the worst Blair Witch item out there. The Blair Witch Project was a phenomenon in the 90’s and rightfully so. However it has spawned a series of garbage including a horrendous reboot movie in 2016.

The issues I have here is that Bloober misses the point of what made that original work versus what we have here. Blair Witch was an extremely intimate experience. The most famous scene involving one of the main character’s staring directly into the camera. We have no personal connection to Ellis throughout this, and despite piecing his story together over time I never liked him. It’s hard to build an emotional connection with a character and their journey when you’re literally okay with them disappearing. In fact, I cared more about Bullet who really leads the gameplay by showing you the path, helping you to fight monsters, and finding objects for you. He’s the Lin Manuel Miranda of this game by just doing it all without him Ellis is pretty useless. However Bloober ends up forcing darkness on even the best of characters.

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No spoilers, but there is one very long section with Bullet that is extremely torturous. I nearly turned off the game and did not finish it. If you have issues with animals being harmed, avoid this game. It’s the roughest thing I’ve played through in awhile.

It’s also rough around the edges. It features several bugs that left me wailing in frustration. One scene was not triggered in the right order so I wandered around aimlessly for a half hour. Another time I could not find my dog at all, he had just disappeared. While these are not game breaking, they do break your immersion.

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  Like most modern horror games these days it has trouble striking a balance between fun and suspenseful. Please watch a Hitchcock movie before you just run out and make a game. I understand that they tried valiantly to capture the feeling of being lost in a woods with an unknown force at your heels but after a little bit of wandering in the dark it gets tiresome. Most of the “scary” parts are jump scares or are the traditional “don’t look at the monster” scenes that simply require getting through them.

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The game is beautiful, the sound is wonderfully done, and the camera is utilized well in a game that feels lost in the woods itself. It genuinely feels like they did not know what they wanted to accomplish with this game or were given the title to complete last minute.

I can see why this is getting so many mixed reviews as it’s definitely got a lot of potential, but it’s a hard pass from me.

Pros:

  •  Great audio
  •  The Bullet character
  •  Great visuals

    Cons:

  • Lack of direction doesn’t work
  • Difficult animal scene
  • Feels so long
  • Bugs in gameplay 

5/10

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Yes Netflix, I’m Still Watching

I’m burnt out. More burnt out than an expensive candle you keep using because that 30 dollars isn’t going to waste. Bed, Bath, and Beyond Tired. I’d like to do 1 million productive things, but the sweet siren call of doing nothing appears. Thank goodness for social media, allowing us during these difficult times to see our friends and family doing the exact opposite of that. It helps so much to make you feel like you’re leading a life filled with wonder and not slowly piddling away what little time you have on this tortured wheel of chaos. Truly blessed time we live in.

Sometimes I just want to start an app that’s the cutting room floor of other people’s social media. Here’s Karen that social media goddess who is never sad and manages to run 3 businesses while doing yoga, she’s cry eating a taco in her shower. Slap that thing on the market and call it “OhMySpace.” I never would though. Sometimes a good solid heart emoji is what gets someone through their day, I can’t fault them for that. We all have our vices and our virtues. I too love the cheap thrill of a “like.” I knew I wanted to be liked by everyone long before social media was even a thing though.

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Karen’s hairline is really receding

Social media is a drug. Its addictive qualities make it feel sometimes like it’s a never ending game of “why are you hitting yourself.” You wake up in bed one day after blacking out on Twitter to have suddenly downloaded the TikTok app. Who am I anymore you scream into the void? It’s a really hit or miss situation. (This is a TikTok joke, I admit shamefully.)

I’m better with handling social media and knowing when the good things outweigh the bad now more than ever. I’m still not great at it though. Social media can be a beautiful and oftentimes hilarious way to keep up with people. It’s a wonderful tool, but I find it’s just as equally a crutch I use to not think. Anxiety is far easier to handle in 240 characters. Life scary, screams internally #whygod. Boom, now you can move on to another topic. Plus, I’ve curated my feeds down to funny jokes and people I actually enjoy spending time with so time spent on the platform feels more worthwhile. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is though. I’ve been doing a personal challenge of writing on Twitter which I may talk about soon but it helps a little cause I’ve been struggling to write.

I haven’t really known what to write here or anywhere so forced time daily to write gets me going. A creative block is a wall that sometimes you just have to climb over in order to get rid of it. I’m aware of the myriad topics I want to cover, I have a whole drafts folder of unwritten items but nothing springs from my heart. My attention span for creative endeavors has shortened recently due to being burnt out and that can be rough. When I was younger I could sit and read or write for hours on end. Now I can barely read or write a few pages without stopping to look at my phone and brood like I’m stuck in a Sartre play. So it really makes me wonder if maybe social media is a double edged sword. Yes, I’m using it to write and get more content out but it’s also the thing I’m using to avoid the very productive thing I want to do.

I think it’s all about time put in versus quality gotten out. Cal Newport recently wrote a book called Digital Minimalism in which he details out how to treat your time like money. If you look at the time you put in social media as an investment, can you say you’re getting enough returns on that investment that it makes it worthwhile? I’m still trying to figure that out. Like any relationship it has its ups and downs but you have to make sure you’re not compromising your values too much.

The only thing I’m certain of is I want a vacation. A lot of people have been taking vacations and I need one. A long one, that contains a copious amount of sitting in a location with trees, coffee, and wi-fi. Sometimes you just want to sit and you want to continue sitting until you’ve either won a Guinness record for laziness or sorted your life out. An endless sit-a-thon with the companionship of a crime drama playing in the background (looking at you longingly Mindhunter). Yes Netflix, I’m still watching and also for your information could have been a great detective clearly.

Hopefully over the next few months I can get my feet back under me and feel the words flow again. I want to write like magicians pull out scarves, continuously but mostly to the enjoyment of themselves. Right now social media and working feel like trying to detach the world’s most difficult to wrestle with mind wedgie.

If you want to read the Cal Newport book I talked about in here and another blog, here you go.

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Layers of Mannequins

Do you like walking into Old Navy? Do you ever think to yourself “Man, I wish they would make a horror game out of these mannequins?” Well then look no further, I have a game for you. Layers of Fear 2 looks like an Old Navy closed down and a Spirit Halloween put itself in its corpse after about a million years. Did a mannequin hurt you Bloober Games? Did you watch that one Dr. Who episode with Christopher Eccleston and it scared you? It’s okay you can talk to us. I say this because no horror game since Silent Hill 2 has been this obsessed with mannequins. They are everywhere in this game, and they will start to become hilarious over time. Now onwards.

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Such fun, much joy

This is the sequel to the fairly popular indie game Layers of Fear where you played as a crazed painter. In this installment you play as a crazed Hollywood actor and it’s not Gary Busey. You’re struggling with their past and identity while they star in a film shot on a luxury cruise liner. Cause nothing bad ever happens on cruise ships right?

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Layers has the base ingredients for what most developers consider to be the makings of a horror game these days. Splash of childhood trauma, dash of torturous relationship with loved one/family (it’s your sister), and a pinch of desperate jump scares. So yes, I’m biased. I have PT. SD from the copious amounts of games trying to recapture the glory of the Silent Hills playable trailer, but that can be okay sometimes. Bloober doesn’t do anything with the formula though.

The only layers this game contained was the layers of my never ending disappointment in it. Layers relies heavily on classic films and themes its whole story  which seperates into five separate “acts” each hearkening back to a specific film. However this constant flip flopping between themes ends up making a very obvious storyline lose itself along the way. You can tell they thought their was a poignancy to the writing as well as the overall vibe of the piece that is lost.

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A ghost knocked a vase over, nothing happened. I knocked one over, this happened.

In fact the writing is some of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. Cliches ooze out of this thing like the black mold on the ships walls. Each time you die your left with a deep meme posing as thoughtful. It can wear thin during some of the chase sequences that occur often. Yes Bloober decided to go the Outlast 2 route and make a monster that chases you. Personally I felt the tension of the first game was amplified by the fact you didn’t know if the dangers were real or coming from the painter’s mind but here we are.

The whole thing feels like a rail shooter of fear. Walk around, collect various items to detail out the past, get chased, and then repeat. It wouldn’t be so heinous with a shorter playtime but clocking between 8-10 hours makes it feel close to unbearable at times. It builds quickly and then peters out with an ending that really makes you question if it was worth the time.

I struggled to find things to praise but the art direction is very nice. The issue is the differences between styles and themes as mentioned above makes the art feel either out of place or repetitive. A very strange mixture. In terms of sound design, I honestly cannot remember it which means it probably did a somewhat okay job.

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Insert heavy sigh

If you’re looking for cheap thrills this might be the game for you but there are far better and cheaper horror games out there worthy of your time including the original Layers.

3/10

Pros:
Art Direction
Sound design

Cons:
Cliched writing and story
Jump scare filled
Feels very long

 

 

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Return to Streaming: The Sequel

Okay maybe not sequel unless you think of it in terms of Fast and Furious sequels. This is the third big break I’ve had to take but I have to say it was worth it despite whatever comes next. I’ll cut to the chase, I will be returning to streaming officially during the week of August 26th. There will be a complete re-brand, it will be scary for all of us. I needed to figure some things out and I did.

So why did I go away? Well let’s talk a bit.

I’d been thinking about this one scene in Frankenstein a lot. The one where he sees the little girl throwing petals into the pond and misunderstands so he throws her into the pond instead.

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Frankenstein invented yeeting

There is a somewhat okay intention there, but it’s lost. Throw pretty thing in lake does not involve tiny children. While I’ve always understood the undertones and implications of the story, I’d started to really get an “I feel you bro” vibe with Frankenstein. Lately everything I tried to do just didn’t go quite as planned. I thought I understood how to fix things but instead I threw them in the pond.

So now I’ll confess to the murder of an innocent lightning bug. This was the final pond moment that made me realize I needed a change, weirdly.

There was a screen door that separated my balcony from my old apartment. It’s essentially a “Keep Out” sign for bugs but they never take a hint. Seeing flickering lights and knowing that despite the fact I am a very basic white girl, but didn’t own string lights,  I looked up. There in all its glory was a big ol’ lightning bug trapped between the screen and my door. “Oh beautiful creature, let me save you” I proclaimed as I got up to open the screen door and let it out into the world. As I opened the door though it fell into the crack where you slide the door….while it was still sliding. It was crushed in between the door and the slider but still alive. Its own 127 Hours boulder.

I couldn’t decide what to do, the whole point of this was to help and I still felt I could so I moved the door more and killed it. I didn’t mean to, I didn’t want to, and I ended up crying for an hour and that’s how I’ve felt for 7 months now. I’ve had a Midas touch for f**king everything up. I’d called it the curse of 2019, but I think it’s more the curse of realizing you’re not happy with who you’ve become. I’m in possession of 2 not very helpful degrees, unable to maintain my stream, and going to be unemployed in a month. Most people have mid-life crises but I’m an overachiever so I try to have a crisis every 5 years. Keeps the heart pumping.

Anyone whose known me for more than five seconds knows I have severe anxiety and depression. It comes in large waves that crash around me but this time they dragged me out to sea. When my anxiety gets really bad I have a thing that flares up called “depersonalization.” If you’re not familiar with what that is it essentially makes you feel not real. You can function but the whole time you feel like you’re having a Dr. Strange style out of body experience. “Is this really me? Are those my feet?” will genuinely be thoughts you have. It’s odd to say the least, and I want to talk about this more in the future, but for now if you’re curious read up about it here.

Usually I do work and wait for it to pass, but after I got sick in April it never left. Everyday I woke up feeling like a dream, and unless you’re Edgar Allen Poe everything we see or seem being a dream ain’t cool. Things started to take a turn for the terrible and it felt as though I’d get a vision in my mind, like “try streaming more.” This plan would be the key to making me the person I wanted to be and break out of this cycle, but within a week that plan was shot and I was left with a bunch of disappointment. This disappointment swirled around me from both myself and from others. A disappointment mountain that eventually turned into a masochistic ball of feelings, and as these feelings mounted up instead of reevaluating and rethinking the situation I just became disheartened. It was hard to think let alone fix things so disheartened turned to bitter which turned to angry. Honestly it was like a mood ring where the only color represented was “horribly overwhelmed and confused.” These are not excuses for some of the bad behavior I exhibited, trust me I know I was a bit of a garbage goblin, but this is more of an explanation.

My problem was that I just wanted to do good, tell jokes, and be happy, but I felt so lost. Who was I? How do you change things when can’t see the top of the pit? When you become your own personal Bane? (I can’t pull off the muffled voice bad guy thing, my face is so round that mask would look terrible in it.) I’m a broken record spiritually so I have to buy a new album.

I’ve lost a lot of “friends” the past few years, but like ghosts several of these spirits still linger. (God I sound like an old Dido song.) I put friends in quotations because I’ve been legitimately redefining that word for myself over the break. Friend has been too liberal a term for me forever.

There was a girl in my first grade class named Charlie. Charlie was the epitome of don’t give a f**k, she tripped me in the bathroom…on purpose. As I lay there with my busted knee on the ground, Charlie, like a terribly small mobster informed me that we would be friends now. Much like a business transaction with Apple, it was very one-sided. We were friends for years and shockingly the situation never improved. I’ve accumulated a lot of Charlie friends of late, and while I’ve declared with vehement openness that I would get rid of them, I never have. Follow through is not my specialty. I like people and I like being liked, so it feels necessary that I keep all of them in some weird Pokemon collecting way.

I’ve spent the past couple weeks solidly visiting my bed in a depression that is legendary among the ages, but I eventually got up and plan to keep doing that. I’ve quit Twitch for a few weeks as well as limited my social media use which helped. Taking a break from Twitch for this long, purposefully, is major for me. When I realized I needed to set my dream aside for a bit by choice and not through unfortunate circumstances, that was a real eye opener to how bad off I felt. I’m coming back with several new things and I really want to try to turn this around; It isn’t going to happen immediately though. I’m trying not to rush fixing things this time, and understand it may take awhile before I feel  100%, but I’m better.

In summation Charles Bukowski got it right:

“Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.”

Let’s do this, blogs every Sunday and see you for the big return stream the week of August 26th at twitch.tv/jessplayin!

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Phantasmagoria 2: Electric Boogaloo

Traveling back into the recent past again today we’re visiting a little gem called Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh. Yes you are correct, this is the 1996 sequel to the Roberta Williams game Phantasmagoria but this time Roberta walked very far away and took her name with her. To the right you’ll see some vaguely familiar plots about childhood traumas and mental illness and to the left you’ll see a forced alien creature plot that is about to merge dangerously into the life of our main character.

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This game feels like the discarded first drafts of David Lynch ideas. Sierra initially wanted to make Phantasmagoria into an anthology terror series like Goosebumps, but this sequel was met with such little fanfare and so much banning for its sexual content it tanked. I enjoyed it, though by now you know my B movie games can be fun philosophy. This is definitely another “strap in and brace yourself” game.

You play as Curtis Craig who is a 26 year old mild mannered office drone. Curtis has a perfectly “normal” life. Working by day at Wyntech pharmeceutical company, he comes home every night to his pet rat Blob who he loves dearly. He is playing the field in the laziest way possible by trying to date 2 women in his 7 person office simultaneously. His best friend also works at this office thus proving this man doesn’t want to walk further than the water cooler for any social interaction. It’s admirable but disastrous in the long run.

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Curtis starts to see and hear things, mild hallucinations that steadily get worse. Then people in the office start dying. And that’s a big deal because they’re short staffed to begin with! Curtis thinks he may be blacking out and killing them but he has no clue how or why. As he unravels what might be happening he discovers the possibility of aliens in the basement of Wyntech. What’s going on? Who are these creatures? Who is Curtis really? Why did you buy this game? Am I wasting my life? All of these questions will pop into your head. Most will be answered.

Phantasmagoria doesn’t really have the quirky charm of the original. It changes a lot of things, the main being that it replaces the shock value of gore for the shock value of sex. Curtis is in lust with a  girl who frequents a BDSM club, and you’ll get well acquainted with uncomfortableness during their sex scenes. (Also it feels like someone just vaguely described BDSM and they were like I got this.)

The controls are still easy, but the story didn’t feel like it made as much sense as the first. (Please note the first makes very little sense) Much like Until Dawn it felt like every possible trope needed to be thrown in there. You’ll also notice while playing that it feels kinda random. There were times I needed to leave an area then come back simply to trigger a mini-cutscene. Stuff like that always gets in the way of a game’s flow.

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That being said the story is so ridiculously outlandish and the acting is so terrible that this game does give you yet again a sense of B movie joy. I’m happy I played it and if you’re looking for an old FMV fix with just the right amount of raunch and cheese this will be your jam. Just take careful note that there is some dark subject matter also touched on in this including murder, suicide, child abuse, and actually enjoying your coworkers.

If you want to check it out it’s available on both GOG and Steam. Here is the Steam link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/501970/Phantasmagoria_2_A_Puzzle_of_Flesh/

6/10

Pros:
-Fun B movie style
-Short and breezy
-Story is crazy

Cons:
-Tries a bit too hard
-Feels a bit random
-Story is crazy

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July Reads 2019

Back again for another installment of Grandma Jess tries to remember the things she has read better! I was definitely able to recall batches of June’s books way better so thought I’d tackle some of the things I read in July. Overall the month has been more of a mixed bag with fewer books finished. I’ve still got a shamefully long list of ones that I have started but have not finished. My Goodreads “currently reading” section looks like a scroll.

Below are the ones that I conquered though:

Life Will Be the Death of Me:… and You Too!
by Chelsea Handler

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Reason for reading: Saw some quotes I enjoyed

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”

Spoiler alert: Those quotes are at the very end of the book. Also they are the only good thing in this strange landscape of uncomfortableness. By the end I was happy death was coming for me. Okay, that may be an exaggeration but this is a rough ride.

Handler starts the book in a vape hazed self realization that she relies far too much on her assistants and others to do simple things. She’s become spoiled and narcissistic so she reaches out to a therapist and begins a journey of self discovery. Most of this revolves around the death of her brother Chet when she was very young.

Now the book is essentially a series of therapy sessions transcribed and some of the insights are not terrible. Information about Enneagrams is passed around. The IAM Model is discussed which I enjoyed, IAM stands for Identification, Awareness, Modification of problems. So if I enjoyed her realizations what made me uncomfortable? Basically everything else.

The book is very political but not in a proactive way it feels more like a street corner barker. On top of that when Handler discusses things like giving her dog a human sleeping pill or squeezing her maid’s fat rolls because she loves fat rolls. Just no. The cringe could’ve physically manifested on my body and been cut off to make covers for this book.

Now I am fully aware I’ve never been a huge Handler fan so that might have played into my dislike. This is a memoir through and through so not having a base of enjoyment to jump from can be even more disappointing. I had simply heard good things and wanted to give one of her books a shot. If you already enjoy Handler, probably worth it. Otherwise I’d say hard pass.

The Book of Essie
by Meghan MacLean Weir

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Reason for reading: Was curious about plot

This was definitely an addictive fluff piece, but in the end it feels like a good idea poorly executed. This is Meghan’s debut novel.

The book centers around Esther “Essie” Ann Hicks, the youngest child of the Hicks family. It isn’t a normal family in typical YA twist fashion though, this family are religious reality TV superstars. When it comes to light that Essie is pregnant, her mother Celia and the show’s producers all get together to quickly decide the best course of action. Essie strategically places herself next to a fellow classmate named Roarke Richards to convince him to become her future husband. The couple then plans to use a local reporter named Liberty Bell to sell their fabricated love story. Will Essie live a false web of lies or will she break free from her cage? Next time on the CW.

Really it does feel like instead of a CW drama this was turned into a novel. Don’t get me wrong, CW dramas are my guilty pleasures. A good episode of Riverdale and I’m one happy camper, but like most of those shows there are flaws.

The plot twists in this book are fairly predictable. You can guess the father of the baby faster than Maury can, you know what the tragic backstory of Liberty Bell will be, on and on. It feels poorly researched in spots as well. For instance Liberty says that she can get a student’s class schedule from the college registrar. That’s simply not true, I worked at a registrar and they don’t give those to journalists. Even police have to prove who they are before they can get information like that.

This is a fluff beach summer read through and through. It’s like ice cream for your eyes. Enjoy the weird ride and it’s fairly enjoyable but not worth a lot of money or time investment for sure.

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
by Cal Newport

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Reason for reading: Concerned about the amount of time as well as how social media affects me.

I cannot fully express how much I enjoyed this book. Social media is a love/hate relationship for me and has been for several years now. While I adore the constant connection to the people I love, those connections have felt more hollow like biting into one of those big chocolate Easter Bunnies.

Newport undertook a 30 day digital declutter study with thousands of people which he details in this book as well as telling you how to do your own digital declutter. Unlike other digital minimalism solutions that are often “just don’t do it” this book forces you to look at your use of digital media like finances. Your time is your money. Are you investing it the way you should be?

Using his own personal research as well as research from lots of other psychologists and sociologists this book is so thorough. Questions I had were answered before asking them and lord the mass of citations. Yes, thank you.

If you’re struggling with social media, read it. If you’re not but are curious about how social media has consumed our society, read it. It’s the good stuff.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake
by Sloane Crosley

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“I called my mother immediately to inform her that she was a bad parent. “I can’t believe you let us watch this. We ate dinner in front of this.”

“Everyone watched Twin Peaks,” was her response.

“So, if everyone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it, too?”

“Don’t be silly,” she laughed, “of course I would, honey. There’d be no one left on the planet. It would be a very lonely place.”

Every part of this book is like the above so if you enjoyed that tidbit I have a gem of a find for you.

Literary publicist Sloane Crosley has a compact and biting compilation of essays here. I read this on my breaks at work while trying to laugh so hard that it disturbed others. From drawer ponies to getting sucked into a high school friend’s wedding Sloane covers the not so splendid lives of the 20-something.

Crosley captures the feeling I have everyday of trying to be the best but being the okayest. If you want something light, funny, fun, and hella quotable this is the book for you. My Kindle had so many yellow highlights from a distance it looks like the world’s worst crime scene. Loved, loved, loved this.

 

Well our time has ended yet again for book talk, same time same blog soon yeah?

 

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