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Posted by MajorMitch

This week has been largely spent playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown, as I plugged away at my attempt at beating the game on Ironman Classic difficulty. My first game (a few months ago) was on Normal, and it became pretty clear pretty early on that Classic is a substantial step up. The main differences I’ve noticed have been that my chance to hit enemies is substantially lower, and global panic levels seem to rise a lot faster. I’ve had to fairly drastically adjust my approach to missions to account for lower hit chances (by playing more cautiously, making better use of guaranteed damage like grenades, and trying to flank when I can), and increased panic levels make getting those satellites up quickly even more imperative. It can be pretty nuts, yet I was doing pretty well for a while. I got past the alien base, had satellites up everywhere, and my squad, while not perfect, was doing well enough. I was digging the challenge, and Ironman made everything much more tense in a way that was genuinely thrilling.

When you don't stop spinning, you might be in trouble.

Then I got hit with a game breaking bug that halted all progress. Basically, going to Mission Control and hitting “Scan for Activity” resulted in endless scanning, but never finding anything. For a second I thought I was getting a little lucky, as I was able to accumulate some funds and catch up the research that I had resources for. But pretty quickly it became apparent that something very bad was happening. By the time something did pop up it was a story related event, and all the enemies were way more powerful than I could hope to combat. Put bluntly, taking out sectopods with the starting weapons is nigh impossible. As such, I had to completely abandon that game. Ironman mode is neat, but man, you feel it when a game breaking bug hits. I’m giving the game one more chance, as I started a new game on Ironman Classic this weekend. So far it’s been pretty smooth, and I’m feeling good so long as I don’t get any horrible bugs. If that happens again, I doubt I’ll try a third time, but hopefully I’ll get through uninterrupted.

I also played through Little Inferno early in the week, which wasn’t a long game. I think it’s a really neat game though, but maybe not so much due to the “game” part of it. Billed as a “fireplace simulator” (never thought I’d see that), you spend most of your time tossing all sorts of items into a fireplace and burning them. You have to buy the items, and as you burn them you get even more money back, which you can then use to buy bigger, better items. The game has upwards of 100 “combos” that you perform by burning different items together, and it will often require you to perform a certain number of them before you can unlock more items and advance. The combos are only described in vague hints, and that’s where the game gets pretty much all of it’s challenge, in trying to puzzle out what the combos are. It’s still never that hard though, as there are enough obvious combos, and the requirements for combos aren’t high enough to stump you for long. But it did add a nice, thin layer of stuff to think about.

Burn ALL the things!

Anyway, the basic gameplay is a simple, somewhat repetitive cycle that I found to be surprisingly entertaining, if not for the actual gameplay itself then for the dressing around it. It’s pretty clear pretty early on that Little Inferno is made by the same people what made World of Goo. The aesthetic is similar, and it has a comparable charm permeating the entire game. The art style, the music (oh the music!), even the dialogue and quirkiness of the story all bear a resemblance. I appreciate that, as not only does it give these talented dudes and their work its own unique and identifiable flavor, but that’s one of the things I really loved about World of Goo, and it’s equally strong here. There’s also a great sense of humor throughout the game, especially in the descriptions of the game’s many, varied items (not unlike Plants vs. Zombies’ unit and item descriptions), and there’s a subtly engaging narrative that’s full of plenty of commentary happening in the background. The actual plot meshes well with all the burning you’re doing on screen, and it all culminates into a thoughtful, touching ending that I thoroughly enjoyed. World of Goo had a similarly subtle and thoughtful story, and it’s nice to see that trend continued. That alone made Little Inferno worth playing for me, and I’d recommend it to those who liked World of Goo’s style, even if I don’t think the base gameplay is as strong as World of Goo’s.

Finally, I have decided to put my “Weekly Roundups” on indefinite hiatus, making this the last entry for the foreseeable future. As I tend to do at the end of the year, I’ve been contemplating changing some things up. I haven’t decided exactly what I want to do quite yet, but I have some ideas, none of which involve this exact format. I’ve certainly enjoyed this frequent “What have I been playing?” style of informal writing about games, but it does have its limitations. After doing a full year of them (hardly missing any weeks at that), I’d like to try some slightly different things. Before that, however, I’ll be doing some end of year reflections and thoughts over the next few weeks. Then once the new year begins I’ll hopefully have a better idea of how exactly I want to do things going forward. So it’s not an end by any means, just a new beginning. And with that said, that’s going to do it for now! Until next time!

Currently playing: XCOM: Enemy Unknown