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Look Ma, no hams!

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Six of one, no time for another half-dozen

I recently realised that I'm mid-way through… let's just say "too many" games at the same time. Hard disk space is no longer an issue, but their mere existence is a drain every time I look at my games collection, adding clutter every time I feel like playing something. Time to prune!

Crysis 2: This is a replay. The first time through was back when it was released, on a computer much weaker than my current desktop, so I'm enjoying the improved graphics and stable framerate. And like all of the Crysis games, it's much more entertaining when you use powers instead of just left-clicking on enemies (an filled energy bar is practically wasted fun). Of course, playing that way isn't nearly as quick, and the linearity of the game means that once the fighting loses its novelty there's nothing left to draw me in. But I haven't hit that point yet, and the biggest reason I haven't played more is because it's not in Steam and I forget about it. Verdict: left installed.

Eidolon: As an open-world walking simulator, I figured it would keep my hands busy while I caught up on some podcasts, and it succeeded, but I'm still nowhere near 'completing' it and it's so damn slow. I'm not sure why I'd spend 20 hours pretending to walk on the computer when I could do the same thing outside with a much better payoff. The only problem is that I can't find much about the plot online, and it was interesting enough that I want to know more. Verdict: left installed, ugh.

Prototype 2: I enjoyed the first Prototype, and picked this up in some sale afterwards, but only got around to it recently. I dropped it early into the final zone - the fighting wasn't much fun, and I kept messing up the targeting system (for example, instead of consuming a side-mission-unlocking character, grabbing an adjacent person and fatally throwing them at the first). The first game wasn't as pretty and the fights were probably even less fun, but the sequel feels restricted in comparison (separate islands instead of dynamic zones, fewer collectibles and events, Heller can't be stationary on walls, etc.). Still, I'm close enough I could probably finish it in an evening or two. Verdict: left installed. This isn't really working, is it?

Watch_Dogs: The main reason I haven't finished this one is because it's the second-most recent game I started, but I very much plan to. Like Crysis 2, a computer upgrade has made this much more playable, and I'm having a blast so far. It's in the running to become my favourite non-RPG open-world game (I haven't played GTA V, which seems like the main contender). I'm particularly pleased about how many main/side missions I've been able to complete without resorting to guns, or even a physical presence, and hope that continues as an option. Verdict: left installed, obviously.

Spore: A few days ago I found myself listening to the 2008 'Sporecast' and, against my better judgment, reinstalled it (after first reassuring myself the servers hadn't been shut down in the interim). It's crazy to think it's almost ten years old now! Sadly, time hasn't made the game any better. I'm trying to be more creative in the editors and get far enough to see some of the content from an expansion pack I somehow acquired, but I'll probably get frustrated/bored and delete it in a week or two. Verdict: left installed, for now…

Result: Total failure!

The list above, however, is limited to stuff that I'm "currently" playing. There are others that I haven't touched for months, sometimes years, that should quietly be returned to the vast hidden wings of my Steam library for the foreseeable future…

  • Deus Ex (the original): I've never finished it and lost my saves from the time I nearly did, and it'd be such a time-consuming slog to get back to where I was (which can't have been that far from the end, surely?). Uninstalled.
  • Car Mechanic Simulator 2015: The first one was bizarrely entertaining and even relaxing. This one somehow lost the charm. I haven't got far enough to unlock most of the extra features, but what's the point? Uninstalled.
  • Distant Worlds: Another massive time-sink, but superior to virtually every other space 4X, so leaving it installed saves me money by reminding me I don't need to buy them. Kept.
  • Close Combat (various games): I should have stayed in the strategy kiddy pool - it's probably grognard-approved, but I feel too dumb to play this without spending hours getting up to speed. Uninstalled.
  • 7 Grand Steps, Step 1: What Ancients Begat: Despite looking like a casual game, playing it takes forever and the penalty for screwing up is off-putting. I've never finished a single playthrough and should probably admit I won't get around to it any time soon. Uninstalled.
  • Hitman 2: Silent Assassin: For some reason I convinced myself that I should play the hitman games (and several other series like Tomb Raider) in the order they were released, since I'd probably never return to the early games otherwise. Again, I lost my progress at some point and can't bring myself to replay it. Uninstalled.
  • Unity of Command: I'm apparently unwilling to invest the time to get any better at the game... i.e. I'm too dumb. Uninstalled.
  • Assassin's Creed: Okay, apparently the sequel is where the game gets good, but as above I'm a stickler for chronology. Plus I don't think I even finished the tutorial, so it's less abandoned than unstarted. Kept.
  • Pandora: First Contact: It's a great Alpha Centauri update, but (a) I barely have time for this kind of game anymore and (b) I own AC on GOG and want to play that just as much. Uninstalled.
  • Sunset: The half-hour I played was great, but then I greedily read the help file and killed all the mystery of what I was doing and what effect it had. Maybe one day I'll forget? Uninstalled.
  • X: Beyond the Frontier: Damn you, chronological preference! Maybe if I follow a walkthrough I can get to the good games in the series quicker. Kept.
  • Soldiers: Heroes of World War II: Despite being the first in its series (leading to Men of War), I decided to play it because I thought it might be simpler, serving as a 'tutorial' for the later games. That's almost certainly wrong, but my previously-noted lack of skill at wargames made my error irrelevant anyway. Uninstalled.

Result: Success! Less choice is a good choice, at least for now.


Fifteen minutes of GAME: Prediction retrospection

I've cobbled together a few blogs recently based on the concept of playing games for only 15 minutes, in order to winnow down my backlog – there's no faster way to finish a game then by deciding not to play it. Instead of writing one this time, I thought I'd look back at previous entries and see what's happened since.

#1, May 29: Fifteen minutes of GAME

Entry here.

  • A New Beginning: Final Cut: I had a few misgivings, but was open-minded enough to leave it on the backlog for some remote point in the future. That turned out to be a few months later, still a lot sooner than I thought, but my early thoughts about the game were if anything too optimistic. I gave it two stars in a review. But I did finish it.
  • Machinarium: I thought this was incredible, and would never have guessed that I'd finish A New Beginning first. While I have played it some more, it hasn't been quite as good as that first amazing 15 minutes, and it struggles to capture my attention when I do play it (despite decent audio, the lack of voice acting or dialogue makes it too tempting to try and multitask with podcasts and the like). I still hope to finish it eventually.
  • 1953 – KGB Unleashed: I haven't touched this since, but I didn't expect I'd rush back to it.
  • Mars: War Logs: I haven't even thought about this one since, but I never gave it a fair try in the first place. It's still on the backlog.

There were two more games that I didn't even play for fifteen minutes – Bientôt l'été and War Operations – which is a decision I still agree with.

Accuracy: moderate

#2, June 5: Fifteen minutes of GAME II

Entry here.

  • Original War: After the effort I put into getting it working, I certainly haven't uninstalled it, but it has remained untouched. Then again, I've never been hugely into RTS games.
  • Megabyte Punch: I used the phrase "a weak yes" in the summary for this game; in hindsight, I was just too polite to say "no". From what I remember the game was fine, and I've long since found a suitable controller, but I'm just not interested in playing it.
  • DarkStar One: I was very enthusiastic about this originally, and was willing to overlook its few obvious flaws. Despite that, I haven't played it since. I'm still interested in it, I just haven't had the time to get into a story-heavy potentially open-ended game. My interest in space sims comes in cycles, and this will probably still be top of the list next time that happens.
  • Unium: The game captured my attention well, and was fun while it lasted. I even bothered to get the optional achievements! I've long since stopped playing it, finding the community levels largely uninteresting, but my prediction was right on the money.
  • Please, Don't Touch Anything: I also finished this game, though if memory serves I resorted to a walk-through for one or two endings. I also bought the soundtrack – not the wisest idea, since it doesn't make great music outside the game, but who cares?
  • Inherit the Earth: Quest for the Orb: my guess for this one was pretty accurate too – while it still seems interesting, I don't actually want to play it.

Accuracy: pretty great

#3, August 31: Fifteen minutes of GAME: Secret Chainsaw Caves of Cogmind the Flea

Entry here.

  • Secret Agent: I realise I didn't mention it specifically, but I expected to enjoy this when I tried it. I didn't, and I'm still happy to never try it again.
  • Caves of Qud: I agree with my original opinion here; I'm willing to try this again but not any time soon.
  • Chainsaw Warrior: I've played a bunch of games of this since, but have never come anywhere close to succeeding, even on the easiest difficulty. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and there are plenty of achievements to try for along the way, but after a number of failures the game started to lose its charm. It's not like I'm even making obvious mistakes anymore.
  • Flix the Flea: No regrets about my (negative) summary here. Still haven't bothered to add it to the wiki, either.
  • Cogmind: I've picked this back up a few times, but never got very far before I quit. I'd still much rather play it then Caves of Qud, but learning all the details of a new roguelike can be such a time sink.

Accuracy: basically perfect

#4, September 11: Fifteen minutes of GAME: September

Entry here. And yes, I just couldn't think of a good way to combine the titles.

  • Mayhem Intergalactic: I was 99% wrong here – or rather, I missed the point in the 15 minutes I played. The game lacks complexity, but not depth. The highest AI difficulty levels can be pretty challenging, and the various game settings can drastically change the gameplay (although the computer can't cope sensibly with more extreme combinations). I've had much more fun, and played it much more, than I originally expected.
  • Vektor Wars: In hindsight I think I found this game a little too stressful. I haven't returned to it yet.
  • Crash Drive 2: I did play this a little more afterwards, but ultimately felt my choice was correct – it's off the backlog permanently.
  • Ford Racing 3: I updated this in the original blog, but despite being a largely mediocre racing game I found it surprisingly entertaining, often just on the balance of frustation and fun. I eventually completed it and even bothered to fill out the wiki page here. I don't recommend going and buying it though, unless you really like Ford vehicles.
  • Trainz Trouble: I haven't missed this at all. Even playing it for that short amount of time has somewhat ruined my Steam recommendations.
  • Watch_Dogs: I haven't upgraded my computer in the past month, so unsurprisingly I haven't played this either.

Accuracy: moderate

Overall Accuracy: good enough to continue with the feature, I reckon

So how is my backlog looking overall?

According to my profile on How Long To Beat, since June 1 I've finished Please, Don't Touch Anything, Unium, Secret of Qwerty, Plug & Play, Knytt Underground, A New Beginning, J.U.L.I.A.: Among the Stars, Ford Racing 3, Thirty Flights of Loving (& Gravity Bone), Hook, Grey Cubes, 7 Wonders of the Ancient World and About Love, Hate and the other ones, and I'm well on my way to completing Puzzle Kingdoms – round up and say fifteen games. (Bolded titles are those from the blogs above.) I spent the majority of my time playing games without endings, though. I also tried and subsequently disapproved of some other games from the backlog without writing them up, but it's harder to find a list of those - at least half a dozen recently.

On the other hand, according to my personal database, in the same period I've purchased... uh, 121 games, not including one recent bundle I haven't yet added, but including all the games I finished except Ford Racing 3 (just outside the cutoff, on May 16). Okay, that's insane. It's also about 10% of the games I own, which seems just as insane. I don't remember there being that many good sales...

Left: Purchase locations for games since June 1. Right: Running total of games purchased since June 1.
Left: Purchase locations for games since June 1. Right: Running total of games purchased since June 1.

Overall Game Library Stats

Game being made29Games I can't play yet
Unplayed648Games I haven't started
Started25Games I've started and might finish
Completed98Games I've finished and might replay
Fun but unfinishable36Games without endings I might play
Not yet162Sequels to unplayed games
Played Out147Games I won't replay
Never Play75Unwanted and truly awful games

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Fifteen minutes of GAME: September

Welcome to the latest instalment of this series, where I play games from my backlog for fifteen minutes to decide if they're worth playing for longer.

Mayhem Intergalactic

Mayhem Intergalactic is a turn-based space-themed 'strategy' game from 2007. I tend to ignore Steam reviews but this one had a 'mixed' rating and only 14 reviews at all, which suggested it wasn't going to be a classic. I was doubly surprised, then, to find myself enjoying it. The game is very simple, with no diplomacy, ship design, construction options, tactical view, fog of war, research… you have one upgrade that increases production, which you can use repeatedly every turn or so instead of building ships, and that's all. The rest is equally simple - you have planets, they make ships, you order ships to other planets; when two players' ships meet, the bigger group wins. I finished a game on default settings in under fifteen minutes, but I wasn't giving it full attention and was learning the ropes, and also discovered at the end that the AI was set to easiest and I literally couldn't have lost. There's a variety of pre-designed maps and random layouts, and a bunch of settings to affect game speed/fairness/difficulty, none of which I touched. It also has multiplayer, but it would probably be impossible to find other players at this point even if I wanted to.

Do I want to continue? Despite all the positivity, no. Depth and complexity isn't a necessity in all games, but I already have plenty of simple time-killing games. I could be wrong - there might be a complex game hidden underneath the purposely stupid AI and default settings - but I can't see myself sticking with it for long.

Vektor Wars

Vektor Wars (not yet on the wiki) is a 2015 indie retro FPS, which are a-dime-a-dozen these days; the only reason I bought this one was because I'd enjoyed the developer's last game, and fifteen minutes of play later I wasn't regretting that purchase. The game has several modes; I only tried 'Story' which, after a few screens of flavorsome but irrelevant exposition, put me in a neon-green city facing off against several waves of enemies. The game was simultaneously simple and confusing. The goal was obvious - shoot the things that are shooting you - but I was left to discover the game mechanics by myself, figuring out sprinting, the unusual ammo/reload system, pickups, the minimap… at one point I fell into water and thought I'd broken the game, with the nearest ladder some distance away and out of sight. The main draw of the game after the gameplay is probably its visual style, and it does look nice, but at times I felt either overwhelmed with visual noise or simply confused at what was going on. On the other hand the enemies themselves are very unique and easy to distinguish, which prevented the game from seeming actually unfair.

Do I want to continue? Yes. It's faster-paced than I'd like, but at least next time I won't have to relearn all the basics. It might be too much to finish, though.

Escape Machines

Escape Machines (not yet on the wiki) is an isometric game, looking somewhat similar to Zombie Shooter with more upgrade options. It's also unfinished, and in the midst of an engine upgrade, so it's probably not the best time to evaluate it. Moving on…

Crash Drive 2

Crash Drive 2 (not yet on the wiki, and no relation to Crash Time 2) is a casual competitive driving game. It's multiplayer-only, which explains why I got a free copy. In fact, it's online-multiplayer-only, and the nearest server is about 10,000 km away. It's also ported from a mobile game - but unlike the multiplayer factors, it's actually a very good port, and apparently it includes cross-platform play. So what about the gameplay? You pick a vehicle, which upgrades itself (drive fast to level up top speed, that kind of thing), and compete in various game modes in themed arenas, messing around doing whatever you want between events. The driving is delightfully casual, and the visual style is just on the right side of cartoony. There were plenty of people online when I played, which is a nice sign, but I eventually stopped and tried to force it into the 'offline' singleplayer mode. There are supposed to be AI opponents so the game isn't unplayable, but I couldn't get them to appear. I don't care for enforced multiplayer so this - and the fact you can't just choose the singleplayer mode, it only happens when it can't connect - is kind of a problem.

Do I want to continue? Maybe one day, which if I'm honest means 'no'.

Ford Racing 3

Ford Racing 3 is a fairly generic racing game from 2007. In terms of realism, this looked more my style - I even hooked up a racing wheel before getting started. Opening the game, I wasn't immediately impressed - think NFS: High Stakes without cops (except that came out in 1999). Trying a quick race, the graphics were appalling and there were no in-game settings to fix it. I paused the timer and went hunting in install files, finding the manual mentioned a config program should have run first (Steam gets the blame for that mistake). Five minutes later, back in game, I switched back to keyboard control rather than waste time properly adjusting the steering wheel, and promptly won my next race without letting go of the accelerator. The game has no damage model, the courses slide you frictionlessly away from most obstacles to prevent crashing, there are no realism settings, the AI aren't very interesting, there's no cockpit view, and it doesn't properly support widescreen resolutions. But it's not 100% terrible - the graphics are tolerable, there's a wide variety of tracks and event types, and despite all being Fords there's a decent selection of different car types, including some 'vintage' models that were unfortunately locked from selection. And the menu design feels old-fashioned in a pleasantly nostalgic way.

Do I want to continue? No. I might complete this to get details for the wiki page, and be mildly entertained in the process, but otherwise I'm uninterested. Since writing this, I went back and finished Ford Racing 3, finding it a great way to pass the time while catching up on podcasts. The game did get hard enough to need the brake, and AI got faster rather than smarter. Still - I was wrong.

Trainz Trouble

Trainz Trouble is a casual puzzle game about setting junctions and other pieces to get trains to their destination. Remember how I mentioned Crash Drive 2 was a good mobile port? There's not even a shred of effort here; the game even talks about tapping and shows an extended finger to demonstrate how. It also has irritating music with only an on/off volume control (because why would a mobile game need more?), let alone separate sound/music sliders, which got me annoyed before I'd even started playing. It has a shop button; this was disabled whenever I saw it, but its mere presence was concerning. Finally, at one point it stopped registering clicks, and I had to restart the game. The actual puzzles were easy, but that was to be expected at the start; they were grouped into four country-themed areas (US, UK, Australia, Germany) but rather than jump in the deep end I only tried the US ones, which mostly had a 'wild west' theme. Even if the puzzles had been more challenging I don't think I'd feel rewarded for solving them, and I didn't like the time-based factor; you can speed/slow time a little, but the game makes it hard to just pause the game and think ahead. And I remained continually annoyed at the game's assumption I was using a finger on a touchscreen.

Do I want to continue? No. Or rather, I do want to, because games like this are designed to be more-ish, but if I stop now I avoid wasting time on an annoying game while pretending I'm having fun.


Watch_Dogs is a game you might actually have heard of before. I was generous and didn't start the timer until I was done with Uplay (which has become a lot more complex since I last encountered it). Still, the first fifteen minutes only involved a tiny amount of gameplay, and almost all of that involved moving from one piece of cover to the next. I remember there being 'controversy' about a graphics downgrade, but even on low it looked fantastic. Admittedly, I didn't even get outside, so perhaps my opinion on that will change. The story wasn't immediately enticing, but 'revenge' isn't the worst concept to start with, and the few hacking mechanics I experienced were fun. It was also an interesting change to play an open-world game set in a real place, though I've never been near Chicago so there's no real impact.

Do I want to continue? Yes… and I did. So keep reading!

Normally I don't go right back and play more of the games I've written about in this series, but here I made an exception. I continued to play far enough to get outside, with the idea I'd experiment with higher graphical settings once I got there. That was a foolish hope - not only was it much more obvious what 'low' settings meant (think GTA 3 with better textures), the framerate was already eye-wateringly bad. Silver linings - I saw the 'blackout' event before I got there, and that and everything else inside still looked impressive.

So, do I want to continue? Not until I get a new computer - but with an eight-year-old Core 2 Duo inside it, that's hardly surprising.

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Fifteen minutes of GAME: Secret Chainsaw Caves of Cogmind the Flea

Another six five games, played for fifteen minutes each, in the continuing quest to shrink my gaming backlog.

Secret Agent

No Caption Provided

Secret Agent is - compared to most of my gaming library - a positively ancient 2D platformer. I can't say much else about it because I didn't play this for the whole fifteen minutes, and didn't complete a single level. It might have been great at the time but I have no nostalgic memories of it, or practice controlling the character, and quickly got tired of struggling with the old-fashioned gameplay. It's almost amusing that the features which probably made it a good game at the time (having to plan your path through the level, not entirely-linear level selection, the varied enemies and dangers) make it substantially less fun for me 20-plus years later.

Do I want to continue? No - and this doesn't bode well for several other games in my GOG library based on the same engine.

Caves of Qud

On the plus side, it has pettable cats.
On the plus side, it has pettable cats.

Caves of Qud is a roguelike set in (I think) a distant post-apocalyptic future, with the game's caves located under a ruined city and probably full of all kinds of technological wonders and horrors. But that's mostly a guess, because I never got near them. The fifteen-minute rule is a little unfair to roguelikes, since I used up a lot of the time setting up my character (unwisely, since the first never lasts long) and spent most of the rest trying to learn hotkeys and controls and other information. Nevertheless, I headed into the wilderness at random and was quickly killed, at night, by something I didn't even know was there. On my second try I managed to get a quest, apparently in the same direction I died last time, so ignored it and went the other way. For a long time nothing happened, and then I was killed by a raider (it didn't help that I was holding down a movement button at the time). At this point I had a sulk and stopped, but the timer was almost up anyway. The game has some interesting systems (physical and mental mutations among the most obvious) but I didn't get to experience them.

Do I want to continue? I thought this would be an easy yes, but I didn't actually enjoy playing it. Even the font somehow annoyed me. But I'll play it again eventually, when I have time to more than skim the in-game help.

Chainsaw Warrior

2+1 is practically nine, right?
2+1 is practically nine, right?

Chainsaw Warrior is a virtual card game, complete with animated dice rolls - it's presumably a direct copy of a real-world version - about saving future New York from a zombie invasion. In my first game I was smothered by a slime because I ignored a warning about instant death, and in my second game I got endurance confused with HP and effectively committed suicide (deliberately hurting myself to escape from an enemy when I was already almost dead). Even with these stupid deaths I... had fun. It has a good tutorial and helpful explanations, tolerable background music and flashy-but-quick animations. I didn't get that far into the game - and missed out on all the unique enemies/encounters and night time - but enjoyed what I did see. It's surprisingly suspenseful for a turn-based game that seems 90% chance! The game has a very touch-friendly design, and games have an enforced time limit (120 turns?), so I bet this is on app stores, but the computer version I used works fine.

Do I want to continue? Yes. It's not the kind of game you'd play for hours at a time (though I suppose you could) but I definitely want to get far enough to die to the things that are expected to kill you.

Flix the Flea

No Caption Provided

Flix the Flea (not yet on the wiki) is a relatively simple game about... well, I don't think it really has a plot. It feels like a flash game in terms of animation and graphics, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The controls are interestingly limited - you can only jump left and right, holding down the buttons to jump further. The aim is to get to top of a 'cave' containing various platforms, collectibles and instant-kill birds; once you reach the top, you proceed to the next cave, with the ultimate aim of getting high scores by collecting stuff along the way. I reached cave three before running out of lives; at this point, discovering that was the whole game and I'd have to restart from the first cave, I stopped playing with six minutes to go. The movement wasn't very satisfying - collisions with objects stopped the flea dead and you couldn't control falling, and though my jumping noticeably improved even in the few minutes I played it always seemed hard to judge what angle and speed I would launch at.

Do I want to continue? No. The game is inoffensive, and each cave at least has a different theme and layout - but without knowing how many caves there are, or any way to avoid starting from scratch each time, I'm not interested in getting further.


Choices, choices...
Choices, choices...

What's this, another roguelike? In Cogmind you're a robot, and you build yourself from parts, including those of enemies you defeat. I enjoyed it much more than Qud, though I suspect many features that impressed me - various animations and UI elements, mouse integration, etc. - would be much less important once I got used to game. Cogmind also had a much better introduction and interactive tutorial, and right from the start I knew what I should/could do next. I didn't get too far in (there was no character setup here but reading still sapped a good portion of time, and I wasted a minute comparing wheels and legs) but I experienced the various features of the tutorial level and part of the one following.

Do I want to continue? Yes, but… the portion of the game I saw was great, but Cogmind is still in 'alpha', so I don't know how much extends beyond the very-specific tutorial section. In addition I seem to be in a 'games with linear plots and definite endings' mood, recently completing several long-ignored adventure games, so despite all its positives I don't think I'll be getting deep into any roguelike just now.

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Fifteen minutes of Game II

I guess this might be a recurring feature after all. Or at least, I've kept playing fifteen minutes of various games I've never previously touched, so I may as well keep writing about them. Let's get right into it.

Original War

Repeatedly launching the game to see if it worked yet felt like a different kind of time travel.
Repeatedly launching the game to see if it worked yet felt like a different kind of time travel.

Original War is - I think - an RTS about some American and Russian forces who get sent back thousands of years into the past, released in 2001. The opening cutscene that talked about how the time machine worked and why the Americans were secretly in Siberia (for time-machine fuel) was a little long but otherwise interesting. However, reaching the game, I discovered I had a "seconds-per-frame" performance problem – okay, I'm exaggerating a little, it was maybe 10 FPS – apparently this is an issue with running it in full-screen DirectX on Windows 8. It was easy enough to avoid once I found the various FAQs and updated with community patches, and I wasn't pedantic enough to count that stuff as part of the fifteen minutes, but just like after a good mod-installing session, by the time the game was actually ready to play I wasn't interested.

Do I want to continue? Yes, at least so I don't feel like I wasted all that time getting it working. But it seems decent otherwise, and if it's still supported by a community a decade later it can't be that bad.

Megabyte Punch

No Caption Provided

Megabyte Punch is a 2012 2D platformer that includes things like upgrades and fancy attacks, which is a genre that probably has a proper name. I had no problems with performance this time, and rapidly got into the game. I played through the brief but helpful tutorial and, though I didn't really know what I was doing, enjoyed myself. The movement was fluid and the combat probably would have been too if I had any skill. I played this with the keyboard, though, and though it worked absolutely fine I still felt like I should have been using a gamepad. So, I played a little past the tutorial, and then decided to put this one away until I have one plugged in.

Do I want to continue? A weak yes - getting a controller isn't a big deal, it's just hiding in a box somewhere, but I'm not super-enthusiastic about these kinds of games in general.

DarkStar One

Seriously, don't tell me this doesn't look like Freelancer with a few more polygons.
Seriously, don't tell me this doesn't look like Freelancer with a few more polygons.

DarkStar One is a 2006 3D space combat/trading/adventure game... but a simpler description would be "Freelancer clone". I didn't know this at first, but felt reminded of it mid-way through the opening cutscene - and confirmed it the moment I reached the game interface. Not that that's a bad thing though! I completed the first, optional, tutorial mission just as the timer expired. Much like Freelancer, the game works fine with a mouse & keyboard, but this one at least supports other controllers. On the other hand, the story exposition so far is full of cliches, and voice acting isn't uniformly amazing (but better than some, cough X: Beyond The Frontier, which didn't even have subtitles, cough cough), and despite the decent flight tutorial there's been no help at all deciphering the many mysterious UI buttons and keyboard shortcuts. The plot isn't exactly enthralling, but I don't know where this game fits in the open-world/linear sliding scale so that might not matter much. Incidentally, it has nothing to do with Darkstar: The Interactive Movie, which I also own and haven't touched, and will probably turn up here at some point.

Do I want to continue? Despite the negativity above - are you kidding? A Freelancer substitute with pretty decent graphics is a welcome surprise.


Also unrelated.


No Caption Provided

Unium is a 2015 puzzle game about covering black squares in a grid with a continuous line. I got through the 'beginner' and 'easy' levels, a short distance into 'medium', and had a look at the one unlocked advanced puzzle; the latter two difficulty levels introduce new features, but the game itself doesn't change - those just aren't needed for the early puzzles. So far the individual levels are nice and short, but a difficulty wall is probably just around the corner. On the whole, it seems like a good casual thinking game - nice simple design, no time limits, happily resizable window, ability to skip individual levels at any time (but not two consecutive levels). I bet this is on touch devices, but it's certainly fine with a mouse. There's plenty of content still to go, and more levels available via Steam Workshop integration.

Do I want to continue? Yes. It looks like a good game to fill up a few spare minutes.

Special post-continue update: Oh boy, I hit the difficulty wall at Advanced-16.

Please, Don't Touch Anything

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Please, Don't Touch Anything is another puzzle game, also from 2015, but otherwise completely different from Unium - where that requires logic, and nothing is hidden, this one is all about thinking outside the box. It's essentially one puzzle with multiple different solutions - some obvious, some much harder. In the fifteen minutes allotted I managed to get five of the 20+, but I expect most of the remaining ones would take a lot more thought. Fifteen minutes was actually a pretty decent length for a session here. Two of the endings I found were exceptionally bizarre, which was neat, and I'm curious to see if there's some deeper meaning there or it's just surreal because it's that kind of game. Also, the soundtrack is pretty great.

Do I want to continue? Yes, unless it devolves into mindless clicking to find 'magic' spots (and it doesn't seem like that kind of game).

Inherit The Earth: Quest for the Orb

You start the game by losing the not-Chess final, hence the silver medallion. Things go downhill from there.
You start the game by losing the not-Chess final, hence the silver medallion. Things go downhill from there.

I went into Inherit The Earth: Quest for the Orb knowing very little - it's an old-school adventure game where all the characters are animals. Ten minutes of exposition and five of confused wandering and conversation has helped a little. Basically, animals were made more intelligent by humans, then we disappeared, and the animals now live together in what looks like a feudal society. Each is 'themed' - boars are violent, elks are posh, and there's ferrets and rams and others I couldn't identify. You're a fox, by the way. The main quest is to find the Orb of Storms, some kind of human relic that forecast weather.

The design and polish so far have been great - particularly the custom responses to both sensible and silly actions. And everything is voiced! Until I checked when writing this, I wasn't sure if it was actually an old game, or just made to look that way. (The former - it's from 1994.)

Do I want to continue? Yes, but I doubt I will. It's probably a big timesink, and looks like the kind of adventure game where you'll need pen and paper for notes and maps and such. I don't have a specific problem with it, but, after the previous entry, I'd rather play Machinarium or A New Beginning first.

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Fifteen minutes of GAME

As always, I have far too many games to play. In what will probably not become a regular feature, I came up with an unoriginal idea and realised it would allow for that awful title pun: play each game for fifteen minutes, no longer, and then make a decision. If I want to keep playing, that's great! If I don't, then at least I haven't wasted too much time.

For this first (and perhaps only?) time, I've got opinions on six "games".

A New Beginning: Final Cut

A New Beginning is a 2009 point-and-click adventure about a time traveller and a scientist from the past/present who attempt to avert some kind of global catastrophe. I don't know what the difference between the original and 'Final Cut' version is, but presumably the latter is better.

The story, from what I saw of it, seems interesting, and the visual design and quality is fine. The time travel bit might make for some interesting puzzles - I didn't get far enough to learn if anything like that happens - and the fifteen minutes ran out just as I reached the first conversation, which looked like a perfectly decent system. On the other hand the only proper puzzle I solved was fairly silly, character control was mildly annoying (for instance standing in front of the object I want to interact with, and facing away from me when talking about it), and there was more than one spelling error in the subtitles. Also, I don't know if I'm a huge fan of the motion-comic style cutscenes.

Do I want to continue? Yes, but not urgently.

Bientôt l'été

Bientôt l'été is some kind of surreal art-game from 2013. Unfortunately, I've had my fill of surreal games recently, and I quit four minutes before the timer ran out. I don't mind that it exists - some of my best friends are artistic games - but I don't have the patience to experience it.

Do I want to continue? No. If I get curious about what I missed I'm sure there's plenty of videos and articles about it.


Machinarium is a 2013 point-and-click adventure game about a robot. It is adorable! I literally laughed out loud a few times, and could happily have kept playing past the fifteen-minute marker (or perhaps not, I suspect I'd just reached the first actually-difficult puzzle). I love the art style, I like the gameplay so far, and I'm curious to figure out what the story is and where it goes. The only problem? I forgot to save my progress - so it's even lucky I didn't play for longer. I previous played Botanicula, by the same people, and liked that, so I've got high hopes for this one.

Do I want to continue? Yes!


War Operations

War Operations is a bad game about controlling two soldiers from a kind-of-top-down camera view. I quit it after two minutes, and that includes loading screens and menus. Admittedly, I paid less than a dollar for this and fully expected it to be mediocre, figuring I'd risk my pittance on the chance it had a diamond hidden inside. Nope, it's just bad.

Do I want to continue? No. Well, a tiny bit because I really didn't give it a chance, but I have so many better games I'll never be desperate enough to return.

1953 - KGB Unleashed

1953 - KGB Unleashed is yet another 2013 point-and-click game, but more like Myst in that it's first-person and each location is a panorama. It started off poorly, with the first five minutes spent sitting at loading screens. The rest of the time I struggled to restart a generator, complete with irritating buzzer and dim red emergency lighting. Despite that, the control scheme was tolerable (I couldn't tell if the scenes were actually 3D or just pre-rendered views, but probably the latter). I might have been able to solve the generator puzzle with another minute or two; I didn't, so I'm still 90% clueless about the actual plot of the game. I remembered to save though!

Do I want to continue? Yes, as long as loading doesn't always take that long, and I don't have to resort to a walkthrough for the introductory puzzle.

Mars: War Logs

Mars: War Logs is a game, and that's all I can say for sure. A few minutes into the opening cutscene I got distracted by an errand, and couldn't find a way to pause them. It seemed okay from the little I saw, but I suspect this one might need a little more than fifteen minutes to give it a fair go, and definitely longer than the five it got.

Do I want to continue? It's impossible to say since I never got to gameplay, but I'm willing to sit through the cutscenes again - eventually.

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Catching up on my gaming backlog, 2015 edition

A new year means I may as well check how I'm going with completing (or at least playing) the games I already own. I must have got through a decent number last year!

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Well, it's just like all big tasks, right? One step at a time and you get there in the end?

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Oh dear. (And that's not including several hundred games that haven't had any times submitted.)

On the plus side, at least fifteen of those games can be supposedly finished in less than two hours. Guess I may as well get started...

24 hours later...

One game finished - hooray! One more bundle bought, nine more games... I never learn.

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Results of a little holiday project

Over the Christmas-New Year break I had a brainwave on an idea (inspired by that had been festering mulling in my head for a while. On the basis that a picture is worth a thousand words: ta-da.

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The biggest problem with this project is the backlog. It helps that the program is stable now, and 'tagging' doesn't add that much time to the process of listening to a podcast. But if I do things at the rate of one podcast a day which is obviously unachievable in the long run, including podcasts produced while I catch up, I won't be done for at least 500 days. (The maths for that is fairly straightforward if you ignore bonus podcasts like GOTY series. x = days, y = podcasts.) On the other hand, it's as good a reason as any to listen to the early podcasts, and a pretty good reason to make sure I don't get distracted while listening.

Nothing to share from it at this stage - and there's a 50% chance I'll lose interest once I don't have time to spend on it every day. Also, a looking at Brad's yawns during Mario Party 2 found little of interest, though if I had infinite time and patience it would be interesting to track things on e.g. a 24-hour stream to see if there's a pattern after all.

(For the more technically inclined, it doesn't use the Giant Bomb API, or in fact any data from the website except for me manually downloading audio files and copying URLs and text, and I'll probably automate that bit from the RSS file. The database behind it is nice enough that it wouldn't be impossible to link games and other things to their respective pages, but that's thinking a little too far in the future at this stage.)

Why is it called Fuse? 'Cos it fuses information with the audio files. Plus a fuse is kind of part of a bomb, or at least cartoon ones like in the logo here. Better than Form1, anyway.


Taking the fun out of Mario Party 2

I should make something fancier here, but having finished it I just want to push it out the door and get away from the computer.

I've assembled some statistics about the recent fifty-turn playthrough of Mario Party 2. The document is probably too long and complex to directly include as a blog post, but you should be able to read and download it from here. Just as a heads-up, it's 40 pages long, with about 30 graphs and tables and 9,700 words.

I only realised mid-way through that the original is a Premium video so if you can't watch it, some of this probably won't make sense. If you can watch it but haven't - you really should.

In lieu of the actual content, here's the table of contents:


  • Contents. 0
    • List of Tables. 0
    • List of Figures. 1
  • Background. 2
  • Before The Game. 3
    • Game Parameters. 3
    • "Story: The Legend of Mario Land", as told in the official instruction manual 3
    • "Story: The Legend of Mario Land", as told by Dan to the other players 4
  • Gameplay. 7
    • Turn Durations. 7
      • Brad’s "Turn of the Game". 9
    • Die Rolls. 9
    • Events. 10
      • Bank Payments. 12
      • Bowser Beam.. 13
      • "Happening" Tiles. 13
    • Star Purchases, Hidden Blocks, and Boo Steals 14
      • Hidden Blocks. 14
      • Boo Thefts. 14
      • Star Acquisition Rate. 15
    • Coins. 16
  • Minigames. 17
    • Winners. 17
    • Minigame Randomness. 18
      • "Free-for-all" Minigames. 19
      • 1-v-3 Minigames. 20
      • 2-v-2 Minigames. 21
      • Battle Minigames. 22
    • Minigame Durations. 22
  • Turn 51. 27
    • Bonus Stars. 27
      • Mini-Game Star. 27
      • Coin Star. 27
      • Happening Star. 27
    • Official Results. 27
    • Player Ranking. 28
      • "Short Game" Winners. 28
    • Context-free Mario Party 2 opinions, in chronological order 30
    • Mario Party 2 content not experienced during the game (as broadcast) 32
  • "Space Land" Board Statistics. 34
  • Appendices. 37
    • Appendix A: Data. 37
    • Appendix B: Tools and Methods. 37
      • General Transcriber. 37
      • Path Recorder. 38
      • Data Analysis, Quality Control and Presentation 39
    • Appendix C: References and Further Reading 40

List of Tables

  • Table 1: Encounters by player for various event types. 11
  • Table 2: Times players were moved due to Happening Tiles. 13
  • Table 3: Thefts between players (of any type). 14
  • Table 4: Coins stolen by Boo. 15
  • Table 5: Total coins gained and lost by each player. 16
  • Table 6: Gains and losses in particular events for each player. 16
  • Table 7: Times that individual minigames were played. 17
  • Table 8: Minigame winners for each player and minigame. 18
  • Table 9: Coins collected from minigames. 27
  • Table 10: Maximum coins held by each player. 27
  • Table 11: Happening tiles landed on by each player. 27
  • Table 12: The final score, as calculated by Mario Party 2. 27
  • Table 13: Percentage of game at each rank. 28
  • Table 14: Possible outcome of a 20-turn "Lite Play" game. 29
  • Table 15: Possible star counts of a 35-turn "Standard Play" game. 29
  • Table 16: Possible outcome of a 35-turn "Standard Play" game. 29

List of Figures

  • Figure 1: Total time of ‘player’ turns during the game. 7
  • Figure 2: Duration of overall turns during the game. 8
  • Figure 3: Separating time in turns by the player/event responsible. 8
  • Figure 4: Die outcomes by player. 9
  • Figure 5: Individual player die rolls. 10
  • Figure 6: Deposits and Withdrawals by Player. 12
  • Figure 7: Bank balance versus game time. 12
  • Figure 8: Bowser Beam outcomes. 13
  • Figure 9: The origins of each player's Stars. 14
  • Figure 10: Total stars versus turn count, excluding Bonus Stars. 15
  • Figure 11: Appearances and occurrences of 4-player minigames. 19
  • Figure 12: Appearances and occurrences of 1-v-3 minigames. 20
  • Figure 13: Times that a player was chosen in 1-vs-3 minigames. 21
  • Figure 14: Appearances and occurrences of 2-v-2 minigames. 21
  • Figure 15: Appearances and occurrences of Battle minigames. 22
  • Figure 16: Example annotated minigame duration graph. 23
  • Figure 17: Durations of various repeated minigames. 25
  • Figure 18: Evidence of bet fulfilment. 28
  • Figure 19: Player ranking by turn. 28
  • Figure 20: Diagram of the Mario Party 2 Space Board. 34
  • Figure 21: Space board tiles sized proportionally to traversals. 35
  • Figure 22: Game board tiles sized proportionally to move-start locations. 35
  • Figure 23: Game board tiles sized proportionally to move-end locations. 36
  • Figure 24: Screenshot of the main transcribing application, with actual data. 37
  • Figure 25: A screenshot of the program used for path recording, with sample data. 39


Breaking Brad: Doom II: Levels 15-16: Statistics

A recent tweet about Drew's performance in his Metal Gear playthrough reminded me of a project I started long ago, then semi-abandoned, then forgot about.

A while back, as a way to improve my programming skills, I made some statistics and graphs and charts about Brad's performance in the Xbox 360 version of Doom II. Unfortunately it was a lot harder than I thought - or at least a lot longer - so I never got very far, and then I lost a huge amount of progress due to a poorly-maintained backup system and just sulked about it forever.

But I still have the information for the first two levels, and one day I'll get around to fixing the bugs and finishing it. (I also have his performance from the original Quick Look, but frankly not much happens.)

Oh, by the way. I have no idea how well this will look for colourblind people but the Excel default colours must surely have been tested. No guarantees about other charts though.

Level 15

Brad played through the first fourteen levels, and most of 15, before starting the video series. Much of this level involves Brad reacquainting himself with the controls and trying to figure out how to cross a lava-filled chasm and complete the level.

Brad often refers to the map view even after crossing the lava.
Brad often refers to the map view even after crossing the lava.

Format: m:ss. The 0:00 shotgun time is an error.
Format: m:ss. The 0:00 shotgun time is an error.

I can't upload it directly, so here is a graph of Brad's performance through (the recorded section of) Level 15. The resolution is fairly large due to the detail - I converted it from a SVG without too much thought about settings. There's no legend, so here's an explanation for what's shown:

  • The horizontal dimension is time, as indicated by a timeline at the top of the image.
  • The vertical dimension represents lives; each time Brad loads, a new line further down is created from the save point he loaded at.
  • Save points are green circles with a white outline; loads are green circles linked by lines to the save points. Deaths are indicated by a thick, black, full-height vertical line.
  • Times when Brad (or the game) paused are indicated by angled grey stripes. Times when Brad is viewing the map are indicated by whiter sections on the graphs.
  • Each individual lifespan displays specific information:
    • Health and armor are shown above the centerline, with armor above health. (Note that for most of these two levels, Brad has little if any armor.)
    • Ammunition levels are shown below the centerline, as a percentage of the maximum capacity (for instance 100 shells and 600 cells would be the same size). From the centerline downwards: Bullets/Grey, Shells/Green, Rockets/Brown, Cells/Blue.
    • Monster kills are shown as vertical lines symmetric about the centerline, with size proportional to monster health (e.g. zombiemen are short, Hell Knights are taller). On occasions where Brad killed more than one monster simultaneously the number is shown as dots above the line. The exception is for BFG 'explosions', which are indicated with a thick red full-height line regardless of monsters killed.
    • Pickups are shown above the centerline, with instant or permanent ones indicated with a thick vertical line and limited pickups shown with their duration. I'm not certain, but I think:
      • Berserk: vertical red
      • Automap: vertical green
      • Radsuit: horizontal green
      • Invisibility: horizontal grey
      • Invulnerability: horizontal gold
    • Keys are shown with the appropriate image when picked up.

You can see that Brad initially has problems dealing with a 'BFG trap', then spends most of his third-through-fifth lives trying to cross a lava chasm, ends up nearly dead while mopping up the last enemies, then finally finds the last key and escapes.

Level 16

Despite having controls and movement in hand, Brad struggles with the wide-open areas and vast number of teleported-in enemies, as well as several more difficult monsters such as Arch-Viles. This would be difficult enough on ultraviolence, but Brad (accidentally) makes it even harder by entering the map with no armor and never discovering any.

The increased pause duration is due to the number of saves and loads.
The increased pause duration is due to the number of saves and loads.

The super shotgun works well against the hordes of Imps and stronger, large-sprited monsters.
The super shotgun works well against the hordes of Imps and stronger, large-sprited monsters.

Here is the graph of Brad's performance in Level 16 - see the 'legend' explanation above for what it all means.

Brad has trouble at the start of the level with an Arch-Vile and enclosed space, with the exception of his second life (where he escapes and goes on an incredible if lucky rampage, but forgets to save). After several attempts he escapes through sheer skill, with the level proceeding normally until Brad triggers more enemies to enter the map. He spends a number of lives trying to dispatch them quickly with the BFG 9000, then resorts to slower methods. Eventually the enemies are thinned out and Brad's main problem becomes finding the exit. Brad also has his most powerful combination of pickups twice in this level: partial invisibility, invulnerability and (admittedly redundant) radiation suit.

Overall Statistics

Brad's health, armor and ammunition at the start/end of levels 15 and 16.
Brad's health, armor and ammunition at the start/end of levels 15 and 16.

Attacks proportional to that weapon's ammunition usage
Attacks proportional to that weapon's ammunition usage

I want to add to this graph that the levels are to 100% and not really equal; Brad attacks more in level 16. The BFG 9000 uses 30 cells per shot, the Super Shotgun uses 2 shells, and fists don't use ammo in the game.

Number of kills per weapon, including some data from Level 17 not shown elsewhere.
Number of kills per weapon, including some data from Level 17 not shown elsewhere.

You can spot a few trends in the above graph, even from just two-and-a-bit levels. Imps are the most common enemy by far (largely due to Brad dying in an Imp-heavy section repeatedly on L16). Brad prefers to kill Lost Souls with the plasma gun, Machinegunners with the shotgun, but most other enemies with the Super Shotgun. Brad somehow scores a BFG kill with the Plasma Gun - I don't think it's an error, but low ammunition causing a weapon switch between the BFG being fired and the energy ball hitting a surface. (Other BFG kills are from the energy ball hitting a monster before exploding.) The pistol is generally ignored, with only one kill; on the other hand, with the help of a Berserk pickup he kills a Hell Knight with his fists.

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