A Gnome's Ponderings

I'm a gamer. I love me some games and I like to ramble about games and gaming. So, more than anything else, this blog is a place for me to keep track of my ramblings. If anyone finds this helpful or even (good heavens) insightful, so much the better.

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Nearing the middle of Cozy Grove

Lowell Kempf
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As I wrote a couple months ago, we started playing Cozy Grove. It’s a video game about being gently helping unhappy ghosts let go and pass on. And we’ve made it to about the halfway point.

Short version: the game has kept us engaged and want to keep playing. So, that’s a thumbs up.

Here’s a recap: You are a spirit scout, a branch of scouting that is into wildernesss skills and helping the restless dead find peace. And you are stuck on an island that is full to the bursting with unhappy ghosts. Who are all pretty friendly. At the worst, they are rude but they will still talk to you. You don’t have to worry about the dead trying to horribly murder you.

While there is a plenty of crafting and decorating for you to do, the heart of the game is fulfilling literally hundreds of fetch quests. And, slowly, you find out each ghosts story. As opposed to random, faceless ghosts, you have a small collection of ghosts, each with their own story to explore.

And so far, those stories range from the melancholy to the seriously depressing.

Every time you level up, the island expands and you get a new ghost so we haven’t seen everyone yet. But none of the stories have been ‘inappropriate’ and forced us to edit them for our seven-year-old.

None of the stories are that surprising. We’ve only completed one but they all seem to have plenty of foreshadowing.

Cozy Grove hasn’t been shocking or surprising but it has been a slightly sad way to decompress.
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Wed Aug 18, 2021 8:04 pm
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Cozy Grove. Come for the ghosts. Stay fir the R&R

Lowell Kempf
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Cozy Grove is the latest Iyashikei game we’ve tried. It’s a Japanese genre that is about healing and decompression, no conflict and often about nature. It’s actually much more of an anime genre than a video game one but Animal Crossing was our introduction to it. (Which might be why the other two video games we’ve tried aren’t Japanese)

In Cozy Grove, you are a spirit scout, a gender neutral branch of scouting that is devoted to camping, outdoor crafts and exorcising restless ghosts. Wait, what was that last one?

You are stranded on the island of Cozy Grove which is positively teeming with unhappy spirits. Who are all incredibly friendly anthropomorphic bears. The game consists of low key fetch quests, resource gathering and decorating the island.

And Cozy Grove is a slow burn, even compared to Animal Crossing. You will run out of resources and fetch quests for the day and it won’t be too difficult to reach that point. As opposed to Animal Crossing, where you could catch fish and bugs all day long if you felt like it.

I have to make a special note of the music and graphic design. It’s a lot of fun to see areas burst into life after you’ve helped someone or added light to the world. But the music is what really sells the feels of Cozy Grove. I could listen to the soundtrack for hours.

We still have a long ways to go before we complete the game. While the stories are melancholy (these are ghosts after all), I hope there isn’t any twist like you’re actually dead all along or the bears are all restless because they killed the last scout. I want this to be Iyashikei to the end.

Animal Crossing was a quiet revelation for me. Cozy Grove isnt quite as immersive or impressive but it has its own strength and poignancy. So I will see where its story goes.
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Thu Jun 10, 2021 1:35 am
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Pokémon Snap is world building

Lowell Kempf
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The New Pokémon Snap recently took over our Switch.

The game, in a single sentence, is a Pokémon photo safari. You ride what is, for all intents and purposes, a rail car, taking pictures of Pokémon in the wild. There are rails through a variety of different biomes so you get to see all kinds of environments.

My wife was a big fan of the original Pokémon Snap from 1999 and really likes the new one as well. My Pokémon experiences consist of Pokémon Yellow, Pokémon Go and Pokémon Sun. So I’m not completely ignorant of the franchise but it took me a bit to realize what made Pokémon Snap neat.

As near as I can tell, Pokémon Snap was the first time you actually saw Pokémon in the wild, as actual animals. Rather than, you know, fodder for pit fights. It actually showed let you interact with the world of Pokémon as an environment as opposed to to an RPG with a lot of grinding and bookkeeping. Pokémon as wild animals instead of your pet gladiators.

Yes, it also lets you play a Pokémon game where you aren’t trapping Pokémon in tiny balls and enslaving them to fight for your profit. That might add some appeal for some.

And, yes, it is a game where you basically shooting Pokémon. You just happen to be shooting them with a camera. Retheming it as Pokémon big game hunting probably would be an easier job coding.

But for me, Pokémon Snap is making the world of Pokémon into a world.


(Yes, I am very curious to what Pokémon Legends: Arceus will be like)



Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Wed May 19, 2021 4:40 pm
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Nintendo’s Clubhouse Games... is actually really good

Lowell Kempf
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As a Christmas gift for ourselves, we got Clubhouse Games for the Nintendo Switch.

I can already tell that it will be a great source of play and blogging material.

Back in the days of yore, you could find game collections on floppy disks for ridiculously low prices. And they were always hot messes that, despite the bargain basement prices, you still overpaid for. Well, Clubhouse Games provides an answer for ‘what if one of those collections was good?’ Of course, it costs more than ‘fifty games for five dollars’ tag but that’s the price you pay for quality and actually working.

Of course, there’s a lot you WON’T get. Anything that is a licensed product is not going to be a part of Clubhouse. No Euros, no War Games, no Ameritrash. If there’s a copyright attached, it’s not there. Abstract strategy games and card games and party games. If those aren’t your jam, this isn’t your clubhouse.

What you do get is an eccentric, eclectic collection of games, ranging from century old classics to things like tank fights and toy boxing. There are even games like darts and bowling that are callbacks to wII sports.

It would be fascinating to see the process Nintendo had of selecting the games. I’m surprised there isn’t a form of Poker, let alone Go (Even a 9x9 board would have been something). Euchre would have been nice too. But you still get a wide selection of family games for a variety of occasions.

But the real star is the interface. There has been an endless history of game collections in the digital world and most of them have ranged from meh to terrible. Clubhouse Games works because it has an exceedingly clean and user-friendly interface. You can actually learn how to play and then actually play the games. It’s easy and it’s not easy to achieve that kind of easy.

Clubhouse Games is not what I think of when it comes to gaming on the Switch or gaming online. But... it’s good.

Originally posted on www.gnomepondering.com
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Fri Feb 12, 2021 10:29 pm
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A Short Hike is a place for healing

Lowell Kempf
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Iyashikei is a genre in Japan that literally means healing. The only reason I know that is because of Animal Crossing. And Animal Crossing has been the video game of choice in our household for the past year.

Which led us to trying out A Short Hike since we had heard it had a similar vibe.

In A Short Hike, you are Claire, an anthropomorphic bird who is spending the summer with her aunt, a park ranger. Claire is waiting for an important phone call but the only place in Hawk Peak Provincial Park is the very top of the highest mountain.

And climbing that mountain and getting that phone call are rewarding but the park is a pretty big, open sandbox with stuff to find and people to talk to. You can race, play a variation on volleyball, swim, fish and just generally explore. Everyone ranges from pretty nice to really nice and nothing can hurt you. Getting lost is literally the biggest hurdle in the game.

I have to say that the gliding mechanic, which is all about graceful arcs and catching updrafts, is a lot of fun. A decent chunk of my play has been gliding just for the fun of it.

Mechanically, A Short Hike and Animal Crossing are pretty different. A Short Hike is all about stamina management as you earn gold feathers that increases your stamina and complete fetch quests. Animal Crossing is all about gradually developing your environment.

But the games have similar themes. Yes, there are goals and there is work to be done but there is no pressure. You can take your time and enjoy the worlds that the games create. It’s not just escapist but also decompressing and relaxing. That might not work for everyone but it’s been good for us.

Animal Crossing is a slow, glacial game and I think it takes a year in real time to see things play out. A Short Hike is more like a weekend. I don’t view A Short Hike as a substitute (and I do like Animal Crossing more) but I think it’s a great way to test the waters of Iyashikei.

Originally left for someone to read at www.gnomepondering.com
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Mon Jan 11, 2021 2:43 pm
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