Mouse Smash

JC Lau's blog about geekery, gender and other rants


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Seven Indie Games I played in 2016

2016 was a pretty interesting year for games: with the rise of VR and announcements about new generation consoles, there’s a lot more going on for gaming than in previous years. I didn’t get to play everything that I wanted to (of course), and although I played a lot of AAA games as well, I’m trying to spend more time looking at indie offerings. Here (in no particular order) is a quick list of some of the indie games that I played last year and would recommend: Continue reading

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Review: Train Conductor World

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Train Conductor World is a new release from Voxel Agents, where the main mechanics involve line drawing to move trains from one track to another.

The premise of the game–set in Europe–is pretty straightforward, where you have to direct trains onto the correct track (based on color), by drawing a track for them. When levels are completed, you can acquire access to other cities, all of which have their own unique features. For example, Bruges has a huge canal down the middle of it, and you have to draw bridges for your trains to go on.Now, the game can get tricky when multiple trains need to cross paths, but of course your job is also to prevent them from colliding. Continue reading


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Team Cassius: The Interview!

Ann Uland, Emily Willis and Cat Batka are the creative squad behind Cassius, a new comic series that depicts Ancient Rome as a wonderfully diverse place, and with a driving story of political intrigue and loads of strong female characters. We’ve reviewed Issue 1 here, and Issue 2 here. Issue 3 comes out in March 2016.

They took a little time out to have a chat with us at GeekGirlCon about Justin Trudeau, their favorite books, and making their own comic company!

L to R: Ann, Emily, Cat. Photo provided by Emily Willis and Ann Uland

L to R: Ann, Emily, Cat. Photo provided by Emily Willis and Ann Uland

Tell me a little about yourselves and Arbitrary Muse Comics. How did you come up with the idea for making your own publication?

Ann Uland: We first met online because I started drawing things for a story Emily was writing. When we started dating, it was pretty natural for us to start coming up with stories we wanted to tell together and comics is the perfect marriage of writing and art for us.

Emily Willis: Arbitrary Muse evolved as a small comics company to encapsulate what we do when we sell our own self-published work and help to distribute other webcomics in print as well. Cassius is our latest project because Julius Caesar is my favorite Shakespearean play and I wanted to work on something inspired by it. Continue reading


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The Top Ten Games of 2015 (that I played)

2015 was a busy year for me, in that I started a few new jobs, started working with the awesome GeekGirlCon, and started roller derby again with Rat City Rollergirls. Somehow I still managed to play a few games, but  I didn’t get to spend as much couch time as I wanted because I was too busy adulting. Wow. Life. Anyway, here’s a list of some of my favorite games from this year, in no particular order:

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Assassin’s Creed: Unity: I know this came out last year but I didn’t play it until this year (because I was like, “oh noes, AC Syndicate is coming out, and AC Chronicles and woe is me I’m so behind on the AC franchise”). I love the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and I love Paris (whose prerevolutionary times the game is set in) but at its core it’s a one-trick pony. The story is a bit odd, but the gameplay and combat systems are like seeing an old friend. Maybe because I waited I also got the patches in so I didn’t experience any of the hilariously bad bugs and publicity that plagued the game’s release.

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Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime: A super duper cute co-op game where you and your partner jointly operate a spaceship–you have to drive, operate the shields, fire the laser turrets (on all sides of the ship) and navigate with the map while love-hating aliens are attacking you. It’s like an absurdly cute version of the Millennium Falcon. Probably not for someone who doesn’t like bright pink and orange or bunnies or life.

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South Park: The Stick of Truth: Technically this should have made last year’s Top 10 list but I didn’t end up starting it until late December 2014 and spent most of early 2015 playing it. Basically, it’s an adventure game with turn-based combat, but if you liked the TV show’s snarky writing style, this game plays like an extended episode. I mean, you’ve got enemies like Nazi cows and fetuses, right?

Jackbox Party Pack: This is probably THE best set of party games I’ve seen for a very long time. Designed to connect to your mobile device, this game has resulted in some of the most hilariously inappropriate comments from friends and family alike. My favorite game on the pack is Drawful–it’s similar to Pictionary, if you could pick what the title of the picture was called.

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Helldivers: I have a love/hate relationship with this game. It supports up to 4 player co-op, but because you all share the same screen AND there’s no way to turn off friendly fire, shit can get bad pretty quickly. Still, it’s very silly and very fun, although I think it’s optimal with about 2-3 players.

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Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition: I’m not a huge fan of the Tomb Raider franchise generally, but I really enjoyed the writing and the story behind this one. Good, smooth gameplay for most part, and non-ridiculous puzzles.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition: A long, rambling open world which is dangerous for completionists like me. Still, if you like hack-and-slash with lots of bossing around your minions, this might work. Bonus points for the witty dialogue writing between characters when they banter, and they insanely detailed character creator.

The Long Dark: Oh my god I love this game. It’s so challenging and beautiful. The feeling of despair when all your stats are low and you know you’re not going to make it but you still are trying to push on is truly tragic. I do find some of the repetition a bit odd (in that there’s no end goal as the story mode isn’t available yet) but whatever, it’s still a good, breathtaking, playable experience.

Ark

Ark: Survival Evolved: This is a new game and it shows, with random weird bugs that pop up every now and then. But the idea of it is pretty awesome; think Minecraft but with dinosaurs and guns crossed with Lost and Jurassic Park and you get the idea. And when you can ride your raptor (alas, no bike squads) into battle, that’s pretty neat. I’d be excited to see how this one develops further when it goes into beta.

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Halo 5: I’ve waited a long time for this one and it was pretty awesome. One of my favorite things about this game is the fact that each of the two spartan teams featured in the game are made up of half women and at least one person of color! And that’s not even like a point that’s mentioned in the game; it’s just like that’s how the Halo universe just is. Great writing, cool new weapons and worlds, and on-point gameplay. Too bad about the lack of splitscreen but apparently that might be back in a future game.

That’s about it for now! Happy gaming for 2016!


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Review: Papers, Please

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Glory indeed.

Papers, Please occupies that uncomfortable space where your moral convictions affect your gameplay. Despite being a bureaucracy sim, it has engaging mechanics, a cracking pace and a tragic and revealing narrative.

Set in 1982, you play an immigration inspector in Arstotzka, a fictional, Soviet-like country. As would-be immigrants step up to your booth, you cross-reference their documents with your rulebook to ensure their papers are in order. If they are, you stamp their passport and return it. If not, you can deny their entry, or detain them for suspicious behavior. Continue reading