Super Mario Odyssey: Another Gem

Posted in Best / Worst, Games, Personal, Screenshots on May 12, 2019 by slateman

It’s no real secret that I love Mario games. But with new hardware not being as high a priority as it was a decade and a half ago, Mario’s Odyssey adventure would have to wait. Two years later and my son asked for a Switch and the game he wanted was Mario! Well, if we must oblige the 8-year-old! And so, we began.

It’s always a friendly, familiar welcome returning to the Mushroom Kingdom and this game plays remarkably well. The new focus on collecting moons is also a welcome change which keeps your sessions going for as long as you’d like and the itch to get ‘just one more moon’ is one that hearkens back to my early days of gaming. The game looks great, controls wonderfully and is the traditional mix of rigorous challenge and lighthearted romp.

Now that my moon-collecting tally grows towards 600, I’m left with some issues. Races suck; I loathe them. That final stage is just brutal, as it should be, I suppose, and I find my interest waning as the elusive 100% is still some 200 moons away. I’ll have to update my listings with this, though I’ll more than likely just stop playing at some point.

I’m hoping we get another Mario adventure on the platform. Games have become so huge making their offerings quite scant compared to the old days. Three Mario games on the NES? Good times, those were! For now, some of the better screenshots from my adventure. Now to go collect a few more moons!

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Begun!

Posted in Blog, Games, Screenshots on March 26, 2019 by slateman

While I do think that Bloodborne is one of the most remarkable games ever made, I am by no means a Soulsborne fan. I’ve dabbled in Dark Souls, DS3 and the remastered iteration, all to varying degrees of failure. However, I had high hopes for Sekiro and despite only a passing interest in the setting, I bought it due to the developer solely. FromSoftware’s newest IP is both beautiful and fury inducing – and gamers wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, as I slowly digest this latest work of art, dying more frequently than I’d have the patience to in other titles, I thought I’d share some quick snapshots from the opening hours. Spoilers, of course, but there’s nothing too specific that hasn’t been seen yet. Enjoy – I probably won’t be beating this game anytime soon!

Castlevania Collection Incoming!

Posted in Castlevania, Games on March 21, 2019 by slateman

So psyched that Konami is finally giving some of their IPs love! Alongside a Contra collection which I will also be getting, an eight-game Castlevania package arrives this summer with the promise of another later! Focusing on the classics, this will bring some favorite titles from my youth to my PS4 and I couldn’t be more excited. More to come…just so psyched.

New 7×7 Records! 16:15!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records on February 9, 2019 by slateman

Sometime last year, my son dropped my V-Cube 7 on the floor. It shattered, that dreaded CHSSSSSSSS sound only cubers can recognize. I’ve tried to rebuild it, but I’m not so good with the tiny pieces and just gave up. I never really liked the puzzle anyway.

For Christmas, funnily enough seven years to the date since I got my original 7×7, my son got me a new one: an MF7S. This is a smaller cube (69mm vs 75mm) with bright stickers and while it doesn’t fit aesthetically into the collection, the puzzle kicks ass!!! It turns like a dream and is solid and reliable. Since I never liked the V-Cube puzzles (6×6 and 7×7), I only really tried speedsolving them a few times. With the new cube, why not try it? Last week I nailed a 19:33 time, then this morning got that down to 18 and change and then just now 16:15.72! Wow! That’s almost as fast as my 6×6 record (again though, that’s a V-Cube…urgh!)

So, while I don’t really go for times, it’s nice to get this solve done quickly. I’ll soon hit a ceiling, but I think as is, it’s an impressive time! I’ve updated my cubing records page accordingly, of course. Not bad for an almost-43-year-old! :D

Resident Evil 2: Just What I Expected!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Resident Evil on January 27, 2019 by slateman

I’ve played a lot of Resident Evil. Barring a handful, I’ve experienced at least a little bit of almost every major title ever issued. With the first, fourth and seventh being Game of the Year victors, we’re here with another excellent entry that, who knows, could be a contender in 11 months.

The title isn’t doing anything shocking, unlike those aforementioned GotY titles. I remember RE VII just stunned me in its opening hour. But while this feel like a gorgeous re-envisioning, the comfort food is just spectacular. What is phenomenal is the sound design. Couple that with Mr. X’s approaching footsteps and it’s unnerving and uncomfortable.

I bought Red Dead Redemption 2 but didn’t love it, so I traded it in. In return I got Just Cause 4 and I didn’t love that either. Trading that in left me with RE2 and so far, I’m just loving it. See how it all turns out. So far, so good!

Game I’ve Played / GotY 2018

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Bloodborne, Castlevania, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Screenshots on January 12, 2019 by slateman


Usually I split this into two postings, but alas! it’s already 2019. Today’s update will include the games I’ve played over the last year as well as the easy choice as to which was the best. The latter will be detailed on my main Games Of The Year page. I’ll separate all this into individual sections. First – Platinums! Bold words indicate a 2018 title.

Platinums 2018

  • Bloodborne
  • Burly Men At Sea
  • Castlevania: Requiem
  • God Of War
  • Guacamelee! 2
  • Lara Croft Go

Two of the PS4’s greatest exclusive games were conquered this past year. Bloodborne stays with me and I now consider it one of the greatest games ever made. That’s a different list I’ve been mulling over. I’ve written about some of the rest of these already. Moving on…

Older Titles Played in 2018

These will fall into three categories:

  1. First-time plays (not completed)
  2. First-time played/beaten
  3. Beaten again

Here we have a mix. Some are simple PS+ games, others are purchases I never cared to complete, etc. A key for easy reference is listed above.

  • Assassin’s Creed Origins
  • Bloodborne
  • Burly Men At Sea
  • Call Of Duty: WWII
  • Dark Souls III
  • Fe
  • Firewatch
  • God Of War: Chains Of Olympus
  • God Of War: Ghost Of Sparta
  • God Of War: Ascension
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
  • Lara Croft Go
  • Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2
  • Matterfall
  • Metal Gear Solid 2
  • Nioh
  • Rayman Legends
  • Resident Evil 4
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter
  • Sky Force Anniversary
  • Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana

Due to Gothenburg’s wonderful library system, I got to borrow some pretty cool titles this past year. I quite enjoyed AC:O – would like to return to it and would also love to try its sequel. Similarly, Nioh seemed cool and I’m still chugging through Sherlock Holmes though it didn’t really inspire me like its predecessor.

Many others I tried and never really felt inspired enough to finish. Dark Souls III was fucking difficult (I later tried DS Remastered and fared better). Matterfall was a huge disappointment, particularly after Nex Machina. After beating the PS3 remasters of the two PSP God Of War games, I figured I’d try out Ascension again. And again I lost interest. Firewatch, Fe, Rayman Legends – all just hit the ‘meh’ button and never beckoned me to return.

On the other hand, a few older titles were memorable. The aforementioned Bloodborne, those two GOW games and finally beating GTAV were some of the highlights of the year. Toss on yet another replay of RE4 and my second playthrough of the underwhelming MGS2 and old titles impressed in 2018.

2018 Titles

Once again we have categories: played, beaten and platinumed, despite the redundancy of that last item.

  • Bloodstained: Curse Of The Moon
  • Burnout Paradise Remastered
  • Castlevania: Requiem
  • Chasm
  • Dark Souls Remastered
  • God Of War
  • Guacamelee! 2
  • Hollow Knight
  • Ikaruga
  • Iconoclasts
  • Just Cause 4
  • Onrush
  • Overcooked 2
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Shadow Of The Tomb Raider (Started in 2019)
  • Spider-Man
  • Spyro The Dragon: Reignited (2019 plat!)
  • Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
  • Yoku’s Island Express (2019 plat!)

I haven’t been nearly as interested in some of these titles as I had hoped I would. I sold back RDR2 b/c I simply has zero interest in playing it. Spider-Man was probably a great game, but I didn’t feel the itch to play that either. I never beat Bloodstained and found Hollow Knight to be far less enjoyable than all the praise suggested. Just Cause 4 looks better than 3, but in so many other ways it felt like a step backwards. I’m not even listing some titles like PS+ games that I played and deleted here.

Burnout Paradise drew me back in just as it did a decade ago, Guacamelee! 2 was a fun and challenging romp but was marred by a few incredibly-difficult parts and I don’t think I’d ever go back to play it again. The first on the other hand…I would. And did! Overcooked 2 was great, but my wife and I devoured it and never touched it again. I’ve just started Yoku’s Island Express and will be finishing up JC4 in the coming weeks/months.

So, what we’re left with is the clear and easy victor. While I thought RDR2 might challenge the mighty Kratos, it didn’t even come close. God Of War’s story, gameplay, visual luster, deep and engaging lore and simple fun factor was leagues beyond anything else I played in the year (Well, Bloodborne may have the edge, I don’t know). I still haven’t a clue how Sony Santa Monica pulled it off. They took this beloved series, reinvented so much of it and made us all care about this one-dimensional killing machine. Being a father while playing it surely helped. This game is fucking legendary already and I look forward to diving in again when things slow down a bit.

Game Of The Year 2018 is an easy choice. God Of War. Now, my New IP GOTY? I don’t know that yet. Based on the limited titles I’ve played, Yoku’s Island Express wins, but that’s temporary. I feel Dead Cells or Celeste might take that crown, however, I haven’t had the opportunity to try them out yet. Let’s see what I missed below.

2018 Titles I Haven’t/Want To Play

  • A Way Out
  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  • Celeste
  • Darksiders III
  • Dead Cells
  • Detroit: Become Human
  • Divinity: Original Sin 2
  • Far Cry 5
  • Mega Man 11
  • Shadow Of The Colossus
  • Tetris Effect

There are a few games I genuinely want to try out here. Unlike music, it’s not so easy to just try out everything you like and are interested in. A Way Out would be great…with a friend. Odyssey will require many hours, but I bet it’s a blast and quite the quick-and-easy opposite of something like Red Dead. Others on this list are a ‘kinda want to try’.

But the ones I must one day play: Dead Cells and Celeste. Both seem right up my alley and I think I’d just love them. They could be that coveted New IP GOTY. But…they’re a bit expensive for indie titles and I’ve been awaiting a sale to dip my toes in. Can’t wait to try them though!

Sulphur Aeon – OMFG

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, Music on December 29, 2018 by slateman

This band’s last effort ranked #5 of 2015 and shocked me entirely at its outrageous heaviness, absurd speed and killer cover. Here I am, at the end of 2018, writing up my best albums of the year and I stumble upon its follow-up. And what have I here? An album that just crushes, easily surpasses its predecessor, whose cover is as nightmarish as the last and which very well could rival even my top-three of 2018. WTF?

The Scythe Of Cosmic Chaos is a grand continuation of the last masterpiece and is so goddamn heavy, it just has to bring a smile to your angry, Lovecraftian face. It’s fast, contains melodic breaks and has impeccable production. With me being so wishy-washy on the three records atop my list, it’s refreshing to have something just knock me on my ass. It may not be #1…but who knows…this album is that fucking good. \m/

Oh – and the full image of the last album…just because it’s so insanely awesome.

Just Cause 4 – Mini-Review – Disappointment

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Reviews with tags on December 27, 2018 by slateman

Just Cause 4 is out and considering how much fun I had with the second and third iterations, I just had to dive back in to see Rico’s newest adventures. Despite the poor reviews installment #3 got, I quite enjoyed the romp through the fictional environments, blowing up virtually everything and scouring the world to collect all those obscure hidden treasures and spots.

However, while JC4 fixes some of the basic issues inherent in JC3, the end result is a lackluster title, missing much of the heart and soul of what the series so fantastic. Bottom line? I’d play 3 over 4 any day – warts and all.

Let’s get the good out of the way first. This game looks good, runs smoother and more fluidly than the last and its load times have been drastically shortened. Explosions and chaos in general is still rather impressive.

With that short list covered, what remains is more of the same…except it’s sometimes less of the same. The series has never striven for realism or depth. Quite the contrary, really, and locating bases to simply reduce them to rubble was genuinely the reason I signed up. Now, there’s no specific purpose to do that. Instead, causing chaos fills a meter which leads to more squad reserves which leads to advancing your frontlines in order to unlock new supply drops. Ummm…OK. So, I can still blow shit up, right?

Sure! Except you can’t keep track of the places you blew up. And while you do so, let’s say in a helicopter, you can raze an entire base to the ground without anyone even complaining. “Enemy chopper noticed,” or some similar message is mentioned, but that’s OK. Just keep destroying the bad guy’s satellites and fuel reserves. They won’t mind. If going on foot, on the other hand, expect some serious resistance. But who cares? Rico can absorb 8,000 shots before the screen gives you warning and then you can just grapple hook elsewhere and return 4 seconds later to continue the mindless fun. There’s no reason to actually kill the baddies because they appear to just keep respawning. Oh, and those remote mines I used 90% of the time in JC3? Yeah – Inexplicably gone. Quite literally the best parts of JC3 are gone. At least they added nitro boosts and jumping abilities to boats. Maybe that evens it all out???

Missions fare no better, mind you. It’s always about flipping switches and then hacking consoles. Well, sometimes it’s about hacking consoles and then flipping switches. Oh no, sometimes it’s about driving some dude to hack some consoles and then protecting him. At least you’re not flipping switches. It’s fucking stupid – and I say that having played the barely-more-than-skin-deep JC2 and JC3. I’m sorry, sometimes it’s about blowing up generators and THEN hacking consoles. My bad for missing out on that mission diversity.

Now – of course, there’s new stuff! New grapple hook loadouts allow you to make them liftoff like MGS5 or shoot boosters. I suppose they’re nice, but their implementation, some 6 hours into this venture, are also skin-deep at best. I use them when I need to, but, perhaps b/c I’m not 14 and have all the time in the world, I find the entire system clunky and unwieldy. In this effort, I’m assuredly missing out on the game’s best features.

But one of the greatest portions about JC3’s beautiful, open world was the exploration of said world. Here, there’s literally no incentive to do so. There are no secrets or perks or hidden awesomeness. Nope…if there’s nothing on the map, then there’s literally nothing there. You could wingsuit over it for shits and giggles, but like I mentioned, there is no reason to go there. Screw it. Just load up the next shitty mission which happens to be the same as the last shitty mission. The forgettable story with forgettable setpieces and forgettable characters are there simply to move forward towards what I’m envisioning is a very non-memorable finale.

So, the final verdict is that this game takes the best parts of the prior game, relegates them to meaningless side notes, adds some weather effects that I simply don’t give a shit about and fails on about every level beside the frame-rate and load times. No remote mines, a shoddy lock-on system, no incentive to explore, weak missions and average everything else really hurts what could have been a phenomenal game. Of course, things might get oh-so-much-better in the coming hours, but given how it’s gone so far, I won’t hold my breath. Might as well just boot up JC3 instead. :(

Some screenshots forthcoming…If I care enough to upload them.

Skewb Ultimate Algorithms

Posted in Algorithms, Blog, Cubing on December 13, 2018 by slateman

I grabbed this little guy while in New York and, it being a Skewb variation, I quickly ran into troubles. Not quire sure what’s up with these friggin’ things, but my brain breaks a little bit, particularly this dumb dodecahedron. It didn’t help that after getting a few steps in, I kept getting confused by orientation and the tutorials out there leave a bit to be desired. Not knocking their content – but they’re not too organized. Anyhow, here’s my solution, which will likely require some tweaking before I forget how it’s all done. That’s kinda silly though, as it only really requires the same one algorithm all Skewbs need. R’, L, R, L’. You can reverse it (L, R’, L’, R) for step 2.

Step 1: Solve an X
This isn’t so bad, though sometimes moving an item out of the way takes a second. This should really be intuitive, but worst case, you might have the piece in the correct spot but not oriented.

If so, move it up to the opposite side. If moved to the right, rotate counter-clockwise, if on the left, CW. Then bring it down and fix the initial turn. Note, if the color you want is facing up when starting this, you’ll have to do this step twice. You can situate all four without breaking one another.

Step 2: Position remaining centers
This will swap the top and front centers as well as the left and the right. If you’re smart enough, you can plan this out. I, on the other hand, just keep bringing the top piece down to its correct spot (and messing up the rest in the process) until everything is right. Don’t worry about orientation – just getting them in the right spot. You’ll know which algorithm to use based on its upper-level orientation. If the piece you need is on the left face, start with a R’ to bring it to its position. If on the right, start with L. This takes a few tries, but it’s easy.

Step 3: Orient top-layer X
This can be a pain. Figure out the top-layer colors (here they’re pink and green) and you want there to be two on one face. In this photo these stickers are close, but it could be on the other side where they are farther apart. These can be any combination of those colors too. G,G/P,P or how it is here, one of each. You’ll put these on the left side and rotate the puzzle up so your algorithm is done adjacent to your bottom layer. Doubled algorithm this time: R’, L, R, L’ (x2).

If you have no doubles, which is likely, find one sticker you want. If it’s on the left, start with the R’ version of the algorithm and vice versa. I believe this should consistently give you a usable pair.

Step 4: Orient remaining centers
The very same algorithm will be used to rotate centers. This will flip four centers: U, F, L and R. If you only have two, you’ll be doing this algorithm twice – by fixing one and breaking three others (3+1=4).

Get the four centers U, F, L and R as mentioned and rotate up slightly. You will be performing this algorithm on a properly-oriented side as shown here. Do the same algorithm 6x. Every so often you will have four mis-oriented centers in a row and not a plus pattern. Despite having four, your goal, you still have to perform this step repeatedly. Use your intuition to figure out which to fix so to prep yourself for a proper final step.

Good luck!

Master Pyraminx Algorithms

Posted in Algorithms, Blog, Cubing on November 19, 2018 by slateman

When I first moved to Sweden, I purchased the new flat-edged Master Pyraminx. The puzzle looks great and I solved it a number of times. Then, I forgot how.

It’s strange; I can still solve the rest of my puzzles, or at least I think I can. In recent months, I’ve returned to the puzzle each time frustrated by my lack of memory and the unclear tutorials online. Today I checked again and hobbled together a solution. As always, for my own purposes, here are the steps I used to finally remember this solve!

Step 1: Solve One Face

Well, of course, get tips matching their adjacent sides first and get all three corners properly aligned. Then, pick one face to solve. This requires some intuitive positioning but it shouldn’t prove too difficult. Get those three center edges and then fill in the remaining six middle-edge pieces.

Step 2: Flip Middle Edges

Sometimes you’ll have all these middle pieces placed correctly. If not, however, two will be placed correctly, but oriented in reverse. In this case, move the correct piece to the back. Then you perform this algorithm, using intuition for replacing the bottom layer.

LD, RD, LU, RU
U’, L’, U, L

Step 3: Finish Second Layer

Here we bring the red piece down, not vice versa. Again we break the bottom layer, but that’s OK, it’s easy to fix! Of course, you can figure out the opposite if mirrored, so use intuition when figuring out what goes where here.

l, R’, l’, R’
Then get the U out of the way (u’)
L’, u, L, u’

Step 4: Centers

There are three possibilities here. Centers are all solved, none are solved or three are out of place. You could solve centers earlier or at the end, but if you have three centers misplaced, the algorithm will make you repeat the final step, so here’s a good time to do this algorithm.

To solve four centers, place opposite centers on top and bottom. It should be an easy one here:

LD, RD, LU, RU (x3).

As I mentioned, when three centers are out, it messes with things. This is sometimes referred to as parity. For this case, place the one properly-placed center on the left side and do the following:

R, U, R’, U (x2).

If this doesn’t swap your centers correctly, do it again. Done!

Step 5: Last-Layer Edges

All that should should remain are last-layer edges. Either these are solved or they need to be permuted. These could go clockwise or counter-clockwise. The algorithm here works opposite of that rotation. But it’s easy enough and can be done twice to accomplish the same result.

R, U, R’, U, R, U

Change that to U’ for a clockwise last-layer spin.