248 Reviews liked by tdstr

i played this game and i did not like it one bit!

Pure, unfiltered, unadulterated fun. Full motion video games and Visual Novels have fused together to unleash their full potential. Absolute clusterfuck of a story coupled with unrivaled cheese and unforgettable characters, everyone really looked like they were having the time of their lives behind the scenes.
It loses a few points for how cryptic and tedious it might be to progress the story if you get one of the very funny bad endings and don't know which character caused it and the whole thing about the true ending having you spare a bioterrorist because killing people is wrong somewhat irks me but aside from that, it's a must read for sure.
I wish this was more talked about in the VN circle but VN nerds are too busy praising anime tits mcgee spouting high-school tier philosophy lessons while getting fucked by dogs or something.
Achi Endo is the most based character in all of fiction. Don't forget to recycle.

Woah wait, people actually clicked on those audio logs?
I played this game with a group of friends, and we would not have stuck with it if any of us had tried it independently. One was color blind, one was tone deaf, and we each had brains that clicked with different puzzle sets separate from the puzzles that we were physically incapable of perceiving. But together, there was enough variety for everyone to feel involved and contribute.
Gameplay wise, the concept of The Witness is unimpeachable. Some of the puzzles were fun! Some of them were incomprehensible! A lot of them felt mean! But the mean puzzles felt so in the way where a human was challenging you to a bar bet. Even if you won, the impression was that you saved face more than you gained anything valuable. (At least the developer had the decency to make its most evil puzzle designs completely untethered from game progression.)
One of our party, upon learning the name of the developer associated with this game, claimed Johnathan Blow to be one of the greatest video game villains of all time. While there are no characters in The Witness, it definitely feels like you are fighting against something. Something that uses your compulsions for pattern seeking and completionism against you in novel and obnoxious ways.
Overall, we had a solid A-rank, 4 star experience with the game. For such a simple concept, the iterations and creativity kept our interest through to the end. The art design was tasteful and lovely, even more necessary for a game that heavily leans into environmental puzzle design. Completing the certain challenge at the end felt like triumphing over a nerd fight in the best and lamest ways.
That being said.
I am shocked that anyone could be fooled into taking this game's stapled-on pretentious bullshit seriously. The audio logs, the movie clips, the incredibly self-indulgent secret ending - it was all so removed from the delightfully aggravating experience of the gameplay as to be entirely optional. Merely mentioning its existence already feels like I have drawn too much attention to something that has null value.
The Witness is not "about" anything. It is a collection of puzzles. I am not someone who thinks you should not look into the meaning of games, their gameplay or ludo-narrative dissonance or harmony. I think about such things a lot. I actively seek out new connections and perspectives. And in my not un-trained, not inexperienced opinion, The Witness is not about anything external to the experience of solving simple yet satisfying line puzzles.
You would have an easier time convincing me that Elvis got facial reconstruction surgery and is currently President of the United States than you would that any of the media sampled in The Witness even remotely matters. To try to provide arguments against such an absence of value is so prima facie absurd I don't know how I could navigate that discussion with more respect or nuance than to politely affirm that everyone gets hoodwinked sometimes. If the island of The Witness was devoid of puzzles, and only had the audio logs and video clips to find, The Witness would be labelled so incomplete as to not have earned the right to be mocked. And I know exactly what that kind of experience feels like.
Annoyed I had to clarify something on an otherwise extremely solid puzzle collection, highly recommend.

Preface: This review and rating is based on my playthrough of Minecraft version Beta 1.2_02.
Do you remember "the first night"?
I do, on a lot of different versions and a few platforms.
I'm doing something a little different this time around; because of how dedicated Minecraft's community is especially towards its preservation, I decided to "revisit" Beta 1.2_02.
I will be referring to beta versions as b, release as r, etc.
This version is notable for being one of the last before beds were added. In this version, there's no hunger bar, no sprinting, and no beds. There is no legitimate way to skip the night or move your spawn around. What's interesting about this is that it sort of makes the base game a little more tense, because the farther you are away from spawn the more dangerous it is for you to die. It means things as simple as wanting to find another biome are actually risky, and building a base far away from spawn even moreso. (you can just press F3 and write the coordinates down to your base, but still)
That's only part of the reason I'm revisiting this version, though; it's to re-experience that fabled "first night" that very recently many in the community are lamenting it as having "disappeared" from the game, spearheaded by personality YouTubers going as far as to say the game was ruined by this change. Originally people would point at when villages were changed to contain beds, but I guess they ran out of clicks with that one and now it's about beds in general. I could go on for paragraph after paragraph about why this is asinine but the only reason I'm giving it the time of day is because it's not entirely wrong. Because of no sprinting, if you get cornered by a skeleton, odds are it will prick you once or twice without much recourse from you, the player. Oh, hm. Actually that's probably the only example I can think of that's harder here outright. Huh. There's gotta be more, right? Let's take a look at what this version actually contains, before the gradual "destruction" of the game's "real challenge".
b1.2_02 has the following biomes (excluding those mentioned to be added for b1.3 and on), as well as the Nether in its most basic form; it does not however function correctly in multiplayer (that wasn't until b1.6). Interestingly, when it was announced it was advertised primarily as a means of fast travel; encouraging larger exploration with a bit of time commitment to synchronize portals with tunnels through the Nether. This would be its only real use case aside from collecting all three blocks that came with it for building (netherrack, soul sand, glowstone) and player-made challenges. If you look at the overworld biomes though, they tend to be tightly packed together, and a few are almost indistinguishable from each other; it's also interesting how despite there being two types of trees, they both drop the same wood. Charcoal was added in this update but it shares the same texture as coal and functionality, lapis was increased from 1 per block to 4-8, iron and diamond veins were made larger throughout the worlds. No new mobs with this update, just the classic Zombie, Skeleton, Spider, Creeper, Piglins and Ghasts to keep us company.
And that's it. It's quaint, really, but was only a stepping stone for many players' worlds before beds were in it and ruined playthroughs. Shortly after, long debate about the integrity of the game sparked, with the weathered Alphachads arguing for beds' removal while Betanerds advocated for their inclusion, claiming it greatly expanded the scope of the average player's world. Just kidding, this essentially never happened and everyone loved beds, people felt free to explore in more than just cardinal directions away from spawn instead of re-rolling seeds over and over for a funny mountain near the world spawn.
So what was my playthrough of this like, let alone "the first night"? I gotta say this version is genuinely difficult, but not for the reasons you might expect. Remember, this pre-r1.9, spam click combat is a free wall against several mobs at once; this is also early beta, so the pathing on mobs was still terrible. Hitboxes are also jank, the only time I came close to dying was when I found a spider dungeon and one of them was hitting me nearly a full block away (played on Hard). Day 1, built a shelter, made torches; no afk in caves for me! Night 1, did some mining, barely found anything, tried to loot the spider dungeon; return to surface, watch the sun rise. Day 2, I get more wood and go slaughter a dozen pigs to get stacked with instant 4 heart healing, then come back to mine more. Night 2, found diamonds. Day 3 / Night 3, made it to the nether and made a safe portal shelter on the other side. Total time spent: 1-2 hour.
So what's actually difficult about this old ass version of the game? No shift clicking in item menus, and I'm serious. The lack of a proper creative mode still also bothers me, as someone who early on had a pretty evenly split amount of time between survival and creative.
I adore Minecraft, and I understand having nostalgia for aspects of it (back then I played on the ridiculously restricted Pocket Edition Alphas, which had no smelting, nether, "proper" crafting, and only 256x256 worlds when I started!!); but to remotely imply these versions is where the game peaked in almost any capacity is utterly ridiculous. If you want stakes, you play Hardcore on current release where enemies during the day can one-shot a naked player, phantoms chase down those faster than they can run in the night, and the new Warden can bring a player down to half a heart in full Netherite armor.
I think (Vanilla) Minecraft players are just getting bored/burnt out and running out of things to make clickbait videos about. To gush about any mods worth mentioning is to gush about mods made in a post-beds world, and that wouldn't fit the current narrative. If you made it to the end of this ramble, thank you. Goodnight.
Some of my favorite pieces of the Minecraft OST:
The End
Truthfully there's very little of the OST, both old and new, I'd ever skip.

I can only hope that given enough time I'm left with just the good memories of this game. It's superb by 1991 standards. The exploration, feeling of progress, humour and charm are amazing. Putting it all together made it hard to put this game down.
But I can't help but be left with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, and it all stems from the dungeons. At times it felt like the game was trying to frustrate me with the enemy placement, and at the worst of times it seemed that it was playing a practical joke on me. Having two levers - one that opens the path forward, and one that drops a bunch of enemies on you - is just... not fun. It's as if the game's comedy has a twisted side.
It's beyond good for the time. No question about that. Timeless? Hard to say. It's at least most of the way there. The highs are just so high compared to the lows. It really does suck you in! Heck, even the aforementioned dungeons have their shining moments. Just don't let that distract you from the cracks in the wall; You may just wander circles around Dark Palace forever...

I don't really know how to fully put my thoughts on Password into concise words. I played this thing for over 65 hours to reach full completion, seeing every character route and every main story path, and after all of it I just feel kind of... empty? Lukewarm maybe at best? I think the saddest thing about Password is that I desperately wanted it to be better. There's something in here, buried beneath its sheer ridiculous level of ambition that is intriguing and so close to working, yet somehow so far away from that potential. For a game that's made by one person, it's genuinely nuts how much content this thing is full of and how it does mostly manage to keep itself together in a cohesive manner despite how absurdly complex the story ends up becoming. I've seen other games with similar plot devices that have done a far worse job at being consistent with their rules than Password is.
The biggest problem with Password is the split between its mystery and its romance. Initially it wasn't really too much of a bother other than finding it a little strange and disappointing how separated character romance stuff was to the actual main plot. It became more noticeable on completion runs to the true ending just how little the main plot really changes at all despite hanging out with different characters on different runs, and over time I started to realize just how much this separation really affects so many of my little complaints with the game's writing and structure. I like these characters (mostly!) and they were the reason I stuck with Password all the way to the end, but I only really started to like them on an individual basis as I went through their respective routes. On the main plot itself, all of the characters just don't have enough distinctive qualities from each other to really make the mystery work; everybody in this main cast is just genuinely too nice to each other to really question who would be responsible for the murders, and a lot of the red herrings fall flat because of this too. The mystery fell apart for me fairly early on into the game because I felt like I was able to make an incredibly safe bet on who the mastermind behind everything was, and instead of trying to throw me off in another direction or make me question my judgment, Password kept giving me more blatant evidence until eventually just straight up yelling who was responsible. It made running through other story paths less satisfying because the answer is given away freely so early on, and the other smaller questions and mysteries just couldn't match up.
The romance stuff is hit and miss because of the character-specific routes too. While I grew to like more of the cast over time, I didn't like that I had to watch them develop one-by-one individually on replay runs of the game rather than at least getting more of clear picture of who they were from how the main plot itself played out. I honestly really wish the game structured itself more like, as ridiculous as it sounds, like how Danganronpa or Persona handled hanging out with characters over a set span of time. Being able to pick and choose who you hang out with on a per-day basis would have made so much more sense considering this is a group of friends who all should know each other, and are on vacation. Locking yourself into hanging out with one person for an entire month only got more goofy and kind of weird as I kept doing more replays to see the rest of the game's content; I get that a lot of the cast, especially Dave himself are kind of oblivious at times and tend to let a lot of stuff slide because they all like each other, but I think anybody would find it more than a little strange to be getting together as a group to relax somewhere, only to have one of you suspiciously close to one other person and no one else for almost an entire month.
This would be an entire paragraph and more about Tyson, but I frankly just don't want to say very much on him. I didn't mind him for a large chunk of the game because while he notably has issues, his little redemption arc behind the scenes was fine and made sense for the most part. This goes out the window on his own route, and frankly what the game pulls with his character so early into his route is genuinely so gross and upsetting that if I didn't intentionally do his route last and was already so close to the end of the game, I would've dropped Password entirely. Putting an almost rape scene into your game is bad enough, but the fact that the rest of his route goes out of its way to continually find excuses to forgive his actions is fucking insane and not in a good way. The game could've done literally anything else and it would've been far more acceptable and believable than what Password ended up doing. Furries seem to love their problematic favs with giant flashing red flags and I'm not saying that you can't have a problematic character as a romance option in your video game, but if that's the case, you need to fully own up to it, have actual serious consequences for it. The game almost DOES do this too! Only to turn around and go "actually nevermind it's fine" twice! Which still isn't enough times for how serious it gets on Tyson's route! Why does he even act like this on his dedicated route when the other routes work with him just fine?
The true ending should have been better and more fulfilling than it ended up being. While it doesn't fully feel like it dumps everything into the garbage and act like your choices don't matter like I know I've heard some people say, it conveniently ignores a lot of reasons why stuff happens the way it does in the main and character routes and doesn't end completely conclusively. I don't like hearing that a sequel might happen at some point.
And yet, somehow despite all of that, I still don't really understand why I spent all of this time playing through the game. There was something about Password that was still enjoyable in some regard that I can't put my finger on. Maybe it's just as simple as I like my weird tastes being pandered to, maybe something about the weird directions the plot goes here and there was interesting enough to keep going, maybe I still just liked these characters enough even with their issues that I wanted to stick with them. I don't really know how much in good faith I want to recommend this to other people though, there's too many serious flaws here for a game that is so incredibly long to fully complete that most people would be better off spending their precious time elsewhere on something else, even within the weird niche that is "gay furry visual novels," let alone dedicated mystery or romance VNs. Password is just... mid. A part of me hates that and wishes it could've been something more. Another part maybe doesn't mind that.

If all games were like Killer7, video games would be horrible.

First RE game I played I got too scared and stopped I will not be returning to the series after this if you want to play a good scary game play Garten of BanBan it actually has love and care put into it and not just some cheap cash grab game

[bass riff, shot of apartment]
[inside, Kramer is ruffling through silverware, Jerry enters the apartment]
JERRY: Oh Jesus... Kra-Kramer! Whaddaya think you're doing?!
KRAMER: Oooooh Jerry I've got something big this time and I just- listen... Ok... Using the internet... With. Your. Mind! And-
JERRY(interrupting): You- oh god... Kramer I swear-
KRAMER(interrupting): Wa-wa-wait! It gets better... While. You're. Asleep!
JERRY: ... Kramer what do you think you are? Some kind of, I don't know, Hypnospace Outlaw?
[bass riff, credits]

in a genre well known for conservative sensibilities and a dearth of anthropological and cultural respect, as well as voyeuristic and hedonistic death tourism, blood on the sand stands out as self-aggrandizing, maximalist, and bordering on parodic in a way very few tend to be. a subversive and stately satire this is not, but the mere insertion of 50 cent into a wartorn setting when his previous digital outing humbly involved enacting vengeance against the american criminal underworld says as much about the aughts zeitgeist as our proclivities in the horror genre during that era does. maybe this buries the lede somewhat, because one of the most important facts about this game was only revealed relatively recently, but blood on the sand was alleged to have started as a tom clancy game recently; conflicting reports from development suggested its yarn was spun from a failed covert-one project, an adaptation of bourne trilogy alum robert ludlum's ideas. one article implicitly posits that these prospective titles were stages in a continuum prior to publisher vivendi's decision to use their convenient rights to 50 cent, although its also possible the use of tom clancy was shorthand for use in an interview given that vivendi didn’t have the license to adapt tom clancy’s works. whatever the case, this largely explains the game's constituent elements – fighting tooth and nail through a wartorn middle-east setting, so familiar to video games and film of the era, recontextualized to fit 50 cent.
other games centered around rappers are designed around an understanding of their core ethos; the wu-tang clan, with their sound representing an evocative mix of east asian and black culture, with particular reverence afforded towards martial arts, found themselves on the psx with 1999’s shaolin style, a fighting game that literalized and made tangible the groups stage personae and the aesthetic undercurrents in their discography. or take the def jam franchise, which takes the feuds, the aggression, and the machismo of the music industry during that time and channels that raw energy into a wrestling game developed by AKI. and this was mythological for its cast – there’s an interview with method man that always makes me crack up where he essentially says that all he cared about was having the hottest finishing move in the game. even rap jam volume one, a basketball game for the snes, plays to some of these sensibilities by essentially offering basketball Without Limits. coolio isn’t afraid to throw hands there. rims creak under the weight of dunks from impossible heights. it’s all performance centered around culture, identity, reputation.
what makes 50 cent unique in this regard, especially as far as performance and cultural mythology is concerned, is the now-infamous, oft-referenced incident in which, early in his career, he was shot nine times in south jamaica allegedly as the result of the release of his controversial song, ‘ghetto qu’ran’. ‘bulletproof’ isn’t just the title of a licensed video game, it’s part and parcel of the 50 cent brand and his identity, referenced often in his discography and utilized to demonstrate the artists grit and countercultural edge. the violence of his work is therefore afforded numerous dimensions given his firsthand experience with this kind of trauma, which in turn represents part of the appeal, that kind of verisimilitude. certainly, bulletproof (the game) plays into this mythology. where fighting games seem the natural route for the wu-tang clan, 50 cents life and identity could only ever have seen translation into ludology through firefights. it’s a bit macabre but totally in line with his career sensibilities.
blood on the sand, then, seemingly represents a reactionary inverse to bulletproof’s simple reiteration and expression of the 50 cent persona. instead of playing a nameless, hardened soldier fighting on behalf of an imperialist agenda in the middle east as is the standard in this format, that voiceless force of nature has been replaced by 50 cent, who can easily, cynically, be read as the all-american invulnerable supersoldier - one who built his brand from the ashes of derelict poverty. y'know, bootstraps, the american way. but the game rejects any easy textual understanding. yes, 50, narratively and mechanically, is totally committed as an agent of destruction and havoc, but his quest primarily pits him against a rogues gallery of self-interested judas archetypes; 50 is naturally distrustful and seldom offers aid, only so long as his goals align with other parties. and these rivals are all configured as gangsters, entrepreneurs, those seeking profits. an early conversation is helpful in this regard, in which 50 cent claims new yorks streets are entirely owned by gangsters; his conversational partner claims the middle eastern region theyre in is controlled by organized crime on a scale surpassing that of new york. the kind of americanized conception of gang warfare transplanted onto the middle east revealed through this dick-measuring contest is the crux of blood on the sand’s text, additionally reflected in its color coded enemy design, evoking gang colors and affiliation more than it necessarily does terrorism, as well as in its environmental design, like a hyper-americanized strip club sticking out like a sore thumb. the connotations of the war on terror are there but one gets the sense that blood on the sand uses those familiar political and genre elements as (unfortunately) familiarized backdrop and setting moreso than it does to convey a straightforward narrative about combatting jihadist insurgents.
another thing setting blood on the sand apart from its milieu is 50’s characterization – this alone isn’t revelatory but it’s in stark contrast to others in the genre. uncharted is allowed to disguise its lack of humanity through a constant assault of quips and ironic insincerity, as protagonist nathan drake pilfers the remains of ancient civilizations for profit and slaughters anyone in his path, reenacting colonial tendencies in the process for the sake of ‘a good time’. and this is a constant thread in all the games, encountering ancient societies where something went wrong and the enemy type shifts towards supernatural, impossibly advanced yet primitive ghoul caricatures. these misanthropic attributes are not alone to uncharted, as several other adventure shooters share much of the same problems. perhaps the most brutally honest any of these games has ever been is when you lead a no-holds barred defence against enemies laying siege to a fast food establishment in modern warfare 2.
50 cent, meanwhile, is unceasingly committed to securing the bag – there’s no pretense of nobility or honor here, but he will have banter with the rest of g-unit, air his frustrations with the constantly spiraling nature of his journey to get a skull back, and discuss the setting and architecture with his allies. it's all a matter of debt collection from shady benefactors who continually steer you in the wrong direction, and 50 is content to follow this labyrinthine design so long as payments still on the table. so, blood on the sands rejection of its central middle eastern analogue transforms the game into an interpretive assault on the restraints and foibles of the modern music industry. the whole plot is kickstarted when 50 cents contract isn’t honoured and he isn’t paid a cool 10 mil for a concert he held; a diamond-encrusted skull is offered as a means of recompensation, which becomes the driving force of the narrative and its collection becomes the locus for his rampage. thus, it can be said that blood on the sand is very simply a game about honoring the work of artists, and of fairly compensating them for their labour. one of many traitorous parties in-game is a paramilitary squad who force 50 into committing a heist and then attempt to take the payout for themselves; during the subsequent boss battle, the squad’s commander, voiced by lance reddick, tells 50 to walk away with his life and squander the profit for everyone’s sake. after all, his nephew’s an ardent fan, and 50 should chalk this mishap up to experience before he gets hurt. this read is bolstered by a couple of tidbits: the knowledge that, according to 50, blood on the sand is in part a tie-in to g-unit’s 2008 damning ‘elephant in the sand’ mixtape, which followed a longstanding feud between 50 cent on the one hand and ja rule and fat joe on the other hand, his peers in the industry. additionally, a great deal of blood on the sand’s visual identity and palette was inspired by the film blood diamond of all things, which of course involves atrocities in sierra leone revolving around the highly inhumane and exploitative diamond mining trade, all farmed during a war zone. continuing the read, theres obviously more than a few unsavoury statements one could make about the music industry in this light. that kind of exploitation -> reclamation loop was something i felt that was common to the games mini-arcs.
one other film i didn’t expect to weigh on my mind so heavily over the course of my playthrough was uncut gems! the image of 50 holding a diamond encrusted skull, a symbol of his labour and his persona, is downright operatic. it parallels kevin garnetts role in uncut gems, who perceives entire iridescent universes, with his lived experiences superimposed and rapidly cutting in and out of frame, and the metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears of many in an unethically sourced black opal. he becomes determined, obsessed even, to hold on the alluring gem, as he considers it a symbolic representation of wealth, fortune, and physical prowess - like a good luck charm. clearly, the skull, with its own implied sordid history, has similar value for 50 as well - it's considered priceless, but his intentions with it are undisclosed for the entire narrative. he simply wants it. both fictionalized portrayals of these 'characters' are in conversation with their mythologized roles in culture, but where uncut gems is concerned with destiny, stability, and fortune, with questions of materialism and faith at the forefront, blood on the sand makes no such appeals to higher powers – 50 is, after all, bulletproof, and the game is more than happy to let him manifest his own payback narrative, the gods be damned. the exploitation of miners in uncut gems’ prologue frames its narrative, but through bombast and hyperbole 50 uses the lens of a militarized zeitgeist to take revenge on his own enemies in the industry, both real and perceived - which serves its purpose as a reclamation narrative.
perhaps these are some highbrow, navel-gazey interpretations and readings on why you should play blood on the sand. but you wanna know the lowbrow, crass, real reason? the game’s just fun as hell. even leaving aside its aesthetics this is a white-knuckled responsive third person shooter, rapidly maneuvering you through conflict after conflict in an arcade setting with more of a semblance of actual encounter design than the majority of its peers. these mechanics are framed by an unrelenting tempo of macro and micro goals in visually distinguishable and legible skirmishes while aiming for combo chains and high scores. 50 cent and devil may cry’s dante alike both see the value of taunting enemies to bolster their ranks and to style on their enemies. 50 cent basically gets heat moves as well, and he can activate max paynes bullet time. this bullet time mechanic is known as gangsta fire, and it essentially makes 50 move faster while also slowing down time. its meter is quite strict and can only reliably be filled up quickly by means of stage pickups, meaning that there's a balancing act between meter preservation and combo priority at all times. and it’s all set to a wide selection of 50 cents discography, freely customizable in the games playlist function. even where the game fails in its design from time to time (optional scoring goals are too often intertwined with the overt objective of the mission, thus not pushing players out of their comfort zone; an overabundance of helicopter encounters, charmingly explained away by 50 cent’s son’s obsession with them and request to include them; gold ranks are almost impossible to acquire outside of hard mode), the experience of listening to P.I.M.P. while racking up the body count with a mossberg and with a LMG as 50 hurls shittalk is unlike anything else in the medium. but i think this paragraph is fairly obvious to anyone who’s played this. so here’s my consensus: i was grinning ear to ear the whole time. this is by far one of the finest exploitation genre games you can play, bordering on high art. in a games industry that now lies about american war crimes, and in a music industry dominated by spotify, blood on the sand is one of the last bulwarks of honesty left. hands down the most culturally significant response to 9/11 right here in this game.
(this game invokes dmca's ire so almost all the gameplay footage you can find of it online doesnt have the soundtrack blaring. totally misrepresents the intensity of the experience imo! no 21 questions or candy shop though...)