A pleasant, low stakes thread: What is the last game you played just because?

By “just because” I mean for sheer enjoyment without prompting or in support of some initiative/occasion/event.

So: no comp judging, no play testing. No projects. Just playing for the heck of it. The answer doesn’t have to be IF. Did you enjoy it (or are you enjoying it, if that’s more accurate)?

I’ll start: I’m playing the reissue of Final Fantasy IX. I do like it, though I wish I could get through with the story for a while so I can min/max and grind abilities (this is what I enjoy doing in JRPGs). The characters seem likable so far.

I won’t count Infocom games because of my involvement with Gold Machine.

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I just finished House of da Vinci 3 on my iPad. Fun, fun, fun. Gizmos and gadgets and killer graphics. I think they need to learn that “da Vinci” was not Leonardo’s last name, though.

And I’m currently playing The Shadow in the Cathedral as my IF du jour. Somehow I never noticed this one before.

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I liked Da Vinci 3!

I just grabbed a small bundle of quirky snack-sized puzzle games titled CosmOS 9 (https://www.cosmos9bundle.com/). Mixed bag but that’s what I was looking for.

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Sky Rogue.

I really really love airplanes, but I don’t have the hardware, peripherals, desk, and operating system for DCS. Sky Rogue is accessible for my hardware and also lets me fly with non-arcade maneuvering. I mean, sure it doesn’t simulate G forces, and each plane has WAYYY too many missiles, but it does simulate stalls, and recognizes the many different kinds of missile tracking systems.

Also GZDoom. Old-school Doom with, like, a billion settings or something. None of that Brutal Doom stuff, tho. Just sound mods, mostly. I prefer the vanilla gameplay loop and original graphics.

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IF-wise: I got partway through Hadean Lands before getting sidetracked by comp games earlier this year. Will return to it soon.

Other games: I just replayed the original versions of Monkey Island 1 and 2. I’ll be playing a lot of MI in the run-up to the new game coming out. I’m also partway through Bravely Default II, which is turning into a bit of a years-long playthrough.

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I’m playing Sting. It was the last game on my docket when IF Comp finished and I moved on to other project. I’ve been meaning to play it since then.

I’m taking it slowly, since it feels like the kind of game worth savoring.

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Anchorhead, but in practice I played a bunch for two days and then haven’t touched it for a while 'cause I went back to playing the quintessential Inform 7 game.

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Huh, apparently I’ve never played Shadow in the Cathedral. Adding that one to my IF reading list. Now that I’ve finally got Gargoyle working again the way I want it, I’ve got a pile of games I want to try there.

Most recently, I just finished Vision Soft Reset, a metroidvania about time travel.

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I’m currently poking at Anchorhead too, though I haven’t picked it up for a while (I’m grinding to get an IFComp entry mostly-done before I start a new job this month and there’s only so much text adventuring I can take in a day). This was inspired by seeing Mike’s Cragne Manor let’s play. I look forward to reading it properly once I’ve played through Anchorhead and Cragne Manor myself (so, maybe in 2025).

The last game I finished was Uru: The Complete Chronicles, a few days ago. Uru was… interesting. I have a feeling I should have played Myst Online, the modern multiplayer open-source version, but I didn’t know it existed until I was well into the old version of Uru I got in a Steam bundle years ago. That version doesn’t work so well on modern computers, and I got very upset with some puzzles which I bet work much better with two players. But you just can’t beat that Myst lore and atmosphere.

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Heh. Myst Online is only “modern” in that the client has been updated more recently than 2007… but it has a little bit of ongoing player activity. As I mentioned recently in another thread.

I gotta say that the two-player puzzles (which really do require two players in the online game) are just as awkward as the modified (single-player) versions in Uru:CC. The whole thing was a half-finished design experiment, really.

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I played Master of Orion 2 earlier this evening.

As for the last new game I played “just because”… …I think that might be Splendour or Civilization Beyond Earth. It was a few months ago.

In terms of IF: Women of Xal. Intriguing and confusing in equal measure.

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Well, beyond Cragne Manor – which I admittedly did turn into a project, albeit partially because I thought I’d enjoy the game more if I were parceling it out over weeks rather than getting overwhelmed with it – I’ve been playing Last Call BBS, the last-ever “Zachlike”. This is a mini-genre of games where you cosplay as a programmer, which for some reason has a lot of appeal to me – I think this is partially why I enjoy writing games in Inform 7, actually.

Last Call is set up as a compilation of mini-games that go beyond that narrow remit (you download each from the eponymous archived bulletin-board, it’s a 90’s period piece), including two cool twists on solitaire – another Zachlike calling card – an action-puzzle game I’m no good at, and a D&D-skinned Minesweeper analogue.

Having gotten through the preliminaries, though, I’m now down to the real programming minigames. I finished the easiest one – a Hellraiser-themed take on the Game of Life – and now am banging away at one where you set up conveyer belts for a food court, wiring various switches, gates, and counters together to create a setup that will deliver the user’s choice of soft drinks or different numbers of donuts. I’m well into my usual Zachlike gameplay loop, which goes:

  1. squint at puzzle, having no idea how to start;
  2. start banging at one small piece of the challenge just to get going;
  3. figure out a trick to make that part work, feel clever;
  4. realize that now that I’ve gotten this far, I have a rough idea for how to do another bit, except the way I did the first part is incompatible with what I need to do next;
  5. instead of starting over, bodge together an ugly hack so I can keep going;
  6. repeat steps 2-5 until I solve the puzzle with a hideous Rube Goldberg machine of a solution.

The game shows little histograms of how your solution compares the ones other players came up with for each puzzle when you finish it, based on how much the components you used cost and how efficiently the program runs, and I always give a cackle of glee when I get something like this:

image

Glad to see that still has legs! Er, hopefully you’re not taking it too slowly in the race sequence – it’s winnable but definitely not worth winning.

2023 is Anchorhead’s 25th anniversary and Cragne Manor’s 5th, might be a good year for it!

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Can you imagine having such a recognizable and widely-acclaimed style of game design, that the genre used to describe it is your name?

I hope he has the perspective necessary to realize how incredible of an achievement he’s made, with a string of multiple wonderful games. Absolutely well-done.

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Super Burger Time on MAME is one I always come back to, and I just did, in fact. Lots of people have nostalgia for Burgertime, but the controls and difficulty make it tough to get involved. Super Burger Time is a neat little adventure through a bunch of weird worlds, and it’s not too bad to learn how to master.

Perhaps what I really like about it is, you can put in as many “quarters” as you want to play the game through, and after that you’re done and don’t feel a need to play again or keep trying. The graphics are better. The enemies are cuter. The burgers are, well, more super. But sadly with the arcade game crash, not many people saw it.

The way I look at it is, you may play Burgertime for the first time in a while and be a little disappointed by it, but Super Burger Time is everything people think they remember from Burgertime and then some.

I really enjoy games like this that are better than the standard nostalgia, not to be a snob, but to remind myself I can and should look for this sort of thing.

I need to get back to it too! Thanks for the reminder.

ETA: I may’ve sounded harsh to Burgertime here. But I hope my main point is, it’s worth branching out with nostalgia games to see cool stuff you might’ve missed. You might find something really awesome. So playing a game like SBT never feels like regressing but often remidns me of the next thing I’d been meaning to look into.

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This is reassuring to hear from someone who knows a lot about Myst, because I’ve been trying to tell whether the single-player puzzles in Uru really were that awkward or whether I was just sour that I didn’t solve many of them without a walkthrough. I want to be sympathetic - it sounds like all the Path of the Shell stuff had to be converted from multiplayer to single-player at short notice. It definitely doesn’t feel like it was supposed to be that way.

I really wanted Uru to be better, because there are some really good moments in it. The Ahnonay Age in Path of the Shell is such a cool idea, with such a great reveal at the end.

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I played Train Valley 1 and 2 recently, two sim-slash-puzzle games.

The second game is more complicated but too forgiving at times.

In a lot of the levels you have a lot to do, but few ways to do it. Much of the challenge comes from figuring out exactly where the designers expected you to lay tracks. Unlike in most sim games you cannot level hills, and there are a lot hills you just can’t build on. It is not a game that encourages creativity.

It would be frustrating, except that bankruptcy is almost impossible unless you deliberately crash all of your trains. Most of my enjoyment from the second game came from seeing how badly I could manage my money, ripping up track and stalling trains to make room for other trains.

There are also a few good timed levels in the game, where you are racing a flood or a volcano, with water or lava rising. You can try and be hyperefficient and precise, building things at a low inexpensive elevation and keeping the trains running end-to-end before the disaster comes. Or you can play aggressively, building at higher “safe” elevations that you can’t really afford. There are no loans, so you need to destroy tracks and bridges to make the money for…other tracks and bridges.

The first game is simpler but less forgiving. There are taxes that can end your game abruptly, but the missions are straightforward enough that the challenge provided by timed taxes is enjoyable. I preferred it overall.

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Sky Rogue.

I played this after I got it from the Ukraine bundle. I’ve never played flight simulators or air combat games, and I got way better at it when I tried it a second time after a few months.

Do you know of any other approachable games in the genre?

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Unfortunately, no. Most air combat games are either World War 2 aim-your-mouse-and-click games, or you need a full HOTAS control system with floor pedals and a track-IR attachment strapped to your head. A lot of air combat devs seem to be in one of these two camps, and Sky Rogue is the only game I could find that was somewhere in between, and wasn’t riddled with input problems and crashes.

There’s also Tiny Combat Arena maybe, but it’s still very much a work in progress, and I don’t know how accessible it is for controls.

If you’re looking for a flight sim, with combat not required, FlightGear works on Linux (and possibly other operating systems) and is VERY accommodating for a wide variety of control styles. You could fly with just mouse and keyboard, if you’d like, and it’s got smooth response for it.

I have been looking far and wide and across all kinds of websites to find air combat games that don’t require all the gear, and honestly I’ve only found Sky Rogue. I’m also kinda finicky because I prefer realistic simulations, but I’d prefer speculative ones over historical ones. I really don’t care for World War 2 games. That’s also why I’m having such a hard time trying to find armored combat games, too. It seems like all the tank enthusiasts live in a world where science fiction doesn’t exist.

So many of these games rely on recorded data, and don’t want to crunch the numbers to do any speculative simulations.

Project Wingman is out to replicate a lot of Ace Combat vibes, but that also means your aircraft carries 200 missiles somehow. Not sure how forgiving the controls are there, either.

If you’re okay with space, there’s an excellent game called House of the Dying Sun, which replicates combat similar to Battlestar Galactica (have not watched that show before, but I’m aware of how it handles space combat). It’s also set in a sort of Warhammer 40K lookalike universe, so everything is done with a poetic tone. It doesn’t have air physics, and you need to be wary when turning because you’re technically in a spaceship, so the only thing stopping you from continuing in some direction are reaction thrusters. You can turn those off, and glide past enemies while keeping your nose on, which is cool. It’s got shields as a mechanic, though. If you’re into shields in sci-fi then that’s no problem, but I prefer my sci-fi harder than energy shields. Doesn’t really make it less fun for me, though.

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If you’re okay with space, there’s an excellent game called House of the Dying Sun

That looks approachable, assuming the aesthetics don’t lie. It looks like you can pause while choosing commands to send? That is my favorite since I am not great at real-time games. I will have to check it out.

The only other game in the genre I’ve played is Pilotwings, which is not really a flight sim at all I guess.

There is also Ex-Zodiac, which is in early access right now and is a Star Fox clone. I am on the fence about buying it since I never really enjoyed the on-rails element of Star Fox…

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Yup! It’s really handy for when you get disorientated after trying to evade enemy fire, and you need a moment to study the current state of the battle!

I actually didn’t know that Star Fox was on rails! I didn’t grow up with game consoles; I had StarCraft and MechWarrior 3 on a PC. I’m learning about console games through my partner lately, though!

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