Thursday, March 31, 2016

English Puzzle

I came up with an English puzzle, for the high school game I talked about yesterday.

It's a logic puzzle, where the goal is to find Shakespeare's twelfth play. You get a list of Shakespeare's plays, and a bunch of clues to help you put them in chronological order. The clues are things like "Romeo and Juliet comes before Hamlet". Since he worked on forty or so plays, this would be a somewhat long puzzle with many clues.

The twist to the puzzle is that everything is a red herring, and the correct solution is The Twelfth Night. Get it? That is Shakespeare's "twelfth" play!

I eventually decided against using the puzzle in the game, because I wasn't sure people could figure it out. I know if I encountered a puzzle like that in a game, I'd feel cheated or tricked. Plus, it'd take a long time for me to come up with a list of clues for sorting Shakespeare's plays. So I ended up having the game gloss over the puzzle, with someone describing the trick puzzle solution in passing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Videogame Projects

My wife has two artist friends who need work. I figured I would be a good husband and hire them to do artwork for a videogame project, only I don't have any projects I'm working on that need art.

So I reached into my bag of videogame ideas and pulled out two projects, one for each artist.

#1 was Trapped in a Soap Opera. I wrote three pages of this script on a whim in October. I went back to the script and wrote three 5-6 page soap opera plotlines for it: an adultery story, an evil double story, and a kidnapping a bride story.

I'm not sure if I want to move ahead with this project, because I'm not sure if the script is funny, or if it makes sense to people who don't watch soap operas. The whole thing might come off as one weird in-joke. That's where the project stands now: I've got a script which I'm not sure I can use, and I'm not sure how to rewrite it for the general public.

I keep meaning to have my wife read the script, so she can mark off anything which is weird, confusing or unfunny. It's been a few weeks, and I still haven't sent it to her.

#2 was The Worst High School Reunion Ever, which is a murder/escape room game, kind of like the Zero Escape series. The premise is that a villain wants revenge on everyone they went to high school with. So they kidnapped ten people and locked them in the school, forcing them to solve puzzles in order to survive. Not my usual writing fare, I know.

The puzzles are themed around who solves them. The English student gets an English-themed puzzle, the math student gets a math puzzle, the business student has a business puzzle, and so on. I wrote a puzzle for all ten characters, and the scene where the villain first talks to them. I also programmed the entire thing, with placeholder artwork.

Now I'm on the fence about the project. I feel like it needs a complete rewrite, because it doesn't get interesting until 20% of the way through, when the other ten characters show up. Also, in general, the story follows the first Zero Escape game way too closely, so it feels more like uncreative plagiarism than its own story. I'm trying to think of a way to rewrite the story and salvage it, maybe by having the other characters there from the very start? If not, If that's not possible, I can try to recycle the puzzles for another game.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Response to Yesterday's Post

I got two comments on yesterday's blog post, and I figured I would respond to them.

First, Max wants to know if I'll do any more reviews for the Nancy Drew games. The answer is "Yes, eventually." I'm having a really hard time writing reviews for the games. There are nine different reviews that I started, and haven't finished. At some point, I threw up my hands and decided to put the project of reviewing all the games on hiatus. In the meantime, I'll be doing the "Everything Wrong With" series instead.

Second, Abby says one of my videos was featured on the Amateur Sleuth Blog, the official blog of the Nancy Drew Games company. Cool! The blog was about the threatening note that you can get in Curse of Blackmoor Manor. Unlike the threatening note in Message in a Haunted Mansion, this one is optional, and in fact, a lot of players missed it.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Living Legends: Bound By Wishes

My video walkthrough for this week was Living Legends: Bound By Wishes. It's the fourth game in the series, and my stepdaughter loves these games. So much so that she played it all the way through, before I got a chance to start.



I thought that this would be my most popular walkthrough of the month, but that honor goes to last week's walkthrough, Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Curse of Wolfhill. I'm a tad surprised, as the last LL game was more popular than the last SWM game. I guess that just goes to show I don't know what my viewers will like in advance!

The company that makes Shadow Wolf Mysteries also has a fairytale series called Spirits of Mystery. Mary and I played one of those games, and they just released a new one! I'm wondering if I should play it or not...

Either way, next week's walkthrough is Spy Fox: Dry Cereal. Then an April Fools' Day video! It will have those random audio files I found on the Secrets Can Kill CD.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sharks Game

I'm in San Jose for Easter, and I saw the Sharks play the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. The Sharks have extended their four-game playoff cushion to a seven-game cushion, so unless they totally screw up, they're making the playoffs this year!

The bad news is they totally screwed up in the game I saw.

The first period was good, and the Sharks did well. But they forgot to show up, during the second period. Edmonton got four goals on eight shots, and when one team scores half the time, they're pretty much guaranteed to win. While this happened, the Sharks got no shots in ten minutes.

The team kind of came back in the third period, but not really, they lost six to three. On a positive note, it was Star Wars night that night, and that was a lot of fun. The video editing people made it look like the hockey players had lightsabers and stuff.

Tonight, the Sharks have the ability to clinch a playoff spot. Let's hope they get it!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Old Secrets Can Kill Review

This weekend, I'm posting a new book review for Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill. That was one of my first reviews, and it was split up into three parts because it was over 40 minutes long. I quickly learned to keep my book reviews under ten minutes.

For the sake of posterity, here's the script for the original review. Whenever a page number is listed, that means I read an excerpt from the book, taken from that page.

---

PART ONE

The story begins in Nancy's house, where she is talking with her friends Bess and George after a day at the mall. They talk about her upcoming case, where she'll be posing a student at Bedford High. They also discuss Nancy's kind-of-but-not-really relationship with Ned Nickerson.

Page 4.

After a lot of joking around, Hannah Gruen arrives to deliver a videotape. Our friends decide to watch it, and it's a video of them at the mall, taken earlier that day.
Page 8-9.

Nancy drives to Bedford High, which is about fifteen miles away from River Heights. Along the way, she catches sight of a really good-looking guy, driving a Porsche. He revs his engine a couple of times, and they have a friendly race down the block, but she loses sight of him in the parking lot.

At the school, Nancy overhears one student threatening another student, but she doesn't see who it is. Her first stop is the Principal's Office, where she meets the stressed out Mr. Parton. 15-16.

Nancy gets permission to break any school rules she needs to, over the course of her investigation. She also gets told that the criminal has been stealing various items from the school video lab. That's when Daryl Gray, the Student Body President comes in. He's going to be Nancy's contact for this case, and to no one's surprise, he's also the incredibly good-looking guy she saw earlier in the Porsche. 19.

Daryl shows Nancy around a bit, but they're too busy flirting with each other to get any investigation done. 21-22. Not looking she's going, Nancy walks into the captain of the football team. His name is Walt, but everybody calls him "Hunk Hogan". Hunk Hogan is a popular guy, but he's kind of mean and he brushes Nancy aside.

Nancy also meets Carla, who gives her the stink eye before going away. Classes start, and Nancy makes friends with Sara Ames, the editor of the school newspaper. Sara invites Nancy to join the writing staff, but Nancy eventually turns her down. And at lunch, Nancy meets with shy girl Connie Watson.

Basically, Chapter Three is where all the characters in the story get introduced.

Nancy decides she needs to investigate the video lab, so she asks Carla for directions. Carla pretends to be nice, but she purposely gives Nancy the wrong directions. Nancy ends up in the boiler room, where she sees Hunk Hogan arguing with another student. 28

Hunk leaves, and Nancy talks a bit with the other boy. His name is Jake Webb, and it turns that he's is the person she overheard earlier, threatening another student. 29-30.

Nancy goes to leave and Daryl Gray shows up. Jake makes fun of Daryl and casually threatens him, then leaves. Daryl is upset for a bit, then he asks Nancy to the dance that weekend. She accepts.

After school, Nancy is about to investigate the video lab, when she runs into Connie Watson. 34-5. Nancy and Connie watch the football practice. It turns out that Carla is the head of the cheerleading squad, and Connie is sad because the cheerleaders don't like her, and...it sort looks like this.

Connie explains that Daryl and Carla have an on-again, off-again relationship, which is a little weird because Carla only cares about money and Daryl's family almost went bankrupt a few months ago. Oh, and Connie has a special antique bracelet.

The next day, in gym class, Carla confronts Nancy. Carla's mad because Daryl and Nancy can't stop flirting with each other. Carla purposely throws Nancy off balance, and Nancy almost gets badly injured, while jumping off a trampoline.

In social studies class, there's a pop quiz, which causes Nancy to learn about Hal Morgan, the school braniac. Hal hasn't been doing so well, ever since he lost the Student Body President election to Daryl Gray. 42-3

Hal steals all the answers from Nancy, even though there's no way she can know any of the answers, because she's a new student and this is her first time in social studies class. So...he copies from the one person who is guaranteed to fail. How is he the smartest person in school again? Anyway, Nancy follows Hal after class, and it turns out that Hal's schoolwork is slipping because Jake Webb is forcing Hal to write all of his essays.

Nancy follows Jake for a while, and when he leaves, she uses a lockpicking kit to break into his locker. Inside, she finds Connie's special antique bracelet. Before Nancy can look around some more, Jake returns and almost catches her going through his things. Nancy goes to Connie and talks to her about her bracelet. 46.

After school, Nancy finally visits the video lab, where she runs into Daryl Gray. The two of them start flirting, and they decide to go out for a Coke. In the school parking lot, Nancy sees Jake briefly before they get in her Mustang and drive out to Bedford Lake. That's when disaster strikes. 49.

The handbrake doesn't work, and neither does switching the car to first gear. Nancy stops the car by purposely crashing into the soft shoulder on the other side of the road. After wobbling a bit, the car lands upright. Nancy goes outside to inspect the damage. 52-3

Daryl manages to remove his seatbelt and escape the car. He and Nancy run away as the car explodes behind them. The two of them cling to each other for a while, and Nancy feels a little guilty for getting so close to a guy who isn't Ned Nickerson. Nancy accuses Jake of sabotaging her car, and Daryl warns her to stay away from him.

The next day, Bess and George drive Nancy to school, because she doesn't have a car anymore. We learn secondhand that Daryl took Nancy home and kissed her that night. Why did they cut this out of the last scene? I have no idea. I mean, one second she's getting close to Daryl, then we skip ahead to the next day, where she has a flashback of the romantic scene they just skipped. It's...weird.

Anyway, our heroes arrive at school, where theree is a huge crowd. One of the nearby students tells Nancy that Jake Webb has just been murdered.

DUN DUN DUN!

---

PART TWO

Nancy gets information from the gossiping students. Jake Webb was injured in a fight, and his neck snapped when he was thrown headfirst down a flight of stairs. Nancy is given the option of ending her investigation at this point, but she decides to continue.

Nancy doesn't want to get involved with the police, because that would blow her cover. So she decides to break into Jake's locker, before the police can get to it, which I'm pretty sure is illegal.

This time, Jake's locker is filled with all sorts of evidence, which proves that he is the culprit behind all the incidents in school. He's got the wire cutters which cut Nancy's brake line, a battery pack stolen from the video lab, and a copy of the SAT exams, with all the answers filled in. There's also a newspaper article about Hunk Hogan being badly injured in a football game.

Nancy closes the locker and immediately runs into a new character: Brenda Carlton, incompetent reporter. 65-6.

Brenda threatens to expose Nancy, but Nancy makes a deal with her. If Brenda leaves Nancy alone, she'll tell Brenda everything when the investigation is over. Brenda reluctantly agrees.

After school, Nancy breaks into the video lab, only to find that she's too late. The video lab has been trashed, with cables, wires and tapes thrown everywhere. The one part of the lab which hasn't been touched is the shelf containing music videos for rock songs.

Why does the school have a special shelf for music videos? I don't know. Nancy looks at the shelf and finds a tape called "I Spy", placed next to Madonna's "Material Girl". Nancy starts to watch Jake's tape, but she hears a mysterious noise from the supply closet. 72.

Nancy escapes from the culprit, using the clever technique of running away as fast as she can. She jumps into the car with Bess and George, and they all go to Nancy's home to watch Jake's tape. The tape shows Hunk Hogan gearing up for a football game, even though he's badly injured. After this, we see Connie Watson at a sidewalk sale, where she steals an antique bracelet. Finally, we see Hal Morgan go into the unlocked counselor's office. 79.

Okay, hold on a second. Why does the school counselor have the SAT answer booklets? Why do they keep the SAT answers inside an unlocked office, where any student can get to them? And if Hal Morgan is the smartest student in school, why does he walk around with stolen books in public, instead of hiding them in a bag or something? It's almost like he WANTED to get caught by Jake's hidden cameras! 79.

The next day, Nancy's father surprises with a brand new Mustang GT Convertible. Wow, Carson Drew is a really generous and understanding father. If _my_ car got blown up during college, Dad would have grounded me for a year.

Nancy tells Daryl about Jake's blackmail videotape, and he is shocked. Nancy decides to press the three suspects. She talks to Hal about the SATs, but he leaves. She talks to Hunk about his football injury, but he gets angry and yells at her. Since the boys didn't confess, Nancy decides not to hold anything back when accusing Connie Watson. 91.

Jeez, Nancy, way to be extra-harsh with the most timid suspect. Daryl and Nancy go to her house, where they rewatch the tape in hopes of finding more clues. The two of them start making out on Nancy's couch, because apparently, blackmail is a huge turn-on for both of them. The doorbell rings, and Bess and George enter the house. Daryl leaves, just in time for Nancy to get a phone call from Ned. 94-5.

Nancy has a dilemma now. Does she tell Ned about Daryl, or does she keep her indiscretions a secret. Before she can decide, Bess and George tell Nancy that they found something interesting, hidden at the very end of the videotape. It's a scene of Daryl Gray driving along Route 110 and picking up an envelope from a man whose ID tag reads MD. Daryl delivers the envelope to a swanky house.

Nancy and her friends go to investigate, while Bess gushes about her new boyfriend. It turns out that Daryl got the envelope from an Air Force Defense Plant, where they design bombs and missile-detection devices. And the swanky house that Daryl delivered the envelope to? It belongs to the Soviet Union. 103.

Continued in Part Three.

---

PART THREE

Nancy makes a U-turn, and after she gets past two men with guns, there is a car chase between her and the Soviets. Instead of driving away as quickly as possible, Nancy purposely slows down at an intersection, in order to get the other car stuck at a red light. The plan doesn't work, and Bess has a better idea. 107.

That's right. Our heroes escape from Russian hitmen, by going to a pizza party. As best as I can figure it, Bess got the idea from a popular TV commercial around the time this book was written.

Brenda Carlton is at the pizza place, meeting with Carla Dalton. Our heroes spend some time, wondering what Daryl Gray is doing with military secrets and Soviet hitmen. That's when Carla walks by and purposely bumps into Nancy's table, causing Nancy's Coke to spill.

The spilled Coke gives Nancy a genius idea. She knows how to get the truth out of Daryl! All she needs is a blue wraparound dress, Bess' guitar-playing boyfriend, and George to go on a blind date.

How will those things get a confession out of Daryl? What does that have to do with spilled Coke? And since the book came out in 1986, I have to know--was Nancy drinking Classic Coke or New Coke?

Chapter 14 skips ahead to the school dance, where the girls are fixing up their makeup in the bathroom. Carla purposely bumps into Nancy while she's applying lipstick, and Bess purposely trips Carla. Carla lands in a puddle of water, which basically ruins her dress. 116.

The plan goes into motion, with Bess' boyfriend playing a bunch of intense rock songs for a half-hour. The band is so loud that Nancy and Daryl can't talk to each other. So they leave the dance early and get inside Daryl's Porsche. 119-20.

With absolutely no evidence to back up her claims, Nancy says that Connie, Hunk and Hal are all innocent. She starts talking about Daryl's illegal deals, and he finally snaps when she accuses him of killing Jake. 124-5.

Before anything can happen, George's mystery date shows up. It's Ned Nickerson, Nancy's boyfriend. Ned roughs Daryl up a bit, and Daryl confesses that the murderer is Mitch Dillon. Mitch is the one who's been selling defense work to the Soviets; Daryl was the runner for the operation. Our heroes tell Daryl that there's only one way he can make up for what he's done: he has to help them catch the murderer.

The plan is to set up hidden videocameras at the local park. Daryl will meet with Mitch there and give him a copy of the blackmail tape. Unfortunately, Mitch is suspicious, and he demands that the meeting take place two hours early. That's bad news, because it means our heroes won't have any police backup.

The meeting between Daryl and Mitch is interrupted by Brenda Carlton, who was following Nancy in hopes of getting a big news story. Mitch grabs Brenda and holds a gun to her head. 140-1.

As the showdown continues, Mitch orders Daryl to give him the videotape and Brenda's camera. 142.

Daryl collapses from the bullet wound, and Mitch drops his gun for some reason. Nancy dives at Mitch's legs, and he punches her in the jaw. Mitch runs away. Ned chases after him, along with Bess's boyfriend. Mitch stops running for a moment, in order to readjust the camera strap, which gives the boys enough time to tackle him.

The final chapter has Nancy returning to Mr. Parton's office. They talk about the case and what's going to happen in the future. Hal is going to retake the SATs, Hunk is going to sit out a few football games, and Connie is going to get help for her shoplifting. The spies escaped to Russia, but Mitch has been arrested, and Daryl is probably going to get a reduced sentence for his crimes. Brenda Carlton's article about Mitch's arrest made the front page of the paper, although she conveniently left out the part where she messed everything up and almost got killed.

The book ends with Nancy and Ned, driving away from Bedford High School. 152.


Post Book Followup.

The Nancy Drew Files is the first Nancy Drew spinoff series. Let me read the advertisement for the series.

So how does this book hold up, according to that? Well, they modernized things with a few pop culture references, like Madonna's music videos, but fortunately the references aren't overdone to the point where they become obtrsuive and annoying.

The book promises romance, and it's got plenty of romance. You know, sometimes it feels like there's more romance than mystery here.

The adventure sequences are okay. I didn't care for the sequence in the video lab, and the car chase with the Soviet spies was poorly executed. The best adventure sequence was the one at the end of the book, where they fought the killer. Saving the most intense sequence for the climax of the book is a great.

Some of the characters in this book are not fleshed out. Hunk Hogan and Hal Morgan only talk to Nancy twice, which really detracts from their usefulness as characters. Carla's subplot doesn't go anywhere, and remember Sara Ames? The newspaper girl? I made a picture for her, because I thought she would be an important character, but she completely disappears after Chapter Three. You could easily fix this by getting rid of Hunk or Hal, and making Carla the third suspect instead.

Overall, this is a pretty solid Nancy Drew book. The plot twist of Jake being killed at the end of the first third was well-executed, although I find it a little convenient that Nancy immediately finds evidence to prove Jake is guilty.

It's not a bad effort for a new Nancy Drew series. I give it an eight out of ten.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

General Hospital

General Hospital is being weird again.

Three years ago, they had a gruff detective character named John McBain. He was technically a character from One Life to Live, which resulted in legal complications, and they were forced to kick his character off the show.

They decided to remove him in style, and by that, I mean they decided to be weird. The actor got his start, playing a vampire in the 1990's. So they had him reprise the vampire villain character as part of a vampire slayer storyline. Both the vampire and the detective were killed in the epic battle.

Well, that was it for the character they were legally mandated to remove from the show, but they decided they liked the actor so much, they brought him back as a different character. He played Dr. Silas Clay for about two years, until he got fired. They officially killed off his character last August, and turned his death into a murder mystery storyline. Funny how soap opera characters tend to get killed whenever their actors are up for contract renegotiations...

The drama continues, as General Hospital has decided to hire that actor again. This means he's played FOUR IDENTICAL CHARACTERS, three of which were killed. People are already joking that he must be the undead vampire king, because whenever they kill off one of his characters, he eventually comes back.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fire Emblem Fates Conquest

I'm still playing Fire Emblem Fates Conquest, and I figured out how the romance system works. It's less fun than I originally thought...

See, the premise is that you can have any character date any other character. They will get married and have a child together. There are dozens of characters, leading to hundreds of possible relationships!

But not really.

See, it takes a lot of work to program hundreds of relationships. So to simplify things, the game completely ignores the female characters. Whenever a couple gets married and has a child, the child's name and identity is based on the father. The mother doesn't really matter. The only exception is Azura and the main character, if you chose to make the main character female.

The child's mother makes a difference, in that the child gets a class and a skill from both parents, and if you really care about that stuff, you can use it to make a character with specific classes/skills. I like the idea of that, but memorizing classes and skills is getting a little too involved for my taste.

Anyway, now that I know how the dating system works, I'm less interested. I wanted to be a master romance guy and create fantastic pairs for all the characters. But since only the male character matters in relationships, what's the point? I'll get the same basic kid, no matter who the man is paired with.

At least the story is interesting. Kind of. The game is has repeated the "bad guy sends our hero on a suicide mission" story about five times in a row. Time to change it up, people!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

SCK Patch

Someone made a patch, so you could run the first Nancy Drew game off of your computer, as opposed to running it off of two CDs.

How does it work? I'm not really sure, but it involves changing the "game.ini" file. You can open that as a text file and see that it tells the game where certain folders are located on the computer. These include the folders with the game's video files and the game's audio files. The patch changes the file pathways, so the game looks for files in a specific folder that you set up, not a specific folder on the CD.

I thought I would try this patch with Vampire Diaries, the old Her Interactive game that I can't get to work. It worked halfway! It got rid of the error message that says "cannot find [x] folder". But now I have a new error message that says "Insert CD 3". So...maybe the patch ONLY works with two CDs, and since this is a three CD game, I'm out of luck? Or maybe it's a game where CD is just a data/installation CD, while CDs 2 and 3 are the ones which actually run the game. I don't know, but either way, it looks like I need to find my copy of CD 3 again

Monday, March 21, 2016

DS9: Q-Less

My wife has finished watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and she's moved on to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. You can tell this series is less popular, because it hasn't been transferred to HD like the two previous Star Trek shows. Netflix airs it at the original VHS-level quality.

Trekkies say they don't like DS9 so much, because it's like a soap opera. Me, I love soap operas! I enjoy seeing interpersonal relationships, angry characters who fight with each other at the drop of a hat, and characters that sleep in buckets. That last one is totally a staple of the soap opera genre.

I just saw the episode Q-Less, the only episode of the series that features Q. Q is the most popular Star Trek villain; in fact, he's so popular, they made him a regular cast member in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Weird decision, I know. I'm in the minority of Star Trek fans who don't like Q. I find him more annoying than humorous, and I'm not sure why the characters openly dislike him, while at the same time letting him get away with whatever he wants. A typical Q episode plot looks like this:

Q: I'm going to do something bad.
Picard: You'd better not!
*Q does something bad. Picard is angry.*
Q: Now I'm going to do something even worse!
*Instead of getting even angrier, Picard has a change of heart for no reason.*
Picard: Okay. I have no problem with that.
*Q almost kills everyone*
*Picard saves the day*
Q: I blame you for putting everyone's lives in danger.
Picard: I'm so sorry, Q! I promise I won't do it again!

Switch "Picard" with "Twilight Sparkle", and that's basically every My Little Pony episode featuring him.

Given that I don't like Q, I was pleasantly surprised by Q-Less. It was a good episode, for two main reasons. Number one, the characters didn't pander to Q like normal. As I said, these are soap opera-style angry characters, who fight at the drop of the hat. So when Q tries to start something, Sisko calls Q's bluff and punches him in the face. It's a very different dynamic, and I liked seeing the new personality clash. Q/Picard fights are fine, but there are plenty of other interesting characters for him to clash with, too! I imagine a Q/Worf fight would end up in violence, just like the Q/Sisko fight did.

Number two, Q was better written in this episode. Normally, he acts like a vaguely disgruntled prop comic. Here, he acted like Hermes, the Greek god. In fact, maybe that's the personality the show was going for all along: an all-powerful person who likes to mess with humans for his own amusement. I was reminded of Hermes, because Q was kind of vulnerable and made mistakes, so he ended up losing the woman he's interested in. Classic Greek god mistake, right there.

I'd say Q-Less is the first Q episode I really liked, although I admit the one with Amanda Q was also entertaining. It's too bad that Q did not show up again in Deep Space Nine. There has to be an awesome fanfic where Q and Quark get mixed up together. Or Q messes with Dax by bringing back all the other Daxes. Something interesting like that.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Pirate Game Speedrun

Uh oh, one of the Speed Demos Archive people commented on my recent blog post! Now I have to speedrun a pirate game!

The pirate game I was originally thinking of is Left in the Dark: No One on Board, because there's a trick which lets you skip over all the hidden objects challenges. That's nice in general, but extra-nice in a speedrun, since it cuts out most of the RNG and brings the playtime down to under an hour, at least. I'm not sure if this game qualifies as popular enough to make it onto SDA, though. It has 217 reviews on Steam.

I also wouldn't be opposed to speedrunning games from the Nightmares from the Deep series, made by the same company, Artifex Mundi. Those are more popular games, but I'd have to check to see if speedrunning them is possible. There are multiple versions of the game, or at least, I think there are, since the "official" walkthrough for the game contains puzzles which weren't in my version. Sometimes, the game version makes a big difference! That's definitely true.

Another possibility is Redemption Cemetery: Grave Testimony. There's also Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull. I could also throw a curveball and speedrun the rarely-seen Pagemaster computer game. I seem to be the only person who has footage from that game available on YouTube. One third of the game deals with Treasure Island, which is definitely a pirate thing if you ask me!

Anyway, those are all the pirate games I own. Any of them sound good to you readers?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Land Before Time: Through the Eyes of a Spiketail

Here's another DVD review!

Through the Eyes of a Spiketail is a Spike-based episode. Normally, Spike never talks, but in this episode, we get to hear what he's thinking at all times. He, um...sort of sounds like a Muppet, which explains why he doesn't talk.

Amusingly, Spike doesn't understand what his friends are saying. His English vocabulary is limited to food and people's names. Everything else is just random grunting to him. I liked that. I also liked seeing him do a running commentary on what the others are doing. "Are they fighting again? Jeez!"

The story was that our heroes want to find a particular fruit, in a remote, snowy location. They are too busy fighting to finish the job successfully, and Spike finds the food for them. The Land Before Time wiki says this is the highest-rated episode of the series, and I agree that it's very good.

Stranger From the Mysterious Above is not as good. Spike accidentally slides down a tunnel, to an underground cave. Prehistoric beavers mistake Spike for a god. They ask him for advice, worship him, and they're overjoyed when he (accidentally) defeats the evil monster terrorizing their village. It was kind of funny, but since Spike can't talk, and he didn't know what was going on, this storyline was kind of one-sided.

Also, prehistoric beaver dinosaur religion. Not something you see everyday.

Meanwhile, Mr. Three Horn and Mr. Thicknose argue over who will do the best job of rescuing Spike. This goes on for, like, ten minutes. The kids realize the adults are worthless, and they make a vine-rope to pull Spike to safety.

March of the Sand Creepers is the worst episode on the DVD. The Great Valley is invaded by CGI crabs. Our heroes find the one crab that speaks English, do a bunch of pointless chores for the crab, then it tells all the other crabs to go back home.

The subplot is about Ducky trying to stop the crabs from being stepped on. This highlights a problem with the series in general: lack of direction. In the first part, she protects the crabs. In the second part, she protects the crabs. In the third part, she protects the crabs. In the fourth part, she protects the crabs. Nothing changes. And to make matters worse, parts 2 and 3 were just an excuse for Ducky to recycle songs from the movies, with worse lyrics.

Song recycling hasn't been too good with this series, for two reasons. One, when they changed the lyrics, it's obvious the priority was put on what words rhyme, as opposed to what words make sense. Two, the new lyrics don't always have the same number of syllables as the old lyrics, so the singers are forced to stretch out single-syllable words as two-syllable words, and vice-versa.

The Forbidden Friendship. A better episode! The stegosauruses from The Big Freeze are back. They get into a fight with the locals about the food supply, and the two groups decide to never talk to each other again. That's bad news for Spike, who wants to play with his little buddy Tippy. You know, the stegosaurus that everyone thinks is a girl, when he's not.

The kids play with each other, even though the parents forbid it, and they end up finding more food. The adults realize they were being silly, and they should have cooperated like the kids did. I notice Mr. Three Horn is getting a lot of screentime in these episodes, compared to the movies, where Littlefoot's grandparents are the designated adults. He's one of my favorite characters, so I don't mind having his role get expanded beyond "grumpy adult villain".

Friday, March 18, 2016

Speedrun Stuff

My speedrun for Awakening: The Dreamless Castle made the front page of Speed Demos Archive this week. Here's what they had to say!

Speaking of, Awakening: The Dreamless Castle from 2010 represents an already-long-running series by oddball developer Big Fish Games (strictly speaking Big Fish Studios) whose massive oeuvre is centered around casual and mobile gaming, which is probably why it's so massive. It's the first of seven such titles heavy in sundry puzzles and lush hand-painted panoramas that will elicit the same dazzled wonderment the Kyrandia series did in those who share my memories of it. RNG is ever-present and fast solutions require unfloundering mouse usage, hence the segmented-ness of the 0:25:32 by Michael 'arglefumph' Gray of Nancy Drew fame. In verification he said something about doing some pirate game next... but I really don't know what he meant. STILL... be hype!

I guess this means I should do a speedrun of a pirate game next? I don't know what pirate game to do.

Because their processing times are weird, SDA's next submission from me is for Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness. That's kind of a pirate game! I don't have any other games in the SDA queue, and I kinda deleted my under five minutes run for the first game off of my computer.

A semi-related question: with my speedruns, I tend to upload a version with commentary and a version without commentary. I haven't kept the titles consistent. Any suggestions as to the best way to label them? I'm leaning towards "speedrun without commentary" for videos without commentary, and just plain "speedrun" for ones with commentary.

In general, I'm moving away from doing speedruns, since they take a lot of effort. I'll probably have the "Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew Games" series as my vague backup project.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Nancy Drew Files Book Reviews

Here are some Nancy Drew Files book reviews! I'm going all the way to #30, then switching back to Baby-Sitters Club for six books.





Fun fact: The review for Book #27 was done in May, 2014. I sat on it, for almost two years. You can kind of tell it's an old review, because I start with mentioning the book's release date.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Retirement Savings

As someone who is certified in Advanced Tax Law, I heartily recommend that everyone get a retirement savings account. You actually get a DOUBLE tax break, if you contribute to a retirement savings account, since it counts as a tax credit and an adjustment to gross income. Score!

If your income is under a certain (low) level, contributing to retirement savings also counts as a tax deduction. So that's like a triple tax break! This is rather rare, because most people who are that level of poor don't contribute that much to retirement.

I'm more or less forced to open my own retirement savings account, since none of my jobs provide one. But I'm totally not qualified to play the stock market for forty years and make enough money to retire. So I'm doing the "put all my eggs in different baskets" strategy. Instead of buying stocks, I'm buying mutual funds. And instead of buying one mutual fund, I'm buying twenty. One of those investment expert teams has to give more money back than I would get, if I did stock market trading on my own.

Hopefully, in forty years, I won't look back on this decision and want to slap my younger self.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Fuller House

I watched the first four episodes of Fuller House this last week!

In my opinion, the first episode was very bad, and it explains why the series is getting nasty reviews. The episode was more or less a reunion episode, with non-stop pandering to the original show. They went so far as to have the cast reenact scenes from the original show, with split-screens to compare the original and the remake. Wha...why? If I wanted to see the original cast, do the same thing they did in the original show, I'd watch the original show!

The first episode was also paired with clunky exposition about what the characters have been up to, in the past twenty years. Generally, people don't recap their lives in casual conversation.

Katie: Hey, Michael. I haven't see you in a while. What's been going on with you?
Michael: Oh, not much. I left studying for the priesthood, took a tour of the western United States to pick a new home, moved to Portland, had two girlfriends, married the second one, and now I'm juggling a few careers along with being the househusband.

You see? It doesn't sound natural.

The next three episodes were much better! That's because the show switched over from nostalgia fest to its main premise: three misfit roommates try to raise a bunch of kids. Which is basically the same premise of the main show, but that doesn't bother me. Lots of sitcoms deal with raising kids. The kids are funny, and so are the adults. It's good family entertainment, along the lines of the original show.

I know some people have complained that it has too much adult humor. I would direct those people towards the first season of Full House, where the adults (mostly Uncle Jessie) made some dirty jokes.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Chinese Trap

Last night, I had a dream about the Chinese Trap, a traditional logic puzzle. It goes something like this:

A Chinese prison has eight different prisoners. One day, some of the food goes bad, and the warden announces one of the prisoners will have to eat spoiled food. In protest, the prisoners all dump their food on the floor.

The warden picks up all the food and puts it together in a stew or something. Now all of the prisoners will have to eat spoiled food, not just one of them.

The warden decides to make a game out of it, so he lets all the prisoners out in backyard/forest area. They get five minutes, before he starts chasing after them. If anyone can avoid being caught for one whole night, they won't have to eat the spoiled food. The prisoners all start running.

I don't remember what happens next. I think the winning prisoner is found eating food in the warden's room, but I'm not sure. My question: Is this actually a story people tell, or did my brain just make the whole thing up?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Video Success

I've got a lot of games on my "to play" list, which are sequels. When I'm deciding whether or not to do a walkthrough for a sequel game, I have three main criteria.

1. Do I like the game? Do I like the original game?

2. Was the walkthrough for the original game popular? There are times when I really like a game, and I want to play the sequel, but nobody wants to see me play it. If a walkthrough tops 1,000 views per video, then I'd say it qualifies as popular!

Sometimes, there are weird situations like Pokémon Yellow, which is unpopular in general, but the small group of people who like it (about 100) really like it a lot. And so I'm motivated to keep going with it, unlike the new Fire Emblem game walkthrough, whose popularity doesn't seem to have topped "vague dislike"

3. Did the original game earn back its investment? That is, did I make more playing the game than buying the game? Definitely not the case with Fire Emblem Fates Conquest. Kind of the case with Aviary Attorney, which cost me $12.74 and made about $15. One hundred percent the case with Immortal Love, where the walkthrough made about double the game's price.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Alternate Primary Setups

We're in the middle of Presidential primaries, and it's kind of convoluted. I can think of some easy ways to improve the system.

#1. Shorten the process. Right now, states vote for the Presidential candidates, over a period of five months. That's way too long, considering that the general election is one day long. Maybe we could shorten the process to two months? The way it is now, all the states that vote in Months 4 and 5 don't have much of an effect on the process, as the winner is usually decided by then.

#2. As I said yesterday, most states vote the same way in every Presidential election. We might want to change the primaries, so the 7-10 battleground states are the first ones to vote. They have the largest say in the general election, so why don't they have the largest say in the primaries?

#3. No more caucuses. Those made sense, in the centuries before instant, wireless communication. Now, they're sort of a convoluted mess, which are infamous for having wrong results, and which sometimes depend on coin flips to pick a winner. Also, it seems that the Republicans and Democrats can't caucus in the same state at the same time, which is inefficient. Better switch them out for standardized polling!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Three States

Some of things I wrote about in Cat President keep happening in this election cycle. It's crazy!

One joke I made is that only three states matter, in Presidential elections. That's because the game only covers what happens in the first three voting states (Meowa, New Clawshire, South Catolina). The game would be super-long, if it covered all fifty states.

In real life, only about seven states matter: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, Florida and New Hampshire. The other forty-three states have voted the exact same way in every single election this century. Those are considered "safe states", because we already know who's going to win them.

Some political folks have an even narrower view and say only three states matter: Ohio, Virginia and Florida. That's because they're the biggest battleground states, and if someone wins them, they can lose the other four and still be President.

So, yeah! Only three states matter in the election! Cat President got that right, even if it's wrong about which three states.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

San Jose Sharks

I don't watch professional sports, because anything other than free cable costs money. Also, I lost the TV remote.

Anyway, I thought I'd check in on my favorite NHL team, the San Jose Sharks! They didn't make the playoffs last year, but maybe they'll do well this year.

It looks like pretty much everyone has 15-18 games left to play in the season, so there's plenty of opportunity for the standings to change. Right now, the Sharks are hugging onto #3 in the Pacific (West Coast) division. If they do any worse than third place, they won't make the playoffs. There's about a seven game cushion between them and the #4 team, so they're sitting pretty! Way to go, team!

The Central (Midwest) division is doing much better than the Pacific division this year, so odds are that the two wildcard playoff spots will go to them. The two east coast divisions are more balanced and equal, besides for Washington having a huge first place lead. Good for them!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

High School Musical 4

In the news, Disney has started casting for High School Musical 4! I wrote about this six years ago, and dang, this blog is old.

People seem surprised that the movie will not feature any members of the original cast, even though they are all ten years old now, and clearly not high schoolers anymore. Not that they were high school age when the first movies came out, but now it's even more obvious they're too old to be studying for the SATs.

My excitement level is...hmmm...you know what? I'm tired of being a Grumpy Gus! I'm going to say I'm excited! I'm not the target audience, but I will probably still enjoy it! I had fun, rewatching the entire trilogy two years ago with my wife!

...Yes, I forced her to watch the entire trilogy. In return, she made me watch the Terminator movies. We are disappointed that the next Terminator movie has been replaced with a Baywatch movie starring The Rock. We agree that Terminator Genysis wasn't as good as the first two movies, but it was still entertaining! We liked it, and would have watched more.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Fire Emblem Fates Conquest

In case you missed it, I put a little blurb at the end of my last Fire Emblem Fates Conquest video, saying that the walkthrough has been cancelled, due to lack of interest.

I'm going to play the game on my own, since I'm having fun with it. I cancelled the walkthrough at the wrong place, because that's the point in the game where the relationship features appear. You get to choose which characters become friends, or which ones get married and have kids together! Now I'm playing on the super-easy cheater mode, just so I can zoom through battles and get to the relationship stuff faster. I'll probably replay the game on normal mode, so I can try fighting the battles for real.

I think speedrunning this game would be interesting, because there's only one real way to get through each battle. At least, that was the case for the first six chapters. So all you'd have to do is memorize the route and zoom through it. Sadly, the 3DS Capture boards which have been out of stock since 2014 are still not back in stock, so...yeah.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Land Before Time: Friends Forever

This DVD has four episodes of the TV show, just like the others.

In The Mysterious Tooth Crisis, one of Chomper's teeth falls out. Mr. Three Horn appears and tells Chomper that he is going to die today. All his teeth will fall out, and he'll be a pile of bones before sunset. I thought that was really harsh of Mr. Three Horn. Like, he pops out of nowhere, tells a small child that they will die, then he wanders off.

Chomper freaks out and tries to find a way to fix his tooth. He searches all over for Ruby, and he almost falls off a cliff. He has to chose between saving his life, or holding onto his tooth. Then he falls in a swamp, where he has the exact same dilemma. In the end, he finds Ruby, and she tells Chomper that loosing teeth and growing new ones is normal for carnivores.

The subplot was Cera's stepmother trying to convince her to try out a mud pool. Cera doesn't like it at first, but she comes to enjoy it. Cera's voice actress was great in these scenes.

In The Missing Fast-Water Adventure, an earthquake shuts off the water supply, just like in the third movie. Only it's different, because this time, only the fast-water has been stopped! I've never heard of the fast-water before, but okay. The kids go to the source of the river, and they move the rocks/trees which have created a dam.

Once again, Mr. Three Horn causes problems, by making fun of Chomper's arms. I agree that T-Rex's have pretty useless arms, but this is two episodes in a row where Mr. Three Horn shows up, insults Chomper, then leaves. Does he hate Chomper, or what? Chomper spends the whole episode, feeling bad that he has tiny, useless arms. But at the very end, Chomper's arms save the day, as they need to grab something in a tiny hole.

The episode features the return of Mo, the dolphin character I didn't like, from the movie I didn't like. Speaking of movie characters returning for an episode of the TV show...

The Lone Dinosaur Returns. Doc from The Secret of Saurus Rock has returned, and Littlefoot fanboys over him. Littlefoot is a little disturbed that the "Lone Dinosaur" is looking for a lady friend. Sorry, Littlefoot, but even a lone hero likes the ladies. Meanwhile, Chomper worries that Doc has come to kill him. Doc doesn't like Chomper at first, but he tolerates him.

The two storylines collide, when Chomper helps find and save Doc's lady friend. Doc thanks him, and he goes off with the lady, after telling Littlefoot some vague words of wisdom. I don't have much to say here. I didn't think Doc was very interesting in his own movie, and he maintains the same level of non-interest here. I guess if you're a fan of westerns and dinosaurs, this is a crossover you'll like.

In The Legend of the Story Speakers, we learn that Grandpa used to be a traveling minstrel when he was younger, telling Longneck stories. One of his old friends, Saro, has appeared to convince Grandpa to resume his job. When Grandpa refuses, Saro throws a fit and leaves.

Chomper and Littlefoot chase after Saro. Chomper is getting a lot of screen time, isn't he? Saro stomps his feet down, like a little kid having a tantrum, which causes a landslide. He cheers the kids up with a story, and everyone decides Saro would be a great candidate for the storyteller job. It was a fine little mini-adventure, but I kept getting distracted by the fact that "Saro" is pronounced "Sorrow", and I kept thinking they were calling him sad. Grandpa's song in this episode, Remembering, was pretty good.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Upcoming Schedule

My YouTube release schedule is getting changed, because, like, three games I want to play just came out recently! Those would be new games in the Living Legends and Shadow Wolf series. The walkthroughs I've done for those series have been popular in the past. Or, at least, they earned enough money to cover the cost of buying the game. That's a success, in my book!

So, next week is Pokémon Yellow and the end of Aviary Attorney. Then I'll play Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Curse of Wolfhill. Then the new Living Legends game, then Mystery Tales: Her Own Eyes. I haven't played those last three games yet, so I have no idea how long they are.

I haven't played Mystery Tales before. It seems okay, if a little generic, but it's apparently been quite a popular game, so I figured I'd give it a try.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How Are Ghostwriters Revealed?

One of the comments on yesterday's blog post pointed out that most/all Nancy Drew ghostwriters are under contract to never reveal their identities. I find that to be rather interesting, because other ghostwritten series--Animorphs, The Baby-Sitters Club--list the real author's name on the dedication page. They don't keep their ghostwriters' identities a secret. Nancy Drew does.

We do know some Nancy Drew ghostwriters, but I'm not sure how they were revealed. With the modern (i.e. in the past ten years) books, two ghostwriters are listed on Wikipedia. That's how I found out about them. No source is listed, but the information is accurate. At least, the one author is accurate, and confirmed their identity. I haven't tried to contact the other author.

The only other ghostwriter we know of from the modern era is George Edward Stanley, and we know about his ghostwritten work, because he died and donated all his stuff to a university. I would love to go there someday and read his various manuscripts for the book that became the Trail of the Twister videogame.

With the previous era of Nancy Drew books (80's and 90's), most of the ghostwriters we know about are authors who decided to reveal themselves, because it's been 20 years at this point, and it doesn't matter anymore. So they posted about it, on their websites or wherever. About 5-6 ghostwriters have been revealed this way.

We know every single ghostwriter before then, because that information was revealed when Nancy Drew got new owners in the 1980's. All that information is public knowledge, available on Wikipedia. I would imagine most of them are deceased at this point.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Angry Brain

Last night was one of those nights where I couldn't get to sleep at all. My brain kept torturing me, by thinking about the book reviews I did for the Nancy Drew Girl Detective Serial Sabotage trilogy.

That was the first (and only) time I've been able to contact a Nancy Drew author. I got some general information, such as their role in the series (editor), how long they worked with the series, and the fact that there were two authors who wrote that trilogy. I mentioned some of the stuff I learned in the review, as background information. To prove that I wasn't making stuff up, I included pictures of three Tweets from the author.

The author got super mad at me, because I revealed private information. I didn't know it was supposed to be private! I thought citing Tweets for reviews is a legit thing people do nowdays. The author was probably also ticked that the review wasn't completely positive. Sorry, but it was a rehash of the first trilogy, and Author #2 really brought the quality down. As in, so bad, it's on the Nancy Drew TV Tropes page.

I changed the review and cut out the stuff the author didn't like, but my brain still felt like tormenting about it last night. "You messed up big time, Michael! You're a huge jerk, Michael! Every author you've ever reviewed will hate you, because you are destroying lives, you monster!" And that makes me want to never do any book reviews, ever again.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Secrets Can Kill Videos

Lots of Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill videos this week! Everything Wrong With and two speedruns!







I have a video of all the Daryl conversations and all the jukebox music. Those'll go up later this week. If the video of Daryl's conversations is popular, I'll consider doing one for all the other characters.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Secrets Can Kill Audio

As I said earlier, I've been thinking of doing a video that shows off the weird audio files in Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill. Here are all the ones I could find.
  • amp - A woman shouts, "Look, it's Carol Burnett!"
  • Chikdeth - A chicken screams in pain
  • crowd1 - A bunch of people murmuring about things
  • ewww - someone says, "Ewwww!"
  • ihad - someone says, "Don't step on that evidence!"
  • inout - a group of people say, "Play Secrets Can Kill today!"
  • what - someone says, "Bus - ted!"
  • GeorBark - George (or Nancy, I can't tell) says, "Get down on your knees and bark like a dog!"
I'm not sure this is enough to warrant being its own separate video, since that's...what, half a minute of audio?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Stump the Trump

Today is Super Tuesday, a big day for politics! A lot of people I know are concerned about Donald Trump becoming the Republican candidate. Right now, Trump tends to get 30-40% of the vote, with the remaining 70-60% being split among 5+ candidates. To my knowledge, there are two ways to Stump the Trump.

#1. Have every candidate, besides one, drop out of the race. It becomes a competition between Trump and Not Trump. That gives Not Trump the best chance of winning, because all the Not Trump votes, added together, make more than 50%.

#2. Have every candidate stay in the race. We keep going, with the votes being split up among the various candidates. If the votes are split up evenly enough, nobody will get the 1,237 delegates needed to win. This leads to a situation known as a "brokered convention", where there is no clear winner. So they pick a winner a different way.

I find it interesting that the two ways to stop Trump are near opposite. Either everyone stays in, or everyone drops out. I'm sure things will be interesting when the results from today's votes come in!