The Ethics of Revenge – Tony Zhou

The Ethics of Revenge by Tony Zhou for Voir, S1E2 on Netflix

Forever changed after seeing Park Chan-wook’s “Lady Vengeance,” Tony Zhou breaks down the uneasy perils and pleasures of revenge.

If you’re like me and have missed Every Frame a Painting by Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos since its end five years ago, you need to watch Voir on Netflix. This show is a collection of six video essays, three of which were written and directed by the duo

I plan on watching the whole season, but you know I started with the episode narrated by Tony himself.

Chapter Select: Season 2, Episode 6 – God of War III

Photo by Cooper Baumgartner, designed by
Max Roberts

The end of the Greek Pantheon is finally here. Kratos brings Mt. Olympus crumbling down as he extracts his revenge on his father, Zeus. Max and Logan rip through Sony Santa Monica’s version of Greece one final time to discuss where Kratos’ journey has taken him and see where he was left before entering the realm of Midgard.

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God of War III

Metacritic – 92/100

This episode was originally recorded on November 24, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Season Art Statue Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art Fields by Cooper Baumgartner on Unsplash, designed by Max Roberts

Launch Analogue Pocket Thoughts & Impressions

After a year and a half, my Analogue Pocket finally arrived. I am stoked to have yet another way to play Game Boy games at high-fidelity, a pursuit I have been on for over 15 years. It’s not the end-all-be-all of course, but it is another tool in my video game console tool belt.

I wanted to whip up some initial impressions, instead of reviewing it full stop. Let’s use that to segue into the first takeaway.

The Pocket has uncashed checks. At launch, there are no third-party cores, major features are pending on AnalogueOS 1.1, and Analogue’s own promised core support via adapters. The future, like a modern console (or game) is contingent on software support. I’m confident it will be delivered. Heck, the jailbreak could be dropping any day now. It’s still early, but after two years of hype, I was hopeful for more at launch.

This also applies to the Dock. I was shocked to find out the Dock does not support Analogue’s own DAC on day one. There are no Display Modes on the Dock. Settings feel like the bare minimum. I know the Dock was supposed to launch after the Pocket released. It’s safe to assume the delays allowed Analogue to launch them simultaneously, but the Dock feels unfinished. It performs as advertised, but it’s a far cry from Analogue’s usual baseline.

Why is there no Game Boy link cable support while docked? Maybe it can come someday via UBS. I tried using a USB-C extension cable, but all it did was charge the Pocket. Someone on reddit claims they got one to work, but haven’t shared which cable or shown proof. All I want is the Tingle Tuner in 1080p to capture it…

My last complaint at launch is why no Phil Fish boot sequence? The home consoles from Analogue all have neat boot animations with a pleasing tune. I really wish there was more than a white Analogue logo. I miss the Game Boy boot as well, but I understand why that can’t be officially included for copyright reasons. Maybe with the jailbreak I can get my chime back.

I’ll throw out one specific praise of the console: the Display Modes absolutely deliver. I learned from My Life in Gaming’s review that due to the displays high pixel density, Analogue is able to use the pixels and sub-pixels to create these modes. It’s not a mask or filter. I’m truly floored by their performance. I do wish we could tweak them or create our own. Maybe that comes someday with software.

The display truly is unlike anything else. You really couldn’t ask for a better display, especially in the current market of replacement IPS panels.

The Pocket is solid hardware that is now living under the cloud of future software to truly unlock its full potential. With orders backed into 2023, we’ll see what kind of experience those owners will have on their own launch of the console.

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon Thoughts and Impressions

A copy of Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon was provided for review by Yacht Club Games.

When Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon was revealed last year, I saw a puzzle game featuring Shovel Knight and his pals (and frenemies). I thought that it was a neat spin-off idea for the franchise. The game reminded me of the matching, explosive games my wife plays on her phone everyday. Although I’ve personally never ventured into that realm of puzzle games, I was excited to give it a shot with a band of characters I am quite fond of. After the reveal, I just waited for release, knowing that I’d be down with whatever game had Shovel Knight slapped on the box.

Nearly two years later, I was graciously given a review code and was excited to dig into this new block-destroying puzzle game. I had an impending trip and I do not own a laptop, so I only could dabble a bit before leaving. 

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is not the game I thought it was.

It’s a rougelike/lite, puzzle, combat game that has been kicking my butt from the very beginning. The buttkicking has diminished slightly as I have developed my skill-gluts and tweaked the gameplay to a more puzzle-focused style. There’s been a personal learning curve, not just in the Puzzle Dungeon, but also in the realm of PC gaming, which has been a convoluted mess of its own that I’ve tried to solve.

Pocket Dungeon puts your character into a square grid that fills up with blocks, enemies, bombs, and treasure. You move around bashing into enemies and items to clear a quota to find the exit. Enemies hit back though! Everything has a health meter and you have got to keep an eye on your own while deftly moving around the grid. 

The real trick is chaining together your targets. Any connected tiles that are the same enemy/item/block will all take damage together. You can easily wipe out 10 Beetos with two quick bumps. As you move, more tiles fall from above, forcing you to manage and line up chains as best you can. 

Based off how many lives I’ve lost, I’m not very good at the whole battle aspect of this game. Up front, you can chose a single stock “roguelite” where you lose the run if you die or the board fills up or an infinite stock “puzzle” mode where you can die however much you want, but lose if the board fills up, and it fills up fast while you respawn. 

I tried the single stock approach first. That lasted all of maybe two runs. I did up the stock count, but that also did not last. I just opted for the infinite stock approach, which I definitely prefer and recommend. 

Having infinite lives helped me not feel so bad when I’d blow a run. Sure, I still had to start over, but it felt more like “I could have solved that puzzle,” instead of “why did that kill me?!” This was definitely a “me” mentality. 

Every few levels there is a boss fight, which is quite fun. They’ve captured the spirit and movement of familiar foes, as well as create all new knights that feel fresh. If you beat a boss, you unlock them back at the base camp to play as. Each knight has unique perks and drawbacks that keep the roster balanced, as well as adaptable to your play style. Scrap Knight let’s you bag an item for later, so you best believe I snag potions for when I stop paying attention to my health bar. I wonder if you can bag an enemy…

Another element that helps me not feel so bad is how short the levels actually are. At my level of play, I seem to be averaging 1:30 per level. It never feels that long though. The pace is zippy; making digging in for another run an enticing proposition. 

The biggest deterrent for starting another run is the lack of a midrun save option. If I was playing on Switch or PlayStation, I could put the console in its rest mode and go on with my day. On my Mac, there’s no option for that. I guess I could minimize the application, but that leaves the play-clock running (I learned that lesson with my 20 hours in Emily is Away <3). I often found myself with 5 minutes here and there, but not willing to commit to a run I’d have to quit due to a time constraint.

Let’s continue down this rabbit hole of PC gaming: PC gaming is complicated. I kept having to remap the various controllers I synced up, because a keyboard is far too foreign a control scheme for me (why use three fingers to move when I can use one?). 

Then, somehow, I ended up with two entirely different saves that will load depending on the method of launching the game. 

I decided to move the game application itself from this Steam directory to my own applications folder. Yes, I know, bad idea. I did this so I wouldn’t have to launch the bloated and slow application known as Steam. That works just fine. When I realized that Steam handles the updating, not the app itself, I downloaded a new copy and just created a shortcut to launch from Launch Pad. I accepted starting over from scratch: I knew I screwed up.

If I launch the game before Steam, my original save loads in. I deleted that copy of the app. I have no earthly idea how it is still here. If I launch Steam and then the app with the shortcut I made, I get the new second (and now much further along) save. It’s a mess that just would not exist on a console. It’s a mess I couldn’t even make on a console. End rant.

At least playing on my iMac enticed me to try multiple controllers. I ended up testing the game with a SNES controller, a Genesis 6-button, and an arcade stick. I was surprised to prefer the 6-button over the SNES. The softer D-Pad and the button layout felt better for this kind of game. Although, the best was the arcade stick. The click of the stick with the big buttons was ultra satisfying for this type of gameplay. I could easily see this being in a cabinet somewhere drawing players in with all the gems, treasure, and enemies. With the short level playtime and difficulty curve, this would totally suck quarters out of people’s pockets.

In the end, the whole roguelike and lite genre is one I struggle with regularly. I dipped out of Hades the first time due to it being the same mindless and easy thing over and over with a narrative hook that failed to sink into me. When I came back on PS5, I played for the trophies and ultimately quit that too because Achilles just would not confess his love.

I quit Returnal because I am just really bad and losing is such a defeating feeling (duh). 

Even though Hollow Knight isn’t rogue at all, I stopped because I kept losing my spirit and money at the same spot over and over. 

But why do I love games like TetrisResogun, or Nex Machina? How is an arcade game or a puzzle game any different? Is Tetris a roguelike game?

I think a part of it is the puzzle nature of them. Tetris, obviously, is a straight up puzzle game, if not the puzzle game. Resogun is memorizing patterns and triggers for saving all the little humans. The puzzle angle feels conquerable. I can solve this. 

That’s what makes Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon stand out. It balances those two genres expertly, giving plenty of players reasons to play just one more time. It’s this fusion of game types that celebrates both. The combination actually makes both elements better than if it was just a puzzle game or just a rogue game. That’s no small feat and the team at Yacht Club Games and Vine solved their own puzzle dungeon to deliver a special game.

Analogue Pocket Reviews are Live

The reviews I have personally have been waiting for have finally arrived.

Both excellent reviews from great people. The examples in each video are so, so good.

My main takeaway from both of these (and others) is that the full promise of the Pocket is over the horizon. Quite a few of the Analogue OS features like the Library and Save States are coming next month, according to My Life in Gaming. Delaying these features to version 1.1 was previously announced, but I have been surprised at the feature set in version 1.0.

Even more surprising is the lack of features currently in the Dock. At launch, it doesn’t even support Analogue’s own DAC. The Dock was originally scheduled to launch after the Pocket. Maybe after so many delays for the console itself, Analogue saw fit to launch them together, which could have led to rushing the Dock’s feature set out of the box? That is all speculation on my part, but I wasn’t anticipating needing a firmware update via USB to the Dock.

It also seems that there is no additional cores from third party developers at the ready. I’m curious how long it will take to port those from the MiSTer or create new ones. I’m itching to see how SNES games look and run on the Pocket. Plus, there is the looming cloud of an unofficial “official” jailbreak to allow for ROMs to run off the SD card, which would be required for third-party developed cores outside of the handheld console space.

It sounds like the Pocket is solid out of the box, but with a lot of unfulfilled promises looming. I’m confident they’ll come to fruition, but I am surprised and disappointed that more of them were not fulfilled by day one.

Pocket Available for Purchase Next Week

Pocket will be available to purchase on December 14th at 8am PST.

Due to industry wide component price increases, the price of Pocket is now $219. All other Pocket accessories will remain the same price.

There are three fulfillment groups which have the following estimated ship dates. Everyone who wants a Pocket will be able to secure an order.

Analogue is opening the Pocket back up for order on December 14 at 8:00 AM PST / 11:00 AM EST. The orders won’t close down, instead just having orders be grouped up into chunks ranging between Q1 2022, Q4 2022, and 2023.

Existing orders begin shipping the same day and have been upgraded to 2-day FedEx shipping.

Pocket accessories will also be going up for order, but it is unclear if the Lynx, TurboGrafx-16, and Neo Geo Color adapters will be available.

Chapter Select: Season 2, Episode 5 – God of War: Chains of Olympus

Photo by Alec Krivec, designed by Max Roberts

We head back to Ready at Dawn’s original attempt at putting the power of Olympus on the PSP. Developed alongside God of War II, Kratos’ first prequel feels more like a traditional sequel. Max and Logan decide whether or not putting God of War on the go was a killer idea or just beating a dead centaur.

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God of War: Chains of Olympus

Metacritic – 91/100

This episode was originally recorded on November 15, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Season Art Statue Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art Fields by Ales Krivec on Unsplash, designed by Max Roberts

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection Details and Release Revealed

Launching on January 28, this is actually a couple months sooner than I expected. Now Sony has big titles for the first three months of 2022 with UnchartedHorizon: Forbidden West, and Gran Turismo 7. This comes out right before the Uncharted movie, which I knew would be their goal. I just figured that they would have given us that date sooner if that was the case. I am very happy to see it so soon.

The real treat is the visual modes offered:

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection – Details on the remastered bundle by Annabelle Hua for the PlayStation Blog

Fidelity Mode – For those of you who have a 4K display and want super sharp resolution above all else to enjoy the stunning environments and details the Uncharted series is known for, select Fidelity Mode and play in native 4K resolution with a 30fps target framerate.

Performance Mode – We carried over the high framerate PS4 patch with Performance Mode, which targets a 60fps frame rate.

Performance+ Mode – If you’re all about the smoothest gameplay possible and don’t mind a resolution drop, try out our first ever Performance+ Mode which targets 120fps* at a 1080p resolution.

Native 4K will look sweet, but the “target” framerate of 30fps raises a flag. I would think it  could be a locked, stable 30. We’ll have to wait for release to see if it even dips: I could be speculating about nothing. The real surprise is 120fps support at 1080p. I can just imagine swinging on the rope and leaping into a Superman punch at 120. Gimme.

120+ Nintendo Switch Games Tested with Nintendo Switch Online Controllers – My Life in Gaming

120+ Nintendo Switch Games Tested with Nintendo Switch Online Controllers by My Life in Gaming on YouTube

I may have 57 controllers of my own, including all the “Nintendo” Nintendo Switch Online controllers (sorry Sega), but My Life in Gaming knows how to use those controllers. This was a fun watch to explore controller compatibility.

My brain also focused on how the duo shot the video. Coury and Try are inspirations of mine, so I always find myself studying their camera work and edits. This video is mostly controllers and gameplay: When considering the sheer quantity of games tested, that could get visually dull. These guys nail it though and keep the variety fresh. Look at this dope shot of Coury looking at custom button mapping. I assume the camera is on a automated slider and he is haunched over it, but the end result is so cool and slick., even for just some menu navigation. Plenty of mental notes and lessons to take from this video.

The Panda Controller by Panda Hardware — Kickstarter

The Panda Controller by Panda Hardware — Kickstarter

If you had told me back in 2007 that Samurai Panda of Show Me Your News! would make a pro GameCube controller some day, my 13-year-old mind would have been blown. I still remember him talking about removing the springs in the triggers for faster shields/dodge rolls.

This new GameCube controller is smashing through its Kickstarter goals. The customization on display here reminds me of the Xbox Elite Series controller or the SCUF pro controllers. The GameCube controller is one of the longest lasting form-factors and supported controllers ever. Stoked to see this kind of controller entering the market.

Also, the Panda Controller has height-adjustable triggers.

Update (12/29/21): The Panda controller Kickstarter has been cancelled due to supply chain constraints. Panda did not want to take folks’ money without being able to provide a launch window.