Sunday, November 24, 2013

Weekly Roundup - November 17th - 23rd

Actively watching: [a lot of Hakuouki AMVs on YouTube]
Actively playing: Assassin's Creed III (Xbox 360),  Knack (PS4), Contrast (PS4), Crazy Market (Vita)
Actively reading: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4)

I originally went with "currently playing," but ultimately that would make the list a lot longer, since I can jump around a lot. I just decided to go with whatever I was actively enjoying this past week.

I dabbled around with the PS4 this week after downloading the 1.51 update, and everything seems to be working a lot better than it did on day one. I played around with Contrast when I first got the PS4, and certainly enjoyed it. I decided I wanted to give one of the retail titles a try, so I popped in Knack.

I was quite pleasantly surprised by Knack. While I hadn't read any of the reviews myself, I had read in a few discussions that a lot of so-called "professional" reviewers had torn the game to shreds. Other than the fact that no one paid them to give it a high score, or they're pansies that thought the game was too hard, I can't see why anyone would actually trash the game. For being a launch title, and especially for being "kiddie game," it's actually a pretty solid title. It's challenging--albeit a bit unforgiving--it looks good, the controls are responsive, and it's certainly a higher quality than what I expect from most launch titles. All and all I'm happy with my purchase.

I did give the remote play with the Vita a try when I first got the console, and it was definitely sketchy at best, but haven't had a chance to really go back and try again after the 1.51 update. I personally use my Vita for messaging a lot though, as it's a lot easier than using the controller to type, and I'm already used to using the Smart Glass app on my phone to accomplish the same thing on my 360.

So far I'm not regretting my PS4 purchase, and I'm really excited to see what the 8th generation of gaming has in store!


Monday, November 4, 2013


A little fact about me, I am not a horror aficionado. The extent of horror titles in my movie collection would be the Evil Dead trilogy. Other than Anne Rice novels and Bram Stoker's Dracula, you won't see much that could be remotely considered horror on my bookshelf or my Kindle either. My video game collection on the other hand is peppered with horror titles. While certainly not the most plentiful genre in my collection, I certainly have more horror titles than I do sports, probably even fighting games as well.

The thing is, I have such a love/hate relationship with the horror genre. I don't particularly enjoy being scared, nor do I get a thrill out of it. Yet, for whatever reason or another, I continue to buy and play them. The most recent addition to my collection, although digital, is Corpse Party for the PSP. Corpse Party, and its sequel Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, were never released on UMD in the US, just digital distribution via PSN for both the PSP and PS Vita. Both games are currently on sale for $9.99 each, I rather enjoy visual novels, and I still had $10 left on my account. Why not?

On December 17th, 1992, a Japanese group called ASCII released a program titled RPG Tkool Dante 98 for the Japanese exclusive home system known as NEC PC-9801 which allowed people to develop their own role-playing games. They further promoted their tool by publishing a monthly magazine titled LOGIN Sofcom where amateur developers could submit their creations. On April 22nd, 1996, an adventure game called CORPSE-PARTY was published in the Spring 1996 edition of LOGIN Sofcom No.6. It was made by a 22-year-old college student by the name of Makoto Kedouin, who typically stylizes his surname as Kedwin. 

On February 26th, 1997, Kedwin won second place in the Second Annual ASCII ENTERTAINMENT competition, netting him 5 million yen [$61,675.00 USD]. It'd be nine years before the world saw CORPSE-PARTY again. On October 3rd, 2006, a retelling of the Corpse Party story was released for the mobile phone under the title Corpse Party NewChapter. This new version would later be ported to the PC as Corpse Party BloodCovered and once again to the PSP as Corpse Party BloodCovered ...Repeated Fear.

Here's a quick rundown of the game's plot;

Corpse Party revolves around a group of students from Kisaragi Academy and one of their teachers. They try a mystical charm called "Sachiko Ever After" as an attempt to cheer up one of their classmates who is going to transfer schools; but something goes wrong, and they end up trapped in Heavenly Host Elementary School. And what's even worse: they appear in completely different dimensions inside the school. 

While searching around the school, they find the corpses of the people who were trapped before them, along with the spirits of four children who are not willing to let them live. The students of Kisaragi Academy must unravel the mystery behind Heavenly Host and escape from there. 

Corpse Party is a visual novel title with top down adventure gameplay to move the game along. While done in a 16-bit era art style, it just proves that you don't need modern mind blowing graphics to scare the pants off someone. Though the old-school pixelated style adds its own element to the creep factor, CGs also do their part to give you the heebie jeebies and make you squirm uncomfortably in your seat. You know, because sometimes pixelated entrails and corpses just won't cut it. The game's soundtrack also does an amazing job at setting the tone. It's definitely a game that benefits from playing in the dark with a set of headphones.

The game is broken up into five chapters, each accessed independently from the title screen. Within each chapter, you have six save slots. You'll want to use them all, and use them often. Each chapter has a "true end," as well anywhere from two to six different "wrong ends". Several of the chapters also have an "extra end," while it isn't necessarily a bad ending, it isn't a happy ending either. Sometimes a single thing you do halfway through a chapter will change the whole outcome of the chapter, and starting over from the beginning each time you're trying for a new ending in this game could get old real quick. One of the biggest flaws of this game is the inability to fast forward through text you've already read. While this wasn't a huge deal for me because I used a spoiler-free walkthrough, this could definitely prove tedious for those determined to see the game through to the end without help.

Generally I'll run through a game like this at least once before I hit up a walkthough, but being unable to skip text played a big part in my decision to use one. Another reason was I wanted to be able to sleep again. Seriously, the first night I played I absolutely could not get to sleep. No amount of cute kitten and puppy pictures could get my mind out of Heavenly Host Elementary School, and that was rather terrifying. I had almost considered shelving the game, figuratively speaking of course. I really wanted to see how the story played out though, and I wasn't quite sure I could stomach playing it for an extended amount of time. So I decided just to look up a walkthrough and play with the lights on.

Yes, I am a wuss.

That said, I'm not like this with all horror titles. My tastes in horror tend to sway towards the gothic, supernatural/occult, soft, or psychological sub-genres. Corpse Party was a bit more visually graphic with the gore than what I was expecting from a visual novel. In this instance the problem lies with the user not the game.

Now one thing gamers have been taught since the dawn of time is CHECK ALL THE THINGS! However as the saying goes, "curiosity killed the cat," and in Corpse Party you may very well be the cat. When Corpse Party tells you not to do something, you may want to listen, even if all your gamer instincts tell you otherwise. Well, the first time the game tells you not to do something, disregard it. After that though, it's your funeral. Literally.

Lack of a fast forward feature and my personal tastes aside, this is actually a rather amazing game, and I'm glad I saw it through to the end, even if I did cheat. Despite Corpse Party doing a better job at keeping me awake than a pot of coffee, I'm certainly considering picking up Corpse Party: Book of Shadows. Though for my sanity, I may just wait until the next time it goes on sale, but at the same time I want to play it now. Everything I have read has said that playing the first Corpse Party title is a must before playing Book of Shadows because it stems from one of the Wrong Ends you encounter in the first one. The game also assumes you know the story of the first installment. Corpse Party is a game that makes it hard to put it down and walk away, no matter how scared you are.

There's also a four episode anime OVA called Corpse Party: Tortured Soul that you can find online. I had checked out the first episode after my first night of playing, and said episode covered the first chapter of the game. First impression of the anime is that it is going to be way more graphic than the game, but playing the game seems to be required to understand what's going on. The first episode was very quick-paced, and rushed, and I fear the rest of the episodes will be the same. Five chapters that could easily run you an hour or two of game time each, condensed into four 29 minute episodes? Yes, I think this is a viable assessment. Now that I have finished the game, I am very interested in going back and watching the anime and seeing how the story differs from the game though.

If you're a fan of Japanese horror and visual novels, I think Corpse Party is definitely worth picking up. However if violence against children is an automatic no-go in your book, you'll most certainly want to pass on anything in the Corpse Party universe.

If you're interested in more information about the world of Corpse Party you can check out the wiki here;

...or the fan run site called Memories of Fear here;

...or the official facebook page here;

"The school day is now over. Any students still in the building... ...may never go home..." 


Monday, September 2, 2013

ZAP - Weig-in #3

August 12th starting weight: 154.1 lbs

August 24th Saturday weigh-in: 152.6 lbs
August 31st Saturday weigh-in: 152.1 lbs

Weight change: -0.5 lbs
Total change: -2.0 lbs

 At least I lost that extra half a pound I had gained the previous week. I ended up only working out one day last week, it was a futile effort with how sporadic my husband's schedule had been. *le sigh* Oh well, he goes back to his normal schedule this week, which means I'll be able to go back to my normal schedule as well. Huzzah!


Monday, August 26, 2013

ZAP - Weigh-in #2

August 12th starting weight: 154.1 lbs

August 17th Saturday weigh-in: 152.1 lbs
August 24th Saturday weigh-in: 152.6 lbs

Weight change: +0.5 lbs
Total change: -1.5 lbs

Had a wedding to go to on Saturday, so I didn't get a chance to update then.

I didn't push myself as hard as I wanted to this week, and ended up having a stupid decision eating day late in the week. I have also only been engaging in half my planned workout because of my husband's day shift schedule this week. He'll only be on day shift for one more week, then I can get back to my regularly intended workout schedule. Honestly I can't wait until he goes back to his normal schedule and I can kick my workouts back into high gear.

That said, gaining only half a pound isn't a total travesty. It's a setback, but luckily it's a relatively minor one. I'm not going to let myself get down about it. It's the start of a new week.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

ZAP - Weigh-in #1

August 12th starting weight: 154.1 lbs
August 17th Saturday weigh-in: 152.1 lbs

Weight change: -2.0 lbs
Total change: -2.0 lbs

Not a terrible start.

I took tape measurements on August 12th as well, and will measure again on September 12th to see how things changed over the course of a month. Unfortunately I didn't take any before pictures when I took my measurements though. Oops!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My descent from the wagon, the realization as to why, and my vow to do something about it

As the title says, and is probably evident from my lack of updates on the subject, I fell off the wagon. That said, I didn't fall so far off the wagon that I was being dragged behind it by my ankles. I didn't exercise as regularly as intended, however I didn't completely throw my diet out the window in that I gained 10 lbs. My weight stayed about the same, but still fluctuated a few pounds in either direction. So while there was really no forward momentum, fortunately there was no backward momentum either.

I'm not going to make excuses as to why I fell off the wagon. I'm not going to blame anyone else but myself for it. I'm not going to say the winds were blowing the wrong direction, or the stars weren't aligned quite right. What I will say is I have a pretty good idea why it happened. My priorities weren't what they should be, and I believe I could just never find a suitable balance between mother, wife, homemaker, page admin, gamer, lover of far too many hobbies, and sleep with only 24 hours in a day. When we couple this with that fact that I can be a bit lazy sometimes, and as I said before "my 360 controller [could] win out over running laps around my neighborhood almost every time." Playing video games is an enjoyable way to pass the time, while working out just felt like a chore, so it wasn't hard to sweep my motivation under the rug. Not to mention I later found out the Zombies, Run app didn't even remotely work like it should have on my phone, and since the devs dropped all Windows Phone support, it was never going to either. So I lost the one thing that would have made running tolerable. My heart wasn't in it anymore, and I just didn't care.

Last month my husband and I traveled a few states over to visit my in-laws, and were gone about a week. While I wasn't entirely looking forward to the trip to begin with, and had considered simply staying home by myself, I decided to go because I needed a change of scenery. I had also hoped this would be enough of a break in the day-to-day monotony that we could come home to a fresh start. When we got home, I felt a little bit better, but was still uncertain that anything was truly going to change. A few days later my uncertainty was justified as it seemed we quickly settled back into our old routines. I became frustrated, and any motivation I had was completely thrown out the window.

A few weeks later I decided to dust off the Kinect, so to speak, and start playing around with Your Shape Fitness Evolved again. Maybe the Kinect could make this endeavor fun again. I played a few games, went meh, and sat down and started scrolling through my facebook feed. Then a post by Devious Cosplay caught my attention. It was a Friday, so it was one of their #fitnessfriday posts that they had shared from another page called Superhero Fitness Challenge.

This led me to check out the page and as I started scrolling through the feed, something clicked. We have all seen those Beachbody before and after pictures where the people go from flabby to fabulous, but at the same time I just didn't find myself relating to those people. Maybe because they were "normal," or because they became these totally fitness obsess gurus where all their facebook updates were motivational pictures, healthy recipes, and links to their Beachbody Coach pages in order to buy Beachbody products. That just wasn't me. Working out wasn't fun or enjoyable to me, and I hate the "buy this product from me" type of posts. However as I scrolled down the page, looking through previous posts, seeing these geeky inspirations, seeing others who were just like me gave me a renewed motivation. That same day the UPS man dropped off my order of Popchips (they're about 3 PointsPlus, give or take depending on flavor, for a single serving bag for you Weight Watchers peeps. They're also really tasty), as did my issue of Fitness magazine (I had a free subscription).

This was just the universe lighting a much needed fire under my ass. I hopped off the computer, got out my stationary bike (which Amazon got back in stock a few days after my last ZAP entry), turned on my PS3, and started up Jetpack Joyride. Jetpack Joyride is a simple, yet highly addicting, game with one-button gameplay, and each round will only last a few minutes. Let's not forget that it's the grand old price of FREE. I decided to make my own workout game from it, which I merely made up as I went along. I also intend on working on it later down the line, and hopefully posting it for others to enjoy as well. It wasn't on par with an INSANITY workout, but it still got me off my ass and I felt better about myself afterwards. That was it, I decided to jump back on the wagon full force. *cough*

...starting Monday.

I'd give myself the weekend to get pumped, heal up from the massive soreness induced by my impromptu workout, figure out a schedule, and then dive in head first.

Monday came around and I originally intended to start a workout routine on Your Shape Fitness Evolved, but after the first session I realized how much of a lousy program it was for that. There was just too much time elapsing between exercises, there was no cooldown/stretch included in the workout routines themselves, the game merely pointed me in the direction of the Zen classes which consisted of just Yoga. One pose in particular, which was done more than any other pose, left my knees popping in a way I wasn't entirely comfortable with. Overall YSFE just left me frustrated, and necessarily sore, but not in a good way, due to the lack of post-workout stretching. I decided to put it back on the shelf, and popped in EA Sports Active 2 instead. I put fresh batteries in the heart-rate monitor, updated my profile info, and started up the three week cardio headstart program again. While I knew EA Sports Active 2 wasn't necessarily going to be fun, I knew it was a decent enough program. You go through your warm-up, then your core routine, and then you cooldown with some stretches. Before you started your routine you could opt out of specific exercises if you wished/needed to, and you can skip individual exercises during the workout if you needed to as well. This was a set-up that YSFE severely lacked, or at least one I didn't feel like dedicating the time to finding. I finished my workout, and felt a little bit better.

My workout schedule is now Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday while throwing in extra workouts as I feel like it. Generally this will include going through a routine on EA Sports Active 2, then hopping on either my stationary bike or my Gazelle (which I got secondhand for $40), while watching an episode of [insert show here]. I did say "generally" though, as this week and next are going to work a little different with my husband being on dayshift. You see, I don't like working out in front of other people, not even my husband. This is partially why I opt for working out in my living room instead of going to a gym, and this is also why I didn't work out today. (Lame excuse, I know.) I had intended on working out while he was at work, but he came home ridiculously early. So early, I wasn't even out of bed yet. -_- I also didn't work out on Friday, however that was because I tweaked my back on Thursday (before my workout) in such a way that moving around was rather bothersome. I opted to give my body the extra day to heal up, rather than risk making it worse.

Anyway, as such I'm changing my schedule up a bit. I'm going to attempt to get up with him, or at least before he leaves for work, and then get my workout in before the pip-squeak wakes up. Then after he gets home later in the afternoon, the pip-squeak will go in her room for "quiet time," then we'll do the bike/Gazelle portion of my workout together. This is great because I read in this month's issue of SELF magazine, I'll need to find the specific article to cite the source, but around 4pm your metabolism drops, so a late afternoon workout will help keep it going into the evening.

As for my workout shows; currently I'm finishing up season two of Game of Thrones, but haven't decided which show in my backlog I'm going to move onto next. Perhaps I'll restart Spartacus (all those hot bodies, talk about motivation!), or check out Mad Men since I haven't watched it yet. Though during the two weeks my husband is on dayshift and we're watching together, we've decided on season two of The Walking Dead. The season is short enough that we should be able to watch the whole thing, or at least the majority of it, before he goes back to his normal swing shift schedule.

Ugh... There was so much more I wanted to put into this entry, however it's already after midnight and I should already be in bed if I'm going to get up early with my husband. It doesn't help that this chick is not a morning person in the least, but rather more of a night owl.

In my next ZAP entry I'll try to go over some tips and ideas to try and help out if you feel like you're falling off the wagon yourself.

TL;DR - I fell off the wagon, figured out why, and hopped back on the wagon full tilt. No more excuses.

I got this. Now it's time for me to crawl into bed. Stay geeky my friends!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

More Bang for Your Buck - Steam Sales

At the time of this post the 2013 Summer Steam Sale is already in full swing, and if the "heavy load" errors are any indication, a lot of wallets are already feeling the sting.

" if millions of wallets suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened."

All those shiny discounts ranging anywhere from 10% - 90% off... They lure gamers in like a Siren's song of savings, but after the dust settles and the purchases are tallied, bank accounts the world over are singing a different song of lament and regret. Wallets find themselves battered and broken, and gamers are resorting to three square meals of ramen a day for a month afterwards. While crying into their top ramen they take solace in knowing they have enough of a backlog to hold them over until the next Steam sale, when the cycle begins anew. However the aftermath doesn't need to be so bleak. While I may still be a relative n00b to Steam, thrifty gaming is nothing new to this gal, so I want to help.

One of the worst things a gamer can do is dive in blindly. You need to approach Steam sales with a plan of attack, and the tactics I'll outline are rather simple and painless. Well, mostly.

  • Don't blow your full load on day one.
For some of you gents, this may be a new concept, but bear with me. Steam sales last about two weeks with a rotation of Daily Deals, Flash Sales, and Community Choice deals in addition to the standard discounts that span the duration of the sale. Going full tilt from the starting line is one of the stupidest mistakes you can make, much like in other aspects of your life. Not only do you spread your finances thin for the rest of the sale, you may miss out on some great deals later. Which brings me to my next point;

  • Patience is a virtue.
We live in a society that thrives on instant gratification, but if you're able to slow your roll for just a day or two, you may be handsomely rewarded for your efforts, and your wallet may breathe a sigh of relief. As stated earlier there are discounts that span the entirety of the sale, however these are not necessarily the bottom line for those particular titles. While 25%, 50%, or even 66% may be tempting, don't pull the trigger just yet. There's still a chance that 50% discount you have your eye on may become 75% or even higher for a limited amount of time. Also don't worry if you miss it the first time around, because it is not unheard of for the same titles to become further discounted several times over before the end of the sale. Not to mention most of the best selling titles on any given day will see their discounts extended to the following day as well.

Honestly though, if you wait until the end of the sale to pick up the standard sale titles, what are you really missing out on?

  • Adhere to a budget.
Now this one may be one of the more difficult ones for gamers to follow. Drastically discounted titles are like crack to most gamers, yours truly not withstanding, however "all things in moderation." Give yourself a budget, and stick to it. Whatever that budget may be is up to you, but make sure it's something you can live with. You need to remember all those $2.49, $3.39, and $4.99 purchases add up, especially when coupled with the $10 or $20+ purchases as well. Since the deals are ever-changing, and you're making numerous separate transactions over the course of the sale, it can be rather easy to lose track of how much you're actually spending.

There are a few ways to go about it;
  1. Keep a list/spreadsheet of all the games you've purchased and what you paid for each. This will give you a visual representation that you can refer back to.
  2. Buy Steam gift cards in the amount of your budget. If your budget is $50, buy a $50 gift card, and then apply it to your account. I'll also elaborate on this a bit more later.
  3. Remove any saved card info from your account. Doing this in conjunction with the above is a pretty foolproof way to keep within your budget. You can't spend money that isn't there, and it's all too easy to go "well... just this once..." and checkout using your saved card.

  • Utilize your wishlist.
If you're one of those people that just buys any and every cheap game that looks interesting, you may want to start using your wishlist as a way to keep yourself in check. This can serve two purposes--first you can stick to only buying games that are on your wishlist that you have shown a prior interest in, and second some of your Steam friends may actually buy games for you. While I wouldn't bank on the latter too much, it is a nice surprise when someone sends you a Steam gift.

  • Split multi-packs with friends
Some games offer the option to buy multiple copies at a discounted bulk rate, which further discounts the title. I'll use Defiance as an example. The regular price for Defiance is $39.99, but a 66% discount brings that price down to $13.59. The regular price for a Defiance four-pack is $117.97, but that same 66% discount then brings that price down to $40.09. Consulting your handy-dandy calculator, you can divide 40.09 four ways amongst yourself and three friends, and it will give you an answer of 10.0225. For the sake of simplicity, just round it to an even $10 and call it good. Congratulations, you just saved yourself about $3.50, which you can easily use towards another game, and you have a game you can play with your buddies. It's a win-win situation all around, assuming you have some friends that want to go in on the purchase with you. If not, just stick the extra copies in your inventory, which brings me to my next point...

  • Don't add every purchase to your library right away.
The great thing about Steam is you're given the option to buy a game for yourself and add it directly to your library, buy a game for a friend and send it directly to them, or buy a game and save it in your inventory for later which you can then either add it to your library or send it someone else. This is a great feature if you don't plan on going the route where you only purchase games from your wishlist. If you find a cheap game that you find yourself going "well it looks interesting, but I'm not too sure about it or if I'll even play it, though it's only $2.49 so why the hell not?" Stick it in your inventory. If you later decide you want to give it a spin, great, you can add it to your library and go from there. The opposite also applies, if you decide you're just never going to play it, you can keep it as an emergency birthday, Christmas, Winter-een-mas, or I-totally-screwed-up-please-forgive-me present. It's also great for facebook page admins to stock up on goodies to give away on their pages. *cough*

  • Shop around
Yes, I am actually suggesting you look somewhere other than Steam. Sometimes those deals look pretty good, but you may be able to find something better with only a few clicks. A lot of online retailers have seen how popular the Steam sales are, so they've jumped on the digital summer/holiday sales bandwagon as well. During the 2012 Steam Holiday sale, the Bioshock bundle of the first two games was $9.99 at its cheapest, though at the same time Amazon actually had that same bundle, but for only $4.99 instead. When it comes to Steam sales, $5 is a pretty significant amount. and are two of my other go-to sites for digital content. Hell, Amazon is my go-to for just about anything, but that's a post for another time.

  • "A penny saved is a penny earned."
"What the hell does that even mean?!" To put it plainly, it means the best way to save money is to simply not spend it. Look at your library, how many games do you have? Now how many of those games have you actually played? If the answer to the first question is over 200 and the answer to the second is less than 10% of those, you can probably afford to sit out this Steam sale. Not only will your wallet thank you, but your backlog will as well.


Though the Summer Sale has already started, it doesn't mean you can't start planning ahead for the holiday sale. The easiest and least painful way to prepare yourself for the next Steam sale is to merely put aside a little bit of money at a time. Let's say you get paid every other week, and you put aside a paltry $5 a paycheck, by the time December and the Holiday Sale rolls around five months from now,  you could have about $50 put aside. If you put aside $10, you could have about $100. If you're like me and don't shop on Steam much outside of major sales (remember, I'm a mainly a console gamer), you can just add the funds directly to your Steam wallet. If you're mostly a PC gamer and the majority of your games come from Steam, then you might want to invest in some physical cards instead and keep them in a place where you won't lose them, then just add them to your account all at once when the sale hits.

Also, in the name of all things fluffy, work on your backlog a bit. What good is buying a bunch of new games if you're not even going to play them?

When all is said and done, how you handle a Steam sale is entirely up to you. I can't tell you what to do, and you don't even have to take my advice to heart, but I hope that I could at least help ease a bit of the burden on your wallet. Now a lot of these suggestions may seem like total no-brainers, and they are, but sometimes people just happen to overlook the most obvious of solutions, and I can guarantee there are other ideas and solutions that I missed as well.

If any of these suggestions helped, or you even have some of your own, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you.


P.S. As I forgot to mention it when I initially wrote out this post. If you seem to be having problems completing your purchase on one platform, try another. For example if you're having issues checking out via the desktop client, try the mobile app instead. I have heard of others, as well as personally experiencing success myself, when using a different platforms.