Only two games played this month, and neither came from the back of the queue. Forgive me.
• Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (1990, for Sega Master System): Sega (Tokyo, Japan) [3 hrs]
(I can’t find an ad for this game so instead I offer this video of a full playthrough. Please approximate a trailer by skipping around randomly.)
This is a minor platformer, intermittently charming, fairly typical of its era. The production is tight and professional throughout. The difficulty is mostly well balanced. The tinny music on the Sega Master System is unfortunate.
The Disney license is only used superficially — i.e. it doesn’t inform the mechanics or structure of the game — but what’s there is fairly respectful: the level themes allude to classic Silly Symphonies like Flowers and Trees, Thru the Mirror, Clock Cleaners, etc. More than you can say for most Mickey Mousery.
I originally said a whole lot more here, but on second thought I feel like that gave a false impression of what this game was like and how much it meant to me. Your current impression is more accurate.
The following game was bought on 10/11/16 as the “early unlock” for the “Humble Monthly Bundle: November 2016,” for $12. This is a monthly scheme wherein the customer is shown one pig and then encouraged to buy a pokeful. (That is, my $12 got me this game immediately upon purchase, plus a bunch of other unknown games only to be unveiled on November 4.)
• Stardew Valley (2016): ConcernedApe (= Eric Barone) (Seattle, WA) [played for 35 hrs]
Yeah, that’s right, 35 hours. And that’s not to any sort of ending. In fact according to the calendar in the game it’s probably only about halfway.
I bought and played this because over months of hearing about it, its promise of quiet coziness began to call out to me mysteriously.
Everything about Stardew Valley is what I generally reject about games: RPG systems upon systems surrounding a completely empty core of skill-free clicking. The worst. And yet somehow the huge popularity of this game’s sentimental vision of life as a heartwarming routine resonated with me. The idea of corralling my OCD into an open-ended fantasy of day-to-day serenity seemed potentially nourishing. Maybe I’d learn something about what OCD is actually good for. Instead of the itchy discontent of 100%ism, I thought I ought finally to sample the gentle infinity of +1ism. Accepting that there is no ending, just a direction to move in, might mean being able to take more pleasure in the moment.
I raised lots of crops, bought some cows and chickens, caught a lot of fish. I got to the bottom of the mines, restored a couple rooms in the community center, won contests at the annual festivals. I had four or five moderate friendships going. I added a kitchen to the farmhouse. I started making cheese, wine, mayonnaise, preserves. My dog’s name is Bug.
I think I learned something by playing this game. Or maybe my playing this game was the proof that I had already learned something. In fact I think both are true, because it’s not a thing to learn just once; it’s a thing that I must continuously learn and relearn until I am rebuilt by it.
Did I have a good time playing Stardew Valley? Yes, I think so, but part of my learning is changing how I identify which times are the good ones. I’m not sure the game is “fun,” but who ever said “fun” was the only kind of fun? The game is transporting, yet not really transporting to anywhere. It’s a world in quotes in quotes in quotes and then in quotes again, and all those quotes are a cushion of peace.
After gladly putting in those 35 hours, I seem to have stopped. Might I return? Sure. Might I not? Sure. One of the great joys of “no ending” is that it doesn’t matter whether you play.