alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
Long list of stuff I have read and played etc!

Note that almost all the tv and movies are on Australian Netflix.
Read more... )
alias_sqbr: Nepeta from Homestuck looking grumpy in front of the f/f parts of her shipping wall (grumpy)
This was hailed in femslasher gamer circles as The First Real Yuri Game On Steam, and so even though it hit a lot of my Do Not Want buttons (including being quite expensive haha) I eventually gave in and gave it a go. And, as the subject of this post suggests, I have very mixed feelings.
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Hustle Cat

Mar. 4th, 2016 12:38 pm
alias_sqbr: A cartoon cat saying Ham! (ham!)
Hustle Cat is really cute fluffy dating sim about 19 year old Avery (of unspecified gender with a range of pronouns, skin colours, and presentations!) who ends up working at a cat cafe where all the other workers (2 women and 4 men) turn out to be cursed to turn into cats. You get to know them all and then have a romance with whoever you get along with best. The romances are all really adorable and the end of each path is thrilling and satisfying. I LOVED being able to choose my pronouns and presentation, and the love interests/romances were nicely varied and avoided annoying/sexist romance tropes while still wallowing in good ones (grumpy butch women and shy dudes and tsunderes and... omg my heart). The writing for the protagonist tries to be unisex which was really refreshing even if it didn't always quite work. I loved EVERYONE and EVERY romance (even Reese, who I didn't like at first), which is almost unknown for me and dating sims or ensemble casts in general.

There are a few issues: It's so fluffy it ends up glossing over points of conflict in ways that can feel shallow and erasing. The darkest any of the characters get is light brown, and the "brown" characters mostly have light eyes/hair and generically American names. The writing and art for Avery attempts to be unisex but sometimes felt like it was assuming I was a boy/girl in heterosexist ways, especially when you encounter the One Strawman Sexist (who treats you like a cis dude while you're romancing a girl) The "unisex"ness means you can't be femme which some women may feel limited by. There is literally one choice after you get on your love interest's path, which would be less annoying if the choices Avery made without asking weren't so frequently TERRIBLE. It all turns out ok but it shouldn't, and Avery is especially overbearing on the girls' paths :/ The 2 female/4 male gender balance is annoying, why not three of each, or 2 women/2 men/2 non binary? And there is zero diversity of body type or disability, asides from some fluffily presented implied mental illness.

But I still REALLY ENJOYED playing a woman romancing a hot grumpy butch lady, and then a dude romancing a shy guy with an implied anxiety disorder, and then a male presenting non binary person romancing a mysterious goth dude :D Also the cat versions of the characters are ADORABLE (nb there are no sexy scenes with cats)

Note: most of the paths are easy to get onto if you're just especially nice to that person, but the last one is SUPER TRICKY without a walkthrough.
alias_sqbr: the symbol pi on a pretty background (I like pi!)
Since he is laaaate hooome ;_;

Julia Among the Stars: An interesting, plotty Czech science fiction puzzle game with some of the feel of a hidden object game. You are a (female!) scientist on a space probe trying to figure out what happened to the rest of your crew with the help of the ships's (also female!) computer. Some of the dialogue was clunky, possibly because of the translation, but overall I liked the characters and story, it was about your average Dr Who/Star Trek episode level of scifi. The puzzles were mixed but overall enjoyable. Has some moderately dark/depressing/gory moments.

Amnesia: Memories: My first proper Japanese dating sim that's not about pigeons! Bought because it was on special and I heard one dude liked maths. I really enjoyed it, but (a) Cam is away, so tall, glasses wearing, mathsy dorks are very appealing right now (b) a fair proportion of that enjoyment was horrified laughter. The premise is that you are an 19 year old Japanese uni student and have lost your memory because a spirit basically collided with your head and got stuck there. You end up in one of several alternate realities trying to regain your memories with the help of the spirit, who is a lovely ally in sometimes scary and lonely situations, but whose existence means you can't just tell people what's up. In each reality you turn out to be dating one of the dudes, and you are motivated to get to know him to learn more about yourself. So even on paths where I didn't like the dude I enjoyed it as suspense/mystery, but it gets QUITE SUSPENSEFUL, culminating in a surreal and kind of meta final path with SEVEN DIFFERENT increasingly violent bad ends where you die in various ways (and 2 happy endings where you don't die ;)) The love interests are basically: tsundere, playboy, spock, technically-not-your-actual-older-brother, ????. You have to be prepared for some sexist douchery from even the nicest love interests on the good ends and some AMAZINGLY awful behaviour from the less nice ones on the bad ends. Like, trigger warnings ahoy, though there's no sex scenes of any kind which limits the inevitable consent issues. There's some "craziness" handled about as badly as it usually is. Also, the maths dude makes you solve actual algebra problems (The answers are online though :))

The Bridge: I enjoyed the first two levels of this Escher themed puzzle game but then there was a thing that can kill you and it stopped being fun :(
alias_sqbr: "Creative genius" with an arrow pointing to a sketch of me (genius!)
Wow I haven't done a general creative roundup since last year. Mostly because I haven't been feeling like making general creative stuff. What I have been doing is...A NEW VERSION OF [REDACTED] OMG.

And now the THREE non Dragon Age arts I have drawn in the last six months, two for exchanges.
Addicted to You, Original, Puella Magi Madoka Magica )
alias_sqbr: Dagna from Dragon Age reaching for a book (dagna)
So after much squee by [personal profile] ember_keelty I checked out Seven Kingdoms: The Princess Problem. And I really liked it!

It's like a cross between Long Live The Queen and The Royal Trap: you're a noble from one of six not!18th century!European countries at a diplomatic summit, and your choices about skills and dialogue affect your success and relationships. You can choose to play on story mode which makes it easier to pass challenges and impossible to die, or challenge mode if you LIKE failing and dying (I have not played challenge mode. I have heard it is fun if you like that sort of thing)

It's only a demo, afaict it stops at the point where the plot would split into love interest (or lack thereof) specific paths, but it makes for a fairly satisfying little story as it is.
No spoilers just more details )
alias_sqbr: Nepeta from Homestuck looking grumpy in front of the f/f parts of her shipping wall (grumpy)
Some more stuff I have watched and read recently! Links for those where you may want to see if they're as odd as they sound.

A Lily Among Thorns by Rose Lerner: a sweet regency romance where the female lead is an ex sex worker! Also the secondary romance is m/m!! Longer review at my tumblr.

If you're judging me for that rec you should probably stop reading now.
finch girlfriends, bear girlfriends, magical boys, other )
alias_sqbr: Nepeta from Homestuck looking grumpy in front of the f/f parts of her shipping wall (grumpy)
Namco High is a dating sim preduced by Andrew Hussie, creator of Homestuck, with Ananth Panagariya from Johnny Wander as head writer and lots of different webcomic artists doing the sprites (which are pretty cute!).

You are Cousin, cousin of the Katamari Damarci dude, and can date various Namco video game characters (including the ship from Galaga) as well as three Homestuck characters. It is completely ridiculous and a lot of fun, and you can try 6 of the 18 paths for free. I got the full package and thoroughly enjoyed it. You play in your browser, the interface is functional but I miss autoplay, reverse and multiple saves.

You don't have to be familiar with any of the characters/games/webcomic. There are male, female and anthropomorphised inanimate object love interests and the protaonist's gender is never stated. There's a lot of "YOU'RE CRAZY" but it lacks Homestuck's "edgy" offensiveness. The paths don't seem to affect each other at all, but the writers have made a little effort to make them consistent. Switching from one path to another mid game seems to lead to bad endings.

There are six free paths (Galaga, Lolo, Valkyrie, Anti-Bravoman, Meowkie, Albatross) but the rest cost $2 each, $5 for 3 or $15 for everyone (unless you have Crunchyroll Premium membership, then it's $14). For the benefit of anyone wanting to decide what to buy, as well as the curious, here's some brief non-spoilery summaries of all 18 paths!
Read more... )
alias_sqbr: the symbol pi on a pretty background (Default)
I have a cold. I DO NOT WANT A COLD. THIS IS A VERY VERY BAD TIME FOR A COLD. So to distract myself from how much I really don't want to be sick (aaaargh moving and holiday ahhh), here's what I've been reading and watching etc.

Books:

The Circle of Magic: Tris's book by Tamora Pierce: On pause while I finish the library books below but enjoyable enough so far.

Lois Lens Lesbian Secretary by Monica Nolan: this is the delightfully cheesy tale of a 50s cheerleader who gets a job as a secretary in the big city and tries to figure out why she keeps having these FEELINGS around girls in tight sweaters and why none of the women she meets seem to have boyfriends. It's unfortunately hipster racist and overall not worth thinking about very hard but otherwise fun, like if Enid Blyton fell into a vat of soft porn.

The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel: Not enjoying this very much. The author was raised as a Hindu but I'm not sure he is one, and there's something irritatingly twee about the tone. Also he has these "amusing" asides which assume attitudes I don't share eg that men having long hair is weird and girly.

The essentials of Hinduism: a comprehensive overview of the world's oldest religion by Swami Bhaskarananda: An accessible guide to the basics of Hinduism by someone who obviously loves the religion. It was very conventional and he did that typical thing of dividing attitudes neatly into "not actually part of my religion" and "part of my religion thus unambiguously awesome (except for a few bad apples doing it Wrong)", but he was obviously trying to be even handed and open minded and I certainly learned a lot.

(I read these last two because I'm writing a character from a Hindu background and have become frustrated with the "lol those wacky Hindus" attitude of secondary sources)

TV:

Sleepy Hollow: fun cheesy supernatural buddy cop drama in a small town with a ~mysterious past~. He's an 18th century soldier transported forward in time! She's a no nonsense cop! Together they're trying to stop the apocalypse! I find them both quite charming which helps a lot.

Orphan Black: Up to episode 4! I WILL FINISH THIS ONE DAY.

Marvel: Agents of SHIELD: Joss Whedon does a B grade family show about a Secret Government Agency Saving The Day. Ok, though some of the one liners felt forced and I had a few "JOSS NO" moments along with the "Teehee, this is definitely a Whedon show" moments.

Free: Season one is over and ended on a happy satisfying note that still left me hoping there's a season 2.

Games:

I already reviewed Dear Esther and Ristorante Amore.

The Knife of the Traitor: a silly macabre visual novel, it's very cheesy and rushed and feels like the people who made it were very young but I enjoyed it well enough and it's certainly a change from the usual. You play an amnesiac Evil Princess who's woken up with a knife in her throat and has to figure out which of the people who might justifiably want you dead stabbed you. The other characters are all male and there's romantic elements but it's not really a dating sim. I rolled my eyes a few times at some unfortunate choices in the writing but the art was pretty good, someone obviously had fun with the character design.
alias_sqbr: the symbol pi on a pretty background (Default)
First: my "Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative" Coursera course is really very simplistic, I should be finding it challenging, not feeling annoyed at everyone for missing obvious points. And when the one POC in the videoed tutorial ever so gently suggested that maybe The Lord of the Rings has some troubling racial subtext the lecturer changed the subject :/ :/ Then while they happily chatted about the repeated theme of evil cripples in "To The Dark Tower Childe Roland Came" there was no suggestion that any of them saw this as anything but extra flavour to the general unpleasantness of the situation :/ :/ So...yes, let's just wallow in ancient tropes without thinking about their limitations or damaging effects. Sure.

Second: two games I was reccomended as examples of transcending the usual limitations of their genres.

In Dear Esther you wander a small island, hearing fragments of a man's story, and feel melancholy. It's like an interactive sad little art house film. The surroundings are beautifully rendered and they combine with the music and sparse narration to create a very effective sense of melancholy but there is NO PLOT. I enjoyed it to start with (it really does feel like exploring a beautiful desolate beach at dusk) but got bored by the end and didn't think the narrator's story was interesting enough to warrant a whole game. Gone Home did the "Experience a story as you wander around a setting" thing better imo, though it wasn't as pretty. But I don't tend to enjoy arty films with no plot either (or men poetically describing their pain), and a lot of other people found Dear Esther very effective. Warning: some of the content of this game could be very triggering, I don't want to spoil it so will put the specific warnings under a cut.

Ristorante Amore, on the other hand, made me angry. It would be a cute, slick, moderately well written m/f and m/m dating sim...if it weren't for the pretentious gimmick the writers chose to put over the top. It suffers pretty badly from "Not like other girls" syndrome, blatantly mocking other dating sims despite really not being all that different, and clearly thinking female characters only have value if they fit into the "~feminist~ strong female character" box (male characters of course can be much more varied. Also they get to be queer). If you can grit your teeth through all that the characters themselves are likeable enough and I did enjoy the romances, but overall the game left a bad taste in my mouth.

Dear Esther content warning )
alias_sqbr: the symbol pi on a pretty background (Default)
Books:

A Shrine to Saint Ann: A very enjoyable little fantasy ebook, reminds me of the Curse of Chalion series by Lois McMaster Bujold but with less racism and more sarcastic reanimated corpses. Like Bujold (and Megan Whalen Smith, who I was also reminded of) a little too in love with gods and royalty and not enough with regular people for my tastes, but that's what I get for reading fantasy. It was still a quick enjoyable read with interesting and diverse characters and worldbuilding, focussed very much on complex female characters being fascinatingly terrible. And only $3!

The Circle of Magic 1: Sandry's Book/The Magic in the Weaving by Tamora Pierce: Light and mostly innoffensive children's fantasy about a mismatched group of children with different magical gifts gathered together to learn magic and the ~power of friendship~ etc. Obviously trying VERY HARD to be DIVERSE (about race/class/gender/body type) which gets wearying sometimes (and is undercut by some skeevy subtext) but is a nice change from books that don't try at all and creates lots of natural moments for character growth and contrast.

TV:

Watched the Cowboy Bebop movie and I did indeed enjoy it more now I know it affects NOTHING in the series chronology and is just a random side adventure. Still makes no freaking sense.

Games:

Flight Rising: Briefly opened for new members! Hello all! You will have to friend me if you want to be friends, the notifications were annoyingly lacking in lair links. Also, the comments to this post have some good advice.

Gone Home: a very good little interactive story (not a dating sim! Or fighting game!!) where you play a woman who arrives home from an overseas trip to find the house empty. You wander around trying to figure out what's been up with your family while you've been gone, and are railroaded enough by having to find keys for locked doors etc that the clues you piece together form a coherent and affecting story. Note: the vast majority of items you can interact with are there purely for atmosphere, don't waste time trying to figure out the Secret Meaning of the toilet paper or how to set it on fire, because there is none and you can't. *cough*

And now two very fluffy fantasy visual novels with f/m dating sim elements.

Blue Rose: I played the demo of this and enjoyed it but not enough to pay $20 for the full version, especially given all the typos and general amateurish feel. It's fairly generic fantasy with lots of anachronism and unconvincing worldbuilding, the characters were varied and kind of interesting but the dialogue was often stilted. The one f/f romance option seems nice but bland. Blindingly white, even the (blonde!) woman who seems to be from pseudo-China.

Everlove: Rose. This I enjoyed enough to pay $5 for the full version and I'd say I got my money's worth but I wouldn't rec it very strongly. The historical setting is SO SHALLOW and the vast majority of scenes are identical on every path even when you make drastically different choices. But the art is pretty, the characters are likeable enough and the plot was interesting the first time through. The puzzles are easy (on an iPad) and not super fun but do break up the plot. You have the option to declare yourself a lesbian in one scene but otherwise it's very heteronormative despite your female best friend having the cutest sprite :( I wasn't very satisfied with the special ending you get after doing all four paths.
alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
Not much, really!

What I've been reading: Eventually skimmed my way to the end of Un Lun Dun, not trying China Mieville again for awhile.

Enjoyed The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms well enough. I reviewed them both recently if you scroll back a bit.

Not feeling super enthusiastic about reading at the moment but I'm sure something new will catch my eye. Have a fanfic rec instead:

Buy the Stars, a fantastic fic for Fallen London/Echo Bazaar about the relationship between a Sneaktheif and a Rubbery Man.

What I'm currently reading: Found my copy of "Steampowered 2" again (it was lost on my desk under various post Swancon detritus) am reading that on the train slowly and enjoying it well enough.

What I've been playing and watching:

Witch/Knight: a short but effective little free visual novel. The art is lovely and the characters likeable, and there's an f/f relationship at it's heart (though it's definitely not a dating sim) It's pretty anachronistic and the worldbuilding is a weird mix of China and Eurofantasy, overall I was not at all surprised that it was written in a month by a 21 year old(*), but once I got used to that I really enjoyed it. There are four endings that (rather arbitrarily) rely on your choices all game (and afaict some get closed off very early on) I've seen three including the "best" ending (according to author fiat :)) and they are all some variation on bittersweet. You may find this frustrating.

Teen Wolf Season 1 Disk 1: I eventually gave up halfway through the last episode. As I was told, the first few episodes are much shakier than the ones that follow and there's definitely some interesting characters and plots, but it just didn't grab me. I didn't like the rather grim world it's set in, and while the secondary female characters are great they are definitely secondary. Mainly it just made me nostalgic for the first season or so of Vampire Diaries, which I found to be a much more entertaining take on similar tropes.

Still watching and enjoying Elementary and Chihayafuru week by week. *waits for Cam to get home so I can watch the latest episode of Elementary*

(*)There's a specific writing style I've only seen young writers use, I'm not sure if it's bad or just appeals more to people that age but it's definitely distinctive.
alias_sqbr: Dagna from Dragon Age reaching for a book (dagna)
I spent much of today playing The Royal Trap, the new game from Hanako games, creators of Magical Diary. It's been a lot of fun.

The game is set in a vaguely 17th century-ish pseudo-Europe notable mainly for being a matriarchy. Men have a moderate amount of power, but cannot inherit and must wait to be married off to a woman with land to support them. The main character, Madeleine, is a minor noble who acts as valet/bodyguard to the sweet young Prince Oscar. They are in a nearby kingdom with various other Princes vying for the hand of an eligible Princess...when THINGS HAPPEN and the player must choose who to trust/makeout with etc.

The structure is like Katawa Shoujo and a lot of other visual novels: Past a certain (clearly signposted) point the plot splits into one of at least four distinct paths, and each of these splits at the end into good, average and bad ends based on your past decisions. SAVE OFTEN. Most of the "good" ends require a romantic relationship with the relevant guy, but there's f/f friendship and romance options and nonromantic happy-ish endings.

I've done all the good ends (EDIT: Gaston path definitely grew on me :D :D) and they were all (a) sweet and (b) focussed more on finding stability for everyone the main character cares about than Twue Love.

Still a pretty heteronormative game, and everyone except the sly fey guy from pseudo-East-Asia and ambiguously brown pseudo-French maid is white. The way the game treats sex and gender is well meaning but may upset some people (ask me if you want details) But it's a story about a kickass woman dealing with a bunch of complicated crap, making out with cute boys (there are no f/f makeouts afaict ;_;), and deciding her own fate and I enjoyed it.

Cinders

Aug. 4th, 2012 11:56 am
alias_sqbr: Dagna from Dragon Age reaching for a book (dagna)
I just finished the visual novel Cinders for the third time and it was great. It's a clever interactive retelling of the Cinderella story, all the characters are complex and you can choose to befriend or alienate any of them, from the Prince to the stepmother, and either go for the fairy-godmother-and-Prince ending or something totally different. (My most recent playthrough I was horrible to everyone and became an evil queen. IT WAS GLORIOUS)

It's well put together too, the art is gorgeous (if sometimes a bit stiff and uncanny valley) and the music very effective. It revels in it's fairytale-ness, with sparkles everywhere (the text has rainbow sparkles), but the romances are understated and quite sweet, and it has a surprisingly complex approach to morality.

There's a demo but I decided to just buy it since I like supporting indie games and it was only $25. I'm glad I did.

My tumblr dash has been going on about it, there's a fan tumblr which the devs apparently pay attention to (!) as well as a wiki which I intend on using when I decide to have a go at the endings I couldn't get to by following my gut.

(Oh, and since I wasn't the only person worried by the voodoo-esque witch character Ghede: she's well written, and not a stereotype. In fact no reference is made to her ethnicity/culture at all, which has it's own issues but never mind)

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