After taking 2020 off, the Holiday Cards are back! Without further ado, here is the sixth Brainscraps Holiday Card, Mary Sue’s Character Casino, which is fully playable via your desktop or laptop browser.
All of this experimentation happened sometime in the middle of the year. That’s right. Whereas past Holiday Cards typically took between one and three months to make, start to finish, Mary Sue’s Character Casino was a half-year project. The static art assets alone took me more than a month and a half to create.
Putting all this time toward making the game meant less for other things, such as this blog. With that in mind, Mary Sue’s Character Casino will be the last Holiday Card for the foreseeable future. Starting in 2022, I’m going to make a real effort to revamp and revive this blog, with more frequent (and hopefully shorter) updates. In terms of content, I would like to post more here than just reviews and impressions, and bring back the sorts of commentary and features that used to appear here. A slight visual refresh is also being planned.
For those that have been reading all this time, thanks for sticking with me, and if you’re new here, welcome, and hope to see you again. I also hope that everyone has (or had, or is having) a safe and enjoyable holiday season!
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Brain Scrap House originally took the form of a short-lived column for Clidus‘ now-defunct gaming site Fantasy World XD (you can read both installments via the Old Stuff page). Later, as okamiblog was dying out, I remade it into the site you see here, which went live on May 7, 2009. Ten years and change later, during which the title was changed into the punchier “Brainscraps.net”, I’m still here, writing about (and eventually making) video games for I don’t know how big an audience. Thanks to all of my visitors over the years, whether or not I know you personally. I hope to keep doing this for awhile yet.
Brainscraps’ original look. I can’t remember where I got the header image the first time around.
To celebrate this anniversary, Brainscraps has gotten a new look which was directly inspired by the site’s original Sonic the Hedgehog-themed design; for this remake, the header’s source image came from Sonic Retro. Brainscraps also now has a dedicated Twitter account,
@Brainscraps_net, which will include announcements of new posts and projects, and should hopefully have far fewer retweets than my main one. But wait, there’s more! A Brainscraps group has been founded on Steam, primarily to house a Curator page dedicated to the many PC and Mac titles featured in the annual Gaming Selections posts. Membership is currently restricted, meaning that you must request to join or receive an invite, since I’m not sure that I have the time to moderate a forum. This might change in the future, though; we’ll see.
As for any future anniversary-related stuff, I’m planning to revisit at least one of the games covered during the site’s first year of operation. If all goes well, expect to see new writing about Startopia, Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, and/or Halo: Combat Evolved sometime before next May (and before anyone asks, Chrono Cross is absolutely, completely, 100% out of the question). I also have a special project in the works which will be launching within the next week or two, so keep an eye out for it!
Finally, I feel like I should explain why this post is nearly a month overdue, and also why I haven’t posted at all since January. In early April, bitprophet and I moved back to the East Coast, and during the months leading up to it, we were both busy with preparations to do so. After a long, cross-country drive, we spent another month and a half setting up our new place, taking two trips (one planned and one unplanned), and dealing with other odds and ends. In case you’re wondering, I did manage to squeeze in some game time during all that, beating Bayonetta 2, Splitter Critters, and Witch & Hero III; getting roughly halfway through Disgaea 4 and Kirby’s Dream Land 2; and continuing on in Pokemon GO and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I’ve been also trying to keep up with my manga, but my current backlog is a bit heavier than usual. I’d like to write about some of this media consumption soon, but in the meantime, a belated Happy Birthday to Brainscraps, thank you for reading, and hope that you’ll all continue to stick with both me and this site.
Though some bouts of insomnia didn’t help, I have managed to complete this year’s Holiday Card. Thus, I am happy to announce that 2018’s Holiday Card, which is simply titled Four, is now available! Four is somewhat different from previous Cards, though it shares some of their underlying spirit.
I can’t say what inspired this year’s card, as I don’t entirely know; the idea just sort of popped into my head one day. However, I suspect it was a combination of factors, including certain current events. As stated on the game’s project page, my original idea was something quite different, both in terms of concept and execution. Regarding what Four is about, well… you’ll just have to see for yourself.
Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season, and here’s wishing you all a great 2019!
ETA (Dec. 5, 2018): A small bug fix was made to Four, which will likely affect save files. The older version of the game has been preserved here, via the project’s page, but not on itch.io. Please see this post on itch.io for more details.
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We’re now just past the midpoint of 2018, and although I’ve met my personal gaming goal for this year, my Backloggery progress index is in the negative, thanks largely to some Switch pickups (and a gift), and the usual Steam Summer Sale. I’ve been playing a little bit of everything—action and turn-based JRPGs, indie puzzle and adventure games, and a couple of newer entries in long-running franchises—but there’s always too much good stuff out there to catch up on.
My major gaming goals these past couple of months were to beat Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth and play through Tales of Vesperia. Despite a generic setup for the final boss battle (which, on the plus side, had awesome music), the former game was excellent—it’s easily one of the best, if not the best, in the core series. There was none of the overworld stuff that was first introduced in the third game and padded out the fourth (and most boring) entry. Instead, Etrian V is a straight-up dungeon crawl through the massive tree Yggdrasil, much like the first two games. That’s not to say this back-to-basics approach didn’t include any new elements, the best of which is the addition of in-dungeon food gathering and cooking, which gives one more options for healing and lessens the need to warp back to town whenever health and standard support items run low. On top of that, each dungeon strata’s gimmicks are novel, the story is quite good, and the mapmaking and other series hallmarks are as fine-tuned as they’ve ever been, including in the postgame, which is still tough as balls. This dungeon crawler fan highly recommends it.
Remember how, last year, I was unable to finish last year’s Holiday Card due to illness? After some treatment this year, I feel a bit better (though not completely well), and I picked up work on said Card again in the fall. This time around, I was able to complete my work. So, without further ado, this year’s (and technically last year’s) Holiday Card is General Princess!
For this third Holiday Card, I was inspired by something that feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian said in an interview: that she’d like to see a game where a captive princess rescues herself for a change. I’m paraphrasing here, as I can no longer find the exact quote, though I believe it was in the New York Times. Anyway, I somehow went from that to coming up with a plot where a princess keeps herself from being captured in the first place. The tower defense genre seemed like a natural fit for such a story, and so I began work last fall.
This time around, I used GameMaker:Studio, which I had picked up cheaply in a Humble Bundle. Coming from RPG Maker and Ren’py, it’s an intimidating program, but fortunately, there’s a wealth of information out there about its ins and outs, in the forms of ebook tutorials, the official forums, blog posts, and a Reddit page, amongst others. Other tools I used included the usual Sketchbook Pro, GarageBand, and Pixelmator, as well as Corel Painter and Audacity. In addition, Freesound, which I found via Sortingh.at, was helpful when it came to sound effects I couldn’t make myself.
General Princess can be found in the Projects section, as well as via the all-new Brainscraps itch.io page. And yes, my previous two Holiday Cards can now be found on itch.io as well.
As usual, please enjoy this latest jaunt into silliness, and Happy Holidays!
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I beat Frog Fractions 2 this afternoon (or is that Frog Fractions 3?), a game that’s much longer, more incoherent, and harder than its predecessor. It’s also the first game I’ve Kickstarted which has since come out, which is funny since it’s the only one whose release was obfuscated on purpose, rather than openly falling into some form of Development Hell. There is one part I must spoil, since it involves hardware: at some point, there’s a section which, out of the blue, requires a microphone or similar audio input. However, this section is optional, but the game doesn’t tell you that it is. I don’t use a microphone when PC gaming, and anyway, my offbeat setup makes hooking one up uniquely frustrating. Also, there were no alternative control schemes offered within the game for this part. To me, this particular section wasn’t very well thought out, but Frog Fractions 2 is, in many ways, not a friendly or approachable game. Though it is never unfair (aside from the microphone thing), it does demand a decent amount of imagination and cleverness from its players.
Finding it within Glittermitten Grove is easy enough—I just used the same basic approach as one does with Frog Fractions—but once I got there, what confronted me was a place which got more and more difficult to deal with the further I dove in. Without giving away too much, Frog Fractions 2 is full of funny and weird moments, but in other aspects, it’s a different beast.
On another end of the humor spectrum, I went through all three of the playable Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice DLC episodes. The first, a full-length case titled “Turnabout Time Traveler”, was not nearly as good as its equivalent from the previous game. Instead of an orca at a musically-inclined aquarium, the client is a bride who claims to have relived her wedding reception thanks to a time machine. Oh, and of course, there’s been a murder, and she’s the main suspect. A few of the arguments made in court are sloppy and poorly worded in a way that typically happens in the worst Ace Attorney cases. On the other hand, a major highlight of this episode is the return of Larry Butz, a regular from the first Ace Attorney trilogy who has a tendency for getting into trouble. Phoenix, Maya, and Edgeworth are all present as well; just add Gumshoe and this would’ve been a full-on nostalgic reunion. However, perhaps it is for the best that Gummy didn’t appear, as I would’ve preferred a better case to accompany all the fanservice.
The other two DLCs, brief alternate universe stories called “Phoenix Wright: Asinine Attorney” and “Apollo Justice: Asinine Attorney”, are much fluffier trifles. Phoenix’s tale centers around Pearl and her visit to Kuhra’in, and on the flip-side, Apollo’s features that kingdom’s Princess Rayfa visiting the United States. They are both very short and lighthearted, with Apollo’s episode being both slightly longer and generally better. Both also come with pixel-art 3DS themes, adding some more value to what would otherwise be a pair of overpriced tales.
Before playing through all of that, however, I beat a couple of much longer games. First was Picross 3D Round 2, which is sort of misleading since, after the credits rolled, many more new puzzles unlocked. Round 2 is just as good as the original Picross 3D, which is to say that it’s one of the best picture puzzle video games one could ask for. The puzzles are plentiful and brilliantly conceived, and although there’s an additional level of complexity now, with specially shaped pieces, the game does a great job of easing you into things, as expected from this series.
The other game was Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below, a crossover between Dragon Quest, a JRPG series with a solid reputation, and Dynasty Warriors, which is looked upon… a bit less fondly. Although the basic flavor of the latter is definitely present—in the forms of simple combat controls and massive swarms of enemies—this is also very much a Dragon Quest game in terms of aesthetics, polish, and, on the more negative side, some old-school JRPG menu clunkiness. Still, it was great fun carving through dozens of slimes and the like alongside Alena, Yangus, and other beloved characters from mainline Dragon Quest games, and it’s not like I mind a bit of mostly simple hacky-slashy fun every now and again.
I also replayed the first Frog Fractions (it’s always a good time on Bug Mars) and continued on with Pokemon Sun, which, if anything, recalls the tedium of Pokemon Platinum. However, I hope that unlike with Platinum, I don’t end up taking nine months to beat it. Right now, I would guess that if I’m not at the halfway mark, then I’m very close to it. Also, this isn’t exactly a video game, but a few days ago, I dug out my old Tamagochi and started messing around with it, an experience I may or may not write more about later. The most amazing thing about it so far is that the batteries, which I believe are the original ones from the late 1990s, still work.
As for what I’ll start next, I’m really not sure right now. With Persona 5‘s release date coming up, I’ve been eyeing the two Persona spinoffs I have left in my backlog, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax and Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. There’s also my dwindling pile of Xbox 360 games, Tales of Vesperia arguably being the longest amongst them. However, for the time being, I might be best off plugging away at Pokemon Sun, since I’ve been neglecting it lately. We’ll see how it goes.
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