Baba is You: good but hard puzzle game

David and I are finished with (see below) Baba is You, which is a pretty neat puzzle game that is also quite hard and seems unfair at times, although it isn’t.

The gist of the game is that you’re on a two-dimensional game board and the rules of the current level are laid out as words that you can move around. WALL IS STOP is a common rule, for example, that means your character can’t move through walls, but if you break up that rule then you can. (BABA IS YOU is another common rule meaning that you control Baba 🙂 )

It’s a neat idea for a game, and while the metarules are pretty simple, the rules themselves quickly get complicated due to the number of words that are introduced. For example, the order that rules get applied in matters, and there are so many rules that I found it hard to keep track of. (this may be one disadvantage to playing through games slowly, which is something we have to do right now because of kids and whatnot) Moreover, on the more complicated levels it really feels like there’s only one way to solve the level, which is kinda disappointing.

There are also over 200 levels, and David and I did maybe 120 or so before we finally decided to call it quits because it felt more like work than fun. But there were definitely some levels that I felt very clever about having solved them.

It’s kind of neat – when I started playing the game I thought “that’s a neat gimmick but being able to change rules doesn’t seem too powerful”, then after a few levels I moved to “Baba is like a god among men, how can this game ever be hard”, and then the game quickly showed me how to do so 🙂

Also kudos to the developer for making it incredibly easy to undo moves!

The Witness: a good puzzle game!

David and I have been slowly playing through The Witness in our copious spare time, and we finally finished! A basically spoiler-free review follows:

It’s a good game! It is kinda Myst-like, in that you wander around the world solving puzzles, but solves some of the things that annoyed me about Myst – it’s mostly clear what are puzzles and what are not, and it’s usually obvious what solving a puzzle does. Now that I write those words you might say “but that doesn’t sound like Myst at all!” and, well, fair point. But it has that same sense of mystery and lonesome wandering.

The puzzles themselves are pretty creative – there’s basically one type of puzzle which a bunch of variations. The best part of the game is the fact that there’s no real tutorial; you get thrown into the game and get to use inductive reasoning to figure out the rules and what the heck is going on. The feeling of staring at a puzzle trying to figure out what’s going on and getting that moment of inspiration is really powerful!

Stepping back for a minute, a common trope in video games is getting the ability to do more things as you progress. Metroid in particular is the canonical example to me – you start out and you run into a door that won’t open without the ice beam, so you go a different direction. Later on, you find a chest with the ice beam in it, say “yay!” and eventually go back to the door and open it.

The Witness manages to do this but with knowledge. Your character doesn’t get any more powerful, but you learn how to solve more and more types of puzzles. Often we could guess the idea behind a puzzle but not quite all the details, and then once we did learn the rule we felt more powerful!

We only cheated a few times – one time we had used some incorrect logic, and there was one zone in particular that just went on and on and on (highlight for spoiler: *cough*underground part of the desert*cough*) But overall I was proud of us!

I will say that the meta-story behind everything was kinda disappointing, and if you do play and beat the game I would recommend you look at a walkthrough to make sure you get the “real” ending. But if you like puzzle games it’s a good one!

interesting things

I have a list of tabs open in Firefox mentally filed under “to post about” but I’m only really interested in about half of them – this half!

GM reveals Chevy Volt design
The Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid car that scheduled to be released in 2010/2011. This is a car I could see buying (hopefully I won’t need a new car by then!) – it goes 40 miles solely on charge alone, and after that there is a gasoline motor but it’s just used to charge the electric battery, not for propelling the wheels (like the Prius does). Downsides – it’s going to be expensive ($40Kish?) and only hold four people. Apparently the battery pack takes up room where the middle back seat would be. I’ve been keeping my eye on this – it would be nice for an America car company to take the lead in green technology for once, and plug-in hybrids are cool!

Familiar Ground May Be Election’s Deciding Factor
Right now, it looks like Obama’s easiest path to victory is Kerry states + Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado, which is very doable. fivethirtyeight.com‘s numbers are favoring McCain now but I’m confident they’ll swing back the other direction.

Federal bank insurance fund dwindling
I don’t claim to understand what the hell is going on, but our financial system seems to be going to hell and it’s kinda scary. The subprime crisis has the classic hallmarks of a Black Swan in that apparently few thought it was possible, and the amount of money that’s been lost is pretty staggering. If there’s one thing I learned from “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, it’s that things are more uncertain in Extremistan than we think…

In NCAA 09 news, the U of H Cougars lost to Florida in the Fiesta Bowl 14-6 (sooo close to tying it up at the end…) but finished the season #10 in the nation, and had a good recruiting season. We’re about to start season #2!

NCAA Football 09

Last week destroyerj and I bought copies of NCAA Football 09 to play an online dynasty together. I haven’t played video game football since college to my recollection, so it sounded like fun!

5 weeks into the season, it is indeed fun. The controls have gotten a lot more complicated since then but I’m starting to get the hang of it – trying to pick up one or two new moves every game.

Dynasty mode is pretty sweet too. The idea is that you’re the coach of a team (I took U of Houston, destroyerj took Rice) and you play games while also recruiting for next season. If you do well you can go to bowl games/get invited to better conferences/etc. If you do poorly you can be fired!

The first few weeks we played on “Varsity” difficulty, but after I beat #13 Illinois and destroyerj beat #10 Texas we bumped it to “All-American”. Last night I sat down to play a practice game against Rice to try out the new difficulty. It was definitely a step up – Rice was beating me 28-7ish before I gave up and went to play my real game against ECU (East Carolina University, apparently). Luckily I guess I had adapted to the harder difficulty while practicing so I thumped them 31-7ish.

So that’s going well. The fun part is, oddly enough, recruiting! You have to pick a bunch of high-schoolers to set your sights on (that are at least a little interested in your school), and then start cajoling them to like you more. Your school has certain attributes (academic quality, conference quality, proximity to home, early playing time, etc.) and each recruit values these things more or less, so you can call them and try to figure out what’s important to them (and sometimes you can sway them to think something is more important). After they like you a certain amount you can set up a campus visit, and you use the knowledge of what they like and what you’re good at to pick activities for them to do.

My recruiting this season seems to be going quite well – I needed two MLB’s and two G’s which is a bit rough but I seem to have the inside track on a number of good ones. The recruits are rated from 1-5 stars and I have a good shot at some 4 stars, which is pretty good for my first year at a mediocre school. I have learned not to schedule visits during a bye week; thought I read somewhere that it didn’t make a difference but it sure seems to.

Anyway, it’s a good game and worth picking up, especially if you plan on playing an Online Dynasty!