Bio
Tabletop game dev (Mystic Lilies, NetBattlers, etc). Journalist. Bird. Mutual aid worker. (They/them)
Personal Ratings
1★
5★

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Replay '14

Participated in the 2014 Replay Event

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Played 500+ games

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Gained 15+ followers

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Being part of the Backloggd community for 1 year

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Gained 100+ total review likes

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Participated in the 2023 Game of the Year Event

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Favorite Games

Deus Ex
Deus Ex
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
Metroid Prime
Metroid Prime
Outer Wilds
Outer Wilds
Undertale
Undertale

570

Total Games Played

030

Played in 2024

250

Games Backloggd


Recently Played See More

Descent II
Descent II

Jul 18

Mega Man Star Force DX
Mega Man Star Force DX

Jul 18

Descent
Descent

Jul 18

Sudden Death
Sudden Death

Jul 12

Metroid Fool

Jul 11

Recently Reviewed See More

First down of my playthrough of the Descent series, and man, it's a stronger start than I anticipated! My memories of Descent were warm, having played some casually 6ish ago, but I wasn't expecting it to leave such a strong impression.

Descent is a hard game. The difficulty spike at Level 6 is infamous: the first five levels pit the player against robots that either attack in melee or fire slow-moving projectiles. The sixth introduces the Level 1 Driller. When it sees the player, it screeches and immediately opens fire with the Vulcan - an accurate minigun with zero bullet travel time. Its reactions are lightning-quick, its aim perfect, and its horrible personality inclining it to congregate in swarms or jump out from behind corners. Level 6 has maybe the highest density of this enemy, and it changes the pace of the game. Running & gunning will get you killed. It's at times brutal, even unfair to those who don't know what's coming (and sometimes even then!). After Level 6, it lets up on the Drillers. There are a couple other similarly mean enemies, and a couple other notable difficulty spikes. But none of them hit quite as hard as Level 6's violent paradigm shift.

I groused to friends about it. I took clips of rounding a corner into 3 Drillers, who blasted me for 70-something damage in less than a second. I said it had "pretty questionable design choices" and chuckled about how these developers - working on maybe the first fully 3D first-person shooter - didn't have other 3D FPSes to learn from. I didn't get it.

Descent isn't an arena shooter power fantasy in the vein of Quake. Sure, it's got some of that to it - when the game's nice, it's fun to zoom through levels and rely on your movement. But you're not the Doomslayer or Duke Nukem. You're a mercenary, implied to have previously been hired to disrupt a workers' strike, who hates his boss. You're in a robotic deathtrap - scan rooms carefully, enter quickly, and keep an exit plan. Descent's difficulty matches its themes perfectly, toeing the line between the cinematic action swagger of the mercenary's inner monologue and the sci-fi horror of the circumstances.

Two disclaimers: First, I don't want to overstate Descent's difficulty. Its difficulty spikes can be harsh, but they only last a level or two before it evens out. And second, there's another source of difficulty I haven't touched on because I've been playing 6DOF games since I was very young: the controls. The default keybinds are predictably unconventional, given the time and the extra complications zero gravity can bring. Those can be rebound to conventional WASD pretty easily. You're not moving your mouse to turn your head, you're moving your mouse to rotate your ship - a vehicle with a limited turn speed. It works for the game - being unable to 180 at a moment's notice works towards the game's tension. It's also very unintuitive for the unfamiliar, and will probably leave unwarned FPS players fiddling with their mouse settings in vain to try and "fix" it. (The port DXX-Rebirth allows you to play with uncapped mouse movement, though I played with the new community standard, DXX-Redux.)

Difficulty aside, many of Descent's elements are both satisfying and begging for more time in the oven.
- The enemy robots exhibit some solid AI, ducking for cover or sneaking up on you... but over half the cast of enemy robots are almost functionally identical.
- The weapons feel great to use, and many are excitingly experimental. The rare Smart Missile releases a swarm of homing plasma globs on impact, letting you splat it against a surface to indirectly attack unseen targets. The Fusion Cannon's charge-up violently swallows your energy and shakes your screen, but pierces enemies with a predictable shitton of damage. Shame you're going to spend 75% of the game just using the Level 4 Quad Lasers and a third of them are borderline useless.
- Every level takes about 15-20 minutes to beat, with the same premise of "Find 1-3 keys to reach the reactor, destroy it, and escape before the facility explodes". That's a satisfying chunk of play, very easy to justify booting for a single level. The core premise is also solid, allowing for a decent amount of flexibility and an exciting ending. Both of these factors choke the variety levels bring, though. Why not allow for varied reactor explosion timers, letting you design levels with marathon runs to the end rather than the same ~45-second window every time? Why do keys always chain Blue-Yellow-Red, never allowing players to break from that order? Why did you introduce "enemies can carry keys" for literally two of 30 levels?
- The opening & closing prose are fun, and the short briefing & new enemy previews before levels are a good touch. Could there have been more dialogue - such as in the middle of the game?
- The music is very charming and occasionally atmospheric, but - actually, no complaints, it's just fun. MIDI magic.

Ultimately, Descent was a trailblazer for its time that remains unconventional compared to the direction modern FPSes have gone. I'm surprised by how well it's held up, and I'm excited to see what the rest of the series has in store.

the writing's compelling, but the presentation is really something else. very clean, engaging, and never too much. great use of the medium.

(definitely should have read the Characters section first so I wouldn't get confused by first/last name references, oops)

Man, what do you say about a romhack like this? I went in with a lot of Metroid Prime experience (including a lot of glitches & exploits used in randomizer play). I had no expectations besides "an April Fools joke" and Toasterparty's reputation as the lead dev of a lot of Prime hacking tools - and man, it's such a treat.

First and foremost, it's endlessly surprising. The number of times I thought "You can do that? In Prime?!" is uncountable. Metroid Prime isn't one of those games like Quake or Half-Life 2 where you can shape it into whatever you like - the mix of GC limitations & What No Dev Tools Does To An MF has meant any kind of Prime modding progress has been slow & painful-seeming. Metroid Fool is a really impressive showcase of how much is possible - and equally as impressive is how much Toaster did with so little.

Metroid Fool isn't just a tech demo - it's jam-packed with creativity. A lot of changes to areas & their contents boil down to "I adjusted the basic property of X thing in Y way," and yet it's constantly using these tools to doing new, wacky, and wild shit with it. The smaller changes are a treat too, packing pranks and gags into otherwise unremarkable areas just enough to keep you on your toes.

It's also hard enough to have an audience of probably <1000 people. Beating Metroid Fool doesn't just require being able to beat Metroid Prime. You need to have a strong handle on many of the game's exploits; if I say "ghetto jump" and your gut response isn't "actually it's called a slope jump nowadays," you're not ready. It's definitely doable - it doesn't indulge in the most masochistic or hardcore tricks possible, but this is for people who have spent dozens (hundreds?) of hours playing Metroid Prime's randomizer and grinding away on its various tricks.

All that being said, it's not mean overall. Save points are placed generously, and the worst failures will generally waste just a couple minutes. Still, I ended up resorting to Dolphin's save states on a few occasions - and I suspect that the number of people who could beat Metroid Fool without them are in the lower double digits. The only other note about its difficulty is that it's not afraid to leave it up to you to figure things out - something generally rewarding and exciting after feeling like Metroid Prime is so thoroughly explored & understood, but very occasionally left me wishing things were better explained.

Before, I was worried Metroid Fool would be difficult to evaluate. Metroid Prime is a game very near and dear to my heart - what if it just rides the coattails of my greatest soft spot? Having completed Metroid Fool, I can safely say that Prime isn't its cheat code to success - it's its canvas, upon which it draws some great clowns. Prime zigs, Fool zags, and I laugh. Simple as. Toasterparty called this his magnum opus, and I think it's earned the title - though I hope he's wrong, as I can only dream about what could top this.