A NEW CHALLENGER: Recently, Valve Corporation––owners of the PC gaming storefront and launcher, Steam––announced a new piece of hardware that excited a lot of gamers: the handheld Steam machine called the Steam Deck. D. Bethel and Andrew walk through the announcement and ponder what it could change in the industry, and how it could leave some gamers lacking.
“Where the Hands Touch” (13 January 2017): Where Andrew discusses a previous piece of Valve-made hardware, the ill-fated Steam controller.
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew dabbles in a few different ponds, first by playing a bit of Mass Effect Legendary Edition, then talks about his experience going through Subnautica: Below Zero, and testing his mettle with Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch. D. Bethel is very conflicted––but having a lot of fun––as he plays through Dragon’s Crown Pro.
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew finds progress in repetition as he plays the new indie video game hit, Loop Hero, by Four Quarters. D. Bethel, on the other hand, finds a lot of quirky charm––despite the somewhat very dark places the story goes––in the new SyFy show, Resident Alien, based on the Dark Horse comic series.
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew watches the Queen Latifah-starring CBS reboot of the classic crime drama, The Equalizer, while D. Bethel finds a powerful, personal, and moving story about depression and self-acceptance in the 2018 retro-styled puzzle platformer, Celeste.
“Episode 108 – Private Reasons” (29 September 2016): Where D. Bethel and Andrew discuss the surge of reboots of classic ’80s film and tv franchises.
“Sad News Theme” (28 February 2020): Where Andrew discussed his first impressions of another reboot of a classic prime time drama, MacGyver.
“For Great Justice” (19 February 2021): Where D. Bethel talks with Andrew about video game genres and their ability to tell certain kinds of stories (as it related to the bizarre news around Six Days in Fallujah).
WEEK IN GEEK: As a buffer between episodes about the The Karate Kid movies and talking about Cobra Kai, Andrew and D. Bethel talk about what other nerdy stuff has been occupying their attentions. Andrew talks about the early access release of the Subnautica sequel with Subnautica: Below Zero while D. Bethel is pretty sure he’s playing Rebel Galaxy Outlaw incorrectly as he delivers goods across different solar systems.
2020 was a year that upended all expectations. Though the threats that 2020 brought affected people in a variety of ways, for most it became a year of simple survival. For nerds, of course, we turn to the things that occupy our attention, inspire our imagination, or generate conversation. This year, we are looking at the things that helped us survive 2020. Today, co-host D. Bethel shares what kept him inspired throughout the year.
2020 became a year of self-reflection for most people; for creatives, it became a challenge to find inspiration in new places and ways. Working from home proved to be incredibly difficult when, all of a sudden, my creative, personal space became my classroom. Teaching, planning, and grading at my computer all day made it difficult to walk the two feet to my drawing table and work for another handful of hours on a Long John page. To that end, of all the things to provide inspiration, the sweet and sentimental video game, Spiritfarer, hit hard and unexpectedly.
On its own, Thunder Lotus’ newest game, Spiritfarer isn’t particularly notable. Yes, it looks very nice and the systems and loops are fun to juggle and the writing is top-notch. But it’s not revolutionary, at least not on its own. It’s just a good game. Honestly, that’s enough.
Spiritfarer is a management sim; playing as Stella, you takes over the role of spiritfarer––shepherding souls from death to the afterlife––from a retiring Charon. The majority of the game takes place on your boat that houses the spirits found along the way. During their tenancy, you talk to them, learn their stories, and help them get past whatever psychology holds them back from accepting their deaths. Once they have a moment of clarity, you take them to the “Everdoor” which sends them to their eternal home. For each spirit you recruit––taking the form of a different anthropomorphized animal––you do small quests to help brighten their moods. To do that, you grow crops, cook food, take them to specific locations, or harvest materials they want. With so many different spirits on your boat, your job is to keep all of these plates spinning while also maintaining your boat.
The thing about this game is not what it is, specifically, although––as I said––it’s very good. Instead, it’s about what it represents and what came before. Spiritfarer‘s Canadian developer, Thunder Lotus, is renowned for their amazing art and animation; what they can’t be accused of, however, is being stuck in a rut. Their previous game, Sundered, is a procedurally-generated Metroidvania. Before that, their first game, Jøtun, is an isometric 2D-Zelda-like that had you battling giant bosses to get into Valhalla (I played bothgames on the Dan & Rusty Video Game Power Hour years ago).
Every game differs wildly from the last, with the quality of art and music being the only link between them. This also makes them unpredictable, but not in a worrying, nervous way. There is no doubt that their next game will be beautiful and good, even if I have no idea what kind of game it will be, and that’s what I found so comforting about this game in a year like 2020.
While Spiritfarer is wonderful, I find its success validating for the mercurial ethos of Thunder Lotus Games, and for me. Though I’m slow with the output for my western webcomic, Long John, I also know it’s not the only story I want to tell. Seeing Thunder Lotus not only bounce between genres and styles without a care but to also be successful (in terms of execution) with every game they make shows me that a similar desire to bounce around with my own creative endeavors is not only possible but can absolutely work when done with integrity, thoughtful intent, and earnest excitement. Those qualities seep through Spiritfarer on every level (pardon the pun), and they were more than welcome in a year like 2020.
WEEK IN GEEK: In the lead up to the holidays, Andrew binges the entirety (so far) of Amazon Prime’s original series, Man in the High Castle, while D. Bethel has been playing the delightful yet simple Cat Quest in short bursts.
The charming Nintendo Direct where Mario & Zelda creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, guides us through the new Super Nintendo World theme park:
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew watches the recent Netflix-made video game documentary series, High Score, and gets inspired to finally check out the very strange––and controversial?––game, Night Trap. D. Bethel finds serenity as the ferryman of the dead while playing Thunder Lotus Games’ Spiritfarer, a game that is a far cry from their previous games.
#CAPITALISM: With Disney taking ownership of the 4th of May, Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the role of ownership in public discourse for a bit.
MUNDANE FANTASY: Looking at where the world is now, and with the meteoric landing of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, D. Bethel and Andrew wonder––why do we love playing games about working…and love them?
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, after giving a brief update on the announcement of IMDb TV’s revival of Leverage, Andrew talks about his experience playing Coldwild Games‘ delightful trading simulation game, Merchant of the Skies while D. Bethel finally got around to watching Netflix’s The Witcher.
Episode 31 – “Post-Op Dan” (09 Jan. 2015): Where Andrew discusses his impressions of John Rogers’ post-Leverage show, The Librarians.