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Surviving 2020: D. Bethel

Surviving 2020: D. Bethel

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.

Also, it has a hug button, which is great.

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 both games 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.

This is not a cinematic sequence; this is just something you can do in the game. Screencap taken by the author (click for a larger version).

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.

Something About Werewolves

Something About Werewolves

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.





Shortcast 28 – Linguistic Bravado

Shortcast 28 – Linguistic Bravado

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew played Punch Club by Lazy Bear Games while D. talks about his time with Thunder Lotus Games‘ newest release, Sundered.

Crafting a loadout for fights in Punch Club.

An automated fight against a ninja NOT-turtle in Punch Club.

Feature-quality idle animation for the main character, Eshe, from Sundered.

Some of the amazingly animated enemies from Sundered.



For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.


-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio

Let’s Play – Jotun

Let’s Play – Jotun

Playing a bit of Thunder Lotus’ gorgeous adventure game, Jotun, live really exposed how scary doing such a thing is.

I listen to plenty of video game podcasts, such as Giant Bombcast (as well as the Giant Beastcast), Vice Gaming’s New Podcast, and Match 3, and they have all talked about––to varying degrees––the stress of playing in front of people. For some reason, I thought I’d be immune, but only once I began to broadcast gameplay did I suddenly became aware that anybody could stroll in and watch me die a whole lot. With each chunk of damage I took, the pinch of worry grew stronger.

I don’t think, in hindsight, that my lack of skill lessens the pure majesty of this game (which I first talked about during Episode 107‘s Week in Geek). About halfway through the stream, I wise up and show off some aspects of the game that really do show off the grandiosity and choices that––if implemented––could really do amazing world-building for a retro-isometric The Legend of Zelda game, if they ever wanted to go back to that.

Even though the player character, Thora, becomes so small that seeing her can become a problem if working through a particularly busy boss battle (ahem), and the top-down camera restrains the field of view, Jotun feels epic in the truest and popular sense of the word through the simplest of choices in, most obviously, art and, more subtly, play with perspective which I show off about halfway through the stream.

I hope to do more streams like this––haphazard hour-long plays with my dog making dog noises in the background. “The Dan & Rusty Video Game Hour” was a concept I bounced around this summer (if only to make myself laugh), and I held from pulling the trigger out of laziness more than anything else. Once I got the gumption, it mostly worked and I hope that––despite the constant deaths that befell me during the hour of play––you get some enjoyment out of it. I’ll need to work out some audio kinks, if they can be worked out (the game audio is incredibly loud), but streaming is still a trial and error thing for Andrew and me, so it’ll only get better, I’m sure.

If I do say so, I have a banger of a joke at the end that I’m still quite proud of. *self high-five*

Episode 107 – Spock’s Screams

Episode 107 – Spock’s Screams


WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew bides his time until Civilization VI releases by playing a bunch of Blizzard games while Dan swims through the lush animation and Old Norse world of Thunder Lotus Games’ Jotun.

NEWS BLAST – UPDATE – METAL GEAR SURVIVE: Metal Gear series creator and famous non-employee of Konami, Hideo Kojima, boldly said that he has nothing to do with Konami’s upcoming Metal Gear Solid V spinoff, Metal Gear Survive, on stage at this years Tokyo Game Show. Konami retaliated by releasing approximately fifteen minutes of co-op gameplay to a rather tepid response.

LEGACY CHARACTERS 2.0: Building off of the previous conversations about “legacy characters”––superhero mantles that can be passed from person to person rather than being locked to a single identity––in Episode 09 and, tangentially, in Episode 104, Dan and Andrew return to the topic now that the world has a new Superman––officially New Super-Man––and recent Legacy turns with Wolverine and the use of a Legacy character in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD: Ghost Rider v3.0, Robby Reyes. So, there’s lots of stuff to talk about.

Leave your thoughts about this week’s topics as comments at Be sure to join the official Facebook page and follow Andrew and D. Bethel on Twitter. Help the show out by leaving a review on the iTunes store. Check out the official YouTube channel, as well!

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.


-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“New Blood (Here Comes a New Challenger)” by Another Soundscape (Street Fighter II remix)
-“Little Ashes” by Joseph LoDuca (from Army of Darkness)