Interesting read on how Google search is useless these days

For the last year (probably longer) I’ve become more and more frustrated with my Google searches. I’ll search for something that should have an obvious answer yet most of the results aren’t even related to what I’m searching for. It feels almost impossible to find an answer to anything anymore, even something as simple as “what time does X event start?”. I’ve found that I need to add ‘reddit’ to the end of my searches to even find an answer.

I was browsing Apple News the other day and came across this article in The Atlantic: “The Open Secret of Google Search” which describes my experiences with Google to a T, right down to searching Reddit for anything that requires a simple answer. If you’re as frustrated with Google as I’ve been lately I suggest giving it a read.

The new PlayStation Plus has been frustrating so far

As someone who doesn’t currently own a PlayStation console I was excited to try out the new PlayStation Plus service, specifically the Premium tier that allows streaming on PC. I had tried out PlayStation Now before and it worked reasonably well so I figured Plus Premium would be similar.

I was able to play games such as Horizon Zero Dawn without issue, and the streaming quality was pretty good. I’m playing via a 2018 MacBook Air through Boot Camp connected to a Samsung 4K tv. The stream quality was nice, you can barely tell you’re streaming a game (I’ve had similar experiences streaming via Game Pass). There are minor hiccups where the video gets pixelated, but otherwise it looks crisp and the controls are responsive. I have gigabit internet, and average around 700mbps down via ethernet. I’ve also played via WiFi (about 450 down) and haven’t noticed any dip in quality.

The problem I’ve had is that many PS3 games simply won’t launch. When you click ‘Start’ nothing happens. I’ve restarted my computer, reinstalled the app, no luck. Two games I really wanted to play were Everybody’s Golf and Tekken 2, and neither will launch. PS4 games seem to have no issue, but the majority of PS3 games I’ve tried fail to launch.

Last weekend I spent about an hour chatting with PlayStation support and they had me do everything in the book. Reinstall the app, reset my modem and router, restart my computer, try a different internet connection (I tried ethernet, WiFi, and via mobile hotspot). Eventually they finally decided to tell me “oh we know about this, sorry, it should get fixed eventually”. Not encouraging. I asked if they could extend my subscription for the time I haven’t been able to get what I’ve paid for, but their response was that since I could still use PlayStation Plus I was out of luck. Not ideal.

I’ve tried every day for the last week and I still can’t launch most PS3 games. While I’m enjoying Horizon, it’s disappointing that I can’t access the majority of the back catalog being offered. I’ve seen a handful of people on Reddit express that they’re having the same issue, with little help from PlayStation support. I really hope this gets fixed soon, but I’m not holding my breath.

I wish I liked Mario Strikers: Battle League

Mario Strikers: Battle League is an incredibly stylish game. Everything from the menus to the special shot animations are oozing with style. Having not played any previous Mario soccer game I imagined I’d be in for a hectic Mario Kart style take on soccer, so I bought the game without giving it much though. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a whole lot of fun with the game since its launch, and I’m not so sure I’ll spend a lot more time with it.

I was disappointed to find that there’s not a whole lot of single player content. You can play quick matches or enter into cup battles, but there’s no story mode, and no progression (besides unlocking a few pieces of equipment that change a character’s stats).

The gameplay itself feels solid. You’ll pass and shoot around the pitch, while avoiding enemy tackles and power ups while strategically deploying your own. You’re rewarded for well timed passes and shots allowing you to score a combos which increase your chance of scoring. If you collect a glowing orb that occasionally appears you’ll have an opportunity to execute a powerful shot that if timed correctly becomes unblockable and counts for two points.

The hyper strike shots are easy enough to pull off against the AI, but I’ve found them almost impossible to pull off online. They can be interrupted by a tackle, so you really need to be wide open to pull one off. This makes sense, otherwise it could make the game too easy if you could consistently get these shots off, and it makes it extra rewarding when you do pull one off (beyond the extra point).

That said, in general my online experience has been miserable. When playing solo I’ve been matched against teams of players who have a huge advantage over my AI controlled teammates. They’ll often constantly tackle everyone repeatedly (you can tackle players whether or not they have the ball) and there have been some matches where I feel like I’ve barely crossed mid field. In general when I’ve played online I either lose in an 8-0 embarrassment or I get the feeling I’m playing against a child who can’t quite grasp the controls and I win without breaking a sweat. There hasn’t been any middle ground, and I haven’t wanted to play online at all anymore.

Without an enjoyable online experience, I’m left with the hollow single player experience which definitely isn’t worth the $60 asking price. Maybe I’m just terrible at the game (seems likely), but I pictured myself having more fun with the game.

I might give the game another shot with some local multiplayer, but otherwise I don’t think I’ll be launching the game again.

It’s been awhile

Hi, I haven’t done this in quite a long time. I had let my domain lapse for awhile but finally renewed and figured I should write more often. We’ll see how that goes.

It’s been a busy couple of years. I’ve finished school since the last time I’ve checked in here and have been working as a tax accountant. I’ve passed two of the four CPA exams and am working to finish up by the end of the summer (probably another reason I should’ve just let the blog die).

In video gaming news, I was fortunate enough to secure an Xbox Series X shortly after launch and have enjoyed it quite a bit since then. Game Pass continues to be an amazing service that keeps getting better. Honestly, one of my favorite games I’ve played in the last two years is Microsoft Flight Simulator on the Series X. It’s such a beautiful game, and it never gets old flying around gawking at the scenery.

I’ve gotten back into collecting and listening to vinyl records which has been a lot of fun as well. It’s nice to put a record on and listen from start to finish. While I love the access that streaming music allows, I’ve often found that I tend to only listen to a few songs and have gone years without listening to some songs on albums I like. Here are just a few of my favorites from the last year:

I made it out to Pennsylvania to visit family after a year of mostly isolation. My wife and I explored Philadelphia, and I finally attended a Penn State game.

With that, I need to get to sleep. Thank you for stopping by, and I hope to pop in more often.

Battletoads PC Game Pass Xbox One controller fix

When I tried launching Battletoads on PC game pass it would only let me control it with mouse and keyboard. I tried connecting my Xbox One controller via a wireless adapter, and via USB, but neither would work. However, when I got to the character select screen I found that pressing start on the Xbox controller would add a second player that I could control via the controller.

I figured out the cause of the problem, and wanted to share it here. Apparently the game doesn’t like it if you have a flight stick plugged in (as many probably do if they’ve been playing Flight Simulator 2020). As soon as I unplugged it and launched Battletoads again it recognized the controller input for player one without any issues.

Hope this helps you if you’ve been frustrated like me.

Don’t bother with Truck Driver on consoles

As someone who loves the Truck Simulator games by SCS (mostly American Truck Simulator) I’ve been curious about Truck Driver on consoles. The game was released last Fall on the Xbox One and PS4 (Switch and Steam releases are coming this year) developed and published by SOEDESCO. I rented it via GameFly just to see what it would be like, and I’m glad I didn’t get suckered into buying it (it goes for $39.99 on Xbox).

Right off the bat the game looks and feels like a budget game. The interface isn’t great, and the menus give the impression that it’s a mobile game. The intro to the game was even worse. You’re greeted with a slow moving text conversation that’s meant to be a tutorial. This all would have been easy to look past if the driving turned out to be good. Spoiler alert, it’s terrible. There’s no weight to the driving at all. It feels very slippery and loose, almost like you’re controlling a camera floating above the road rather than a truck. In American Truck Simulator you can feel the weight of the trucks, and it takes time to get up to speed while hauling a trailer. In Truck Driver hauling a trailer feels no different than driving without one.

One of the things I like about the SCS games is observing the scenery while driving. While the games aren’t one to one representations of the real world, they feel close enough, especially as someone who lives in the Pacific Northwest.

The driving felt so bad right off the bat that I couldn’t bear to drive like I would in real life. I quickly found out there are no penalties for speeding (though I’m not even sure I saw a speed limit sign), driving on the wrong side of the road, or even barreling into other cars (though your truck can sustain damage).

I only managed to play for about twenty minutes before I couldn’t bear it any longer. It’s possible that my impressions of this game are tainted with the countless hours I’ve spent in the SCS games, but I can’t imagine that this game would feel great even as someone’s first truck simulator game. Heck, I’d bet if you’ve played any driving game in the last ten years you’d instantly be put off by how bad the driving feels in this game.

I’ve included a video of my first twenty minutes with Truck Simulator if you want to get an idea of what the experience is like. You’ll notice I drive poorly, but to be honest the game felt so bad I didn’t care to even try to play it as a simulation.

I had to cut the audio out of this, I was listening to a radio station while I streamed and YouTube hit me with about 15 content ID claims and blocked my video. I added a royalty free song from YouTube, but it only covers the first thirty minutes or so. Also the quality isn’t great, it’s very compressed from streaming to Facebook. I’ll try to get a better quality video up shortly.

For reference I’ve included video of me playing American Truck Simulator, a much more enjoyable game. If you only have consoles, then you really don’t have any other choices for a truck driving game, but for $40 I wouldn’t recommend this game even if you were desperate. I probably wouldn’t touch it even if it were under $10, it’s just a bad game. Do yourself a favor and stay far away from it!

Recently watched: “You Should Have Left”

Last weekend, my wife and I watched the psychological thriller, You Should Have Left. I hadn’t heard about the film at all until I happened across a trailer last week, but it looked interesting and we decided to give it a shot.

The film features Kevin Bacon as a middle-aged man (Theo) with a dark past who is married to a younger Amanda Seyfreid (Susanna). The couple plans a vacation to get away for awhile, and most of the film takes place in a remote vacation rental in Wales. While there the characters are bothered by nightmares as their relationship is tested, and more about Theo’s past is revealed.

While parts of the film are a bit creepy, I wouldn’t classify it as a horror movie. I enjoyed the setting and the story, and I think Bacon, Seyfried, and Avery Essex (who plays the couple’s daughter) all play their characters well. I also found the lighting and photography to be excellent.

Ultimately, my wife and I were left feeling somewhat underwhelmed by the end of the film. It has some great ideas, but something about it felt a little generic, or maybe rushed by the end. I thought the focus on the couple’s relationship was interesting, but explanation for why things are happening felt a little forced.

I think it was worth seeing, however I’d wait for the rental price to drop before giving it a shot. It’s a movie that I wouldn’t normally see in theaters, but felt the $20 rental was worth it just for something new to watch.

Check out The Washington Post’s in-depth look at Animal Crossing’s economy

The Washington Post recently published an in depth look at Animal Crossing New Horizon’s economy that I wanted to share.

Love the presentation of the article in the Washington Post app

It’s crazy to read about the “get rich quick” schemes and intense trading players are doing to bring in massive amounts of bells. Here I am, forgetting every week to even buy turnips (I don’t want to time travel), and struggling to pay for my second house upgrade. I’ve fallen off from playing regularly pretty quickly, unfortunately. It’s relaxing to jump in every now and then, but I’ve never been any sort of power player. It’s been about a week and a half since I’ve last checked in, and despite setting a reminder to buy turnips this past Sunday I still missed my chance. It’s probably for the best, because even had I bought them I’d forget to sell them before they rot.

Anyway check out the linked article, it’s a good read, even if you’re not a power player. It’s a window into another world.

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics Review

When I first heard about Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics for the Nintendo Switch, a forgotten memory flashed into my mind. I recalled browsing the cheap PC games at Wal-Mart or Circuit City and coming home with a disc that featured ‘hundreds’ of games on it. You’d pop in the disc and browse through a directory of games, fooling around with most of them for mere seconds, before finding maybe two or three on the disc that were actually entertaining. In fact, most of them would be shareware, demos of full games that you were encouraged to pay more for.

Without knowing too much about Clubhouse Games upfront, I kind of assumed that there might be only a handful of games worth playing. After spending some time with the game, however, I found that assumption to be wrong. Sure, there are a lot of games that aren’t my cup of tea. I don’t like the ‘toy’ games, such as curling, baseball, and boxing, but the board games make up for the minigames that feel shoveled in.

Clubhouse Games does a really good job of introducing you to the rules and strategies of games you might not be familiar with. I had always thought that backgammon seemed unapproachable, but my wife and I played a game and caught on really quickly. We’ve developed a bit of a rivalry through some of the games, and it’s incredibly easy to switch from game to game for an evening of light fun.

That said, it’s incredibly clear from the promotional material which games support local multiplayer. Luckily the breakdown in EGM’s review makes it easy to see which games support same screen multiplayer.

Here’s a list of the games included in the collection

The menus and overall presentation of the collection are clean and straightforward, which is appreciated. There’s not much going on outside of the games, but there’s just enough to give the collection personality. There are some cheesy intros to the games which offer some background for the games which can get annoying, however they’re easy enough to skip that it never became bothersome.

For $40 Clubhouse Games offers a variety of family fun that’s easy to jump right into. I think it’s a great game to have in the bag for entertaining yourself during a flight (once that becomes a thing again), but it also makes for some great light entertainment while camping. For that reason I’d say that Clubhouse Games is a great addition to just about any Switch library, however it is likely best suited for those looking for easy to pick up family entertainment. I certainly wish I would have had a game like this for long family road trips in the minivan as a kid. Instead, I had: