Celeste and my frustration with puzzle platformers.

You know, there’s a kind of genre I don’t quite get why people like it: The puzzle platformer. I’ve tried playing some of the ones so highly recommended to me, only to leave with frustration and disappointment. A lot of puzzle platformers get me so frustrated that it soured the overall experience for me. But there’s one I played recently that got me rethinking my outlook on this genre, transgender memes notwithstanding.

Celeste. The puzzle platformer from EXOK Games that came out on 2018 that has become a transgender allegory in recent years, due to some of the plot relating a lot to trans folk. Lead designer Maddy Thorson realizing her own trans journey through the game after the release probably helped a bit too. We always need more queer game designers, after all.

I’m not gonna get too much into the non-gameplay elements here. The art style’s cool by using pixel art in a way that’s unique without feeling too much like deliberate retro bait, Lena Raine’s soundtrack is tense yet touching at the right moments (and I never got to play any of the B-sides which also sound like a bunch of bangers), and the story is rather touching and something I can relate to as someone who struggles through life. But I wanna talk about this game further cementing my belief on puzzle platformers.

This part from Blood of the Werewolf still haunts me to this day.

When I mention I get frustrated by these kind of games, I’m not kidding. When I think about some of the action/puzzle platformers I played for the blog last year, like Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit and Blood of the Werewolf, I leave those games with frustration and anger. How one mistake will usually result in death, with little chance to redeem yourself. Some parts of these games are so malicious to the player that requires so much perfect timing that I’m surprised I haven’t thrown my controller into my computer screen after some of the bullshit I had to go through to beat it.

This is apparently the only screenshot of VVVVVV I took. Rather fitting, really.

But it doesn’t just apply to those mostly-forgotten niche platformers. It applies to the more popular ones as well. For example, I never finished the critically acclaimed VVVVVV. The gravity-shifting puzzle platformer with a pseudo-DOS art style and catchy chiptune music was an absolute chore to play at spots. A lot of hazards and pixel-perfect precision to make it across made it maddeningly to play, so much so that I only got about halfway through it before giving up on it.

Avenged Sevenfold’s “Free For All” in Fortnite, and a story about modern crossovers.

You know, for a few years I had no interest in Fortnite. I played it a bit here and there, but mostly thought of it as a thing that wasn’t really for me, that whole building-while-shooting being the biggest barrier to entry for me. Shoot a guy and suddenly they’ve built a whole castle for defense just feels old. Then developer Epic Games introduced Zero Build, which got rid of that. That, combined with Chapter 4: Season 1 introducing the Doom Slayer from Doom and Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher, were the moments whereme and my friends got hooked on Fortnite.

With Chapter 5: Season 1 currently going as I write this, where they introduced LEGO Fortnite (their rival to Mojang’s Minecraft), Rocket Racing (a racing mode by Psyonix, the makers of Rocket League) and Fortnite Festival (Harmonix bringing the Rock Band formula to Fortnite), I’ve basically abandoned my nature of being a gaming hipster and not following the current gaming trends to go for what amounts to the new hotness. Granted, Fortnite is 7 years old as of this writing, but I still think it’s the “in-thing”.

While Epic (and the myriad of studios they own) have been creating their own unique games within the system, I’d been curious what the Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) worlds are like, where people can make their own creations within the Fortnite universe. Most of the time it’s ripoffs of existing games like Deathrun and Gun Game, but other times it’s filled with promotions by notable brands. Honda had a driving experience for one of their cars, for example. I remember playing an experience based on hip hop musician THE KID LAROI that was mostly forgettable. In this case, we get to talk about another notable musician who capitalizes on the hottest trends.

Avenged Sevenfold’s “We Love You” is what it says on the tin: A map featuring an arena from the music video of the titular song, released by the band back around summer 2023. This was hyped up through the band’s social media pages, with it being announced on January 12, 2024.

Now, Avenged Sevenfold is a band that I’m really only familiar with because of their ubiquitous appearances in rhythm games. I swear, every Guitar Hero and Rock Band game came with an Avenged Sevenfold song on the set list, which means I got to hear songs like “Almost Easy” and “Beast and the Harlot” a billion times. They’re a perfectly fine metal band otherwise, probably the modern day equivalent to what Metallica was back in the ‘90s: A metal band that’s just mainstream enough that even people not into the genre can enjoy them, but otherwise very shallow for anyone really well versed in the metal genre.

Some Stuff I Bought: The rest of 2023 edition.

Well, 2023 is almost over. It’s been a tough time around in my neck of the woods, which has affected me writing any substantial articles, and I apologize for this. I’ll try to get back into the swing of things in the new year.

For many years, I’ve documented the stuff I bought because I find it interesting. Around 2022 I started a new format where I post updates every June and December. Naturally, I’ve been keeping tabs of the stuff I bought throughout the year, and since we’re near the end I thought I’d give a recap. Lots of games and really… interesting things. At least to me, anyway.


My collection story resumes in August. My partner and I went to a fancy little restaurant for brunch with a few friends that used to be the home of a pharmacy long ago. So much so that the current owners have embraced that location’s past, which is pretty neat. Better than the sports bar motif it used to hold for a few years. After having brunch with a few friends downtown, me and my partner went to a nearby thrift store that’s about a block or two away from the nearby restaurant we went to. Sadly I didn’t grab a whole lot, but I did grab something that caught my eye:

50¢: Alistair MacLean’s Death Train by Alistair MacNeill

Okay, this one’s a doozy. Alistair MacLean was one of those notable thriller novelists. He passed away in 1987, but before he passed on, he made an outline for a new series of books about UNACO: the “United Nations Anti-Crime Organization.” He wrote the story ideas, of which other authors would put them into actual books. I thought this was unusual, but this is surprisingly more common than I thought. Such as novels in the Ubisoft Tom Clancy games would be written by other writers; or for a more recent example, William W. Johnstone’s books being continued by his daughter J. A. Johnstone.

I am not much of a fan of thriller novels, but I bought this book because I remember a TV movie adaptation released around 1993 called Detonator: Death Train. It starred a pre-James Bond Pierce Brosnan, Patrick Stewart towards the tail-end of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Alexandra Paul, Ted Levine, and freakin’ Christopher Lee. Pretty decent cast for a TV movie, honestly.

A trailer for the film that aired on USA Network around April 1993 (shown above) was being repeatedly promoted during USA Network’s 4-hour game show block that I had recorded around this time. Since I watched these tapes religiously when I was young, this particular promo has been burned into my brain. I eventually picked up a DVD copy of the film many years later and it’s a surprisingly alright movie, all things considered. It even got a sequel, Night Watch, which features a long-haired, handlebar mustachioed Pierce Brosnan. Bet it’s just as goofy as the first.

I bet the book itself is a decent read. If not, hey, it’s a paperback I spent fifty cents on. I’m always looking for things to read when I’m bored, and need something to pass the time besides scrolling on social media all day.

Mountain Dew Game Fuel: The triumphant return edition.

I never thought I’d ever come back to this again. The last article I ever wrote about video game food and drink was 2016, covering the previous iteration of this specific drink. I mostly left these behind because I felt like I was being a dime store Dinosaur Dracula with these kind of articles, and decided to write things of more substance.

But if Mountain Dew – sorry, MTN Dew – is gonna go for a throwback, then I will too. Only because it was once a time-honored tradition on my blog. In 2023, as a throwback to slightly better times, Mtn Dew brought back Game Fuel as a proper soda.

After 2017, which featured promotional flavors to advertise Forza Motorsport 7 and Middle-earth: Shadow of War, they temporarily retired the Game Fuel soda flavors. Around 2018, PepsiCo tried a stab at the burgeoning energy drink market. The new Game Fuel, now under their AMP brand, kept the yearly game promotional tradition, but I didn’t really dabble with those as I’m not really an energy drink person, if the two times I tried both Monster Energy and Red Bull are any indication. Though admittedly, I was tempted to grab them a few times. These did keep things going with yearly promotions with games like Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 and the yearly Call of Duty installment, of which I really couldn’t tell you what they were like.

Presumably realizing the whole AMP Game Fuel thing was kind of a bust, Game Fuel returned as a special seasonal Mtn Dew flavor, much like LiveWire and WhiteOut before it. I was honestly surprised they were bringing it back, but with how the drink industry is, there’s always gonna be an audience who wants companies to bring back the Old Thing They Liked.

Now, the journey I went through to get these flavors was… quite an ordeal. While technology has gotten better in making it easier to find things like special flavors, getting both Game Fuel flavors was quite a challenge for me. After a thrift store trip earlier in the month, I waltzed into a 7-Eleven, expecting to grab the two flavors and be done with it. Sadly, the place only had one of the two flavors: The fan favorite Citrus Cherry. Using that fancy “Find your Dew” thing on the Mtn Dew website lead me to places pretty far away from where I lived.

Cut to a few days later. I check a local mom’n’pop convenience store and sure enough, they had both flavors. I grabbed a few bottles, of which the clerk had to use barcodes from Code Red to scan them in as Game Fuel wasn’t “in their system,” but it didn’t matter. I had finally grabbed the Game Fuel bottles for 2023, as you can see.

Just like old times.

Blood of the Werewolf: The hunt for a good werewolf game.

(content warning: blood and cartoonish gore.)

Y’know, I realized there haven’t been many good games where you play as a werewolf. Out of all the horror monsters out there, werewolves seem to be the ones who get the shaft the most. Often times they’re used as an enemy or a villain, but rarely are they ever the hero. I even asked a few folks about good werewolf games and the one suggestion I got was a quest line in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. So yeah, it seems kinda dire.

But then there was this one game I saw where you play as a werewolf that seemed kinda neat. And I have a knack for playing the fairly niche Xbox Live Arcade/PlayStation Network titles from the early 2010s, so I grabbed it. Will this game be the one that breaks that curse?

Gotta say, that title is metal as hell.

Blood of the Werewolf is a platforming game developed by Scientifically Proven, a studio that proudly boasts its 11-person development team, as per one of the load screens states. Scientifically Proven doesn’t have much of a major resume; outside of this game, they worked on assisting Epicenter Studios on games like Real Heroes: Firefighter and… Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls. Now, to be fair, just because they work on what amounts to shovelware doesn’t mean they can’t put out an original game on their own. But this definitely doesn’t bode well.

I had heard of this game because it was being one of the few games being delisted off of the Xbox 360 marketplace. I was trying to grab games that were only available on the 360, and since this had a PC release, I figured I’d just grab it there instead. In hindsight, this was probably a good move, as we’ll get into in a bit.

This was available a few days early for patrons. Wanna get in on that yourself? Well, transform into a werewolf and howl your way over to my Patreon, where just $1 will get early access to my work. It’s fun! Like being a werewolf.

She’s quite the resilient mother, that’s for sure.

The story goes like this: You play as Selena, a mother who’s child, Nickoli, has been kidnapped by some monsters, and her husband has been left for dead. Armed with her trusty crossbow, she must travel the various hazards of the world to save her son and keep the blood family alive. Oh, by the way, Selena is also a werewolf. One of a dying breed, according to this game’s lore.

This… doesn’t bode well.

Selena in her human form has the usual platformer rules: Walk, jump, climb ladders, and shoot a crossbow. Pressing RT will shoot in the direction she’s facing, but using the right stick will have her aim at a specific angle, which can be useful for hitting enemy targets or switches.

If you’re expecting an elaborate transformation sequence, you will be solely disappointed.

At certain points in each stage, Selena turns into a werewolf upon a full moon, which follows common werewolf lore. In werewolf mode, she can double jump, do a forward dash with RB, and charge up a damaging shot with RT that takes a bit of time to charge. There’s other powerups you can find and switch between with LB, but for most of the game I stuck with the default dash. Playing as a werewolf is a lot simpler than playing in human form, which turns out to be a good thing, as I’ll get into. The game will switch between Selena’s two forms at certain spots, and sometimes they get quite crafty with the change.

I knew something was off when the first level takes place in The Sewers…