Checkpoint: Autumn Chill 2018 Edition

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October is here again but I’m not quite ready for that crisp autumn morning just yet.

I haven’t been keeping up with these check-in posts because I’ve just been spending more time playing video games with the girlfriend. With a blink of an eye, we’re experiencing our second October together and it’s been good fun.

October also means the arrival of new video games. These are the pre-orders that will be making their way to me:

  • Forza Horizon 4
  • Super Mario Party
  • Pokemon Let’s Go! Eevee
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Forza Horizon 4 will be available to me via Xbox Game Pass. It’ll be my first Forza Horizon game and the first racing game in quite some time. I’m looking forward to giving it an honest go on the Xbox One X.

Super Mario Party will be my first Mario Party game ever. After seeing the shenanigans, the Giant Bomb guys endure, I look forward to checking one out with friends and family.

I think I would have cancelled Pokemon Let’s Go! Eevee if I didn’t get back into Pokemon Go. I own a copy of Pokemon Sun and have yet to put double digit hours in to that so the idea of getting another Pokemon title would have been ridiculous to me 3 months ago. But alas, lots of friends at work got back into it so I reupped.

I don’t know why I am getting Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I own Melee, Brawl, and the Wii U’s release but I don’t think I put nearly enough time into any of them to justify their price tags. And I got Melee as part of a GameCube bundle that I bought of a high school friend.

Those are the games that are coming but I still have games that need to played like Spider-man and Crypt of the Necrodancer: Switch Edition.

What I’ve been playing? Rise of the Tomb Raider for Xbox One X which has some terrible performance hiccups and equally wince inducing moments by Lara. I’ve also been playing a lot of Overwatch (on PC and PS4), and too much of the FIFA 19 demo.

That’s about it for now.

Since it’s October, I’m thinking about returning to Until Dawn to see how many of the delinquents survive. We started it in October of last year but fell off it. Maybe this year, we’ll see it through.

Checkpoint: Fitness Edition

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I have this weird relationship with fitness. There’s a clear cut “best route” to take but I refuse to embark on it. I know what I want to achieve and there are superior ways to achieve it but I just refuse to simply go out and jog, follow a P90x routine, hit the gym, lift weights or just go down the well worn path to success. It’s not that I don’t believe those methods are not effective — they just sound incredibly mundane, boring and too much work for me. I needed to buy into a system that worked for me.

I needed a system that worked for me and on my schedule. I started to do push-ups and crunches while watching Pardon The Interruption on TV. It was a 30 minute program and so I would do alternating sets until the program ended. Then I saw a Wii Fit U on sale for $25 or so and was reminded of the benefits of Yoga and I thought to myself: “Why not?” I really enjoyed using it because it provided instantaneous feedback. It was up to me to be honest in my efforts and it required some careful calibration but I genuinely enjoyed using the balance board to measure my improvements.

Now my daily workout shifted from being a 30 minute thing to 50 minutes. I’m watching daily video content from GiantBomb and other Youtube channels of interest. I was going to watch these anyways so why not watch/listen to a few videos while I’m working out.

I also purchased a pull up structure a couple years back in order to do some weightlifting. My goal was to be able to lift my own wait comfortably and I figured this was a great way to see the progress first hand.

As you can see, there are common themes and trends throughout my workout regiment. It had to be relatively easy to work into my daily life without dedicating a lot of time to it. There has to be some form of feedback or progress tracking. And finally, it had to be relatively affordable.

This brings us to my latest purchase: a fitness band. I noticed my brother toning and losing weight after following the activity tracker on his Apple Watch. I don’t like the look or price of the Apple Watch but I wanted the fitness benefits so I looked at fitness bands.

After looking around I landed on the Garmine Vivosmart HR which was a nice blend of features and price. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of smart watch so something like the Vivosmart HR’s screen and notification features fit the bill nicely. So far it’s done everything I wanted but if I were to do it all over again with what I know know, I would have picked up the Fitbit Alta instead. The only criticism I have with the Vivosmart HR is its bulk which can be attributed to the inclusion of the heart rate monitor. While nice to know, my heartrate isn’t something that I need to know to get healthier. If I continue follow the daily activity goals, I’m going to see an improvement regardless.

I’m used to it now but I would have liked to see the Vivosmart HR 5mm thinner. Thankfully it’s light because if it wasn’t, I would have sent it back. It’s supposed to do sleep tracking as well but because of the bulk, I remove it every night before going to bed.

But how has it been as a fitness tracker? I’m well aware of the fact that I didn’t move around nearly enough throughout the day. The regular reminders to get up and move was welcoming and gave me an excuse to just get up and do a lap around the floor to clear the “move bar”. I’m finding excuses to take less efficient routes in order to “get my steps in”. I’ve also forgone sitting around at my desk after eating lunch for a 30 minute walk outside.

Am I seeing the benefits? I’ve owned the fitness band for about a week and half now and I would say yes. I’ve lost about 2 lbs and have the nicest tan in years because of all this walking.

The Pokemon Go app sucks. It’s a bad app that drains my phone’s battery and heats up the case like no other app I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t help that the servers are wonky. But the game itself is fine for what it is. I try to capture some Pokemon while I do my walks but that’s about it. I haven’t done any battling because I don’t care about the battling or claiming territory in this game. I’m trying to keep my phone from dying before the end of the day so it’s not wise to invest so much time in Pokemon Go.

Other than checking out that phenomenon, I’ve been playing daily rounds of Overwatch. What a great game.

LTTP: Puzzles & Dragons: SMB Edition & Pokemon Picross

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No that’s not some kind of super combo back of Nintendo puzzle games. They’re two Nintendo published titles with free to play influences and mechanics.

Puzzle & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros. Edition is actually two games in one. Puzzles & Dragons Z is the free-to-play Japanese mobile sensation stripped of its F2P annoyances and the Super Mario Bros. edition is as the name suggests: Puzzles & Dragons with a Mario flavor. The latter is apparently more user friendly for new comers like myself. I played that version.

Pokemon Picross is as straight forward as the name suggests: a Pokemon themed picture crossword game. It’s also completely free to play and equipped with the usual trappings of energy bars and currency to gather and unlock new areas.

I started Pokemon Picross first but was increasingly frustrated by the limitations. It was my first Picross title and so I was making mistakes and restarting puzzles frequently. I also wanted to accumulated Picrites to progress and unlock functionality early on but thanks to the energy restrictions, I was kept at bay.

Then Puzzles & Dragons went on sale and I decided to check it out after hearing the praise by Drew Scanlon of GiantBomb. Like him, I never played Puzzles & Dragons before and was curious.

Firstly, it turns out that I’ve played this kind of game before. Match 3 puzzle games like Puzzles & Dragons spawned many clones and I encountered one of them on FreeMyApps. I immediately saw the appeal of the game. The combos, the flashing colors and all the high damage numbers flying out was satisfying. All I had to do was manipulate a single orb, wave it around to setup other potential combos and then watch the resulting mayhem.

I enjoyed the collecting of monsters, powering them up by feeding weaker variations and evolving them with items. It was apparent that I needed to invest time in this area in order to make significant progress later on but there was something peculiar with the lack of item drops or collectible monsters early on. I thought the drop rate would start ramping up as I progressed but that wasn’t the case at all. No matter how many combos I was setting up, I hit a wall and needed to grind to level up my monsters. I was effectively done with Puzzles & Dragons at world five.

Even though my focus was on Puzzles & Dragons, I continued to check in and chip away at Pokemon Picross. I did the daily challenges and slowly upped my Picross game. Even though I was accumulating Picrites at an agonizingly slow rate, I felt I was making progress. I felt I was improving as a Picross player and working towards unlocking a new area.

Now, my opinion on both games have flipped. The game which I thought was going to be a fun romp without free to play mechanics turned into a meaningless grind and cutesy Picross title turned from aggressively frustrating to a nice little daily taste of puzzling. Perhaps I should approach Puzzles & Dragons with the same mindset as Pokemon Picross but why should I? It doesn’t have free to play mechanics impeding progress. I should be able to play as often as I want and make meaningful progress every time I do. Unfortunately that’s not the case and it’s the free to play riddled Pokemon Picross that I ultimately enjoy more.

Puzzles & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros. Edition Verdict:
I don’t like it

Pokemon Picross Verdict:
It’s okay

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: Super Bowl L Edition

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I’m picking the Carolina Panthers to take the 50th Superbowl in a 31 – 17 win over the Denver Broncos. The Panthers have a potent offence AND defence which I believe will give them more chances to score over the Broncos. The only way I could see the Broncos winning this is if Cam Newton has a Carson Palmer. It’s the Panthers’ game to lose.

For the sake of Peyton’s fairy tale ending, I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think I am.

I have a little combo review of Puzzles & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros. Edition and Pokemon Picross coming. I’ve stopped playing one and I’m continuing another. I’ll let you guess which.

I finally started playing Far Cry 4. It’s about what I expected (first person shooter mixed with elements from Red Dead Redemption) but first person swinging and crazy bird attacks are surprises.

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