The Legend of Zelda - Breath of the Wild: Some Thoughts (Part 1)

Up until a few months ago, I'd never really played a Legend of Zelda computer game. I'd played occasionally with a friend's Ocarina of Time on the N64, knowing the inside of Jabu-Jabu's belly and the first main village, as well as the overall gameplay mechanics of targeting and the playing of music, but I never got to play the story or understand how the game's gameplay-loop worked. I enjoyed my time with it, finding the little spider crabs quite challenging.

I do remember finding the game awe inspiring though - the graphics were incredible, and so was the crafted world that the game was set within.

I later owned a Wii and bought The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but never opened it. It stayed in it's cellophane case - I think that the console might have came with it, as I don't imagine buying a game I never intended on playing. I didn't fancy it, and whilst I maybe always intended on playing the game at somepoint, by the time it came to the Wii was a forgotten Bowling Simulator console that I'd only crack out in a party setting. Then that was replaced in 2009 by Rock Band at any rate, and the Wii just disintegrated.

I do have earlier memories of The Legend of Zelda mind you - that same friend who let me play Mario Party, Super Mario World and Unirally over endless lunchtimes did own one SNES Zelda, but I don't remember much about it. In those days, you'd be happy just to sit back and watch someone play a game like that, and I remember vaguely the heart containers and maybe the aesthetic, but apart from that I really don't have much contact with Zelda, in the end.

When I got the Switch I was told that "you have to get Zelda for it". I think I didn't ever consider it because Zelda was this other thing, a series I have never even played, never mind loved. I realised that it was the game to get a Switch for - but for me that was Super Mario Odyssey and, before that, Sonic Mania. So after a few months of rinsing both Mario and Rocket League I mentioned to Connie at somepoint I'd love to get The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and she nodded her usual nod, and then promptly surprised me with the game one evening, leaving the game box lying next to the Switch dock, not saying a thing.

My reaction was simple - "Wait, why is there Zelda sitting there?!". A wonderful gift, and a wonderful moment. Authors Note: Connie has since lamented buying me the game for how many times I tell her what I have done in the game, or the amount of time I spend engrossed in the game as well. For that, I directly apologise to her.

So, how is the game? Well, as you might be able to tell with the "(Part 1)" in this post's title, I have a lot to say about the game, and it's not bad. In fact, it's the opposite.

It might be the greatest videogame I've ever played. In fact, I know it is one of the greatest games I've ever played. It's just simply a masterpiece. And I'll write more about it in the coming days.

Rocket League: Some Thoughts

It has been a long time since I was as obsessed with a computer game as I ended up being with Rocket League. It is good that I am writing this in the past tense mind you - I spent three months playing nothing but Rocket League on the Switch, and it was a tumultuous ride of enjoyment, amazement, and sheer and utter hatred. I ditched it when I got The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and one day I'll go back, but for now, it's nice to look back on it with retrospect.

Rocket League is a classic one line pitch that will make anyone smile - it's football (soccer) but with cars that can fly. That's it. One line. What comes from that is the perfect execution of that same idea - utterly perfect, and nigh-on unbreakable. The gameplay builds slowly from that simple premise - you have boost, and can go faster, but rationing that is a whole strategy. You can jump, and mix that with the boost you can fly. You can play 1 vs 1, or 4 vs 4, and the big one - you can play cross platform with your mates, on most of any platform.

The first time Mike (PC), Colin (Switch), Steven (Xbox One) and I (Switch) all paly against each other, the giddiness was palpable. We'd all grown up with different platforms and no way to play against each other, and here we were living the impossible dream.

For me the game lived and died by it's single player modes, for a while - I'd play a season against the AI and it was fun. But one day I noticed that there was a new mode - Competetive - and my gaming was changed for ever.

In Rocket League you can play against people and get ranking based on how well you play. If you beat someone better (higher ranked) than you, you gain points, and if you are beat by someone below you, you lose points. If you get a winning or losing streak, these points add up or subtract, and you are given a Division and Tier rank - I've managed to get to Gold in some, but other I swirl the drain of low Bronze.

And this was fucking annoying.

I have gaming tourettes and for a very long time I've avoided games that bring that out of me. Zelda has done it, but never in a malicious way - but Rocket League has at times turned me into a full foamed mouth hatred spouting idiot, causing Connie to be alarmed and disdainful, and rightly so. I swear at team mates doing stupid things, me missing shots, and opponents doing things I can't. It was unbearable. I'd get to a boiling point after hours of accepting defeat, and there would be no way back, until I self actualised how bad it was. Then I'd reel it in. It'd last a few days, and then get worse again.

This is exacerbated by the game mind you - it is brutal. You'll spend hours grinding up leagues only to lose one game and undo all that work. It was maddening.

I am glad I stopped playing - it was fun, a lot of the time, but the dark parts made me feel a lot worse and hate playing it. So in time, maybe I'll go back, but for now my time away has been much needed.

I don't think I've loved and hated a game, simultaneously, in a long time - maybe ever. That's Rocket League

As an aside, one of the things that makes Rocket League so fun is that it's an eSport - a sport that is a video game. Don't worry, I've been working on a post about that too. I swear, this blog hasn't just became a video game blog.

Super Mario Odyssey: Some Thoughts

I'm not a Mario kid, I'm a Sonic kid. I was brought up on hours upon upon hours of Sonic and Tails and Knuckles (and fucking Shadow, for our sins) and that was my bread and butter. Of course, I also side-eyed friends with SNES and GameBoys and wished I had the ability to play Mario games too.

I picked up my Switch in August and after a few weeks of only Sonic Mania, it was joined by Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Then, the big one dropped - my first launch day game purchase since Mass Effect 3 - Super Mario Odyssey.

I adored Mario Galaxy and Mario 64, and this was tipped to be quite like that. What I didn't expect was it to work it's way almost to the top of the all-time list I have in my head (and that I posted on here, of course).

Super Mario Odyssey has so much going for it, and so much that I love about video games, it feels like it was perfectly distilled for my own veins and should have been injected directly into my bloodstream. I love the cartoony but solid graphics, the leading gameplay that teaches you how to play through positive reinforcement, not constantly failure. I loved the level design, the music, the over wolrd layout, and the fact that it let me actually beat the game without too much of a struggle, before opening up another 20 hours of gameplay.

If I was to have to convince someone that games are positive and an artform, Mario would be a good shout - it looks incredible, plays honestly, and doesn't feature a lot of the bad things that make most recent big titles abject failures in my eyes, turning themselves into jobs or worse, addictions, for the benefit of the companies. If you're not aware of what I mean, hold on - I have a few thoughts that should coalesce as a blog post in the future.

Mario had be gasp in joy, angry with frustration. and laugh out loud at moments almost everytime I plugged the game in. The levels were so cleverly built and designed that I found new things to attempt to do each time I went back, and normally when I thought I could do something I could do it - and be rewarded for my efforts.

And that is why I think I love games. I find that games need to give back to me what I put in - a story, or moments of joy, but it has to be something more than just ridiculously difficult bullshit that is "rewarded" with a small thing - Mario was bursting with moments that would have made the all-time list, and they are all contained inside one of the best looking and most wonderful gaming experiences I have ever played through. 40 hours of gameplay later and the only reason I haven't gone back any more... well, there are two of them - Rocket League and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, both of which deserve blog posts themselves.

Mario reminded me why the Switch was a great purchase. It is just wonderful, in every minute, and I can't wait to share it with Joni when she grows as it's perfect for that.

Explain This to Me

When I was a kid, my late Granddad Muir gave me a book about paranormal experiences. It had some of the most famous ghost stories and ghost photos of all time, including The Spectre of Newby Church. I found it fascinating as a kid, and spooky.

I'll admit that I also loved watching the TV series Strange But True? that if you want you can find on YouTube. It plays now almost as a parody, but at the time I found it to be conclusive proof of the afterlife or ghosts.

Of course I'm not a child anymore. I don't believe in ghosts. I mean, I like the idea of them but obviously, rationally, they don't exist. Time doesn't work like that - there is no eternal soul either. It's bollocks, basically, and either products of an over active imagination or seeing something in something that simply isn't there. In today's age, with cameras in literally everyone's pockets, the lack of HD 1080p proof is damning.

And then something like what happened this weekend happens to me, and I can't explain it.

I was walking my dog, Frank, late last night, near to midnight. We were walking back home along the main road near to our house. It was misty, and raining lightly, and Frank was being a bit of a dick, stopping at every lamp post and wall to sniff whatever he could get his nose on.

We were about 20 yards away from a nearby concrete bus shelter. In the bus shelter there’s a few notices from the local parish council, so on the way out I’d popped my head in to read to see if there were any new notices. After walking down the road and turning around, we are slightly downhill, looking up at the crest of the hill where the bus shelter is on the right.

As we are walking, I glance up at the road ahead and I see a greyish man in a long coat and flat cap standing in the middle of the road. I see him for about a few seconds as I’m walking, and the suddenly Frank’s extended lead snaps at the limit of the tether, so I turn around and shout “Come on” to him. After he picks up the pace, I look back to see the man walking into the bus shelter. Now 15 yards away I pull Frank close to the lead to stop him jumping on the guy in the shelter, and start to walk past the shelter.

There was no one there.

I looked around to see if they had walked down the little pathway to the left of the shelter, or maybe to the drive way area to the other side, but was convinced that they’d walked into the bus shelter. With no sight of the man, I suddenly feel the hairs on my neck stand up. Frank is standing perfectly still, looking at me, his ears dropped the same way that he does when he’s hearing someone opening the lock on our front door but everyone’s in the house.

I mutter under my breath “What in the fuck?” and then power walk it back home.

I can't explain it. I know I sound crazy. I can only rationalise that I saw something reflected in the mist, a dog or animal of something that just happened to trick my brain into seeing a hunched over grey silhouette of a man, but boy does my brain get confused when try to line up the explanation with what it saw.

So yeah, explain this to me. I'd like to have it explained away, thank you very much.

My Tooth

Trigger Warning: Dentists.

When I was younger I'd not take care of my teeth. I don't mean when I was a kid (though I am pretty sure I didn't do a very good job of looking after them then) but when I was a teenager and should have known better. I'd pretend to brush them. And then I just wouldn't. I didn't do this, and I certainly didn't like going to the dentist.

I had a bad experience with the last real dentist I liked. When my family dentist retired his practice turned over a new guy who, when polishing my teeth one afternoon, "slipped" and cut my tongue. It was sore, bloody, and quite perfectly ruinous when it came to my confidence with dentists. Like an idiot, I used it to confirm that I hated them, and didn't go back for ages. I did register in Aberdeen, but rarely went. It wasn't until Glasgow when I went back and got some work done. Not much.

It is obvious that I needed to start taking better care of my teeth though; they are dark and discoloured from all the coffee. I drink a lot of pop (fizzy juice, or just juice) and that's something I'd love to just stop. and I will, in time, but one thing was that despite not eating the right things I just didn't take care of them afterwards either. it just wasn't a thing I did, and it drives Connie crazy.

During a nice break in Glasgow I was biting hard down onto a proper Glasgow Roll and felt a little crack and a bit came off a molar. We had to cancel planned dentist appointments that week due to Etta going into the hospital over night, but we assumed it'd be fine.

It wasn't. Last week I bit down and split the molar in to two. Right down the middle. It was a massive shock, and I was scared - going to the dentist for... a dead-on extraction couldn't have been more anxiety producing if I'd tried.

I confessed right away to the dentist that I was scared of her and any procedure that she would have to undertake. She said "It'll be fine" and proceeded to tell me what I already knew really - that it would have to come right out, no questions asked. After a few moments of contemplation, I moved to ask her what she needed to do. Her response was lovely and frank: "I've going to pull the tooth out of the jaw bone by pulling away the gum. It's going to take a while".

The extraction involves getting mouth injections done, which were bloody painful. The first one was directly onto the tooth, and when I didn't flinch she noted that "the nerve endings are dead there, that's good news" and then did one to the roof of my mouth and that one did scratch. It was sore for a short while, and in my wildest nightmares getting mouth injections had been in the top five, but the were short and actually not an issue. The issue was still to come.

The pain killers worked within seconds and spread throughout my face and cheek within minutes. During this time, I had a few X-rays done, during which I had to put a weird plastic mouth guard in which made me boak a few times. We then looked at the images and she let her guard slip for the only time, admitting that it was “very deep”. I foolishly thought teeth we quite small, so I said that "it can only be a few millimetres eh?” to which said laughed and said “a tooth is almost an inch long”.

Fuck.

After she manages to confirm that I can’t feel anything - by this point half my face was numb - the the procedure involves scrapping away the gum around the tooth to expose the root area and then literally shear it off the jaw bone. I spent most of the time with my moth agape and just wondering what the fuck she was doing until she shattered the tooth. This is a common complication when the tooth's structure is already compromised. 

The hardest part was after a while of scrapping she started twisting the tooth around using pliers and I could feel it twisting. Her arm was shaking, the suction presumably pulling blood away from my mouth. When the tooth shattered for the second time I could feel her displeasure in her arms, and the bits of my tooth felt like huge boulders on my tongue. It took a lot of deep breathing to make sure I didn't boak there and then.

Out of nowhere it started to hurt. She immediately noticed my flinching and before I realised it she had added a second local dose of pain killers to my mouth. This was what meant I'd be numb in the face and drooling until 11pm at night. One benefit of this was after the second injection she just gave up all pretence of being "nice" to me, and went to town. Twisting, gripping, shaking, shuddering. She gave my confidence boosting updates, like "you're doing amazingly well!" and "well, maybe if I can get this bit out we could leave it and you could come back next week" to which I motioned through my limited ability to communicate that I wanted it over an done with here and now, right then.

It finally popped out with an almost anticlimatic sigh from us both after I had been in the chair for 55 minutes. The tooth was lying on the side, bloodied and as long as the the main part of a Bic pen lid. Fucking hell. She said “well, you’ve got really strong bones in your mouth so that bodes well for the rest of them” so that’s good for the future.

But, that was just the start. On Friday morning I woke after sleeping on the couch (sleeping upright helps the blood clot in the socket) with blood in my mouth and a red blood tinge to my lips. What fun. The next four days rank as the most uncomfortable of my life - pain like I wouldn't have been able to believe, caused not from the socket (which I was obessed over keeping clean) but an ulcer that appeared on the Monday and has been giving me pain all week. Add to that a wicked head cold, and I've been a really nasty bastard all week.

It's been a rough one. But now I have a little gap that I can store cheerios in and I will never ever let myself have bad teeth ever again, and my kids are never not learning the lesson that I learnt last week.

Dentists are okay, who knew?