Best Cheap Food For Cats

Your Cat’s Best Cheap Food Options Right Here, Boyo

Cheap cat food – while maintaining the best possible quality – is a tricky game (see how we wove in games into the picture??), and dependent in some part on your cat’s particular needs. Still, this is a solvable problem in our opinion, and one we’ve thought a lot about. For all you feline lovers out there, and we know there are many, here’re our Best Cheap Food for Cats Recommendations and the reasons behind them.

What’s Best: Dry or Wet Cat Food?

It’s pretty well-known that cats rely on their diet to provide a lot of their moisture. Dry cat food isn’t as sensitive to spoilage, and easier to serve and dispense, especially via automated feeders, but it’s not ideal for cats. Most importantly, dry food is substantially cheaper than wet.

In our calculations, we think a combination of dry and wet is the ideal value compromise, so we’re recommending both a dry and a wet food. What’s the best cheap food balance for cats? We’ll leave the mix up to you, depending on your budget.

Cheap Cat Food Precepts

  1. We’re (unsuccessfully) shooting for a greater than 50% protein, greater than 30% fat, and less than 10% carbohydrates caloric weight balance per https://www.animalmedicalcenterofchicago.com/demystifying-the-cat-diet … these are close.
  2. In surveying the many cat food review sites, we believe it’s important to weigh all of the following when looking for the best cat food: ingredient quality, ingredient types, balance of nutrients, and manufacturer quality.
  3. We’re disappointed that so few information sources, like review sites and Youtube, focus on either exorbitantly-priced gourmet foods or cheap foods. Many sites have articles on the best cheap cat food, but pack the list with foods that cost more than what we eat. So… I guess we’re cheaper than they are. I’m okay with that.
  4. As you probably know, the most prominent brands, like Friskies and Purina, have spotty histories and a tendency to pack pet food with cost-saving trash.
  5. We do think it’s more important to have a cat food with a good nutrient balance (a known good) than it is to choose a cat food 100% free of controversial ingredients that may or may not be harmful (a possible good). Some of these controversial ingredients are hype to drive you toward the most expensive products, like the rage about grain-free cat food. For some review sites, it seems they have the opposite priority, which leads to some high-carb, low-protein cat foods puzzlingly receiving the best marks.
  6. We want to avoid Amazon (Jeff Bezos is a modern slaver and his convenience-pimping retail operation is devastating to the ecology and to local economies) and PetSmart property Chewy (veterinarians hate them for their manipulative pet prescription practices).
  7. We agree that dry cat food is trash compared to wet cat food. Cats eat mice (70% water, fyi); they don’t eat jerky. And cats are often chronically dehydrated anyhow. However, we think dry food often can’t be avoided especially if the owner has a tight schedule or travels on occasion. It’s just so much easier to dispense. We do advise eschewing dry cat food entirely if you can.

The Best Dry Food for Cats

Our current (if ambivalent) pick for the best dry food is… Diamond Naturals Active Cat. Cats.com gives them a lukewarm review but the caloric weight numbers are pretty decent (35% protein, 42% fat, 23% carbs), and it has a lot less carbs than most. The manufacturer itself says it’s 40% protein minimum, 20% fat minimum, and 17.8% carbs. No artificial additives, probiotics, and yes, ground white rice is the second biggest ingredient. Still, after scouring multiple sources, including many “best cheap food for cats” features, this is the best dry food that doesn’t cost more than our wet food pick, coming in at around $.12/oz.

We do find it strange that Diamond Naturals AND our best wet cat food pick (below) didn’t make Cats.com’s best cheap cat food list, but Kirkland Maintenance dry food did. Kirkland’s top two ingredients are chicken and chicken meal, but their third and fourth ingredients are whole grain brown rice and yes, ground white rice. How about caloric weight? Definitely inferior to Diamond Naturals at 26% protein, 42% fat, and 32% carbs.

The Best Wet Food for Cats

Our wet cat food pick must be a doozy, right? You got it: Triumph wet cat food in the 13.2 ounce can, which rings in at an astounding $.18/oz when you order it directly from Sunshine Mills (free shipping after a reasonable minimum). Triumph scores a resounding five stars at Cat Food Advisor.

Triumph is 46% protein, 36% fat, and 10% carbs, and comes in three to four different flavors. We do get it in the 13.2 ounce cans, which do spoil if you don’t have a lot of hungry mouths to feed. We recommend having a handy reusable container to freeze half of the contents of a can when you open it up. Serve the unfrozen half, and thaw the frozen half when you get near the bottom of the first half.

The big drawback: we just discovered that all of these products contain the ingredient carrageenan, a texture enhancer that is a probable carcinogen. So… also a soft recommendation.

Best Cheap Food for Cats: Wrapup

We’re honestly still looking for better cat foods that will knock our socks off. And we’d love to see a manufacturer with a spotless recall history step in with some budget-friendly cat foods. It seems all the best companies want to make the best possible cat food, cost be damned, and that leaves the big unethical manufacturers free reign to pump out budget crap for everyone else.

We do find it weird that manufacturers don’t post caloric weight numbers AND that the cat food review sites are sometimes wildly inconsistent on these numbers (especially catster.com). Keep an eye on that.

We wish your cats all the best health…!

The Yankees Baseball…

The Yankees’ “Goldilocks Baseball” and Why Baseball Needs a New Ball

So the Yankees baseball or “Goldilocks baseball” made headlines in 2022, but it’s still a burning issue that’s also a golden opportunity for MLB to prove it cares about the future of Yankees baseball, major-league pitching talent, baseball in every state, and the kids who play it.

The Yankees Baseball (Juiced Baseball) Problem

In case you missed the news, the 2022 story focused on astrophysicist Dr. Meredith Wills’ study that discovered clear and significant differences in the behavior of baseballs used in that baseball season. The Yankees baseball or “Goldilocks ball” had the ideal composition for long flight, and it was used exclusively during special occasions (like the postseason) and… during Yankees games as Aaron Judge “successfully” pursued and broke the Roger Maris’ home run record.

In a related story that we’re going to lump in with the Yankees baseball, it seems every few years several well-respected players are incensed about the inconsistent behavior of the baseball used in MLB. Usually it’s talk of either a “juiced ball” or a “dead ball” that either flies out if looked at crossly (former) or performs like a beanbag (latter). It looks pretty poor when some of the top stars of the sport are incensed on a regular basis about the inconsistent behavior of the ball that the entire sport revolves around.

The fact is that, in the “Game of Inches,” we expect consistent behaviors that aren’t feasible with a ball that’s a motley sack of animal and plant parts.

– This Modest Proposal

The Pitcher Injury Problem

The Yankees baseball was 2022. Now, in a related story in our opinion, baseball is staring at another challenge – the epidemic of pitching injuries, affecting some of the brightest stars in the sport. What’s the connection and what’s the opportunity?

The Spider Tack Problem

Let’s not forget the controversy that now has umpires asking pitchers for bizarrely fond handshakes when they leave the field. Spider tack and other sticky stuff has long been a problem. Too much of it, and it’s cheating.

No sticky stuff on a cold and rainy day? Many MLB pitchers say that lack of grip causes pitcher injuries and can lead to lack of control. Obviously, lack of control means more beanings, more bad pitching performances, and possibly player deaths. The standard ball, by many accounts, is not grippy enough for safe use at the highest levels of the sport.

Let’s also not forget the strange shamanic ritual with New Jersey mud that Major League Baseball thinks is the solution to the slippery baseball problem. Yes, the teams are tasked with rubbing the baseballs with a specific kind of south Jersey fishing hole mud to give them the desired color and grip.

Do you think this magic mud is enough to give a pitcher a secure grip on a 101-mph fastball on a cold, humid, rainy October day in Seattle or New England? Yeah, we didn’t think so either.

The Scraping Blood Off Home Plate Problem

Okay, watch this video only if you have a strong stomach. Baseball regularly has a problem with players getting injured by errant baseballs, partly because of grip problems.

The number of players in MLB is quite small, but we think it’s important that we remember all the children and young adults who play. This NIH study on traumatic brain injury (TBI) in baseball and softball contains this alarming sentence: “Severity of TBIs varied considerably from mild and returning to the field on the same day, to immediate death.”

The Common Thread

Waittttt… what do all these… um… challenges have in common?

The design of the baseball. The fact is that, in the “Game of Inches,” we expect consistent behaviors that aren’t feasible with a ball that’s a motley sack of animal and plant parts. Golf and tennis, like baseball, are strongly affected by ball characteristics, and they went synthetic long before the current baseball players were born.

MLB loves embracing that pristine image of old-fashioned, salt-of-the-earth baseball players. Baseball purists are dedicated to those naturalistic elements: the smell of leather gloves, the limited-lifetime wood bats, the verdant green of outfield grass, the magic mud that the umpires rub the balls with, the cork and yarn of the baseballs —

Wait, what? Yarn and cork, really? It makes a mockery of Statcast and sabermetrics when your ball is made of wound-up YARN, leather, cork, and string, like some kind of sloppy scrapbooking experiment. Baseball is called “the game of inches” because an inch can be the difference between an out and a homerun, a bounding triple and an out. If the ball’s made with these inconsistent, homespun materials, how can we claim this sport and its historic records and statistics to be sacred and inviolable?

In our opinion, the opportunity is clear. MLB needs to take the sport to the next level and solve ALL of these problems with one simple solution.

The official baseball needs to be synthetic, just like golf balls and tennis balls.

Baseball needs to move on from the inconsistent leather, cork, and yarn ball just like golf moved on from a leather ball filled with cow hair. Of course MLB owns the overseas factories where these relics are made, further increasing their resistance to change, but change is indeed necessary.

Get rid of those ridiculous cowpouches of yarn – and the stupid ritual of rubbing them with magic mud – and move to a synthetic ball that has uniform tack, performs in rain and cold, can be mass produced at scale, and doesn’t maim and kill children.

“This is a ridiculous and profane suggestion!” you may be saying. Meanwhile, the forward-thinking NBA and Wilson just released a 3D-printed latticed basketball.

How Feasible Is It To Fix The Baseball?

Is it too much to ask manufacturers to build a synthetic baseball of this description? Why haven’t we seen this for youth leagues, for example?

We’re really asking for three things:

  • a consistent, similar-weight ball that flies and bounces like the old baseball,
  • a ball that is easy to grip even in cold and wet weather, and
  • a ball that doesn’t kill children.

We haven’t seen this kind of ball in the market precisely because no one has asked for it. The first two criteria are only important at the highest levels of the sport. In Little League, no one is tracking home run records or playing in arctic temperatures in the rain. And the last criteria – well, just search up “safety baseball.” You’ll find dozens of options that don’t kill kids, and they’re made of synthetic materials wrapped up in white leather and red thread for that “official look and feel.”

We believe goals 1 and 2 are compatible, as are 2 and 3. 2 is fairly easy, because grip can be created with a thin, tough outer skin. The 1 and 3 combo is the trickiest – the energy the ball generates off the bat when struck is also largely dependent on its density and mass. However, we’re confident that a good team could make a synthetic baseball that could do all three with at least some degree of success.

One key reason for our confidence is that the current ball’s flight behaviors – and its lethality – are largely based on it being hard. (This is the same attribute that kills kids, and it’s not part of the game. If the ball were 100% softer, but flew and bounced like a baseball, nothing would change.) If the ball were slightly softer, slightly lighter, and slightly springier, we believe we’d have a suitable prototype that could be tested in the minor leagues… and that would save lives.

The Yankees Baseball Fix: Recap

We don’t expect the mendacious, solution-averse Rob Manfred MLB to take such a strategic move, but we urge fans and players to support this clearly necessary change to avoid more Yankees baseball problems, more juiced ball controversies, more pitcher injuries, more sticky stuff problems, more beanings, and more child deaths and maimings.

Let’s fix the obsolete baseball. It’s time for a change.

Square’s Login UX Sucks. It’s Not You.

Square login public service announcement: it’s broken

Do you login to Square (squareup.com) regularly to do business? Maybe sell items or swipe a credit card using your phone?

Well, their login has been broken for awhile and here’s how.

First off, Square lets you choose to login either with your email or your phone number. WARNING: Your password’s simply not going to work if you try to login with your phone number. I’ve tried it, today in fact. This function is apparently 100% dysfunctional.

Don’t try it because it’ll just tell you you got your password wrong even if you nailed it using a password tool, like I did.

Square’s login email authorization’s broken too

What do you try next? You click that “Forgot password” link and start waiting for that reset email with the annoyingly short lifespan. Guess what? I’m still waiting for mine. I think Square’s login verification mail server is broken or hammered or misconfigured.

It’s just a sign of the times that a major e-commerce component like Squareup.com has such bad UX and security testing. If you use Square, be warned.

The Avatar 2 Plot: Recap and… Why’s It Broken?

Avatar 2’s plot is perhaps the least remarkable of this remarkable award-winning movie’s marvels. What happened in the movie? Here’s a complete refresher. And what made the Avatar 2 plot so porous, from a professional game writer’s point of view?

The Avatar 2 Plot in bullet points:

  • Jake Sully, the human-turned-Na’vi-avatar from the first movie, is now raising his four kids (!) with his wife Neytiri in the beautiful wilds of the rich planet Pandora. One of them is Kiri, an adopted daughter somehow birthed from Grace Augustine’s (Sigourney Weaver’s scientist character) comatose avatar (!). They are visited frequently by a orphan human kid named Spider (!) who lives with the human scientists who stayed on the planet after the violent colonizer corporation RDA was defeated by Sully and the natives.
  • The above paragraph is just ridiculous, now that I see it written out. They chewed off a lot for a movie franchise that hasn’t been in theatres for 13 years. Sorry, back to the topic.
  • Sidenote: Sully, previously wheelchair-bound, is now fully avatar, because the Na’vi used their magic Spirit Tree to move his consciousness permanently into the avatar body, which looks very much like a native Na’vi except for its five-fingered hands. The Na’vi then roasted his human body and turned it into delightfully spicy kabobs. (Just kidding on that last part. Sully’s body did not meet Pandoran FDA standards.)
  • The RDA return, seeking to harvest the golden brain juice of the giant intelligent Pandora whales called Tulkun, which grants eternal life to humans (!). With them is the reincarnated human psycho Quaritch (visualize the NRA in human form, complete with buzzcut), who died in the first movie, but has been uploaded into a new Na’vi avatar body. Of course, he’s champing at the bit to kill Sully.
  • Quaritch captures Sully’s kids; Sully and Neytiri manage to free them but Quaritch captures Spider, whom he realizes is the human son he sired (!) with some undetermined human victim from the RDA before he died in Avatar 1.
  • Knowing Quaritch will keep attacking, the Sully family flees their native jungles and relocates as refugees, joining the reluctant Metkayina clan, a related Na’vi group that lives by the sea and is better adapted for such a life. Sully’s kids clash with the kids of Tonowari, the Metkayina chief, which leads one boy Lo’ak into danger, but he’s saved by Payakan, an outcast Tulkun.
  • Quaritch tracks Sully to the Metkayni and starts attacking random villages and Tulkuns to draw Sully out. He captures two Sully kids and Tonowari’s daughter. In a standoff, Sully surrenders to Quaritch to save the kids, but Payakan smashes the RDA warship, unleashing a free-for-all. Sully’s oldest son Neteyam frees the captured kids but is killed by the humans. Spider disables the RDA ship. Lots of fighting; the good guys escape the sinking ship. Spider saves Quaritch from death but rejoins the Sully group.
  • There’s an emotional (?) funeral for Neteyam and Team Sully resolves to defeat the RDA.

Wow, there are some whoppers in that Avatar 2 plot. It astonishes me that they were so aggressive after a 13-year hiatus, pushing Sully and Neytiri not just into parenthood but linking them to a brood of five that are very difficult for the writing team to characterize… and for audiences to distinguish, given the inhuman sameness of the Na’vi renderings.

Sully and Neytiri don’t just have one borderline child; they have two. Kiri and Spider are both odd orphans. Kiri is the child of Augustine’s avatar — itself a strange stillborn adult embryo. As you may remember from Avatar 1, Augustine was wounded by Quaritch, and Sully and Neytiri tried to transfer her into her avatar, but instead she died. Somehow in the intervening years that inactive avatar gave birth. Who was her father, and how did this happen?

And Spider, of course, is Quaritch’s human son. Who was his mother? And who’s in charge of the maternity ward on Pandora? Because we have questions! I mean, there wasn’t a single birth in Avatar 1, and we come back and suddenly the cast has doubled in size.

Avatar 2 plot whoppers and whinges:

  • Pacing/tonal inconsistencies. Where is Spider during the extended segment when Team Sully goes seaward? Does the movie want to be a National Geographic aquatic spectacular or a Michael Bay blow-em-up? Is there any rhyme or reason to when Sully’s voiceover narration is shoehorned into the narrative?
  • Pretty disappointed by the mouse-pulls-thorn-from-lion’s-paw cliche in Lo’ak’s meeting with Payakan.
  • The Sully kids drop so many “cuz” and “bro” interjections that I felt nausea.
  • I’m a little nostalgic for good ol’ Earth-based cultural appropriation here. If the Na’vi were an Earth culture, at least they’d have to standardize on accents and build on a culture that isn’t so idealized and flagrantly infected with the “noble savage” cliche. Are they supposed to be Hawaiian, Native American, or other? The only thing we’re missing is a discussion of yoga poses, tribal tattoos, and superfoods.
  • The filmmakers missed a major opportunity to introduce wonder when we discover that the Tulkun can speak cogently with the Na’vi. This should’ve been a spectacular, magical movie moment. I acknowledge that, due to the timeline, Sully’s probably already had such an experience, but what if Quaritch or one of the other avatars got to bring it to us fresh? Instead it’s just a so-what moment that’s lost in the childish drama. What a sad loss.
  • What’s with the kidnap-the-kids plot loop? Quaritch is a terrible kidnapper and incompetent. He should’ve killed the Sully kids twice over.
  • Spider is an oddity as well. Not only is he retconned from the comics (!!!) and not present in the first movie, but he’s kind of a comical Na’vi wannabe, made doubly risible by his terrible white-boy dreadlocks (aka wonderbreadlocks). He could’ve been a compelling, conflicted antihero with his connection to both Sully and Quaritch, but instead his choices are merely glossed over.

After three hours in the uncanny valley, I have to say I wish the director James Cameron had applied some of his tech magic to giving us aliens with more distinctive and emotive features. Facial mocap has advanced, sure. The filmmakers are proud to brag about resolution and tracking points in the extra features. But as you can see in the images below, the amount of human emotion lost between the real-life performances and the final product can’t be quantified in pixels. It’s just a tragedy to see how plastic the Na’vi are onscreen.

Avatar 2 plot undermined by tech
This human is crying… but this shiny blue alien is noticing a quarter on the floor.
Avatar 2 plot undermined by facial mocap
See any differences in these two Avatar 2 scenes? Holy crap. Screencaptured from the making-of video, so I guarantee this is the SAME scene.
Avatar 2 plot betrayed by weak rendering
This human in Avatar 2 is deeply concerned and emotive; this avatar dude on the right is somewhere between unbothered and mildly constipated.

Don’t let me overlook the spectacular craft and creature design in Avatar 2, though. There are indeed soaring spectacles and inspiring moments here, motivated by heartfelt desires to tell a moving, family-positive, eco-positive message.

However, at the end of the day, Avatar 2’s plot flaws and execution errors deliver a movie that’s more Saturday morning cartoon than cinematic tentpole, despite whatever the box office draw says. Cameron said that he was much more focused on the actors while making this movie, but he’s failed to communicate that emotion on screen. And when up against better competition at the Oscars, Avatar 2 lost in every category except technical execution. Sadly, despite all the excellence on display, that is simply justice served.

Oh wait… don’t forget SNL’s Papyrus sketch if you need a grin.

Disco Elysium Is The Game Writing Pinnacle

Quick note: I’m nominating Disco Elysium as the pinnacle of game writing (TM).

If you haven’t played this tremendously heartfelt and involving game, get on it immediately. This game looks superficially like one of those classic “hunt-and-click” adventure games from Lucasarts, but plays like its own tormented, hilarious, luminous revolutionary. And I mean that in all senses of the words.

I dug Planescape, but I’d say 60% of those deep backstories were just window-dressing that didn’t deepen the experience for me. They were nice but totally unnecessary… and never funny.

Elysium is a completely new level of depth. Almost every single character has something interesting to add or connect, or is just flat-out hilarious. When the lady you harass outside the bookstore ends up being connected to the guy from the boardwalk… you know the one… wow. That hit on all kinds of levels. Nothing in Planescape hit me like that.

Can’t Find Drafts Folder in the Gmail Android App? And How This Bodes Ill for the AI Future

Is there no Drafts folder in your Gmail app on Android?

Yeah… me neither.

Google continues to “do no harm” by slopping shovelware out there for us goofs to consume. The latest mind-numbing basic feature that is confounding me is this ridiculous situation with drafts.

If you’re on Android (obscure OS) on a mobile phone (obscure device) using Gmail (obscure mail platform from inept service), and you happen to create a draft of an email (obscure action), good luck finding that draft ever again on mobile, or on PC for that matter.

There’s little coverage and no answers in top search results. Google itself likes to point you to related answers, like how to find your drafts folder on a tablet and how to create a draft email in Outlook.

Your drafts folder is NOT the same on your PC, as well.

IMHO this is a symptom of a tech misery that’s approaching us fast. There’s a dearth of talented coders and tech wizards who can maintain and assess complex, interlinked systems. We see the result in a myriad of ways: links that don’t work, apps that cough and spit out blank screens, crashes, bluescreens. I foresee a near future when AI agents with different agendas are roaming the environment, causing even more chaos and intractible problems. Once we have active dynamic elements on the scene like multiple AI — many of which will be created anonymously or artifacts of programmers and corporations long gone — solving mysterious problems will be a thousand times more difficult than before. I also expect there to be AI agents for good that will patrol environments, fixing bottlenecks and snafus, but I don’t think they’ll outnumber the chaotic, misbehaving ones, nor will they have the access to interlinked systems to fix problems.

Moink Meat and Ethical Meat… on a Budget

Moink whattt? Moink meat is a new delivery service (Moink box) that ships you ethically-sourced beef, pork, salmon, lamb, and chicken. Moink – a farmer-run venture that supports small, family farms – is part of a growing groundswell of consumers who are aware of the grievous, heart-rending ethical failings of the American agribusinesses and is trying to ensure we get food that isn’t sourced in misery.

Meat is big business and the largest sector in American agriculture… and it’s also horrific. Pretty much all of the meat brands you know are drenched in that misery: Smithfield, Tyson, Hormel, Sanderson Farms, Koch. Offenses include inhumane working conditions, crowding animals into hellish warehouses in hellish temperatures, killing them in vicious ways, using dangerous hormones, neglecting animals in diseased conditions, and salting animals with unnecessary antibiotics. Aka undiluted evil that isn’t just soul-crushing but also bad for your health and the planet.

Moink and other services aim to redirect consumers to more ethical sources of these table staples. And for you Texas readers, I’ve found a new source of ethical meat at our favorite supermarket, HEB.

For months, I’ve been buying Applegate Naturals lunchmeat, which are clearly marked as “humanely raised” and antibiotics-free… but also not economical. Their sliced ham, turkey breast, and chicken breast run about $1.21 to $.96 per ounce.

Recently, in the meat section, I discovered an alternative! Frick’s meat products are much cheaper and come in a variety of formats; I like the smoked sliced ham, biscuit ham slices, turkey breast, and braunschweiger sausage, at $.52 to $.23 per ounce. Looking at the Frick’s website, the emphasis is on artisan quality, not on ethical sourcing. In my opinion, they’re burying the lede. If you dig into the FAQ page, though, it clearly says, “Annual Humane Handling Audits are required of our suppliers and reviewed by our Sr. Management. Our suppliers follow the American Meat Institute Guidelines – A Systematic Approach to Animal Welfare, developed by renowned humane handling expert Temple Grandin.”

So there you have it. If you need ethical cruelty-free meat in Texas, look for Frick’s. And if you need to supply a family with ethical meats, check out Moink.

How to Use Vimeo’s Slideshow Maker

Wanna know how to use Vimeo’s slideshow maker? Interested in a review of this new free feature?

Surprise! You won’t find it here. Well, only a truncated one. Why? Because we don’t recommend it. We tried to use it for a project recently and invested a fair amount of effort, only to discover that it wants you to buy into the pro version if you want to make anything longer than three minutes.

vimeo's slideshow maker

We’re pretty disappointed in Vimeo for making this limitation invisible on their webpage. The page is frothy and very light on details, and there’s very little info on how to use the slideshow maker in a practical way.

They do set you up with a few sample slideshows, though, and it looks pretty nice. Some decent license-free music selections for your soundtrack. Video assets are fine. Fun titling and fonts. Transitions are mysterious, though, and it wants you to set up every new image as a “scene” even though there appears to be the ability to chroma-key out backgrounds and composite multiple images together.

In sum: avoid.

Tails of Iron Gameplay

Tails of Iron gameplay has been on our minds lately. It was one of the April games that came with a Playstation Plus membership, and a lot of reviewers have been saying this little 2D RPG is worth a ride. I disagree.

I liked the Tails of Iron gameplay and style at first. Hand-drawn art, simple 2D action, epic revenge story writ small and furry, right? Well, it started to wear on me. I don’t mind difficult battles, but Tails of Iron’s gameplay felt unfair.

The boss battles are tough, but even the minor minions can be problematic because of timing issues. Your character’s attacks, especially the charged ones, can be quite slow, locking him into moves for a long timespan. And some of the enemy attacks are quick. That’s a problem, because no one likes to get beaten because they’re defenseless. (To be fair, some of the enemy attacks are very slow, and often they are defenseless after a strong attack or signal an attack with one of two alert graphics.)

But that’s not all. Many of your foes also can instantly turn 180 degrees (it’s 2D and there’s no turn animation). So an attack that was harmless a microsecond ago suddenly is landing right in your back when you tumbled past your foe to avoid him.

And sometimes you have multiple foes coming from both directions.

And sometimes your foes don’t signal their attacks at all.

And the health bars on your foes are hefty, so you have a choice of pecking away at them forever or performing slooow heavy attacks to burrow through their health slightly faster… at significant risk.

The developer describes Tales of Iron as “an epic RPG adventure with punishingly brutal combat” and “soulslike.” This game has grand ambitions, but lacks the polish and tuning to claim these monikers. Someone in marketing is smoking some serious ego to think that they can sell this awkward 2D slasher as “punishingly brutal.” Instead, I’d use descriptors like “arbitrary” and “frustrating.”

ToI also triggered one of my pet peeves with its unexciting loot. You pick up new equipment during the game, but they’re generally just incremental upgrades to your already prosaic items. A little more green bar here; a little more red bar here. None of them felt that different from their predecessors, and ToI kept throwing up alert tags to tell me that I needed to inspect items that I’d already equipped. Umm, no.

Lastly, I found it annoying that they cribbed a storytelling technique from the much-better Don’t Starve games and made it worse too. In Don’t Starve, characters talk with instrument voices and it’s charming (and also free of localization concerns). In ToI, characters talk with icons (presented in cartoon bubbles) and instrument voices. Then, because it’s impossible to do real storytelling with icons, the dialog is followed by the narrator speaking, telling you what the icons meant.

I’m sorry, what? Why did I sit through the icons and instrument voices? What was the purpose of that if it was never intended to transmit information? It’s ornamental? Sorry, that’s a no sale.

There were numerous chances for humor in this game, but in general they play it boringly straight. A grinder in which you play a tight-lipped morose rat. It was ironic to be assigned in one mission to clear the farmer’s basement of vermin as a rat, since killing basement rats is a cliche level-one AD&D mission. But no, not even a subtle wink. We have heard that there’s a faction of “Moleshevik” rodents that you encounter later in the adventure, and we’re 100% here for it, but we didn’t get that far.

Sorry, I wanted to like this game. But the Tales of Iron gameplay isn’t up to snuff.

How to Use a Picture as a Webcam Upload

Need to upload an image instead of a webcam selfie? Here’s how.

I’m a desktop guy so I hate it when a site requires me to be on mobile to buy something. Recently I hit something even more pernicious: a site that required me to snap a selfie to buy something. Yes, really. They have a desktop site, but when you go to check out, the selfie requirement forces you to use mobile or a webcam-equipped computer.

Using a Picture as a Webcam Upload

For a variety of reasons, I wasn’t eager to recreate my cart contents and switch to mobile, but I found there’s a workaround: the FineCam virtual webcam app. This handy free app has a feature to share content with others, which is exactly what I wanted.

Unfortunately, FineCam doesn’t really have a “presenter mode” where you can make your selfie image front-and-center. If you use it normally, your static image will be overlaid with a live image from your cellphone camera.

Here’s what you do instead:

  1. Launch FineCam on your PC
  2. Launch the FineCam app on your phone
  3. Initiate a connection to your phone from the FineCam app on the PC – but don’t approve the connection on your phone
  4. Click the Content button on the PC’s FineCam app and upload the photo you want to send to the website as your selfie
  5. Jump to the vendor website and “send” the selfie image they want.

Task complete.