Monthly Archives: July 2011

Achievements of the Week – The Correct Party Position Edition

Well, here’s a new Grinding Down segment that I am going to strive to make a thing. Every Friday, when I remember or care or feel like it is necessary, I’ll round up some of my favorite Achievements that I unlocked during the week. Not all of them, mind you. Just the fun ones, the ones with some story to them, the questionable. Alas, there might be some weeks where I unlock zero Achievements, with the blame either on my gaming skills or lack of playing time or me spontaneously combusting. Yup, you read that right. I don’t want to get all predictable on y’all…

From Portal…


Partygoer (5G): Make the correct party escort submission position decision.


Terminal Velocity (5G): Fall 30,000 feet.

It’s a little after one in the morning, and I have to use the bathroom. I’m currently playing Portal in total darkness, the ceiling fan humming overhead, dulling GLaDOS and hypnotizing me towards sleep. In a tiny alcove, I create a blue portal overhead and an orange portal on the floor, and then I fall–I fall continuously, gaining speed and momentum, turning my TV screen into a seizure-inducing weapon. I leave the room for some quiet time on the throne, and when I return, I’ve unlocked the above Achievement.

From Half-Life 2…


Bone Breaker (5G): Kill 30 enemies with thrown physics objects.

I’m still not really that good with the Gravity Gun, but every now and then I am able to pick up discarded saw blades with it, and those slice through Combine like warm knives through walking sticks of butter. Um…what? Forget it. Used that method a few more times, and ping, Achievement unlocked.

From Fallout: New Vegas…


Make Up Your Mind (20G): Made up your mind… about your brain.

Not to spoil too much about this, but the conversation leading up to this Achievement is simply fantastic. Like nothing before. Really exemplary of how great this add-on is for the Fallout franchise. If only all DLC could be as strong as this old boy. I’m guessing this Achievement can’t be missed, no matter what your decision is.

From Bastion…


Pet Sitter (10G): Get four different domesticated creatures in the Bastion.

I unlocked a few other Achievements in Bastion, but they are all tied to the story and are pretty spoilerific, so I won’t broadcast ‘em here. I’m getting closer to completing the game, and might even try for a full 200 here. We’ll see. I always end up getting distracted or losing interest (am I right, Torchlight?).

And thanks to all these Achievements, here’s a nice little surprise:

Nifty. Sure, it’s not a palindrome or a nice, solid round number with lots of zeroes, but I’ll take it for its uniqueness nonetheless.

That’s it for our very first Achievements of the Week! What do y’all think of this feature? Stunned silence will be interpreted as glorious, panty-throwing praise. And please share below in the comments your favorite unlocked Achievement from the week.

Nintendo 3DS gets a price slash, and 3DS Ambassadors get 20 free games

The Nintendo 3DS has not had a stellar ride so far, skirting the edge of failure and occasionally dancing with the promise of success. From its initial system launch in March 2011, the pricey handheld ($249.99) has had to compete with things like smartphones and internal delays of vital applications such as the eShop, Netflix, and video hub, and while it does have a working gimmick of offering “3D without the glasses,” it’s not been enough to push the system into everyone’s hands like the previous DS did.

Nintendo is looking to shake things up with a hefty price slash, dropping the Nintendo 3DS to $169.99 on August 12; this is probably the fastest I’ve seen a newly launched system drop in price, which says a lot. The company is scared and trying to hurry up and make the 3Ds shine a little more, and they now have everything else in place to make the 3DS more than just a gimmicky block of plastic; you can surf the Internet on it, watch 3D videos, take photos, stream movies, and play games.

But what about sucker-chumps like me that dropped $250 on launch day, with slim pickings like Pilotwings Resort and Nintendorabbits? What does a price cut ultimately do for us but create grumbling sounds in stomachs? Well, early adopters of the system are now coined 3DS Ambassadors, meaning they are special, prized, and worthy of free stuff. Hey, I like free stuff. Especially great free stuff.

First, 3DS Ambassadors will get 10 free Virtual Console games from the NES era, including Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Jr., Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, and The Legend of Zelda. The other five have not been announced. Additionally, they will also be treated to 10 free Game Boy Advance titles, including Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Metroid Fusion, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$, and Mario vs. Donkey Kong. Again, the other five have not been announced…but yowza, that’s already quite a gathering of freebies if ever there was one. And from what I’ve read, these GBA titles will not actually end up on the eShop, meaning they are exclusive to 3DS Ambassadors.

It’s unclear when these games will be available to 3DS Ambassadors; I’m guessing some short time after the August 12 price slash. Or maybe right before it? I dunno. More details to come, I’m sure. Really looking forward to the free titles as I was just complaining to Tara about my disappointment with the 3DS, my severe lack of caring for it thanks to the delays and cancellations of desired titles. This helps…a bit. I’m still not in love, but filling up my 3DS with tons of oldies, but goodies is a great start to a better relationship.

Ambassador, out!

The Humble Indie Bundle 3 is ready for your buying

There’s a new Humble Indie Bundle available, and as usual, it’s a “pay what you want, get whatever you want” kind of thing. The five games that come packaged in this third bundle are And Yet It Moves, Cogs, Crayon Physics Deluxe, Hammerfight, and VVVVVV–five titles I’ve never heard of before, but am willing to try simply because these bundles now have a solid history of packaging great unknowns together for super cheap. They take indie leaps of faith to a whole new level.

I quickly dropped some monetary beans on the package when I got home from work last night, downloading my Mac files and then trying to load up each game to make sure they all worked; last time, none of the games from the Humble Frozenbyte Bundle ended up working on my now extremely out-of-date Mac 10.5.8 OS. Sadly, I could only get one game to run, and that was And Yet It Moves, a quirky platformer with a nifty shtick; turning the world with the arrow keys affects how your dude moves around it, as well as helps solve puzzles. It’s got a great ripped paper look to it, and I’m looking forward to playing more when I’m not currently sweating bullets in a tiny, cramped attic apartment. Disappointed, but not yet done. I decided to utilize the Steam key that came with the HIB3 and see if that would help me. It did…for one game! I can now play VVVVVV, but only by opening through Steam; otherwise, the game crashes from the get-go.

I guess two out of five isn’t bad for what I paid.

I’m naturally hoping to either set up my oldish PC when Tara and I move into Grimmauld Place next month…or purchase a fairly inexpensive Windows laptop some point down the line. Not just for games, mind you, but I think I’m getting a little tired of the roadblocks my Mac constantly hits.

Regardless, I’m always happy to support such a cause like the Humble Indie Bundle, even if all the games don’t end up working for my Mac. I will get to play them eventually, thanks to their DRM free stance. Don’t let this deter you, especially if you got a working PC. It’s a great deal you don’t want to miss, and you have about 13 more days left to not miss it. Please tell me how Crayon Physics Deluxe is.

Meet The Sink’s numerous personality modules from Fallout: New Vegas

Without a doubt, Old World Blues is the best DLC add-on for Fallout: New Vegas so far. It has stellar writing, wonderful voice acting, memorable characters, and a decently sized map to explore as you please. It stands a fraction taller than Point Lookout for delivering a great, bite-sized Fallout experience, even if at times it could be a little too chatty, a little too difficult, and a little too reliant on energy weapons for success. Thankfully, my current character Kapture was already a 100 in the Energy Weapons skill before heading over to Big Mountain to be swarmed by Roboscorpions and frenzied Securitrons. One might also want to consider a character high in Speech, as there are a lot of, um, things to speak with, and yes, I said things, not people. Let’s get into that.

All My Friends Have Off Switches is a faux main story quest in Old World Blues; it doesn’t necessarily have to be completed, but I feel like many gamers will go after it, and it mostly runs parallel with the true main story quest, making it easier to pick up some–not all–of the personality modules as they go mucking about the Big Empty. You are basically tasked with finding holotapes that contain personalities for specific items in The Sink, which is your home-away-from-home for now. Installing these personalities will bring the items to life, and after much talking, you’ll learn what benefits they can offer. There are 10 personalities to unearth, as you’ll soon see below:

#1 – The Sink Central Intelligence Unit is a human-accessible computer responsible for Big MT’s data storage. It can repair your weapons and armor up to 100, switch off/on the other personalities in The Sink, and act as a traveling merchant, with a decent stock of items. It has a thin British accent.

#2 – The Sink’s Sink is a nice, if a bit OCD sink. Obsessed with cleanliness, the Sink is also upgradable, allowing the Courier to bottle his or her own water if they happen to have empty bottles. I never took advantage of this, but I bet it’s great for players on Hardcore difficulty.

#3 – This Auto-Doc is actually a prototype built by Dr. Mobius many moons ago. It seems to have a military-like personality, and it can provide the Courier with the following benefits: a haircut, facial reconstruction, implants of varying price, switch out brains, spines, and hearts, and change the player’s traits (only once).

#4 – This personality is a little creepy. Or should I say…seedy? The Biological Research Station is a computer mainframe that is capable of cloning and planting dried seeds that will harvest after three days. It also refers to the Courier as “baby” and makes way too many sexual references. Tara was especially perturbed.

#5 – Blind Diode Jefferson is The Sink’s talking jukebox, but don’t expect much music outta it. You might even say it’s got the blues…the old world blues. By finding special holotapes, Blind Diode Jefferson can update the Sonic Emitter with new traits and bonuses.

#6 – The Book Chute likes to eradicate sedition. What does that mean? Well, bring it lots of pre-war books, and the chute will wipe them clean, readying them for…um, that I didn’t get to discover. Checking online tells me that you’ll be able to make your own skill books with the right amount of blank books and specific items. That’s neat!

#7 – Light Switch 01 is a very seductive light switch that, while appearing to be sentient, is actually not. There seems to be some conflict between it and the light switch in the other room.

 

#8 – Not much different from Light Switch 01, but a few special dialogue options come up with Light Switch 02 if you’ve got the right perks on ya.

 

#9 – Oh, Muggy! You make yourself so hard to love, and yet you are so lovable. It is a neurotic, miniature Securitron that is obsessed with collecting coffee mugs. I get that. I suffer from the very same diseases. Basically, Muggy can turn coffee mugs, tin plates, and coffee pots into miscellaneous items perfect for using at the crafting bench. It also loves to curse. Swoon.

#10 – Last, but certainly not least, is The Sink’s evil-minded Toaster. This thing wants to burn more than just sliced bread, and it’s not afraid to tell you that. It’s special perk is that it can heat up any weapons composed of space-age Saturnite material, as well as help make extra small energy cells and microfusion cells. This very same toaster was originally cut from Fallout 2.

Whew. That’s a lot of ‘bots. I whole-heartedly recommend you speak with them often and deeply, exhausting as much of their dialogue options as you can. They are all very unique, and given that each (save for the light switches, I guess) offer some kind of benefit or bonus, it’s worth the effort. I found The Sink to be a wonderful, personified hub for my time spent in the Big Empty, and maybe now even for a main playthrough, as it features plenty of storage space, reloading and crafting benches, and helpful robots at arms’ length. For playthrough #4, I’m definitely going to try to do Old World Blues as early as possible (though the game itself warns the Courier that it is meant only for players level 15 and higher, and I struggled at times even at level 28 through 30, so, uh, eep) just to get such a kick-ass base. It definitely trumps Lucky 38 or Victor’s shack.

But there ya go. Hope you liked this little rundown of the ten robotic personality modules you’ll install in The Sink. Good luck finding all their holotapes!

Games Completed in 2011, #25 – Yard Sale Hidden Treasures: Sunnyville

It might not look like it, but this is going to be a sad Grinding Down post.

Yard Sale Hidden Treasures: Sunnyville, from what I can tell, is one of the last games my mother got to play on her Nintendo DS before she passed away this past December. I remember the day Tara, my sister Bitsy, and I went out searching for Sunnyville at Momma Dukes’ request; we had to even ask the GameStop employee if he had any clue of its existence as I couldn’t find it among the thousands on the shelves. Somehow, he did though, and we got it for her, knowing that it, at the bare least, was a bit of light and distraction during chemotherapy. It’s not a great, amazing game, but it is of the ilk that she loved: finding hidden objects. Her collection has several others from this breed, and she always devoured them within a few days, and then I’d play them after her, and we’d make fun of the lame attempt to add a story to these things and just agree that finding random objects on a random photo brimming with randomness would be more than enough.

And that all basically applies with Sunnyville, too. It’s attempt at a story is modest, but still hilariously unnecessary: you’ve just moved into the neighborhood, into a very empty house, and you decide to scour your neighbors’ yard sales for key items to spruce up your house and possibly win the Superstar Homes magazine contest. And that’s what you do. Go to a neighbor’s house, find items on a list, eventually whittling it down to one or two pivotal ones, find those, and move on. Once you’ve got enough room dressing to complete a section of your house, you’ll see a “before and after” shot of the room, rest up for the night, and start all over again the next day. You need to complete eight rooms, which takes eight days, which really takes…I don’t know. I played this game with little drive, here and there, finding a few items during my lunch break and so forth. My Nintendo 3DS says I logged just under 3 hours in the game; that sounds about right.

My mother played Sunnyville twice, completing it fully both times. I know this because of the three save slots available, two are in her name. I’m not sure if a second playthrough is any more different than the first. I’m glad she got a lot out of it though. Once she was finished with Sunnyille, she passed it along to my wife, Tara, with a short, hand-written note:

Sigh.

Naturally, I miss my mom. Playing this game didn’t do anything to lessen the hurting in my heart; it only allowed me to follow in her proverbial touchscreen taps, relax with a game that helped her relax, escape elsewhere momentarily. Again, not a great game, but one I’m emotionally connected with, hung up on. Would sure love to know what Momma Dukes thought about all the punny names for the neighbors as they got me to even groan every now and then. I can’t wait to see her again.

30 Days of Gaming, #24 – Favorite classic game

I hate coining anything as classic. Such a term is relative, and considering how wide the gaming generation gap is nowadays, many might not even know what game you’re talking about–or only know it, having never played it and more or less missed the chance to. You might think everyone and their mother’s mother has played Pac-Man and that it is irrefutably a “classic,” but that actually might not be the case.

First, some light history: Pac-Man, developed by Namco and licensed for distribution in the United States by Midway, was first released in Japan on May 22, 1980. It made it over to the United States a few months later in October. Three years later, on a warm, summer Sunday afternoon, I would be born. I can’t even begin to fathom when I actually played Pac-Man for the very first time, but this image of me at a friend’s roller-skating birthday party comes to mind; I was never a good roller-skater, and so when the other kids went zipping around the rink, doing the “Funky Chicken” or whatever the DJ was blasting, I was wandering around on my own, often finding my way to the arcade room. This was more like a shadowy closet with two to three arcade machines up and running, one of which was definitely Pac-Man. The other two? Who knows. Probably a space shooter and maybe the Claw Machine.

But I don’t have as many fond memories of playing Pac-Man in dark, seedy arcades as I do enjoying it online via Flash remakes or when Google had it as part of their logo image for a day. Sure, it’s a little bizarre to be excited over playing a thirty-year-old game on the latest and greatest technology, but it’s not that bad when you consider how great of a game it is. You are Pac-Man, a little yellow fellow, and you are trying to do two things: eat as many pac-dots as you can and not get eaten by ghosts floating around the map. Sounds simple, but the gameplay works, and can be quite addicting, especially when you only have one or two pac-dots left to devour and an army of ghosts to slip past; there is no tension like the tension of seeing three ghosts begin to surround Pac-Man, and the relief upon eating a power pellet is orgasmically god-like.

It’s an easy game to pick up and play for a bit, and to step away from when you gotta doing something else. Pac-Man himself became quite iconic in the 1980s, and the game is easily recognizable by its colors and minimalist design. It seems to be considered the first game to feature both power-ups and cutscenes; kudos to them. It’s an age-old game that I still enjoy playing today, no matter where I end up playing it: on my computer, on my cell phone, on my Nintendo 3DS. The gameplay remains golden, and I’m glad I was–and still am–a bad roller-skater, getting to actually experience the game as it was meant to be played: in a dark room, engulfed in stark, colorful light, sweaty hands making stupid mistakes, drowning in a wash of never-ending beeps and boops, immersed, caring for the little yellow dot, trying to keep him alive as long as possible.

BONUS QUESTION TIME: Can you name the four ghost enemies in Pac-Man? (Reward: 1,000 XP.)

Hense, the Goddess of Pain and Pleasure, loves this blog post about Bastion’s difficulty

Suddenly, the Kid died three times in a row, unable to stop the swarm of Squirts and Gasfellas from overwhelming him with their lethal attacks. Up until that point, the Kid had never fallen in battle; sure, he’d come close, exiting the battlefield just barely, chugging his last bottle of health potion, wiping the sweat from his brow, quietly ignoring the narrator’s snide commentary. So, what had changed? Did the Bastion developers decide to ramp up the game’s difficulty without rhyme or reason?

Nope. What happened was that I built a shrine at the Bastion and turned on all of the god-like idols, thinking they were there to help and bestow great benefits on the Kid. Actually, they do the opposite of that. They make the game a whole heap-load harder, rewarding the Kid with more XP, but chances are that XP won’t be gained due to the fact that these enemies are now faster, stronger, and more deadly. Some even drop exploding bombs upon death, one last eff you before the darkness takes them. Because Bastion suffers from the tiny text disease, I couldn’t read the flavor text that went with turning on each idol and decided that surely they existed to help us on our journey to rebuild the Bastion. The idols also stack, meaning you could turn on a dozen and really wish your thumbs never existed. I believe I had turned on Acobi, Pyth, and one other idol before heading out to find Shards. Eep.

So, to help me and my bad eyesight out in future adventuring, here’s a table of all the idols you can unlock at the Bastion’s shrine, as well as what they do to ramp up the game’s difficulty:

Idol Description
Hense (Goddess of Pain and Pleasure) Foes are more ferocious
Acobi (Goddess of Oath and Abandon) Foes drop a live grenade when defeated
Lemaign (God of Hope and Despair) Foes’ attacks slow down the player
Pyth (God of Commotion and Order) Foes are quicker, both with movement and attacks
Jevel (God of Health and Atrophy) Foes are more resilient
Yudrig (God of Impulse and Bravery) Foes cause damage on contact
Roathus (God of Thirst and Plenty) Foes never drop Health Tonics or Black Tonics
Micia (Goddess of Loss and Longing) Foes have regenerating health
Olak (God of Chance and Whim) Foes occasionally turn to air, making them invulnerable to attacks for a short period of time
Garmuth (God of Purpose and Folly) Foes are more capable of deflecting attacks

Yeah, imagine all of those idols turned on at the same time. Can’t even stomach it. Thank goodness there’s no Achievement tied to utilizing these idols or anything; they are just there if you, the player, really want a different experience. I think I’m content with the default difficulty for now and will not be going back to the shrine any time soon.

Hard to say how far along in Bastion I am, but I’d wager either halfway done or a little more than halfway done. I’ve been using the machete and the scrap musket religiously, and haven’t really done much with secret skills. I constantly forget that I have a third attack. Oh well. Here’s to remembering things and reading important text then!