Category Archives: demo

If only Spyro the Dragon could burn the in-game camera to a crisp

spyro ps1 early impressions

Spyro the Dragon is a cutesy fantasy action-adventure game from Insomniac–y’know, the Ratchet & Clank folk–that I got to play demo-wise way back in the day when videogame magazines came coupled with demo discs or you could even drop five bucks at the local brick-and-mortar store for a retail disc containing a mighty selection of different games to experience. I have a bunch of these in my collection still because I made a vow to myself long ago to never get rid of or trade in anything. In fact, it’s this one here from PlayStation Underground Jampack that I’m talking about, which I guess I got some time in late 1998 or early 1999:

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For those that can’t see due to camera glare in the above pic, on this are demos for Spyro the Dragon, MediEvil, Metal Gear Solid, A Bug’s Life, CoolBoarders 3, NHL FaceOff ’99, NFL GameDay ’99, Rally Cross 2, Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft, and Small Soldiers. Some classic titles there, for sure. Now, for me, a teenager with little cash to my name, spending five bucks ($7.99 for you Canadian suckers!) to sample a smörgåsbord of all games, ranging from sports to action to fantasy to RPG to racing, sounded a whole lot better than saving up for one big game that could potentially disappoint me. Plus, the natural idea behind these demo discs is that if I enjoyed what little nibble the demo could give, I’d probably like the full meal. Years later, the company Nintendo still has no idea how demos work, but that’s a post for another day.

SIDE NOTE: I’d love to do something here on Grinding Down with these demo discs of mine–I have about seven or eight in total–but I’m not sure just what yet. I mean, I guess I could simply deep-dive back into them all and write about playing these wee slices some fifteen years later, though who knows how interesting that would be. If you’ve got an idea for me to try, please do share.

Anyways, so far, my favorite thing about Spyro the Dragon, which I’m playing on the PlayStation 3 after nabbing it and others during a really good sale a few months back, is that it wastes no time getting into the mix of things. I can think of only a few other games that open just as swiftly and let you start playing before you can even speak a word–Jetpack Joyride and Scribblenauts come to mind first.

Okay, you ready for this. Spyro the Dragon begins with a short cutscene that can’t possibly last for more than 30 seconds. In it, a news team sets up an interview with a couple of dragons within the Artisan World, one of five realms in the Dragon Kingdom (the others of which include Peace Keepers’ world, Magic Crafters, Beast Makers, and Dream Weavers), which have lived in harmony for eons. Well, when the reporter brings up Gnasty Gnorc, a gnorc who lives within his own, sixth realm, one of the dragons describes him as an ugly, simple-minded creature who poses no threat to the Dragon Kingdom. Daaang. Those are fighting words, for sure. And yup, fortuitously, Gnasty is watching the live feed at that exact moment; enraged, he casts a magic spell that encases all of the dragons in crystal and sends out an army of gnorc soldiers to take over the realms. However, one purple dragon called Spyro, due to his smallish nature, is able to dodge the spell, and it’s now up to him to save his elders.

And that’s the gist of the story so far. You are the lucky wee dragon left alive, and you must save everybody us, and you do this by charging into the crystal statues and freeing the elders. Each of these older, bigger dragons has a name and something to say to Spyro upon rescue, but then they are gone in a poof. Rinse and repeat until you find all the dragons in a given themed area (36 levels spread across six worlds). Other than that, Spyro can shoot a small burst of flames from his mouth and jump and even fly a bit (though technically it is falling with style). You want to also defeat enemies and collect gems. More or less, it’s a very traditional character-dependent action adventure game, and there is nothing wrong with the premise to begin with.

However, in a game all about jumping and flying from one place to another, the in-game camera needs to work with the player. This camera is atrocious. Really just horrible, and you can only turn it left or right, not up or down, so if you are standing on top of a castle and want to jump to that smaller castle below, you kind of have to wing it (pun intended) because there’s no way to rotate the camera enough to see where you need to land. You can press the triangle button at any time to lock the camera directly behind Spyro, but this is only handy when you want to ram an enemy head-on with your horns.

Thankfully, despite the camera issues, Spyro the Dragon is a fun, harmless game. And it’s not too punishing, so even if you missed a jump due to not being able to see the land below, you can always try again. Interestingly, instead of some kind of health bar or string of hearts on the screen, Spyro’s health is visible through his butterfly companion, so depending on how that fella looks and acts, you’ll know just how many more hits our little dragon hero can take. You can save your progress at any of the statue spots where you’ve rescued an elder dragon, and most of the difficulty just comes from traversing, rather than fighting enemies or solving puzzles. Oh, and to tie this back to that demo disc above, I remember fondly being super impressed that Spyro could burn plants to a pile of black ash at the touch of a button, and it’s still an amusing thing to do many years later.

I’m looking forward to playing more when I can, as I also have Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! and Spyro Year of the Dragon downloaded and ready for chomping. Not to mention Gex: Enter the Gecko, Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2, and Crash Bandicoot 3: WARPED. Yeah, I went a little crazy on the PS1-era mascot games during that sale. Not the worst mistake I’ve ever made.

Lastly, I’ll leave y’all on a fun tidbit about Spyro the Dragon–its soundtrack was done by The Police’s Stewart Copeland.

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, a fantastic distortion of the senses

The demo for Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the Nintendo 3DS has its ups and downs, but it has nonetheless confirmed for me that I’ll be purchasing the cutesy side-scroller on Day One. As well as reading all of Scrooge McDuck’s lines out loud in my amazing Scottish accent.

It opens with gorgeous, hand-drawn art and text-based story blocks, and stays that way for some time. Maybe too long to be reading text, but whatever. There has to be setup somewhere. Power of Illusion takes place some time after the events of Epic Mickeywhich I never even came close to beating. A part of me wants to go back and try again, but then another part remembers how there were houses you went into that had absolutely nothing inside of them, and they made me furious because what’s the point of going in it then, why not just leave the door locked, ugggggh. Anyways, the evil witch Mizrabel and her Castle of Illusion have been accidentally transported to the Wasteland by the wizard Yen Sid. That’s Disney backwards for those not in the know. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit contacts Mickey Mouse to tell him about the castle and that Minnie Mouse has been spotted inside of it, which is not true at all. Ever the hero, Mickey then sets off to save Minnie and the “Illusions” of other Disney characters trapped in the castle.

Right. It’s a side-scroller of yesteryears, and it’s coming from Dreamrift. Y’know, the folks responsible for the charming Monster Tale. Some company alum also worked on the highly praised Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. So, we’re definitely in good hands here. Plus, several interviews with Peter Ong, co-founder and creative director, have remarked on his love for Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse for the Sega Genesis. And that love shows. Oh does it show. But thankfully there’s more to Power of Illusion than just nostalgia and one fan’s dream to bring it back.

After all the story intro stuff, the demo drops you into control of the one and only Mickey Mouse, with little to no abilities to his name. Hmm. Basically, you can jump, and his jumps are unfortunately very floaty, something I’m not digging. Later on, after acquiring the Pixie Dust sketch which allows you to float down when falling, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference. You go through a tutorial level, which shows you how to bounce off enemies, throw paint/thinner at them, draw in items or erase them completely, and rescue familiar Disney characters, like Beast and Rapunzel. The artwork is gorgeous and looks great in 3D, presenting depth of field over launching things at your face.

As for the paint/thinner aspect which carries over from Epic Mickey, it’s fairly perfunctory. When you need to create an item, you trace its outline, and depending how steady your work is, you’ll create a stronger item. Alas, this is no Theatrhythm, and it’s not exactly clear where you are being judged in terms of lineart. For thinner, you basically just smudge away the item with all you got. That’s all this demo showed, so I’m not sure if there’s more to this gimmick or not. When running around, you can throw paint or thinner at enemies, and depending on which type you use, they’ll drop health or money. Yeah, Disney Dollars.

Once you are done learning the ropes, you head back to your Fortress. And this is where Power of Illusion really won me over. Because the Fortress is the castle from Suikoden. Well…sort of. The Disney characters you rescue in levels will take up refuge in your Fortress, getting their own room and serving their own purpose. You can upgrade the room too, though I’m not clear on how that is accomplished. Some characters become shops–like Scrooge McDuck–who sell upgrades to Mickey’s health meter, how much paint/thinner he uses, and upping his ability to find hidden treasures, and other characters will dish out side quests. This, I like. Very, very much. And I spent most of the demo playing around here before going back into one more level, which was set on Captain Hook’s pirate ship. That then ends with a boss fight teaser, definitely leaving me wanting more.

My Nintendo 3DS is in for some hurting over the next few weeks. I’m still trying to finish up a single playthrough of Pokemon White 2–seven badges collected so far!–but this Sunday I’ll be picking up Paper Mario: Sticker Star. And then comes Power of Illusion, followed by the downloadable Crashmo. I also still mean to pick up the new Layton game too. Gah. And maybe Scribblenauts Unlimited. Triple gah. At least now that the weather is getting horribly frigid, I have something to do underneath the heated blanket: collect pocket monsters, collect stickers, collect Disney characters. My system might not be ready for it, but I definitely am.

One does not simply play the demo for LEGO The Lord of the Rings

LEGO The Lord of the Rings keeps surprising me. First, it is seemingly coming out at the end of this month instead of what I assumed would be a more timely release around The Hobbit, Part 1 on 34 in December. Second, out of nowhere, a free demo was dropped on the 3DS eShop this week; I stumbled across it blindly. Third, said demo begins with a crow taking a crap on whatever Hobbit you are controlling’s head, and that crow keeps crapping every 10 or 15 seconds until you progress a bit through the level. Oh boy. If dodging poop is what Traveller’s Tales is adding to the adventure to make it “funny” and their own, there is cause for worry.

The demo level is the scene at Weathertop, a hill in the Eriador region of Middle-earth. The hill itself is pretty important in terms of Middle-earth history since it was once a major fortress of the kingdom of Arthedain, home to one of the seven palantíri, and the place of several battles. For our purposes, it’s the spot where Strider and the four Hobbits pause to rest for the night only to then be attacked by several Ringwraiths. The Witch-king ends up stabbing Frodo with a Morgul-blade, which is not a good time for the wee halfling.

Anyways, it’s a moment in the books/films that I’ve experienced before in LOTR videogame form and will continue to do so long as they make these types of games. It’s hard not to. It’s both iconic as all gets and made for a “boss fight” kind of level. Most recently, I took down these Ringwraiths with sword and fire in Aragorn’s Quest, but I also recall doing it almost exactly the same way elsewhere. Or maybe I’m just crazy. It’s been a long time since I dabbled in The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, so if there was a Weathertop fight there, I don’t recall, but have to assume it would at least have been handled differently, seeing as that game is a turn-based RPG built on Final Fantasy X‘s battle system. I have a couple other LOTR games in my collection–The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (PS2) and The Lord of the Rings: War in the North–but don’t remember if there were any Weathertop fights in them.

Regardless, LEGO The Lord of the Rings handles it pretty much the same way, with Aragorn ultimately chasing these screeching undead away with fire. Before that happens, Frodo must slip the One Ring on, construct some decoy Hobbits, and have the Ringwraiths attack them in order to damage themselves and become dizzy, open for damage. And before that, you climb Weathertop, using Sam, Pippin, and Merry to do different actions while avoiding that crow that keeps crapping on you. It was extremely frustrating while trying to catch a fish because the crow always shits on your controlled Hobbit directly, knocking him out of the action animation, and you only have milliseconds to reel in a fish before that crow circles back for more. I did not like this part at all, and poor Tara had to listen to bird poop sound effects–think ppbblt–for several minutes on end; I’m sorry.

I won’t be getting LEGO The Lord of the Rings on the 3DS, as I prefer all my LEGO games on the Xbox 360 so I can S rank them like a crazy person–well, except for LEGO Pirates so far, grrr–but the game still looked really good on the portable. I even flipped the 3D effect on to see the One Ring in all its realness. Cutscenes were a bit brief, and it’s still extremely bizarre to hear the films’ dialogue spoken by these blocky boys, but whatever–that’s just something I’ll either get used to or I won’t. Based on what I saw of a Free Play level, it looks like we’ll be unlocking different “skins” for characters like in LEGO Harry Potter. I’m sure it’s still going to be a ton of fun to play co-op with Tara. I just hope we can get through the crow-crapping level part much faster if she distracts it while I fish for food. Guess we’ll find out relatively soon.

Everyone talks in the LEGO Batman 2 demo for the 3DS

Of all the LEGO videogames in my collection, I have to say that LEGO Batman is not my favorite. It was harder to get into due to not following a movie or comic script, as well as dealing with the fact that I’m no hardcore fan of the caped crusader and his many plights. Also, a lack of characters to play as–limited mostly to just Batman and Robin–was not made better by the inclusion of different wearable suits to solve puzzles. I played it, and I played it to completion back in August 2009, but that was the last time I touched it or thought about the black sheep in any great capacity.

Before I go any further, as a non-spoken rule when ever mentioning LEGO Batman, I feel like I must share this l’il comic I did many moons ago, which Tara was, by pure luck, talking about the other day. I think it hits the mark for all LEGO videogames, both past and those to come. Anyways, here:

Right. I mean, every LEGO videogame so far has its own brand of fun and excellent co-op moments, but if I listed them all in a High Fidelity sort of way, LEGO Batman would be at the bottom. If I remember correctly, you got to play as the villains for a bit after completing the game, but by then I was just going for 100% completion, so whatever.

Last night, while watching the Nintendo 3DS live showcase–which, mind you, neglected to give any love to Animal Crossing 3DS, a title able to sell millions and millions and millions–watchers were informed that a free demo for LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes was availabe on the Nintendo eShop. Off I went to use up my limited number of blocks.

Hey, true fact time: this is the first LEGO videogame I’ve ever played on a handheld. I know.

Right. The demo begins with a cutscene, and the first thing that jumps out is that all the characters now talk. Gone are the days when LEGO boys and girls would mumble and gesture their way through a scene. It’s a little weird at first, but the silliness is still prevalent in the tone of dialogue and antics of the characters. In short, you’ll quickly forget that they couldn’t talk soon after. There’s an award ceremony happening, and just before what’s-his-name can get some shiny trophy the Joker shows up with his motley crew to ruin the party. Bruce Wayne disappears while the Joker monologues, literally popping back into the room via the Batmobile. Then the game part starts and…it’s a LEGO videogame level. That might sound a little negative to you, quiet reader on the opposite side of this screen, but it’s mostly not. You punch stuff, you collect studs, you flip switches and construct things and switch between characters for different skills. I also had to do battle with Poison Ivy, The Riddler, and The Joker.

However, one aspect really stood out, and not in a great way. Since this is my first LEGO videogame on a handheld, I don’t know if this has been a series staple or if it’s new for LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes, but the actual earning of the esteemed SUPERHERO reward, which is given to players that collect a specific amount of studs in the level, is severely underwhelming. On the Xbox 360, it is presented with a nice-sounding boom and a flashing of the title across the screen. On the Nintendo 3DS, the words just quietly appear on the screen with zero pizzazz. All that work…slighted.

So, all in all, LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes is certainly serviceable, but I think I’m going to save my blue/purple LEGO studs for LEGO Lord of the Rings, which is more than likely coming out this holiday season to ride The Hobbit‘s curtails.

Turning over a new leash with Bulletstorm

Let me just get this out there, so y’all understand that when you see me crawling out of an alley, begging for money and smelling worse than the rotten remains of a Stygia mutant previously eviscerated by the “Rear Entry” skillshot, it’s because of this: Steam sales. They will be my undoing, as just about anything heavily discounted suddenly becomes interesting in front of my eyes. And I do mean anything.

Take, for instance, the crude and callous first-person shooter Bulletstorm. I absolutely disliked the demo, ultimately saying this:

Bulletstorm is irrefutably juvenile, and the demo is all I probably needed to experience…ever. And for fun’s sake, here’s some phrases used affectionately during the demo to hit home their target audience: pasty, bean bag, butt hole, and, the new cult favorite, dick tits.

Right. So, why then did I buy a copy of the game over the weekend for the PC? Why have I been unlocking a lot of Achievements in rapid succession? Why am I–and this is almost troubling to admit–having fun kicking mutants into slow motion and then shooting them in half? Well, because Steam was selling it for $5.00. And at that kind of price, Bulletstorm is a blast.

At its boyish heart, Bulletstorm‘s story is about revenge gone wrong. Grayson Hunt is looking to kick his former commanding officer General Sarrano of the Confederation of Planets in his nuts and then shoot him in the head. This is because Sarrano used Hunt and his fellow friends to assassinate innocent people by telling them they were corrupt evildoers. Unfortunately, trying to ram Sarrano’s spaceship with Hunt’s spaceship brought both vessels down on the planet Stygia, which is infested with mutants and monsters. But Hunt’s no quitter, and so he’s crawling across the planet’s dangerous grounds in search of the man that made him mad. He is helped by Ishi, who is now part android, and Trishka, a former member of the elite squad Final Echo.

Gameplay involves moving forward through a level and racking up points by using creative kills against the many, many mutants that want to ruin your very existence. Headshots are boring, and so one must look for other ways to create mayhem: tossing an enemy of a cliff, dropping them on some spikes, shooting them in half, setting them on fire, and so on. Points let you buy ammo and upgrade weapons, so the more creative you are, the stronger your guns will be, which in turn let you get even crazier. It’s a system that works and reminds me of the way weapons upgraded in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. You also use a hi-tech leash that can grab objects and throw them around though I prefer sliding into enemies and then kicking them off ledges the most–really helps conserve precious ammo. Occasionally, gameplay gets mixed up, with Hunt controlling a huge, Godzilla-like monster or trying to just escape a section of the level under a time limit; otherwise, it’s still just a lot of shooting.

Also, what’s kind of nice is that, unknowingly, Bulletstorm on Steam counts as a Game for Windows Live thing, meaning I can play it logged in as PaulyAulyWog and earn Achievements for my actual Gamerscore. Think this is my first GFWL experience, and it’s all good in the skillshotty neighborhood. Here’s a few that I unlocked that are not tied to completing story chapters:


Master of Disaster (40G): Earn 2000 points or more at once


Disco Inferno (10G): Kill all enemies without leaving the dance floor in the city outskirts


No Man Left Behind (20G): Kill all enemies while escaping from the collapsed building

Currently, I’m somewhere in Act 4. Second chapter? Third? Don’t really know what that means in comparison to the overall game, but it feels like midway through. Maybe even more than that. I’m sure it won’t take long to finish up, as we’re definitely getting closer to wherever Sarrano is hiding. Again, for $5.00, this is a good time; however, if I had bought Bulletstorm at full price on Day One…I would definitely feel otherwise. And there you go.

Resident Evil: Revelations is portable horror and so not for me

I’m attracted to horror games from a distance. Truly, I am. I just don’t enjoy playing them, and this is pretty evident with the fact that Silent Hill 2 still remains unfinished despite Tara keeping me company through all the fog and static-laden radio noises and creepy monsters that want to spray me with their evil juices. I love the atmosphere and story and crazy enemy designs in horror games, but I just can’t handle the packed-in stress, the long stretches that build between scare A and scare B, the way tiny sounds like turning a doorknob are deafening and that general feeling of utter helplessness.

Also, a quick gander at my backlog confirms a solid lack of horror videogames. Yes, there’s BioShock, which I played and completed, but struggled with for awhile, often just standing still for long periods of time thanks to a “turn invisible when not moving” Plasmid and listening to my surroundings. I’ve dipped my toes into the terrifying pools called Penumbra: Overture and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but have no desire to go swimming. And in my younger years, yes, I played a few Resident Evil games, but those were social affairs, adventures that my best friend and I would go on together, with chips and drinks and puppy dogs at our sides to make the real world as safe as possible in lieu of the dangerous digital version; the vivid memory of a licker bursting threw a one-sided mirror still makes me tense up.

That said, after a busy day of drawing journal comics every hour on the hour, I downloaded the demo for Resident Evil: Revelations on my 3DS–yes, the system now supports demos; praise be to the Maker, it must be the year 2012–and give it a whirl. To clarify, the last Resident Evil game I played with passion and purpose was probably Resident Evil 2 though I did try a demo for Resident Evil 5, which was lame.

Firstly, this is a gorgeous-looking game. The graphics definitely show off what the 3DS can handle, and the 3D slider flicked slightly up creates a fantastic look, really drawing me in, as if I’m walking right behind Jill as she badly shoots zombies on a haunted cruiser ship. Well, no. Not zombies. Scary, mutated monsters. Secondly, without that crazy Circle Pro Pad attachment, this game controls horribly, especially during the moments when quick, precise turning is needed. You know, like when a monster is trying to eat your face off. See, without a second circle analog pad, you both move Jill and move the camera at the same time with the one circle pad you got. It’s horrible; I’d switch over to first-person shooting mode to pop a monster in the middle of its temple only to have my aim swirling around out of control. Thirdly–and lastly–this game can manage scares just fine. You’d think, being on a brightly teal-colored handheld device, which has a number of lights on at any given time, it wouldn’t be able to create such an atmosphere, but it does. One monster jumped down from the ceiling, and I emitted a sound. I will not describe it.

And then I ran out of ammo. And then I died in a foggy room filled with scary things. I exited out of the demo and saw that I now have 29 more chances to get scared. No thanks. But I can see why many would like Resident Evil: Revelations: high production values, quality scares, beautiful graphics, and an actual story to follow. Alas, this type of game is still not for me even when playing safely under the blankets with warmth, cats, and a wife to keep me safe. Oh well. Good thing for demos.

The Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning demo is brimming with color

Chances are high that, thanks to some quality time with the demo for Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning, I won’t be getting the full release when it drops next month. Boo hoo. And that has nothing to do with how the game plays, as it’s quite a fun action-adventure RPG with bright colors and the potential to be huge and vast and a total timesink. Nope, that’s all well and good. Alas, it suffers from tiny text syndrome.

Why can’t every game just be like Saints Row: The Third? I mean, when that game tells me to drive a tiger around the city and keep it calm and relaxed by not running into other cars, I can totally read those instructions on the screen with no problem whatsoever. Big and bold font versus what seems to be a growing standard of tiny and scrunched. It’s all I ever want

But let’s start at the beginning. The beginning of the demo, that is. It opens with a lore-heavy cutscene, voiced by a woman that desperately wants to evoke Galadriel telling the tale of those rings forged in darkness. Amalur is a world of many races–gnomes, elves, magical beings called Fae, and smelly ol’ humans–and, from what I can tell, a Winter Fae named Gadflow and his followers, the Tuatha, have decided to kill all the younger races. I think it has something to do with a prophecy. And you, whoever you are. You are dead at the beginning of the game–SPOILERS!–brought back to life by the Well of Souls, something the Tuatha also want to see destroyed. Plot-wise, it seems like you will be investigating how exactly you came to be reborn, as well as get mixed up in all this bitter conflict.

The escape from the pit of dead bodies is clearly a tutorial level, wherein you’ll learn how to use weapons, equip stuff, kill rats and giant spiders, have some dialogue, and fight a rock troll. Afterwards, you are given 45 minutes to explore as much of Amalur as you want, doing whatever you want. The game even makes it explicitly clear that the 45 minutes will pause during dialogue so nothing needs to be skipped. Regardless, I skipped a lot of dialogue; it’s not the game’s strongest bullet point.

The game looks like Fable II and plays like Dragon Age II, and you can interpret that how you like. Vibrant colors abound and combat is fast, heavy on action and rolling. I really like the visuals in Amalur, with all the flowers and colorful trees and billowing grass. Even dungeons look nice and non-gloomy. In an industry washed with browns and grays, it is nice to see something a little brighter, even if it draws comparison to World of Warcraft‘s cartoony style. I did notice some odd quirks during the demo that have me worried about the game as a whole: my avatar glitched in and out of cutscenes a few times and everything seems to glow, which can be overwhelming once outside in the wild.

I mentioned combat is fast, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s a play style here for everyone. You can do range with bows and staff spells or stealthy with sneaky daggers or full-on force with swords and such. From the selection of weapons so far, I actually prefer to just go in swinging contrary to my normal stealthy ways. Third-person stealth is always harder to do for me than first-person. The magic spells and Fate Combo Thingies look pretty fantastic, with nice particle effects all around.

By the end of my 45 minutes of free time, I had killed some smugglers, froze a bear to death, found a magical sword, and stole some peasant clothes from a stranger’s house. Y’know…RPG stuff. I liked the demo a lot and can see the potential here, but alas, I won’t be picking it up until I get a new TV, which might never happen. Sorry, citizens of Amalur. Save yourselves.

Testing the fields and busting tanks in Red Faction: Guerrilla

I gave the demo for Red Faction: Armageddon a spin the other night, and there’s not too much to talk about. It’s basically Red Faction: Guerrilla, but with a pinch of horror and a really neat new weapon, the Magnet Gun. Instead of taking place above ground on Mars, we’re now beneath the regions of Tharsis, deep below the dusty soil, where horrible abominations breed and lurk. It’s different enough from its predecessor in terms of locale, but the game seems to play very much the same. You run, you shoot, you obliterate things in your path.

I then had the itch to go back to Red Faction: Guerrilla after the demo was over, especially because I do enjoy causing massive amounts of in-game destruction. It’s just that the main story and main story missions have always given me grief; I can’t seem to get past the first few missions in Dust, unfortunately, but at least I have the freedom to drive around, blow structures up, and mine for ore.

I also played some more online matches and many rounds in Wrecking Crew, which is just an excuse and exercise in weapons of mass destruction. Matchmaking for online games is pretty slow and will probably severely slow down once Red Faction: Armageddon comes out, but I did get in several rounds of Team Anarchy. I held my own most of the time.

Anyways, here’s what I was able to unlock Achievement-wise after going back to the game for a bit:


Can’t Get Enough (20G): Played every mode on all maps in Wrecking Crew.


Field Tested (10G): Earned 1,000 XP in Multiplayer.


Tank Buster (10G): Blew up 100 small hydrogen tanks.

It’s still a hit or miss for me in terms of fun, but there’s something about Red Faction: Guerrilla that keeps calling me back. I dunno. Probably a deeply buried love for the original two PlayStation 2 games; heck, I spent countless nights battling AI bots in Red Faction II because I enjoyed it so very much. Maybe I’ll look up an online strategy guide and see if it can kept me (and Alec Mason) combat the EDF.

Living the LEGO life of a pirate

The demo for LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game begins with a young Elizabeth Swan punching a parrot in its face. It’s pure zaniness, but that’s what these LEGO games have always been about–retellings with a special touch. If you’re not laughing, you’re not having fun.

I started to play this demo by myself, but when Tara saw what I was doing, she quickly grabbed another controller and joined in on the fun. We’ve always enjoyed playing the LEGO games together, especially LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4, which was very close to us in terms of interests. Here’s a comic I did many moons ago about our time with LEGO Batman (the weakest of all the LEGO titles actually):

Much of the demo for LEGO Pirates (I’m shortening the title from now on) is actually cutscenes, setting the story up and giving Tara and I many reasons to giggle. The entire game will cover all four movies. We’re playing the first level of the Curse of the Black Pearl, which has Jack Sparrow arriving in town and getting locked up, Elizabeth accidentally summoning those cursed pirates and getting herself kidnapped, and Will Turner slowly becoming allies with a wanted criminal.

The first playable part of the demo is inside Will Turner’s workshop. One player controls Will, and the other controls, um, some guy I can’t remember the name of. His partner? Together, we broke items, collected studs, fed a carrot to a donkey, and repaired a machine, which revealed where Jack Sparrow was hiding. Then it was time for a sword-fight high up in the rafters, and even though I was just mashing the attack button, the swords clinked and clanked and swung wildly, giving the impression of a real duel to the death.

The next area has us controlling Will and Jack, trying to break our way out of jail. This involves using a dog and sniffing out keys. Once we’re done this area, we’re outside in the shiny, bright sunshine, attempting to get to the docks to steal a ship. Tara takes control of Jack and the laughs hit a high when he hops on top of a barrel and begins rolling around with it. We get to do some combat with some soldiers, and then we’re over by a ship, trying to figure out how to commandeer it. Staying in the water too long gets you eaten by a shark. After solving the rather simple puzzles and zip-lining over onto the ship, the demo ends, leaving us wanting more.

However, after playing the main part of the demo, you can go back and do “free play” on the first level, which just gave us an excuse to try out some other fun characters and explore a few locked areas. Tara ran me over several times with a donkey, and then we were officially done for the night.

So, the gameplay is exactly what we’ve all come to expect. For some, that might seem like a downer. However, it’s still the sort of gameplay I like, as it is not too intense for co-op play, and just enough of a collectathon for my OCD. Granted, there are not as many memorable characters to unlock in LEGO Pirates as there were in LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Harry Potter, but I think it’ll still be a blast to control Bootstrap Bill.

The full retail version releases tomorrow, and I’m gonna get that booty faster than you can say, “Oh, barnacles!”

Five things make a post, or it’s time to Ragnarök!

5. The next Assassin’s Creed game has been revealed, and it’s titled Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Please note that it, like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, is missing a number in it. What does that mean? ::shrugs:: The newest game is rumored to be the last for Italian superstar Ezio, bringing his journey full circle to line up with Altair and Desmond. And the multiplayer aspect is coming back, too, which I think is fantastic. I never expected myself to become so interested in this series after its lukewarm first game experience, but here I am, waiting and wondering. Comes out this November, probably right around the same time as TES V: Skyrim, just to mess with me.

4. The Arbiter, upgraded to level 3 and rocking a tingling Shock Omega mod, is currently my weapon of choice in Ratchet: Deadlocked. This thing is just a beast, taking out dropships in two shots. Mmm:

3. As much as I adore Norse mythology, I’m not interested in the slightest over this new movie Thor. I mean, if I want to look at cheese, I’ll open my refrigerator. That said, there’s a browser-based game called Thor: Bring the Thunder! and it looks simply gorgeous. Colorful 16-bit sprites in what one could describe as Mega Man with a lightning-fused hammer. However, I think a better title would’ve been Thor: Time to Ragnarök!

2. I downloaded two demos on the Xbox 360 yesterday: LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean and Red Faction: Armageddon. Unfortunately, due to time restraints and the constant distraction that is Netflix, I’ve not been able to try either of these yet, but will most likely give ‘em a run over the weekend. Not expecting much from the latest Red Faction title, but I do love me some LEGO action. Hope it’s as fun as the movies were (well, the first movie at least).

1. I finally earned the highest amount of G in the latest bazaar in Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar. This meant selling everything I had in my bag, including a huge piece of gold I was lucky enough to find attached to my body after jumping into the river seven times. I was so excited for this as I knew that the highest seller won a prize from the mayor. Maybe it was a trophy? Or a huge bag of gold? Or his daughter’s hand in marriage? No. No, it wasn’t any of those. I won a bottle of milk. Ffffffffffffff.

And that, dear Grinding Down readers, has certainly been a post.