Life never really finds a way in LEGO Jurassic World

It used to feel good to hit 100.0% completion in these sundry LEGO games. It was a victory well-earned, through being meticulous and dedicated and clever. You go back into levels you already played, now with a crew of varying abilities and skills, and you’d do things you were unable to prior, truly experiencing everything the level had to offer. Alas, the last few LEGO games I’ve played, specifically LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, have turned it into a real chore. I’m saddened to say that LEGO Jurassic World is also now a part of this troublesome family, and methinks this just may be the way all future LEGO games go, so allow me to predict now that I will greatly enjoy my first few hours with LEGO The Incredibles, but will be busted by the end of it. Sigh.

You may recall that I actually already played through LEGO Jurassic World some years back. Well, that was the Nintendo 3DS version, and I found it…underwhelming. A part of me hoped that its bigger console version would remedy some of the issues I had with it on handheld, and it does, but that still doesn’t mean it’s the best of the bunch and not without its own set of problems. Mel and I played it together, and that’s always fun, but the grind after completing all the levels to get every last red brick, gold brick, piece of amber, minikit, dinosaur, worker in peril, vehicle, character, and photograph is beginning to wear on my mind.

LEGO Jurassic World, despite its name, covers the first four films in the series, with each movie getting a handful of levels–roughly about 5 or 6–as well as its own minihub area to run around on and dig up collectibles. These levels are bigger and better than the 3DS version, but there’s still too many sections involving running non-stop toward the screen as a dinosaur chases from behind, and these sections are even more frustrating if you miss a collectible. Other than those, the big moments in each movie are tackled and play out, more or less, as one might expect. Traveller’s Tales still infects the narrative with its kooky humor–they love bananas and pigs–but a lot of the dialogue is taken from the movie and its quality is noticeably poor, to the point that I’d rather have this take go back to the silent pantomimed style of earlier LEGO games.

My biggest issue, early on, with LEGO Jurassic World revolved around its hub world maps and how the developers never tell you that you need to interact with a computer terminal to open up fast-traveling waypoints. For a while, I just couldn’t travel to a map area quickly, and my only solution was to load up a level and then save and exit from it, which meant sitting through several loading screens just to pop up on my island of choice. You could say I goofed a bit on that, but the blame could also go on the developers as I don’t recall other LEGO games requiring this. Also, there are multiple layers to each map that you constantly have to click through to exit back to the main game. Not really ideal, when all I wanted to do was drop on a pin on the nearest red brick.

Y’know, a lot of people like to muse about future or potential LEGO games–myself included–and I’m coming to realize that not everything can fit the mold. For instance, I’ve seen a lot of clamoring for things like LEGO Jaws and LEGO James Bond. The problem is that, often times, there’s just not enough excitement there to warrant games in these franchises. For instance, say there was a LEGO Jaws, you would get a handful of named and well-liked characters to play as, but then you’d have to spend all your time unlocking upwards of 50 no-namers like Ben Gardner or Harry Meadows, and their abilities, unlike superheroes, would be beyond bland, like interviewing witnesses or using fishing rods. That happened here in LEGO Jurassic World, wherein I mostly played as only the main characters from the films via the top two rows of the character select screen and touched nobody else except for Mr. DNA and a dinosaur when a puzzle required it…because nobody else seemed all that exciting to control, and there’s next to no experimenting.

If you are nostalgic for things adjacent to Jurassic Park, I wouldn’t recommend this. If anything, watch the films again. I have recently and can continue to put them high up on a pedestal, beacons of fun storytelling and lovable characters. Sure, you don’t get to bounce around as an ultra cute and tiny velociraptor, but that’s probably the only noteworthy difference between the films and the games. Heck, go back and play Jurassic Park on the SNES if you want something super engaging and full of tension though, in my heart of hearts, I know that those first-person sections do not hold up.

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Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Aaru’s Awakening

Aaru’s Awakening is a looker, but not a hooker. Now, by hooker, I don’t mean one that is in the business or practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for payment. I mean the game itself did not hook me from the start, nor even after a couple of hours of bashing my head against it. It’s a beauty to behold, but a beast to play, and I’m glad I played it and relatively quickly saw that it was definitely not for me in the long run despite the gorgeous vistas and animations. In that respect, it reminds me of The Last Unicorn, a whimsical, romantic fairy tale full of gorgeous animation and fantastic vocal talents, but a story and pacing that I found quite dull and uninteresting.

Lumenox Games’ Aaru’s Awakening is a hand-drawn 2D action platformer set in the fantastical and deadly world of Lumenox brimming with spiked walls, falling platforms, toxic pits, enemy monsters, and various other pitfalls. This fast-paced game puts you in control of Aaru, a yellowy-orange mythical creature with two unique abilities–teleportation and charging. With these abilities at hand, he will travel through Lumenox’s four realms to defeat an evil entity…because that’s just what you do if your world is under attack.

Anyways, these two abilities are essential to Aaru’s Awakening and help it stand out as something more than a typical action platformer. The game’s levels require you to make split-second decisions while also completing ultra-hyper fast puzzles. Imagine while doing your taxes on a 30-second time limit and then you also had to decide between saving your wife from a bear or your child from a shark. Know the answer? Go. Aaru can perform a charge, which is basically a flying headbutt that can bash through stone walls, as well as extend your jump a few feet. Aaru can also teleport by firing an orb and appearing at any point in the orb’s trajectory. If that sounds tricky, it is…sometimes you need to bank the orb off walls or floors or through narrow vents in the rocks to bypass hazards. It’s also Aaru’s only offensive weapon–you can fire an orb at an enemy and, as it passes through him, teleport yourself to it, killing the monster in the process.

I found Aaru’s Awakening to be one big lump of trial and error, with fewer successes than failures. Because of the twitch-based gameplay, you can’t recover from your mistakes. If you miss a jump, well…too bad. Everything falls, and everything is designed to kill you, forcing you to remain on your toes and react instantly to every change. Look, I don’t play a lot of these so-dubbed splatformers by one Vinny Caravella, but I did okay in Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV, and the difference between those and this is I found them challenging, but not overly punishing. Every mistake felt like my own, and here it often felt like I just didn’t know what was coming up and stumbled with my actions. Also, and I know this is a silly thing to bring up, but I didn’t even pop a single Trophy after playing the game for a few hours.

Here’s the final rub…if I had shelled out full price for Aaru’s Awakening, I’d probably be really disappointed in my purchase. As it stands, this was a freebie for PlayStation Plus subscribers some time back, and so, to me, I came into it with no financial attachments. The game requires split-second timing and a lot of memorization, a staple in many platformers for sure, but to a degree that is simply not enjoyable. I’ll let others take a whack at this brutal beast, teleporting myself elsewhere, most likely back in time to play Donkey Kong Country or Kirby Super Star on the SNES, games I know aren’t the toughest, but still have a bit of challenge behind them that make getting to the end feel rewarding.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #36 – LEGO Jurassic World

Four dino movies
In usual LEGO form
Not a clever girl


For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #35 – Chairs for Bashir

Life with civil war
Put on concert, distraction
Need chairs, please no bombs

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

Korgan’s an uninspired dungeon-crawler, but easy 1,000 Gamerscore

There are a lot of free games floating around like tiny desperate dust motes up in the digital entertainment industry’s night sky these days. Many more than a couple years ago. Some are good, some are great, and many are bad, hastily put together and thrown into the wild in hopes of earning money or a fanbase or anything at all. I’ve been able to get a lot of mileage out of many of these freebies; for instance, according to my Xbox app, I put about 58 hours total into Fallout Shelter. Other free adventures that I continue to poke and prod at include Gems of War, Fortnite, and Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle. Alas, Korgan is not one of the good ones, sitting nearly at the bottom of the barrel, with its only saving grace being that it has a relatively easy number of Achievements to pop, if that is something you care about.

Korgan is an episodic dungeon-crawler from Codestalkers, and you can play the prologue chapter for free, which takes maybe two to three hours to get through, depending on how thorough you want to be. I recall zero details about the plot of this stock fantasy-driven adventure, but I’m sure it involves some sort of ancient evil or shadow group trying to spread chaos and monsters across the world, leaving it up to a trio of do-gooders to set things right. You can freely switch between these three heroes to face enemies or obstacles; the titular Korgan is an up-close dwarven warrior that uses axes and mallets for damage. As for Sedine and Meldie, well…I’m too annoyed at the game to look up much more, so one of them is a floating mage-lady, and the other is a hat-wearing hunter that uses a bow and arrow. I’ll let you decide who gets what name, even though it doesn’t matter one lick.

Naturally, each character has their own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and you could combine attacks together for more damage, such as freezing as enemy with the mage and switching to the axe-wielding hero for extra damage…except I never felt the need to do this. You can skate by on using one character until his or her health is almost gone, and then switch to the next one. If one character loses all of his or health, it’s not the worst thing in the world–you are zipped back to the start of the level, but most of your progress has been saved, meaning death has no real consequence besides it now taking you longer to uninstall Korgan after getting through the prologue.

The game and gameplay is barbarously boring, almost to the point that I have nothing to say of it. It’s generic hack-and-loot, with paint-by-the-number quests that culminate in droll boss fights that, for some reason, were set to auto-record on the Xbox One. The subpar elements of Korgan that truly stand out to me are around its design and UI decisions. For instance, the developers thought that clicking in the right stick and holding it for upwards of 15 seconds would be perfect for actions like reading text on monuments, searching areas for clues, and destroying traps. It’s slow and not fun on one’s hand, and I eventually avoided doing it if I could. Hitting the Y button switches between your three characters, but it’s also the button to hit for looting all items as opposed to selecting them one by one, and since I never got the impression there was an inventory limit I looted each and every piece of gear I could fine…but sometimes, instead of looting, I’d accidentally switch to someone else.

Here’s something else I didn’t grok, but maybe I was half-asleep. Each of the three characters share a single XP bar that fills up as you complete side quests, break down traps, and kill enemies. However, as far as I can tell, only the character you are actively controlling at the time when the XP bar hits the max amount levels up and gets a skill point to spend. Because of this, though I did use all three characters, I ended up putting the most points into the mage’s spells and found her to thus be the most effective when it came to dealing damage. Except some enemies were immune to her attacks, and that sucked because Korgan and the other one were not as leveled as the mage. It also didn’t help that the UI for inventory and equipping potions, armor, and weapons was clunky and confusing. That said, the skill tree upgrades are as bland as unbuttered bread, and you never truly feel like the character is growing in strength or power.

Look, you might like Korgan. It might very well be your first taste of a dungeon crawler with gear to pick up. And if you do, that’s great, because the first nibble is free, and there’s more content coming. I believe you can jump right into chapter one if you are champing at the bit. However, I found the slow combat, poor controls, and uninteresting progression and loot to be too underwhelming, and I just don’t care about anything now. In fact, I’m going to continue living life believing that all three heroes fell down a dark crevasse and got swallowed up by the earth, never to be seen or heard from again. Oh well.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #34 – Marie’s Room

Unlikely friendship
Unearth what happened, years back
Short and sweet, zoom in

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #33 – Thirty Flights of Loving

A heist’s aftermath
Piece together what went wrong
Replay to learn more

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.