Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – BlazeRush

Hmm. At some point in May 2018, in pursuit of my purging of these numerous PlayStation Plus games I have downloaded over the years and left unplayed on my seriously neglected PlayStation 3, I did a few rounds of this thing called BlazeRush. I’m now coming back to this post months later with little memory of what I experienced, though I remember not being too impressed, much like with other car-based games from this blazing feature of mine.

Allow me to tell you what this is BlazeRush is all about. It’s an arcade racing survival game with no health, no leveling up, and no brakes, hence the rush part of its title. You can play locally or online multiplayer–though I had no luck with the latter–and you play by selecting a vehicle to your taste and chase, blow up, and cut off anyone that gets in your way. There are three planets to race on, each with their own set of tracks, along with 16 cars to pick and a variety of weapons to use.

I’ve seen a lot of others talking about BlazeRush comparing it to Death Rally and Rock n’ Roll Racing, two other vehicular combat-based racing videogames I’ve never touched in my life. My go-tos were the original Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8 and not much more since then, honestly. So this didn’t really hold my interest for too long, though I will say the controls are solid and everything moved rather fluidly. Knocking another vehicle off the track sure felt good…until an opponent knocks you off seconds before you get a powerful pick-up.

Ultimately, I don’t have much more to say about BlazeRush. It was that kind of experience, I guess. Here’s hoping the next game I purge isn’t another racing game. I know, I do it to myself.

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.

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State of Decay 2, the categorical and harsh suffer sim

I never played the original State of Decay, but I really wanted to. On paper, it sounded challenging, but rewarding, putting you firmly into that fantastic scenario we all ponder now and again, thanks to so much post-apocalyptic media in our lives: how would you survive in a world gone to shit? I know I personally wouldn’t last long due to my lack of cardio and upper-body strength, but I’d hope I could contribute to a community in other ways. Either by organizing our rations and inventory or even just making sure people knew what goals needed to be accomplished and by when. Still, eventually, I’d be zombie food. Or even a zombie myself.

So far, for my little community in State of Decay 2, despite things going pretty poorly from time to time, no one has died (editor’s note: I wrote this sentence almost three months ago, but as of mid-September I have had a member die out in the field trying to take on an infestation by himself, insert sad face here). I take great pride in this because there’s been some seriously close calls. However, Choe, our resident nurse, got frustrated with the lack of medicine and eventually left the group. Otherwise, I’ve been able to keep people somewhat satisfied, even if morale is constantly bouncing between stable and poor and nobody wants to be on latrine duty.

It’s not one hundred percent fun to play, and I constantly feel like I’m just treading water and making very little progress. The area around my tiny community is mostly cleared out of zombies, but keeping my group of people healthy and happy is a constant task that never seems to churn out great results. Basically, I pick a spot on the map to investigate, take a friend with me, use our only car which is damaged and low on gas, go kill a few zombies, and discover, if at most, a few items to bring back, but mostly an empty shack or house. Rucksacks are the most important thing to find, but they are few and far between, so I’ve been relying mostly on calling in special drops to pick up…which feels a little like cheating sometimes.

Fast forward to now-ish, and I basically haven’t played the game in a few months…for specific reasons. Well, I noticed that a new piece of DLC came out recently called Daybreak, and it is part of the season pass which I guess I purchased at some point. It’s a brand-new game mode for State of Decay 2 completely separate from your base community. Basically, it’s a re-playable co-op “zombie siege” experience, something akin to Horde mode in Gears of War 4. You and up to three teammates play as elite Red Talon soldiers, armed with potent high-end weaponry. Working together, you must defend a fortified position where a technician needs time to repair a critical satellite relay. You’ll have to survive seven waves of increasingly difficult swarms of zombies, including the brand new blood plague juggernaut, with the ultimate goal being keeping the technician alive. Do that, and you win.

Between each wave, you can run out into the woods to pick up more ammo, weapons, and wall repair kits from CLEO drops. You only have two minutes though to grab what you can before a new wave deploys upon your small fortress. What I really like about playing Daybreak is that you earn weapons–melee, guns, and tossed explosives–to use in both further attempts at the DLC, but also in the main State of Decay 2 mode. You can even earn the opportunity to recruit a Red Talon soldier into your base community. I’ve attempted keeping the technician alive twice now–first time, we were successful, and the second time, he got killed in the final wave. Either way, it’s a pretty fun mode that, thanks to you earning new gear and being able to bring it back to your main game mode, feels more connected than it probably needed to be, even if it feels a little repetitive.

I do look forward to playing more, but a part of me now just wants to unlock all the best gear and weapons first in Daybreak and then start a new community over, especially since I just lost Mike who was suppose to become my group’s leader. At some point, I’ll have to avenge his death, take back all his good gear, and focus on someone else to take the lead, but even the thought of that currently doesn’t fill me with excitement. In the end, that’s kind of what State of Decay 2 is, a game I both want to play and stay far away from because it is draining. I now know why people refer to it as a suffer sim…you do it to yourself, really.

A belated update about life and stuff

gd update post sept 2018 take 2

Well, it’s been a couple of months. I last updated Grinding Down towards the end of June, right before my family and I took a big ol’ vacation to sunny-hot Florida and the happiest place on Earth. Yup, I’m talking about Walt Disney World, which was a ton of fun and a wee bit stressful and full of memories for sure and I really like Moscow Mules, even if they are made with moonshine. Anyways…

However, once I returned back to not-so-hot New Jersey, I found myself suffering from intense stomach pains and bathroom issues. Actually, those had been there long before the trip, but they got worse as the days went on. So bad that my girlfriend convinced me to go to the ER…where I got diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Yeah, that’s a bummer, to be quick about it.

I then spent 17 days in the hospital, getting X-rays and CT scans and surgery to remove masses from my colon. Got poked a whole bunch with needles too. I’m now undergoing chemotherapy to deal with the…ahem innumerable masses on my liver. Those are the doctors’ words, not mine, by the way.

Honestly, I’m doing well. I remain in good spirits and am strong and ready to battle on. Heck, I’m even drawing comics about the whole ordeal. Also, I’m continuing to play lots of games. Amazingly, one of them is Fortnite, which I never expected to get into, but I bought the battle pass for the current season and really love going after the challenges. Melanie helps too. Oh, also, she’s no longer my girlfriend…she’s my fiance! ❤

I don’t know how frequently I’ll be blogging. Certainly won’t be like the good ol’ days, but that’s just how life goes right now. I have other things to focus on, but writing is therapeutic, and I’m all about healing this disease. So I’ll be back. I know y’all are dying to know my thoughts on all these hot releases, like Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and Dragon Quest VIII on the 3DS.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Snakeball

I’m pretty sure I’ve never played the original Snake, having only touched some updated version of it on a cell phone many years back. Snake‘s a pretty simple concept: the player controls a dot, square, or object on a bordered plane. As it moves forward, it leaves a trail behind, resembling a moving snake. In some versions, the end of the trail is in a fixed position, so the snake continually gets longer as it moves. Another common take on the mechanic is that the snake has a specific length, so there is a moving tail that is a fixed number of units away from the head. Either way, the player loses when the snake runs into the screen’s border, a trail or other obstacle, or itself. According to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia, there are over 300 Snake-like games for iOS alone. Oh me, oh my.

Which brings us to…Snakeball. This one evidently uses most of the mechanics of the late 1970s Snake, with the goal being taking balls and throwing them into the hole at the center of the stage. There are variations on this gameplay, but the main goal stays the same throughout, accompanied by a flashy disco graphic style. Stages take place on disco floors that Tony Manero would greatly approve of. You can select between 16 different characters, all with a bunch of color schemes, and, evidently, if you had access to a PlayStation Eye camera, which I do not, you could snap a photo of your face–or anything else you found photogenic–and plop it onto one of the riders. Developed by Gamoola Soft, this is very much a casual game, which is why I played an hour or so of it, saw what it had to offer, and uninstalled it from my PlayStation 3, as per the goal of these themed posts.

There are three main modes in Snakeball: Snakeball, Challenge, and Ball Frenzy. Snakeball is the multiplayer mode, where up to 8 players can play online; however, since this game came out at the end of 2007 and I was playing it for the first time in 2018, a decade later, there was nobody online to play against. Shocking, right? You can battle bots though it isn’t too exciting. The Challenge mode tasks players with navigating through levels to open up a teleporter and go to the next level, with 14 levels in total to complete. Ball Frenzy is basically a remake of the classic Snake, with 10 levels to conquer. The goal of this mode is to collect all 1,000 balls in the level without crashing and destroying the ship.

Did you know that, for a time there, Trophies weren’t a thing on the PlayStation 3? They kind of only came around after the Xbox 360’s Achievements system began picking up steam as Sony wanted in on the extra stuff action. A lot of games got patched to include poppable Trophies, and all games going forward seem to now have ’em. However, Snakeball was not one that got graced with a patch, and so it is just this very straightforward experience that is mostly fine, but a bit lifeless and repetitive and lacking goals.

I’ll probably play some strange, updated version of Snake down the road. It’s inevitable. However, that said, I’ll probably never touch Snakeball ever again.

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, #39 – Frightened Beetles

Three terrified bugs
Dodge obstacles, reach an end
Short, sweet adventure

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.

I’m finding it difficult to criticize I, Hope

I, Hope was created without the objective of making a profit. Developer Kenny Roy is teaming up alongside the GameChanger Charity to ensure that all proceeds for the game are donated to said charity, which supports children and children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. It’s a beautiful thing, really, though now I feel somewhat bad because I got my copy through Twitch Prime’s free games of the month thing. Hopefully Twitch is donating some funds their way based on the amount of service subscribers they have or something like that. All that said, I wish I, Hope was better than it ultimately is, and I’m finding it difficult to criticize a game with such an earnest cause and outlook. Still, I must.

I, Hope is the coming of age story about a young girl named Hope whose town has been taken over by Cancer. The game is not trying to be subtle whatsoever with its narrative. You are Hope, you are battling Cancer. Other games have tackled this subject, such as That Dragon, Cancer and Re-Mission, though I can’t speak about how on the nose or not they played it. As Hope, you are traveling to a bunch of islands to collect tools to help her on her quest to push back Cancer, and to get these tools, she’ll need to defeat monsters and solve various puzzles. It’s a typical third-person, character action game in the veins of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, but with the violence toned way down, no insane combos, and graphics that look like they’d call the PlayStation 2 home, not that that’s a bad thing really. Actually, now that I think about it, the game also reminds me a bit of Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom.

The gameplay consists of you, as Hope, running around a somewhat sparse level, attacking cancer-infected monsters with your staff and solving environment-based puzzles. The problems start immediately. The jumping and attacking don’t feel great, and I even fell through the world a few times, popping the “That’s not how the story went…” screen, which brings you back to a checkpoint. Trying to move objects is basically a dice roll as to whether or not you can even move the block when you hit the button to lock on to it. You also acquire some abilities, such as being able to see hidden elements with the goggles or freezing moving platforms with a cymbal thingy. Each world seems to end with a boss fight that often requires you to use that island’s specific power to defeat it. Also, you can collect letters to spell hope, which unlocks some extra content–I think it’s just a soundtrack selection–from the main menu.

I got to the end boss of the third island, the volcano-themed heckhole, and called it quits, something I really don’t like doing in any game. Sure, sure, I’ll walk away from a game or take a break, but always with the intention to return to it eventually. With I, Hope, I was saying, “Nope, no more.” The cause is good, the gameplay is not, to the point of it being frustrating. I found next to zero coverage of the game on YouTube, but one person did play through the whole thing, and I’m glad I stopped when I did because the puzzles seemed to only become more maddening as Hope gathered more tools and tricks to use against the Cancer tentacles. It also ends abruptly after a light-bouncing-between-mirrors puzzle that we have all experienced before in games like Beyond Good & Evil and the Professor Layton puzzle games, on both a down and up beat. I just don’t know.

I, Hope has one thing going for it–its unceasing amount of support for those fighting cancer. Me too. Cancer sucks, hard. As a game, one for all ages, but seemingly geared towards a younger group, it’s both bland and underdeveloped, and I found nothing satisfying in either the platforming, combat, or puzzle solving, and those are the three main elements that make up Hope’s quest. I am all about supporting causes for cancer research, and this is one of ’em, but a word of warning–you’ll be extremely disappointed if you also want a good game to play out of the donation.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Starwhal

Starwhal is an easy game to purge from my PlayStation Plus collection on the PlayStation 3. Why’s that? Because it’s heavily dependent on local multiplayer for fun times, and I have no fleshy friends to join me on the couch and play against. The entire point of this fake future sport that forces narwhals to battle each other to the death is to poke each space narwhal–a starwhal, if you will–in the heart with their pointy horns. Do this enough times and be the last one standing to claim victory and enjoy a buffet of whatever it is that narwhals enjoy eating. Hold on, I’m actually looking this up.

Seafood. A lot of seafood, like squid, Greenland halibut, shrimp, Arctic cod, rockfish, flounder, and crab. I’d enjoy some of that too, honestly.

Anyways, the game’s options are limited. You can play a deathmatch mode either versus your fleshy friends or add in AI-controlled opponents. I tried this three or four times and didn’t really enjoy it. The starwhals are purposely difficult to control, and I never found myself getting a good grip on steering them in the right direction. They feel unmanageable and remind me of trying to guide a squire on a leash across a field full of nuts and other squirrels. There’s a whole lot of flopping about. If I managed to damage an enemy, I promise you it was purely accidental, and I didn’t win a single match against the computer. Oh well.

There’s also over 30 Obstacle and Target challenge levels to hone your combat skills, but again, I struggled with simply controlling my green-colored, wig-wearing starwhal from one side of the screen to the other. Couldn’t even beat the gold time for the first challenge area. I figured they were only going to ramp up in difficulty after that and decided this was just not for me. Similar to things like Sportsfriends and Crawl, these types of gaming experiences are better with friends, where you can together laugh and cry out in frustration as your starwhal flops the wrong way, causing you to lose the match. Without them there, it’s just me and a growing grimace, listening to some pretty rad tunes.

Paulwhal, out!

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.