2015 Game Review Haiku, #50 – LEGO Jurassic World (Nintendo 3DS)

LEGO® Jurassic World™_20150402175119

Dinosaurs and man
The lack of humility
Big ideas, small game

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is not about changing the world

gd mgs4 gotp final thoughts and impressions

My goal for the Metal Gear Solid series of videogames has generally been pretty clear: play them all in the order they were released and stay ahead of Dan and Drew over at Giant Bomb, especially once they got to the Big Bosses in the series that I’ve not touched at all, that way I can enjoy all of Hideo Kojima’s mind-wank first for myself and then witness those goofballs grenade-toss and gun their way through all the meticulously heavy sneaking parts. I know I can be a slow gamer at times, but figured I wouldn’t have any problems with this.

Unfortunately, it did not work out. I started playing Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots right before I left for a Disney World vacation in July, mostly inspired to play because I saw that those Giant Bomb duders were readying themselves for more nanomachine-driven madness. I figured there might have been a longer break between this and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but nope, I was wrong. So I played a little, and by the time I got back, they were nearly done with the game. Other things were happening in my life, and I just figured I’d wait the whole thing out for a bit. Then Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain dropped, and it’s all everyone is chatting about, and I desperately want to play it, but still have a few more games to get through first. This is what basically lead to me sitting down over two nights and pounding MGS4 into dust, which, when you realize it is more or less a visual novel, isn’t terribly challenging.

I think I covered the story stuff in my last post on MGS4, or what little story stuff I felt like spilling. It goes places, but mostly to the past. In a lot of ways, this felt like Metal Gear Solid: Callback Edition, what with you pounding X in every cutscene to get flashbacks and every character coming out of the woodwork to at least participate in some manner. Drebin’s long-winded stories of tragedy and woe about all four B&B Corps members really killed the game’s pace, and a lot of characters continued to speak in grandiose cliches, to the point that I felt like Old Snake all the time, constantly repeating back what people said, but as a question. GW? Microwaves? Suicide mission? Truthfully, I’ve never been able to 100% follow along with Kojima’s plot across all the Metal Gears, but this is the one where they tried to hit some nails into coffins and close a lot of loops, and even then I didn’t understand the bulk of it.

In terms of difficulty, I only hit a few snags, and if you’d rather not read about specific encounters–skip to the next paragraph. Now. Okay, here we go. The first big hiccup appeared while trying to track Naomi’s footprints in South America; I knew what the game wanted me to do, and I did it, really, and still, it took forever to find the cave she went into. The next problem arose in the boss fight against Vamp back at Shadow Moses, where you are supposed to remember you have a nanomachine-specific item in your inventory, given to you several acts back, and that’s the only way to defeat him. I used the Codec a bunch, but still Otacon never clued me in on this; I had to resort to the Internet’s guidance. Lastly, the final level has you landing on a massive battleship and trying to make it all the way down to the other side, where there’s a door. The ship is crawling with enemies, and after multiple attempts to shoot my way through–first with tranquilizer bullets and stun grenades, then with live ammunition–I resorted to wearing a full suit of OctoCamo and inch-worming my way down the left side, at the slowest pace in the world. Other than that, every else sort of handles itself.

It’s not my favorite Metal Gear, though I still don’t think I’m prepared to pick one. There’s not much to play here, especially early on when you are sided with the rebels and sort of shadowing them as they take out all the baddies and you sneak through without a scratch to your tired, leathery face. Even when you do decide to stand up and fight, the game gives you so many weapons and health items that surviving is fairly reasonable (save for that last section on the boat). Sure, my stats below show 23 continues, but the majority of those are from that final stretch.

Speaking of statistics, as always, Konami provides you a bunch at the end of the credits. Read ’em and weep:


Seems like this time around you earn different emblems for how you play. I got the title of “Eagle,” which is brought about from accumulating 150 or more headshots. Go me and my headshotting skills. Other wearable emblems require specific ways of playing, such as not getting spotted at all or spending more than an hour inside the cardboard box/drum can. Hmm no thanks. That certainly helps with MGS4‘s replayability, though I have no interest right now in returning to it. Like an eagle, I’ll soar away, high in the sky, the world below zooming out, as if it doesn’t matter.

Up next…Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker! Y’know, that game no one seems to like or feel is part of the series at all, but is most likely important to the early story stuff of Big Boss and necessary to know before moving on to the most current adventure. Oh yeah. Bring on the excitement.

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is too long a title

gd impressions penny_arcade_episode1_screenshot5_bmp

I’ve gone through phases with Penny Arcade over the years. At first, I was enamored with the comic strip, hungry for each new update and over-the-top zinger. I even went back through the archives and watched as Mike Krahulik’s art and Jerry Holkins’ joke-telling evolved, sometimes in ways that made me cringe and occasionally in ways that spoke deeply and directly to me. For a while there, I tuned in for their reality style show about the behind-the-scenes stuff, as well as watched a bit of Strip Search. Plus, this is the company that puts together PAX, a powerhouse of a gaming convention I’d love to be involved in somehow, some day. Still, recently, their handling of criticism often feels too childish and dismissive, which is maybe why it’s taken me three years to click “play” on Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, bought and installed back in 2012.

I’m going to shorten that title to PAA: Rain-Slick for the purposes of keeping this blog post from being unnecessarily lengthy–or more lengthy than usual. I do ramble from time to time. Moving on, this is an episodic role-playing adventure from Hothead Games set in an alternate 1920s version of New Arcadia. You play as whoever, custom creating a man or woman in the art style of the comic. I made a dude who kinda looks like me, but is named Carl and doesn’t have a full beard. Suddenly, Carl’s home is destroyed by a giant robot. This is in fact a steampunk version of Fruit Fucker Prime, a popular little side character devil from the comic strip that….well, it likes making fruit juice, if you will. You join Tycho Brahe and Johnathan Gabriel in pursuit of this mechanical beast.

PAA: Rain-Slick is a mix of genres actually. It’s got some point-and-click action happening where you can click on nearly any item for a description, as well as that active time battle system from Final Fantasy when battling menacing, fruit-loving robots, creepy mimes, and smelly hobos. One must also consider QTE button prompts when attacking or blocking for extra damage, similar to actions in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and the timing on these all differ based upon the enemy. If you’re good enough, you’ll score a free counterattack. Spoiler: I’m never good enough. There’s a variety of items to use to boost attacks, weaken defenses, and distract enemies for a bit, and knowing what to use when is vital to staying alive. I will say here and now that I’m a big fan of RPGs that heal your entire party after every fight, as it lessens the amount of time one spends in a menu every few minutes to keep everybody healthy and hearty. Yes, Final Fantasy IX, you’re a mega-culprit of this.

PAA: Rain-Slick is mostly linear, just like Costume Quest, but you can devote extra time to search out all the little robots or collectibles. There’s no grinding, however, as there’s a set number of enemies in the game to defeat, which means you are never over- or under-powered for any fight. You are always right where the developers want you to be, but this means there is little customization for your party, other than spending scrap to upgrade their individual weapons for more damage. I was hoping to collect a bunch of goofy weapons, especially when you consider your created avatar wields a rake from the get-go. It’s also quite contained, limited to three smallish areas to explore, and a safehouse to gather information via Anne Claire and upgrade your weapons. I’m not terribly opposed to back-tracking, but it does feel somewhat limiting here.

Sometimes a relatively short, straightforward RPG is good for the soul, and even though I’m not in love with all the jokes or writing or gameplay mechanics here, it’s sating my thirst. I’ll most likely move on to Episode Two of PAA: Rain-Slick after polishing this first adventure off, and I hope to see some changes down the road. Like more customization or better timing clues in combat. Also, no more quest lines based around urination.

Tiny Barbarian follows after Conan the Cimmerian’s larger footprints

tiny barbarian gd final impressions

At some point, I won’t feel the need to address how long the current blog post’s subject has been sitting idle in my hands, but I can’t help and show the world that I’m a pretty slow gamer despite the swath of titles I seemingly touch over a year’s time. Heck, we’re almost past the 50 mark for 2015. You may notice that not many of these are what people would describe as “current,” and so far the newest titles I’ve played this year include Super Mario Maker, the full release of Broken Age, and LEGO Jurassic World. Everything else has been from years past, which does not bother me in the least. Anyways, Tiny Barbarian has been twiddling its puny, barbaric thumbs in my laptop’s videogames folder since…well, early 2011.

To tell you about Tiny Barbarian is to tell you about Robert E. Howard’s short story “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter,” which was published after the author’s death. It’s set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and details Conan pursuing a spectral nymph across the frozen snows of Nordheim. It got rejected as a Conan story, and Howard changed a few names to get it to print, but at its heart, it’s an early adventure of the young barbarian. The game does not have any text, except for the very start, where it mentions being inspired by this short story, and you can see its influence as this wee barbarian travels across a cold landscape, little hearts appearing about his head as he spies that spectral nymph too far off in the distance. Unfortunately, the love doesn’t last long, and everything from skeletons to wolves to even the spectral nymph herself set out to kill this small man with a burning passion.

All in all, this is an action platformer, and a short one at that. I found a speedrun-like playthrough on YouTube where the player didn’t die once and finished Tiny Barbarian in about nine minutes. Kudos for them. For me, it was more like half an hour and multiple deaths, especially against the end bosses. Your tiny barbarian can move to the right, do a single jump, and attack with his sword, doing a three-hit combo if the key is punched in succession. That’s it. Along the way, you need to jump over pits of spikes, watch for falling icicles, and kill enemies in your path. There are coins to collect and, naturally, glistening Thanksgiving-worthy turkeys to refill your health.

The checkpoints are fairly forgiving, but the difficulty really ramps up right at the last few sections, where timing–and hiding–must play with each other, and I nearly walked away out of pure frustration. It also didn’t help that I was using a keyboard to play a platformer. I eventually developed a strategy that saw me charging forward at full steam, with little care to how much damage the tiny barbarian took, so long as he crossed that checkpoint and could restart there with full health. Yeah, I’m pretty heroic. See, there’s no way I can move on from this to things like Volgarr the Viking or even that dusty copy of Maximo: Ghosts to Glory for the PlayStation 2.

Evidently, a successful Kickstarter that I knew nothing of helped bring about Tiny Barbarian DX, which looks bigger and better from all corners. I’m digging the colors, and a lot of the barbarian’s animation looks untouched, which is great to see. Slice up those monsters, little man! Still, perhaps if I’m feeling like a masochistic dip back into the retro worlds inspired by pulp fiction I’ll give this a shot. Until then, remember–it’s not the size of your barbarian that matters, but how he handles himself when stuck between a pack of wolves and an angry, fireball-tossing spectral nymph.

One can’t stop moving in Lara Croft: Relic Run


First, once more, it’s hard to find good screenshots for Lara Croft: Relic Run that adhere to my blog’s specifics, which is why the above image looks all stretched and odd. It’s better than no image, I guess. I already used my one allotted Angelina Jolie shot for the game completed haiku. Or maybe I should’ve just used the game’s title image screen, which is easily found as a desktop wallpaper in all types of dimensions, but I’d rather you at least see what this adventure into the dinosaur- and lizard monster-laden jungle looks like. It looks like the above, just not all stretched and odd. In fact, the visuals in this mobile game are top-notch, though it moves a little too fast to really notice.

It can be hard to determine when one is done with an endless runner, as the genre name itself implies a certain indefiniteness. That said, I think I’m done with Lara Croft: Relic Run, having played for many hours and gotten most of the Achievements and seen nearly everything I want to see as Lara herself zips forward, slides to not lose her head on a low ceiling or fallen branch, shoots a red barrel to explode and kill two monsters, and tumble to her grisly death as she misses a jump, but snags a shiny map icon along the way down. Whew. Long sentence.

Hey, remember Temple Run 2? Yeah, me too. Well, Lara Croft: Relic Run is mostly Temple Run 2, but with its own branding and a few slight differences, though I guess all endless runners are simply about moving forward, collecting stuff, and not running into walls. In this one, you control Lara herself, except no scary monster beast is chasing behind you; instead, you are running forward, in search of relics, which will hopefully provide clues to a missing friend. Or unlock the mystery behind a shadowy conspiracy. Honestly, the smidgen of story text you get from each collected clue barely gives you any idea of what is going on, but that’s okay–story takes a backseat in this, especially when you start hopping off a T-Rex’s back through fallen rubble like some kind of cool action hero.

You jog forward into the jungle, swiping left and right to change lanes, up to jump, down to slide. As you hustle, Lara will collect coins, occasionally shoot things, like lizard-monsters tossing spears at her face, fight a T-Rex in various ways, gather glowing clues to unlock relics, and rinse and repeat until she stumbles and tumbles to her death. Which definitely will happen eventually as the obstacles ramp up the farther in you get. Then, before your next run, you can use those gold coins (or harder-to-get diamonds) to purchase power-ups or upgrade your outfit/weaponry, as well as buy curses to send to other players on your friends list, which affect how the game looks and plays for a limited period of time.

One element I’m really not fond of in Lara Croft: Relic Run, which I also wasn’t fond of in that Tomb Raider reboot, is that when Lara Croft dies, she dies in the most outrageous manner possible. Her bones seemingly separate beneath her skin, and arms and legs flip and flop like fish out of water. The camera occasionally lingers on a shot of her crumpled form for a few seconds too long. It’s a little too much for a cartoony game about running and jumping.

I’m walking away from Lara Croft: Relic Run with three Achievements still locked. One requires Lara to run a certain distance without every sliding, which I swear I’ve done before, but it might be glitched. The other asks you to send six curses to friends, but only provides five to purchase; good job, Square Enix. The last one requires Lara to collect a total of 1,000,000 coins; seeing as I’ve only garnered 79,461 after all my play-time, this is too much of a grind for even l’il ol’ grindy me. Yup, the dude that got co-op Achievements by himself in Lara Croft: Guardian of Light doesn’t want to make the effort here, which probably says enough.

I wonder what the next free-to-play endless runner I’ll try will be. A sick part of my brain worries that it’ll be Despicable Me: Minion Rush.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #49 – Tiny Barbarian

2015 gd games completed tiny barbarian

Chase that spectral nymph
Across a deadly tundra
For love, delusion

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #48 – Lara Croft: Relic Run

2015 gd games completed lara croft relic run

Lara Croft can run
Not even a dinosaur
Will catch her, swipe up

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.