Monthly Archives: May 2010

PURCHASES OF THE MONTH: Picross 3D and The Saboteur

Well, I caved over the weekend. Had to pick up something new before May ended, and so I nabbed Picross 3D for a cool $20.00 and a used copy of The Saboteur for $15.00. Yeah, not two games I’d really ever think of pairing together, but good deals nonetheless.

Picross 3D is a unique puzzler that, a bit to my dismay, relies heavily on math skills to solve. Me? I’m no good with the multiplication tables and such. But I’m getting the hang of it despite have trouble on some of the Beginner and Level 1 puzzles. There’s over 350 in the game, and I’ve gotten through about 50 or so at this point. Presentation is nice and unobtrusive, and you can change the game’s overall soundtrack to whatever you want…Latin, twinkly (?), calm. I locked it down on the 8-bit selection. Doot doot doot beet boot…

Also, evidently there’s a commercial for the game. And it shows a group of girls playing the game, having a blast, solving puzzles. Is this being marketed as a girl’s game and easy one, too? I should hope not. I think anyone can play it so long as they have patience.

Oh, and one puzzle solved resulted in creating a blocky dachshund. Tara liked that.

As for The Saboteur, it’s an open-world game set in Paris, France during World War II. Yup, a WWII that is not a first-person shooter. Crazy, right? What it is though is stylish and arcade-like. You play an Irishman named Sean who hates Nazis and ends up in France due to an earlier run-in with the Aryan race. He meets some other fellow Nazi haters, and the plot is on: uh, kill Nazis. Haven’t gotten too far in this one yet, but it seems like there’s a ton of things to see, do, and collect. Looking forward to exploring the world a bit more, but I can already tell that I like the map in black, white, yellow, and red much more than in full color. Once color returns, the game world sort of loses something.

Also, I ended up buying one month of Xbox Live Gold for $1.00 thanks to a spotlight advertisement. I mean, that’s a pretty rockin’ deal and so I figured to give it a shot. Now I have exactly a month to try and get some more multiplayer-only Achievements in some of my games and maybe try out co-op in Borderlands. Will have to plan accordingly.

Either way, that’s it for May. No more purchases until the end of June hits with LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4.

Beyond Good & Evil 2 rumored to be canceled

Rumors are spreading across the Interwebz that Michel Ancel, the man behind Beyond Good and Evil 2, left Ubisoft along with a “star developer” to form another studio in France. This would mean that the game is either in a state of purgatory or most likely canceled. Which, either way, is a shame.

Beyond Good and Evil is one of the few games I reviewed a long time back on my first attempt at a videogame blog. It’s one of those rare cases where a seriously great game went unnoticed. Thankfully, it built up a solid cult following, slowly turning that unnoticed into noticed, and a sequel was announced with the above screenshot to wet our collective snouts. You can’t not love that piggy uncle.

Under The Bad section of my review of the first game, I wrote this:

The game’s ending leaves things open for a possible sequel. Why is this in The Bad? Because a sequel will never happen. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. And that’s just sad.

I seriously hope BG&E2 is not canned because the first game had so many wonderfully implemented features that they would only naturally get better as the game jumped to current consoles. Photographing, boat racing, action adventure, sneaking around, betrayal, cool characters, and more. Still, Beyond Good and Evil was a retail failure, and I’m sure there’s a lot of reluctancy floating around the project, but still…I want it. And I think a good number of other gamers do too.

From Bloodletter to Grand Champion in just 30 minutes

At this point, I’m kind of drifting. I’ve beaten several games now–Borderlands, Dragon Age: Origins, and Pokemon HeartGold to name a few–and don’t really plan to buy anything new until LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 comes out at the end of June (though I’m not promising I won’t get something new if it is cheap and shiny enough to catch my eyes). I’m also having a hard time going back and replaying some previously beaten games; that said, I did pop back in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion last night to see if there was anything worth doing.

And there was: the Arena.

I’m not sure why I didn’t tackle the Arena questline sooner. Maybe I was scared at what it would throw at me or maybe it was because I just was no good at confrontations during my early levels, mostly because I was relying too much on throwing fireballs. But this time around, as a bow-wielding LV. 19 Bosmer elf…well, I made quick work of all my enemies. Seriously, I went from being a Bloodletter to Myrmidon to Warrior to Gladiator to Hero to Champion to Grand Champion in under thirty minutes without getting attacked more than, oh, five times.

My strategy was simple. I zoomed in with my bow, waited for the gates to lower, and loosed an arrow or two before my challenger even got halfway across the arena. Then I hurried back inside, collected my monetary reward, and accepted the next battle to do it all over again. Rinse and repeat. Take a small break once to restock on arrows. The only fight I had trouble with was against three enemies: a soldier, an archer, and a mage, but they all fell to my glass arrows in time. Plus, my bow is powered by electricity. Don’t ask.

The last fight, the big one, the tune-in-and-watch, was against an orc. I guess he was supposed to be tough or intimidating. He wasn’t. He took four arrows to drop, but still, he didn’t even reach me at that point as I skated backwards to avoid his sword’s swing. Sigh. No challenge at all. And six easy, quick Achievements, but you really only need to see one to get the full effect:

Grand Champion, Arena (50G): Completed the Arena Questline

Upon exiting the Arena, you’re greeted by the Adoring Fan, who loves you and admires you and just wants to follow you around. Pretty annoying, and he only spoke a few lines. I told him no, but I might change my mind in the future and lead him straight into troll territory.

But yeah, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I should play you more. You do have a lot of “easy” Achievements left to unlock; by easy, I mean they are relatively straightforward and are just based off quest progression and not skill or luck or doing something random (like killing X deer or making X health potions with alchemy). Maybe I’ll try to finish up the Fighters Guild questline next. Or the Dark Brotherhood. Mwahaha?

I destroyed the Destroyer and all I got to show for it was this t-shirt

I’m going to be talking about the ending to Borderlands here so I’d like to mention two things up front: 1) spoilers and 2) that it was totally lame.

After you make your way safely through the Eridian Promontory, which is definitely one of the hardest areas yet thanks to the numerous flying Guardians, you’ll come across a transition map-screen that reads THE VAULT. Oooooh. Truthfully, I was a little hesitant to press X and cross over into the place my guardian angel had been talking about non-stop since I got off the bus way back in, uh, April 2010.

It’s not like the game built up the hype about the Vault too much, but rather I did. See, in my mind–and maybe this is Fallout 3‘s fault–a vault is a place that holds…stuff. Most likely important stuff. In my mind, orange-colored weapons danced like happy CL4P-TPs! I mean, I’m a treasure hunter. I want treasure.

Upon entering the Vault location–which is an odd mix of a snowy landscape and fiery mountaintop–we’re treated to a cutscene. Some woman named Steele says the contents of the Vault is hers, but no worries…a giant tentacle jumps out of the Vault’s portal door and turns her into a Siren shish kabob. Then it’s time for a big baddie boss fight. This thing is large and unmoving; it’s mostly a horribly disgusting bean bag chair with tentacles and an eye for shooting for critical hits. Did not take me long (and remember, I’m playing solo) to whittle it down; my turret threw corrosive rockets, I hid behind pillars and took pop-shots when I could, and my shields, health, and ammo all recharged as I waited. Just took patience, which I have in droves, and then kablooey, it’s dead:

Destroyed the Destroyer (50G): Killed the Vault Boss

Sweet, with the Destroyer dead I now get to loot the Vault, right? Mmm guns, guns, guns.

No. Roll credits.

I watched the credits for a bit and listened to the music, but then I hit some buttons and I was back in the game, still at the Vault’s now broken portal door. I picked up some loot from the dead Destroyer, as well as the Vault key, but there was nowhere else for me to go. Checking my questlog, I saw I had a new quest to bring the key to Tannis. So I did. And she paid me money. And then I was officially out of jobs to do. I wandered around for a bit unsure of what to do next; I even returned to the Vault to see if I’d missed a door or something. I thought there’d be treasure or something. What happened with the Vault? It opened once and out came a demon and I killed the demon and now, what, we have to wait another 200 years to try again?

If so, laaaaaaaaaame. So, so lame, Borderlands.

I know you aren’t all about story, but you most certainly are interested in rewarding the player. Except when it comes to the final payoff. Then you’re out to lunch or something.

I didn’t even know how to get into playthrough 2. Had to look it up on the Interwebz. Grrr. Basically, you just quit the game you’re in currently and when you select your character again, you get the option to continue playing in playthrough 1’s world or start again in playthrough 2. Not sure why anyone would return to a quest-less Pandora though.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that, in the end–and I assume this was supposed to be a twist or cliffhanger for Borderlands 2–one of the CL4P-TPs becomes an evil ninja assassin thanks to your guardian angel. I traveled back to Fyrestone–as that’s where it looked like it was from–but that CL4P-TP was fine and dandy, chilling at the vapid bounty board. Some things never change.

Discovered Eridian Promontory and then ran away

I’m sure my readers (all three of you) are just dying to see me get through Borderlands so I can shut up about it and move on to other ramblings about videogames. Me too, actually. But alas, I’m not done with the Capital Wasteland just yet.

I made it to the Eridian Promontory last night only to discover my assault rifle-wielding soldier is not ready to move on. That’s not a LOST metaphor either; he totally got creamed fast by two enemies at the start of the level, and so I ran away, back to New Haven, to finish up a bunch of sidequests I wasn’t interested in before. Either way, they’ll be extra experience points and maybe a new weapon or two depending on the quest rewards.

It’s funny that the enemy types don’t really get tough or more varied until you reach the Vault, which I’m assuming is pretty much end-of-game time. Besides numerous Crimson Lance soldiers, the zone is flooded with Guardians, which, depending on your level and skill set, can be a whole new bag of tricks. They got shields, they got speed, and they got you gasping for a Second Wind before you know it. Again, having a co-op player in these sorts of situations is much desired. Alas, my pillows have no opposable thumbs and so I’m out of luck there.

That said, going back to do some of these sidequests was almost downright silly. Bandits barely touched me, and I flew through everything without a single worry of being taken down. Overpowered in one place, underpowered in another. The mantra of RPGs, I guess.

I’m somewhere around the middle of level 35/36, I think. Not sure when a good time to return to the Eridian Promontory is or whether it’s just me and the set of guns I’m using, but I will try again shortly. Gotta get inside the vault and discover what secrets it holds! Speculative spoiler: I bet it’s more guns.

Breaking news: I bought the farm

…and by that I mean I removed the FarmVille app from my Facebook profile and no longer have to click, click, click until every crop has been harvested, every animal has been tended to, and every job has been done. It’s quite a relief actually, but truth be told…I was never a good farmer to begin with.

I signed up for FarmVille like countless others did sometime last year, curious to its appeal. I quickly found myself plowing some land and planting my first seeds. The crops grow in real time, meaning eight hours means eight actual hours. So once you plant your crops, you basically have to wait to get more money to plant more crops. Yup, it’s a cycle, and the cycle certainly can be addicting if you’re into that sort of work/reward process. While you wait, your avatar can decorate your farm with an assortment of farm-like and unfarm-like items, ranging from barns to hot air balloons to themed statues. You can also visit your neighbors (i.e., Facebook friends) and check out their farms, fertilizing their crops and feeding their chickens. But other than that, you must wait. And this will be how you play FarmVille for the first few weeks. It’s not until you level up considerably and get a decent chunk of change can you really design your farm to your heart’s content and focus on the crops you most enjoy growing.

But then the game plateaus. For me, this was around level 25.

At this point, FarmVille tried too hard to cater to every kind of gamer, casual and not. It threw in collections and ribbons (basically Achievements) and co-op gameplay and pet owning and headshots and tea-bagging and so on. The game also basically made it really hard to play without interacting constantly with neighbors and posting BS to your Facebook’s wall. In all of my 33 levels of farm powers, I might have posted a total of four items publicly; my sister made me do it. It’s not fun to do, and I feel annoying even just thinking about it. Sorry, Facebookers.

And so, just recently, I realized I hadn’t logged into my farm for a few days. My crops surely had withered away. My trees were most certainly all full of fruit, all ripe for the picking. I can see all my animals, all of them stuck forever in place, waiting for me to collect their feathers, calm them down, or gather up ice cubes. It seemed like too much for me, and I was not ultimately happy with the layout of my farm, feeling stuck; that said, I was also too lazy to start anew, and so my next option was to cut loose, set them free, and find something else worth clicking about on.

The app was removed in a matter of seconds, no bells and whistles, no hoops to jump through. Surprisingly easy.

I’ve always been curious about the Harvest Moon games, and I might have to try one of them out soon. Farming simulation can be fun, but for me…I need a little more direction than just plant, harvest, plant, harvest, plant, harvest, and plant, harvest.

Celebrate Pac-Man’s 30th birthday with Google

To celebrate Pac-Man‘s thirtieth birthday (that’s three followed by a zero for my fellow mathematicians), Google has redesigned their logo in its honor. Very, very cool. But wait! There’s more. You can play Pac-Man, too, right there and then, thanks to some magical widget voodoo. Click “insert coin” and use the arrow keys to move around. Click “insert coin” a second time, and you can control a second Pac-Man on the board. Niiiiiice.

Seriously, no one will do any work today, and Google is to blame. Not Pac-Man. Pac-Man doesn’t kill work efficiency; Google giving us quick and easy Pac-Man kills work efficiency.

Don’t try clicking “insert coin” in the above image. Head over to Google right now for the real thing!

One, the loneliest of numbers

Running around by myself and shooting skags, bandits, and spiderants in Borderlands is fine…if a bit repetitive, a bit predictable. A little lonesome. But the game clearly demands co-op action during it’s boss battles, something I don’t have access to, making these grand set pieces either extremely hard or totally lame.

Take for instance the Rakk Hive, the wondrous beast shown above. I love it’s design, and the eyes on the thing remind me a lot of the Ohmu from NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind. Except this is no gentle beast; it’s a monster of a monster and will attack you in a variety of ways, spewing Rakk from its body, too. I’m guessing a great co-op strategy would be to divulge tasks, meaning one player handles the flying Rakk, the other goes for the thing’s eyes for critical hits, and the rest can move around to distract it or protect their fellow teammates. What did I do all by my little soldier self? I stood behind a rock and shot. Then I reloaded. Then I shot some more. Reloaded. Shot. Reloaded. Pew pew pew. Reloaded. Shot. Shot. Shot. One more shot. Oh good, it’s falling over now, dead. Level up!

It was not very exciting, I’m sad to say.

Let’s look at another boss battle: Baron Flynt. Man, what a toughie. And the quest was marked at a difficulty of normal, but still…a toughie. Flynt wields The Boom Stick, a deadly combat shotgun that can deplete your shield in about two hits. He’s also quick on his feet. The battle zone is multi-tiered, making it easy to avoid him by dropping low or running high, but if you don’t attack him constantly he shield recharges and then what’s the point of it all. This would have been a good time–nay, a vital time–to have another player in the mix to shoot him from behind or toss grenades or whatever, but alas I had to resort to a lot of hiding and running. Thankfully, I’m Roland and have the turret action skill, which, as he says from time to time, “It’s like having another soldier on the field!”

Yes, my co-op partner is a stationary turret gun. Wee!

It took me about 30 levels to truly see that Borderlands is a co-op game, through and through. When I bought it, I was hoping it had a deep enough–and fun enough–single-player mode to warrant the purchase. Alas, it’s thin. Rakk wing thin.

But I’m soldiering on (pun intended) because the numerous quests do keep me busy, and I do see myself becoming a much better FPS player with each level earned. That or I have just found powerful enough guns to keep me alive and well through most firefights. Also, as of last night, I found my first orange-colored weapon. That’s pretty exciting…except it was a shotgun, and I am not interested in using close-range weaponry. I prefer shooting from a distance. But I think I’m getting closer to the Vault; I just hope I can make it through by myself.

Planning out the next set of purchases

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about time and money and videogames. Because, as most of us know, they all go hand-in-hand with each other. You need money to play games; you need time to play games. You also most likely need a job, but the Catch 22 of that is if you have a job, you have less time, but more money.

To be truthful, I have enough money for games, but not enough time, and that therein causes me to feel guilt about buying new games when I’ve yet to get through a good chunk of my collection. I mean, I did toss down $5.00 for six games thanks to the Humble Indie Bundle, and of them, I’ve only played a few hours of Aquaria. Haven’t even touched the others yet. Problem? Problem. Plus, I’m still working on Borderlands, Pokemon HeartGold, playing Dragon Age: Origins a second time, and a slew of other abandoned children.

Right. Chances are I’m just babbling here, but basically, I’m not going to be making a Purchase of the Month for May 2010. Generally, I allow myself to buy one new videogame–often ranging in the $30 to $40 range–each month as a reward for working hard and staying alive. However, I have more than enough on my plate right now, and there’s actually nothing terribly new calling out to me…save for Red Dead Redemption, which a lot of reviews are giving the thumbs up on. Yet…I still do not enjoy GTA IV and think maybe, just maybe, I should stay away. Who knows. I might cave over summer; I’ve always wanted to ride a donkey into the sunset.

I do, however, know with certainty some of my next purchases. And here they are:

  • June 2010: LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
  • July 2010: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
  • August 2010: ???
  • September 2010: ???
  • October 2010: Fallout: New Vegas

And that’s really all I know at this point. Nothing else on the radar. Nope, not even Fable III. Feeling kind of meh about it at this point. But I do like having a battle plan and things to look forward to…

Do not invite Crusty Demons to your Dream Day Wedding Destination

Tara and I went to GameStop yesterday to pick up a gift card for my mother as it’s her birthday real soon. The original plan was to find her a new Nintendo DS game, but she seems to buy more games than I do, and I have to admit to losing track of what she has in her collection versus what she used to have, but traded in. So…a GC it was. That way, she can pick what she wants, and I do believe a yardsale hidden objects game comes out on her very day of birth…so there we go. Though Tara and I did see a hidden objects game all about planning one’s perfect wedding:

Oh man. Doesn’t that look exciting?! We thought this would be hilarious to give to her, but I told Tara that I didn’t think I could physically carry the case over to the counter and then pay money for it. Maybe next time? Most likely not.

Also, while perusing the shelves of old Xbox games (they had a deal of buy one, get two free, but I didn’t buy anything as I really have no clue what games are backwards compatible on the Xbox 360), a title caught my attention. And made me laugh. Out loud. In front of total strangers. Now, these games were lined up like books, spine out, so all I had to go off of was the title alone, but man did it make me pick up the game. Are you ready? I don’t think you’re ready for it.

What? You’re dying to know? Hmm…

Okay, okay. Here it is:

Ah ahahahahaha. Crusty Demons.

Sadly, this was not a videogame about a fantasy land dastardly overrun by…crusty demons. Instead, it’s about–I guess–some people riding bikes and doing daredevil-like tricks. What a tease!

In short, some videogame covers are just plain silly.