Monthly Archives: June 2010

Four new screenshots for Fallout: New Vegas

Exactly what it says on the tin:

I don’t really care if there’s barely a graphical update from Fallout 3. That’s not why I love that game, the graphics–and not most likely why I’ll love this one. It’s all about exploration, seeing what’s over yonder, discovering the contents of a room or cave or vault, and watching the in-game world react to your choices. That and this time around you get to punch a Super Mutant in VATS with boxing gloves. Aw, yeah!

C’mon, October 2010. Any day now.

P.B. Winterbottom is all about the pie in the sky

I recently used up my remaining 400 Microsoft Points to purchase The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, a puzzle game that is all about manipulating time and collecting…pies. It’s got a great art style to it, purporting itself to look like the silent movies of way-back-when; you can even see projector lines on the screen from time to time, and the story is told in a silly, rhyming poem, but it really only boils down to this fellow P.B. Winterbottom and his never-ending lust for baked goods. In order to get these delicious treats, the player makes recordings of Winterbottom’s movements and toys with time to solve puzzles. A lot of the levels are pretty tough and will take a lot of trial and error, figuring out how to use these recordings to their potential, and I had to look one up online, which made me nearly slap my forehead when I saw the level’s solution. It made sense then, and I wish I had just kept with it longer to figure it out for myself. According to Wikipedia, this game was originally a student’s graduate thesis at the University of Southern California, and that’s just awesome.

I’m about halfway through the main movie story levels. All the Achievements have the word bottom in them, which I find to be hilarious. I’ve unlocked Burnt Bottom, Ticking Bottom, Evil Bottom, Hungry Bottom, and Hot Pie Bottom so far. More to come, as they seem pretty straightforward to unlock. Really looking forward to getting a Soggy Bottom. Er, moving on…

I was also surprised at how great the music is. It’s got this infectious drum beat during the main menu screen that really gets you excited to gather…pies. Still can’t get over that aspect. So, uh, ‘Splosion Man has an obsession with collecting cakes. And here, P.B. Winterbottom…he will stop at nothing to get his pies. Murdering a hundred clones of himself doesn’t even pinch his heart. He’d watch a thousand burn if he could. I don’t know. It’s just kind of weird that two Xbox Live Arcade titles that I both recently purchased are all about food. Cake and pie. Really need a sushi game now to perfect the trio.

Stuff your sorries into a sack

It’s been a rough couple of days in addition to a rough couple of weeks–which will ultimately just be lumped into a rough couple of months in due time–and I just couldn’t find the time or energy to post something at Grinding Down yesterday. Sadly, all I think I’ll be able to post today is this little apology thing, which, I can only assume, is not very exciting to read.

That said, immediately after work today I’m swinging by the local GameStop to pick up LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. It’s my official purchase of the month for June 2010, and I’m excited, even if some reviews I’ve read recently complain about it being buggy; others said it’s more or less Potter perfection. Either way, it’s a game I need, and despite the guilt festering in my heart, I’m going to get it and play it and enjoy it as much as possible. The plan is even to cover the first hour of gameplay for, well, The First Hour.

Fifty-eight minutes to go, and then I’m off to another world, escaping yet again, flick and swish…

GTA: Chinatown Wars is winning me over

This is going to sound a little crazy, especially if you’ve been keeping up with my hate-limned posts about that masochistic beast Grand Theft Auto IV, but I’m absolutely having a blast with Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Yes, I’m actually enjoying a GTA game, and even more surprising is that it is one made specifically for an underpowered system like the Nintendo DS. Let’s all take a moment to let that sink in.

Dipping even further into the pool of insanity is the fact that GTA: Chinatown Wars shares a whole lot more with GTA IV than the first iterations in the series. Sure, it’s got a bird’s eye view/top-down camera to it, but that’s kind of it in terms of comparisons to Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2. Otherwise, you’re back in Liberty City, a world instantly recognizable if when it is presented in a completely different medium, and you take control of Huang Lee who arrives with an ancient sword to discover what happened to his father. Alas, he takes a bullet and gets dumped in the river by his assailants. The story is basically about a bunch of Triad gang members all trying to become Top Dog with Lee helping out where he can and digging his grave deeper. It’s pretty good so far, even if it still relies too much on dick jokes.

Drugs play a big part here, and I was instantly transported back to math class in high school when everyone had that drug-selling game on their fancy, hi-tech calculators. Well, everyone but me. But I borrowed a friend’s copy every now and then to help survive study hall. So, in GTA: Chinatown Wars, you acquire drugs, and then seek out the best deal for selling/buying more. This is the best way to make money as missions only pay out around $25 to $200; not enough to get by for too long in dangerous Liberty City. Cops might also randomly bust in on a hot deal you’re making, but you can safely store excess drugs in your apartment. I will admit to, at first, being a little put off by the drug dealing as I’ve never played anything so adult-like on the Nintendo DS, but now I’m right at home with the crooks and creeps in the alleys, buying low and selling high.

One of my favorite changes to gameplay involves the cops. In Grand Theft Auto IV, if the cops saw you hijacking a car or shooting a man on his cell phone in the face for just annoying you, they’d come after you. You had two options then: fight back or flee. Fighting back generally only made things worse as you would in turn just get a higher star rating and bring about more cops. So you’d flee, driving desperately down streets and flying through alleys in hopes of losing those men in blue. In GTA: Chinatown Wars, you’re better off fighting back. That’s the main way to lower your wanted star rating, and it’s devilishly awesome to swerve one way and force a cop car to crash itself into a wall, its siren dying out with a whimper. Makes the chases really exciting and nerve-enducing, especially when trying to complete a mission or make it home to your HQ.

There’s actually a lot more to talk about here, like how awesome the PDA is and how much better it is than a cell phone, but I’ll save it for another day.

Usually there’s one mission in every Grand Theft Auto game that gets me to quit. In Vice City, it was one that involved racing a boat. Gah. Hopefully one of those sorts doesn’t pop up here, but for some reason, even if it did, I suspect I’d eventually be able to overcome it and just keep on keeping on.

P.S. Bonus points awarded to anyone that can name the awesome human being that said those words in the pic above. Don’t Google it, ya bums!

Videogame Paris is as good as it gets

I will most likely never travel the world.

This is an easy assumption for me to make because I know what goes into traveling the world and seeing the sights, and I just don’t have that stuff. Money, time, that kind of drive, and so on. There’s really only a handful of places I’d like to visit, and they include Paris, France, anywhere in Ireland, and Tokyo, Japan. Okay, okay, and maybe New Zealand to check out all those Lord of the Rings locations. But other than that, I’m content with New Jersey and its surrounding states. We have nice parks and fun boardwalks, and hands-down great autumns.

In October, after Tara and I get married, we’re honeymooning it up in sunny, alligator central: Florida. Disney World and Universal Studios will be our main destinations, and what’s kind of neat is that we’ll get to do a little globe-trotting via the World Showcase in Epcot. There we can hit up everything on my list (I think) save for…well, Hobbiton and Lothlorien. There’s a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower at Paris, Epcot, and we’re totally treating ourselves to some sushi over in feudal Japan. It’s a lot of fun just walking from country to country, hearing the music changing, smelling new smells, and really being immersed–if for only a few yards–in a foreign culture.

This sort of worldly immersion happens from time to time in videogames, too. Fallout 3 had you sneaking around a totally effed up Washington, D.C., and I remember a forum posting that actually compared screenshots of the subway tunnels to that of real life ones; they were eerily on the mark. If I am ever to visit the Mall again, I’ll definitely be seeing it in a whole new way…mostly because I’ll be on the alert for Super Mutants. And despite all the hate I spew on Grand Theft Auto 4, Liberty City is a wonderful recreation of New York City, and some areas really do come to reflect that of their real counterpart. I am especially fond of their parks.

The most recent would be Nazi-occupied France in The Saboteur. It truly is quite an accomplishment, especially when Sean finds himself in the really controlled parts, the ones where only yellows and reds shine through the harsh black and white of the world. The countryside feels very much like a French countryside, and again, seeing as I’ve never been there, I’m only able to draw upon references from movies and books and paintings. It sure feels genuine though. I finally made it to the section housed around the Eiffel Tower a few days ago, and doing some missions at night and seeing it glowing tall and great in the background is a wonderful thing. I even spent a few minutes just casually walking down sidestreets, taking in Paris, hearing its sounds and seeing what was where. I have to trust that love and care was put into The Saboteur‘s layout and design despite it being the swan song for Pandemic Studios, and that a lot of what is there is there because…that’s where it is.

So, for now, I’ll take Paris, France from The Saboteur. My sister has gone before, and I’m interested in showing her some of the areas in a few weeks to see if she recognizes anything. Then Sean is going to jump off the Eiffel Tower and get an Achievement. Just so I don’t forget I’m playing a videogame after all.


I recently downloaded the demo for Crackdown 2 and found myself very confused. No, the demo itself isn’t confusing; in fact, our narrator tells us what to do with a lot of tongue firmly in cheek, and you can either go after the main demo missions or just run around collecting orbs, jumping off buildings, and shooting freaks until the allotted thirty minutes of free gameplay is up. That I can do. Where I’m struggling here is with the game itself: I just don’t get it.

I never really tried the first Crackdown, save for downloading the demo and running through it once or twice. That one is not timed and is basically just an open world to run around and explore. You can throw cars and shoot people and climb buildings. Had a very arcade-like feel to it, and the graphics were certainly that of the first generation of games for the Xbox 360. Good, not great. And overhead, always there, was the implication that you had to make your own fun in Crackdown.

That seemed to carry over with Crackdown 2. I entered the demo and immediately started shooting people. I was told they were bad, and thus they deserved to get shot. Had to secure the area and all that jazz. A big problem here though–and this is mostly because I’m now spoiled by Borderlands where every gun has a different feel and recoil to it–is that firing weapons felt fairly hollow. I had a hard time even telling if I was hitting these dudes, and then there’s the close-quarter-combat, which, if I can be honest here, felt like my agent was punching a department store mannequin. There’s no sense of realism, and I understand that’s a silly thing to expect from a game like Crackdown 2, but without it everything just comes across as goofy and cartoonish. Driving cars, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, even throwing a grenade; I just didn’t like the way it felt. I guess it’s harder to explain, but there’s a deep love and following for Crackdown 2, and I don’t understand why. The demo graphics did not seem to be a big upgrade from the first game, and the sequel’s big twist is the addition of “freaks” at night, also known as zombies.

Why must every game add zombies now (hi, Dead Rising, Dead Space, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Plants vs. Zombies, and The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned)? They are not the new fun. Try something else. Add…oh, I don’t know…mutated sheep monsters. Anything but more undead!

One interesting thing about the demo is that you can unlocked demo Achievements. Basically, these are the same Achievements in the full retail game, but you can unlock them now, and then they will pop and add to your gamerscore once you buy Crackdown 2. It’s a nice incentive and something I hope other demos will look into trying out. I unlocked two of them, but will never see truly get them as this is most definitely not my kind of game. I’m still have a hard time figuring out why.

Depressed gamer is depressed

Clearly, I’m depressed. Well, it might not be all that clear to you, my silent readers, but to me, it’s beyond evident. I know this because I bought more videogames this week after buying some videogames the previous week, and all I look forward to now at the end of the day is coming home from work and immersing myself in another world. Any world but this one. It could be Nazi-occupied Paris or Pandora littered with skags and psycho bandits or even a fantasy farming game that also houses caves of monsters. It does not matter. So long as it passes the hours until I can pass out and do it all over again, that’s fine.

While getting my oil changed over the weekend, I walked around the mall, finally stepping into GameStop. I just meant to wander, really, but then I noticed they had a “buy two pre-owned games, get one free” deal going on. So I did some searching. I knew that I wanted to get my mother a new Nintendo DS game, and I found Dream Day Wedding Destinations for fairly cheap, but now I needed to more games to seal the deal. Seeing as how I was going to be traveling that weekend (and the next 796 weekends), I decided to pick out two DS games for myself. Still haven’t had the energy to beat The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, and while Picross 3D is fun, it’s not really a story-driven game, just the same thing over and over and over. I needed a little more drive (pun intended, as you’ll soon see) in my games, and I grabbed Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for about $15.00 each, thus picking up Mom’s game for free.

Both games are pretty good so far, but that’s not what I’m here to write about.

Depression. It sucks.

In high school, I handled it with an outburst of creativity, drawing furiously or scribbling in my notebooks ideas that would never come to fruition (like that one about a school of magical centaurs), but getting them down on paper nonetheless. I almost over-created, in some sense, staying locked away in my bedroom and just letting it all out. My small circle of friends quickly dubbed me “a hermit,” further leading to more depression sinking it, and I later turned the tables on them (though they most certainly have no awareness of this) by writing and selling a little short story about a hermit.

College was much harder in terms of depression. I did not like my college experience; I hid it really well though. If you called me a fake, I would not argue. There were dozens of reasons not to get down, and dozens of reasons countering this. I had a hard time dealing with issues of identity and friends, and ultimately turned to rum and booze and drinking my nights away. Sounds like a cliché, but it’s not at all. My PlayStation 2 was always there, but I never really needed it to comfort me. I did find a way to release my creativity via my guitar, playing “open mic” nights at local cafes and such, which was scary and fun and kept me on my toes, but it didn’t stop the bad thoughts from coming.

Now that I’m out on my own and mostly alone during the workweek, I rely a lot on mindless (and not-at-all mindless) entertainment like videogames. They are both a treat and savior to me come the evening, as I don’t watch any TV shows right now, can’t stand anything that I write short story-wise, and am so turned off by drawing that I have to wonder why I even try. Yet videogames are easy. Push the A button, watch something explode, reap the reward. Instant gratification, instant satisfaction. Lots of goals and Achievements and things to obtain, keeping me focused on something. Sure, some videogames let me down now and then, but never in a sense that my chest wants to cave in or that I want to scream at the sky, “Failure!”

What’s really terrible is the fact that I can’t openly discuss the reasons behind this depression. They are heavy and personal, complicated and unnerving, multiple and multiplying, a total dose of mindfuckery, and I can only imagine what this looks like from the outside looking in: hollow, emo whining. It’s not; that much I can assure you. Depression as depicted on TV commercials is not always how it has to be. You can smile through the day and think the worst things on the inside, and nobody would have a clue. You can still play videogames and have a convivial time, and you can still be the saddest hobbit this side of Middle-Earth.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em, I guess

It took a whole evening and zero actual work, but I finally unlocked–much to the dismay of Sean Devlin’s lungs–the following Achievement last night in The Saboteur:

Chain Smoker (5G): You smoked way too much.

You can say that again. See, when you stand idly around Nazi-controlled Paris or simply press the left analog stick in, Sean takes out a cig from his shirt pocket and lights up then and there. “Helps take the edge off,” he claims, and he’ll take about three or four drags before flicking it away. Sometimes, if you interrupt this, he’ll just run around with it in his mouth until he gets a chance to puff some more. It’s just another silly idle animation; Diddy Kong would juggle balls if you put the controller down for too long, and Sonic the Hedgehog would rightly tap his impatient foot, waiting for you to make him run, run, run. I’ve even noticed that ‘Splosion Man has quite a set of ’em. Silly details, not needed, but there nonetheless.

However, in The Saboteur, this idle animation is also tied to an Achievement, one that demands Sean smoke 100 cigs. That means smoke them beginning to end, too. No quick puffs here. Meaning, this is the sort of Achievement you get over time, but I checked my stats screen and saw that I had already smoked 45 cigs at this point. About halfway there! So I did the most sensible thing ever.

I made dinner.

And left the game running in the background. As I fixed my turkey, American cheese, and bell peppers sandwich (oh yum!), I could hear Sean softly flicking his lighter open and sparking up. Nom nom nom. Smoke smoke smoke. When I went back to the game, my stats screen said he’d smoked a total of 73 cigs so far. Woo. This plan was working, albeit a bit slowly. Not wanting to leave my Xbox 360 on all night long, I shut down for a bit to do some other work (and not be distracted), but I came back to play a bit more before bed. Did some main storyline missions, and celebrated each one with smoke, and then finally I took a shower and when I came back out the Achievement had unlocked without me even there. Hooray and boo! I missed that oh-so-Pavlov-like ping, but it popped nonetheless. And I barely had to do anything. Though 50 cigerrettes in one evening surely did something to Sean, but it’s hard to tell as this is an Irishman that takes a hundred bullets to the face, hides behind a crate, and comes back to life without any wear or tear. Granted, I like that, but maybe they could’ve gone a little more Metal Gear Solid with this.

Talking about the hey days, olden times, way back when, the good old days

One thing that I’ve sadly slipped into here at Grinding Down is a routine, and that routine involves talking about all the new videogames I’m playing currently or the new games I want to really play once they are released to us savage animals the public. I mean, this isn’t the worst thing, as some times it’s fun to muse on about how much Niko Bellic is a jerk or what life is like in a little game called Fallout 3, but I also started up this videogame blog to talk about all kinds of games, especially ones from the yonder years, not necessarily Pong era, but older games of the last two decades that just don’t get touched upon much more because of all the 3D bullshit and hands-free console apps and whatever new shiny thing is put on a pedestal for us to look up at in awe and wonder. Can you tell I’m not terribly impressed with 3D witchcraft?

Maybe it’s thanks to E3 and its global domination plans to win over all gamers with nostalgia-limned titles like Donkey Kong Country Returns! and a Kid Icarus title for the Nintendo 3DS or that adorable and quirky Kirby’s Epic Yarn…you know what? Too many to list. I’m sure many of you can name the rest. Maybe it’s from all the “let’s play” articles I’ve been reading lately. Or it might have to do with my recent string of purchases on Xbox Live, with Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting and the arcade-like throwback of ‘Splosion Man. Lastly, maybe it’s because I can sometimes hear my yellow-faded SNES in the back of my closet calling my name from time to time to bust him out and have a go.

Either way, these games exist.

And I want to talk about them. Sure, every now and then I do a piece on games I regret parting with, but that’s not enough. And this is where it gets hard because you’d think there’d be nothing new left to write about, oh, say Final Fantasy VII or Super Mario Bros. or Suikoden II. Actually, I bet Greg Noe would agree that there’s not enough written about Suikoden II at this point; it is, after all, one of my top five games OF ALL TIME. Still, it’s not like you can write up preview reports for PlayStation 1 games or speculate about how awesome it’s going to be to play as Solid Snake all the way through Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. I kind of like how things are done occasionally over at Verbal Spew, with articles more or less just exploring these games of the past, comparing them to the nowadays, maybe not even.

But yeah, hopefully soon I can put down some words about videogames that most likely aren’t even being thought about during this crazy E3 black-hole. I love my Xbox 360 and many of the current generation games, but I also love my SNES and PlayStation 1, a system I bought all on my own, as well as every game I got for it, making it extra special to me, a working boy in high school; these loves do not outbid the other; they are the same, as they really should be, and I just don’t ever want to forget the building blocks that got us to today.

P.S. I got the strangest sense of déjà vu when writing this post. It’s still tickling me now.

Please select player in SPVTWTG

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, or SPVTWTG if you like those easy-to-figure-out acronyms, comes out for the PlayStation 3 network in early August, just a pinch before the movie drops on August 13, 2010. That’s cool, but of course I don’t have a PlayStation 3 and must then wait it out until it makes its way over to Xbox Live. However, if there’s one thing I do know, it is this: I’m playing as Kim Pine. And will most likely have to fight over her with my fiancée as she will want to play as Kim Pine also. No one likes Ramona anyways:

Hmm…does that look familiar to you? It should, n00b. I’ll wait while you figure it out. No, it’s not from the Glee finale. C’mon…think.

Meh, you’re taking too long. It’s an homage to Super Mario Bros. 2, duhhh:

Ha, that means Ramona is really Luigi, and that’s funny because he kicks so goofily when he tries to jump super high. Not sure how Stephen Stills would feel about being compared to a mushroom-head, but I bet he’d not like it. But yeah, Kim is totally a princess. May she float for a few seconds through my dreams night in, night out. I want this game so bad, and dang it, I might have to start considering a PlayStation 3 fund if it takes longer than a few weeks to port over to the Xbox 360.