Monthly Archives: July 2010

So far, 14 games beaten in the year 2010

Technically, this is the sort of post I should have done around the end of June, but I’m a bit slow with these things, and so here it is nonetheless. We’re now definitely halfway through the year 2010, and I thought it’d be neat to stroll back through time and count up the number of games I’ve beaten at this point.


Sometimes, in the world of videogames, that concept is hard to pinpoint. I mean, at what point does someone beat an MMORPG like World of Warcraft? Is it when they reach a level cap or actually run out of in-game missions? How would one define beating UNO, a multiplayer-heavy arcade game that has no main quests to complete? So, for a lot of these games, I think I have to just use my better judgment and decide if completing enough of a game equals beating it. One easy clue is that, most often, a game on the Xbox 360 will have an Achievement tied to beating it, and so if that’s unlocked I will definitely check it off (there’s one exception to this, which you can read about below).

Not surprisingly, all games beaten in the year 2010 for me were either on the Xbox 360 or the Nintendo DS…

Xbox 360

  • LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues
  • Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter (something wonky happened and the “you beat the game!” Achievement never popped, grrr)
  • BioShock
  • SEGA Superstars Tennis (I basically played every single thing on this so it’s considered beaten)
  • Dragon Age: Origins
  • The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom
  • The Saboteur
  • Peggle (um, I completed the main campaign, just not all the side challenges yet)
  • Street Fighter II’ HF
  • Borderlands
  • Limbo

Nintendo DS

  • Hidden Mysteries Titanic: Secrets of the Fateful Voyage
  • Pokemon HeartGold (I beat the first region and the Fab Four or whatever they were called, and have now unlocked the second region, as well as a lot of post-game material)
  • TouchMaster 3

14 if my math is correct. That’s okay, but for some reason, I expected more in the Nintendo DS category. Maybe I’m just going crazy. Or forgetting a bunch. Oh wells.

There’s a couple of games I’m really close to beating, but still need more time with. Namely, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Picross 3D (I’d like to get over the 200 puzzles mark for this one), LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (this is going slower than many might have expected from me, but that’s because I’m playing the whole thing co-op with Tara), and ‘Splosion Man.

Gamers often fall into the trap of buying more games before completing the ones they’re already working on, and yes, I’ve hit that hump too. However, with money and time becoming a bigger issue right now, I’d really love to work on clearing out more of the backlog. There’s pretty much only two games on my must-buy list (Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Videogame and Fallout: New Vegas), and so I will climb this backlog mountain, hand over foot, until sweet victory washes over me like a morning breeze, and then–and only then–will I strike my victory pose.

An empty room, ready for doom and gloom

Sorry, dear readers of Grinding Down, but today’s gonna be extra light on content. I had a pretty horrific evening last night, and I’m still recovering from that…plus I think I got about three hours of sleep total. Coffee is keeping me going, as are phone calls and the thought of something cool to drink after work, but ultimately, I’m a headmess.

Also, throw in the fact that I beat Limbo last night, and, well, the depression deepens. I wasn’t ready for it to end; it ended nonetheless. There’s a staggering connection between the boy’s trip through the unknown and my life as it is, and one day I’d like to talk about what I see here, but I just can’t yet. It’s too…tangible. The game’s ending left me feeling cold and unloved, as well as strangely satisfied. It’s definitely a doozy, one worthy of exploration.

But yeah. This is it for today. I gotta give my brainwires a rest.

Ironically, Limbo doesn’t last very long

Well, that’s what every single review seems to like to talk about. Sure, they praise the game’s stark graphics, its haunting and effective gameplay, as well as the use of music and sound. But it all then boils down to this: Limbo is too short, ranging from three to five hours, for $15.00.

However, I’m still playing Limbo, still enjoying it a lot, bit by bit, and that’s kind of the difference I think in all of this. Game journalism reviews and non-journalistic reviews; two different beasts, one black, one white, with two different motivators behind them and no gray mist in-between. One plays a game as fast as possible, with a deadline looming and words to write/videos to record, and a second game on the pile waiting to be played. The other…well, we just play the game and write about it as we go or whenever we finish. Or heck, even weeks later. There’s no rush. The world’s not ending until 2012 anyways.

Recently, Kyle Orland of the now defunct Games for Lunch wrote about this oddity over at Gamasutra. It’s an excellent article that examines why this issue of length and hours of gameplay is so much more important to specific folk. This idea of a set game length…it’s pretty absurd. Everyone plays a game differently, and everyone gets a different experience that way. Take me. Despite what this blog might project, I don’t play a lot of videogames. My time is of the essence. I have to often squeeze in gaming time from 10 at night until 1 in the morning, and then the weekend, if I’m lucky, is mostly devoted to my Nintendo DS.

The fact that I got Limbo for free last week and have still not beaten it…is great for me. I like sitting down, playing it for about thirty to forty minutes until I get stuck, and then moving on to something else for a bit. I’m in no hurry to plow through the game itself, just to see how long it takes me and then claim that, “Wah, wah, it’s not long enough!” Well, you can always make it longer…by playing with it less.

Wow, that last sentence is full of innuendo.

Plus, Limbo is full of hidden eggs. Not Easter eggs. Hidden eggs. Sneaky, devilish, Solid Snake-like eggs that are super good at hiding from you. Some are tied to Achievements, and others exist just to build up your completion percentage as high as it goes. Right now, I’m not concerning myself too hard with finding all these eggs, but they’ll add some replay value when I go back a second time to hunt them all down. I’m thinking I’m about 60% through the entire game…kind of hard to guess at this point.

So, I don’t know. Limbo is a really beautiful, creepy, and clever game. You can make it as long or short as you want, and reviews shouldn’t sway anyone on whether it’s length is a determining factor for a purchase or not. This game is an instanct classic and just has to be played. I’ll most likely finish it up this week, but will definitely come back to it for more.

Can’t play General Knoxx DLC just yet

So, all three pieces of DLC for Borderlands are on sale this week for 50% off via Xbox Live. That’s pretty sweet, knocking the prices down from 800 Microsoft Points to a more reasonable 400 MP each. That’s $5.00 in human terms…or an after-work sandwich in my terms. Despite the good deals, I planned to only buy one game add-on. Now, The First Hour‘s review of The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned did little to entice me, as shooting hordes of zombies isn’t my bag of fun. The other DLC sounds like an arena of tiered enemies; again, not for me.

But the The Secret Armory of General Knoxx sounded like a step in the right direction. First thing, the level cap is raised by ELEVEN, all the way up to 61. It’s also a continuation of the main storyline, which, while underwhelming, is at least something to follow rather than a random drop in the hat like, “Oh, here come the zombies!” Add in new guns and class mods and vehicles (actually, boo to that one), and well, for five buckeroos, it sounds like the best, most varied DLC of the bunch.

After downloading, I checked to see if my co-op pal Greg Noe could play, but alas, not that evening. I decided to at least take a peek into this new area and see what was what. I was foolish to think I could do it alone. I played the fool. I am full of fool, full of fail. Yeah, see, I’m basically a low level 43 Soldier right now, playing on playthrough 2 and trying hard to climb the tall ladder of experience. I decided to continue on with him to experience General Knoxx…well, that didn’t work out too well. I could only complete the first quest, which was of the “go talk to this dude” style. The next quest has you finding some items nearby, but the very first set of enemies wiped the floor from me.

I guess I should’ve paid more attention to the quest. It says IMPOSSIBLE in blood-red font and then LV 51 next to it, eight levels away. ::whimper::

I’m not sure at what point it’s easier to venture into this realm on playthrough 1, but I don’t really have any other characters made that are very far along in the game. I created three more just to get to LV 5 and gnab some class-specific Achievements. So, my two options now to play this DLC that I bought are to either 1) wait for co-op and hopefully survive with Greg’s help or 2) enter on playthrough 1, but first level up my character decently.

Yeah, I’m a little annoyed at this, as time is of the importance, but I’ll figure it out somehow. Still, it was nice to hear new Scooter dialogue…if for a brief moment. GET YOU ONE.

Co-op in Dragon Quest IX is kind of a flop

So, over the weekend, I got to try a little co-op adventuring in Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. And I have to sum up my experience in the very words of the many dogs you’ll meet during your journey to collect seven fyggs (magical fruit that have been eaten by townspeople only then be returned to you whole and untouched…if that is even possible): nng nng nnnnnggg. In short, co-op is kind of a flop, but then again, I suspect I know why.

See, my sister and I got the game on the same day, its release day at that, and we played for a good amount later that evening. But then I had to return to the hubbub of life up north, and she stayed home in South Jersey on a mini-cation, wherein she got to play a lot more DQIX than I did. Needless to say, by the time we got together again for some co-op play, she was double my levels (37 or so to my paltry 16s) and nearing end-game material. This made for lame co-op questing since…I was not there yet.

For co-op play, you can do two things: let someone into your world, to help you on your quests, or travel to someone else’s world, to help them on their quest. Experience and gold is shared, and visiting adventurers can open as many blue treasure chests as they want. Now, if you want their help in battle, you have to make room in your team, basically dropping off a party member or two. This also means that, while adventuring in my sister’s world of really high-leveled enemies, if caught in a battle too far away from her, it’d just be me, solo, fighting against the devil’s army. Sure, I could call her into action, but it wouldn’t work if she too was already in a battle, now a fighter short. So we had to stick together, and I basically just visited some of the new towns and grabbed some early recipes since I couldn’t afford anything. Then she came into my world to help me beat Leviathan, which was nice of her to do. Other than that, there wasn’t anything crazy exciting about the experience. She also got some additional quests from me since I was to DL them from WiFi and she was not.

I can see where the co-op would work best. Either playing together from the start, or playing together for all the post-game quests and treasure maps and so on. Those are probably the best options, but I doubt it’ll happen again for me. Still gotta figure out how this “tag mode” works as there’s a special event coming up at the local GameStop…

The afterlife better not be like this

I’m stuck in Limbo.

That’s both a funny, commonplace phrase for us Catholics, as well as my current state of progress within the XBLA downloadable platformer of the same name. I won a free copy of it yesterday and was very excited to sit down and play before going to bed. However, maybe playing this kind of game before bed isn’t the best idea; it’s depressing and dark, hollow and haunting, a sick trip into the unsafe bowels of somewhere, and the only way to get that creepy spider out of my brain was to wash this experience down with some light-hearted UNO afterwards.

I won two games, and lost the third to some twittery brat…if you were curious.

Right. So, Limbo. It’s beyond creepy, and it sucks you right in, and before you know it, you’re walking through a soundless world, unsure of what’s next, falling into bear traps and pitfalls and the clutches of one particularly evil spider. It looks fantastic and mesmerizing; however, all previous complaints about the lack of storytelling ring true. I ended up staring at the opening screen for a good five minutes before I realized, oh, hey, I’m in control of the character now. But why am I in control of the silhouette boy with white eyes? ::shrugs:: A glimpse at the description box from the download menu clues me in that I’m searching for my lost sister, but the game itself tells us nothing.

I have to believe though that the game’s developers are fans of I Wanna be the Guy, a game that is as masochistic as it gets. In IWBTG, players meet untimely–and timely–deaths just by doing as they’ve been trained to do for years. They will jump from platform to platform only to get destroyed by a falling block of spikes that falls the moment you land on the platform. The game is designed to mess with our heads, as well as undo everything we’ve ever learned about the platformer genre. Limbo is cut from the same cloth, and you’ll have to die to figure out how to survive the harsh underworld and all its peril. Which breaks my heart because there’s an Achievement tied to beating the game in one sitting with five or less deaths; I stopped counting around death #20, and so I must just give up all hope on ever getting that one. I hate death-themed Achievements, remember? Other Achievements seem to rely on the main character finding eggs and then breaking them. Here’s the two I got so far:

Wrong Way (5G): That’s not right

Altitude is attitude (5G): Exploration off the ground

No real explanation for this egg thingy, but if I was to speculate, it’d have something to do with a giant chicken kidnapping his sister and this is his bit-by-bit revenge plan. Again, you kind of have no story here so it’s free game to make it all up yourself.

I probably played for a little over an hour last night, and ended up getting stuck at one part. There’s a worm that drops onto your head and messes up how you steer the boy, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to get rid of it; the mind-controlling parasite keeps walking me straight into a death-pit. Will have to give it some time, as I’m sure the answer is right there before me. Trial and error is your best guide.

Either way, it’s hard not to love Limbo for its art style alone. The stark blacks and whites–and soft, misty grays in the background–really bring about an atmosphere unlike any other game. Sure, it’s depressing as all gets, and the lack of music might drive some gamers nuts, but I found myself really immersed. Especially when some items in the foreground block your vision of the boy; I will actually lean forward in my chair, trying to get a better view, as if that’s even possible.

Alas, I won’t be able to play again until the end of the weekend.

I’m a Limbo XBLA giveaway contest winner!

Yup. It’s true. I’m a wiener.

I mean…winner. Of what? Well, of a little indie game just recently released for Xbox Live Arcade. It’s called Limbo, and all I know about it is that it’s mostly in black in white, has a rather distinctive noir art style to it, and there’s a particularly creepy spider creeping about within. So that’s exciting. And all I had to do to win was follow MTV Multiplayer on their Twitter account, re-tweet their post about the giveaway contest, and wait patiently as they choose five winners at random.

Now I just have to get through the work day. Oh boy. Will start downloading immediately once I get home, and hey, who knows, I might even write about the gaming experience. I know…such a thing is unheard of ’round these here parts.

This also now marks my second contest victory involving Twitter re-tweets. Back in January 2010, I won a download code from That Videogame Blog for Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter. Hopefully I’ll have more fun with Limbo than I did that piece of spastic shootery, and hopefully that spider won’t turn me into a wimpering puddle of Ron Weasley.

Please leviathan me alone

It’s time now for another rousing edition of…True to Life Phone Calls, starring Paul and Tara and brought to you by a cup of mediocre Green Mountain coffee.

Tara: So, what are you doing for the rest of the night?
Paul: Playing Dragon Quest IX. I’m trying to beat this one boss before I go to bed.
Tara: Ooooh.

Yup. Only…I failed. I did not beat said boss, and I still went to bed. Talk about being a quitter. Actually, no. I was really tired. I had a day of work and then an evening of Scott Pilgrim mania, as well as food and coffee drinks and musing about comics and slushing stories for Clarkesworld and so on and so on.

But I did try to beat Leviathan twice in a row, and that should count for something; he’s a boss you’ll come across shortly after you complete the vocation quest in Alltrade Abbey, and basically, he’s a pain in the ocean-butt. At least, he is for my team of scrabblers. See, he only attacks once per turn–unlike that jerk Jack of Alltrade–but two of his main attacks are the kind that target all four of my team members at once. There’s a tidal wave attack and tail sweep attack, both of which do a good amount of damage. The biggest problem with this is my lack of healing, and I don’t have any group heal spells or buff spells save for Accelerate. I was hoping my mage would’ve learned one by now, but I guess he’s more aggro than anything. Looks like I will have to put Andy on the back burner and create a new character with the priest vocation. Please submit name suggestions. Since my martial artist and thief are both women, my priest character will be a hardcore dude.

I actually don’t mind the fact that I will have to create a new character and grind him/her up to a decent level to help beat Leviathan. Why’s that? Well, for one thing, the grinding isn’t terribly annoying in Dragon Quest IX. Each battle gets you more XP, more gold coins, and the possibility of more items for the alchemy pot. Plus, upon returning to previous towns, you’ll find new characters there ready to give out sidequests. Now, some of these are absurd and difficult-sounding, and others are of the “kill X monsters” breed. Also, rumor has it that previously visited dungeons now host new treasure chests like mini medals and harder enemies. It’ll be good to take these missions on and build up my priest at the same time. He better get a heal all spell, and he better get it fast, as it seems I can’t go forward with the actual story until I take down Mr. Fishface.

And if this tactic doesn’t work, I’ll just recruit my sister this Friday as we give local co-op a chance.

Scott Pilgrim to hit XBLA two weeks after PSN debut


I can breathe a sigh of relief. And happiness. Happy sigh of reliefness. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Videogame will make its way to Xbox Live on August 25th…just two weeks after debuting on the PlayStation Network. It’ll cost 1200 Microsoft Points, which is the equivalent of $14.99, and I’m going to pay it like a professional, day one and all. This game must be had, and the fact that it is local co-op is even sweeter. Beat ’em up gameplay, delicious-looking sprites, and a soundtrack by Anamanaguchi. How can that not be the greatest gaming experience evar?

Also, the last book, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, comes out today. TODAY. July 20th, 2010. Eeeee. I’ve had to stay off Twitter and mostly Facebook for the better part of today; I really don’t want to be spoiled, even by the littlest of details. Tara and I are rushing over to Borders after I get done with work to pick up our copies. We’ll then read them in a fever haze, smiling and crying and laughing and loving. It’s just a great series, and all great things come to an end, and we’re prepared to end, but it’s gonna be like signing up to take a beating. There will be bruises tomorrow for sure.

The film version, which just looks better and better with each leaked trailer and remix, comes out on August 13th.

It’s Scott Pilgrim mania, that it is. Drink up, Scottaholics!

Deathclaws are all about death and claws

I played some more Fallout 3 last night, still on my quest to collect the remaining Achievements, with the one for hitting Level 30 as a totally evil lady in sight. Just got to get some more experience, and the best way to rack up some XP is through doing main storyline quests and shooting big baddies like Deathclaws.

Thus, I decided to tackle the Broken Steel missions, which take you through Old Olney, a destroyed little locale brimming with Deathclaws. Before heading out, if you spoke with Vallincourt, you can pick up the Deathclaw control scrambler device; this basically takes any Deathclaw under the Enclave’s control and puts it under yours…so long as you stay within its broadcasting range. Once freed, the Deathclaw will follow you around as a friend until time runs out and they go all explodey like that one kid early on in Battle Royale. This is great and all, but it only works on the Deathclaws enslaved by the Enclave, and actually does the opposite of what I wanted, as the Deathclaw steals XP from me by killing the Enclave soldiers and then blowing itself up. Oh well. Still fun to watch it run off and do your dirty work.

That said, Deathclaws are still the scariest things in Fallout 3. They are menacing, brooding, towering, terrifying, dangerous, and freaky. Plus a slew of other nasty adjectives. They look like devils on steroids and move with surprising agility. And there’s one part in Old Olney that I completely forgot about, wherein a Deathclaw attacked me from behind and scared the living light out of me. It’s kind of like Jurassic Park, Muldoon, and those plotty velociraptors; I’m sneaking down a hallway, totally in stealth, eyes on the prize, a Deathclaw at the end that is sharpening its claws like cooking knives. Then, without warning, my warning turns DETECTED red and I’m slashed from behind by a Deathclaw. I quickly hop into V.A.T.S., but don’t kill it quick enough with my Chinese Assault Rifle, and now the second Deathclaw is on the alert, sandwiching me in the worst sandwich ever: Deathclaw, evil woman, Deathclaw, and no tomato. Not yummy at all.

Had to break out the Alien Blaster (with limited ammo) just to survive. The funny part–if this can be considered funny–is that this same scenario happened more or less during my first playthrough. Guess I just forgot that at one point, there’s two Deathclaws in the same hallway. I promise not to forget during the third playthrough; if I do, maybe I deserve to be turned into shredded flesh-lettuce.

Having not played any previous Fallout games before Fallout 3, I have to wonder if we’ll see any Deathclaws in Fallout: New Vegas. Not too sure of their history and all, and I know that stealthy Super Mutants will most likely be the next enemy to freak me out. Either way, I’ll be glad to get past them in this section of the Broken Steel DLC even though they do offer up some delicious XP.