Monthly Archives: April 2012

The chase is on in Super Mario 3D Land

In the beginning of my Nintendo 3DS days, I kept the thing on and in my pocket as much as possible, both to earn as many Play Coins as possible and in hopes of connecting with another person’s system. That dedication eventually waned, but every now and then–like when Tara and I head out to the mall area or go grocery shopping–I remember to flip it on and bring it with me. I mean, a year and change later, the chances of StreetPassing someone else is at least a smidgen greater. And with luck, I have connected with a few people in Target and Weis and the surrounding area, and a few of them have been kind enough to give me Question Mark levels in Super Mario 3D Land. That’s-a-nice.

The problem though is that I haven’t played any more Super Mario 3D Land since I beat it, as I needed a break from 3D platforming and wasn’t ready to tackle yet another eight worlds full of coins, flying Goombas, and tricky jumps. The cartridge has since been in my travel case while I whittle away at Professor Layton’s London Life. But I noticed the other day that I had two out of an allotted three Question Mark levels and wanted to clear out my backlog in preparation for MoCCA Festival this weekend. So I popped the cartridge back in, completed the two bonus levels super fast–winning both coins, of course–and decided to see what some of the Special World levels were like.

Special World 1-1 is par for the course, but does introduce the silver-colored Tanooki Suit, which finally allows the player to turn into a statue. Not that I ever really do, but I think I need the ability to hit certain triggers so I’ll keep an eye out. But it’s Special World 1-2 that gets this blog post’s glory. In it, Mario is chased all the way to the flagpole by a Cosmic Clone. And when I say chased, I mean chased. This isn’t no Boo slowly trailing after you; it’s a hot-blooded pursuit, and it’s pretty much the most tense Mario level ever. The crazy remixed Mario tunes don’t help either, and I totally missed all three stars as my only goal was getting the bleep away from this crazy, yellow-eyed demonic doppelgänger and reaching safety.

After that stressful level, I went back to earlier levels to find more Star Coins, as I will constantly need more to unlock the castles in the Special Worlds. And those levels are much simpler and easier on my fingers. I know there are a few more containing Cosmic Clones, and I am not looking forward to them. Maybe if I get enough Star Coins I can skip right by them, kind of like how I got enough Gold medals in the skill games for Trials Evolution to avoid perfecting the really hard and/or extreme tracks. Yeah, that’s the key: avoidance.

So, if you’re in New York City this weekend, swing by MoCCA Festival and StreetPass me some Question Block levels so I don’t have to be chased ever again. My heart and legs thank you in advance.

Chundering in Trials Evolution and having a blast

A long time ago, in a blogging galaxy far, far away, I took on the challenge of 30 Days of Gaming, a then-popular meme that proposed one videogame-themed topic per day for thirty of them timesinks. It took me longer than that to complete, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyways, one of the topics asked about was guilty pleasure games, which I named as Pokemon White, but really it could be anything Pokemon-related. But move aside, pocket monsters, because there’s a new contender in the ring, and it has truly taken me by surprise. Trials Evolution: I feel weird playing you, but also am having a blast.

To start, I am no fan of bike sports. Sports related to bikes and jumping hills and going down ramps and all that jazz. Is there even a term for it? Motorcycling? Just bicycling? Extreme motocross? Yeah, I don’t know and am completely disinterested in actually looking it up; feel free to school me in the comments section below. As a youngling in middle school and early on in high school, I hung out with a group of friends that were a mix of skateboaders and bikers and stoners. I rode a bike, too, but nothing fancy and could only do bunny-hops or short distance wheelies. For me, biking was a way to get around Smithville, to WaWa and Willy’s house, not training for an Olympic event, and once I got to the point where I had friends with cars or a car of my own, I left my bike in the dust. So yeah, bike sports. They surely exist–as do I–but we keep to our separate paths these days.

But Trials Evolution is no mere sports simulation. It’s full-on crazy. You take control of a man on a bike, and your main goal is to get to the other side, where the finish line is. There are other goals, too, such as getting there with no mistakes or under a certain time, and depending on how well you do, you are awarded medals (bronze, silver, and gold). Earn enough medals, and you can then unlock more stages to play on. Shampoo, rinse, clean your armpits, and repeat. Or however that saying goes. It starts out easy and then gets sickeningly difficult. But deep in that difficulty is fun, with a true sense of accomplishment when you get to the end of the track with no mistakes.

I never played Trials HD, but I’ve learned quite a bit about this series from my short time with Trials Evolution: it’s all about patience and control. Every lean or slight twitch of the analog stick is more than enough to send your biker head over heels (or heels over head). Learning the looseness and tightness of each bike is vital to clearing a track with the elegance of a ballet dancer, and right now, I am mainly using the third unlocked bike. Don’t know its name, but it doesn’t flip when you hold down the throttle, something I appreciate. The Phoenix, on the other hand, is extremely finicky and must be handled like a tower of glass shards balancing on a paper plate.

But it’s this dance of balance and skill that makes Trials Evolution enjoyable in my eyes. Plus the crazy level design. Otherwise, everything else is not my cup of tea. For example, the opening rap track that plays before the main menu is upsetting and embarrassing, and I just cannot get excited about adding new accessories to my bicycle and tricking it out. I dipped into multiplayer, which reminds me of Excite Bike, but probably won’t get too involved there. And the level editor looks neat, but I have no time to comprehend its intricacies and will be content to just download new, highly rated tracks made by others.

Currently, I have over 100 medals and am trying to Gold some medium difficulty levels in hopes of earning enough to unlock the last set of challenges. Wish me luck, and don’t mind my grumbling. Once I get over that nastily placed rock and down the hill on my way to victory, I’m nothing but smiles and warm compliments.

Crash Bandicoot is the ruiner of all relationships in Felicity

Videogames are just the evilest. At least that’s what TV shows want to say, as every now and then an episode pops up to remind us all that these digital universes are gateways through Satan’s butthole and that they consume human life just as swiftly as someone falling into a woodchipper. I remember Full House doing it. CSI: New York did it with little intelligence or Googling. South Park did it with great jest when World of Warcraft was infecting fans left and right. And now, as of this weekend, I learned that Felicity–yeah, that show from 1998 to 2002 about a hairy girl going to college and finding herself–also partook in educating viewers on the damaging voodoo magic of controller-powered entertainment.

The episode “Crash” from Felicity‘s second season is described as so:

When Julie suggests that dating B-list people is a good way to get over her breakup with Ben, Felicity agrees to Prof. Sherman’s request to try dating her son David (Henri Lubatti). Meanwhile, Ben and Maggie (Teri Polo) shift to a more intimate relationship despite her concerns over their age gap; and Noel and Elena become obsessed with a video game.

See that last part? Yeeeeeah. The videogame in question is none other than Crash Bandicoot, the mascot that never came to be for the Sony PlayStation. It starts innocently enough and almost feels like a blatant advertisement for the game, with Noel gushingly playing solo, eyes wide and unblinking, remarking about how great these graphics are and how fun the game is and how much he ate up Super Mario Bros. one summer. Immediately, there are problems, with the constant habit of having gamers move erratically while being filmed, as if they themselves are dodging bullets or rolling boulders. Plus, the sneering from Elena is unfortunate.

Anyways, the other plots of the show move along with little interference. At some point, while Noel is on the phone, Elena picks up the controller and begins to play. When Noel sees this, he ejects, “You’re ruin my lives!” Which makes no sense as a videogame-related phrase and something a girl he is interested in overhears on the phone. Then he begins shouting at Elena to “repause” the game. “Repause!” he cries. “REPAUSE!”

Um…what? How about just “pause”? Sigh. And it gets worse.

After a really bad blind date, Felicity swings by Noel and Elena’s apartment only to discover them engrossed in the glow of the TV screen. Apparently, there were original plans to all go out, but now the two of them can barely mumble a response and Felicity leaves, but not before making a smarmy remark about “going outside” to her gaming friends. Eventually, the two of them get stuck on the final boss of Crash Bandicoot; Elena mentions she “knows a guy” who can help get them past it and grabs to the phone. The tips don’t help, and Noel ends up calling the guy a moron, which brings up tears and the revelation that the guy is no guy, but a seven-year-old kid, commenting again on the fact that videogames are just for younglings.

In horror, they turn the PlayStation off, and in the morning, Noel tells Felicity that he’s “too mature” for those things and regrets what it did to him and Elena. Sunlight warms their collective skins. Everyone’s diseases are cured. The horrible beast has been flayed. Cue happy song–something by Sarah McLachlan. The end.

Yeah. This was an infuriating episode to watch, to listen to. The way Noel talked about Crash Bandicoot was not even borderline close to how a normal college kid would talk about games. I would know. I did it all the time, with Final Fantasy X and Jak and Daxter and more being discussed amongst friends. You talk about them like you would a movie or a book or a class or a person or anything really. There’s no need to throw hundred dollar terms around or speak about processing chips. They are experiences, good or bad, and they can be shared without a feeling of shame, without rolling up excuses as to why I spent my Saturday night collecting the last Power Cell or whatever.

Ugh. I don’t watch much TV these days so I don’t know if the treatment of videogames has gotten any better. But in 1999, with Felicity, it was just the worst. Still not as bad as when she chopped her hair off though…

George Banks is saying no to indie videogame bundles

To be honest, I’m pretty proud of myself. Over the course of two days, I said “no” to two entirely different videogame-based bundles. Packages that are light on price and heavy on material. Deals that truly should not be missed out on, some might even say. But I just can’t anymore. I have barely touched games for bundles I bought last year. So, no more…for now. But let’s take a look at what I am not adding to my backlog, and whether that’s a good or bad thing.

First, there was the Spring Bundle from Indie Royale. In this package, you can get the following: Unstoppable Gorg, Depths of Peril, Tobe’s Vertical Adventure, Inferno+, Slydris, and Ballistic. If you beat the minimal price, you also get some chiptune soundtracks. Upon initially reviewing what was being offered, I only recognized one game–Unstoppable Gorg–and that’s because Giant Bomb did a Quick Look of it. The majority looked uninteresting to me, with only Depths of Peril seeming appealing with its single player RPG elements. And that basically meant I’d be paying whatever price I chose for one game, as I might never touch anything else in this pocket. Not a complete waste of money, but a complete waste of my headspace and computer space, and so I am passing. No big loss. If, ultimately, I really do want to try out Depths of Peril, it’s available on Steam.

Then, the very next day, Humble Indie Bundle busts out a new collection for whatever you want to pay: the Humble Botanicula Debut. It’s tagline is “Pay what you want for Botanicula and save the rainforest,” which makes this extra hard to turn down. Way to heap on the guilt there. I actually fear that I’m going to go against myself before the weekend is over and snag a cheap copy, but for now, for the moment, I am saying no. I generally rush to buy these bundles, and Botanicula looks absolutely fantastic. The hurdle? This bundle holds four games (and a movie), and I already own Machinarium and Samorost 2, and am not interested at all in Windosill as there are enough puzzles in my life currently. So again, I’d be paying whatever I want for one game–granted, Botanicula is looking good, and I do like my unique adventure games as of late. But still, it just doesn’t seem necessary to do so right now.

Also, coming soon…Bundle in a Box. Which has just been confirmed as an “adventure game” bundle. And depending on who is involved and what the games look like, I might struggle with saying no. Though I am definitely saying it now, when it’s easy to do so.

I’m working on a big blog post. It’s a work in progress, truly. I am gathering up all the videogames currently in my collection that I’ve not yet played. It’s pretty scary, seeing the amount. I guess, at some point in the last few years, I became more of a collector than a player. That does make sense when you realize that I’m no longer carefree and 17. I am 28, married, with a job and a comics-related dream. I play when I can, but it’s never enough. Especially when it’s a session of Skyrim and three hours have gone by and all I’ve done is cleared a cave or two and sold some loot. Hopefully I’ll get that post wrapped up soon before I accidentally (or masochistically) acquire further titles.

But right now, I really don’t need more games. I have plenty still to do in the games I already got. I have assassinations and vehicles to acquire in Saints Row: The Third. I need to get married and put an end to the Civil War in Skyrim. I still need to link all the connections in episode two of Hector: Badge of Carnage. I need five or six more cubes to open that “32 cubes only” door in Fez. I have a laundry list of fetch quests for Professor Layton’s London Life. I have to, uh, stop the bandits and mutants in Rage. I have work, and I really do need to work at whittling this voluminous list down. Wish me luck and give me strength as I say “no” to more and “yes” to what I already got under my wings.

Achievements of the Week – The Beyond the Wall of Violent Sword Melody Edition

And that’s been…yet another week. If one isn’t paying close attention, these things really blur by. Seven days, one after the other, rapid fire. For instance, I didn’t even remember that I played a ton of Bulletstorm last Sunday, completing the game fully, until I began to put this list together. My mind has been most things Fez-related, with a pinch of Trials Evolution to boot last night, with little room to spare as the wife and I creep closer to MoCCA Festival next week.

All right, here are Achievements I unlocked that I liked the most from the week that was.

From Fez…


Mightier than the sword (10G): A cube for writing.

I couldn’t tell you how I got this. Not because it’s really spoilery, but because after going through so many levels within levels within levels and finding numerous secrets and cube bits and getting lost in the music and cryptic hieroglyphics…I just don’t remember. But there’s a strange artifact in my inventory, and so I must have gotten it at some point. Yeah.

From Bulletstorm…


Armed and dangerous (15G): Grow as a person, experience betrayal. Again.

Amusing Achievement art.


Space Pirate (10G): Drink at least 20 bottles of Nom Juice in the Single Player Campaign

I used to get drunk a lot. It was a coping thing, a way to pass the time, a way to fall asleep. I don’t really drink anymore, and if I do, I nurse the heck out of the drink until it is lukewarm and feeling uncomfortable. But getting drunk in videogames can be fun, and in Bulletstorm, it also earns you extra points to your skillshots. Gulp another bottle down and unleash that leash.


Violent Melody (30G): Complete the Campaign on Normal Difficulty

From Trails Evolution…


No Problemo (10G): Pass the D License Test and get your first bike.


Beyond the Wall of Pain (10G): Smash your bike and break every bone in one spectacular crash.

I missed a ramp and fell on a…landmine. Ka-blooie!


Community Spirit (20G): Post a time on another player’s custom created track.

I’m almost positive I’ll be playing more Fez and Trials Evolution this weekend–and almost no more Bulletstorm–so that’s where you can expect Achievements to pop for next week. Only, uh, there won’t be an Achievements of the Week next Friday because I’ll be heading into New York City for the MoCCA weekend. So we’ll play major catch-up in fourteen days.

Until then, tell me about your favorite Achievement from the last week of gaming. Do it.

The ending to Jurassic Park: The Game is a big pile of dino droppings

There are several problems with Jurassic Park: The Game, but none bigger than its ending, and I’m going to discuss it at length in this post, so if you don’t want to be spoiled beyond Spoiled City, get out now. Just go. Put in a VHS copy of the 1993 classic Jurassic Park, play with the tracking buttons, and then sit back, soak in, and be at peace. Trust me, you’re better off; I mean, I wish I wasn’t thinking about these things, but I am. And the only way to get rid of them is to dump them here.

::insert Tyrannosaurus Rex roar::

As the remaining survivors–Gerry Harding, Jess Harding, and Nima–race to reach the boat that can take them off Isla Nublar, a choice is presented, one that’s extremely easy to make: save Jess or save the Barbasol can of dinosaur embryos. If you go for the can, Nima dies. If you save Jess, the can is stomped flat, but everyone lives to see another day. The latter is deemed the “good ending” and was what I earned first, later going back to see what would happen if you tried to grab the can before Mean Ol’ Mr. T-Rex caught wind of your antics. Right. So, they all live and are motoring away on the escape boat as that familiar tune plays. Hooray. Except Nima is pretty downtrodden and not because her partner in crime Yoder got eaten: that Barbasol can represented a way to get her and her daughter into a new life, with food and security and all the things that a mother/daughter combo need to survive. Without it, she has nothing. Gerry promises her that he’ll do whatever he can to help the both of them, but before he can work out a plan, his daughter Jess interupts to inform them about a bag full of cash she just found.

And that’s where Jurassic Park: The Game ends. No, really. It’s that, followed by the boat scooting away into the sunset and a flock of Pterodactylus passing by overhead. Roll credits. Put the controller down.

Which means we–the viewer, the player, the puppet master–are left to interpretation. And the game seems to imply that Nima will take the money found on the boat. That Gerry Harding will totally be okay with Nima taking all that money, that it’s for a good cause. For the entirety of Jurassic Park: The Game, Harding has been constantly reminding his daughter that stealing is wrong and trying to teach her to be a wiser teenager, to make good, wholesome choices. To not smoke or talk back to elders or, y’know, steal stuff. And he did all of this while dinosaurs of varying sizes and skins tried to eat them. Good for him.

But here, at the end–and granted, he did just outrun a T-Rex–he says nothing about the bag of money. Nothing about going to InGen about what happened on the island and Dr. Sorkin or anything like that. Maybe he actually does. The scene cuts away after the literal money shot, and we don’t know what other conversations the trio have as they make their way home, but that’s the game’s fault. Again, it doesn’t tell us, and so we have to go off of what is presented, which is that Nima is going to get all the money, the money she was originally going to get anyway from stealing from InGen. If Harding lets Nima take the money, he is again approving of stealing, which I’m sure Jess would find contradictory.

It’s an atrocious piece of writing, that doesn’t make sense, but comes across as extremely unlikely and Hollywood-like. I’d rather have seen them sail away without a bag of money, happy to be alive, promising each other that they would get through whatever came next, especially considering what they just survived. Maybe even Nima would become a motherly figure to Jess since her parents were not going to work it out. Of, if anything, as a wink to the first film and a meta joke to the fact that Jurassic Park: The Game is in itself a wink to a throwaway plotline, Harding could’ve acknowledged the bag of money, zipped it up, and tossed it into the water–y’know, for someone else to find. As is, the game’s “good ending” is far from good.

And all of this makes me extra nervous about Telltale Games’ forthcoming The Walking Dead game. The only light there is that in a world overrun by zombies, a bag of money is pretty much useless.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Robo Pit

In my early high school years, my mom and I would often go to the shopping mall together, splitting up for a little bit after doing whatever it was we were initially there to do. This usually meant her going off to Macy’s or somewhere like it to peruse for jewelry or clothes or smelly stuff, and I headed for the videogame store. Which, for the longest while, was actually Electronics Boutique (EBX to those down with the abbreviations). Or Funcoland. One of those. Definitely no GameStops then.

Either way, she had her time, and I had mine, and we always picked out a specific place to meet up at when we were done, which was usually in front of the Friendly’s; remember, this was before cell phones and such, so planning was key. I generally found what game I was looking for lickety-split and would hurry back to our meeting spot, take a seat next to the escalators, and promptly devour my newest game’s manual page by page, word by word, occasionally glancing at my surroundings. More often than not, she’d surprise me as I’d be so engrossed in learning that I couldn’t both learn and look around at the same time.

That’s kind of what I remember the most about Robo Pit, a “build your own robot from scrap parts” fighting game for the PlayStation. Not playing the game or even enjoying it, but sitting in the mall, reading about it and waiting for my mother. It’s a striking memory, full of white tile, plastic-green foliage, and feet dangling.

Robo Pit was a game about scraps. Each time your little robot would win a fight, you got to take a part of the defeated bot with you, adding it to your inventory of construction parts. When you’re ready to make a robot, you start out with slim pickings, choosing a body type and color. And it’s not all cosmetic–each body type has different stats for Power, Weight, and Defense. Throw on some cartoony eyes, a couple of arms (spears, crossbows, and other weaponry are acceptable substitutions), a pair of legs, and your creation is off to battle in the pit, for glory and growing. And the list of enemies numbers in the hundreds, many with fear-striking names like Taxiderm, Bigmouth, Sorbet, and Pain Bot. Some challengers are labeled as “special robots,” which basically means you get to take a part of their body after they are defeated. And those were the reasons to play, to get crazier arm-based weaponry, like scythes and boomerangs. I’ve always had a penchant for creating beings, as evidenced in my time with Spore Creatures; it certainly did not start with Robo Pit, but it was definitely a footprint along the path of life.

Looking back, Robo Pit‘s not a great game. It’s formulaic and bland, with uninteresting arenas to battle in, button-mashing combat, little-to-no music, and strange, unexplainable happenings, like robots flying straight up into the sky when being killed as if a rocket exploded in their butt. I traded it in, and I can’t imagine what amount of store credit it earned me. Surely less than $5.00. But it’s something I hold as special. It’s a game I held in my hands while I waited for my mom to take me home. It reminds me to keep waiting.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.