Monthly Archives: June 2012

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Gex

“So, this is New Jersey.”

It’s a line I’ve never forgotten, and it’s one that still makes me laugh some seventeen years later. Yes, that’s right. Gex came out for the PlayStation in 1995, y’all. I was just a teenybopper by the time I got to play it. Anyways, our titular amphibian hero voiced by comedian Dana Gould slips out the stately jest presented above upon arriving at the final boss level in Rez’s futuristically dystopian city Rezopolis. Even as a boy, I knew that making fun of the Garden State was a thing, and so I cherished this moment.

The game itself was all right. An action platformer starring–what Sony probably wanted to join their mascot team, which included Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and Lara Croft–an anthropomorphic juvenile gecko. The plot is as so and I will give it to you as straight-faced as possible: After Gex’s father dies in a space shuttle accident, Gex becomes a shut-in, spending all his days and nights watching television. His mother, in a fit of desperation, gives the TV away to a bunch of gypsies. Upset, Gex runs away from home. Soon after, there’s another death in the family, and Gex inherits a large sum of moolah, which he uses to move back to Maui, buy a mansion and big-screen TV, and a ridiculous amount of food so he can remain a shut-in again. Unfortunately, the villainous Rez sucks Gex into the TV in hopes of turning him into the mascot for the hellish Media Dimension. Yup. Hey, it was the 90s.

Gameplay-wise, nothing amazing. Typical platforming with colorful character and themed worlds. You jump, you attack enemies with your tail, you collect items, and you complete levels on an overworld map. There’s also a mechanic that maybe is paying homage to Super Mario World, where Gex will attach himself all lizard-like to a wall and crawl up and down it. It’s nifty. And so you go left to right, collecting TV remote controls and listening to Gex slam a bunch of different properties, namely Full House, Ben Franklin, Dick Clark, Rick James, Wendy’s, and much, much more. The lines as I remember them were genuinely funny, and much more effective than the work voicework in games like Bubsy and Blasto.

Other than that quote, what I remember most about Gex is that since it was one of the first games to come out for the Sony PlayStation, it sported one of those giant cases. You know what I’m talking about. They were like the size of a small hardcover book if that book also wore a top hat. Hilarious and definitely a piece of packaging history. Wish I still had my copy if only to figure out how to fit it aesthetically on a shelf with my other videogames.

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.

Took some time, but I finally stepped up to the challenge in Fallout: New Vegas

The Gun Runners’ Arsenal DLC for Fallout: New Vegas added a number of things to the desolate and barren play-realm known to all as the Mojave Wasteland. Mostly weapons, obviously, but also new recipes , ammunition types, gun mods, and–the topic of today’s blog post–in-game challenges. These new challenges are given different ranks, ranging from one star to three stars, and are tied to some Achievements. Also, they ain’t easy, like the “kill 10 bloatflies” ilk.

Anyways, a few weeks ago, as I continued slowly down the path to a Mr. House playthrough, I finished off a third one-star challenge, earning this little darling:


Up to the Challenge (20G): Completed any three Gun Runners’ Arsenal (GRA) one star (*) Challenges.

Now, there are a total of six possible one-star challenges, and, of them, four seemed doable. The other two? No. No way, no how. One asked of me to kill Mr. House with a golf club, which went against my entire playthrough, and the other wanted the Courier to obliterate animals with the Fat Man or Fat mines, of which I’ve never used either before in all my long hours. And so I went after the reasonable ones: cripple five right arms with a shotgun, kill 15 robots using a 5.56mm pistol, kill 15 feral ghouls using specific weapons, or destroy 10 abominations–which range from evolved centaurs to spore carriers–using things like katanas, dynamite, machetes, and throwing spears. It’s a lot of specifics, and unfortunately for my Courier, that meant constantly carrying around a lot of different weapons just in case a situation popped up where I could use X against Y to obtain Z.

Right. I was able to cripple arms and kill robots rather easily as I went along my merry way, but a third challenge constantly seemed far off. I was not interested in fighting feral ghouls, and abominations seemed few and far between as the Courier stuck to the main storyline path based around the Strip. That is until I went to Vault 22. That place is full of horrible creatures not right for this world, but it wasn’t just a matter of slicing them to pieces. Because my Courier is high in guns and low in melee and throwing weapons, I would first try to lower a spore carrier’s health–without killing it in one shot, natch–before finishing it off with a thrown spear to the face. This worked a couple times, but then I ran out of spears. So it was jungle fever action time with a machete, and I had to use a lot of health/food items to make it out alive. But regardless, I did it, and it felt nice to have one challenge-based Achievement dead and done.

However, the other two are looking like even bigger mountains to climb. I already failed my attempt to get two via fighting Caesar, and it is highly unlikely I’m going to go and punch some Deathclaws to death, considering just how much they freak me out. I can’t seem to sneak machine guns into the casinos to kill Chairmen, White Gloves, and Omertas. Burning Cazadors to a crisp is risky business, and I think I’ve done it twice so far. It’s all looking hopeless. But we’ll see. I mean, I guess that’s why they are called challenges.

Remember to be a conscientious driver in Mafia II

It’s a nice afternoon. The sky is blue and clear of clouds, the radio is rocking a head-bopping tune of ol’, and Empire Bay is doing its post-WWII thing. Vito Scalleta and his best friend Joey Barbaro are out for a relaxing drive through the suburbs. Well, relaxing for them. In truth, they are heading to a house, and when they get there, they find a man outside watering his grass with a hose, looking all non-threatening. As quiet as can be, the two of them sneak up behind the man, toss out a cliche saying like, “Blah-blah-blah sends his regards!” and then shoot the life out of him.

The dynamic duo speeds away from the pursuing cops, and as they do, Vito runs a red light–at 70 or 80 mph, mind you. Joe, in all seriousness, berates him for this: “Did you not see that light was red?”

Sadly, Vito doesn’t come back with, “Did you not see we just obliterated a man’s body with bullets and now need to get away so we don’t get locked up or shot to death ourselves by the blue meanies and don’t really have time to obey traffic laws?” Instead, Joe’s line hung in the air, awkward and out-of-place, a piece of dialogue added to the game to instill realism, but working completely against that when context is not considered.

Also, this is going to be my last post about Mafia II. I swears it.

Open-world games thrive on minutiae. From idle chatter to signs in store windows to people carrying umbrellas when it starts to rain, it’s the little things that make the big thing whole. This is probably unfair, but I’m going to compare Mafia II to L.A. Noire, mostly because I view the games as quite similar, but far from each other’s levels. For most of the time, you go on missions with a partner in Mafia II, meaning you always have someone to talk to in the car. Conversely, someone’s always there to comment about your lackluster driving skills. This was the same way things went down in L.A. Noire, but when Cole Phelps would get yelled at for running a red light or hitting another car, it was never because it was Cole being an idiot. It had to do with reminding us that Cole was a man of the law and should set good standards for those watching from the sidewalks; it was there to remind us that we were occasionally driving someone else’s car, and he didn’t like to see it get dinged and danged up. It made sense there and then.

In Mafia II, you are a horrible human being. You kill for money, and that is all you see before your Italian face each and every new day you wake up. And so it just sounds bizarre to hear fellow murderers getting all up at arms over misconduct on the road. Especially during missions where you are trying to chase down another car. Of course you are going to run red lights then. That’s how you chase something, Joe. You can’t do both, commit murder and be a safe driver. This was just one of the more jarring moments in the game, coupled with the fact that the law will shoot first and ask questions later. Imagine a world where if you ran a red light you were popped in the face at close range by a trio of officers. Seems understandable, right?

Okay, that’s it for Mafia II. I’m out.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #18 – Mafia II

Driving along in
My automobile, this game
Is far from genteel

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.

The longest journey in BIT.TRIP RUNNER has come to an end

The Odyssey by Homer tells the story of Odysseus and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It is, by no means, a simple skip across the pond. I mean, it takes the man ten years to reach Ithaca, and that’s after the ten-year Trojan War. Do the math correctly, and you’ll end up somewhere around the twenty years mark. That whole time, his wife and son believe him dead and must deal with their own problems. It’s epic in all manners, and if you never read it, you should.

Related to all that, I, too, have just finished a long and epic journey. Sure, sure, it was in a videogame, but it still took time and sweat and perseverance and determination and sacrifice and the occasional curse word or two. I’m talking about the Odyssey level in the first world of BIT.TRIP RUNNER, naturally. I beat it. Finally. See so right here:


LONGEST.JOURNEY: Complete Odyssey

I know, I know. That is unarguable proof, but whatever. Check my Steam profile Achievements if you don’t believe me.

Anyways…this level. This level. It was truly a test of my patience, and if you know me well enough, then you know that I am brimming with patience. It’s all I do–be patient. I’ve been attempting to complete the longest journey for a few months now; getting to the final level is fairly easy in the grand scheme of things, but completing it, surviving all obstacles and making it to the end in one unbreaking stream of motion…well, obviously it’s not impossible, but it is most definitely improbable.

I first attempted to beat it with keyboard controls, but eventually switched over to a plugged-in Xbox 360 controller. This made things easier, but never easy. Jumping, sliding, jumping + kicking while in midair…I can do it all much faster via pushing a button than fumbling my fingers across a keyboard. Not sure why I didn’t make the switch sooner, but I think part of me believed that one was supposed to play it that way, and that using a controller was, in the eyes of the developers, considered “cheating.” And you probably don’t have to ask, but no, I did not collect all the gold bars in Odyssey–AND I NEVER WILL.

Okay, so now I’m stuck on the boss battle directly after this level. Its name is Mingrawn Timbletot, and it’s a flying spaceship that is a pain. You’d think that once someone completed Odyssey, everything thereafter would be like gliding on ice. Nope. I can get past the first two “forms” of the boss, but once he starts spitting out mini-ships in a slightly unpredictable pattern, I’m done. Just can’t nail the timing right. Guess I really am following in Odysseus’ footsteps; hopefully I’ll complete the first boss zone some time during the next twenty years. Hopefully…

The monotony of Mafia II

There are a couple of new(ish) videogames out for the Xbox 720 360 that have my interest, but after spending $60 on Game of Thrones: The Game and not even wanting to play it any further than the opening chapters due to “dog stealth” fatigue…I’m thinking I need to hold back for just a tiny bit. Finish some titles I have instead of just buying more, more, and more. For those curious, the games I’m mulling about right now are The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (probably what I want the Game of Thrones muck to actually be) and Dragon’s Dogma. Yup, RPGs. What a shocker.

So, Mafia II. It’s a game I waited a long time to receive as it was being passed around by the First Hour gangers, and then when I got it, I played for a little bit before being severely turned off by the main character’s lack of conscience and unwavering drive to make money, no matter who ended up in the woodchipper. I stopped playing during the mission where you had to sneak inside a building and steal some gas stamps; I failed it a few times due to being spotted and wanted the Achievement that rewarded players for going unnoticed, but then I forgot about the whole thing for many months. Until last week, that is. Go me:


The Professional (10G): Obtain the ration stamps without raising the alarm.

Boom. Well…silent boom. And so, completing this mission helped fuel me forward, as the game moves at a rather quick pace. Not an exciting or fun pace, mind you, but a pace that a man running a marathon would appreciate. Though I did almost give up on the whole thing once Vito Scalleta got to prison and you had to do so many fights, which are probably the worst parts of the game. Especially when it just seems like you press the dodge button, and then you don’t dodge the hit. Frustrating and clunky to be sure. I hope there’s less fighting to come though I know there’s an Achievement for knocking out 30 dudes this way. Might not be worth the grind…

Tara enjoys watching me play Mafia II. Guess it reminds her of L.A. Noire, and I can see that in certain spots. It is, of course, nowhere as amazing, but there is some overlap. However, there are times I can’t get over the extremely monotonous activities this game makes you do as a player, such as handing out boxes of cigarettes, scrubbing toilets and floors, and using squeegees to clean windows. Like, those are the things you do between more back-and-forth driving and more hide-and-seek shooting. Oh, and filling up your gas tank. Cause I don’t get to do that enough in real life. Anyways, when these fireworks-inducing moments happen, I like to exclaim, “Videogames! 2012!”

Other than chapter-related Achievements, here’s two more that I earned with my supreme driving and shooting skills:


The Enforcer (10G): Kill 50 enemies.


Get Rich or Die Flyin’ (10G): Get all wheels of your car into the air for at least 20 meters and then touch the ground again.

Right now, I’m in the middle of Chapter 10, helping my less-than-stellar friend Joe clean up a little accident. According to the list of Achievements…there are 14 or 15 chapters total, which means I’m close to the end. That’s surprising, but I’m okay with that. I just want to complete Mafia II and be done with its utter blandness. The only thing I’ll miss is putting the speed limiter on and driving around the city to some truly great tunes. Oh well. Guess that’s what Grooveshark is for these days.

Samus Aran is not the boss of the bosses in Metroid Fusion

I know I previously made the bold claim that Metroid Fusion wasn’t really worthy enough for further musing over, but here I am, eating my typed-up words, writing more about Samus and her attempt to stop the X infection on SR-388. It’s what I’ve been playing since my time of running errands in Little London came to a close, as well as after I realized just how much freaking grinding I’d have to do to get my team of Pokemon up to decent snuff to even attempt the final fight(s) with confidence. If anything, with it being so linear it is nice to have confident direction. Yeaaaah.

Man, I sure do love linking things in my opening paragraphs.

Moving on, I hate the boss fights in Metroid Fusion. I think they are initially unfair and frustrating. I think they are unclearly communicated. After I lose each boss battle, I put the game aside for a few days, just not wanting to deal with it all. Granted, I probably thought–and still do to some extent–the same way about the boss fights in the fantastic Super Metroid. Phantoon and Botwoon proved to be tricky, and I absolutely remember tearing up in frustration when Draygon would constantly pick Samus up and drain her life, with me just watching it happen, helpless and mad. Oh, and Ridley–the second time in Norfair–was no walk through the lava-themed park. But those are that game‘s bosses, and when you defeated them, that was mostly it. You didn’t have to then fight a second enemy immediately after while still low on health and missile ammo and nowhere near a save spot.

See, in Metroid Fusion, the Core X has infested and mimicked different monstrous creatures kept on the station. As you battle Core Xs, they’ll use abilities stolen from Samus against you, and when you defeat them you’ll recover these lost abilities. Makes sense, really. But first you must defeat the monster the Core X is hosted in. Then you must destroy the Core X right after. The problem I keep running into is that I just barely make it through that first portion of the fight, and then have to deal with a zig-zagging Core X blob that is hard to hit, but loves hitting Samus. When she dies, it’s back to your last save spot, wherever that might be. Mine are never that far away, but far enough that it’s annoying.

So, last night, the stupid spider boss Gedo X just slapped Samus away in the above mentioned manner, and that was it for my gaming time. Which is a shame, as I had just stumbled upon not one, but two fantastic nods to Super Metroid that got me smiling and reminiscing all the same. Oh well. I’ll try again. You hear that, Gedo X? Samus will return, and this time, she’ll be planning for victory. Two of ’em.

The missing videogames from E3 2012

Well, E3 2012 has come and gone, and the general reception to it as a whole has been…pretty lackluster. That no one company “won” or really brought out the big guns or even seemed to understand what to focus on. It all felt like padding and skirting around what’s to come and that there’s still no reason anyone should purchase a Nintendo Wii U or feel excited about Internet Explorer becoming available on Xbox 360 for all your non-gaming browsing needs.

A few new games got announced or shown off more, and that’s all good. Truly, many of them look like a whole bag of fun. I’m really interested in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Assassin’s Creed III, LEGO City Undercover, The Last of Us, Dishonored, and Watch Dogs. Now, of course, I probably won’t get all of these games when they come out, especially considering some are for the PS3 or next-gen consoles, but they have at least got me thinking about them. Mostly the ones from Nintendo.

However, some games did not appear in any capacity, and that’s a little saddening. Maddening, too, considering a few are–to me, mind you–crazy big properties that could really have had an impact on an audience the size that E3 2012 draws.

Here’s what got no love this year…

Animal Crossing 3DS

Breaks my animal-loving heart, this one. It’s coming out this fall in Japan, which leads me to believe it’ll arrive in the United States by spring 2013, but man. This should have been a launch title. This should have be a post-launch window title. This should have been more than something kept in the shadows, let out occasionally to eat and breath. It’s a game designed around using your 3DS every single day. Think about that. It’s probably being held back to align with the Wii U–whatever, Nintendo.

Fantasy Life

I am really worried about Fantasy Life. It first surfaced in August 2009 with a really charming art style and the promise of living a typical life in a typical fantasy realm. Baker, merchant, priest…your call. Looking back at it now, I see Professor Layton’s London Life in a lot of those screens; unfortunately, that style was not to last, as the game got reskinned for the 3DS, looking different but still touting great gameplay. Nothing new has been reported on it for a long, long time, and so it might be dead and done. Boo.

Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest 3/Rocket Slime 3DS

Boats. Boooooats! I’ve not yet completed my copy of Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime for the Nintendo DS, but the time I spent with it was a great. Light-hearted Zelda-like action full of puns and crazy tense tank battles. It’s a quirky game that truly deserves a sequel like this. Japan is getting it. Will the United States though? The silence is kinda telling…

The Legend of Zelda Wii U

Nintendo showed some demo-like stuff last year for a new Zelda game on the Wii U. You’d think that some 365 days later they’d have more to show or solidify with that project. Um…nope. New consoles from Nintendo live and thrive on new experiences from their constant standbys Mario and Link, and it just doesn’t seem like that’s happening this time around. Which is, obviously, quite worrying.

The Last Guardian

Guess the devs are still working on that pivotal cinematic scene where your birdy companion dies in a tragic way and somber music plays for two minutes while you use up every tissue within arm’s length.

So, yeah. Hopefully more info on these games will pop up in other places this year. It’s just a shame we didn’t get much on ’em from the people working on them at E3 2012.

What were you hoping to see this year that didn’t make an appearance?

Everyone talks in the LEGO Batman 2 demo for the 3DS

Of all the LEGO videogames in my collection, I have to say that LEGO Batman is not my favorite. It was harder to get into due to not following a movie or comic script, as well as dealing with the fact that I’m no hardcore fan of the caped crusader and his many plights. Also, a lack of characters to play as–limited mostly to just Batman and Robin–was not made better by the inclusion of different wearable suits to solve puzzles. I played it, and I played it to completion back in August 2009, but that was the last time I touched it or thought about the black sheep in any great capacity.

Before I go any further, as a non-spoken rule when ever mentioning LEGO Batman, I feel like I must share this l’il comic I did many moons ago, which Tara was, by pure luck, talking about the other day. I think it hits the mark for all LEGO videogames, both past and those to come. Anyways, here:

Right. I mean, every LEGO videogame so far has its own brand of fun and excellent co-op moments, but if I listed them all in a High Fidelity sort of way, LEGO Batman would be at the bottom. If I remember correctly, you got to play as the villains for a bit after completing the game, but by then I was just going for 100% completion, so whatever.

Last night, while watching the Nintendo 3DS live showcase–which, mind you, neglected to give any love to Animal Crossing 3DS, a title able to sell millions and millions and millions–watchers were informed that a free demo for LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes was availabe on the Nintendo eShop. Off I went to use up my limited number of blocks.

Hey, true fact time: this is the first LEGO videogame I’ve ever played on a handheld. I know.

Right. The demo begins with a cutscene, and the first thing that jumps out is that all the characters now talk. Gone are the days when LEGO boys and girls would mumble and gesture their way through a scene. It’s a little weird at first, but the silliness is still prevalent in the tone of dialogue and antics of the characters. In short, you’ll quickly forget that they couldn’t talk soon after. There’s an award ceremony happening, and just before what’s-his-name can get some shiny trophy the Joker shows up with his motley crew to ruin the party. Bruce Wayne disappears while the Joker monologues, literally popping back into the room via the Batmobile. Then the game part starts and…it’s a LEGO videogame level. That might sound a little negative to you, quiet reader on the opposite side of this screen, but it’s mostly not. You punch stuff, you collect studs, you flip switches and construct things and switch between characters for different skills. I also had to do battle with Poison Ivy, The Riddler, and The Joker.

However, one aspect really stood out, and not in a great way. Since this is my first LEGO videogame on a handheld, I don’t know if this has been a series staple or if it’s new for LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes, but the actual earning of the esteemed SUPERHERO reward, which is given to players that collect a specific amount of studs in the level, is severely underwhelming. On the Xbox 360, it is presented with a nice-sounding boom and a flashing of the title across the screen. On the Nintendo 3DS, the words just quietly appear on the screen with zero pizzazz. All that work…slighted.

So, all in all, LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes is certainly serviceable, but I think I’m going to save my blue/purple LEGO studs for LEGO Lord of the Rings, which is more than likely coming out this holiday season to ride The Hobbit‘s curtails.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #17 – Professor Layton’s London Life

Start in Humble Homes
Stop comet from killing all
Crumm wants more Swinefish

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.