Daily Archives: December 31, 2013

The Half-hour Hitbox: December 2013

Gears-of-War-1 hitbox post cover

Some inside baseball: I put this post together piecemeal across the whole month. That means that when I play a game and find myself not interested in writing a large post about it–or suspect that I won’t down the line–I add it here, find a picture, and write a quick sentence or two about it. Alas, sometimes I don’t do that last part though, as I’m just not in the mood at that exact moment, and so I’ll have to come back to it, which can be hard, especially for smaller experiences, such as Isaac’s Odyssey, a game I am finding it hard to remember what happened, save for the atrocious grammar I had to read.

Truthfully, I’d rather put this all together in one go, to keep the writing thematic and consistent, but that seems like an impossible task. I get exhausted just searching for Google for decent screenshots. And then there’s too much to juggle in terms of what each game is and does, and I’d be super worried I’d forget something. I want to be able to give everything its due, y’know.

Maybe I will rethink how The Half-hour Hitbox looks for 2014, but for now, let’s end the last month of the year as we have with all the months that came before it since this feature began. To the games!

Oíche Mhaith


What a horrifying experience. I’m not even sure how it qualifies as a game because all you basically do, as a young girl, is walk around your house, get berated by everyone, watch your father go on a murdering spree, and then play with some strange device that allows you to swap personalities between your father, mother, and dog in hopes of making everything right. We’ve already seen the darker side of Terry Cavanagh’s mind in Hero’s Adventure, but this goes nineteen levels deeper, and I’m very put off. You might get more out of this than I did, but if you do, well…I’m now concerned for your state of being.

Annie Android: Automated Affection


Evidently, one of the first little games Ben Chandler ever made, and it certainly is little. I mean, like a resolution size of 320X200. I had to tinker with my computer to make it larger so I could actually read the text and find items, but it still looked good to me. It’s about an android called Annie and the love she wants, which is a fella called Mailbot. Unfortunately, RoboHQ has assigned her someone else as a partner, and off she goes, to control her destiny. It’s pretty fun with some silly characters, like the robot pretending to walk the dog in the park, and the puzzles aren’t too tough, though one required precise timing, and sometimes my clicks missed the mark. An 80s-esque soundtrack full of bumps and thumps plays in the background, and there’s even vocals for the title screen song. You can download the game right now.

Gears of War

Gears-of-War hitbox

Well, I played the first Gears of War game, and I hunkered down and ran through it on the easiest of difficulty settings. Whatever, don’t judge me. Or you totally can. I don’t care, because I don’t really care about Gears of Wars. It’s macho shoot alien monsters in the face tough guy stuff, and all the dialogue is trite and predictable, and every male character is this unshapely mass of muscle and armor. Same goes for the Locust. In fact, on a few occasions, I mixed up one of my allies with an enemy because they look almost identical, and it’s hard to keep track of everyone when they are so drab looking and moving around an even drabber scene of ruined rubble. I was able to play a single online match–surprisingly, not many people are still playing this game despite it being a freebie for December for Gold members–and that was simply okay. Just like with Battlefield 3 over the summer, I can now confidently say that this is not my thing.

Samsara Room

Samsara Room for hitbox

A strange, otherworldly point-and-click game that sees you traveling from one dimension to another all while still being stuck in the same room. The puzzles are intuitive enough to keep you at it, and I enjoyed how the perspective changed each time. Samsara Room‘s ending is abrupt and completely unsatisfying, but getting there is intriguing enough for me to make up my own conclusion. Plus, music by Kevin MacLeod, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite indie game composers. It’s just so relaxing.

Isaac’s Odyssey

isaac's odyssey screen 02

You are a guy trying to escape your dorm room to go to a late-night Comic-Con party. Maybe there’s some Game of Thrones actors boozing it up there or something. Isaac’s Odyssey consists of only two screens and a lot of tiny objects to find and use. It’s not bad in the gameplay department–if a bit old-school–but the writing is simply unbearable. Every sentence either contains a spelling error or strange turn of phrase, and eventually all this overtook my like for clicking on items and using them to solve puzzles. I did eventually escape the dorm room, but that’s the end of the game. Yup, you don’t even get to go to the fancy party. What a dud.

Calm Time

calm time 33873

Chances are, if I had known what Calm Time was ultimately going to be about before I clicked “play,” I probably would’ve skipped it. Instead, I watched in horror as a party went to shambles, and I was the driving force behind the chaos. There’s some direct storytelling here, as well as a basement full of indirect–and all of it is creepy. There’s minimal music throughout save for a creepy piano tingle and some jarring TV-like static, but less is more here, and I can honestly say that the whole experience gave me the shivers. The uncomfortable, I’m-a-monster shivers. Whether that makes Calm Time a good game or a bad game, I really don’t know.

Shoot Many Robots

shoot many robots 12

I think the name Shoot Many Robots is awesome and does a fun job of explaining exactly what you do in this wee downloadable freebie for the Xbox 360. Some levels have you going left to right, and other levels are a single room where you have to survive wave after wave of attacking robots. In short, you shoot robots. Sometimes you punch bullets, too. There’s two main weapons and different kind of backpacks to equip for your dude, which grant various bonuses, and it’s all well and good, but there isn’t much else to do otherwise. I do however enjoy the cartoony graphics and honky-tonk slash metal soundtrack.

Hero in the Ocean

hitbox hero in the ocean 1087_2

A really cute puzzler set underwater. You control a tiny, yellow submarine in search of stars–three per level–and a helpless sea-diver. Each level adds a new puzzle element, such as lasers and unlockable doors, but it’s never overwhelming. By the end, you’ll be a pro at each thing, able to swim swiftly past all the dangers and pick up those shiny trinkets. I found all 45 stars and saved everybody, so go me. Alas, there’s some clunky writing like “you found secret area,” but that can be overlooked for a solid little game that never becomes too much to handle. Plus, the single music track that keeps looping is awesome, starting off slow and somber and building into something bigger than that. In fact, I’ve been listening to it on repeat as I put this paragraph together. I also hope this isn’t taken as an insult to those that made it, but Hero in the Ocean would make a perfect mobile game, too.

Temple Run 2


Speaking of mobile games…this kind of came out of nowhere. The day before Christmas–or was it actually on Christmas day?–Temple Run 2 was released for free on the Windows 8 phone. Mmm. I love free games, especially ones with relatively easy Achievements. And that’s what Temple Run 2 is–a fun, easy-to-pick-up endless runner with a handful of poppable Achievements and enough challenge to keep you going and try for one more run. I played this a lot during my Christmas vacation, mostly because my sister was squeezing the most out of her time with my Nintendo 3DS. It’s pretty good, though I probably couldn’t tell you the differences between this one and the original. I’ll probably end up removing both from my phone soon enough, once I’ve had my fill of running, jumping, sliding, and tilting.

The Walking Dead, Episode 1 – “All That Remains” (season 2)


I just finished this up on Sunday and haven’t even gotten around to writing a haiku for it, but I will soon and will probably write a bigger post about the newest season and how brutal it has already started, but for recording’s sake, it’s here. I also bought the The Walking Dead‘s season 2 pass and am excited for more, if that gives you an early indication of my impressions.

The Half-hour Hitbox is a new monthly feature for Grinding Down, covering a handful of videogames that I’ve only gotten to play for less than an hour so far. My hopes in doing this is to remind myself that I played a wee bit of these games at one time or another, and I should hop back into them, if I liked that first bite.

Most of us have Gears of War we never use

gears of war Xbox 360 final thoughts

Let me be blunt and say this: I can’t believe that Gears of War became a series, and a popular one at that. Well, according to Wikipedia, which probably needs some updating, the game has since sold over 5 million copies as of September 2008–meaning it’s probably much higher–and currently stands as the fifth best-selling Xbox 360 game. Yowza. Really? Really? Y’all on crazy pills.

Gears of War takes place on the planet Sera, but it might as well be Earth. The Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) is a minor political party there, and its soldiers are called gears, despite the obvious coggers sounds a whole lot cooler. The Locust, an alien race, suddenly attacks humanity, a day infamously known as E-Day, and the COG gears do what they can to ensure the survival of human civilization. Flash-forward fourteen years, and the COG is the only human government left on the planet. Former COG soldier Marcus Fenix is reinstated into the military after spending some years in prison for abandoning his military post for…personal reasons. His friend Dominic “Dom” Santiago successfully extracts Fenix from prison, reuniting him with the rest of the Delta Squad in hopes of finding a special device that will help eradicate the Locust’s underground caverns.

So…more or less, the film version of Starship Troopers. Which should not be a problem for me, as I actively enjoy both the film and Robert A. Heinlein’s futuristic military YA romp where soldiers with guns shoot opposing alien bugs. Yes, even the chapters devoted to simply describing powered armor. Alas, Gears of War, despite that grandiose plot summary, is devoid of life, character, characters, and details to make everything greatly interesting.

Right. Let’s do this. I played through Gears of War over the course of several sittings and on the lowest difficulty setting of Casual. It’s highly linear despite the occasional choice of going left or going right, and you, as Fenix, move forward, hide behind shattered walls and car husks, and peek out to shoot at alien monsters also doing the same thing. Once all the shooting is done, you’ll get some story beats, with either a cutscene or Fenix listening to someone tell him what to do via an earpiece. Basically, it’s all about moving forward, finding other members of the Delta Squad–who are constantly getting split up so that it can be just you and one other dude for co-op reasons–eventually leading to Fenix returning to his father’s house to find something a potent anti-Locust weapon. Somewhere in the middle of all that there’s a single vehicle mission, which has you driving and shooting light via a turret at Kryll, highly aggressive flying carnivores that thrive in the darkness. Throw in a couple of boss fights, a few of which don’t actually have you fighting something directly, and that’s the game in a nutshell, replete with a tease for more to come.

Ugh, I don’t know. I just found the entire campaign to be a hollow experience. Fenix and his fellow men are simply big shoulders and massive arm muscles that occasionally grunt and ask a question or make an action movie-like one-liner, but never strive to be real. Fenix, especially. I couldn’t care one bit about him because he just comes across as a brooding mass that refuses to say anything. This was especially apparent when we get to the part where he returns to his family’s home, which is being destroyed by the Locust, and there isn’t a single comment from him. Like, come on. Emote. Be a human being. But no, this is machoism all over again and shares the same problems I saw in Vanquish.

Here, have some positive talk. My favorite thing about Gears of War is the active reload. When you reload your weapon, you have a split-hair second chance to hit the button again and have your gun immediately back in action with a full clip. If you fail this, your gun jams and it takes longer to fix. Each weapon has a different active reload bar, and it made the firefights much more exciting than they actually were, even if it was just a little mini-game between Fenix and his weaponry. I found the sniper rifle to be the trickiest to reload speedily, and that was my key to victory at the end of Act 5.

Strangely, I’m curious about Gears of War‘s higher difficulty settings–Hardcore and Insanity–though I have to imagine it results in just Fenix taking more damage faster and enemies being bigger bullet sponges. I might at least try to play Act 1 again on a higher challenge, to see what that’s all about, as Casual was very much that–an easy walk with the occasional death, mostly because I lingered too long in the open or didn’t run through the Kryll-infested darkness fast enough. I don’t expect to do very well though, but I at least want to try because immediately after that I will be uninstalling the game from my Xbox 360’s hard-drive and moving on to greener pastures. Yes, there’s the multiplayer element to consider, but I was only able to get into one match after many, many attempts, and that’s because I don’t have certain DLC that others do and man, that’s stupid. Borderlands 2 really spoiled me with those compatibility patches.