Monthly Archives: December 2018

Here’s all the big and small games I completed in 2018

My plan for 2018 was to continue with my mega-, ultra-popular format of writing a haiku when I completed a game, but also throwing in some of my original artwork into the mix. I started strong, but by the time I got admitted to the hospital and got diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in July, my focus quickly changed to other projects. Heck, I didn’t even continue on with just artless-haikus. Well, that’s a bummer. I still did manage to keep a list of all the games I finished off, in case you are curious. It’s definitely smaller than previous years, but I’m fine with that.

Right. Here, check ’em out:

*** – came out in calendar year 2018

1. Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack
2. Samantha Swift and the Hidden Roses of Athena
3. Where is 2018? ***
4. Wolfenstein: The New Order
5. 2000:1: A Space Felony
6. Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara
7. Hitchhiker: First Ride ***
8. Echoed World
9. Sprout
10. Back to the Future: The Game
11. Banyu Lintar Angin – Little Storm
12. A Raven Monologue ***
13. THOR.N
14. Robin ***
15. Quiet City
16. All Our Asias ***
17. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
18. Legendary Gary ***
19. ERROR: Human Not Found ***
20. Packing Up the Rest of Your Stuff on the Last Day at Your Old Apartment
21. Brave: The Video Game
22. Dord ***
23. SUPERHOT
24. The Flood ***
25. Garden of Oblivion ***
26. Late Night Wanderer
27. In the Hollow of the Valley
28. Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan
29. Umfend ***
30. How to Cope with Boredom and Loneliness
31. Quidget the Wonderwiener
32. I’ll Take You To Tomato Town
33. Thirty Flights of Loving
34. Marie’s Room ***
34. Chairs for Bashir ***
35. LEGO Jurassic World
36. Subject 13
37. Korgan (Prologue) ***
38. Frightened Beetles ***
39. Sol705
40. A Day in the Lie
41. YOU LEFT ME
42. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
43. Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle ***
44. Prey
45. Wolfenstein: The Old Blood
45. Roses & Heart ***
46. Anodyne
47. Escape from Jig
48. Borgo the Cat
49. Mark of the Ninja: Remastered ***
50. Burly Men At Sea
51. Azurael’s Circle: Chapter 1
52. LEGO City Undercover
53. Spyro: Reignited Trilogy ***

Phew. Not bad, not bad.

And with that, I’ll be continuing to write haikus for the games I complete in 2019, but I’m not going to stress about including artwork this time. Stay tuned for one tomorrow because I always like to beat something on the first day of the new year. It’ll likely be a tiny, indie thing, but hey, it still counts.

Also, while we’re here, let me list a few games that I’d really like to polish off in 2019, and yeah, some of these are repeats from previous day-dream sessions, but I am still determined to get the job done: EarthBound, Suikoden 3, Radiant Historia, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and more than a dozen of games I can’t remember that I got on either Steam, GOG, itch.io, the Twitch app, the Xbox app for Windows, Blizzard’s app (I evidently have a free copy of Destiny 2 in there, just waiting for me to dive deep into it, if it’ll run at all on my laptop), and the Epic Games launcher, which I have not yet installed, but probably will at some point because I truly don’t have enough free games to play. Ugh.

See y’all next year!

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There’s beyond plenty to do in LEGO City Undercover

For Black Friday this year, I purchased three games digitally for my Xbox One–LEGO City Undercover, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Batman: Arkham City. Go me. And yes, I’ve technically already played Batman: Arkham Asylum on my PlayStation 3, but this came as part of a two-game bundle, and the price was too good to ignore. I think it was about $5.00. But I’m not here to chat about the Batman…instead, let’s get into Chase McCain and his big-city antics.

Naturally, LEGO City Undercover takes place in the vast LEGO City, with players controlling an undercover cop appropriately named Chase McCain. Chase goes on the hunt for criminals, with various moves at his disposal, such as swinging across poles and performing wall jumps. He can also gain disguises throughout his quest to take down Rex Fury that give him additional abilities, such as a robber disguise that lets him break locks, a miner that can use dynamite, or a firefighter to put out fires and chop down boards on doors. Chase can also pilot a number of different vehicles, such as cars and helicopters, and use loose bricks to build various special structures. It’s basically a severely toned-down version of Grand Theft Auto, but with more building and people jumping out of the way of a car driving down the sidewalk.

This is a totally original LEGO story, for once not based on any sort of previously established universe and/or characters. Upon McCain’s return to the titular LEGO City, the mayor reveals the city is in the grips of a crime wave, which she suspects to be the work of Rex Fury, a notorious criminal that Chase initially helped to arrest, but who has since escaped from prison. Chase is tasked with finding him. To assist him, Chase is joined by dim-witted rookie Frank Honey and police technician Ellie Phillips. However, McCain’s grand return is not welcome news for Natalia Kowalski, Chase’s ex-girlfriend, who was forced into the witness protection program after he inadvertently revealed her as the witness in Fury’s trial. I mention all these characters by name because they truly make the story work, fun, and engaging, and Frank Honey is just so goofy and dumb as LEGO bricks that you have to love him.

LEGO City Undercover is packed with humor, references, and silly gags, as one might expect from the folks at Traveller’s Tales. Some of these I think might go over many children’s heads, but I spotted several and smiled constantly. There’s an early level that is entirely a pastiche of The Shawshank Redemption, complete with a Morgan Freeman impersonator. Later, you have to follow the instructions of a construction worker who sounds exactly like one Arnold Schwarzenegger, with him even mentioning that we need to “get to the chopper.” The game definitely has its own voice and sense of style, and the writing is engaging and goofy, even when attempting to hit some emotional beats. There’s a redemption arc for McCain, but it falls a little flat with all the goofiness around his actions.

And now, the most daunting aspect of LEGO City Undercover is just how much stuff there is to discover. I’m talking collectibles here, and LEGO videogames have just continuously gotten bigger and bigger with each new entry. However, this feels like a bit too much, yet sadly I will have to collect every single one of them or forever not sleep soundly again:

  • 39 Red Bricks
  • 305 Characters
  • 120 Vehicles
  • 450 Gold Bricks

Now, those 450 gold bricks are tied to at least over a dozen different types of activities, such as punching ATMs, destroying boulders, doing time trials, chasing down aliens, watering flowerpots, and so on. Basically, if you do something special or attached to a specific character disguise for McCain, you get a gold brick. Hooray. Since beating the game the other day, I am just a smidge over 100 gold bricks and somewhere in the 35% completion total rate, which means I have a long road ahead of me.

Other than LEGO City Undercover glitching out on me a few times, I’ve generally had a good time with the game. I wasn’t too keen on having to collect building bricks along with studs, but it hasn’t been an issue, and once you beat the game you get an automatic x2 multiplier to the activity. Still, there’s lot of things left to build, so maybe I’ll end up hating the grinding for building bricks by the end. If you don’t hear from me in a month’s time, please send help.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Sparkle 2

I never played Sparkle 1, if it was even called that, but I can’t imagine it being too different from Sparkle 2, today’s game du jour for being on the chopping board. I feel like I’m making a good dent on this sojourn of mine to rid myself of all these PlayStation Plus titles, but there are still so many left on my PlayStation 3 to go through. Woe is me, I know. How I must suffer at the hands of all these freebies of varying quality.

Anyways, Sparkle 2 is a marble shooter action puzzle game–woah, that’s way too many adjectives–that tasks you with eliminating snake-like lines of colored balls by matching three of them to make them vanish. Yup, it’s a match three, but the twist of the lines moving along a path helps keep the experience somewhat fresh. I say somewhat because, well, there’s only so much that can be done with a match three style game. I dip into these every now and then, such as with Tumblestone, Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight, and Adventure Pop, but never hang around for too long. Actually, the only one I truly continue to check in on these days is Gems of War, and that’s probably more because it reminds me so much of Puzzle Quest, where I really got hooked.

Evidently, Sparkle 2 comes with a story, a reason to match all these differently colored marbles. See, a long time ago, five enchanted keys were created. The keys were scattered around mysterious lands and still remain undiscovered. Many have come to find them, but alas, so far, all have failed. Now is your chance to shine and find these keys and unlock their secrets. It’s either that or join the endless ranks of souls forever trapped within this fantasy land. It’s honestly not much to go off of, but it is at least something, a thin carrot on a stick to chase after. That said, after finding two keys, I still don’t really follow the plot one bit.

I played Sparkle 2 for at least four hours, finishing about thirty or so levels and finding two of the five missing keys. How do I know I put that much time into it? Well, one, there’s an in-game timer, and two, you get a Trophy for playing that long. Go me. The game’s controls are thankfully tight, which they need to be if you are going to try and shoot marbles as quickly as possible at moving targets. There’s no guide though, so you have to do your best to line things up, and some power-ups help more than others. I really liked the one that turned into a bunch of fireflies to clear out multiple balls at once.

Well, I’ll fire one more colored ball, this time at Sparkle 2 itself, eliminating it from my PlayStation 3 and making room for whatever PS Plus game is next to cross my path.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Grinding Down’s Top 10 Games of 2018

2018 has certainly been an interesting year, and not just in terms of videogames. I definitely did not complete as many as I have in the past, eventually giving up entirely on my idea to do little drawings to go along with my haiku reviews. For 2019, I’m just sticking with the much-beloved haiku format from the past as I have other art projects to focus on. Still, I played a good amount of games, though many of the games I played don’t really have an ending to find, and that’s okay. Not everything in life needs to see closure.

Some games that almost made my list are as follows: Detective Pikachu, LEGO Incredibles, House Flip with Chip and Jo, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. All four I’ve started and are in various stages of completion, but that’s not why they aren’t included below. I’ll provide a few more details.

Detective Pikachu is super cute, but a little slow-going, especially when you can clearly see the answer to a puzzle miles ahead of hitting it but are forced to go through all the investigative steps beforehand; that said, I’m absolutely stoked to see the movie next year. LEGO Incredibles is, well, not to be punitive, but another LEGO game, with all the pros and cons that come with such a statement. House Flip with Chip and Jo is one of the better free-to-play games on a cell phone, but it loses points for breaking for two weeks after some big update. Lastly, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker on the Nintendo 3DS is beyond adorable, but I haven’t done too many levels yet, but I love how much replay-ability the levels have, and my need to complete all challenges in each one before moving on is uber strong.

Onwards we march, to my top 10 games of 2018…

10. Harvest Seasons

Look, this game is an idle clicker, so there’s no real story here or magically nifty game mechanics, but I constantly find myself drawn to these experiences because…well, there’s always something to do in them. From upgrading to planning ahead to simply clicking away without caution. Everything you do generally leads to progress, even restarting from scratch. Previously, I fell hard for things like Time Clickers and AdVenture Capitalist, and Harvest Seasons is another good one to have open on my laptop while I’m drawing my comic about colon cancer next to it. I wrote about it over in this post if you want more details on how it works; also, it’s free, and you’ll find a few more freebies in this list because not every free to play game is completely terrible.

9. All Our Asias

In 2018, I played two games from Analgesic Productions, after really enjoying Even the Ocean a couple years ago–specifically All Our Asias and Anodyne. One I was mesmerized by, and the other was fun and challenging if somewhat unclear. In All Our Asias, you are tasked to explore someone’s mind and discover their secrets in a surreal, PlayStation 1-like world. The story covers heady topics like father-son relationships, Asian-America, and race. I can’t say I related to everything going on here, but it was nonetheless fascinating to explore and see unfold. A lot of games come out now that try to callback to the PS1 or SNES/NES days, but none have been as successful at capturing the tone and feel of a time long gone as All Our Asias. It’s spooky and haunting in a way that a game drenched in fog, like the original Silent Hill, can only be. It’s not a horror game, but it leaves a mark in your memory. Once again, this is a freebie on Steam, so I highly recommend you give it a go.

8. Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle

Puzzle games are probably the genre that most get under my skin, often making me feel small and stupid. I’d like to think I’m neither, but sometimes my brain just breaks. For example, I only got so far in The Witness because it became too much to grok and hold all those different rule sets inside my head as I moved from one area to the next. However, I can’t stay away from them. Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle, the third free-to-play game on my top 10 list so far, didn’t frustrate me too much, most likely because it contains an in-game walkthrough for any puzzle you get stuck on. You play as Jason Voorhees as he goes on his teenager-killing rampage, but you can only move him in so many directions based on the layout of the map. It’s both cartoonish and ultra-gorey, and you are always leveling up, getting new costumes and weapons to use against these dumb-as-bricks kids. For a game all about murder, it’s a lot of fun.

7. Legendary Gary

I was lucky enough to snag a copy of Legendary Gary straight from the developer. I’d been interested in the game from the very start of the year, loving the artwork and unique take on turn-based combat. It didn’t hit every note for me, in the end, but I greatly enjoyed Gary’s fantasy and real-life equivalent adventures, and the soundtrack is simply hypnotic. The fighting is the main meat of the game, but I felt there wasn’t enough of it to really get a grip on how it worked. That said, there was also no grinding needed to reach the end, which I will always appreciate. It’s a rather short, special RPG, with some heavy decisions to make, and I’d love to see a sequel explore more of the fighting and in-game fantasy world.

6. Subnautica

Look, I’ve put a decent amount of hours into Subnautica and still really haven’t left the first main area of the game. It feels a lot like my first go at Dragon Age: Inquisition, wherein it was just hard to leave the starting area of the game because there was so much to see and do. Plus, I’m a teeny tiny bit scared of what else is out there; oceans are deeply unexplored, and if Planet Earth has taught me anything it is that the strangest critters and fish live in the darkest depths. I like that there’s not a ton of hand-holding here, and you have to scavenge what you can to build better gear and upgrades, all of which do push you to explore further and further away from the safety of your crashed pod. I’m considering getting the game on console soon as I’d rather play it there then on my laptop PC which can only just barely run this watery beast.

5. State of decay 2

At some point, I’ll probably just start my camp over in State of Decay 2. I’ve learned more as I played about what should take priority and how to keep everyone happy, but found myself constantly struggling to juggle all the needs and wants and necessities. When I last played the campaign mode, my group of survivors was just barely teetering on the edge of sanity, and I felt like I had explored all the local areas to completion, but didn’t feel confident traveling too far away. That said, the online horde-based mode called Daybreak is a ton of fun, and it also will eventually help with the main campaign by bringing over guns and tech earned by playing multiplayer. It’s not a happy game, but it does a great job of making you understand what it ultimately might take to live through a zombie apocalypse with a bunch of strangers on your side. Maybe.

4. Starlink: Battle of Atlas

I bought the digital version of Starlink: Battle for Atlas, and that was a good decision. I just don’t have room for more tiny toys, even if they finally do something other than take up space, nor do I think it would be fun to constantly swap out weapons on the fly when I can just pause the game and do it much quicker with a few button clicks. Either way, I still haven’t finished the main campaign as I’m enjoying completing a planet’s long checklist of things to do before moving on to the next world. The flying around and shooting at robots feels great, and there’s plenty to upgrade, from your ship to weapons to mods to your pilot’s super ability. Progress is always being made, and the story and characters are a lot of fun. I’m excited to see where everything is going, and there are a bunch more planets yet to explore to my heart’s content.

3. Spyro: Reignited Trilogy

I only recently got into the original Spyro the Dragon games after purchasing digital copies on my PlayStation 3 a couple years ago. It took me a bit to get through the first and second game, and by the time I was working on the third game…a full remake of all three titles was announced. So I stopped and waited patiently, and my patience was greatly rewarded. Sure, not all is perfect, like some difficulty in the boss fights, every single flying-only level, and the fact that we are missing subtitles in the year twenty-eighteen, but the game is still a joy to play. Collecting gems, eggs, orbs, and freeing dragons is still beyond satisfying, and seeing some hidden off to the side or up on a cliff and figuring out how to get there is pure joy. I’ve already re-beat the first two games, even getting 120% in the original Spyro the Dragon for the very first time, and I’m working hard to see the trilogy’s conclusion.

2. Mark of the Ninja: Remastered

I loved the original Mark of the Ninja, and I loved the remastered version I got for free for purchasing the original game years ago. It’s pretty much the same game, with some cleaned up art/cutscenes and a piece of DLC I never got to play, so for me, it was great going back into this world of stealth and stabbing and relearning all the tools and tricks to make it out alive. Melanie and I especially enjoyed going for all the seals that required a lot of points, figuring out how to milk the most out of a kill by hiding the bodies or throwing them into a group of unsuspecting guards. It became a game within a game, and I popped all the Achievements except for the one that wants you to play it all over again via New Game+. Maybe one day down the road I’ll take that challenge on, but for now…I’m good. I’m a good, little ninja-man.

1. Fortnite Battle Royale

Shortly before being admitted to the hospital in July and discovering I had cancer, I bought the Battle Pass for Fortnite Battle Royale. I figured, at that point, I had played enough of its truly free mode to warrant such a decision. Also, you can totally earn enough V-bucks playing the game to purchase the next season’s Battle Pass, so long as you don’t blow it all on costumes, dances, or strange emotes.

The weekly challenges, along with the daily missions, really made playing the game more fun, as I was terrible–and probably still am–at building and shooting. However, I can totally open seven ammo crates in a single match or dance in specific locations like it is nobody’s business, and even my fiance Melanie got into the action. By action, I mean doing a lot of the non-combat missions, but it became something we contiguously worked on together, and was a joy to come home from chemotherapy with new tasks to polish off, all while earning new outfits and such.

One thing that I have grown to appreciate in Fortnite Battle Royale over PUBG is how often it takes risks, tries out new modes or weapons, and generally isn’t afraid to mix things up. It keeps the game feeling fresh. I don’t love every mode, but it is comforting to know that nothing lasts forever. Still, please, Epic, bring back the 50 versus 50 mode. I need it like woah.

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2018

Well, here we are once again…the end of a year, and boy howdy has this been one strange, life-changing year. For those that don’t know, this past July I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. At the ripe age of…35. With no family history of this disease or long-showing symptoms. Yeah, it sucks, but I am still positive and fighting it like heck and even drawing a journal comic about my journey through this bastard of a disease so far.

Still, there’s been some good to enjoy as well. For instance, Melanie and I are engaged and getting married next year. Plus, because of my cancer, I’ve now met so many amazing and genuinely good people, people I would have never interacted with before this disease, and they have helped tremendously to make this battle not as scary as it should be. There is so much support out there, you just have to be willing to embrace it. That’s been hard for me, but also rewarding.

That said, this blog of mine is supposed to be all about videogames, not this super serious stuff–that’s not to say gaming isn’t serious; evidently it is now cool to play games, so says the almighty Ninja–so let’s get on with it…

I’ve been doing this Grinding Down feature of mine starring pictures of dogs looking sad and sighing audibly for a while now. Don’t believe me? The proof is in the pudding…or rather the bulleted list below, dating all the way back to 2010, which somehow got featured on the WordPress home page and saw many, many comments. Never happened again since, but maybe this year it’ll get noticed. Anyways, here, go back in time and play the fun game of figuring out if I still haven’t played some of these yet:

Wow, wow, wow…that’s a lot of games I didn’t play then, and might still not have played now. Of course, the brand-spanking new list below is beyond complete, and here are a few other titles I would have liked to play this, but just didn’t find the time: Yoku’s Island Express, WarioWare Gold, Lost Sphear, Octopath Traveler, and The Swords of Ditto.

Okay, here we go.


10. Fallout 76

I pretty much knew right from its announcement at E3 2018 that Fallout 76 was not for me. Still, I held my breath and waited. As it turns out, this game is super not for me. I’m not against online-only games, but I come to the Fallout universe for its strange stories and eclectic characters, and it seems like Fallout 76 has none of that. Just audio recordings and NPC vendors and no V.A.T.S. combat. I get that some of the fun is you doing your own thing and maybe running into another player, which could be friendly or a new foe to fight off, but that doesn’t sound all that entertaining to me. A shame, as West Virginia seems like a cool place to explore shortly after the nukes went off. I’ll keep my eye on it, as Bethesda will probably continue to update it for a good while; here’s hoping they eventually add a campaign.

9. Donut County

Donut County, a wonderful name on its own, is about controlling a hole and filling it with stuff. The experience just seems super chill and silly. The hole gets bigger as you put more stuff into it, and you have to solve some puzzles along the way while dealing with a rude raccoon named BK. The game takes inspiration from Windosill and Katamari Damacy, so you know it has to be stellar. Shame on me. Deep, deep, dark shame on me. Evidently, the game just came out on Xbox One recently…so, no more excuses, I guess.

8. Minit

I own a copy of Minit. I got it fairly recently from the Humble Day of the Devs 2018 Bundle, which also contained a number of other sweet indie titles, such as Burly Men at Sea, RiME, and Hyper Light Drifter. It’s installed on my laptop via Steam. I just…haven’t had the time to sit down and play it, which, when you think about what this game is and how it was designed, is rather humorous. I hope to get to it real soon, but it’ll mostly likely be an early 2019 playthrough at this point. Look out for a future blog post with the ultra clever title of: I’m in it to win it with Minit.

7. Into the Breach

I’m usually not one for strategy games, but there is something cool about Into the Breach. I can’t decide if the cool thing is the game’s title, its general aesthetic, the different mech teams, or the way the battlefield is shown on a tilted angle. Either way, it seems both neat and tough, and I’m thinking this might be a great one to have on the Switch…y’know, next year, when I end up getting a Switch to mostly wait for whatever the new Animal Crossing thing is.

6. Unavowed

I’ve really fallen down on keeping up with the many point-and-click adventure games from Wadjet Eye Games. There was a time in my life where I was obsessed with these things, but then something major happened on the day of Resonance‘s release, and I was soured on just about everything that I enjoyed at that very moment. Since then, I still haven’t played Shardlight, Primordia, or Technobabylon, all of which I own copies of, but it sounds like Unavowed, the company’s latest release, is a good one to jump back into, with its multiple protagonists and ancient society dedicated to stopping evil. Here’s praying I get to it, along with others, somewhere in 2019.

5. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

I’m still bummed to heck and back that the Nintendo 3DS version never made it to the United States, as that is where I like to do most of my Dragon Questing these days, on a handheld device. Still, maybe that will change down the road with enough hooting and hollering. The game is pretty traditional and follows the perilous journey of a hunted Hero who must uncover the mystery of his fate with the aid of a charismatic cast of supporting characters. In short: it’s Dragon Quest, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Alas, I believe the game is currently only available on PlayStation 4 and Steam, and my laptop is most definitely not able to run such a beautiful beast. Boo to that.

4. Return of the Obra Dinn

I played a decent amount of 2013’s Papers, Please, but it was tough and challenging and often made me sad. The next game from Lucas Pope is called Return of the Obra Dinn, and it puts you firmly in the role of a detective. The crew and passengers of a fictional East India Company ghost ship have all mysteriously died, with the game’s objective being to discover how. The player must use a combination of deductive reasoning and a Memento Mortem stopwatch to return to the exact moment of each crew member’s death to determine the identity of the sixty crew members, how and where they died and, if killed by human hands, the name of their killer. Sounds freaking amazing; plus, the 1-bit monochromatic graphical style inspired by games on early Macintosh systems really gives the whole thing an eerie as funk feel.

3. God of War

I have a secret to reveal: I never finished the original God of War. I got real close, and by that I mean…I basically stopped at the final fight against Ares. I don’t recall if I found the whole thing too tough or just didn’t care to see Kratos end his rage-filled journey. Either way, that’s all the God of War I’ve ever played. Missed out on everything since that 2005 debut, but this new God of War seems to be striking a much more somber and serious tone, and that has my interest piqued for sure. I like the mechanic behind throwing your axe and then recalling it. Too bad this is only on PlayStation 4.

2. Red Dead Redemption 2

I’m never going to play this. Also, I’ve still not played the original Red Dead Redemption. The cowboy life just isn’t for me, I guess. Unless you count things like SteamWorld Dig 2 and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. That said, this game sure is pretty, and I love all the attention you can put into Arthur’s look, from his outfit to facial hair to even how stinky he stays. It sounds like too much focus on animation priority really slows things down, but to each their own. Again, I’ll never know, because I’ll never play Red Dead Redemption 2.

1. Marvel’s Spider-Man

One of my favorite demo discs from back in the PlayStation 1 days contained a demo for…Spider-Man, an action-adventure game based on the comics that followed an original storyline and featured narration from the recently departed Stan Lee, rest in peace. I remember it being set on rooftops, and there was some swinging action, some punching of bad guys, and Black Cat was there too. It used the same engine from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, so it has this speedy vibe. I played it a whole bunch, and to me, then, it felt awesome being in control of the Spider-Man. Since then, a whole bunch of other Spider-Man games have come out, and not all of them have been winners. From the sound of things, the latest one from Insomniac gets it right, and truly makes swinging around New York City feel amazing. Alas, once again, not having a PlayStation 4 has cut me off from some solid gems; too bad I’m only planning to get a Nintendo Switch in 2019.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Another World

Another World is an adventuring classic. At least, it seems so. It’s also known as Out of This World in North America and Outer World in Japan, which has only confused me for years because I always thought those were different, unique games…or parts in a series. Nope, they are one in the same. For those that don’t know, Another World released in 1991, and it’s a highly cinematic action-adventure platforming game designed by Éric Chahi and published by Delphine Software. The narrative involves Lester, a young scientist who, as a result of an experiment gone wrong, finds himself on a dangerous alien world where he is forced to fight for his survival.

Here’s some things I just learned about Another World, after giving it a few goes on the PlayStation 3 via the Another World – 20th Anniversary Edition version, which us PlayStation Plus users got for free this past September. It was developed by Chahi alone over a period of about two years, with help only on the soundtrack from Jean-François Freitas. Chahi developed his own game engine, completing all the game’s art and animations in vector form to reduce memory use, with some use of rotoscoping to help plan out character movements. Both narrative-wise and gameplay-wise, he wanted the game to be told with little to no language or user-interface elements. The game was originally developed for the Amiga and Atari ST, but has since been widely ported to other contemporary systems, including home and portable consoles and mobile devices…which is how I am playing it some now twenty-plus years later after always being curious about the legendary beast.

Still, I couldn’t get too far in this one, especially once it became necessary to fire guns at enemies and dodge incoming bullets while also creating shields to block said projectiles. I did okay kicking and jumping over the weird alien worms that fall from the ceiling, as well as running away from the dark-black hulk that chases you at the start of Another World. After that…everything just needed to be too precise for me to figure out. Plus, once you died, which always only took one wrong move or hit, you had to do the whole “rock the cage” bit again, and then try to hit your marks perfectly or be evaporated before you even knew what hit you.

Well…I just watched a full playthrough on YouTube (with no commentary), with a run-time of just over thirty minutes, which includes multiple deaths and restarts. Yeah, I don’t think I would ever have figured some of this stuff out. There are walls you can blast open to let you into new areas, but I don’t see how you’d be aware of them at all as they don’t stand out and the game itself never tells you what you can or cannot do. In one way, that’s freeing and awesome; in another, completely frustrating. There’s a whole section set in a cavern that is blowing my tiny little mind. I get that adventure games are all about exploring and trying your options out until they run bone dry, but again, with no text or inventory system…it’s seemingly impossible to know what is possible in a strange world like this. Also, all your actions require repetition to perfect.

I’ll give credit where credit is certainly due. It looks like Chahi created one fantastic sidekick more than twenty years ago, an alien being who communicated only through gestures and a small lexicon of syllabic barks and encouragements. I think its name is Buddy, but don’t put my feet to the fire on that. I’d place it next to similar strong standouts like Agro, Vivi, and Yoshi. Another World absolutely wrings every ounce of its low-detail scenery, flipping between perspectives and just overall presenting a world unknown to anyone. It’s strangeness is what kept me watching, wanting to see where it all went…which, to be honest, I didn’t fully follow, but I greatly enjoyed the journey from a distance.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

LISA sadistically plays with your emotions and expectations

I’ve only seen Mad Max: Fury Road in terms of the dystopian action series, but it’s possibly one of my favorite post-apocalyptic worlds, even if it is ultimately the most deranged and harshest on its people. LISA reminds me a lot of that movie, though there is much more humor to its telling and characters, and some of that humor works well with the ultra high amount of violence and disturbing imagery…and sometimes it doesn’t gel at all. That’s okay though. In this wasteland, where pain is living, nothing can be perfect.

Right, on with it. LISA is a quirky-as-quriky-gets side-scrolling RPG in the same vein as EarthBound–which I still need to get to ugh–set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Beneath this charming and funny exterior is a world full of disgust, moral destruction, and a general theme of “that’s messed up”; in fact, the game’s full name is LISA: The Painful RPG, which is a little on the nose. Players will learn what kind of person they are by being forced to make some serious choices, which do ultimately permanently affect how the game goes. For instance, if you want to save a party member from death, you will have to sacrifice the strength of your own character, the protagonist called Brad. This might entail taking a beating for them or even chopping off a limb or two. It’s pretty rough out there in this world of no women or children and only power-thirsty men. The story follows Brad as he stumbles upon an abandoned infant, a baby girl, who is later kidnapped.

Naturally, you’ve got all the standard RPG basics to manage, such as weapons, skills, limited energy for special attacks, and numerous stats that can be improved with items, leveling up, or purchasing new equipment. The combat in LISA is turn-based, though Brad’s general attack can be changed with manual inputs to do extra damage per hit, so long as you know the right string of keys to hit to perform the combo. Over the course of the game, Brad will come in contact with a diverse cast–and I do mean diverse–of potential party members that he can recruit by doing a range of odd and random tasks, and each brings their own special personality to combat. Currently, my party consists of Terry Hintz, who is not all that useful honestly, and someone else whose name I can’t remember, but I got them to join after listening to a lot of his sad stories. It looks like there are many characters that can join your party, just like in Chrono Cross.

Items in LISA range from mundane necessities to oddities like horse jerky, sweatbands with fire damage, greasy ponchos, and kung-fu scrolls. No phoenix downs so far. Stats are tied to a character’s level and equipment found or purchased from vendors in one of the game’s many towns. Settlements and towns sometimes offer respite from the outside world with places to sleep, which recovers the entire party’s health and skill points, but also includes randomized, potentially damaging events, such as getting robbed or having a party member kidnapped. You can also save your progress in specific spots.

Generally speaking, whenever games allow me to make moral choices, such as Mass Effect or Fallout: New Vegas, I always play the good guy. Sure, being a rude dude or scoundrel can be fun when it is make believe, but there’s a serious part of me that feels sorry for causing others pain or just being a complete dick for no reason other than to get a reaction. Yes, I care about polygon or sprite-based figures that are essentially just bits of code, and I care even more about how I interact with them. LISA makes being a good guy tough, constantly driving home the notion that being selfish and heartless is the only way to survive in a world like this.

Unfortunately, I think I might be stuck, unsure of where to go next. The problem is that it isn’t often clear where next should be, but also tied to the fact that there are hidden doorways and passages everywhere, and they are exceptionally well hidden. There’s some light platforming to do in LISA, with you being able to hop up small ledges, but falling from a great height will actually damage Brad and his companions’ health. Naturally, sometimes you have to do this to progress, but I can’t seem to figure out where to go. Of course, I could always look up a walkthrough, but I feel like I’m still too early in the game to be seeking outside help. Truly, this is the greatest suffering that LISA can throw at me.