Category Archives: backlog

Games Completed in 2011, #25 – Yard Sale Hidden Treasures: Sunnyville

It might not look like it, but this is going to be a sad Grinding Down post.

Yard Sale Hidden Treasures: Sunnyville, from what I can tell, is one of the last games my mother got to play on her Nintendo DS before she passed away this past December. I remember the day Tara, my sister Bitsy, and I went out searching for Sunnyville at Momma Dukes’ request; we had to even ask the GameStop employee if he had any clue of its existence as I couldn’t find it among the thousands on the shelves. Somehow, he did though, and we got it for her, knowing that it, at the bare least, was a bit of light and distraction during chemotherapy. It’s not a great, amazing game, but it is of the ilk that she loved: finding hidden objects. Her collection has several others from this breed, and she always devoured them within a few days, and then I’d play them after her, and we’d make fun of the lame attempt to add a story to these things and just agree that finding random objects on a random photo brimming with randomness would be more than enough.

And that all basically applies with Sunnyville, too. It’s attempt at a story is modest, but still hilariously unnecessary: you’ve just moved into the neighborhood, into a very empty house, and you decide to scour your neighbors’ yard sales for key items to spruce up your house and possibly win the Superstar Homes magazine contest. And that’s what you do. Go to a neighbor’s house, find items on a list, eventually whittling it down to one or two pivotal ones, find those, and move on. Once you’ve got enough room dressing to complete a section of your house, you’ll see a “before and after” shot of the room, rest up for the night, and start all over again the next day. You need to complete eight rooms, which takes eight days, which really takes…I don’t know. I played this game with little drive, here and there, finding a few items during my lunch break and so forth. My Nintendo 3DS says I logged just under 3 hours in the game; that sounds about right.

My mother played Sunnyville twice, completing it fully both times. I know this because of the three save slots available, two are in her name. I’m not sure if a second playthrough is any more different than the first. I’m glad she got a lot out of it though. Once she was finished with Sunnyille, she passed it along to my wife, Tara, with a short, hand-written note:

Sigh.

Naturally, I miss my mom. Playing this game didn’t do anything to lessen the hurting in my heart; it only allowed me to follow in her proverbial touchscreen taps, relax with a game that helped her relax, escape elsewhere momentarily. Again, not a great game, but one I’m emotionally connected with, hung up on. Would sure love to know what Momma Dukes thought about all the punny names for the neighbors as they got me to even groan every now and then. I can’t wait to see her again.

30 Days of Gaming, #23 – Game with the best graphics or art style

Gameplay always trumps graphics for me, but there are the occasional videogames where the graphics or art style simply just can’t be ignored. It almost gets in the way of whatever you’re trying to get character X to do, and you have to give in, take a hit, sit back and gaze upon the sweat and tears of artists and designers and visionaries alike.

In this generation of gaming, high-res graphics are pushing the boundaries of real and unreal, bringing in unbelievable lighting, textures, and movement. Those cars in the latest Gran Turismo games might as well be plucked right off some heavily raced and televised track; those plants and jungle bushes in Uncharted are covered in bugs, and you know it; those faces in L.A. Noire are true faces, skinned off their respective actors by sick-minded men like Dr. Hannibal Lector and tossed into the game to give you a realism unlike any you’ve previously seen. There’s a new level of game graphics, as well as a new horde of gamers demanding they get better and better. That’s cool and all, but I’m a firm believer that we’ve reached the peak–or a few feet from it–and that this is as good as it gets, which is fine because realistic graphics are not the be-all, end-all, and you just have to look at the indie gaming scene to see what can be done with less…or more creativity.

Games like Limbo, PixelJunk Shooter, Bit.Trip Void, and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom all stand tall with stellar gameplay and a look to match it. Would Limbo have been as haunting as it was if you could actually read the little boy’s expressions? Most likely no. Would those quirky pie puzzles feel as quirky if it wasn’t for that silent films-esque presentation? But enough about those titles. Let’s get wet.

I think Aquaria has a fantastic look to it, nailing a world we honestly don’t know too much about and only get to glimpse sparingly through documentaries or movies or fascinating photos. Like in Finding Nemo, the scenes set underwater in the wild ocean where life is all colors and bubbles were a sight to behold. It’s so foreign and strange under the water, and yet it can be equally calming and uplifting, just floating in the blue, weightless, full of wonder. There are two men behind Aquaria, Derek Yu and Alec Holowka, and Yu was the lead artist. His work gives Aquaria a hand-drawn, storybook style, complimenting the 2D exploration gameplay. It looks gorgeous in screenshots, and then doubly in action. Loneliness is an important theme and feeling in the game; one certainly feels all by their lonesome when swimming gently through open waters or the kelp forest. Items are more detailed in the foreground, but blurry shadows and outlines of other structures in the background give off a great sense of scale. And brain coral never looked so brainy.

I do vow to return to Aquaria and Naija’s troubles someday, maybe a day when my Mac isn’t on the verge of breaking. At least for one more look at beauty in motion.

Games Completed in 2011, #17 – Ratchet: Deadlocked

This isn’t the greatest analogy, but it’s all I got this early in the morning and with only one mediocre cup of coffee to keep my membranes ticking: Ratchet: Deadlocked is the adopted kid in Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank series. You can just tell that it’s not naturally comfortable around its older siblings, what with their love of platforming and exploring open planets. Instead, Deadlocked focuses on shooting and mission-based objectives, giving the game a quick sort of feel; there’s no wandering around, looking for hidden secrets; there’s just the more or less same-same missions on various planets, divided up by hilarious sports-like faux commentary and jesting cutscenes.

Initially, I was a little put off. The missions were so straightforward that I found myself annoyed that I couldn’t wander around as I pleased. Instead, I had to go from point A to point B, shooting all enemies, and so long as I lived to tell the story, that was good enough to make it to the next mission. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. These aren’t really missions…they’re events in a reality TV game show that…um, let me start at the beginning.

In Deadlocked, Ratchet and Clank get kidnapped by Gleeman Vox, the head-honcho behind Dreadzone, a reality TV game show that shares some links with our very own American Gladiators and The Running Man. In order to earn their freedom, Ratchet will have to fight his way to the top of the show’s leaderboards and prove himself worthy. Otherwise, his explosive collar will go ka-boomie. It’s not as interesting of a plot as previous titles, but it works well for the mission-based format, with each planet in Dreadzone acting as an arena filled with challenges to conquer. These range from tiered rounds of enemy swarms, to piloting a huge mech called the Landstalker or hovership, to fixing generators, to boss battles. With Clank on the sidelines, Ratchet gets some new help from two assistant fighter-bots; I can’t recall their names, but they make funny comments and can help with some objectives though I found myself repairing them more often than not.

When you’re not doing main story missions, you can complete challenges to earn more Dreadzone points and currency, which will help you buy upgrades and visit other locations. I ended up buying every mod and every weapon save for one: the Harbinger, which costs 2,000,000 bolts. Eep. I still love that weapons upgrade the more you use them, which is a nice way of getting me to try guns I’m not really interested in. Like the Holoshield Launcher. Still, my favorite weapon is the Miniturret Glove with just about any kind of crazy mod on it. Try it with the Morph mod for a laugh.

The cutscenes and voiceover work for the Ratchet and Clank series has always been top-notch, and there’s no exception here. The commentary during main story missions would usually get a snort out of me, and I still can’t get the way Dallas says Juuuuuanita out of my head. However, I was still surprised to hear Gleeman Vox curse–well, they bleeped it out, but the intent remained there–and it just goes to show how much darker this entry is than others. Kind of like how Jak II was drastically different than what came before it. Not necessary, if you asked me.

After you beat the game, the option for New Game+ opens up, which I both love and hate. I love it for the fact that I could play the game again with my weapons already kicking bolt butt and the chance to earn enough currency to buy the Harbinger, and I hate it for the fact that I don’t really have the time to play Ratchet: Deadlocked for a second time. Sorry, Insomniac. There’s too many other games demanding my love and praise (or wrath), but I had a great time on one playthrough, and that certainly counts for something.

Adding to the Backlog – A whole bunch of drastically different videogames

Suddenly, without warning, my backlog grew tremendously over the last couple of weeks. Actually, no, not without warning–I’ve been buying games pretty frequently, mostly because I’m trying to fill out my PlayStation 2 games collection before all copies of anything PS2-related disappear like pay-phones, cassette tapes, and music videos on MTV. Also, Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger’s pride.

Here’s a little summary of my recent additions:

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

I actually ended up buying a new copy of this game for around $15.00. This totally confused the GameStop employee as he claimed that he had not sold a new copy of a PlayStation game in many, many months. He had no idea where they kept them. He called three people on the phone. Time passed, and I shuffled back and forth on my feet, waiting, wondering. Anyways, I’ve yet to pop this baby into the disc tray. Soon, I’m sure.

Mafia

This is okay. Not quite a GTA clone, but there’s bits and pieces there, as well as a character named Pauly. However, I’m stuck on the third mission. Like, I’ve tried it six times, and I can’t get past it. You’re supposed to bash a bunch of cars up with a baseball bat and then ignite them in a blaze of glory with a molotov cocktail; the problem is that once you’ve smashed up two and a half cars, a bunch of goons with guns attack you, and within a few shots, the main character is dead. I’ve tried it a bunch of different ways, but can’t seem to avoid their shots and finish up the job at the same time.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit

Haven’t played it yet, but the store clerk was excited to see me getting this game. Seems to be more of a platformer than an adventure game, but I’ll give it a shot.

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue

Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, Sly…those were the staples of PS2 platforming titles. However, another series existed, one about a not-so-crazy Tasmanian tiger that kept a nifty collection of boomerangs. I have and enjoyed beating the first game in the series so I picked this one up for super cheap. Shame it has a laughingly bad name. Can’t wait to rescue some bush.

The Simpsons: Road Rage

Tara saw this and said something to the effect of, “The Grand Theft Auto Simpsons!” And she’s a huge fan of the show, much more than I am, so I grabbed it for her for $4.99. However, it turns out it’s more like Crazy Taxi than GTA, but it’s still pretty fun. Love that it has all the true voice actors in it. I got to be Ottoman and drive around a topless school bus.

Tokobot Plus: Mysteries of the Karakuri

No idea what this is, but the Capcom-esque art style and inclusion of a mini army of robots was enough to sell me. It was like $4.00. Haven’t gotten to try it yet.

Now, if I just complete all six of these games in the next week, that’ll bring me up to 25 total for 2011, and then I can gleefully go out and purchase L.A. Noire for the extended holiday weekend. Ha, not likely. Besides, I’ve got a bunch of artsy projects I really should work on instead of playing with pixels. However, I’ll still be searching for other PS2 titles I want…if you have any, please send them to me as soon as possible, and I’ll repay you with a silly drawing. Seriously, that’s the deal. Unless you have Suikoden III. Then I’ll do you a silly drawing…in my very own blood.

Games Completed in 2011, #15 – Picross 3D

Puzzles–this game’s got ’em. Certainly over 350, which is the total number I’ve completed at this point, which includes all the main in-game puzzles, as well as a chunk of downloaded puzzle packs. Either way, at this point, I’m calling Picross 3D completed, especially because my sister Bitsy wants to play it when she’s home visiting family over the summer. I let her take it for a test drive over the Christmas holidays, and she took down around 75 puzzles so far, but has plenty more to chip away at.

I’ve talked about Picross 3D in the recent past here at Grinding Down. It’s a really fun game that, despite being very mathy, is amazingly addicting. Each puzzle takes anywhere from five to twenty minutes to complete, and it was easy to just say, “Oh, well…one more puzzle.” Hours would slip by, and my Nintendo DS would suddenly need charging. You get into a sort of groove with this title, a title that was released at $20.00. I’m now seeing it on sale for $9.99. If you see this for either of those prices or lower, just pick it up. You won’t regret the decision, I assure you. There’s a lot of content here in an easy, friendly package, with bouncy music and simple controls.

The last few puzzles from the final section of Hard mode were a bit maddening, requiring me to use Quick Saves to not constantly lose 15 minutes of progress. I did not unlock every silver and gold puzzle from each section, and that’s okay. Sure, that means one less shape to guess over, but the desire to unlock everything here is not as strong as in other titles. It’s rewarding enough to complete a 10-minute puzzle all on your own, using your brainpower and math skills and twirling the hunk of blocks around with speed and control, with ferocity. And now to just sit back and wait for the horribly named Picross 3D 3DS. You know it’ll happen.

Vitally important question time: do you pronounce it PEE-CROSS 3D or PICK-CROSS 3D or PIE-CROSS 3D?

Adding to the Backlog – Ratchet: Deadlocked, Secret Agent Clank, King’s Field: The Ancient City, Myst III: Exile

Yup, four more games. How did it happen? Well, let me tell you, inquistive Grinding Down reader.

GameStop is currently running their Power Saver Sale to make more room on their shelves for all things shiny and current. That means a lot of used PlayStation 2, GameCube, and GameBoy Advance games need to go, and as we’re all aware, these sorts of stores have plenty of stock available to push. Outdoing their buy two, get one free deal, the current Power Saver Sale is all about buying two, getting two for free. That’s, uh, an extra free game! Not too shabby.

I went to the GameStop by the Leaky Cauldron the other night, but didn’t see anything worth grabbing. Still, this sale is too good to let swim by so I decided to try again, this time visiting the closest one to my workplace. Went out on my lunch break and found both of the Ratchet & Clank games for super cheap, around $7.99 each. I scanned the shelves and bins for other titles I knew I wanted, such as Ico, more point-and-click adventures (if any exist for the PS2), Suikoden III, any of the Yakuza games, and maybe a copy of Psychonauts if I was lucky. Alas, none of those titles were discovered. The best I could find was Myst III: Exile and King’s Field: The Ancient City, both around $2.99 each, meaning these would be my freebies for the Power Saver Sale. I’ve never played any Myst games, but I did read one of the books a long time ago; from what I can tell, it’s kind of like a first-person clicking game. And I guess King’s Field is a first-person RPG starring people with deformed hands…I dunno. Going to go into it with completely fresh eyes and give it a shot.

I am, however, most excited about the Ratchet & Clank games. That series, mainly the original trilogy, had some of the best gameplay to offer on the PlayStation 2, and I had just started moving over to new consoles when the spin-offs and tie-ins came out. These are sure to be a blast, and all that remains for PlayStation 2 playable titles in the series is Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters.

To be honest, I’m getting a little bored with my current Xbox 360 selections. Considering that I recently went back to a five-year old game simply for Achievements, something needs spicing up. My videogaming, that is. And if I’m going to go back and play five-year-old games, I might as well go play some good ones from the PlayStation 2. Well, hopefully good.

The sale ends on April 24, 2011 so get to it. Plenty of great games still available for all three systems. I suggest you go searching, too.

All Achievements Achieved – The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom

Mmm…pie.

And that random observation transitions nicely into the deliciously cool fact that I finally unlocked all the Achievements in The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom over the weekend. I had, for some time, had most of them unlocked, but one was constantly keeping its distance, constantly pesky. Really, really pesky. Like, gee, solve every single challenge ever made if you love pie so much. See here:


Greedy Bottom (40G): Completed all recording and time challenges in the bonus shorts.

Greedy bottom indeed. The bonus levels in The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom require you to solve the puzzle using a set number of clones and within a given time limit. Most often, you have to play the levels twice to get these, but I did grab both of them at once every now and then. The world 5 bonus levels were definitely the trickiest, as they often required six clones to get six pies, meaning if you messed up just once, you lost your shot and had to restart. This, inevitably, got very frustrating, and I had to use an online guide for several of them, which hurt more than you know.

Truthfully, I’m kind of glad to be all said and done with this puzzler. The music can become extremely grating, especially after you’ve failed to steal that last pie for the nineteenth time.

Have a , Mr. Winterbottom. Just don’t eat it.

[Full Gamerscore] UNO

So…full Gamerscore earned for UNO; all 12 Achievements pinged and proudly captured; blah blah blah yadda ya I’m the man blah blah. It happened last night, and I slept quite soundly thanks to it. I polished off a few more rounds of online multiplayer, thus securing the final Achievement and telling the world that, yes, I am a UNO shark. Feels good to finally have another game fully completed that isn’t LEGO-based.

Anyways, reviewing the list of Achievements, it’s clear this isn’t exactly a tough 200 to get. Most just come naturally with time, and the ones that took the longest for me involved playing online games…because I was a Silver member of Xbox Live for a great while.

Favorite Achievement


Skip to My Lou (15G): Play 40 Skip cards.

Skipping an opponent is a lot of fun. I enjoy it more than Reversing or even making them Draw 4 and lose a turn. Skipping just has this quick satisfaction to it, and I love the Achievement’s artwork. Makes me want to throw some rocks across a lake now.

Easiest Achievement


UNO! (10G): Successfully call UNO! and win the game.

This is basically how you win a game…though I guess you could win without calling UNO! but that might get you in trouble with other opponents, forcing you to draw two more cards. Best to just call it and then seal the deal.

Hardest Achievement


UNO Shark (30G): Win ten 4-player games of UNO®, in any mode, on Xbox Live.

It’s the last one I got. Some nights, I’d play two to three games and not win a single one. This is because some people like to play up to 250 points, which is not easy to win in one fell swoop. Other times, I’d be in a game where the first person to go out wins, and that made things easier. Either way, this one required patience and a lot of diligence.

Yay…full Gamerscore! UNO! It excites me to now see a new entry on my Xbox Live dashboard under the fully completed titles section. Maybe I should try to finish up Shadow Complex next, since that’s the closest. Or Winterbottom. One of those. We’ll see. So much more games to play, so little time and sanity left.

Two videogames beaten, but not over with yet

Over the past couple of days, I beat two videogames. Namely, Dragon Age: Origins and Pokemon HeartGold. Both will be getting full reviews from me in the near future, one most likely here and one most likely over at The First Hour, but I still want to talk a little bit about them at the moment…since their deaths are so fresh in my mind.

Both of these games are now beaten. I have seen the end credits roll. And yet, against my power, both of these games demand I continue playing them. In different manners, of course.

For Pokemon HeartGold, they are asking me to play the same game again. The only difference is a new skin to it with new Pokemon to collect, but the fundamentals are all the same: explore the land, collect pocket monsters, defeat gym leaders, and rise to the top of another league for ultimate bragging rights. I’m going to do it, but considering that I just did exactly that for 49 hours…well, I’m not terribly excited for déjà vu to set in.

For Dragon Age: Origins, it’s all about playing the game as drastically different as possible. Because what’s done is done. My Grey Warden character defeated the darkspawn (I don’t consider this a spoiler as, duh, you knew it was going to happen) and now there’s nothing else to do. Can’t reload and venture about Ferelden to do sidequests until the cows come home. Instead, thanks to the numerous origins and different classes and varied dialogue choices, one can play BioWare’s fantasy RPG a second time and experience the complete opposite of what they did before. That’s nice. And also, I didn’t do that Achievement boosting trick where you save before you make a big decision, unlock the Achievement, reload, and then unlock the other one. So I’ll be heading back in to side with the werewolves and help the mages in the Circle Tower and so on. To be honest, I’m looking forward to experiencing it all over again.

Now…about these games’ endings. They were totally lame, especially considering the hours spent to get there.

Pokemon HeartGold tossed an extremely tough battle in your face unlike anything your Trainer ever fought against, and I suspect a lot of players were in the same boat as me. Meaning…lots of grinding to catch up and be halfway formidable. And once that’s said and done, you’re treated to a short scene stating your awesomeness and then credits with little animated Pokesprites running around and being silly. Fade to black. Reload to discover you basically only “beat” 50% of the actual game. Laaame.

Talking about the ending in Dragon Age: Origins is a bit more challenging. I don’t want to spoil specifics, but I really felt like there was a lack of imagination in the final battle. Honestly, your team just moves from zone to zone, fighting wave after wave of darkspawn until you make it to the archdemon, and then you fight it and it releases wave after wave of support enemies and then you kill it and then you’re done. And treated to–and I’m not kidding here–static paintings with some tiny text boxes telling you about what happened to people and places in the years to come. BioWare couldn’t even shell out for some voice actor here after all the speaking that when down during my 41 hours of gameplay. Sigh. There may or may not be more to the game’s ending though depending on some choices you previously made. Time will tell in that department. Either way, it felt kind of lame. Like, that boss battle with that giant tentacle-wielding woman-thing was much more exciting (and original) than this. Oh well. Maybe my second playthrough will reveal something else.

But yeah, despite the fact I’m still going to be playing these for some time, they’re definitely getting crossed off the backlog list as completed.

REVIEW: SimCity DS

Right. I recently gave SimCity DS a second chance and reviewed the first 30 minutes of it for The First Hour. Alas, it’s still not a good game, nor will it ever be. Clunky menus, unforgiving controls, and globby goo graphics hamper the entire experience. I have no plans of ever going back…

You can read my full review of SimCity DS by clicking on this very sentence! Click, click, click!