Category Archives: demo

There’s chaos to create in Just Cause 2

gd early impressions just cause 2 xbox-360

When I first got my Xbox 360, some many years back, I maintained a small collection of games, doing what I don’t do now, which is finishing one before getting another. That all said, I did delight in some extra dessert now and then by downloading free demos of upcoming games, such as the ones for Crackdown 2 and Dragon Age II. I think you can still download free demos to this day, but at this point I have little time for teasers and would rather just wait for the full thing to either come out or be dropped into my library as a monthly freebie. The times, they are a-changing.

Well, way back in 2010, I sampled a bit of Just Cause 2, as this demo did not hold your hand, but rather set you free. There was a short cutscene to explain why Rico Rodriguez, the man with the grapple hook and hunger for explosions, was on this tropical island, and then you have thirty minutes to do whatever you want. I remember restarting it multiple times, trying something new with each go and really enjoying any and all chaos I could create. Strangely, this never did result me in purchasing a full copy of Just Cause 2; thankfully, all I needed to do was wait five years and then I’d get a free copy from Microsoft.

In Just Cause 2, you take control of Rico Rodriguez, an undercover U.S. operative on the Southeast Asian island of Panau–which is not real, people–to track down a former friend, who has disappeared with top-secret intel and a lot of money. There’s also an oppressive dictator to deal with, as well as three rival gangs who are waging war on the island. I’ve only done the first two or three story missions, so not much has unfolded yet, but I’m sure I’ll get to all these plotlines soon enough. Y’know, once I get my fill of running amok and blowing up enemy territory.

Let’s get this out of the way: the story is not written well, made only more ridiculous by the wooden voice acting. Rico’s actor sounds like he is reading the script for the very first time and they only have the ability to do one take. Good thing I’m not here for the story, as playing and making things explode feels really good, especially when you can use Rico’s magical zip-line thingy to zoom away from all the destruction. Like a true cool action hero. I’m not stellar yet at performing stunts while riding on top of vehicles and aiming the grappling hook is occasionally a nightmare. Still, if you can hit an enemy on a rooftop with it and pull them off to their tumbling doom, I highly recommend it. The gunwork doesn’t feel amazing, but I am more of a grenade-tossing maniac from on high sort of chaos creator.

Truthfully, I didn’t mean to dive right into Just Cause 2 after finishing Lara Croft: Guardian of Light and deleting it from my Xbox 360’s hard-drive, but the game was in my download queue already and automatically started once it saw there was enough space opened up. I’m still working on Final Fantasy IX‘s third disc, LEGO Jurassic World on the Nintendo 3DS, and need to get back to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, especially with V only days away from release, though I won’t be getting to it until I finish Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes. Oi. Talk about chaos, right?

Fallow’s demo is full of sorrow and sleepwalking

fallow demo gd impressions

Fallow had me at “Gothic Americana adventure game,” and so I decided to give Josiah Tobin’s personal darling, which looks like a warped version of Pokémon Yellow, a shot. I used to be all about demo trials in my high school years, but other than the special standalone thing for Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, I can’t recall the last time I earnestly tried out a demo. Usually, since I’m so behind as is on current games, I’ll just forget about them for a few months and be surprised when it is actually done and released to the public. However, just the look of Fallow had me hooked. I had to see it in action. Still, nothing tops that Metal Gear Solid demo, which basically gives out the first hour or so of the game for free.

Fallow‘s demo actually ends up providing a ton of background and plot details, but I won’t swear on the Good Book that I understood it all. For starters, you place as Isabelline Fallo, a farmhand in the olden, titular world of Fallow. Unfortunately, she suffers from sleepwalking, often waking up in a new location each morning. This means she has to make her way back home, alone and confused. Plus, it doesn’t help that this isn’t your typical America, brimming with foreign, alien technology and lodestone formations. If I grokked it all correctly, this now desolate and overtaken version of home is the Fallow family’s fault; there was a monument plaque that read something along the line that, as part of their punishment and as a constant reminder, the Fallow family name would now be one letter less–Fallo. Hmm, okay.

As Isabelline makes her way home, she’ll do a lot of exploring, a little investigating, and a pinch of puzzle solving. The puzzles I experienced in the demo are rather straightforward, of the “find the specific item” ilk, but they work well enough. Plus, it is both a joy and bummer to simply exist in this world, to walk around as a beautifully somber guitar lick loops, one not filled with any hope, but written to lull you, put you at ease. I really enjoy how the screen switches over to a first-person shot when you are looking at something worth examining, and if I had any complaints, it is that our sleep-troubled star walks too slow; when your game is mostly walking to and fro, sometimes you just want to hurry along to the next screen, see what else is out there in this strange, crumbling America. The slow pace doesn’t make the backtracking thrilling either.

You too could try out Fallow‘s demo or just wait until it is a purchasable product later this year, seeing as it was Steam Greenlit (Greenlighted?) back in November 2014. If I had been paying attention then and saw it and was the kind of soft soul that did things like support upcoming indie developers, I’d have totally upvoted this.

If only Spyro the Dragon could burn the in-game camera to a crisp

spyro ps1 early impressions

Spyro the Dragon is a cutesy fantasy action-adventure game from Insomniac–y’know, the Ratchet & Clank folk–that I got to play demo-wise way back in the day when videogame magazines came coupled with demo discs or you could even drop five bucks at the local brick-and-mortar store for a retail disc containing a mighty selection of different games to experience. I have a bunch of these in my collection still because I made a vow to myself long ago to never get rid of or trade in anything. In fact, it’s this one here from PlayStation Underground Jampack that I’m talking about, which I guess I got some time in late 1998 or early 1999:

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For those that can’t see due to camera glare in the above pic, on this are demos for Spyro the Dragon, MediEvil, Metal Gear Solid, A Bug’s Life, CoolBoarders 3, NHL FaceOff ’99, NFL GameDay ’99, Rally Cross 2, Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft, and Small Soldiers. Some classic titles there, for sure. Now, for me, a teenager with little cash to my name, spending five bucks ($7.99 for you Canadian suckers!) to sample a smörgåsbord of all games, ranging from sports to action to fantasy to RPG to racing, sounded a whole lot better than saving up for one big game that could potentially disappoint me. Plus, the natural idea behind these demo discs is that if I enjoyed what little nibble the demo could give, I’d probably like the full meal. Years later, the company Nintendo still has no idea how demos work, but that’s a post for another day.

SIDE NOTE: I’d love to do something here on Grinding Down with these demo discs of mine–I have about seven or eight in total–but I’m not sure just what yet. I mean, I guess I could simply deep-dive back into them all and write about playing these wee slices some fifteen years later, though who knows how interesting that would be. If you’ve got an idea for me to try, please do share.

Anyways, so far, my favorite thing about Spyro the Dragon, which I’m playing on the PlayStation 3 after nabbing it and others during a really good sale a few months back, is that it wastes no time getting into the mix of things. I can think of only a few other games that open just as swiftly and let you start playing before you can even speak a word–Jetpack Joyride and Scribblenauts come to mind first.

Okay, you ready for this. Spyro the Dragon begins with a short cutscene that can’t possibly last for more than 30 seconds. In it, a news team sets up an interview with a couple of dragons within the Artisan World, one of five realms in the Dragon Kingdom (the others of which include Peace Keepers’ world, Magic Crafters, Beast Makers, and Dream Weavers), which have lived in harmony for eons. Well, when the reporter brings up Gnasty Gnorc, a gnorc who lives within his own, sixth realm, one of the dragons describes him as an ugly, simple-minded creature who poses no threat to the Dragon Kingdom. Daaang. Those are fighting words, for sure. And yup, fortuitously, Gnasty is watching the live feed at that exact moment; enraged, he casts a magic spell that encases all of the dragons in crystal and sends out an army of gnorc soldiers to take over the realms. However, one purple dragon called Spyro, due to his smallish nature, is able to dodge the spell, and it’s now up to him to save his elders.

And that’s the gist of the story so far. You are the lucky wee dragon left alive, and you must save everybody us, and you do this by charging into the crystal statues and freeing the elders. Each of these older, bigger dragons has a name and something to say to Spyro upon rescue, but then they are gone in a poof. Rinse and repeat until you find all the dragons in a given themed area (36 levels spread across six worlds). Other than that, Spyro can shoot a small burst of flames from his mouth and jump and even fly a bit (though technically it is falling with style). You want to also defeat enemies and collect gems. More or less, it’s a very traditional character-dependent action adventure game, and there is nothing wrong with the premise to begin with.

However, in a game all about jumping and flying from one place to another, the in-game camera needs to work with the player. This camera is atrocious. Really just horrible, and you can only turn it left or right, not up or down, so if you are standing on top of a castle and want to jump to that smaller castle below, you kind of have to wing it (pun intended) because there’s no way to rotate the camera enough to see where you need to land. You can press the triangle button at any time to lock the camera directly behind Spyro, but this is only handy when you want to ram an enemy head-on with your horns.

Thankfully, despite the camera issues, Spyro the Dragon is a fun, harmless game. And it’s not too punishing, so even if you missed a jump due to not being able to see the land below, you can always try again. Interestingly, instead of some kind of health bar or string of hearts on the screen, Spyro’s health is visible through his butterfly companion, so depending on how that fella looks and acts, you’ll know just how many more hits our little dragon hero can take. You can save your progress at any of the statue spots where you’ve rescued an elder dragon, and most of the difficulty just comes from traversing, rather than fighting enemies or solving puzzles. Oh, and to tie this back to that demo disc above, I remember fondly being super impressed that Spyro could burn plants to a pile of black ash at the touch of a button, and it’s still an amusing thing to do many years later.

I’m looking forward to playing more when I can, as I also have Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! and Spyro Year of the Dragon downloaded and ready for chomping. Not to mention Gex: Enter the Gecko, Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2, and Crash Bandicoot 3: WARPED. Yeah, I went a little crazy on the PS1-era mascot games during that sale. Not the worst mistake I’ve ever made.

Lastly, I’ll leave y’all on a fun tidbit about Spyro the Dragon–its soundtrack was done by The Police’s Stewart Copeland.

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, a fantastic distortion of the senses

The demo for Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the Nintendo 3DS has its ups and downs, but it has nonetheless confirmed for me that I’ll be purchasing the cutesy side-scroller on Day One. As well as reading all of Scrooge McDuck’s lines out loud in my amazing Scottish accent.

It opens with gorgeous, hand-drawn art and text-based story blocks, and stays that way for some time. Maybe too long to be reading text, but whatever. There has to be setup somewhere. Power of Illusion takes place some time after the events of Epic Mickeywhich I never even came close to beating. A part of me wants to go back and try again, but then another part remembers how there were houses you went into that had absolutely nothing inside of them, and they made me furious because what’s the point of going in it then, why not just leave the door locked, ugggggh. Anyways, the evil witch Mizrabel and her Castle of Illusion have been accidentally transported to the Wasteland by the wizard Yen Sid. That’s Disney backwards for those not in the know. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit contacts Mickey Mouse to tell him about the castle and that Minnie Mouse has been spotted inside of it, which is not true at all. Ever the hero, Mickey then sets off to save Minnie and the “Illusions” of other Disney characters trapped in the castle.

Right. It’s a side-scroller of yesteryears, and it’s coming from Dreamrift. Y’know, the folks responsible for the charming Monster Tale. Some company alum also worked on the highly praised Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. So, we’re definitely in good hands here. Plus, several interviews with Peter Ong, co-founder and creative director, have remarked on his love for Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse for the Sega Genesis. And that love shows. Oh does it show. But thankfully there’s more to Power of Illusion than just nostalgia and one fan’s dream to bring it back.

After all the story intro stuff, the demo drops you into control of the one and only Mickey Mouse, with little to no abilities to his name. Hmm. Basically, you can jump, and his jumps are unfortunately very floaty, something I’m not digging. Later on, after acquiring the Pixie Dust sketch which allows you to float down when falling, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference. You go through a tutorial level, which shows you how to bounce off enemies, throw paint/thinner at them, draw in items or erase them completely, and rescue familiar Disney characters, like Beast and Rapunzel. The artwork is gorgeous and looks great in 3D, presenting depth of field over launching things at your face.

As for the paint/thinner aspect which carries over from Epic Mickey, it’s fairly perfunctory. When you need to create an item, you trace its outline, and depending how steady your work is, you’ll create a stronger item. Alas, this is no Theatrhythm, and it’s not exactly clear where you are being judged in terms of lineart. For thinner, you basically just smudge away the item with all you got. That’s all this demo showed, so I’m not sure if there’s more to this gimmick or not. When running around, you can throw paint or thinner at enemies, and depending on which type you use, they’ll drop health or money. Yeah, Disney Dollars.

Once you are done learning the ropes, you head back to your Fortress. And this is where Power of Illusion really won me over. Because the Fortress is the castle from Suikoden. Well…sort of. The Disney characters you rescue in levels will take up refuge in your Fortress, getting their own room and serving their own purpose. You can upgrade the room too, though I’m not clear on how that is accomplished. Some characters become shops–like Scrooge McDuck–who sell upgrades to Mickey’s health meter, how much paint/thinner he uses, and upping his ability to find hidden treasures, and other characters will dish out side quests. This, I like. Very, very much. And I spent most of the demo playing around here before going back into one more level, which was set on Captain Hook’s pirate ship. That then ends with a boss fight teaser, definitely leaving me wanting more.

My Nintendo 3DS is in for some hurting over the next few weeks. I’m still trying to finish up a single playthrough of Pokemon White 2–seven badges collected so far!–but this Sunday I’ll be picking up Paper Mario: Sticker Star. And then comes Power of Illusion, followed by the downloadable Crashmo. I also still mean to pick up the new Layton game too. Gah. And maybe Scribblenauts Unlimited. Triple gah. At least now that the weather is getting horribly frigid, I have something to do underneath the heated blanket: collect pocket monsters, collect stickers, collect Disney characters. My system might not be ready for it, but I definitely am.

One does not simply play the demo for LEGO The Lord of the Rings

LEGO The Lord of the Rings keeps surprising me. First, it is seemingly coming out at the end of this month instead of what I assumed would be a more timely release around The Hobbit, Part 1 on 34 in December. Second, out of nowhere, a free demo was dropped on the 3DS eShop this week; I stumbled across it blindly. Third, said demo begins with a crow taking a crap on whatever Hobbit you are controlling’s head, and that crow keeps crapping every 10 or 15 seconds until you progress a bit through the level. Oh boy. If dodging poop is what Traveller’s Tales is adding to the adventure to make it “funny” and their own, there is cause for worry.

The demo level is the scene at Weathertop, a hill in the Eriador region of Middle-earth. The hill itself is pretty important in terms of Middle-earth history since it was once a major fortress of the kingdom of Arthedain, home to one of the seven palantíri, and the place of several battles. For our purposes, it’s the spot where Strider and the four Hobbits pause to rest for the night only to then be attacked by several Ringwraiths. The Witch-king ends up stabbing Frodo with a Morgul-blade, which is not a good time for the wee halfling.

Anyways, it’s a moment in the books/films that I’ve experienced before in LOTR videogame form and will continue to do so long as they make these types of games. It’s hard not to. It’s both iconic as all gets and made for a “boss fight” kind of level. Most recently, I took down these Ringwraiths with sword and fire in Aragorn’s Quest, but I also recall doing it almost exactly the same way elsewhere. Or maybe I’m just crazy. It’s been a long time since I dabbled in The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, so if there was a Weathertop fight there, I don’t recall, but have to assume it would at least have been handled differently, seeing as that game is a turn-based RPG built on Final Fantasy X‘s battle system. I have a couple other LOTR games in my collection–The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (PS2) and The Lord of the Rings: War in the North–but don’t remember if there were any Weathertop fights in them.

Regardless, LEGO The Lord of the Rings handles it pretty much the same way, with Aragorn ultimately chasing these screeching undead away with fire. Before that happens, Frodo must slip the One Ring on, construct some decoy Hobbits, and have the Ringwraiths attack them in order to damage themselves and become dizzy, open for damage. And before that, you climb Weathertop, using Sam, Pippin, and Merry to do different actions while avoiding that crow that keeps crapping on you. It was extremely frustrating while trying to catch a fish because the crow always shits on your controlled Hobbit directly, knocking him out of the action animation, and you only have milliseconds to reel in a fish before that crow circles back for more. I did not like this part at all, and poor Tara had to listen to bird poop sound effects–think ppbblt–for several minutes on end; I’m sorry.

I won’t be getting LEGO The Lord of the Rings on the 3DS, as I prefer all my LEGO games on the Xbox 360 so I can S rank them like a crazy person–well, except for LEGO Pirates so far, grrr–but the game still looked really good on the portable. I even flipped the 3D effect on to see the One Ring in all its realness. Cutscenes were a bit brief, and it’s still extremely bizarre to hear the films’ dialogue spoken by these blocky boys, but whatever–that’s just something I’ll either get used to or I won’t. Based on what I saw of a Free Play level, it looks like we’ll be unlocking different “skins” for characters like in LEGO Harry Potter. I’m sure it’s still going to be a ton of fun to play co-op with Tara. I just hope we can get through the crow-crapping level part much faster if she distracts it while I fish for food. Guess we’ll find out relatively soon.

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.

Turning over a new leash with Bulletstorm

Let me just get this out there, so y’all understand that when you see me crawling out of an alley, begging for money and smelling worse than the rotten remains of a Stygia mutant previously eviscerated by the “Rear Entry” skillshot, it’s because of this: Steam sales. They will be my undoing, as just about anything heavily discounted suddenly becomes interesting in front of my eyes. And I do mean anything.

Take, for instance, the crude and callous first-person shooter Bulletstorm. I absolutely disliked the demo, ultimately saying this:

Bulletstorm is irrefutably juvenile, and the demo is all I probably needed to experience…ever. And for fun’s sake, here’s some phrases used affectionately during the demo to hit home their target audience: pasty, bean bag, butt hole, and, the new cult favorite, dick tits.

Right. So, why then did I buy a copy of the game over the weekend for the PC? Why have I been unlocking a lot of Achievements in rapid succession? Why am I–and this is almost troubling to admit–having fun kicking mutants into slow motion and then shooting them in half? Well, because Steam was selling it for $5.00. And at that kind of price, Bulletstorm is a blast.

At its boyish heart, Bulletstorm‘s story is about revenge gone wrong. Grayson Hunt is looking to kick his former commanding officer General Sarrano of the Confederation of Planets in his nuts and then shoot him in the head. This is because Sarrano used Hunt and his fellow friends to assassinate innocent people by telling them they were corrupt evildoers. Unfortunately, trying to ram Sarrano’s spaceship with Hunt’s spaceship brought both vessels down on the planet Stygia, which is infested with mutants and monsters. But Hunt’s no quitter, and so he’s crawling across the planet’s dangerous grounds in search of the man that made him mad. He is helped by Ishi, who is now part android, and Trishka, a former member of the elite squad Final Echo.

Gameplay involves moving forward through a level and racking up points by using creative kills against the many, many mutants that want to ruin your very existence. Headshots are boring, and so one must look for other ways to create mayhem: tossing an enemy of a cliff, dropping them on some spikes, shooting them in half, setting them on fire, and so on. Points let you buy ammo and upgrade weapons, so the more creative you are, the stronger your guns will be, which in turn let you get even crazier. It’s a system that works and reminds me of the way weapons upgraded in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. You also use a hi-tech leash that can grab objects and throw them around though I prefer sliding into enemies and then kicking them off ledges the most–really helps conserve precious ammo. Occasionally, gameplay gets mixed up, with Hunt controlling a huge, Godzilla-like monster or trying to just escape a section of the level under a time limit; otherwise, it’s still just a lot of shooting.

Also, what’s kind of nice is that, unknowingly, Bulletstorm on Steam counts as a Game for Windows Live thing, meaning I can play it logged in as PaulyAulyWog and earn Achievements for my actual Gamerscore. Think this is my first GFWL experience, and it’s all good in the skillshotty neighborhood. Here’s a few that I unlocked that are not tied to completing story chapters:


Master of Disaster (40G): Earn 2000 points or more at once


Disco Inferno (10G): Kill all enemies without leaving the dance floor in the city outskirts


No Man Left Behind (20G): Kill all enemies while escaping from the collapsed building

Currently, I’m somewhere in Act 4. Second chapter? Third? Don’t really know what that means in comparison to the overall game, but it feels like midway through. Maybe even more than that. I’m sure it won’t take long to finish up, as we’re definitely getting closer to wherever Sarrano is hiding. Again, for $5.00, this is a good time; however, if I had bought Bulletstorm at full price on Day One…I would definitely feel otherwise. And there you go.