Category Archives: entertainment

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Snakeball

I’m pretty sure I’ve never played the original Snake, having only touched some updated version of it on a cell phone many years back. Snake‘s a pretty simple concept: the player controls a dot, square, or object on a bordered plane. As it moves forward, it leaves a trail behind, resembling a moving snake. In some versions, the end of the trail is in a fixed position, so the snake continually gets longer as it moves. Another common take on the mechanic is that the snake has a specific length, so there is a moving tail that is a fixed number of units away from the head. Either way, the player loses when the snake runs into the screen’s border, a trail or other obstacle, or itself. According to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia, there are over 300 Snake-like games for iOS alone. Oh me, oh my.

Which brings us to…Snakeball. This one evidently uses most of the mechanics of the late 1970s Snake, with the goal being taking balls and throwing them into the hole at the center of the stage. There are variations on this gameplay, but the main goal stays the same throughout, accompanied by a flashy disco graphic style. Stages take place on disco floors that Tony Manero would greatly approve of. You can select between 16 different characters, all with a bunch of color schemes, and, evidently, if you had access to a PlayStation Eye camera, which I do not, you could snap a photo of your face–or anything else you found photogenic–and plop it onto one of the riders. Developed by Gamoola Soft, this is very much a casual game, which is why I played an hour or so of it, saw what it had to offer, and uninstalled it from my PlayStation 3, as per the goal of these themed posts.

There are three main modes in Snakeball: Snakeball, Challenge, and Ball Frenzy. Snakeball is the multiplayer mode, where up to 8 players can play online; however, since this game came out at the end of 2007 and I was playing it for the first time in 2018, a decade later, there was nobody online to play against. Shocking, right? You can battle bots though it isn’t too exciting. The Challenge mode tasks players with navigating through levels to open up a teleporter and go to the next level, with 14 levels in total to complete. Ball Frenzy is basically a remake of the classic Snake, with 10 levels to conquer. The goal of this mode is to collect all 1,000 balls in the level without crashing and destroying the ship.

Did you know that, for a time there, Trophies weren’t a thing on the PlayStation 3? They kind of only came around after the Xbox 360’s Achievements system began picking up steam as Sony wanted in on the extra stuff action. A lot of games got patched to include poppable Trophies, and all games going forward seem to now have ’em. However, Snakeball was not one that got graced with a patch, and so it is just this very straightforward experience that is mostly fine, but a bit lifeless and repetitive and lacking goals.

I’ll probably play some strange, updated version of Snake down the road. It’s inevitable. However, that said, I’ll probably never touch Snakeball ever again.

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.

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2018 Game Review Haiku, #39 – Frightened Beetles

Three terrified bugs
Dodge obstacles, reach an end
Short, sweet adventure

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

I’m finding it difficult to criticize I, Hope

I, Hope was created without the objective of making a profit. Developer Kenny Roy is teaming up alongside the GameChanger Charity to ensure that all proceeds for the game are donated to said charity, which supports children and children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. It’s a beautiful thing, really, though now I feel somewhat bad because I got my copy through Twitch Prime’s free games of the month thing. Hopefully Twitch is donating some funds their way based on the amount of service subscribers they have or something like that. All that said, I wish I, Hope was better than it ultimately is, and I’m finding it difficult to criticize a game with such an earnest cause and outlook. Still, I must.

I, Hope is the coming of age story about a young girl named Hope whose town has been taken over by Cancer. The game is not trying to be subtle whatsoever with its narrative. You are Hope, you are battling Cancer. Other games have tackled this subject, such as That Dragon, Cancer and Re-Mission, though I can’t speak about how on the nose or not they played it. As Hope, you are traveling to a bunch of islands to collect tools to help her on her quest to push back Cancer, and to get these tools, she’ll need to defeat monsters and solve various puzzles. It’s a typical third-person, character action game in the veins of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, but with the violence toned way down, no insane combos, and graphics that look like they’d call the PlayStation 2 home, not that that’s a bad thing really. Actually, now that I think about it, the game also reminds me a bit of Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom.

The gameplay consists of you, as Hope, running around a somewhat sparse level, attacking cancer-infected monsters with your staff and solving environment-based puzzles. The problems start immediately. The jumping and attacking don’t feel great, and I even fell through the world a few times, popping the “That’s not how the story went…” screen, which brings you back to a checkpoint. Trying to move objects is basically a dice roll as to whether or not you can even move the block when you hit the button to lock on to it. You also acquire some abilities, such as being able to see hidden elements with the goggles or freezing moving platforms with a cymbal thingy. Each world seems to end with a boss fight that often requires you to use that island’s specific power to defeat it. Also, you can collect letters to spell hope, which unlocks some extra content–I think it’s just a soundtrack selection–from the main menu.

I got to the end boss of the third island, the volcano-themed heckhole, and called it quits, something I really don’t like doing in any game. Sure, sure, I’ll walk away from a game or take a break, but always with the intention to return to it eventually. With I, Hope, I was saying, “Nope, no more.” The cause is good, the gameplay is not, to the point of it being frustrating. I found next to zero coverage of the game on YouTube, but one person did play through the whole thing, and I’m glad I stopped when I did because the puzzles seemed to only become more maddening as Hope gathered more tools and tricks to use against the Cancer tentacles. It also ends abruptly after a light-bouncing-between-mirrors puzzle that we have all experienced before in games like Beyond Good & Evil and the Professor Layton puzzle games, on both a down and up beat. I just don’t know.

I, Hope has one thing going for it–its unceasing amount of support for those fighting cancer. Me too. Cancer sucks, hard. As a game, one for all ages, but seemingly geared towards a younger group, it’s both bland and underdeveloped, and I found nothing satisfying in either the platforming, combat, or puzzle solving, and those are the three main elements that make up Hope’s quest. I am all about supporting causes for cancer research, and this is one of ’em, but a word of warning–you’ll be extremely disappointed if you also want a good game to play out of the donation.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Starwhal

Starwhal is an easy game to purge from my PlayStation Plus collection on the PlayStation 3. Why’s that? Because it’s heavily dependent on local multiplayer for fun times, and I have no fleshy friends to join me on the couch and play against. The entire point of this fake future sport that forces narwhals to battle each other to the death is to poke each space narwhal–a starwhal, if you will–in the heart with their pointy horns. Do this enough times and be the last one standing to claim victory and enjoy a buffet of whatever it is that narwhals enjoy eating. Hold on, I’m actually looking this up.

Seafood. A lot of seafood, like squid, Greenland halibut, shrimp, Arctic cod, rockfish, flounder, and crab. I’d enjoy some of that too, honestly.

Anyways, the game’s options are limited. You can play a deathmatch mode either versus your fleshy friends or add in AI-controlled opponents. I tried this three or four times and didn’t really enjoy it. The starwhals are purposely difficult to control, and I never found myself getting a good grip on steering them in the right direction. They feel unmanageable and remind me of trying to guide a squire on a leash across a field full of nuts and other squirrels. There’s a whole lot of flopping about. If I managed to damage an enemy, I promise you it was purely accidental, and I didn’t win a single match against the computer. Oh well.

There’s also over 30 Obstacle and Target challenge levels to hone your combat skills, but again, I struggled with simply controlling my green-colored, wig-wearing starwhal from one side of the screen to the other. Couldn’t even beat the gold time for the first challenge area. I figured they were only going to ramp up in difficulty after that and decided this was just not for me. Similar to things like Sportsfriends and Crawl, these types of gaming experiences are better with friends, where you can together laugh and cry out in frustration as your starwhal flops the wrong way, causing you to lose the match. Without them there, it’s just me and a growing grimace, listening to some pretty rad tunes.

Paulwhal, out!

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.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #38 – Korgan (Prologue)

Impending evil
Use three characters to fight
First bite free, don’t eat

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #37 – Subject 13

Stuck in a strange world
Retro, out-of-touch puzzles
Embrace Minesweeper

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

Life never really finds a way in LEGO Jurassic World

It used to feel good to hit 100.0% completion in these sundry LEGO games. It was a victory well-earned, through being meticulous and dedicated and clever. You go back into levels you already played, now with a crew of varying abilities and skills, and you’d do things you were unable to prior, truly experiencing everything the level had to offer. Alas, the last few LEGO games I’ve played, specifically LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, have turned it into a real chore. I’m saddened to say that LEGO Jurassic World is also now a part of this troublesome family, and methinks this just may be the way all future LEGO games go, so allow me to predict now that I will greatly enjoy my first few hours with LEGO The Incredibles, but will be busted by the end of it. Sigh.

You may recall that I actually already played through LEGO Jurassic World some years back. Well, that was the Nintendo 3DS version, and I found it…underwhelming. A part of me hoped that its bigger console version would remedy some of the issues I had with it on handheld, and it does, but that still doesn’t mean it’s the best of the bunch and not without its own set of problems. Mel and I played it together, and that’s always fun, but the grind after completing all the levels to get every last red brick, gold brick, piece of amber, minikit, dinosaur, worker in peril, vehicle, character, and photograph is beginning to wear on my mind.

LEGO Jurassic World, despite its name, covers the first four films in the series, with each movie getting a handful of levels–roughly about 5 or 6–as well as its own minihub area to run around on and dig up collectibles. These levels are bigger and better than the 3DS version, but there’s still too many sections involving running non-stop toward the screen as a dinosaur chases from behind, and these sections are even more frustrating if you miss a collectible. Other than those, the big moments in each movie are tackled and play out, more or less, as one might expect. Traveller’s Tales still infects the narrative with its kooky humor–they love bananas and pigs–but a lot of the dialogue is taken from the movie and its quality is noticeably poor, to the point that I’d rather have this take go back to the silent pantomimed style of earlier LEGO games.

My biggest issue, early on, with LEGO Jurassic World revolved around its hub world maps and how the developers never tell you that you need to interact with a computer terminal to open up fast-traveling waypoints. For a while, I just couldn’t travel to a map area quickly, and my only solution was to load up a level and then save and exit from it, which meant sitting through several loading screens just to pop up on my island of choice. You could say I goofed a bit on that, but the blame could also go on the developers as I don’t recall other LEGO games requiring this. Also, there are multiple layers to each map that you constantly have to click through to exit back to the main game. Not really ideal, when all I wanted to do was drop on a pin on the nearest red brick.

Y’know, a lot of people like to muse about future or potential LEGO games–myself included–and I’m coming to realize that not everything can fit the mold. For instance, I’ve seen a lot of clamoring for things like LEGO Jaws and LEGO James Bond. The problem is that, often times, there’s just not enough excitement there to warrant games in these franchises. For instance, say there was a LEGO Jaws, you would get a handful of named and well-liked characters to play as, but then you’d have to spend all your time unlocking upwards of 50 no-namers like Ben Gardner or Harry Meadows, and their abilities, unlike superheroes, would be beyond bland, like interviewing witnesses or using fishing rods. That happened here in LEGO Jurassic World, wherein I mostly played as only the main characters from the films via the top two rows of the character select screen and touched nobody else except for Mr. DNA and a dinosaur when a puzzle required it…because nobody else seemed all that exciting to control, and there’s next to no experimenting.

If you are nostalgic for things adjacent to Jurassic Park, I wouldn’t recommend this. If anything, watch the films again. I have recently and can continue to put them high up on a pedestal, beacons of fun storytelling and lovable characters. Sure, you don’t get to bounce around as an ultra cute and tiny velociraptor, but that’s probably the only noteworthy difference between the films and the games. Heck, go back and play Jurassic Park on the SNES if you want something super engaging and full of tension though, in my heart of hearts, I know that those first-person sections do not hold up.