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A tale of my most hated tailing missions in videogames

gd post worst tailing missions in videogames

Gather round, dear Grinding Down readers, and I’ll tell you a mighty fine tale…all about tailing. Whatever you do, don’t look up the urban dictionary definition for it.

For those that are lucky and have never played a game involving a tailing mission, you are basically tasked with following a non-player character to a designated area. This is either done on foot or in a vehicle. However, more often than not, your target cannot be alerted to your presence; if they are, that means your mission to be like a ninja failed, and you’ll have to start it all over. Like many, I do not enjoy these missions, despite being full of patience, and some are more loathsome than others, especially when silly things like artificial intelligence, geometry glitches, and randomness are actively working against each other. They are lengthy, generally due to the fact that you are often following someone moving at a leisurely pace, and checkpoints are usually non-existent.

Many bad tailing missions stick out in my mind after all these years of gaming, and below are a few that I’d like to highlight as particularly bad. In fact, I might even say I hated them.

“The Siege of Charles-Towne” from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

This is the one that got this nugget of an idea about a list of tailing missions started, way back when I was actively playing it. Sorry, I’m sometimes slow with these posts or lose interest only to come back to them much later with renewed vigor. I generally enjoyed my time with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag or, as my girlfriend calls it, “the turtle game.” See, one time she saw me playing it, and I was running around a beach area looking at the turtles scooting their way to the ocean, and thus the game will forever now be known as such. That’s fine, because this series is now 10+ games deep, and we need a better way to recognize them than just their generic subtitles. Honestly, I’m surprised it took us so long to use the word origins.

I know these games are pretty hit and miss with consumers, with ones like Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed: Unity definitely in the miss column, but I liked a lot of what Kenway could do and even patiently dealt with the handful of tailing missions thrown at the man throughout the game. Still, they all got rated one or two stars when completed, but they weren’t too bad, all in all. Not when you compare them with Sequence 6’s “The Siege of Charles-Towne”, which literally has you in a boat…stealthily following another boat. Ugh. I don’t really even know how that is possible, but I guess if you sail smoothly enough and don’t startle any dolphins, anything can happen.

To start, you are steering a large boat around a small swampy location, at night, with lots of things to smash into. It’s like threading the needle with the lights out. Also, not sure if any of you have every tried to quickly course correct and shift directions in a boat, but it’s not a fast affair. Throw in the fact that you must be cognizant of both red and yellow circles on the mini-map while trying to steer, and you’ve got the recipe for one bad tailing mission. On a related note, I’m currently playing Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, at about 25% synchronization for those curious, and have not found too many troubling tailing missions…yet. I’m sure one will rear its ugly head soon enough.

“The Set Up” from L.A. Noire


Ah, L.A. Noire, you big, gorgeous, empty-as-heck modern adventure game. About midway through “The Set Up” mission, Cole must remain incognito while tailing a woman named Candy Edwards. See, she might have information about why the professional boxer Albert Hammond won a fight that he was supposed to throw, which angered a lot of bookies and people betting on the event. For those that don’t know, incognito means things like, sitting on a park bench and pretending to read the newspaper, as well as avoiding getting spotted when she turns around to examine her surroundings.

As Phelps is tailing Candy on foot, he has to keep his distance and maintain good cover. If he gets too close, she’ll stop and turn around. Phelps will also comment if he is about to lose Candy’s. It’s pretty straightforward, but it’s a whole bag of boredom and constantly worrying about being too far or too near the target. There are invisible meters and vision cones at work here, and I still don’t know if seeing them would be better or not. There’s also an Achievement for tailing Candy without using any incognito or cover…which I’ve not popped.

In the end, it’s a tailing mission, where your movement is dictated by the target’s movement, and I’d rather spend my time closely examining matchbooks or pieces of fruit or interrogating suspects. Or even searching for those well-hidden golden film reel collectibles.

“Act 3” from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

This one is still pretty fresh, seeing as I only just played Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the first time back in autumnal 2015. Earlier in the game, you had to track someone by their footprints out in the wild, and that was honestly fine. However, the streets of Eastern Europe are a whole different bag of messy worms, and Old Snake must tail a member of the resistance in hopes of him leading you to the hidden resistance HQ.

Now, if you follow him without being detected, he’ll lead you directly to the resistance HQ, which is where you can hopefully meet Big Momma. However, you need to keep a good distance away from him in order to avoid being detected, which means letting him get a decent head start and running into trouble. So, you not only have to follow this whistling fool without being spotted, but you also have to protect him from enemy soldiers piqued by all that whistling and various roadblocks. Frustratingly, he can’t witness you helping him either, otherwise he’ll get scared and run away.

I did not do well with this mission, and I felt like I stumbled the entire way through it, just barely surviving encounters and keeping the resistance man on track. It’s a major reason holding me back from ever revisiting the game.

“The Lost Pilgrimage” Korok trial from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Once you make your way through the Lost Woods and get to Hyrule Forest proper in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you can attempt to complete four Korok trials. One is given to you by a Korok named Tasho, who tells you about friend Oaki, who set off to find a shrine alone. Oaki really wants to make it all the way to the shrine by himself, but Tasho is worried and wants Link to follow along after him to ensure he makes it there safely. Alas, this is an instant-fail stealth tailing mission, which means the moment you are spotted it is over and you have to restart from the beginning. It’s a severely outdated design and a fun-sucking vacuum cleaner if I ever saw one.

Okay, so, some issues. One, Oaki is dressed mostly in bland, gray clothing, which makes him hard to see in the foggy Lost Woods. You have to rely on sound more than anything due to all the gear he is carrying. Two, this is still the Lost Woods, and so if you veer off the main path too far, the fog sucks you up. A kind soul might imagine this simply plopping you back on the beaten path to continue forward, but no, it just fails the mission outright. Gee, thanks. Okay, so these issues took a couple attempts to figure out and get used to, but then I lost all hope when, without warning, Oaki turns around and runs straight at Link, spotting him instantly.

Ugh. I attempted this mission three or four times, wasting a bunch of my stealth potions too, before giving up on it entirely to focus instead on rebuilding Tarrey Town. Y’know, an easier, less punishing task.

Well, those are the tailing missions that stand out in my mind as bee aye dee. That’s bad, if you couldn’t figure it out. What ones have you not enjoyed over the years? Or, if you are in the mood to play the devil’s advocate, tell us all about how much you love closely and quietly following someone around a limited environment without ever getting spotted.


A batch of anticipated games for the year 2018

When you search the Internet for the keyword of “2018,” you get a lot of pictures of that number in big, bold font or images of cars. Hmm. However, when I look forward into this new year, I see only videogames. Eh, that’s not true. Totally not true. There’s a bunch of other things to see, related to life and love and liberty, but this Grinding Down blog of mine, creeping into its ninth year in action, despite the random dips into other topics, is mostly focused on digital entertainment, and so it is all eyes locked hard on the adventures I’m most interested in playing in two thousand great-teen. Oh, and I’m sure to have copious 2017 titles to catch up on as well, as well as ones from years past (I just started playing Wolfenstein: The New Order and, uh, StarTropics), dating all the way back to the birth of this very planet.

Naturally, we don’t know every single game coming out in 2018 just yet, but here’s a number of ’em that certainly have my attention.

Mineko’s Night Market

Mineko’s Night Market, an indie adventure from Meowza Games, is the first title from the young, two-person indie studio. The adventure title stars Mineko, a girl who takes on a job as a vendor in a weekly marketplace. With responsibilities ranging from collecting resources, crafting items to sell, participating in local events, and befriending customers around town, the game sounds like a much fuzzier take on Stardew Valley and Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale. Plus, that art style is to die for.

Release date: sometime in 2018


Staxel is a sandbox farming game. Yup, I guess I can officially say that, after dumping hours into Stardew Valley and Slime Rancher, I like farming games. Well, so long as they aren’t too serious and actually about watching a crop grow from seed to final product over the course of several weeks. This one features voxel-based graphics, which are always cool. Remember Voxatron Alpha? Well, I do. Anyways, the general goal is to tend to your farm and work on the village by yourself. Or you can enlist the aid of your friends via online multiplayer to turn it into a thriving farmstead! I wonder if this will ultimately beat Stardew Valley to the multiplayer aspect and whether it’ll be the better experience. Time will tell.

Release date: January 2018


In the words of Glumberland, the game’s developer, “Ooblets is a farming, town life, and creature collection game inspired by Pokémon, Harvest Moon, and Animal Crossing. Manage your farm, grow and train your ooblets, run a shop, explore strange lands, battle wild ooblets and other ooblet trainers, and unlock the mysteries of Oob.” Yeah, that sounds great to me, and it also looks super-duper adorable, so I’m more than simply all in on this.

Release date: Sometime in 2018

Red Dead Redemption 2

Look, I like to poke fun at myself by constantly mentioning that I haven’t played the first Red Dead Redemption still, years after missing out on it during its year of release, so I might as well give up on that dream and place all my bets on the forthcoming Red Dead Redemption 2. I enjoyed a good amount of Grand Theft Auto V, but didn’t linger too long in the online multiplayer aspect, and I have to imagine that Rockstar will be implementing a number of features from that into this violent world of cowboys and the American frontier. I should probably also watch Westworld at some point. Just sayin’.

Release date: sometime in 2018

State of Decay 2

Much like the previous entry on this list, I also missed out on the original experience. That’s okay. From everything I gathered, State of Decay was cool, but somewhat flawed–technically and gameplay-wise–and so with this sequel now having some time to fester, I’m hopeful for a more focused, polished take on making ends meet in the zombie apocalypse. Also, all of this PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds of late is ultimately preparing me for survival among both the living and the dead. Or undead, if you want to get specific.

Release date: sometime in 2018

The Lord of the Rings LCG

I played so much Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, an out-of-print collectible card game produced by Decipher, back in the early 2000s, and I miss it greatly. I miss the game, and I miss the crew I hung out with that played the game, and I miss that it, along with something called Magic: The Gathering, was always there to fill in the gaps, to kill time, to make memories. That said, Lord of the Rings LCG is not the same thing as that now forgotten friend, but it is an upcoming, free single-player and cooperative multiplayer card game based on one of my favorite things ever. It’s already on my Steam wishlist and going for the market dominated by the likes of Hearthstone.

Release date: Early 2018

Long Gone Days

Please do not confuse this with Days Gone, that open-world action-adventure game where you play as some generic-looking dude trying to survive in a world overrun by really fast, mindless, feral creatures that want to do you great harm. No thank you. Instead, Long Gone Days is a 2D modern-day character-driven RPG that combines elements from visual novels, shooters, and dystopian fiction. You play as Rourke, a soldier from an underground unrecognized country named “The Core”, after he’s deployed to a mission in Kaliningrad, Russia. There, he discovers the truth about the operation and decides to desert. It’s written, developed, and illustrated by Camila Gormaz, and I think it looks particularly neat.

Release date: February 2018

The Swords of Ditto

Here’s the quick summary: The Swords of Ditto is a compact action RPG that creates a unique adventure for each new hero of legend in the relentless fight against the evil Mormo. Uh-huh. The game’s core mechanic involves the legacy of the game’s playable heroes, kind of like in Rogue Legacy, and that’s all well and good, but I’m honestly coming to this for its art and animation over anything else.

Release date: sometime in 2018

Legendary Gary

Speaking of slick-looking art and animation, take a look at Legendary Gary. The titular character is evidently a mess, and he’s trying to become a better person. Gary spends his evenings playing Legend of the Spear, a fantasy adventure game in which the hero and his friends journey through strange lands and engage in hand-to-hand combat deadly creatures. Naturally, these battles take place on a hexagonal grid, and on each turn, all fighters act simultaneously. This means you must decide what action each member of your party will perform. Sounds like the game is split between this type of gameplay and dealing with Gary’s normal, everyday life. Also, Evan Rogers, the game’s developer, is a Giant Bomb fan, and that’s plain cool, duder.

Release date: early 2018

Knights and Bikes

Knights and Bikes, from Foam Sword and the second one on this being published by Double Fine (I’ll let you figure out which is the other one yourself), is a hand-painted action-adventure set on a British island in the 1980s. You’ll play as Nessa and Demelza, tough imaginative girls who are exploring the island in a Goonies-inspired fashion. Heeey, youuu guysss. Looks like the adventure will see them riding their bikes right into danger, seeking treasure, and solving ancient mysteries.

Release date: TBA

There you go, a whole batch. I fully expect more to pop up unexpectedly over the year because, alas, I can’t know about every single game coming into existence at any given moment.

What titles are you most looking forward to in the coming year? Speak up about ’em in great detail in the comments section below. Fill me in on the ones I’m not calling out. Share and enjoy.

Grinding Down’s Top 10 Games of 2017

For the last several years, I’ve named my top five favorite games at the end of each year. Look, I know you don’t believe me, because how absurd of a claim that is, which is why I brought receipts:

However, 2017 has been crazy good in terms of games–I mean, I ended up completing a whopping 125+ of them as of this post though not all released this calendar year–and there’s far too many to talk about to fill my standard top five format, so I’m expanding this yearly endeavor to ten. I know, how very controversial. But this means more words for your eyeballs to eat, so I think we’re all winners here.

Let’s start with a couple games that didn’t quite make the list. Namely, Marvel Heroes Omega and Fallout Shelter.

For the former, well…I enjoyed my time with the free-to-play, loot-driven action RPG from Gazillion Entertainment, playing as Squirrel Girl and watching the framerate tank when enough other players entered the fold and starting using their special abilities all at once. The problem? Other than Squirrel Girl not featuring enough into the main campaign, the game was quickly abandoned on consoles, shutting down unceremoniously around Thanksgiving. This was only a few months after releasing on consoles, so big boo to that. I’m glad I never dumped any real money into it, but also bummed that the game is just gone, never to be played ever again. Thank goodness I have copies of X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance still to try down the road.

As for Fallout Shelter, a game that dropped in June 2015 during E3 for everyone with cool phones (not me), but only made it onto Xbox One this year…well, I’ve sunk a lot of hours into it. Currently, something like a bajillion (rough estimate). Anyways, it’s my go-to for killing ten minutes or so every day, with Bethesda continuing to support it with holiday-themed quests and rewards since launching on consoles. I only have a few more Achievements to pop, and I suspect I’ll probably be playing it a whole bunch more into 2018, eventually running out of room in Vault 713.

Also, I’ll quickly touch on this, but yes, I did play some PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds this year, even getting a chicken dinner on my fourth game, but since it is still in early access/game preview mode for the Xbox One, my home of choice, I don’t consider it in the running for this year’s top 10 list. It is good fun, both solo and in squad format, but has a long way to go in terms of performance and stability and not constantly kicking me out to the dashboard for seemingly no reason, which is beyond frustrating when you are, at the time, driving a vehicle quickly out of the blue circle.

Right. Well, with that said, let’s see what my ten favorite games of 2017 were…

10. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Honestly, I’ve not put a ton of time into Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. Actually, that’s a complete lie; on the PlayStation 2, this was the game that bridged the gap of me moving out of my parents’ house post graduating college and getting my first studio apartment, wherein I didn’t have cable or Internet installed for a couple months, relying on my PlayStation 2 and books to keep me entertained at night and on the weekends, and I put about 80-ish into that version, without ever actually completing it. Hmm.

In 2017, Square Enix remade it for the Nintendo 3DS, with some controversial changes, such as to the UI and orchestral score, but also added some fun, smart additions, like new monsters, seeing enemies in the field, and updates to the plot. Also, there are two new playable characters, Red and Morrie, though
I don’t know how far into the adventure they show up. Personally, I’m kind of saving this game for a lull when I can slip back into something familiar and chip away at it. I also really like the inclusion of the photography challenge side quest.

9. Cayne

Cayne is a killer point-and-click adventure game. By that I mean a lot of characters get killed in it. This free, somewhat standalone isometric horror game from The Brotherhood is set in the Stasis universe and puts you into the waddling body of Hadley, who is nine months pregnant. She wakes up in a strange facility where something is desperately trying to steal her child, and it’s up to you to both learn more and escape. I really liked the tone of this, as well as some of the non-traditional changes to the genre’s mechanics, like not having you click “look” on items to get a description of them. The world-building is dark and deep and reminded me of something that lurked in the back of Harlan Ellison’s mind for too long. At some point, I’ll need to check out Stasis, but I’m emotionally not ready yet.

8. LEGO Worlds

I struggled with some of the UI and button commands in LEGO Worlds and will never, ever try to build anything LEGO brick by LEGO brick because that road only leads to madness and mental destruction, but otherwise it was a lot of fun to run around in and have some silly adventures. There’s less structure than your typical LEGO videogame, which is odd at first. However, the randomized worlds are goofy yet always interesting, especially the candy-themed one, and once you realize there is more beneath the surface, exploration in the deep dark becomes an entirely new mechanic to figure out. It’s not a perfect take on Minecraft, and that’s fine–these worlds belong to LEGO.

7. Samorost 3

The Samorost series has always been a game of sights and sounds. You piece together a narrative by what you see and hear, and Samorost 3 continues this trend, with our little gnome friend out exploring a bunch of different planets. Also, there’s no text to read whatsoever, not even in the menus. To be perfectly honest, I’m not done with Samorost 3, only putting a couple hours into it so far, but I’m purposefully moving through it slowly, absorbing and digesting every single scene and flower/bug you can click on. I love how much moss there is, and the puzzles are a delight to figure out, even the ones you do to reveal a hint require you to put on your thinkin’ cap. I do hope there’s a Samorost 4 (and 5 and 6 and 7) down the road, and I hope to finish this strange and beautiful journey up before any of them come out, but I’m not going to rush through it.

6. Prey

I’m not very good at Prey, but that’s okay. The game clearly wears its immersive sim inspiration proudly on its sleeves with numerous ways to approach objectives and a creepy sci-fi retro future that without any doubt has some moral implications. I’m close to the end of Prey, but I don’t know if I can make it through based on how I created my character and spent my skill points. I love the world in Prey, despite how terrifyingly fecked up it is, and I’m looking forward to re-playing the game on the easiest of difficulties so I can just focus on reading emails, books, letters, and listening to audio diaries aboard Talos 1 so I can know exactly how everyone on this doomed space station lived. Also, don’t bother trying to kill the Nightmare creature, because you are wasting ammo as it just keeps coming back.

5. Night in the Woods

I recently tried to describe Night in the Woods to Mel after buying it a second time, now on Xbox One, since I lost all my progress for the PC when my ASUS laptop bought the farm, and I think I said something like this: you are a cat named Mae and you walk around this town and talk to people and Selmers does poetry and your mom is funny and you can look at constellations and the writing is really great, like super funny and also dark as heck. All of that is true, but Night in the Woods is also so much more. It’s the story of loner and college-dropout Mae returning home in Possum Springs to find that life has gone on without her. Now she needs to figure out her place, among her family and friends, while also dealing with a mystery involving a severed arm and stolen teenager. I’m obsessive with seeing every inch of content, exploring every nook and talking to all who will talk to me, exhausting dialogue trees fully, though I mostly stuck with hanging out with Bae at night (sorry, Gregg). Lastly, the soundtrack is phenomenal.

4. Ever Oasis

Ever Oasis does not do anything too surprising, but that’s not what I was looking for in a handheld action RPG about building up a magical oasis and managing a bunch of stores. The combat was basically this: dodge to the side, attack with all you had, rinse and repeat. At times, it got mashy and boring, and I didn’t put too much attention into upgrading weapons and gears because it didn’t seem to matter all that much (spoiler: I was right). The part I enjoyed the most was getting new people to join your oasis and open up shop and then taking on specific quests to upgrade those shops so you can make more income. There’s a good loop here, one that I ate up every day for a couple months during my lunch break, and I thought I was going to stick with it more for post-credits content, but that didn’t happen due to the number one item on this list. Still, a fun time.

3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I missed out on many of the big Legend of Zelda games post-A Link to the Past. Shocking, I know. Well, I never had a Nintendo 64 or GameCube or even a Wii. Yes, that means I never played Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword. Phew. So, honestly, dropping into Breath of the Wild was pure delight. The game presents a sprawling, open land to explore pretty much however you want once you gain access to a few powers and your hang-glider. You can take on the Divine Beasts one by one or go directly for the jugular and defeat Ganon from the very start. I did the former, only taking on end-game Ganon the other night after many hours and shrines and gaining access to the Master Sword, failing to defeat his first form. I think I need to upgrade my health a bit more and cook better food first.

Regardless of that, I’ve had a fantastic time running around with Link sans horse, taking on side quests, finding Korok seeds, breathing in the cold, mountain air, and seeing whatever is just around the corner or over that hill. Because there’s always something. There’s a richness here that I’ve never seen before, and the fact that many of the puzzles can be solved in numerous ways gets me all tingly inside. The game rewards the player greatly for poking around, and I like to poke. That said, I hate engaging in combat unless safely from a distance using a strong bow and bomb arrow, and I will never, ever be a fan of weapons breaking–you hear that, Dark Cloud–but that’s just a part of this world one needs to deal with in order to survive.

2. Slime Rancher

I truly hope that 2018 doesn’t result in us building an economy from the ground up based on farming plorts–also known as slime poop–from a number of different slime beings. Because if that’s the case, I’m in serious trouble. I got lost in Slime Rancher, constantly feeling the pull to play for five more minutes, to feed a few more slimes and sell a handful more of plorts so I could buy the next upgrade for my farm. Every upgrade lets you explore further and last a little longer out in the wild, and exploring is a big part of the fun here, with excitement coming from discovering new slimes and thinking about how you can harvest their plorts for your benefit. Since launching on Xbox One as a Games with Gold freebie, the developer Monomi Park has been updating the game a whole bunch, adding new features and areas to scour, and I continue to dip back into it to make sure all my slimes are getting on well with each other and buy new colors for my base and plort-vacuum.

Last year, Stardew Valley, a farming game, took my number two spot, and this year it is Slime Rancher. I have to wonder if this trend will continue in 2018, with my eyes locked in curiosity on things like Mineko’s Night Market, Staxel, and Ooblets.

1. Miitopia

Look, I’m just as surprised as you are. I honestly thought, based on the game’s somewhat hands-off combat system, that I was going to hate Miitopia, but just the opposite happened. I fell for it hard, unable to not spend any free ten or fifteen minutes doing a quest or grinding forward to have my party grow in strength or eat some more food or become closer to one another. This continued long after I beat the story, wherein the game sort of split into two entities, and now, 60 hours in, I’m still banging my head against the two extra islands of Galados Isle and New Lumos, the daily quests from visitors at the Travelers’ Hub, and the Tower of Dread, which is the game’s spin of a boss rush mode. Evidently, after beating the Tower of Dread, you get a new class, and the completionist in me must see all the armor and weapon options for it, so my final hours with Miitopia are not immediately around the corner.

I spoke about loop earlier with Ever Oasis, and Miitopia is a strong contender for best “pick and up play for five minutes” type of gameplay. Ultimately, no matter what you do in that five minutes, you are moving forward or making your team stronger. The fact that you can hold down a button and fast-forward the action really speeds up the grinding, which I found enjoyable and allowed me to get creative with my team and action choices when the fights become too easy, helps a lot. Some sessions saw me doing nothing but playing around with the minigame tickets system, taking advantage of the roulette wheel to get better gear or sell it for gold or obtain rare food for just spinning a wheel.

The story is straightforward and nothing to go ga-ga over. No argument here on that. What makes it special and more engaging is the cast of characters, who you hand-pick. Either from your pre-made Miis or from ones that Nintendo suggests. I even looked up a few online and scanned QR codes. Who knew Morgan Freeman (as a cleric) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (as a warrior) were such best buds? Same goes for Snoop Dogg (as a vampire) and my sister Bitsy (a pop star). My girlfriend Melanie (as a chef) was a key fighter, using her frying pan to whack enemies to death or turn them into food, and the quirks on each party member created jealousy and random moments in battle, like someone feeling empathy towards an enemy and letting them go. If I was to play Miitopia again from the start–and I won’t–selecting an entirely different team of Miis and classes would absolutely make it feel like a different game despite the paths being the same.

Also, next to Night in the Woods and certain sound effects from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Miitopia‘s music is some of my favorite from 2017. The title screen song changes depending on where you save your game, and each area has its own twist to the main theme. There are dozens of great little jingles, from when two Miis grow closer to leveling up to obtaining and equipping a new weapon. If you don’t believe me and want to hear ’em for yourself, here’s a couple of tracks that exemplify how eccentric yet adorable Miitopia is to listen to:

2017: what a year (for games).

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2017

Happy holidays, dear readers! Gather round, gather round, for I have a tall tale to tell…

As always, I’m back to wax and wane about the games I did not get to play this year because I’m only one person with two hands and so much time on them to play these wonderfully entertaining things. My bad, but also–whatever. There’s always next year, and the year after that. To refresh everyone’s memories, because I’ve been doing this Grinding Down feature for a few years now, here’s a bulleted list of previous entries, and I do suggest y’all dig in to play detective and figure out whether or not I’ve played any of these games since these age-old posts:

I’ll spoil an entry from that bottom 2010 list that I’ve still not touched, some nearly eight years later: Red Dead Redemption. Oh well.

Naturally, there are more than 10 games that I didn’t play this year, but not all of them are things I was interested in from the get-go. Such as Mass Effect: Andromeda, NieR Automata, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Yakuza 0. I’m sure they are all worth trying out eventually. But enough about those. Let’s get into the ones that I probably would have played if…I could have played them. Er, don’t think too hard about that sentence.

10. Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy

Did you know a new Professor Layton game came out this year for the Nintendo 3DS? Yeah, me neither. Huh. I had a pretty busy year on my 3DS, with Ever Oasis and Miitopia taking over much of my handheld gaming time. Evidently, this stars a new protagonist for LEVEL-5’s classic point-and-puzzle adventure series–Katrielle Layton, who becomes embroiled in a casual, quizzical quest in search for her missing father. Y’know, the Professor Hershel Layton. I felt a little burned out after Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, but I think I could dip back into this series next year. Also, screenshots show that you get to redecorate the Layton Detective Agency and dress Katrielle up in different outfits, so I’m more than intrigued, plot aside.

9. Cuphead

I have never been interested in difficult platformers, doing only the bare minimum in Super Meat Boy to get to the end credits and staying away from many of these. Though I did recently beat this weirdo. It sounds like the run-and-gun Cuphead is also just as tough. But I wouldn’t be playing it for the challenge, rather to see every inch of art and animation. See, the game was heavily inspired by the rubber hose style of animation used in cartoons of the 1930s, like the stuff coming out of studios like Fleischer and Walt Disney Animation. It seeks to emulate the most subversive and surrealist qualities, and if you don’t know what that means, look at the screenshot above. Maybe we’ll get lucky in 2018 and get this as a Games with Gold freebie.

8. Thimbleweed Park

I didn’t play Thimbleweed Park, a brand new point-and-click adventure game developed by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick for PC and modern consoles in 2017, for the obvious reasons. It’s a spiritual successor to Gilbert and Winnick’s previous games Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island, both of which I’ve still not played. Ugh. Send me directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. At least I do have access to both of them, so here’s hoping 2018 is the year I finally tackle those genre classics, and then maybe I’ll see what is going on with that creepy clown.

7. What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch doesn’t sound like a happy time. This follows the titular character, a young woman revisiting her old family home as she recalls and discovers the stories of deceased family members. So, it’s probably a somber affair, though I do know that at some point you turn into a shark and roll down a hill. Shrugs. It comes from Giant Sparrow, the developer that brought us The Unfinished Swan, which I enjoyed a good amount, and I imagine this is a wild ride, the best experienced in one big gulp.

6. Rime

Rime, one of two new games from Tequila Works this year alongside The Sexy Brutale, which made the side-scrolling cinematic platforming survival horror Deadlight back in 2012, sounds like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild minus all the combat. Which, honestly, is perfectly okay with me, considering I often tried my best not to get into fights in that game because I’d just end up losing health, weapons, and arrows without getting much to replace them. It’s about a young boy that has washed ashore on an abandoned island, with the main focus being on solving environmental puzzles. It looks both gorgeous and relaxing.

5. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Speaking of relaxing, that’s the vibe I get from Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. It’s an adventure game set in an open world environment, which doesn’t sound like anything unique, but the tone seems to be real low-key. Hey, welcome–stay a while. The game’s primary goal is collecting magical creatures, known as sprites, to banish an ominous shroud known as the Murk. Along the way, you can take part in non-violent activities like farming, fishing, and crafting while exploring the island, and that’s the part I’m most interested in. Last year, I was all about that sweet pixely Stardew Valley, and this seems to share some of the same traits.

4. Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity: Original Sin 2 sounds like the end-all, be-all überlegen CRPG, with content bursting at the seams and a story that reacts to nearly every single one of your choices, no matter how major or minor. That’s cool. Maybe I’ll try it some day. Though there’s that terrible part of my brain that says I shouldn’t until I’ve at least played Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity, Divinity II, Divinity: Dragon Commander, and Divinity: Original Sin. You can’t tell because this is just written text, but I’m laughing hysterically over here.

3. Pyre

Supergiant Games is a rad developer with some highly imaginative titles. I loved Bastion, and I was a little mixed on Transistor. Pyre looks gorgeous, but I don’t know if I’ll get into the fantasy sports element since I don’t even like normal non-fantasy sports, but I have to imagine that the plot will draw me into this strange, amazing-looking world. Here’s a quick plot summary, which sounds fascinating: you controls a character who has been exiled from society and quickly meets three other exiles. The three exiles then discover that the player-character is literate and invites them to join their party, nicknaming them the Reader. The Reader aids the exiles and other exiles met during the course of the game in their travels through the land of purgatory as they look to cleanse their souls via defeating other exiles. Yowza.

2. Tacoma

I played a bunch of Gone Home in 2017. It’s still a masterpiece. Fullbright’s follow-up Tacoma is another exploration game, this time set aboard a seemingly-empty space station in 2088. You play as Amy, who has an augmented reality device that allows her to review the actions and conversations of non-player characters that were part of crew that had been aboard the station. These recordings can be manipulated, fast-forwarding or rewinding as necessary in order to see what happened and move the plot forward. It’s another rummaging simulator, but this time aboard an abandoned spaceship, like Prey but without the constant fear of a coffee mug trying to kill you. I also think the polygonal character models look super neat.

1. Super Mario Odyssey

I don’t have a Nintendo Switch, and I probably won’t for a long time. That’s just how these things go, too many consoles, not enough money, space, and time. Thankfully, I was able to play Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild this year via the Wii U version, which is fine. Then again, when I think about it, I haven’t played many of the big Mario marquee titles over the years, like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, both Super Mario Galaxy titles, and so on. So this isn’t anything new or shocking, but the twist is that Super Mario Odyssey is the first one in a while that I’m actively interested in playing. The hook of using your hat to take over enemies and use their abilities to better yourself seems fun and instantly reminds me of Brave Fencer Musashi. I also really like how organized the game is when it comes to tracking how many moons you’ve collected, and that the collectibles are your ship’s currency to get you to new places.

And there we have it, the top 10 games I didn’t get to play in 2017. I hope I can play one or two of these some time in 2018, but there’s never a guarantee on that (see the previously mentioned Red Dead Redemption at the top of this post).

But that was me, and now I want to know more about you. What big or small games did you not get to touch this year? Tell me all about them in the comments section below.

Grinding Down’s Top 10 Pumpkins in Gaming

I tried to get this post done long before Halloween hit, but life got in the way, and I got distracted and well, here we are now, a week into November. Thank goodness that November is also a month where pumpkins are totally topical and appropriate, so my post about 10 cool-as-heck pumpkins in videogames remains relevant. Whew. Also, it’s finally beginning to feel like fall here in New Jersey, though I’m sure, like a leaf detaching from a high-up branch and heading gently and quietly to the earth below, its journey will be short and quickly forgotten.

Also, here’s the pumpkins Melanie and I carved a few days before Halloween that almost instantly went moldy due to the high temps here in the Garden State:

I’ll let you figure out which one I did.

And now, some other cool-as-heck pumpkins!

10. King’s Quest

There’s a dark cave full of hungry wolves blocking your progress at one point in that new take on King’s Quest, and to get through it, you need a very strong and bright light to keep the beasts at bay. Eventually, you discovered you can purchase a magical blue ball of fire from the eccentric Hubblepots in town, but need some kind of vessel to hold it. A giant pumpkin from the local garden will do just fine, and it’s both silly and awesome to watch Graham hoist the heavy thing over his head and march through the illuminated cave with newfound confidence.

9. Fallout 4

Fallout 4 is a world without holidays, despite the Christmas surprise, where radiation and destruction are the focus. Still, time exists, and time passes, and you are from a long-lost era where holidays were a big deal, something people centered around and made special. Remember, the bombs dropped around Halloween. The plastic pumpkin is a reminder of a simpler time, of dressing up not to better protect yourself against raiders and swipes from a legendary Deathclaw, but to go door to door and collect candy. There’s not many of them out in the wild, but seeing one still gives me pause. Also, it can be broken down into individual components for use in crafting, so it is not just a piece of cosmetic dressing.

8. Clayfighter

I did not play a ton of ClayFighter in its heyday, being more of a Street Fighter II dabbler and a Mortal Kombat on-looker, but see here, Ickybod Clay is a punderful name for a ghost with a jack-o-lantern head. You just can’t beat that. Also, he can teleport and throw balls of ghost goo at his opponent, which irrefutably makes this is one excellent use of a pumpkin.

7. the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

For some reason, I’ve not come across many pumpkins in my playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so I use them fairly infrequently in my cooking sessions. But when I do, the results are always supreme. Here’s a tip: combining them with some type of meat will get you a meat-stuffed pumpkin that can restore a ton of hearts.

6. Final Fantasy VII

Okay, this might be a stretch, because I can’t seem to find any official ruling on whether the hilariously named enemy Dorky Face from Final Fantasy VII is a pumpkin-headed shuttlecock, but it sure does look like a pumpkin-headed shuttlecock to me, and so it is making the list. You fight a bunch of them in the Shinra Mansion in Nibelheim, and their main attack is called “Funny Breath,” which causes confusion. Huh. I wonder if they’ll show up again in the Final Fantasy VII Remake, which is obviously never going to come out.

5. Costume Quest 2

It should come as no surprise that pumpkins are prominent in both Costume Quest and Costume Quest 2, games highly passionate about pumpkin time. I decided to go with the latter title, if only because it is somewhat fresher in my mind because of what I did with it during last year’s Extra Life event. Also, all the Achievement artwork is carved pumpkins.

4. Minecraft

There’s something about a square pumpkin that honestly cracks me up. Thanks, Minecraft. Keep on being square.

3. Borderlands 2

Look, I’ll just come out and admit it, but the only DLC I played for Borderlands 2 was the first one called Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty. I had a good time with it and have continued to dabble in the game, but never got any more additional content. Which is a shame, because it sounds like Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is a lot of fun, and the smaller add-on called T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest is ultra-fitting for this post. Zombie T.K. Baha, last seen in a piece of DLC for the original Borderlands which I also did not play, sends players off to fight Jaques O’Lantern, a giant pumpkin boss who gives out new character customizations as rewards for being beaten. Sounds cool to me; however, Borderlands 3/Borderworlds needs a gun that endlessly fires giant, flaming pumpkins. Please make this dream a reality.

2. Stardew Valley

Ugh, I really do need to pick Stardew Valley up again and at least see it through to when grandpa is supposed to visit or whatever. Yet, after completing the community center, I feel like I’ve done the thing. The big thing. Anyways, that’s a topic for another post. Pumpkins are big in the game, especially during the fall season. They grow 13 days after being planted and are one of three crops that might produce a giant crop version, along with cauliflower and melon (see above). After Starfruit, it has the second-highest per unit base price of all the normal crops, which makes it important if you are looking to be rolling in a coin bank. Oh, and you can also make a jack-o-lantern by combining a pumpkin and a torch to keep things spooky year-round.

1. Animal Crossing

Jack, the self-proclaimed Czar of Halloween, is a character from the Animal Crossing series–except for Wild World–who loves candy, naturally. Especially lollipops. He appears once a year for Halloween, from 6:00 PM until 1:00 AM the following day. Jack distributes spooky furniture to the player, which can only be obtained through him, and it is all very orange and pumpkin-themed, and I believe I got every piece for my copy of New Leaf, but it’s been many years now since I played, so I can’t confirm this. I’m also scared to look for fear of getting sucked back in. Either way, he’s a real cool gourd-wearing dude.

I’m sure there are lots of other cool-as-heck pumpkins out there in videogame-land. How about you tell me of the ones you love or think rock. Please do so in the comments, and I’ll try to respond before any of them get moldy and start caving in on themselves.

My Laptop Hates These Games – August 2017

Hi, everyone. One of my goals for 2015–yup, sadly, still working on promises from yesteryears because that’s the kind of special slacker I am–was to come up with a new feature for Grinding Down, and it only took me about eight or nine months into 2017 to figure out what I wanted though it does kind of go hand in hand with resolution #3 for this year about clearing out some of my Steam backlog. Either way, I done did it.

Welcome to My Laptop Hates These Games, wherein I take a real short glance at games I tried to run on my less-than-steller ASUS laptop from 2010-ish, which is totally not built to play big games, but has, in the past, been fine with things like Broken Age, Transistor, and Gone Home. I was even able to run meatier operations like Red Faction: Armageddon and Bulletstorm, just with the settings turned super low. Some games operate better than others, and some simply don’t run at all. At least through this feature, I’ll find out if they work or don’t work sooner than later, and my goal is to present to you the exact experience I had, from hitting the executable to deleting all the files.

Okay, let’s dig in.


I’ve never even played a single second of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker–I know, shame on me–but I already completely understand that this is the look and feel Maui is going for in its execution. This is a free action-adventure game based on Hawaiian mythology, which is something unique to the videogames playing field. I got through the tutorial just fine, learning how to switch my faith to different gods for unique powers, but then the mission where you need to find a banana brought everything to a crawl stuck inside a glacier covered in molasses. Unfortunately, there are no settings to change things, and so this got deleted without ever finding that lost banana.

Escape the Game: Intro

Another freebie on Steam that I probably installed because it kind of looked like Thomas Was Alone. Unfortunately, I can’t say if Escape the Game: Intro played the same way or not because, after seeing the title screen and clicking start, the game does a fake crash à la Fez…ironically leading to a real crash to desktop. I was able to replicate this three times before I gave up. I guess in my own special way I did manage to escape the game.

My Time at Portia

My Time at Portia looks real fine. My love and fascination for quirky farming simulations continues to grow, having enjoyed Stardew Valley and Slime Rancher a whole bunch recently, and this one looks to be almost a mixture of the two styles. It’s set in a post-apocalypse setting, but a splashy, kaleidoscopic one. The player starts a new life in a town on the edge of civilization called Portia by building a workshop and creating helpful items with relics from the past. The goal of the game is to make the workshop as big as possible…I think. Even with the graphic settings turned to “fastest,” this was next to impossible to play. I knew I was in for a rocky time when the in-game cutscene staggered forward at a crawl. Gaining control of the main character was worse. Here’s hoping that this too comes to consoles like similar titles as of late.

My Laptop Hates These Games takes a quick look at the titles that kind of, only sort of run or don’t run at all on my ASUS laptop. Here’s hoping that some of these, specifically the ones that looked interesting, come to console down the road. Y’know, those gaming machines where nothing ever goes wrong and every game runs perfectly without ever crashing or freezing or glitching out. Maybe I’ll play these there or in 2056 when I get a new laptop that is, even at that point, still somewhat obsolete.

Adding to the Backlog – Three More PlayStation 2 Titles, Woo

I’m not out to collect every single PlayStation 2 game ever made, because they sure did make a whole lot of them, but I have a list of several titles that I missed during the console’s heydays and am genuinely interested in acquiring and, when the time is right, playing. Yes, playing, because I love games of varying ages, especially JRPGs from this specific era in the industry, for reasons I’m not totally clear on just yet. They don’t make them like they used to, and when they try, they don’t always succeed. Anyways, for a good while there, I was able to find some PlayStation 2 cases at my local GameStops, but they eventually needed more shelf-space for other things, like amiibos and virtual reality gear, and stopped stocking them.

Recently, at a comic convention last April, I was able to grab a working copy of Dark Cloud, which I once had and was actually the very first game I got for my system as a young boy with some steady income before being dumb and trading it in for something else. The game, not the system. I’m still rocking my original PlayStation 2 because I take good care of my stuff. Right, the last time I added a bunch of old-ish games in one solid lump was back in February 2016, with me stocking up on an astounding ten games for my collection; you’ll not be surprised to learn I’ve not tried a single one of them yet. Sigh. One day, when the world is full of free time and no consequences or guilt-laden clouds.

Over the weekend, while Melanie was taking a buttercream flowers class, I had an hour or so to kill in Somerville, NJ, and so I stopped in Retro Classics to peruse their wares. I’ve been in the store before, picking up PS2 copies of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Hobbit for my constantly growing assemblage of all things related to The Lord of the Rings, but the last time I went I forgot to bring a list and found myself second-guessing whether or not I had this or that copy of said title and was reluctant to make any purchases. It’s always good to be prepared, and this time I totally was.

Here’s what I got:

That might not seem all that exciting of a haul to you, but Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse is something I’ve never seen out in the wild, and my love for strange JRPGs from this era was too strong to resist grabbing a copy for around $15.00. Perhaps I now have more of a reason than ever to finally play through the first game, eating up those lengthy anime-driven cutscenes and e-mails and card-based minigames, knowing there is actually more to follow. The store also has a retail copy of Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra, but it was a little too pricey for me at the moment. You can see that I also nabbed Wallace & Gromit in Project Zoo, which pairs nicely with my case-less copy of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and X-Men Legends so that I can go back to the beginning of when these comic book hero videogames became more RPG than mindless punching and optic blasting. I’m pretty pleased with the trio.

Anyways, that’s all for now. Alas, most of my list of desired PS2 games are really obscure beasts, like Summoner 2, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Legaia 2: Duel Saga, and I just don’t think I’ll ever run into them at a store and I’m too timid to try and find them online for a “good” price and deal with trusting a stranger somewhere in the world to deliver on their promises. I’ll keep looking, but I won’t hold my breath. Because I’ll run out of air rather quickly. Until then, looks like I have some other things I can play. Y’know, when I find the time.