Category Archives: lists

Here’s a bunch of games I’m looking forward to in 2019

I did this last year, so let’s see how things turned out in the end:

  • Mineko’s Night Market A game about crafting crafts, eating eats, and catting cats was supposed to come out sometime in 2018, but is now tentatively dated for 2019. I’m still interested.
  • Staxel – This, I believe, did hit its release date, but I just never got around to it. I had plenty of other farming games in my collection to keep me distracted, I guess.
  • Ooblets – Speaking of farming, Ooblets is an upcoming farming, creature collection, and town life indie game. This was another “sometime in 2018” game that has now been pushed to this year. I’m super-duper excited for it as it should also be coming to Xbox One.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 – Well, this obviously hit, and I obviously did not hit it.
  • State of Decay 2 – This was my number 5 game of the year for 2018. I wasn’t in love with the stress of keeping my community afloat, but the wave-based zombie slaughter DLC mode Daybreak provided a good amount of mindless fun. I hope to one day start my community over, now knowing what I now know.
  • The Lord of the Rings LCG – I’m assuming this came out at some point, but I haven’t really looked into it too much. Honestly, I’m more inclined to download and try out Magic: The Gathering – Arena. I like card games, but I don’t have the time, money, or social group anymore to play with real-life cards, so digital is the path forward.
  • Long Gone Days – This also got bumped to 2019 though it has been in Early Access for many months.
  • The Swords of Ditto – I did not get to play this yet, but shortly before 2018 ended, Twitch Prime handed out a free copy of this game, along with many, many others, so no excuses going forward.
  • Legendary Gary – This came out, I requested a review copy, I got a review copy, and I enjoyed it.
  • Knights and Bikes – Still TBA.

Okay, so I still got some tentative 2018 games to check in on this year, along with several other newbies. Namely, these beauts:

The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds is a new single-player, first-person, sci-fi RPG from Obsidian Entertainment and Private Division. One of those developers worked on Fallout: New Vegas, so clearly I’m deeply interested from the get-go. Lost in transit while on a colonist ship bound for the furthest edge of the galaxy, you awake decades later only to find yourself in the midst of a deep conspiracy threatening to destroy the Halcyon colony. Sounds like a good time to me.

Stranger Things 3: The Game

Not to be confused with Stranger Things: The Game, which is a retro thingy available on phones and something I have played a tiny bit of. This will be a 16-bit, top-down action game that lets players take control of the series’ main cast throughout the events of the upcoming third season of Netflix’s popular science fiction show. Not much else is currently known.

Animal Crossing

Ah, my entire reasoning for getting a Switch relatively soon–Animal Crossing. I do hope it expands a bit more than Animal Crossing: New Leaf did from Animal Crossing: Wild World. I want even more options when it comes to things to do, with plenty of nifty secrets to discover, like money rocks or stacking fruit. I’m sure I’ll love it either way and will end up sinking the most hours into it of any game I play in 2019. That’s a guarantee.

The Sinking City

The Sinking City is an upcoming adventure-horror video game developed by Frogwares and published by Bigben Interactive, inspired by the works of horror author H.P. Lovecraft. It seems to be heavy on spookiness and atmosphere, and while I don’t play a ton of horror-themed games, this was has me mildly interested.

Pikuniku

I know very little about Pikuniku, but it appears to be Mr. Men: The Videogame. Sort of. By the way, if you really wanted to know, I’m a total duplicate of Mr. Worry, both in shape and color. Anyways, I’m digging the art style, for sure, and it sounds like it’s a puzzle-driven adventure with a focus on physics. Hmm. Curious to see more, and the game comes out at the end of this month. Maybe I’ll get lucky and ask for a review copy.

Rage 2

Trust me, I’m no Rage defender, as I couldn’t believe how abruptly that first game ended, but I liked inclusion of multiple mini-games and the strangeness of the world’s characters. Wasn’t too into the driving, but the shooting felt good, and the environments were kind of neat. Plus, it had a mission bulletin board in the middle of town, which I will always appreciate. The second game seems to be zanier times ten, and we’ll see how it turns out.

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn

Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii is a game I loved, never finished, and have since lost the disc to, though I have the case and instruction manual, which breaks my yarn-knitted heart. I’m happy to know then that it is heading to the Nintendo 3DS in 2019 under the expanded title of Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn. Every stage in the original Wii version is stitched in, but this handheld version has some new features, like the ability to craft bigger yarn balls, summon bead-collecting wind, and play two new modes featuring familiar faces, namely King Dedede and Meta Knight. I’m ready to drown in its cuteness all over again.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, but I’m sure there’s more to come down the pipeline, plus the ever-surprisingly amount of unheard of indie games to pop up.

What games are you most looking forward to in 2019? Share with me in the comments section below.

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

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

Right. Here, check ’em out:

*** – came out in calendar year 2018

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

Phew. Not bad, not bad.

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

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

See y’all next year!

Grinding Down’s Top 10 Games of 2018

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

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

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

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

10. Harvest Seasons

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

9. All Our Asias

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

8. Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle

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

7. Legendary Gary

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

6. Subnautica

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

5. State of decay 2

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

4. Starlink: Battle of Atlas

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

3. Spyro: Reignited Trilogy

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

2. Mark of the Ninja: Remastered

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

1. Fortnite Battle Royale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, here we go.


10. Fallout 76

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

9. Donut County

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

8. Minit

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

7. Into the Breach

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

6. Unavowed

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

5. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

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

4. Return of the Obra Dinn

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

3. God of War

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

2. Red Dead Redemption 2

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

1. Marvel’s Spider-Man

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

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

la-noire-the-set-up

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

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

Ooblets

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).