Category Archives: movies

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Home Alone

games I regret Home Alone GB

Here’s a pretty good example of my lack of focus lately, or, rather, my more passionate and dedicated focus on other projects; I was hoping to both write and post this edition of Games I Regret Parting With before Christmas hit a few months back, especially when you consider that Home Alone is the classic family comedy about a young boy surviving a home invasion during the holiday season. Well, here we are at the end of March, the first day of spring, though it is supposed to snow today, so there’s at least a paper-thin connection to go on.

Home Alone is one of those rare game franchises where it is a different beast for the various systems it popped up on, to the point that you need a wiki to figure out where each one differs. Think like how Jurassic Park on the SNES and Jurassic Park on the Genesis were DNA-created reptiles from totally opposite prehistoric eras. Heck, one let you play as a velociraptor, and the other tried to use a Wolfenstein 3D look when inside buildings. Either way, I only ever played Home Alone on one system, the legendary Game Boy, and while I can remember that detail clearly, I still have no memory over what happened to my Game Boy and collection of tiny, gray game cartridges. All I know is that, unlike my SNES and small handful of classics (minus Mario Paint), they are all gone. Probably sold at a yard sale or traded in during my dumb trade in phase.

The Home Alone Game Boy version, while similar to the SNES and NES versions, required the player controlling pixelated Kevin McCallister to evade confrontation with the Wet Bandits. While hiding from the house robbing baddies, you have to gather up valuable items and then dump them into a laundry chute to deposit them into a protective safe. You could also resort to using these items against the Wet Bandits, by dropping them on their heads or setting up elaborate traps. Y’know, just like in the movie. In total, there are four levels, with each taking place in a different area of the larger-than-life McCallister abode. The first level pertains to gathering up jewelry/gold/silver items, the second level has toys, the third focuses on various electronics, and the fourth level has various exotic pets that are both rare and expensive. I feel like I never got past the second level, as I really don’t remember collecting electronics or exotic pets.

Evidently, after collecting the minimum amount of items and dumping them into the chute, you can go into the basement to fight a boss before locking up the safe. This is where things take a strange turn. A videogame-y turn, if you will. The first level’s boss is a giant spider, then a massive rat, and so on. Kevin eventually battles against Marv and Harry, but the true final fight is against the fearsome and deadly basement furnace. Again, I can’t recall any of these end-of-level encounters, but I was probably rubbish at Home Alone, content to simply run around the house and collect a few things.

For those too afraid to look into the matter, there are currently five films in the Home Alone franchise. Naturally, only the first two are worth watching. I feel like I might’ve dabbled in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on the Game Boy as well, though it could have been a rental or borrowed copy from a friend. The games never controlled too way, especially when it came to Kevin’s jumping and later sliding mechanic, and could be pretty unforgiving, but the chiptune versions of some of the movie’s iconic songs were all I really needed. Plus, finding a slice of pizza inside a dresser drawer never got old.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

New ways to celebrate mediocrity with The Incredibles

gd incredibles playstation2 impressions

I ended up getting a copy of The Incredibles videogame for the PlayStation 2 last summer as part of a small birthday celebration for myself. Please note, I also snagged Suikoden Tactics and Star Ocean Till the End of Time with this, and, of the three, it’s the first one I’ve actually put into my system to play since that package arrived. Yup, some seven months later, I’m just blindly trusting that these used videogames from Amazon arrived in working condition. I mean, yeah, I’ll find out eventually.

Anyways, The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar film. I say that now, in 2015, with total confidence, and have been saying it since the movie saw release in 2004. Y’know, a decade ago. I also suspect that I will continue saying this for many more years, possibly all the years. There’s a lot of reasons why The Incredibles is incredible, and I’ll list a few for those in the know: Brad Bird, monologues, subsurface scattering, Syndrome’s hair, that little kid on the tricycle, capes, no capes, the colors, 1960s homages, the mysterious Mirage, and so on. It’s a funny story about superheroes, but also about family and what it can cost to stay together, to be happy. I watch it every few months as it is one of my top 31 favorite ways to eat up time.

I promise I’ll talk about the letdown that, so far, is The Incredibles on the PlayStation 2, but I first need to lay some groundwork. First, the movie. I was in college and saw it on or around its opening weekend with a girl I was dating then, who we will call the Giraffe, and it instantly blew me my mind. Like, sure, I understood the concept of a “children’s film for adults,” but here was something else, something bigger. It didn’t dumb itself down for the wee ones, and it kept the serious moments super serious. Fast forward a bit, and I’m on my way home from a Spring Break trip in Las Vegas, NV, unfortunately taking a red-eye flight back to Camden. Now, I’m already terrified of planes, and so while everyone else slept, I sat staring at the back of the seat in front of me, sweating like a pig. Until I discovered my girlfriend’s GameBoy Advance and a copy of The Incredibles for it. It didn’t pass all the hours, but it definitely helped; alas, the GBA version is quite different from those released for consoles, playing it as a straightforward side-scrolling beat-em-up, and you can see it in action over here.

I knew that The Incredibles for PlayStation 2 was not the same game I had played on that flight many years back, but it still seemed promising. The movie’s entire makeup is perfectly designed for a videogame: you have a small cast of characters, each with varying special powers, ending up in dangerous situations, all trying to save the world from a man-boy gone mad who has an army of goons and robots to toss at you. Alas, it turned out to be a vapid, uninspired retread of the movie, with an out-of-nowhere difficulty spike, which forces one to use cheat codes to get through it. Hate to remind Syndrome of this yet again, but you do need special powers to be super.

Here are my biggest problems so far with The Incredibles, and mind you, I only just completed stage 8 (of 18 total), meaning I’m a little bit over one-third of the way through it, but boy howdy I’m not thrilled about what’s to come.

It’s boring. The levels are extremely linear, and the one or two occasions it allows you to explore reveal nothing, save for maybe a single “secret bonus item” unlock collectible, which devolves into uninteresting concept art. It’s certainly no this. At this point, I’ve played as Mr. Incredible six times, once as Elastigirl, and once as Dash. Wait, real quick–the game and its manual seem to go out of its way to never refer to Elastigirl as such, calling her Helen or Mrs. Incredible only, strangely stripping her of her identity, even labeling her this in a level that takes place before she gets married. The levels for Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl are of the action adventure style, with slivers of variety, such as a turret sequence, and the Dash level was an atrocious free-runner style thing that I’ll have more on in a sec.

It’s confusing. Look, I know the movie inside and out. I have to imagine anyone coming to this game also knows the movie pretty well or would at least see it first before playing the action game based on it. If they didn’t, well…this will make zero sense. Small, condensed scenes from Pixar’s film are used between levels to bridge the gaps, but it does little to explain why so-and-so is here, doing this, wearing that. One level you are playing as an overweight Mr. Incredible in his old-timey blue costume, and the very next level you have him looking fit and all donned up in Edna’s new design. I know how he got there, but many won’t if they are relying on this for plot. Also, you rarely get told what to do in a level or where to go next, though there are only so many options at hand.

It’s too difficult. Maybe this is my fault, coming to The Incredibles and assuming it was a child-friendly beat-em-up with additional elements, but certainly something easy. Most levels, based on a quick scan of YouTube replays, take about eight to ten minutes to finish, while I was averaging more around 30 minutes. This is due to many deaths, but also frustration at overly difficult sections, sequences I just can’t imagine a young gamer getting through without repeated tries or external help. In some levels, if you miss a platform jump, you have to return to the start of the scenario yourself and start again, and it doesn’t help that the camera makes it challenging to tell how far a jump is. In that level where Dash has to race the school bus, the checkpoint systems seems oddly tiered, often working against progress. The only way I was able to beat the Omnidroid in stage 8 “Volcanic Eruption” was to spam health replenish and Incredi-move cheat codes. I don’t know, maybe I’m just terrible at games, thinks the dude that did beat Yama on a Daily Challenge last year.

The short of it is this: The Incredibles is not as incredible as the movie. I’m going to finish playing it, because that’s who I am, but like that tricycle kid hanging around the Parr’s driveway, I’ll still be waiting for something amazing to happen.

Joe Danger 2, a colorful crash course in prodigious puns

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To my honest surprise, I enjoyed Trials Evolution despite having no appreciation or interest in all things motorcycle riders traversing over obstacles. In my youth, I did do some light biking with friends, but it was mostly bunny hops over curbs or riding on the back pegs for a period of time. Nothing crazy or life-threatening. I could also ride handless down a hill, but those skills have certainly vanished since that lifetime. If Trials Evolution is all broken necks and flailing limbs, then Joe Danger 2: The Movie is bouncy castles and winky faces. That’s not a bad thing.

Joe Danger 2: The Movie was recently given out to PlayStation Plus subscribers for free, and so I immediately downloaded and then forgot about it. No time, people. I have no time for racing platformers. Well, maybe I do, considering this write-up. Anyways, the plot, which should really just be called “its reason for existence,” is as follows: Joe has gained favor with a movie director in Hollywood and has been hired to perform all the stunts on set. The movie consists entirely of cliché action stunts, such as chase scenes on mini carts, skis, and police bikes, and obstacle courses with jetpacks and tricycles and other crazy things. And so you go through a number of movie scenarios, each with their own specific missions, trying to earn stars and complete tasks to move on to the next theatrical adventure. Pretty straightforward stuff.

For some reason, I was not expecting puns. At least not this many. Joe Danger 2: The Movie is crazy in love with puns, as they should be. As we all should be.  Here’s a sampling of some movie level names: Lord of the Springs, Gulp Fiction, Das Boost, Temple of Boom, Dr. Snow, A View to Chill, Coldfinger, Doom Raider, Indiana Bones, and so on. I love them. I genuinely do, and for me, they help transform a rather by-the-books racing platforming game–collect items like stars/bananas/the letters to spell DANGER, do specific tasks like 100% combos, finish the level, and move on–into something quite endearing.

Getting through the levels is rather easy. In truth, I could blow through this game in one or two sittings, but I’m instead taking my time and trying to complete some of the side missions within each level. This is where the game can become a bit more like Trials Evolution, close to the point of frustrating. Physics and time limits and hidden paths/items are all constraints that make finishing a level and doing other stuff a struggle. Thankfully, the puns, colorful commentary from the director, and bright look to the game keep things from becoming too dark.

The next movie level Joe Danger must perform in is called Eggstinction, set in prehistoric times. I fully expect to drown in dinosaur-based puns.

Welcome to Jurassic Park: The Game

If you know me well enough, or have had the golden opportunity to hang out with my wife Tara, then chances are you know how obsessed we are with Jurassic Park. Not the film series, but the first film–in truth, the only film. Actually, I’m also extremely fond of Michael Crichton’s novel, where it all began, as it was one of the first books I read as a youngling; I think I last reread it a few years ago and it still managed to impress. But you’d really know how dino crazy we are because when a perfect spot opens up for a Jurassic Park quote, we fill it, and we fill it fast. Occasionally, we don’t even need a reason. She likes these zingers:

  • “Maybe it’s the power trying to come back on?”
  • “Mr. Hammond, the phones are working.”

I usually go with:

  • “Hold on to your butts.”

What then follows is us reenacting about every other line of dialogue from the film and then a heavy sadness as we don’t actually own a copy and can’t watch the glorious gem at any given point. These days, you have to buy a box set of all three films, and that’s not up our alley. Anyways, we love Jurassic Park, and so when in GameStop the other day we saw Jurassic Park: The Game for relatively cheap and picked it up. I’ve had some experience with other works from Telltale Games and enjoyed what they did there, but I did head back to Isla Nublar with trepidation.

It’s an adventure game akin to Heavy Rain more than an adventure game akin to Back to the Future: The Game. The action scenes are all about Quick Time Events (QTE), and the rest of the playing involves looking around scenes, talking to whoever is with you, and figuring out the right combination of actions. So far, from what I can tell, the story is split between Gerry Harding and his daughter and the mysterious Nima Cruz who is trying to find Nedry’s Barbasol can of dino DNA, and there are constant nods to the movie, which is always great. Sadly, the game looks pretty terrible, but not enough to scare us away immediately.

Just getting started with these, many of which are awesomely named:


Welcome to Jurassic Park (20G): Escaped the jungle.


I’m a Hacker (20G): Showed your jungle hacking chops.


The First Dinosaurs on our Tour (20G): Survived the two-crested lizard.

Looking forward to playing more, but just like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7, this is a game best played with a partner, and so I will wait until Tara has some more free time. Right now, she’s hard at work on a short comic that I wrote, and we will hopefully be able to share it with the universe very soon. Sorry, no, it’s not about dinosaurs. This time.

Be like Bolton, and get back to the good part!

In honor of today’s big Purchase of the Month–that’d be LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, not Brink, which is getting horrible review scores–I give you Michael Bolton crooning over Jack Sparrow’s fantastical adventures:

“Big sexy hook” doesn’t even begin to describe this work of art.

Living the LEGO life of a pirate

The demo for LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game begins with a young Elizabeth Swan punching a parrot in its face. It’s pure zaniness, but that’s what these LEGO games have always been about–retellings with a special touch. If you’re not laughing, you’re not having fun.

I started to play this demo by myself, but when Tara saw what I was doing, she quickly grabbed another controller and joined in on the fun. We’ve always enjoyed playing the LEGO games together, especially LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4, which was very close to us in terms of interests. Here’s a comic I did many moons ago about our time with LEGO Batman (the weakest of all the LEGO titles actually):

Much of the demo for LEGO Pirates (I’m shortening the title from now on) is actually cutscenes, setting the story up and giving Tara and I many reasons to giggle. The entire game will cover all four movies. We’re playing the first level of the Curse of the Black Pearl, which has Jack Sparrow arriving in town and getting locked up, Elizabeth accidentally summoning those cursed pirates and getting herself kidnapped, and Will Turner slowly becoming allies with a wanted criminal.

The first playable part of the demo is inside Will Turner’s workshop. One player controls Will, and the other controls, um, some guy I can’t remember the name of. His partner? Together, we broke items, collected studs, fed a carrot to a donkey, and repaired a machine, which revealed where Jack Sparrow was hiding. Then it was time for a sword-fight high up in the rafters, and even though I was just mashing the attack button, the swords clinked and clanked and swung wildly, giving the impression of a real duel to the death.

The next area has us controlling Will and Jack, trying to break our way out of jail. This involves using a dog and sniffing out keys. Once we’re done this area, we’re outside in the shiny, bright sunshine, attempting to get to the docks to steal a ship. Tara takes control of Jack and the laughs hit a high when he hops on top of a barrel and begins rolling around with it. We get to do some combat with some soldiers, and then we’re over by a ship, trying to figure out how to commandeer it. Staying in the water too long gets you eaten by a shark. After solving the rather simple puzzles and zip-lining over onto the ship, the demo ends, leaving us wanting more.

However, after playing the main part of the demo, you can go back and do “free play” on the first level, which just gave us an excuse to try out some other fun characters and explore a few locked areas. Tara ran me over several times with a donkey, and then we were officially done for the night.

So, the gameplay is exactly what we’ve all come to expect. For some, that might seem like a downer. However, it’s still the sort of gameplay I like, as it is not too intense for co-op play, and just enough of a collectathon for my OCD. Granted, there are not as many memorable characters to unlock in LEGO Pirates as there were in LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Harry Potter, but I think it’ll still be a blast to control Bootstrap Bill.

The full retail version releases tomorrow, and I’m gonna get that booty faster than you can say, “Oh, barnacles!”

Five things make a post, or it’s time to Ragnarök!

5. The next Assassin’s Creed game has been revealed, and it’s titled Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Please note that it, like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, is missing a number in it. What does that mean? ::shrugs:: The newest game is rumored to be the last for Italian superstar Ezio, bringing his journey full circle to line up with Altair and Desmond. And the multiplayer aspect is coming back, too, which I think is fantastic. I never expected myself to become so interested in this series after its lukewarm first game experience, but here I am, waiting and wondering. Comes out this November, probably right around the same time as TES V: Skyrim, just to mess with me.

4. The Arbiter, upgraded to level 3 and rocking a tingling Shock Omega mod, is currently my weapon of choice in Ratchet: Deadlocked. This thing is just a beast, taking out dropships in two shots. Mmm:

3. As much as I adore Norse mythology, I’m not interested in the slightest over this new movie Thor. I mean, if I want to look at cheese, I’ll open my refrigerator. That said, there’s a browser-based game called Thor: Bring the Thunder! and it looks simply gorgeous. Colorful 16-bit sprites in what one could describe as Mega Man with a lightning-fused hammer. However, I think a better title would’ve been Thor: Time to Ragnarök!

2. I downloaded two demos on the Xbox 360 yesterday: LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean and Red Faction: Armageddon. Unfortunately, due to time restraints and the constant distraction that is Netflix, I’ve not been able to try either of these yet, but will most likely give ‘em a run over the weekend. Not expecting much from the latest Red Faction title, but I do love me some LEGO action. Hope it’s as fun as the movies were (well, the first movie at least).

1. I finally earned the highest amount of G in the latest bazaar in Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar. This meant selling everything I had in my bag, including a huge piece of gold I was lucky enough to find attached to my body after jumping into the river seven times. I was so excited for this as I knew that the highest seller won a prize from the mayor. Maybe it was a trophy? Or a huge bag of gold? Or his daughter’s hand in marriage? No. No, it wasn’t any of those. I won a bottle of milk. Ffffffffffffff.

And that, dear Grinding Down readers, has certainly been a post.