Category Archives: PlayStation Plus purge

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Unmechanical: Extended

I’ve tried playing through Unmechanical twice now, once on the PC and the second time on my PlayStation 3 with the Unmechanical: Extended edition. I feel like I got as far as I did in both games, which was not very far along if I’m being honest, stopping around the same point, somewhere deep in the mines section. I really wanted to like this puzzle-topia starring an ultra cute robot, but the puzzles eventually became too much for my tiny brain to figure out. Some are logical, and some are physics-based, but if all I’m doing is looking up solution after solution online, I don’t see the point of playing a game at all.

Unmechanical: Extended is a somewhat enhanced version of the original game, with an additional episode included to complete. This is first and foremost a puzzle adventure that combines tricky puzzle solving, exploration, and an engrossing if depressing atmosphere set amid tubes and machinery and underground tunnels. Taking place in a world of flesh, rock, and steel, your robot’s journey to freedom requires you to solve a great variety of puzzling challenges. Alas, my robot friend will never be free, and for that I am deeply sorry.

The controls aren’t too complicated. There are only three real options when you are controlling your robot buddy: moving it with the joystick, pushing a button to get a basic hint, and every other button on your controller activates your tractor beam; however, you have to hold down the button to keep your tractor beam engaged, and the beam can help move objects or activate levers. Some puzzles are self-contained in solitary rooms, while others are spread out across multiple areas, requiring you to travel back and forth, which can be quite frustrating and confusing, depending on the state of your memory.

Unmechanical: Extended is actually more than frustrating. Talawa Games clearly knows how to craft intricate puzzles, but the reliance on backtracking is a big ol’ bummer. The game’s world could have been a little more fleshed out, and the environments and additional robot critters all look rather bland or same-y. I don’t think I could really tell you what the actual plot is other than…escaping something, and maybe the additional content explores this further. It also sounds like there’s little to no replay value here, not that I’ll ever know. Lastly, the hint system. This should theoretically help players move forward, but the hints appear as thought bubbles or sometimes just a question mark, which feels too obtuse more than helpful.

Maybe one day I’ll give this another go, though I suspect I’ll get about halfway in and then give up because I just don’t have the energy to watch YouTube walkthroughs for the more complicated and involved puzzles. Sorry, Unmechanical: Extended, I just don’t have the energy.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Hustle Kings

As a young lad growing up in Smithville, NJ, I lived just down the road from our local community swimming pool and clubhouse. No, really, I could walk there in about five minutes tops, and there was a path behind a neighbor’s house that lead through a stretch of woods that I became quickly familiar with once I had a bicycle and a job at the ice cream parlor appropriately named Scoops. I’d often go to the clubhouse by myself and play pool; hey, it’s easier to play pool solo than it is ping pong. And for those that don’t know, pool is a cue sports played on a table with six pockets along the rails, into which balls are deposited. There are many variations to try, but I’m most comfortable playing eight-ball or nine-ball or just failing hard at trick shots.

Moving on, Hustle Kings is a pool game, and, based on what I learned from the training events section, a rather complicated one…if you want it to be. The game features lush, photo-realistic visuals and 3D gameplay to ensure that a digital game of pool feels just like the real thing, minus the smoky environment and stench of beer-drenched college-goers. When you’re ready, you can even test your skills against fellow fans and wannabe hustlers via online multiplayer matches. Or maybe not, anymore, as I was glancing at a Trophy guide and noticed that servers for the PlayStation 3 version are no longer functioning. Biggest shrug ever.

Some of the things you can do to enhance your pool game other than just hit the cue ball with your stick is putting backspin on it or honing your shot for the best angle or learning how to curve around a specific ball to hit another one into the pocket. It’s a lot of setting up your shot and then hoping everything works out okay; there’s several different camera views to help with this minutiae. I played a couple of free play games and did almost none of this and had a decent time still popping billiard balls into pockets, all while avoiding the eight ball until the very end. I will admit to using the hone shot option a lot because, just like in Peggle, it’s good to know how the ball will move from this singular action.

I honestly don’t have too much to say about Hustle Kings; it’s probably fine, and if you are a big pool fan, you’ll love how intricate your shots can become. For me, it’s too much, and now I’m trying to find this old Flash-based pool game I used to play online while avoiding work at an office gig back in the heydays. This is, not surprisingly, an impossible task, as there are countless online pool games you can play, and many of them all look the same. If you know any late 1990s/early 2000s online pool games that might be what I’m talking about, hit it up in the comments below.

Hustle Kings, side pocket, don’t chicken bone this cinch. Yes, I totally looked up a list of pool terms.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Q*Bert Rebooted

This will be a mighty big shock to some of you, but I have never played the original Q*Bert. Well, now I have, but you know what I mean. When I’d go to arcades at my local shopping mall, which is now mostly barren of any signs of life, I’d focus more on things like The Simpsons, X-MEN, and Mortal Kombat II, and even then, games like Pac-Man and Centipede seemed too retro for my blossoming tastes. Shame on me. I mean, Q*Bert isn’t some holy grail, but it does feel like a solid piece of gaming history, one that everyone should at least experience once.

Q*Bert Rebooted is a package of two games. It contains a port of the classic arcade game alongside a new playing mode that uses hexagonal shapes, increasing the number of possible movement directions to six. Woah, boy. Additionally, the rebooted mode features new enemy types, including a boxing glove that punches Q*Bert off the levels and a treasure chest that tries to avoid him as if he hasn’t showered for days. The game has five different stage designs spread across 40 levels, which contain three rounds and a bonus round for collecting gems; you have five lives to complete all four parts. Those gems can be spent to unlock different skins for the Q*Bert character, and completing levels multiple times while reaching specific time and score goals awards you with stars that enable access to more levels.

As with all early arcade games, the core concept is fairly simple. Q*Bert begins each level atop a pyramid of cube platforms from an isometric perspective. By hopping up and down and across, he changes the color of every square he touches. Your main goal is to color in all the squares; once you do, you’re off to the next stage. However, getting in the way of this goal is a variety of enemies, such as red balls that drop from the top of screen, along with a pink snake who chases after our leading orange blob. There are also non-lethal enemies that will go over squares Q*Bert has already touched, returning them to their former color. Also, you can fall off the side, losing a life, which leads me to…

I hated the controls in Q*Bert Rebooted. I would start with using the analog stick on my PlayStation 3 controller, but then occasionally switch to the directional pad. Both often resulted in me jumping off the side of a hexagon, which was never my intention. Sometimes I wanted to go left, but it would make me go left-up. I never felt super confident moving around the board. Also, the sound Q*Bert makes when plummeting to his death is beyond upsetting. Try7ing to jump on the floating discs to the side, which bring you back to the very top of the level, became a giant risk every single time.

Still, I am glad I finally got to play both the original version of Q*Bert and the rebooted one. The music is super catchy, and unlocking skins is always fun, especially when you can play with fun versions like Q*Zard and Q*1000. That said, with many arcade games, it’s not gonna stick around with me for too long. See ya down the hexagonal road, Q*Bert.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Sparkle 2

I never played Sparkle 1, if it was even called that, but I can’t imagine it being too different from Sparkle 2, today’s game du jour for being on the chopping board. I feel like I’m making a good dent on this sojourn of mine to rid myself of all these PlayStation Plus titles, but there are still so many left on my PlayStation 3 to go through. Woe is me, I know. How I must suffer at the hands of all these freebies of varying quality.

Anyways, Sparkle 2 is a marble shooter action puzzle game–woah, that’s way too many adjectives–that tasks you with eliminating snake-like lines of colored balls by matching three of them to make them vanish. Yup, it’s a match three, but the twist of the lines moving along a path helps keep the experience somewhat fresh. I say somewhat because, well, there’s only so much that can be done with a match three style game. I dip into these every now and then, such as with Tumblestone, Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight, and Adventure Pop, but never hang around for too long. Actually, the only one I truly continue to check in on these days is Gems of War, and that’s probably more because it reminds me so much of Puzzle Quest, where I really got hooked.

Evidently, Sparkle 2 comes with a story, a reason to match all these differently colored marbles. See, a long time ago, five enchanted keys were created. The keys were scattered around mysterious lands and still remain undiscovered. Many have come to find them, but alas, so far, all have failed. Now is your chance to shine and find these keys and unlock their secrets. It’s either that or join the endless ranks of souls forever trapped within this fantasy land. It’s honestly not much to go off of, but it is at least something, a thin carrot on a stick to chase after. That said, after finding two keys, I still don’t really follow the plot one bit.

I played Sparkle 2 for at least four hours, finishing about thirty or so levels and finding two of the five missing keys. How do I know I put that much time into it? Well, one, there’s an in-game timer, and two, you get a Trophy for playing that long. Go me. The game’s controls are thankfully tight, which they need to be if you are going to try and shoot marbles as quickly as possible at moving targets. There’s no guide though, so you have to do your best to line things up, and some power-ups help more than others. I really liked the one that turned into a bunch of fireflies to clear out multiple balls at once.

Well, I’ll fire one more colored ball, this time at Sparkle 2 itself, eliminating it from my PlayStation 3 and making room for whatever PS Plus game is next to cross my path.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Another World

Another World is an adventuring classic. At least, it seems so. It’s also known as Out of This World in North America and Outer World in Japan, which has only confused me for years because I always thought those were different, unique games…or parts in a series. Nope, they are one in the same. For those that don’t know, Another World released in 1991, and it’s a highly cinematic action-adventure platforming game designed by Éric Chahi and published by Delphine Software. The narrative involves Lester, a young scientist who, as a result of an experiment gone wrong, finds himself on a dangerous alien world where he is forced to fight for his survival.

Here’s some things I just learned about Another World, after giving it a few goes on the PlayStation 3 via the Another World – 20th Anniversary Edition version, which us PlayStation Plus users got for free this past September. It was developed by Chahi alone over a period of about two years, with help only on the soundtrack from Jean-François Freitas. Chahi developed his own game engine, completing all the game’s art and animations in vector form to reduce memory use, with some use of rotoscoping to help plan out character movements. Both narrative-wise and gameplay-wise, he wanted the game to be told with little to no language or user-interface elements. The game was originally developed for the Amiga and Atari ST, but has since been widely ported to other contemporary systems, including home and portable consoles and mobile devices…which is how I am playing it some now twenty-plus years later after always being curious about the legendary beast.

Still, I couldn’t get too far in this one, especially once it became necessary to fire guns at enemies and dodge incoming bullets while also creating shields to block said projectiles. I did okay kicking and jumping over the weird alien worms that fall from the ceiling, as well as running away from the dark-black hulk that chases you at the start of Another World. After that…everything just needed to be too precise for me to figure out. Plus, once you died, which always only took one wrong move or hit, you had to do the whole “rock the cage” bit again, and then try to hit your marks perfectly or be evaporated before you even knew what hit you.

Well…I just watched a full playthrough on YouTube (with no commentary), with a run-time of just over thirty minutes, which includes multiple deaths and restarts. Yeah, I don’t think I would ever have figured some of this stuff out. There are walls you can blast open to let you into new areas, but I don’t see how you’d be aware of them at all as they don’t stand out and the game itself never tells you what you can or cannot do. In one way, that’s freeing and awesome; in another, completely frustrating. There’s a whole section set in a cavern that is blowing my tiny little mind. I get that adventure games are all about exploring and trying your options out until they run bone dry, but again, with no text or inventory system…it’s seemingly impossible to know what is possible in a strange world like this. Also, all your actions require repetition to perfect.

I’ll give credit where credit is certainly due. It looks like Chahi created one fantastic sidekick more than twenty years ago, an alien being who communicated only through gestures and a small lexicon of syllabic barks and encouragements. I think its name is Buddy, but don’t put my feet to the fire on that. I’d place it next to similar strong standouts like Agro, Vivi, and Yoshi. Another World absolutely wrings every ounce of its low-detail scenery, flipping between perspectives and just overall presenting a world unknown to anyone. It’s strangeness is what kept me watching, wanting to see where it all went…which, to be honest, I didn’t fully follow, but I greatly enjoyed the journey from a distance.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Sky Force Anniversary

Sky Force Anniversary is described as a legendary shoot-em-up, but I unfortunately never really heard of it until I sat down the other day to give it a go on the ol’ PlayStation 3. Over my many years of playing all these dang vidyagamez, shoot-em-ups are a genre I just don’t find myself drawn to…though I do remember playing a lot of Thunder Spirits and U.N. Squadron on the SNES back in the day. Maybe a bit of RayStorm too. Still, if I am to play one of these, I prefer them to not be bullet hell style, as that is just masochism at its finest.

After some minimal research, I discovered that Sky Force is a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up series created by the Polish developer Infinite Dreams. The gameplay is reminiscent of Capcom’s 19XX series and Seibu Kaihatsu’s Raiden series, of which I don’t think I’ve played either, featuring a weapon upgrade system and large end-of-stage bosses. The first title in the series was originally released for Symbian and Pocket PC in 2004 and was ported to Palm webOS (2005), iOS (2009), and Android (2010). Also, the first game in the series was 2D and entirely sprite-based.

You start off Sky Force Anniversary with a fairly powerful ship, shooting down waves of incoming enemies with ease. Alas, as expected, things happen, and your ship loses all its great abilities. It is up to the player to build their battle-ship back to its glorious former self over the proceeding handful of levels. Warning: it’s going to take time, and by time..I mean grinding. The first few levels are not technically difficult, but enemies will take more hits to destroy and you’ll find your ship exploding sooner than expected. Defeating enemies drops collectible stars, which used to upgrade your ship in the hanger between levels, with each upgrade requiring more and more stars, naturally. Despite only unlocking up to the third mission, I found myself replaying missions one and two just to earn more stars and boost my ship a bit. It’s not exactly a barrel of fun, but it gets the job done…slowly.

All in all, Sky Force Anniversary feels slightly more scaled back in terms of overwhelming action, focusing instead more on patterns and the movement of enemies. You won’t experience a thousand and one bullets flying at your ship, but rather a small handful, with other things to track as well, such as stars to collect, people to rescue, boxes to shoot open, and so on. Each level has four bonus goals to complete, such as rescuing people or killing the majority of enemies, though it seems like, at least for the first three levels, these are all the same. Evidently, if you complete all four challenges, you can play an even harder version of the mission.

See ya, Sky Force Anniversary. You were a decent amount of fun for a few levels, but you just aren’t my thing. My favorite part, overall, was the little “ya-hoos” that people screamed when you rescued them off the ground.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Master Reboot

Master Reboot is a cool name for a game I don’t understand. At least it isn’t ReBoot, a Canadian CGI-animated action-adventure television series that originally aired from 1994 to 2001…of which, I saw several episodes. For funsies, you should check out the intro and feel special knowing that you are witnessing the world’s first completely computer-animated TV series. A true piece of animation history. Too bad it kind of stunk.

What Master Reboot actually is…well, it’s not exactly spelled out from the get-go. I think it is an adventure game, heavy on exploration and puzzle solving, with a bit of spookiness thrown in to keep you on your polygonal feet. It takes place inside the Soul Cloud, which is a giant server that holds the data of your soul and memories when you die. The Soul Cloud is brimming floating islands, and each island looks like a town, village, or city filled with rooms, skyscrapers, and houses that hold people’s memories. To house your soul, a family member (or you before you die, if you are prepared for it) must purchase an island on the Soul Cloud where the server will generate these spaces to hold each and every memory from the deceased’s past. There are, evidently, 34 unique environments to see, but I probably only saw one-fifth of them in the time I spent poking at Master Reboot.

The game has a look, and I’d call that look somewhat simplistic. Low-fi and low on details. On purpose. I’m perfectly fine with flat textures and few details–I loved it recently with Burly Men at Sea, as well as countless other games that went with the less-is-more route–but here I felt like there actually could have been more. A few more shades of detail to really drive home being in a certain place, like a school or child’s bedroom. Also, the game doesn’t even try to hide its invisible walls, them appearing as red-colored shield-walls when you venture too far away from the main path, like you are trapped under a highly technical dome. I kept bumping into these walls, hoping to go somewhere else, but alas, nope, nope, nope. It was a bit jarring.

That aside, because I do think the story is somewhat neat and don’t mind the occasional jump scare, my biggest problem with Master Reboot has to do with its puzzles. More often than not, they truly tried my nerves, as in the case of a memory that forced me to drive into oncoming traffic or one that made me recreate an image from memory when I hadn’t seen the parent image in a half hour or more. Completing these usually yielded some insight into the world’s mythology or the protagonist’s identity, but they were mostly obtuse obstacles to keep answers at bay. The game definitely doesn’t hold your hand, and it’s up to you to figure out what you are supposed to evidently do; yes, I’m looking at you, puzzle that had me rotating tiles to form three distinct pictures.

I gave up on Master Reboot after solving the puzzles in the park playground level, of which I had to look up a couple solutions for. After this is over, you have to use jump pads to leap from one sinking platform to another. Please don’t ask me why. If you aren’t quick enough, you drown and get a screen full of code, forced to try again. I tried three times and said, “No more.” The controls are built for a slow-moving game about exploring a small environment, in search of puzzle items or tiny blue ducks that act as the game’s collectibles. It’s not meant for moving quickly from one area to another. Ultimately, it’s not meant for me to keep playing.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Pumped BMX+

I’d never get on an actual BMX bike at my age now or do any kind of extreme sports adventure in real life, but I’m all about ’em in videogame form. I collected a ton of skulls in Motorcross Madness and had a jolly good time doing flips and speeding down windy courses on customized machinery. I’m also a big fan of the Trials series, even if I will never master some of those tougher tracks. Which brings us to Pumped BMX+, a game that wants to play like its forefathers and nail those sick tricks with style and speed, but doesn’t, and ends up looking beyond generic for the entire ride.

Well, let’s get to it because I’ve already uninstalled the game off my PlayStation 3. Pumped BMX+ is an arcade-style BMX game full of tricks, stunts, and combos that originates from a well-known BMX franchise. Alas, I didn’t realize this is just one entry in a storied series, so shame on me. There’s also over over 500 challenges to master if that is something that interests you. It was developed by the one-man studio Yeah Us!, which is a funny name for a one-man band though kudos on the exclamation point. I believe the game originally started on mobile devices with touchscreen controls.

Gameplay is what you expect, with no frills or story to get in the way. You can customize your avatar, changing his bike, outfit, and helmet around. Otherwise, you immediately jump straight onto a virtual BMX and ride your way through increasingly challenging levels with the main intent to pull off trick combos to earn big points. Some key things to know before you start pulling off all that fancy footwork include speeding up (holding down X), jumping into the air (letting go of X at the right moment), and then using a combination of triggers and the left and right sticks to perform a variety of tricks. Sounds easy, but it’s not, and I really struggled with getting decent air.

Honestly, truly, I’m not a graphics snob, but something just seems off with Pumped BMX+. I mean, look at the trees. The ground texture. The empty space between ramps and rails. It all just feels like pre-made assets from some baseline store that you could probably find in a dozen of shovelware trash on Steam these days. I don’t know. It didn’t really impress me the way Trials does. Heck, even Monster Jam: Battlegrounds had more going on with its look, and that was another swing and a miss at the Trials gameplay.

If you’re looking for some high-speed action, killer tunes, and cool animations for nailing tricks on your bike, Pumped BMX+ is not the place for it. Sorry.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Atomic Ninjas

Atomic Ninjas, which is a pretty cool name, one I’m a fan of mostly because I am noodling with a new small comic book about bad ninja-themed jokes, has the most uninspired story. It goes like this: a security guard at a nuclear plant falls asleep on the big red button that one should never, ever push and the planet explodes. However, not all have perished. Thanks to their natural survival instincts, ninjas are mystically altered. And for some reason, they must now fight each other. That’s it. You get nothing more than that to go off of, which is mostly fine considering this is a brawler a la Super Smash Bros. Melee, but c’mon. Try a little harder.

After a quick tutorial with your sensei, an old man who speaks in broken English, your only gameplay options are to have an online match or a local match using friends on the couch or adding in bots to the mix. I tried twice to get an online match going, but it doesn’t seem like Atomic Ninjas has a huge fan base. The game came out in 2013, but it’s one of the newer additions to the PlayStation Plus family of downloads. At one point, someone did join my lobby, and their username had the word Vita in it, but they quickly left after nobody else showed up. Oh well. So it was off to experience this brawler via battling bots.

The main action plays out like this: you and three other players (or AI-controlled bots) are dumped into a somewhat small arena and must destroy each other by flinging them off the limited number of platforms and knocking them into the laser beams on the outskirts. Rinse and repeat, with a few different modes thrown in for good measure, like king of the hill or capture the flag. The premise remains the same, and the focus is always on multiplayer. There are three weapons to use (punch, shuriken, and a force grab to chuck boxes and knock foes back) and three gadgets (grappling hook, wall claw, and rocket-backpack) to help you traverse through the area quicker.

Alas, the action is repetitive and somewhat uninteresting against bots, and the arenas aren’t anything exciting to explore. The ninja costumes you unlock are just that, cosmetic, and don’t really add anything new to the experience. Also. the camera is zoomed in pretty far, which makes figuring out where enemies are a little difficult to discern. Lastly, there’s just not much to do other than what I’ve already described, and the rewards for leveling up are so minimal they might as well not exist at all. Sorry, Atomic Ninjas. Maybe you should have let that massive explosion take you in the end.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – 99Vidas

So, on the PlayStation 3, each game gets its own like…splash screen, music, or audio cue when you land on it in the menu selection column. This is both neat and sometimes annoying. Case in point: when you go to play 99Vidas, our topic du jour, you get this screamingly high-pitched voice saying what I think sounds like, “Oh my gawd!” Except it’s more like ohmygawd as in one word, and something about it drives me batty. Other games on my list that also play a really ear-bleeding audio bit include Quantum Conundrum, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, and Siren: Blood Curse. These are not deal-breakers, as they actually push me more to play these games, because the faster I play ’em, the quicker I can remove ’em from the list.

Anyways, 99Vidas, which I believe is Portuguese for “99 lives,” is a side-scrolling beat-em-up developed and published by QuByte Interactive. The game is clearly inspired by classics of the genre, such as Double Dragon, Final Fight, Golden Axe, and Streets of Rage, all of which I played back in the late 80s, full 90s, and somewhat recently. 99Vidas features six playable characters from the start–and more unlocked via multiple sessions–though I only played as King, who seems like the generic go-to dude for punching and kicking. There’s a single player story-driven campaign, as well as multiple cooperative and competitive game modes, for up to four players, which can be played either locally or online. I will admit here and now that I only stuck to the story mode for my brief time with 99Vidas.

Each character has unique attributes, like speed and strength, along with an elemental alignment (fire, water, wind, lightning, and so on), which affects their regular attacks, combos, and special moves. I believe King’s special moves are water-based because at some point I summoned a giant tidal wave to clear out multiple enemies. 99Vidas has a more modern take on the brawl-heavy genre, with characters gaining experience points by defeating enemies and collecting special items that can then be used to upgrade their abilities, combos, and unlock new moves. This makes all the repetitive punching and kicking less…repetitive, but you still end up doing a lot of the same combos because once you find one that works it continues to work as your character grows stronger.

Believe it or not, there is a story in 99Vidas, and it’s a bizarre one. Some might even call it bombastic. The game starts when an artifact known as the 99Vidas goes missing. Uh oh. Now, this artifact is believed to hold immense power possible of covering the Earth in darkness and chaos. Double uh oh. The Guardians of the 99Vidas, granted the Power of the Elements, are bound to live through the ages to protect this artifact, which means it is your responsibility to face these forces of evil, defeat the Evil Boss and his six henchmen, and retrieve the legendary 99Vidas. More or less, go beat up everyone in your path and retrieve the shiny trinket.

99Vidas seems like a perfectly fine and perfunctory beat-em-up. It has some modern elements to it to keep things fresh, but I found myself getting bored playing alone, doing all the punching, kicking, and combo-ing, and the boss fights can be a wee bit difficult if you are running this solo. I got a few levels deep into the whole affair, but it hasn’t really drawn me back in. Others might really dig it, but I for one am now happy to remove it from my PlayStation 3’s library.

Ohmygawd!

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.