Category Archives: randomness

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Payday: The Heist and Payday 2

If you have Netflix, I highly recommend you check out Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist. It’s a 2018 true crime documentary series about the murder of Brian Wells, a high-profile 2003 incident often referred to as the “collar bomb” or “pizza bomber” case. I didn’t really have a great intro planned here, seeing as I myself have never once robbed a bank or attempted to, but I am fascinated by those that put these actions into motion. I figured I’d use this time to recommend a new show for y’all to watch, as if there aren’t enough of those out there right now. Also, Reservoir Dogs.

Payday: The Heist and Payday 2 are cooperative first-person shooters developed by Overkill Software and published by Sony Online Entertainment. In them, players use a variety of firearms to complete objectives, which are usually centered around stealing a certain object, person, or a particular amount of money. This is not a run and gun ’em all down kind of game. Killing civilians is punished; players instead may take a limited number as hostages. Should any player get arrested, which happens after taking enough damage and not being revived in time, during the heist, one of their teammates may release a hostage, allowing a trade to take place. While playing the levels, players will notice a lot of variation in a single level, as there are often a large number of random events programmed in.

Payday: The Heist focuses on four robbers–Dallas, Hoxton, Chains, and Wolf. Their first heist takes place at the First World Bank, where they enter a vault by using thermite hidden on the inside of a photocopier and try to steal a large amount of money. A post-game message congratulates the group, telling them that they are “set for life,” but recommends more heists, including robbing drug junkies in an abandoned apartment complex and ambushing a prisoner transport in heavy rain weather, simply for the enjoyment of the players. Payday 2 takes place two years after the events of the previous game. A new gang comes to the Washington, D.C. area to perform another heisting spree, and you can control of one of the gang’s twenty-one members and perform heists alone or with up to three teammates.

I…was never any good at either of these two games. Trust me, I tried. However, I always felt like I was dragging down my team and never knew what step to take next. Like, for instance, when the cops show up…do I engage with them or not? I often did, because that’s the mindset in a first-person shooter–you shoot the things shooting at you so they, y’know, stop shooting at you. However, this always ended poorly. I do like the idea of a cooperative heist game, as heists in general are cool and probably the only thing I enjoyed from Grand Theft Auto V‘s main campaign, but I would need to play this with friends and talk through our plans very thoroughly before taking action. Alas, on the PlayStation 3, I have no friends, and so that will never happen. Goodbye to both of y’all.

May your next digital bank robbery go smoothly, all you fans of Payday: The Heist and Payday 2. I’m rooting for ya, truly. Also, watch Heat, one of the greatest heist films out there.

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

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Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Dragon Fin Soup

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Y’all know I love a good, strange-as-heck videogame title, and Dragon Fin Soup is a wonderful example of such a beauty. One, it contains the word dragon, so I’m already intrigued, but it also sounds more like a fancy, medieval recipe than a tactical RPG mixed with roguelike elements and procedurally generated worlds. It tells you nothing about the game, but entices you to check it out nonetheless, which is exactly what I did…many years ago. According to my save file, I played 21 minutes and 51 seconds total. Well, let’s revisit the abnormal critter once more now in 2019 before I get to the uninstalling part.

Dragon Fin Soup stars Red Robin, a charming, yet raging alcoholic bounty hunter who would rather get into a bar fight than deliver baked goods. Players must take up Robin’s blades and set out across Asura, a lushly colorful fantasy world that sits on the back of an enormous space turtle–um, was Terry Pratchett okay with this?–on a journey to discover the secrets of her bloody past. That’s the setup, and it’s pretty interesting; at least our protagonist isn’t an amnesiac for no reason whatsoever. I’m just not sure how much like a twisted version of Red Riding Hood she is supposed to be…

Okay, now I remember what my initial problem with Dragon Fin Soup was. For some reason, the entire game doesn’t fit on my small, desk TV monitor, with important UI being cut off in the four corners or hard to read entirely. Alas, there is no option within the game to correct this, and I don’t have this problem with any other game on my PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 2…so I’m not sure how to correct it. Grrr. It makes figuring out what is going on a bit difficult, especially returning to the game after so many years away from it. Not impossible, but just more work than I want to put into this thing.

Dragon Fin Soup reminds me a bit of Dungeons of Dredmor, which…was a game I didn’t understand at all during my first few attempts at it. Nowadays, I’m much more familiar with the roguelike genre, but that doesn’t mean I love every game that takes permadeath super seriously or identifying items essential for breathing. For every Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac, there are countless other iterations that take inspiration from the punishing genre and run with it, for better or for worse. I think it is all about feel, and something feels off in Dragon Fin Soup; perhaps it is too much information at once or none at all. Speaking of that…

There’s no tutorial, though there is a dream sequence at the start that immediately throws you into combat. After that, you are left to your own devices, which for me, returning to this after years of being away, did nothing good for me. Dragon Fin Soup is a turn-based strategy game. Each move the player makes gives enemy units a chance to respond. Thankfully, it’s not as slow and laborious as it sounds. In fact, once you get a hang of the game’s rhythm and controls, combat can be fast-paced and frenetic. You’ll need to use a mix of magic, bombs, gunplay, and melee combat to take down your adversaries. I unfortunately didn’t get to see enough to keep me engaged and wanting to explore more or learn about Red Robin’s past.

Maybe in another life, Dragon Fin Soup. You still have a wonderfully odd title, and for that alone I give you all the kudos.

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.

All I can say about Auf Abwegen is nein, danke

This might sound super obvious, but jumping is essential when it comes to platforming, and Auf Abwegen does not nail the feeling of good, reliable jumping at all. And without being able to jump well and with precision, there is nothing I could do to get away from the pack of bloodhounds chasing me, which is a shame because, for a free thing on Steam, this seemed to have promise from the start. Well, from a narrative perspective, that is. Oh well, you can’t win them all, and that’s something I’m slowly coming to terms with. Not everything can be completed or seen through to conclusion.

Auf Abwegen, which I believe translates from German to “gone astray” or “on the wrong path,” has you controlling a red fox in its natural habitat. This seems to be some kind of VR simulation, played by people up in outer space, with the implication that Earth is no more, and this is one of the ways they can experience what life used to be like on the forgotten planet. It is a one-man project from user Kindman, but there is nothing kind about the threats and frustration you’ll experience in each scenario you come across, whether it is simply learning how to go under tree roots or running so quick that you can’t see what is up ahead.

Evidently, there are three levels to master, but I think the one where the bloodhounds chase you is only the second one. Or it could be the last challenge, but I don’t really know since I couldn’t get past it after 40-plus attempts. Let me describe what you do in parts one and two. It opens with a tutorial section, where you learn how to move the fox; it can jump, crawl under roots, and run. You are then tasked with finding food for your family, and it is up to you to both figure out how and what you want to hunt. I got a mouse, a bird, and an egg, I think, which worked out, but getting these things was no easy task. For instance, there is a section where you are leaping from lily pads to logs to rocks in a small pond. Again, the jumping is so loose and finicky that landing on these tiny platforms is seemingly random. Chasing the mouse requires you to run it down–not sure how this thing made it across the water–and again, running fast and jumping here isn’t ideal.

However, after delivering the food to your wife and cubs–do foxes have cubs?–you enter the chase sequence, and this is where the madness begins. The fox can run fast, so fast that you can’t see what is coming up next. However, you have to keep moving or else. It might be a hedgehog you have to jump over or a gap in the ground, and you have to use lightning-fast reflexes to overcome these obstacles because the bloodhounds are coming, and if they touch you once, you lose and must start all over, bugle call and all. So it then becomes a game of memorization, but even memorizing what is next doesn’t help when the jumping is unreliable. Sure, some deaths I’ll blame on me, but most of them were me squeezing my controller in pure frustration because I had cleared a bunch of obstacles only to jump into a wooden log with branches instead of jumping over it because I didn’t press the button early enough. Ugh, no thanks.

I do dig the look of Auf Abwegen, from its science-heavy computer interface at the start to the hand-painted backgrounds of the forest, backed by a soft, melodic piano-driven soundtrack, minus that annoying bugle call signaling the bloodhounds that it is time to hunt. The cartoony parts, such as the fox and fish and bloodhounds, pop against the backgrounds nicely. There’s some decent voice-acting, though I think it is all in German, but there are subtitles to read, with only a couple of grammar mistakes throughout.

If y’all are feeling nice or masochistic enough to play Auf Abwegen, by all means, give it a shot for free on Steam. And let me know what happens after you get past the bloodhounds. I’m genuinely curious.

Resolve an ancient conflict on Wuppo’s quest for a new home

I have way too many games on Steam, and the good bulk of them I have no memory of how they got there. Some were probably freebies, and others cost money or were purchased during a sale. The easiest guess is that many of them came from one of the thousands of gaming bundles I’ve participated in, but the when and where escapes me each and every time I scroll down my list and pause on a name that just seems completely foreign to me. Today, we’re going to talk about Wuppo, a game I have no memory of buying, but I guess I did because…well, it is there, installed on my Steam library, and it looks like a really cute, colorful platformer.

After being kicked out of its apartment home for making another mess via an ice cream cone, one lonely Wum, which is a type of round, featureless creature native to this world, must travel far and wide to find a new place to live. From the metropolitan haven Popocity to the cavernous Bliekopolis, this Wum will discover magical places and encounter strange creatures along the way. Now, this Wum is no traditional hero and only by using its wit and charm, along with the help of a handful of items, can it truly succeed. That’s the main gist of the story, and it’s told through in-game dialogue that is both lively and quite fun to read, reminding me instantly of Pikuniku and Night in the Woods. You’ll also learn more lore by collecting film strips to watch.

Wuppo starts out easy enough, but don’t let its cute aesthetic and bouncy music fool you–the difficulty quickly amps up once you encounter your first boss battle. Fights require a decent amount of precision movement alongside the memorization of enemy patterns, and it doesn’t help that the jump button is on LT, which takes some getting used to, especially if you like double-jumping all the time, which, in this game, is a must. Your main attack consists of firing guns in a setup very similar to your average twin-stick shooter, so you use the stick to both determine the direction and angling of your firing. It takes a little time to get used to, plus you can switch out your gun for other weapons or items to hold, such as a bird that feeds you information at specific points.

Let’s get into the controls a bit more…because they are important. You have controls for basic movement, an action button that does whatever you need in a given context, and a dedicated button just for whistling, which is never necessary, but appreciated nonetheless. Your Wum’s health meter is justified as “happiness,” and you can increase it by making new friends, watching film strips, or eating your favorite food. The game is mostly an adventure platformer, and you’ll be making some large jumps or timed jumps to get to new places. There’s a map you can view, but I honestly didn’t find it satisfying or felt like it grounded me in this world. Maybe I’m just reading it wrong.

Wuppo is pretty hands off. It hardly ever guides you to the next place or quest, leaving it up to you to work out how to progress, which can result in some bits of frustration. Occasionally, there are moments where it is hard to make out specific buttons or levers to pull, as well as what the pathways are, making you feel stuck for no other reason than clarity. Items are placed in your inventory non-ceremoniously, and it’s up to you to figure out how to use them and where to use them, which some players, like Dark Souls fans, might like, but I don’t have time for all that.

Currently, as shown in the picture at the top of this post, I’m trying to find specific items for an altar, which is proving more difficult than I initially imagined. We’ll see if I ever complete this task or just move on to something else. I do like the look and vibe of Wuppo greatly, but it isn’t hooking me too hard besides its playful aesthetic, and there are plenty of other platformers to try out in my Steam/Twitch libraries.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge

For some dumb reason, I assumed Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge was a theme park builder. It’s that word tycoon, which made me instantly think of RollerCoaster Tycoon. Silly me. It is most certainly not that. In fact, it’s an RTS, a genre I’m never good at sinking my teeth into, but I wanted to give it a shot so I at least played through the tutorial and first level. Let’s see if this rotting corpse has any life left in it.

Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge begins with Orville Tycoon, former disciple of Professor Brainhov, taking the zombie formula invented by Brainhov and using it to take over the world via shambling hordes of the undead. I’m assuming these characters appeared in the previous game. Orville only acts upon this after Brainhov tests the zombie formula on himself (after a previously unsuccessful test), which actually works, and turns himself into a zombie. All of the levels take place in ruined suburban areas, and the game does a decent job parodying suburbs and southern living. Anyways, Brainhov comes back from the grave and usurps Orville’s mobile zombie base with his more adept feral zombies, subsequently securing his rise back to power. It’s your job to stop him.

The controls take a little bit to get used to, but considering this is an RTS on a console, which means playing with a controller instead of mouse and keyboard, it’s perfectly perfunctory. The left analog stick moves the camera’s position and the right analog stick rotates the camera, letting you zoom in or out. Each unit is attached to a specific button on your controller, such as square or circle, and you move units by pressing these face buttons. The directional pad activates your zombie overlord’s powers, and you can cause a horde to go madly wild by pressing RB. The controls work pretty well–it is better than trying to draw boxes around specific units–but the pathfinding could use some work in spots.

I found the combat to be somewhat underwhelming. As with all things zombies, unless you are 28 Days Later, there’s nothing fast and frantic to watch, even with upgraded ninja zombie classes. Instead, you select your group of undead beings and send them off to slaughter humans or battle against ferals, and everything moves so slowly. Once the fighting starts, you just watch it happen and hope for the best. This is probably pretty common for the genre, but again, it’s not an area I know much about, and I wanted a little more direct involvement.

I will say this about Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge. It’s presented well, and the story, which is mostly told without words, is pretty funny and enjoyable to watch unfold. I love the look of both the zombies and civilians. The graphics are not extremely detailed, but are rather going for a colorful cartoon look, and it works. There’s a nicely included codex on the main menu that lets you look at all the zombies, monsters, and buildings up close since you can only zoom in so far during a mission, plus you’ll learn some good info there, like attack damage and HP stats. The music certainly evokes a B-level zombie horror style that somehow infuses mellow jazz and doesn’t really interfere with the bigger picture, and it’s fine if a bit unmemorable.

Looks like I don’t need to pick a side in this battle of zombies versus zombies–Orville or Brainhov. Instead, I’m uninstalling Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge from my PlayStation 3 and moving on to something else. Though now I have a hankering to go back and play the original Age of Empires, one of a select few RTS games I enjoyed back in the day. Granted, this was when I literally have three to four games to play on my PC, so my options were limited and I took what I could take.

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 – Vessel

Vessel is probably a game I would have spent a ton of time on in my younger years, when videogames were scarce and my collection only grew by a title of two every few months. Now, I get free videogames to play every single day from all the various programs I’m subscribed to, plus the Internet is just full of freebies, and, frankly, it’s becoming a bit too much for my brain to keep up with. I’m not bragging; this is just reality. This ultimately means that if a game doesn’t really hook me from the start I don’t have to fret too much over walking away from it, knowing there are plenty of other fish in the ocean to eat. Sorry, Vessel, but you’re the equivalent of a monkfish in this scenario.

The main character of Vessel is M. Arkwright, an inventor who creates a liquid-composed, labor-performing automaton called the Fluro. He creates this automaton in order to perform laborious tasks more efficiently than human beings because…well, in the end, we’re all truly lazy. However, the Fluros begin to run amok and cause machinery to malfunction. In order to restore the machinery back to a functioning status, Arkwright must travel through Vessel‘s world and fix the broken parts, which more or less means solving physics-related puzzles. Expect lots of locked doors and levers and pressure plates to push.

A supply of Fluro “seeds” enables Arkwright to conjure these critters wherever he chooses. Drop one down, submerge it in water, lava, or even fruit juice, and a helper will arise, eager to assist you in solving the current puzzle. Different seeds provide Fluros of different behaviors too, as some are fixated on button pushing while others will chase you or seek out light sources. Environments often have grills through which only Fluros can pass, so much of the game involves working out where to place a Fluro so that it can run through a bunch of switches in the right order. There’s a lot of trial and error, of course, and, as with anything based on physics, not everything works as you expect it to. Sometimes the thing you control with a lever won’t stop exactly where you want it, but that’s okay.

Viewing screenshots shows that Vessel does not simply stay in the factory-esque world of the first hour or so of gameplay. Which is good, because it is both dark and boring-looking there. I almost had to turn up the brightness level on my TV to solve a puzzle. You will, in fact, get to go outside, and it’s a shame I never made it that far, as the environments look much brighter and visually stimulating than a bunch of muted machinery. Oh well, maybe next time.

Much like other puzzle platformers or puzzle-driven exploration romps, like Unmechanical: Extended and Quantum Conundrum, I played this for a bit before the puzzles became just a wee bit too much for my brain to handle. Again, there was a time in my life that I probably could sit and bang my head against the puzzles until something gave, but that time is no longer now. So, I’ll just let the Fluros continue running amok, leaving Vessel unsolved and in a state of disrepair. My bad.

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.

You don’t build a great castle just all at once, Suikoden III

Getting a castle in both Suikoden and Suikoden II remains some of my favorite gaming moments ever. No, really. There is so much to see in each castle, and, even if it is a bit empty at first, the possibility of filling it up with 108 Stars of Destiny is so exciting, especially once you begin to remember some of the people you saw earlier that could join up with you now. However, getting a castle under your wings in Suikoden III has been a serious letdown, and not just because it took me some 27 hours–many of which were spent grinding out levels–to finally see it.

I’m currently in chapter two of Chris Lightfellow’s campaign and, at the beginning of the chapter, before heading back to Brass Castle, you can explore the surrounding area a bit. This is where Chris sort of stumbles into Budehuc Castle on the world map, which, as far as I can tell, is where your army will call home in Suikoden III. How do I know this? Well, upon visiting it, you can instantly begin recruiting 108 Stars of Destiny; however, in Suikoden and Suikoden II, you often had to clear the castle out of monsters before establishing it as your base. Here, it’s like you just walked into an open house showing and said, “I’ll take it.” No big battle, no hard-earned castle. It was a bit of a shock, to be honest, and exploring the thing with no map is a bit confusing, but I’m sure I’ll learn its layout soon enough.

Here’s some history about Budehuc Castle, in case you were curious. Basically, it’s an old, dilapidated castle that sits on the borders of Zexen and the Grasslands. It was an important meeting place for Zexen and the Grasslands back when they used to be on more friendly terms. Since then, it has become a traditional custom for rich nobles to send their second-born sons to become masters there, such as Thomas, who was appointed as the new castle master by his father, Councilor Lowma. However, Thomas discovers that the castle has fallen on hard times and is in danger of becoming obsolete. To keep it from going bankrupt, Thomas leases out parts of the castle’s land to merchants and eventually encounters Hugo, Chris, and Geddoe, who fill up the castle with Stars of Destiny.

Funnily enough, the first person I recruited as part of the 108 Stars of Destiny was…Jeane. For those that don’t know her, she’s been in every single entry in the Suikoden series, despite them taking place centuries apart. Guess she’s just immortal, but that could make sense since she often has the job of selling and attaching magical runes to your party members. She also wields a Charm rune herself, so you never know what is ultimately going on. Either way, the three main protagonists still haven’t truly connected with each other to join up against a larger evil, so I find it odd that all three of them can send new recruits home to Budehuc Castle despite not even talking this process through with each other.

Whatever. Clearly, Suikoden III is a different beast than the previous two games, what with it going all 3D with the graphics and switching up how combat works; I was just hoping for a bit of familiarity here, and it sounds like I won’t truly get it, with the castle only upgrading itself once you get more shops and shopkeepers to stay there. At this point, I’d rather call one of the larger towns, such as Vinay del Zexay or Caleria, home. Just give me a small inn to update, that’s more than fine.