Category Archives: trophies

Some collectibles are better than others, but these stink

worst collectibles to collect rain gd post

There’s no shame in saying it, but I like collecting things. Both in real life and via my digital, interactive entertainment. That’s not to say I’m a hoarder, but if you give me a list of items existing somewhere out there, I’m most certainly going to try my darnedest to find them all and happily cross each one off. This most likely stems back to my younger days, on family vacations in Avalon, NJ. Besides playing a lot of Yahtzee by the swimming pool, I signed up for every scavenger hunt offered by our hotel that I could, and these often involved finding innocuous items like a specific type of seashell, a pair of sunglasses, and so on. I have fond if fuzzy memories of running around the hotel grounds like a maniac, looking for things and screaming with joy when they were found.

That said, as a player of videogames, sometimes finding items is not fun. Yeah, I know. What a hot take. Personally, I don’t need to be told specifically where each collectible is on the map, like in later Assassin’s Creed titles where you can just purchase these waypoint symbols from a shop. I prefer discovering them myself, but I also like knowing, generally, how many are in an area or which ones I’ve already found. Some record-keeping is vital, that way I don’t need to take mental notes as I pick up each shimmery doodad. The fear of leaving an area for good and suspecting I missed something is enough to lock my feet in the dirt.

Also, while not required, I greatly enjoy when the collectibles contain something else to them other than being a thing you gnab, such as some bit of additional in-game lore. Like in Tomb Raider and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, you find a thing, say a rusty knife, and that’s a collectible for sure, but you also have to interact with it and discover a hidden symbol to bring out story details. The collectible becomes more than just an object to pocket. Heck, at least collecting all those miscellaneous gizmos in Tom Clancy’s The Division got me some sweet, colorful outfits.

Because of recent actions, I’ve decided to put my brain to the task of coming up with a bunch of collectibles that absolutely stink. These are either not fun to find, do nothing for the player in the end, or maybe cover both of these issues. Regardless, boo to them, and boo to me for attempting to collect (some of) ’em. It’s a skill in others that I greatly admire, the ability to walk by these shiny sprites and polygons and not even care. Teach me how.

Gears of War – COG tags

COG tags are a mainstay of the Gears of War series, but they only become easier to track and find starting in Gears of War 2, which introduced the war journal, a sort of in-game notebook for keeping tabs on a number of things. However, for the first Gears of War, all you get is an X out of Y line when you pause the game. That’s it. I beat the game back at the end of 2013, with something like one-third of the COG tags found.

Recently, I glanced at the Achievements list to see if there was anything I could potentially pop before deleting the game from my Xbox One for forever and saw that two were related to finding the rest of the hidden thingamajigs. Alas, I basically had to follow a video guide to find each one, level by level, because I had no memory of the ones I had already picked up. Also, barely nothing happens when you bend down to grab these COG tags save for a less-than-impression sound cue. Obviously, this was early on in both the franchise and console generation, and figuring out how to implement collectibles was still in a nascent stage.

L.A. Noire – golden film reels

I’d have to go back and confirm this, but for some reason I feel really strongly that I only ever came across one of these 50 gold film canisters scattered about L.A. Noire‘s sprawling Los Angeles. They all contain names of films from the 1940s and 1950s. That’s cool. However, the problem is that they are extremely well-hidden. Maybe too well. In my search for hopping into the driver’s seat of every car in the game, 95 in total, another stinker of a collectible of sorts, I thought I explored a good chunk of the map. I guess not. I have no idea if finding all 50 golden film reels does anything for Cole Phelps and his ultimate destiny. It’d be cool if you could take these reels back to the police station and watch a few scenes during your coffee breaks, but I’m sure the licensing around something like that would be nightmarish.

Rain – lost memories

This blog post’s origins began with Rain, a game I completed on the first day of 2016. The collectibles in Rain are in the form of lost memories that the player can find to learn more about the young boy’s past. That’s fine and dandy, and there are 24 in total to collect, but here’s the sick kicker–these only are available to find after beating the game. Also, these only appear once you are in the exact location, which means you can’t spy them off from a distance; you have to know exactly where they are to start.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I burned my lunch hour to collect them all of them in a single go, following an online guide and abusing the checkpoint system so that I did not, in fact, have to play through the entire game again. Sorry, Rain–you have some great things going for you, but you are not that amazing or varied of an experience to go through again simply to now be able to collect floating orbs that give you the slimmest of slim story details to a story fairly slim on details to begin with. Ugh.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Blue Minikits

Speaking of ugh, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Here’s the thing. I’m totally and 100% completely used to collecting a number of things in all the LEGO videogames, from red bricks to gold bricks to characters to studs and so on. That’s just part of the flow, of going through levels and seeing what you can’t grab just yet, returning with the right characters/powers to pave the way. It’s been like this since day one. However, recently, Melanie and I worked our way through LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and it truly was like going back in time.

As part of our climb to hit 100% completion, we had to find 10 blue minikits in every single level. Sounds tedious, but not tough. Except it is because there is a time limit, and sometimes missing one blue minikit means replaying the whole thing over. You are also not able to use any cheats, which means having to deal with enemies while frantically scouring the scene for blue minikits. Most are hidden somewhat in the open, and others are dastardly wedged behind objects in the environment. The hardest level, without a doubt, was “Speeder Showdown,” where you kind of need luck on your side to progress swiftly and the extra five minutes was not enough. Took us multiple attempts, but the job is done, and, as far as I know, this type of gameplay hasn’t shown up in other LEGO titles.

The Last of Us – All of Them

Amazingly, there are four types of collectibles to hoard in The Last of Us. Specifically, 30 Firefly pendants, 14 comic books, 85 artifacts, and 12 training manuals that improve your crafting skills and such. I’m pretty sure only the last set has any impact on gameplay, and the remainder are just things for Joel to bend down, pick up, and pocket away for no other reason than to give you something to do in-between moving from a safe space to an area full of Cordyceps-inspired monsters. A few help flavor the world, for sure.

Okay, I just loaded up the game–evidently, I found 95 of 141 as of when I last played, which is way more than I initially assumed. Not sure why it felt so low in my mind, but maybe I was thinking of Trophies, which the game is stingy with. Oh well. Either way, these are pretty obscurely hidden throughout the game, and the artist in me really wanted to be able to open the comic books and read a few pages instead of just staring at the covers.

I know for a fact there are many more that I’m not touching on, like the flags from the original Assassin’s Creed, score pieces from Eternal Sonata, and kissing 50 women from The Saboteur.

That said, I’d like to know what collectibles gave you the most grief. Join the conversation below in the comments.

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Hilariously, baby’s first Platinum Trophy is for Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom

2017 Game Review Haiku, #48 – Datura

Forest of choices
PlayStation Move, controller
It’s only your hand

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #46 – Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom

Stop robots, transform
Camera sucks, limp punches
Press buttons as told

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

POLISHING OFF: Kung Fu Rabbit

polishing-off-kung-fu-rabbit

Kung Fu Rabbit is a fun, colorful game that is easy to like and enjoy, but only if you give it a chance. Alas, I’m not sure many will. It’s a dime a dozen these days for indie platformers and, unfortunately, there’s an opinion out there that I don’t share at all that a lot of the smaller indie games handed out as freebies for PlayStation Plus are afterthoughts or unable to stand shoulder to shoulder with the AAA games. That said, I’ve never heard of either of the PS3 titles for October 2016. Regardless, I’m thankful I did play this as I found this rabbit-starring puzzle platformer both amusing and challenging. Perhaps more challenging than I initially expected too, which is why after completing the main groups of levels this time last year, I put it aside, despite only having one more Trophy to unlock.

Well, about a month ago, I unlocked it. Hooray for me. I figured I wouldn’t even bother making a post about it, but then this gave me an idea for a new feature on Grinding Down, as polishing off games is something I do from time to time and would like to do a lot more. Basically, this is me finishing whatever is left in a game that is preventing my broken brain and body from simply deleting the whole thing after beating its main thread. Honestly, I can’t say what made me scroll all the way down again on my long, ever-growing list of PlayStation 3 games, but I just wanted to revisit it and see how difficult it might be to finally unlock the Grand Dragon Trophy, which asks players to…well, the description doesn’t actually say what you are supposed to do:


Grand Dragon
– You finally won. They’re erecting statues in your honour and fans are throwing flower petals before you. You’re pure class.

Sounds like quite a celebration. Jaynestown, but for a small, furry mammal. Anyways, to get this Trophy, you must complete all 60 basic rabbit levels, as well as then complete all 60 hardcore rabbit levels. These are like the normal levels, but with the difficult nudged up a wee bit. Think of the Dark World levels from Super Meat Boy, but with less thrashing guitar riffs and more spitting sound effects. Thankfully, you do not need to collect a certain number of carrots each level, only finish the dang thing, and you can burn all that carrot currency on power-ups to help you reach the end without much trouble. Though there were still some levels I refused to do this on, knowing I could beat them with enough patience and attempts.

Hmm. So, while doing some research and fact-checking for this post, I stumbled across this forum thread claiming that you only needed to finish world 7’s hardcore rabbit levels for this to pop. Whoops. I did them all. That’s okay, as I probably would have felt incomplete afterwards, but that trick is out there is you are looking for an even faster means to the end.

With this accomplished, Kung Fu Rabbit is ready to retire to the dojo…for the rest of its days. I mean, universal evil has been vanquished. Also, I’ve played all the levels, unlocked every Trophy, listened to its martial arts sound effects numerous times, squirmed uncomfortably whenever a section devoted to the spitting enemies appeared, and collected all the carrots that I deemed worthy of collecting. That’s it for this rabbit.

Completing a game doesn’t often mean finishing everything there is to do. For many games, long after I’ve given them a haiku review and post of final thoughts, there are still collectibles to find, side quests to complete, things to unlock, challenges to master, and so on. POLISHING OFF is a new regular feature where I dive into these checklist items in hope of finishing the game as fully as possible so that I can then move on to the one hundred and thirty-eight million other games begging for my attention.

Rain’s filled with rain, but also monsters and unsettling experiences

gd final thoughts rain ps3

The afternoon after 2015 became 2016, and the world was completely different/the same, something inside me stirred and demanded that I at least complete one game on this very first day of the new year. Like a ceremonial ship launching, of setting out to sea and beginning an unfamiliar voyage. I can’t really explain compulsions like this; surely you don’t want to have convince me why you grabbed that Snickers bar while in the check-out line at the market when you weren’t even hungry.

Anyways, I felt like I had been ignoring my PlayStation 3 these last few months since Fallout 4 came out and I got an Xbox One, so I powered it on and began to scroll down my lengthy list of games. A handful of which I purchased, with the majority being downloaded “freebies” for being a PlayStation Plus subscriber. It’s a hodgepodge of big and small games, and I stopped on Rain, an atmospheric platforming adventure game based around precipitation. I only wish it had been raining in real life as I played, in one single session, but it was a cold, quiet winter afternoon outside. A digital rain soundtrack had to suffice, plus the purring of two cats on my couch.

Rain is set in a nameless Western European-inspired city, in an invisible world revealed only by never-ending falling rain. You play as a little boy who finds himself lost amongst the rain-slicked cobblestone streets and chasing after a young girl. She herself is being pursued, for reasons not immediately known, by ethereal monstrous beasts hidden in the rain. For half of the game, you are simply trying to make contact with this girl, always ending up a few steps behind her with some roadblock in the way; the second half of the game sees the two kids working in tandem to defeat these monsters and the Unknown–a leader amongst all the baddies–and make their way home. The story itself is minimal and actually hard to decipher by the end, told only in blatant text on the screen. It kind of becomes a tale of literal light versus dark, health versus sickness, familiarity versus foreign, but I’m sure there are other ways to interpret things.

The twist to Rain‘s mechanics of hiding from monsters and using the environment to solve platform puzzles is that the little boy becomes visible to the monsters when standing in the open rain. If he finds shelter under a roof, he is invisible. This creates some stealth sequences, which are honestly full of tension as you creep past the monster, only able to see the light splashes in a puddle or wet footprints the little boy leaves behind on the ground as a clue to where he is. Yup, when you are invisible, you are invisible. It can be daunting at first, but you’ll get used to it over time and learn how to control somebody you can’t see. Other than that, you’ll do some running away, you’ll push and pull items to make new platforms, and you’ll work with the little girl to lift her to unreachable ledges.

One aspect of Rain that I actively disliked and even began rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath at is that the Unknown, that stalking, leader of the rain baddies that chases after you from chapter one, just kept coming back from the dead. Every time you think you’ve stopped it and can safely resume your journey, it rises from the grave with an ominous soundtrack in tow. This happens even two or three times during the game’s ending, which is already far too long as is and not very clear on what these little ghost kids were up to. Lastly, and this might be a minor complaint or a major complaint depending on your feelings towards collecting things as you play, but Rain‘s collectibles are only available after you complete the game. I went back via chapter select and got a few, but they really aren’t even worth collecting unless you want the three Trophies associated with nabbing them all.

From a concept perspective, Rain is really cool. It has style, a gorgeous soundtrack peppered with piano and accordion, and a lot of potential, but it doesn’t really deliver. The puzzles are at first neat and interesting, but they repeat in every chapter and often don’t do much with other elements, like the muddy water that makes you visible even when out of the rain. The game itself is fairly short, around three to four hours to finish, but poorly paced. I did enjoy staring at the imaginative, spindly monsters one could possibly picture emerging from the mist in…well, Stephen King’s The Mist. When compared with the likes of other short, narrative-centric experiences like Journey, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and Botanicula, this could have been so much more.

Running the mercenary unit Militaires Sans Frontières like a Big Boss

peace walker gd early impressions

I’m not sure where I first heard this–or if it is even true–but Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was originally supposed to be the real Metal Gear Solid V. And Hideo Kojima’s last game. I’m glad neither of those came to be, and while I don’t know too much about The Phantom Pain–I’ve avoided listening to countless podcasts over the last month or so, as well as skipped any and all coverage at Giant Bomb to remain as spoiler-free as possible–I do know that the newest game involves taking on individual missions to recruit members to your main base and grow its power and potential. Well, Peace Walker does that too, but on a much smaller scale.

Set in 1974 in Costa Rica, Peace Walker follows the exploits of returning protagonist Big Boss–you might remember him as Naked Snake from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater–as he runs the mercenary unit Militaires Sans Frontières (Soldiers Without Borders). A mysterious group called the Peace Sentinels have been deployed in-country. Unfortunately, the Costa Rica government cannot do anything about them because the country’s constitution does not allow the creation of armed forces. The presence of the Peace Sentinels threatens to endanger the balance of power between the East and West, forcing Snake to intervene. Plus, he wants to build up his Mother Base.

Peace Walker is broken up into two primary modes: “Mission” and “Mother Base.” Missions are the traditional action/sneaking scenarios of the previous games, with Snake creeping through a jungle or occupied building to either kill a certain someone, rescue somebody or somebodies, or gather some intel. It’s the expected mix of sneaking, fighting, and watching. Mother Base is a crew managing simulation where you assign people to different work areas to strengthen your soldiers, upgrade your items and weapons, or keep everybody healthy, happy, and fed.

For missions, you can play either as Snake or a male or female MSF soldier, though some missions will only be available for one or the other. Your score is penalized with a lower rank and reduced heroism for the excessive murdering of soldiers or frequently being discovered, which works fine for me as I’m all about stealth pistols, stun grenades, and using the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system to send knocked-out enemies to Mother Base to switch sides. Also, using items and weapons results in leveling them up at the end of a successful mission, which means Snake is only going to get better and better at making grown men fall asleep where they stand. Peace Walker is designed for co-op play, but I’ve been doing fine so far going at it solo.

In terms of story, so far, Peace Walker is fairly traditional. Shocking, right? I mean, I’m fighting straight up tanks for boss battles at the moment, not psychics that can read my memory card save data. That said, I expect this to go from sane to insane in a short span of time, and I’m really digging the comic book style to the cutscenes, drawn by Ashley Wood, especially when they are interactive. Peace Walker was originally a PSP game, and it shows, but boy is its style on fleek. On the fleck? I don’t know how the kids talk these days.

Not all is amazing though. Camouflage, while still being there and a collectible factor in terms of different outfits for Naked Snake, seems to be completely inessential. You also cannot crawl, and I will never remember this as it is my go to when almost being spotted–to drop to the ground as swiftly as possible and lay prone. I’m not sure going forward what the bosses are like, but I’ve only taken on a tank currently and am looking to more supernatural elements to intervene. Lastly, the whole Mother Base simulation side can be extremely daunting at first, to the point that I simply relied on auto-assignment to place captured soldiers; thankfully, Mother Base opens slowly, which means it is not overwhelming immediately.

It certainly seems like there’s a lot of missions–both main story-wise and side objectives–to go for Peace Walker, so I’ve got some time still before I can load up Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and see how the newest franchise plays. Surely Naked Snake will be able to crawl on his stomach. Surely.