Tag Archives: Achievements

Cut the Rope, grind out some free Achievements

I’m a curious fella, and so I like to download a range of freebies, judging nothing by its cover or title or clearly-designed-for-mobile artstyle, from walking simulators to platformers to physics-based puzzle games. Like Cut the Rope. Now, I got Cut the Rope as a free download on the Windows Store back in November 2016, many moons after everyone probably already played it on their phones. Or somewhere else. No, really. Allow me to list a few of the places you could have already played ZeptoLab’s indie darling from October 2010: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Leap Motion, BlackBerry 10, Symbian, BlackBerry PlayBook, DSiWare, Mac OS X Browser, BlackBerry, Nintendo 3DS (Nintendo eShop), Chrome OS, Firefox OS, Nook, iPad, and so on. I’m sure I missed a few platforms too. Sheesh.

Cut the Rope‘s objective, from its title alone, should be self-explanatory, but there’s a little more to it than simply snipping some string. Sorry, I love alliteration. Your true goal is to feed candy to a little green creature named Om Nom while collecting stars. The candy just happens to be tied up by a bunch of ropes, and by cutting them and using other elements in the level, like bubbles and puffs of air, along with general physics and momentum, you must guide the candy to Om Nom’s gaping mouth. You can use your finger to cut by swiping it across the touchscreen, but I’m cooler than that and played it on my laptop so imagine the same sweet maneuver, but done on a less-than-stellar trackpad. Boom goes the dynamite. It actually works fine, with the bonus of not having to look at my phone any more than I already do.

I was initially under the impression that Cut the Rope was like nearly every other free-to-play iteration built around getting three stars in a level out there–y’know, Angry Birds, Bad Piggies, Crush the Castle, and on for infinity. Nope. Well, not this version from the Windows Store, at least. If anything, this is Nintendo’s take on free-to-start, with only the first six levels of the first two worlds available for play and the remainder under lock and key. I thought I’d get the whole game and just have to occasionally close some advertisements or deal with an energy meter that limited how much I can play. Turns out, my play time was constricted, to only 12 levels that clearly hinted at fun gameplay and a super cute aesthetic, but I found one way to milk this cow for all it ultimately had. Ew, milk. I must think of a better metaphor for next time; anyways, I’m talking about Achievements. They’re those digital rewards I’m still somewhat interested in popping for the games I play.

Yes, despite only have access to a few early levels, I was able to unlock nine of Cut the Rope‘s 19 Achievements. Not bad for zero pennies and maybe an hour and change of my time. These Achievements revolved around doing tasks a specific amount, such as cutting X ropes, popping X bubbles, and losing X pieces of candy and were easily earn-able through repetition. Find a level that quickly lets you cut, pop, and drop, do it, restart, and the cycle is formed. I was also able to pop “Tummy Teaser,” which tasks you with getting Om Nom to open his mouth 10 times in a row in one of world 1’s basic levels, using a piece of candy on a single rope and having it swing back and forth in front of the teeny green beast for a bit. Strange enough, the Internet said this could only be done later on, in the full version. So this just proves my amazing prowess.

But yeah, ringing these twelve levels dry for Achievements with the music turned off and something else occupying my ears was the most fun I could come up with for Cut the Rope, seeing as the gameplay didn’t hook me enough to purchase the rest of the levels. I ran into this problem before with Can You Escape, also from the Windows Store, so I have to start being a little more critical in my downloading decisions because something labeled free might not always mean complete. That said, let the countdown begin until I inevitably grab Cut the Rope 2, which, in its description, says this:

SWEET! Cut the Rope 2 has arrived and you can enjoy the full adventure for FREE!

Uh huh. Sure.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #7 – Dungeon of Zolthan

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Upgrade your powers
Jump twice, dash, fire away
I’m no speedrunner

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.

The fact is I hit 70,000 Gamerscore perfectly

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Mark the date down, for today, this twenty-ninth period of twenty-four hours as a unit of time, is yet another behemoth moment for Grinding Down: 70,000 Gamerscore. Hit perfectly thanks to Killer Instinct‘s “Stylish Fulgore” Achievement for 10 points, but really, this was a group effort. Those involved will be thanked two paragraphs down, but first, a summary of my long, meticulous journey to this point and the previous landmarks I visited along the way. Because I enjoy thinking about the trek, imagining myself as an unassuming Hobbit on a grand Adventure, one to eventually share with future generations, becoming legend. Hmm, methinks it is almost time to rewatch Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time.

Well, naturally, this all started in February 2010 with 10,000. After that, almost a year later, I slid into 20,000. Next, 30,000 was acquired another year after that in March 2012. The black sheep of this story happened in September 2013 as I wasn’t able to get the number I wanted because of stupid ol’ Fable III and settled on 41,000 instead. The gap between that amount and 50,000 was almost two years, as I backed away from the Xbox 360 for a while…for reasons. Here’s the kicker–it was only last June of this very year that I was celebrating 60,000 Gamerscore, which means I did a whole bunch of popping Achievements in the few months since then. Let’s examine where this exponential growth occurred the most.

Let’s see, let’s see. I dug back into my larger-than-necessary backlog for the 360, polishing off Hitman: Absolution and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag as much as possible. In terms of the Xbox One, the games that really helped grow that Gamerscore were LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Costume Quest 2, Monopoly Plus, The Wolf Among Us, and, embarrassingly, Ben-Hur. Of course, I’ve dabbled in a number of other games, both large and small, both on consoles and mobile, and, as mentioned before, this was a team effort. Even the games where I opened them once and played for less than twenty minutes matter. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to thank every game individually, but they should know in their heart of hearts that they are greatly appreciated.

I feel like with every one of these posts, I try to convey an air of lukewarm detachedness. That hitting these milestones is no big deal, simply a little fun to have with a system designed to reward gamers for all sorts of actions, such as defeating a tough boss or simply watching a game’s credits all the way through. The truth is…I care about hitting these numbers very much. The minute I begin to inch closer to them, I immediately start scanning out the list of potential Achievements and begin planning my path forward. I find it entertaining, and maybe someone out there reading this does too–hey, let me know if ya do–and I’m genuinely curious about what mix of games will lead me to the 80,000 mark. I do have a bunch more episodic adventures from Telltale Games to go through, and those are pretty easy Achievements to pop. We’ll see.

With all that said, picture proof:

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Wait, I took a better pic, since that screenshot ended up being so tiny. Also, I refuse to change my Avatar’s outfit. The more likely reality is that I no longer remember how:

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To live in Final Fantasy IX is to give life meaning

gd update on ff9 end of disc three pandemonium

Bet you thought I gave up on Final Fantasy IX, seeing that the last time I spoke of it was back in January 2016 when I was stuck endlessly grinding my knees into the dirt against the Earth Guardian boss. I wouldn’t say I gave up, but rather stepped away for a bit. Well, several months. The idea of grinding with a two-party team made up solely of Zidane (cool) and Quina Quen (less cool) was really off-putting. I have good news though–I soldiered through it and was able to take down the Earth Guardian and get back to a much more substantial adventuring company of four. Speaking of four, I’ve also moved on to the last disc, which hopefully means that the end credits are in sight.

Look, I’ve had my copy of Final Fantasy IX for about half my life. Loyal readers should know that I’ve been trying to see this game to completion for a long while, and my track pattern used to be playing a good way into the second disc of the game and then abandoning the quest for…well, something else. I still believe that everything involving Kuja that happens after Dagger’s mother buys the farm feels like sequel material, but whatever. Here’s what I’m getting at. 2016 is the year that I, for the very first time, took disc four out of its place in the game’s jewel case and into my PlayStation 2. There are some light scratches on disc two from wear and tear, but disc four is as smooth and pristine as compact discs get. I found this to be somewhat surreal, but then again, if one was to take a look at my physical collection of games, there are a lot that I haven’t taken out of the case yet. Hmm.

Anyways, the areas after defeating the Earth Guardian weren’t difficult in terms of fights thanks to all that earlier grinding, but are story-heavy, and I’m not interested in spilling all the spoiler beans here. Also, not going to lie, a lot of what happened in Terra and Bran Bal went over my head. This is the part of Final Fantasy IX–and to some degree Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII–that I lose interest in. When lengthy conversations about life and death and souls and the universe and everything being connected take center stage. Please, no. Not again. I just want to watch the boy with the monkey tail fumble his way into telling a girl he loves her, as well as Vivi deal with self-identity.

I did end up referencing an online walkthrough as parts of Pandemonium are very maze-like, and there was even a frustrating stealth-driven puzzle section that I couldn’t get through despite all my obvious stealth skills. I continue to rely on a team makeup of Zidane (high damage and stealing), Dagger (summons and healing), Vivi (black magic and boosting Steiner), and Steiner (good damage, versatile abilities). The last part of disc three requires you to deal with three boss fights, one after the other, with no chance to save or heal up in between. I didn’t know this going in, but like I mentioned before…all that extra grinding from before paid off

Zidane and company are supposed to head to the Iifa Tree for the final confrontation with Kuja. Naturally, I’m not making a bee-line right there. I want to upgrade everyone’s gear and see if there are any side quests worth going after, as it sounds like there is really just one big dungeon left to get through. Now, a part of me suspects that I’m going to be using a mix and match of my party members in the fight to come, but some of them, such as Freya, Eiko, and Amarant, are severely under-leveled compared to others. I probably should devote some time to grinding them up. Sigh. I don’t want to do it, but I know this is probably better in the long run, and I don’t want to get all the way to the end and be unable to finish the fight, like how things went down in Final Fantasy VIII all them years ago.

I’ll be back after I complete Final Fantasy IX for the very first time. And no, I have no plans to start over now that the game has been ported to Steam with glorious, progress-rewarding Achievements. I’m too far in.

Writing the story as I go with 50,000 Gamerscore

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There was a time when I was immensely interested in unlocking Achievements and watching my Gamerscore grow in length and size. No, really. Just look around this very blog of mine, through the archives, and you’ll see my thoughts when I hit 10,000 Gamerscore on the dot, followed by 20,000 Gamerscore, and 30,000, and, interestingly, 41,000 back in September 2013. I even had a weekly feature for a bit there highlighting a sample of Achievements I unlocked over seven days. Yeah, remember that craziness? Now we’re lucky if I can put up a single post in a week’s time, but that’s a topic for a different day.

I was pretty devoted to the cause early on, but slowly, bit by bit, I stopped playing my Xbox 360 as much, and you can blame that on my acquiring of a PlayStation 3 in January 2013, a lot of good games on the Nintendo 3DS, and digging deep on indies and point-and-click adventure games on the PC (well, in my case, a laptop). There’s another reason, which involves a cold living room and expensive oil bills, but that’s drama in the past, and now I am able to stay cool/warm to any degree.

Well, here I am, once more, with 50,000 Gamerscore on the nose, attained on July 31, 2015 thanks to an Achievement in Lara Croft: Relic Run, which involved shooting 25 projectiles from enemies out of the air. It’s fine if you don’t believe me; that’s what pictures are for, anyways. Here, take a gander:

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Well, that’s a big screenshot. Did you know I had to Google “how to take a screenshot on Windows phone” in order to get the image above? Yeah, I may be decent at unlocking Achievements–well, no, not in the grand scheme of things given how many there actually are out there–but relatively simple technology actions still require some learning on my part. I’ll get there, I promise.

Here’s the thing. I both care greatly about Achievements, as well as don’t care. Let me explain. There is no race to the top; I’m not in a hurry to grow my Gamerscore and watch those lists of locked Achievements get whittled down, all for the sake of boasting, showing off my bulging e-muscles. For all I know, I might not hit 60,000 ever. Still, I can’t resist pulling up a game’s list and scanning through the Achievements, seeing what looks “do-able” versus what I’ll have to give up on from the very start. They occasionally bring me back to a game or give me the motivation to try something else, especially if in a rut, like going after all the skull collectibles in Motocross Madness.

At this point, I’ve already moved past the clean, nicely rounded 50,000 score, popping a few more Achievements from Lara Croft: Relic Run. The magic is over. You can’t stop a leaky faucet from dripping. Some other cool-sounding phrase that relates to all this. There’s also a laundry list of Xbox 360 games, all full of future unlockable Achievements, sitting in my download queue, waiting until there’s more room on my internal hard-drive. Here, let me name a few–Just Cause 2, Thief, Gears of War 3, and Metro 2033. Lastly, Fallout 4 comes out in a few months–what a strange sentence to write after so many years of day-dreaming–and I need to make the leap to the current generation before the game drops; I suspect, thanks to the extra effort from Microsoft for backwards compatibility, that I’m leaning towards an Xbox One, which only means more Achievements and silly posts documenting all these non-milestones. You are welcome in advance.

An endless supply of handsome princes to Little Briar Rose’s rescue

little briar rose gd overall impressions

The original version of Sleeping Beauty by the Brothers Grimm, meaning the non-Disney take or even the more recent stab via Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, tackles such hot topics like adultery, bigamy, murder, rape, suicide, and even cannibalism. Yes, this is how fairy tales went back then. Thankfully, Little Briar Rose from Elf Games is not quite as dark as its source material, both in look and narrative, though we never do see what happens once the prince makes it to the castle, leaving that ending to either your Disney-slanted imagination or something more horrifying, the kind of twist that George R.R. Martin would appreciate.

But what is Little Briar Rose, other than a different name for a complicated tale of a comatose princess? It’s a point-and-click adventure game using a stunningly gorgeous stained glass art style, revolving around this plot: a princess has fallen under a curse that puts both her and her whole kingdom to sleep, with thick briar bushes blocking the way inside her kingdom, and the only way to break the curse is for a prince to awaken her with a true love’s kiss on the lips. However, in order to clear away much of the thick briar bushes and open up a path forward, the prince must first help the magical denizens of the forest. There are wishes to be granted still. Some are basic fetch quests, some involve a wee bit of puzzle solving, some are multiple choice-driven, and they all require a lot of backtracking.

Overall, Little Briar Rose isn’t a very long adventure. I think there are a total of five or six screens to explore, with plenty of revisiting between them all to solve every last puzzle and clear away those thorny vines. One puzzle asks you to construct a house based on a crude drawing, another requires you to gather specific information and relay it correctly, and the remainder involves finding items and giving them to the right non-playable character. Here’s the main deal: you’ll need to talk to everyone you’ve met, multiple times depending on the situation, to be set on the right track. If you feel stuck or unsure how to push the puzzle forward, go and talk to every merman, fairy, and gnome you see. Even that crow atop those mushrooms. Talk, talk, talk. Some of the dialogue is a little tedious to sift through, but it is well-paced and amusing for the most part. Obviously, the game’s art style is a delight to behold–and I wanted more screens to gawk at more colorful images–though the limited soundtrack grows tiresome quickly.

Interestingly, you can fail at several of the puzzle scenarios in Little Briar Rose, resulting in the death of your prince. No worries though as a new one quickly shows up to carry on the previous one’s torch and try again. This prince will have a new name and differently-colored hair and clothes, but otherwise, it’s just another empty husk to move around the game’s world and do your bidding. Adventure games like Gemini Rue and Beneath a Steel Sky have implemented death before, but they actually abide by the laws of death; here, it doesn’t make sense or even feel necessary. All it does is kill a few more minutes, making you backtrack to whatever puzzle you were at, as well as redo the steps you previously took to begin solving it if you forgot to save beforehand. I’d rather have seen some kind of “lolz you so wrong, prince, try again!” message rather than this, and trust me, I saw enough new princes spawn to earn an Achievement notification. Seeing as that was the only Achievement to pop up during my time in Princess Aurora’s land and that there’s no way to even view them, it came across as a waste.

I don’t want to come across too negative, as it was an enjoyable and certainly unique adventure gaming experience. At least there was no cannibalism. You can grab a copy for zero dollars for either Windows or Mac OS X at Elf Games’ website. I also scrolled through the developers’ blog, and it seems like Little Briar Rose is going through some revamping, with new art to come. I might give it another go down the line, curious to see what else changes.