Tag Archives: Amazon

Don’t stop for nothing when it comes to High Hell’s breakneck combat

I continue to mistakenly refer to High Hell as How High. Y’know, that classic stoner flick from 2001 about multi-platinum rap superstars Redman and Method Man as Jamal and Silas, two regular guys who smoke something magical, ace their college entrance exams, and wind up at Harvard–hilarity ensues. I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve seen it more than once. Also, I’m sure I’m not alone in this conundrum. Either way, the two entities are desperately unlike, and that’s good, because I don’t think playing a videogame version of How High would be all that enjoyable. High Hell, on the other hand, is a real hoot…

High Hell is currently one of the freebies for the month of May for those with Twitch Prime, which I finally set up a month or two ago, mostly to get some free cosmetics for Fortnite. It seems like it is on the same level as Microsoft’s Games with Gold program, and I like that I’m getting the games for free permanently, unlike with PlayStation Plus, which means I don’t feel extra pressure to play through them sooner than later. We also got Pyschonauts, Clustertruck, Gone Home, Titan Souls, and I, Hope. Some of those I’ve played, and some I’ve not, so, for me, it’s been a good balance of new things to try out along with some acquiring a few classics I can open with a different launcher.

Right. Let’s cut immediately to the action now, because that’s what High Hell is all about. It’s a neon-soaked, arcade-action first-person shooter from Terri Vellmann (Heavy Bullets) and Doseone (Enter the Gungeon, Gang Beasts). I’m aware of all three of those games, though I’ve never touched ’em, but a part of me suspects one or two are waiting to be installed in my Steam library. In this one, you must take on the criminal underground with a gun that never needs reloading and bring lethal salvation to those that have fallen from the light. Er, something like that. Devolver Digital is behind it, and if you have played any of their games, you know they go big, bold, and right for the jugular. Also, they aren’t afraid to be a little goofy. Some examples that I’ve actually tasted include: Hotline Miami, Luftrausers, and Gods Will Be Watching.

The story is purposely thin and mostly told through mission objectives, such as burn three Employee of the Month paintings, destroy two wiener pumps, deface corporate effigies, and kill Beelzebot. There are main objectives and side objectives and even smaller side tasks, such as burning piles of cash, but the true goal is to stay alive and shoot down anybody or anything targeting you and your health meter. For each successful kill, you get a little bit of health back, which is good, because it doesn’t take much to bring you to your knees and health pick-ups are few and far between. You can methodically and slowly inch your way forward or charge ahead guns blazing, and both plans of attack have their moments, but you need to be quick with your shots because the enemies or big bosses don’t pull any punches.

I’m currently around level 12 or 13–I can’t remember, it’s all a pink-and-gray blur–out of 20 total missions, and I’m having a fantastic time. I normally belittle myself and lack the self-esteem to feel good about playing this type of fast-paced, twitch-based shooters, but I’m actually doing all right. Sure, I get stuck on a couple of levels, but repetition helps iron out the wrinkles and improve my playthrough each time, breaking it down to an almost exact science if you can pull off each shot. Granted, I’m not hitting speedrunning times, but that’s never been my goal; remember, the only game I’ve speedrunned so far is Gone Home.

I’m hoping to see High Hell all the way to its conclusion, but I don’t know if there is more to do after that. Or, even if there is, I don’t know if it is something I will care about. I’m enjoying the frenetic nature of these levels, and jumping off buildings to parachute away after completing all objectives is beyond satisfying, but I might have my fill by the end. We’ll see. For now, I’ll keep kicking down doors and blasting anything that gets in my way.

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New ways to celebrate mediocrity with The Incredibles

gd incredibles playstation2 impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragon Age: Inquisition is concerned with the fate of the world, not text size

Dragon Age Inquisition GD early thoughts 2

Like many, the millisecond I saw that one of Amazon’s major Cyber Monday bargains was for $15.00 off the very still new Dragon Age: Inquisition, I dropped whatever I was holding/doing and purchased a copy…for the PlayStation 3. It arrived a few days later and sat on my kitchen table, waiting patiently for me to finish up some artwork projects, as well as Suikoden II. Here’s a quick life lesson for y’all that I’ve learned over my thirty-one years of doing this grind called living: don’t start one massive RPG before completing another.

Anyways, over the weekend, I put about an hour and a half into Dragon Age: Inquisition, and all I got to show for it is this t-shirt that says “Leave the Hinterlands” in big, bold, bloody lettering. Nah, that’s not true. What I actually got is a female dwarven warrior named Girgna, who likes to charge right into the thick of things and even taunt enemies as she swings a sword into their necks. This style of fighting is very much the opposite of my usual path, but my friend Tom is also playing the game, walking the good, wholesome path of a nice wizard lady named Dandelion, and I wanted us to have different experiences to talk about.

Dragon Age: Inquisition evidently picks up immediately the events of Dragon Age II, where mages and Templars are finally at ends with each other. However, there are talks of a peace treaty in the works, but those deals and promises are interrupted by a magical explosion, leaving a single survivor. Yup, that’s you, the one with the green-colored hand. Some believe you caused this explosion, while others think you’re a blessing from the prophet Andraste. Either way, demons are now emerging from the rift in the sky, and you are the only one who can do anything about it. Get ready to age a dragon or something.

So far, I’m finding my return to Ferelden…a bit underwhelming. Granted, I’ve not touched the series seriously since Dragon Age: Origins, deciding after trying the demo and listening to the Internet that Dragon Age II was not for me. Now, I really really liked Dragon Age: Origins; it had characters and scope and deeply integrated lore and tough, but rewarding combat. It also had some problems, such as tiny text, glitched Achievements because I know I killed at least 500 darkspawn (though not 1,000), clunky inventory menus, and that whole side quest surrounding the Fade. Still, the good outweighed the bad, and that banter while wandering around towns or the forest really gave me the warmest of warm feelings.

However, in just an hour and a half with Dragon Age: Inquisition, I’m experiencing a ton of issues. The graphics on the PlayStation 3 version are sub-par; I mean, it looks like the first game, which came out four years ago, and I know we can have nicer visuals at this point thanks to Grand Theft Auto V and even Destiny. Many textures are garbled and flat or late to load in when a cutscene starts. Again, graphics are certainly not everything to me, but working graphics is a whole different issue. Audio sync is also off, and there was one moment where characters left the scene, but the camera remained fixed on the forest for a few extra seconds, while nothing happened. And this all brings me to the thorniest of roadblocks: the tiny text. I cannot sit on the couch and read most of the text, which is, y’know, frustrating for a roleplaying game where you make important decisions. I cannot read weapon descriptions or newly added lore blurbs. I cannot see the numbers for my character’s experience bar. Sounds like it doesn’t matter if you have an SD or HD television either, and I’m not the only one upset about this.

I’ll hold out hope (but not much) for a future patch to increase the font size. Until then, I’m relying on other elements to tell me what’s going on. When you examine an item, you’ll see some bars below your character go up in green or down in red, thus telling you if it is helpful or not. That said, I don’t know exactly what each bar is measuring. Some dialogue choices are accompanied by a small graphic, indicating what kind of response you are about to give, even if you can’t read it. Girgna has now finished the prologue section and been told about the Hinterlands, but I’m still hanging around the opening area, trying to find some crafting items to make weapons and armor before I move ahead to the zone everyone says to not linger in. Plus, there’s plenty of hairless nugs running around, begging to be target practice.

Not the best start for Dragon Age: Inquisition. Call me crazy, but I like reading the text in my videogames, even if it is badly translated.

Hurricane Irene, the weekend, and gaming

Well, we all knew she was coming ahead of time, and thankfully many of us paid heed to the warnings, but things were still pretty rough this weekend. In terms of things hitting close to home, the house we literally just moved into on Friday…well, it’s currently without power and hot water and the basement had about two to three inches of water in it. Plus, branches of deadly size were breaking off and dropping on the back deck:

Ugh. Yeah…don’t even know what’s going on in our other place–the Leaky Cauldron–but most likely not much, just power loss. Or extensive leakage. Trying not to think that way. Won’t be able to check on that for a little bit though. Pray that the remainder of our stuff remains dry and safe and…dry. Dry is the important factor here.

Tara and I spent the entire weekend at her parents’ place in Sparta, NJ, which still got hit with a lot of rain, heavy winds, and power loss. Honestly, prior, I thought that there was too much media hype about Hurricane Irene–my mother would’ve called me days ago and told me to pay attention and be prepared and that there was no hype, that this was a major storm rolling up the East Coast–and I probably would’ve just carried on as business as usual. Thankfully, everyone else freaking out began freaking me out and we smarted up, moved as much as we could into the new home, and then hunkered down elsewhere.

Before the storm rolled in, I made a quick swing by GameStop, interested in picking up a “get me through the hurricane” game, as well as rewarding myself for all that heavy lifting and stress that comes with physically moving from one place to another. I figured that if the power went out, I’d at least have my fully charged 3DS for a few hours of distraction/entertainment. I had a slight interest in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, the first true Japanese RPG for the Nintendo 3DS since its launch, and that’s interesting, considering the DS was always playing host to this JRPG and that JRPG. So I grabbed it, looking forlornly at the numerous copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution on the shelves behind the counter. My friend Greg had ordered me a copy, and I was hoping to get it in time for some weekend gaming, but Amazon was late shipping it, and then factor in the slim chance of being at the house to actually play it…wah.

But then DE:HR arrived on Saturday! I have read the game’s manual twice. That’s kind of like playing it, right?

Other than that, I played some Braid, VVVVVV, and more The Sims Social to help pass time as we *ahem* weathered the storm. Will probably have some posts up this week about these games, as well as some other goodies. Stay tuned. And please, please…stay away from falling branches.

Gift cards, and Microsoft Points, and bears! Oh, my!

I have a love/hate relationship with gift cards. Many people probably find them to be the greatest gift ever in that they can now go out and buy anything. I have the exact opposite problem; with a gift card, I can now go out and buy anything. That anything, in my mind, is really anything, an extremely broad selection that comprises books, movies, games, art supplies, clothes, food, and so on.

That said, I’ve had an Amazon gift card sitting in my desk drawer since last Christmas. You know, that holiday from six months yonder. Yeah, I’m just not good at spending those things, and I guess I was waiting for something to really grab my attention, but it hasn’t yet. So I instead used it to–and here comes the irony–to buy 1600 Microsoft Points (MSP) for Xbox Live. Yes, I used a gift card to essentially buy another gift card. Do you dare ask why?

Well, there’s a special deal going on this week to get Peggle at 50% off, meaning 400 Microsoft Points. This deal is only good for Gold members, which I just currently happen to be. I’ve always been interested in the colorful, bubbly addictive puzzle since I played the trial version, and the deal was too good to pass up.

But now I have a problem. I have 1200 MSP remaining, and just like I had trouble spending my Amazon gift card, I’m struggling to decide what to do with them. I could get three more 400 MSP games, or an 800 MSP and a 400 MSP combo, or I could buy some add-ons to games already in my collection (i.e., Borderlands, GTA IV, Mass Effect). I’m not really interested in wasting the points on TV shows, Avatar items, or silly things like themes and gamerpics. So, any ideas? I heard Braid is pretty good, currently priced at 800 MSP. I guess I could ultimately hold on to them and wait for something else to come out (will LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 have DLC? I doubt it), but then I’m just doing what I’ve always done with these things: procrastinating.

One thing I know is that I most certainly will not be buying the Midnight Show DLC for The Saboteur despite how much fun I’m having with the game. The comment at the end of The First Hour‘s review of the game seals the deal; I’m not playing The Saboteur for the nudity, I’m playing it to blow up Nazis and sabotage the bleep out of enemy headquarters.

But yeah. I need ideas for Xbox Live games. Remember, I have 1200 to spend. Please don’t suggest anything that is solely multiplayer as who knows how long I will keep my Gold account locked in. Thanks in advance! Phooey on you in advance too if you suggest nothing.