Tag Archives: Night in the Woods

Ringing in the new year with 90,000 Gamerscore

When I hit the 80,000 Gamerscore mark in August 2017, I predicated I’d earn the next full 10,000 by March 2018. Mel went with April 2018. Er, whoops. We were a bit off on those guestimations. Here we are almost two weeks into January and, thanks to a number of recently completed games and the Iron Fist martial arts tournament, which I’ll touch upon below, I punched 90,000 Gamerscore perfectly in the nose last night, shortly before hitting the hay:

Go me, go numbers growing higher. Also, at some point, I really do need to look into updating my avatar, seeing as I haven’t rocked a full beard now for many, many months. I can also make my body size a bit slimmer.

Let’s see. Obviously, the games I’ve touched most recently–Wolfenstein: The New Order, Night in the Woods, and Prey–played a bit part in climbing this mountain. As did Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and all its DLC, which, until typing those very words, I had honestly wiped from my memory despite the number of hours that whole thing took to complete. There’s also Slime Rancher and Murdered: Soul Suspect, of which I got most for the former and all the Achievements for the latter, plus a bunch of smaller games here and there to fill in the gaps, inching my Gamerscore a wee bit closer to the clouds.

However, after finding every single hidden enigma code collectible and unlocking the first puzzle-related one in Wolfenstein: The New Order last night, I saw that I needed 20 more Gamerscore to hit 90,000 perfectly, which wasn’t going to work with the remainder of enigma-related Achievements left in the game. So I began searching through my installed games list, on the hunt for something worth either 20, 15, 10, or 5, though I was hoping to find an easy one for 20 and call it a night. Enter Tekken Tag Tournament 2, and this little gem involving pressing X+Y+RB three times in Practice mode against an opponent standing still and not blocking, all of which took me about 30 seconds to do:


Master of the Direct Tag Assault (20G): You pulled off 3 Direct Tag Assaults.

My skills are undeniable. I don’t even remember which two characters I picked for my team. Either way, the job got done.

Will I achieve 100,000 Gamerscore in 2018? You bet your butt I will.

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #129 – Night in the Woods

Small-town mystery
Drop-out Mae must find herself
Poems, ghosts, crimes, god

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.

Grinding Down’s Top 10 Games of 2017

For the last several years, I’ve named my top five favorite games at the end of each year. Look, I know you don’t believe me, because how absurd of a claim that is, which is why I brought receipts:

However, 2017 has been crazy good in terms of games–I mean, I ended up completing a whopping 125+ of them as of this post though not all released this calendar year–and there’s far too many to talk about to fill my standard top five format, so I’m expanding this yearly endeavor to ten. I know, how very controversial. But this means more words for your eyeballs to eat, so I think we’re all winners here.

Let’s start with a couple games that didn’t quite make the list. Namely, Marvel Heroes Omega and Fallout Shelter.

For the former, well…I enjoyed my time with the free-to-play, loot-driven action RPG from Gazillion Entertainment, playing as Squirrel Girl and watching the framerate tank when enough other players entered the fold and starting using their special abilities all at once. The problem? Other than Squirrel Girl not featuring enough into the main campaign, the game was quickly abandoned on consoles, shutting down unceremoniously around Thanksgiving. This was only a few months after releasing on consoles, so big boo to that. I’m glad I never dumped any real money into it, but also bummed that the game is just gone, never to be played ever again. Thank goodness I have copies of X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance still to try down the road.

As for Fallout Shelter, a game that dropped in June 2015 during E3 for everyone with cool phones (not me), but only made it onto Xbox One this year…well, I’ve sunk a lot of hours into it. Currently, something like a bajillion (rough estimate). Anyways, it’s my go-to for killing ten minutes or so every day, with Bethesda continuing to support it with holiday-themed quests and rewards since launching on consoles. I only have a few more Achievements to pop, and I suspect I’ll probably be playing it a whole bunch more into 2018, eventually running out of room in Vault 713.

Also, I’ll quickly touch on this, but yes, I did play some PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds this year, even getting a chicken dinner on my fourth game, but since it is still in early access/game preview mode for the Xbox One, my home of choice, I don’t consider it in the running for this year’s top 10 list. It is good fun, both solo and in squad format, but has a long way to go in terms of performance and stability and not constantly kicking me out to the dashboard for seemingly no reason, which is beyond frustrating when you are, at the time, driving a vehicle quickly out of the blue circle.

Right. Well, with that said, let’s see what my ten favorite games of 2017 were…

10. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Honestly, I’ve not put a ton of time into Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. Actually, that’s a complete lie; on the PlayStation 2, this was the game that bridged the gap of me moving out of my parents’ house post graduating college and getting my first studio apartment, wherein I didn’t have cable or Internet installed for a couple months, relying on my PlayStation 2 and books to keep me entertained at night and on the weekends, and I put about 80-ish into that version, without ever actually completing it. Hmm.

In 2017, Square Enix remade it for the Nintendo 3DS, with some controversial changes, such as to the UI and orchestral score, but also added some fun, smart additions, like new monsters, seeing enemies in the field, and updates to the plot. Also, there are two new playable characters, Red and Morrie, though
I don’t know how far into the adventure they show up. Personally, I’m kind of saving this game for a lull when I can slip back into something familiar and chip away at it. I also really like the inclusion of the photography challenge side quest.

9. Cayne

Cayne is a killer point-and-click adventure game. By that I mean a lot of characters get killed in it. This free, somewhat standalone isometric horror game from The Brotherhood is set in the Stasis universe and puts you into the waddling body of Hadley, who is nine months pregnant. She wakes up in a strange facility where something is desperately trying to steal her child, and it’s up to you to both learn more and escape. I really liked the tone of this, as well as some of the non-traditional changes to the genre’s mechanics, like not having you click “look” on items to get a description of them. The world-building is dark and deep and reminded me of something that lurked in the back of Harlan Ellison’s mind for too long. At some point, I’ll need to check out Stasis, but I’m emotionally not ready yet.

8. LEGO Worlds

I struggled with some of the UI and button commands in LEGO Worlds and will never, ever try to build anything LEGO brick by LEGO brick because that road only leads to madness and mental destruction, but otherwise it was a lot of fun to run around in and have some silly adventures. There’s less structure than your typical LEGO videogame, which is odd at first. However, the randomized worlds are goofy yet always interesting, especially the candy-themed one, and once you realize there is more beneath the surface, exploration in the deep dark becomes an entirely new mechanic to figure out. It’s not a perfect take on Minecraft, and that’s fine–these worlds belong to LEGO.

7. Samorost 3

The Samorost series has always been a game of sights and sounds. You piece together a narrative by what you see and hear, and Samorost 3 continues this trend, with our little gnome friend out exploring a bunch of different planets. Also, there’s no text to read whatsoever, not even in the menus. To be perfectly honest, I’m not done with Samorost 3, only putting a couple hours into it so far, but I’m purposefully moving through it slowly, absorbing and digesting every single scene and flower/bug you can click on. I love how much moss there is, and the puzzles are a delight to figure out, even the ones you do to reveal a hint require you to put on your thinkin’ cap. I do hope there’s a Samorost 4 (and 5 and 6 and 7) down the road, and I hope to finish this strange and beautiful journey up before any of them come out, but I’m not going to rush through it.

6. Prey

I’m not very good at Prey, but that’s okay. The game clearly wears its immersive sim inspiration proudly on its sleeves with numerous ways to approach objectives and a creepy sci-fi retro future that without any doubt has some moral implications. I’m close to the end of Prey, but I don’t know if I can make it through based on how I created my character and spent my skill points. I love the world in Prey, despite how terrifyingly fecked up it is, and I’m looking forward to re-playing the game on the easiest of difficulties so I can just focus on reading emails, books, letters, and listening to audio diaries aboard Talos 1 so I can know exactly how everyone on this doomed space station lived. Also, don’t bother trying to kill the Nightmare creature, because you are wasting ammo as it just keeps coming back.

5. Night in the Woods

I recently tried to describe Night in the Woods to Mel after buying it a second time, now on Xbox One, since I lost all my progress for the PC when my ASUS laptop bought the farm, and I think I said something like this: you are a cat named Mae and you walk around this town and talk to people and Selmers does poetry and your mom is funny and you can look at constellations and the writing is really great, like super funny and also dark as heck. All of that is true, but Night in the Woods is also so much more. It’s the story of loner and college-dropout Mae returning home in Possum Springs to find that life has gone on without her. Now she needs to figure out her place, among her family and friends, while also dealing with a mystery involving a severed arm and stolen teenager. I’m obsessive with seeing every inch of content, exploring every nook and talking to all who will talk to me, exhausting dialogue trees fully, though I mostly stuck with hanging out with Bae at night (sorry, Gregg). Lastly, the soundtrack is phenomenal.

4. Ever Oasis

Ever Oasis does not do anything too surprising, but that’s not what I was looking for in a handheld action RPG about building up a magical oasis and managing a bunch of stores. The combat was basically this: dodge to the side, attack with all you had, rinse and repeat. At times, it got mashy and boring, and I didn’t put too much attention into upgrading weapons and gears because it didn’t seem to matter all that much (spoiler: I was right). The part I enjoyed the most was getting new people to join your oasis and open up shop and then taking on specific quests to upgrade those shops so you can make more income. There’s a good loop here, one that I ate up every day for a couple months during my lunch break, and I thought I was going to stick with it more for post-credits content, but that didn’t happen due to the number one item on this list. Still, a fun time.

3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I missed out on many of the big Legend of Zelda games post-A Link to the Past. Shocking, I know. Well, I never had a Nintendo 64 or GameCube or even a Wii. Yes, that means I never played Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword. Phew. So, honestly, dropping into Breath of the Wild was pure delight. The game presents a sprawling, open land to explore pretty much however you want once you gain access to a few powers and your hang-glider. You can take on the Divine Beasts one by one or go directly for the jugular and defeat Ganon from the very start. I did the former, only taking on end-game Ganon the other night after many hours and shrines and gaining access to the Master Sword, failing to defeat his first form. I think I need to upgrade my health a bit more and cook better food first.

Regardless of that, I’ve had a fantastic time running around with Link sans horse, taking on side quests, finding Korok seeds, breathing in the cold, mountain air, and seeing whatever is just around the corner or over that hill. Because there’s always something. There’s a richness here that I’ve never seen before, and the fact that many of the puzzles can be solved in numerous ways gets me all tingly inside. The game rewards the player greatly for poking around, and I like to poke. That said, I hate engaging in combat unless safely from a distance using a strong bow and bomb arrow, and I will never, ever be a fan of weapons breaking–you hear that, Dark Cloud–but that’s just a part of this world one needs to deal with in order to survive.

2. Slime Rancher

I truly hope that 2018 doesn’t result in us building an economy from the ground up based on farming plorts–also known as slime poop–from a number of different slime beings. Because if that’s the case, I’m in serious trouble. I got lost in Slime Rancher, constantly feeling the pull to play for five more minutes, to feed a few more slimes and sell a handful more of plorts so I could buy the next upgrade for my farm. Every upgrade lets you explore further and last a little longer out in the wild, and exploring is a big part of the fun here, with excitement coming from discovering new slimes and thinking about how you can harvest their plorts for your benefit. Since launching on Xbox One as a Games with Gold freebie, the developer Monomi Park has been updating the game a whole bunch, adding new features and areas to scour, and I continue to dip back into it to make sure all my slimes are getting on well with each other and buy new colors for my base and plort-vacuum.

Last year, Stardew Valley, a farming game, took my number two spot, and this year it is Slime Rancher. I have to wonder if this trend will continue in 2018, with my eyes locked in curiosity on things like Mineko’s Night Market, Staxel, and Ooblets.

1. Miitopia

Look, I’m just as surprised as you are. I honestly thought, based on the game’s somewhat hands-off combat system, that I was going to hate Miitopia, but just the opposite happened. I fell for it hard, unable to not spend any free ten or fifteen minutes doing a quest or grinding forward to have my party grow in strength or eat some more food or become closer to one another. This continued long after I beat the story, wherein the game sort of split into two entities, and now, 60 hours in, I’m still banging my head against the two extra islands of Galados Isle and New Lumos, the daily quests from visitors at the Travelers’ Hub, and the Tower of Dread, which is the game’s spin of a boss rush mode. Evidently, after beating the Tower of Dread, you get a new class, and the completionist in me must see all the armor and weapon options for it, so my final hours with Miitopia are not immediately around the corner.

I spoke about loop earlier with Ever Oasis, and Miitopia is a strong contender for best “pick and up play for five minutes” type of gameplay. Ultimately, no matter what you do in that five minutes, you are moving forward or making your team stronger. The fact that you can hold down a button and fast-forward the action really speeds up the grinding, which I found enjoyable and allowed me to get creative with my team and action choices when the fights become too easy, helps a lot. Some sessions saw me doing nothing but playing around with the minigame tickets system, taking advantage of the roulette wheel to get better gear or sell it for gold or obtain rare food for just spinning a wheel.

The story is straightforward and nothing to go ga-ga over. No argument here on that. What makes it special and more engaging is the cast of characters, who you hand-pick. Either from your pre-made Miis or from ones that Nintendo suggests. I even looked up a few online and scanned QR codes. Who knew Morgan Freeman (as a cleric) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (as a warrior) were such best buds? Same goes for Snoop Dogg (as a vampire) and my sister Bitsy (a pop star). My girlfriend Melanie (as a chef) was a key fighter, using her frying pan to whack enemies to death or turn them into food, and the quirks on each party member created jealousy and random moments in battle, like someone feeling empathy towards an enemy and letting them go. If I was to play Miitopia again from the start–and I won’t–selecting an entirely different team of Miis and classes would absolutely make it feel like a different game despite the paths being the same.

Also, next to Night in the Woods and certain sound effects from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Miitopia‘s music is some of my favorite from 2017. The title screen song changes depending on where you save your game, and each area has its own twist to the main theme. There are dozens of great little jingles, from when two Miis grow closer to leveling up to obtaining and equipping a new weapon. If you don’t believe me and want to hear ’em for yourself, here’s a couple of tracks that exemplify how eccentric yet adorable Miitopia is to listen to:

2017: what a year (for games).

Longest Night’s stargazing results in emergent music gameplay

gd longest night final impressions

I’m really excited about Night in the Woods. I mean, yeah, I was excited before, after playing Lost Constellation early last year and seeing what these cute animal friends can get up to and the staggering amount of imagination and creativity to everything surrounding them and their antics, but now I’m even more excited. Unsurprisingly, this all stems from my recent dip into Longest Night, which is actually the first of the two supplemental experiences from Finji, though I’m tackling it second. You know I never like to follow anything by the book…unless it is the Metal Gear series in order of release.

Longest Night is less game and more short story. Or short stories, rather. Snippets of fake history. A gang of four friends–Mae, Bea, Gregg, and Angus–gather around the campfire and trace constellations in the dark sky, bringing to life these legends of old. It’s a classic tradition as part of “Longest Night,” which is equivalent to Christmas or the Winter Solstice in this world. It’s become a part of life, and the older one gets, the further from it they go, which is why no one around the campfire remembers how to make any of the constellations, something they used to do all the time as little kids.

To learn about these historical figures dripping with lore, like Ibn, the First Singer, Quinona, and Tollmetron, you have to trace matching stars to one another. Linked stars all share similar audio clues, so match all the chanting ones together, all the ones that sound like bells, and so on. It’s easy to figure out, if you know that you’re supposed to figure these sounds out. Honestly, I didn’t even realize you could click on them and draw lines to other stars; I thought the whole point of the game was simply to swipe your cursor around, making pretty tunes and enjoying the cackle of a campfire, but eventually I got the feeling I was missing something and started clicking.

Like I said, I spent far too much time simply losing myself in the stars, adding my own beats to the already catchy and, on purpose, looping soundtrack. I didn’t want to trace the rest of the constellations, knowing this dream would come to an end. Here, have a taste of my cursor-moving skills:


To be real, I don’t even know what Night in the Woods is about. I’m being ignorant on purpose; I want to be completely surprised, not just in terms of story, but also gameplay, much like I was going into both Longest Night and Lost Constellation. Sure, a part of me would like to see elements from these incorporated in the bigger adventure, like creating your own snowmen and music beats, but they could also scrap all of this and do something completely different, something totally unexpected, and I would still be content. From a few GIFs that I couldn’t help not look at, it seems like an adventure game with some varying and stylized action scenes here and there. Oh, and it looks gorgeous too. Lots of oranges and blues, falling leaves. Ahhhh.

Now that I’ve played both of Night in the Woods‘ supplemental side stories, all that’s left to do is wait for its final release. Which is somewhere in 2016. Until then, I’ll be staring up at the stars, humming along to a song that never ends.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #9 – Longest Night

2016 gd games completed longest night

Stargazing to learn
The constellations of lore
Night in the Woods soon

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

A young alligator astronomer’s journey to find a star in Lost Constellation

lost constellation overall thoughts gd

Lost Constellation, as a supplemental to the forthcoming Night in the Woods, did its job–and did it splendidly. I’m officially onboard for Infinite Ammo’s full-blown videogame, which, in their words, is “an adventure game heavily focused on story, characters and exploration, with some platforming to get around town.”

Lost Constellation is all that, but condensed and only slightly related. In short, it’s a ghost story, a bedtime tale, a journey within a journey. Mae’s grandfather is the narrator, weaving together the night-driven adventures of Adina, a young alligator astronomer, and her journey to find a star, keep a promise. As she travels through the cold, harsh woods, Adina will stumble upon a number of interesting–if mostly untrustworthy–characters, like a blue fox that wants to sell wanderers coffins, a cat that is not a wizard cat, just simply a cat, an old, weather-controlling witch, and ghosts of the once living. Oh, and snowmen, but Adina makes those herself, rather than runs directly into them; more on that later.

Gameplay is exploration-based, with Adina moving left or right, discovering items and characters to interact with. She can also pick up and carry snowballs, which are great for hitting things out of trees or summoning a guard via some rung bell. Expect plenty of dialogue to unfold, the majority of which is amusing and interestingly presented, and there is the occasional dialogue choice to make, though they never seemed like the sort of decisions that would change what might happen next. Merely a different way of asking the same thing. Maybe Night in the Woods will explore this deeper.

The soundtrack by Alec Holowka is strikingly soft and eerie. Beautiful and off-putting. Happy adjective and sad adjective. Perfect for a walk in a strange forest under starlight. I’m personally a big fan of “Tundra” so much that I left the game up in a part where it played while I did some household chores, letting it loop (this was before I knew the developers had a separate site for it). The whole soundtrack actually reminds me a lot of Mass Effect, Transistor (minus the jazzy drums), and Fire Emblem: Awakening, all snowballed into one very low-key, laconic, haunting concert.

One of the big focuses of Lost Constellation is collecting special items and constructing a snowperson out of them. Or around them, if you will. You end up making four or five across Adina’s time in the woods, and the game lets you take a screenshot of your finished work, saving it directly to your desktop, free of charge. I will now share with y’all my four snowpeople, in all their creative glory:

snowman_2015-02-07_11-31-50 snowman_2015-02-07_11-22-54snowman_2015-02-07_10-15-51 snowman_2015-02-07_10-22-55

Overall, I’m pretty proud of my work. From what I’ve gathered based off screenshots and animated GIFs for Night in the Woods, it seems to be set in a modern city and during autumn, so this snowperson-crafting mechanic might not show up there. Perhaps we can help Mae create monsters from piles of leaves. Either way, I hope something like this is in there again, because, while not challenging at all, it made for a fun distraction and at least made the slight bits of backtracking rewarding. When I watched Giant Bomb play Lost Constellation last week, they found a dog collar for one of their snowmen; I did not, which makes me wonder if there is some randomizing happening under the hood.

Again, Lost Constellation is a side thing, a slice of maybe what’s to come for Night in the Woods. It has me intrigued over this world and the holiday called “Longest Night” and this astronomer Adina (though not-so-much about Mae). I don’t know everything, but I’m looking forward to learning more, and I have to wonder how much of what is in Lost Constellation will pop up elsewhere. Regardless, here’s hoping for a 2015 release. Or heck, even another pay-what-you-want supplemental. I just want more.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #12 – Lost Constellation

2015 gd games completed lost constellation

A bedtime story
Of ghosts, snowmen, forest gods
Gorgeous, childish

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.