Tag Archives: PlayStation Plus

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Monster Jam: Battlegrounds

Monster Jam: Battlegrounds is a bad game. I thought I’d just put that up front here in this new feature for Grinding Down where I finally start taking a look at the many, many PlayStation Plus titles I have installed on my PlayStation 3. Why? Well, the service is not what it once was in terms of the games you get (at least for the console I’m still on), and I’m looking to ultimately cancel it down the road. Unlike Microsoft’s Games with Gold program, you don’t get to keep the titles from Sony, so I should try some of them out before I cut ties and these disappear for good.

Let’s get to it. Monster Jam: Battlegrounds is Trials, but instead of motorbikes you use monster trucks to get the job done. The job is usually going from the left side of the screen to the right side. Actually, that comparison is completely unfair to the Trials franchise, which is noteworthy for its physic-based controls and steep challenge, but high level of polish. Also, completing a tough jump in Trials Evolution felt do-able and was really rewarding; here, you are fighting at every twist and turn to keep these monster trucks upright, almost as if they are hollow inside. Ugh.

There are three modes: Skill Driving, Stadium Events, and Stunt. Each is less exciting than the previous one. Skill Driving has you trying to reach certain areas by maintaining momentum and not toppling over. Stadium is a ridiculous scenario where you drive in a circle two or three times and beat an opponent doing the same thing, and to call this a “race” is an insult to the very definition of the word. Stunt wants you to use your boost power effectively and see how far you can make a monster truck fly through the air. These are all straightforward and over quickly, which makes the long load times to get to them and unresponsive controls all the more frustrating.

So, in the end, not a keeper. The physics are appalling, the challenge and graphic designs are lackluster, the audio is a mess, cutting in and out and culminating into one large crunch of static, crowd cheers, and cheesy rock music, and it takes forever to play, which, for a game I don’t want to play all that much, makes the decision to uninstall pretty easy. Didn’t even need to boost.

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.

Advertisements

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.

Explore Datura’s mysterious forest clumsily

I was surprised when I typed Datura–the first-person exploration game from 2012, not the poisonous flowering plant–into How Long to Beat? and saw that many were completing it in under two hours. That’s great. I’m a big fan of shorter games, and yes, I’m giving you stink eyes, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Stardew Valley, for each eating up over 50 hours and not being close to completion. Ugh. For some reason, I thought this game was a really long affair with obtuse puzzles. Perhaps I was thinking of Pneuma: Breath of Life instead, though that also doesn’t seem to be an epic adventure. Instead, Datura seems to be a short affair with clunky puzzles. I polished it off in two sittings, though one could easily push through it in a single go.

Datura begins with you, whoever you are, on life support in the back of an ambulance. You are tasked with removing the cloth and wires connected to your body, which surprises the EMT helping you. This is also where the game surprised me. I mean, I knew it was a first-person exploration thing, but I didn’t realize that meant you’d see your disconnected, Addams Family-esque hand floating in front of you, moving around in a certainly unnatural manner. It’s extremely bizarre at first, but you eventually get the hang of it (I almost wrote hand of it), maneuvering it into place with the analog stick and pressing R2 to perform an action. After this, you are then transported to a mysterious forest, which serves as a hub of sorts. Here, you’ll travel incomprehensibly through time and space into different playable sequences to solve some relatively straightforward puzzles.

The game was clearly designed for the PlayStation Move controller, but I don’t have one of those. So my standard PS3 controller will have to suffice. However, this resulted in some odd, finicky control methods, with myself more or less fudging my way through some puzzle elements, like taking wooden boards off a door with a crowbar or twisting something around. There’s also a lot of tilting, which, when my controller is plugged in, is a wee difficult to do in some directions. Again, you can do it and get through it, but the whole thing reads as clumsy. Also, mashing the R2 button to “run” in the woods is annoying, especially when the speed difference between walking and running is minimal and you tire rather quickly. That said, being in the autumnal forest hub is the best part of Datura, as the atmosphere is amazing and I did enjoy finding white trees and expanding my hand-drawn map.

As far as I can tell, the purpose of each sequence is to present you and your dismembered hand with a choice. Depending on what you do, the forest itself changes to reflect your actions. Are you more sinister? Well, prepare for everything to darken and play home to flies. If you are kinder, there will be brighter areas and more butterflies. It’s a little on the nose, but wandering the woods is the most enjoyable and immersing part of Datura, so it makes a difference. I think I split the difference, being nice and being naughty. A lot of the sequences are clear in terms of what is happening then and there, but on the whole, I didn’t really understand what Datura was trying to say. I’m sure everything has meaning. Maybe this is all about the poisonous plant killing you and everything after the ambulance moment is a fever dream.

Datura wants to be a literary journey through morality. Alas, it misses the mark. The big ol’ life-changing choices are easy to make, even when it comes to issues like beating a dog to death or cutting off someone’s hand. The reason for this is that the game, while visually pretty in spots, appears goofy, and the floating hand, especially when you see it next to your other, normal hand, which is connected to an arm, has a lot to do with this. There’s no solid conclusion, save for a mirror shot at the end that shows you exactly who you are, and so this was a decent two hours in a lovely wood where the fog is thick and the leaves are endless. Man, oh man, I love autumn.

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.

Absolutely nothing special about the platforming and punching in Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom

Everyone’s been talking about collectathons of late with the release of Yooka-Laylee, and I’m a pretty big fan of this…uh, genre. Sub-genre? This style of game. I mean, I like things like Insomniac’s Spyro the Dragon–still working my way slowly through Spyro: Year of the Dragon, somewhere now over 40% complete with plenty more eggs to track down–and Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, which split the difference between action elements and collecting shiny trinkets pretty nicely. Shockingly, I’ve never played Super Mario 64 (or 98% of the Nintendo 64’s library). But, having a list of shiny objects to collect is not the worst thing in the world and, in a lot of ways, can be quite calming and satisfying, even if there’s no larger reward at the end of the task.

I’m also a firm believer of playing bad videogames. Not because I’m a masochist and love them more than good games, but because it is important to see all sides of the industry, from the AAA work that takes hundred of people and years to make to the smaller outputs that certainly needed more time in the oven or someone to step in and fight for or against specific design elements. Some less-than-stellar titles from my past include The Incredibles for PlayStation 2 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One for the Nintendo DS. There’s more, but I’m not going to name ’em.

Naturally, these two paragraphs of buildup is for me to talk to you about a little ol’ thing on the PlayStation 3 called Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom, of which I’m currently working my way through. It was a PlayStation Plus freebie for April 2017. If you, like me, have never heard of this beast before, fear not, for I have a summary of sorts. Invizimals is a Spanish augmented reality video game franchise developed by Novarama and published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. The series, which originally began in 2009 as a video game on the PSP, has since inspired toys, trading cards, comics, and an animated television series telling an interconnected transmedia story.

In Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom, you play as the child hero Hiro, who is sent through a Shadow Gate and into the Invizimals world to form allegiances with the various creatures that he encounters, as well as stop a bunch of evil robots for some reason that I stopped following. The uneventful story is told through in-game cinematics, but the introduction is done in full-motion video with actors, like Brian Blessed, that fans of the show would probably be excited to see. All I’ve been able to gather is that robots are bad and violent animals that attack them are cool. Not sure yet where humans fit into the picture.

Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom‘s gameplay is beyond perfunctory and repetitive. Hiro is able to fuse his teeny tiny body with the various Invizimals he meets, which help to unlock a number of abilities. Such as climbing up vines, swinging over inexplicably large drops, swimming underwater, and teleporting past locked gates. You can switch freely between these Invizimals using a weapon wheel menu, though the game will often automatically transform you into a specific Invizimal when the puzzle or platforming section says so. When given a choice, I’ve been sticking with Ocelotl, mostly because I like how the narrator says his name. There are two main actions: attacking and collecting. The fighting is bare bones, with mashing more than enough to get you through it, and the menus for upgrading don’t provide a lot of context for the abilities you are purchasing. As for collecting, well…there’s a lot to snag–Sparks (2,000 in total), Z-Sparks (13,000 in total), pup idols, dark seeds, and unlockable vault doors. None of it is difficult to gather, but I’ve completed some levels with a few items unscooped, and it’s eating away at my brain.

Some general complaints about Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom include that there are no subtitles or even options to muck around in. You may be able to play with the audio levels, but I can’t remember. There’s also next to no explanation for a number of things, especially the Battle Mode, which, from what I saw, is kind of like a one-on-one Pokemon fight in real time, where you can level up your creature. But to what end? I don’t know. There are also too many quick time events, which instantly warped me back to when I first got my Xbox 360 and only had Kung Fu Panda to play for many days.

Look, I’m just not as into Trophies as I am into popping Achievements, and part of that still has to do with how finicky it is to sync them with your profile and the clunkiness that is trying to quickly view the list as you are playing. But whatever. I’ve completed a few games on the PlayStation 3 to 100%, namely Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Doki-Doki Universve, Dragon Fantasy Book 1, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Kung Fu Rabbit, Machinarium, and rain, but have yet to acquire my first Platinum Trophy. I came close with Prototype 2 (at 91%). Sadly, or rather humorously, Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom might be my first Platinum Trophy. It doesn’t seem difficult to get, just a little bit of time and collecting and we’re at our final destination. So while it may not have been the best freebie in the world, at least it served a purpose…for me and my desire to have digital rewards. I’ll let you know when I hit it.

Not sure if Professor Fitz Quadwrangle’s nephew can solve this Quantum Conundrum

quantum-conundrum-gd-impressions

Here’s the radical truth: every time I scroll past Quantum Conundrum on my interminable list of PlayStation 3 games, most of which were acquired through PlayStation Plus, it scares the crap out of me. Not because it is from the horror genre, where jump scares and messed-up imagery reign queen, but because a song plays the fraction of a second you idle on its name. That song is this song, and, while catchy, it starts so suddenly that, depending on how high I have the volume on my TV, it’s like meditating in a quiet room unexpectedly rocked by a massive explosion. Or maybe I’m being dramatic and just whining about being scared easily. Either way, I want it gone sooner than later.

Again, this is not a horror game. It’s all about puzzles and using your noggin. You play as the non-speaking twelve-year-old nephew of the brilliant and peculiar Professor Fitz Quadwrangle. You’re sent to stay with Quadwrangle, who is unprepared for your arrival and deep in some experiment. Alas, the experiment goes sideways almost immediately, which causes Quadwrangle to become trapped in a pocket dimension. He has no memory of what went wrong before, but is somehow able to watch and communicate you. The results of the experiment leave portions of the Quadwrangle mansion stuck between four dimensions with alternate properties. It’s up to you to restart three separate power generators and bring back Quadwrangle safely.

Quantum Conundrum is a first-person puzzle game, much like Portal. That should come as even less of a surprise when you learn that it was designed by Kim Swift, the project lead on Portal. You’ll notice many more similarities between the two beasts: a wearable device to alter physics in a room, a silly yet omniscient narrator, and lots of buttons to push. By using Quadwrangle’s Interdimensional Shift Device, you can manipulate the objects around you by shifting any given room into one of four different physical “dimensions” at the press of a button. You must use these dimensions in varying ways to solve puzzles throughout the mansion and restore the power. There are four dimensions to mess with, though I only just got up to the third one: fluffy (makes things lighter), heavy (makes things heavier), slow motion (slows down objects in motion), and reverse gravity (self-explanatory). With these varying properties, pieces of furniture or safes become your best tools.

Puzzles aside, the writing is pretty funny. Every time you die, which seems to be most commonly from falling into an endless pit inside this mansion because videogames, you’ll see a darkly snarky death message about something you’ll never get to see now that you no longer exist among the living. There’s also a lot of books with punny titles to examine, as well as amusing paintings on every wall. I especially like the one of the dachshund that stretches across multiple paintings and walls. I do wish that Quadwrangle, as our constant narrator, offered more hints, especially after you spend enough time in a room and can’t figure out what to do next. I solved a couple puzzles already through sheer luck and tossing boxes/switching dimensions until everything lined up perfectly, but I know that technique won’t get me to the end.

At this point, I’ve only fixed the first of three generators in Quantum Conundrum, and I didn’t have to look up any puzzle solutions online. I consider that a great victory as I am–and I’m not afraid to admit this–not the greatest mind to ever walk this spinning planet. However, I do believe this is only because the puzzles start off slow and simple, and the more dimensions you gain access to, the more involved the solutions will become. Couple this with the sometimes wonky physics, like when a box you are carrying suddenly touches a sliver of the wall and freaks out, as well as the less-than-ideal platforming moments, and I’m worried that I won’t ever see Quadwrangle back in the real world. I’ll certainly continue to try, but this mansion might turn out to be more of a prison in disguise.