Tag Archives: racing

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Toy Home

There was a time when Sony was really pushing the Sixaxis controller as the best way to play some of its big name games, such as Lair and Heavenly Sword. Well, Toy Home also uses it, forcing you to tilt left or right to steer your racing vehicle…or shake it violently to get your vehicle to flip over after a crash landing. I’m sure I looked a bit ridiculous doing all of this, but thankfully no one was around to watch me play. It’s gimmicky and not something I’d every really want to use, but alas…I had to.

The goal of Toy Home, which is a digital download only for the PlayStation 3 that came out in December 2007 and does not contain Trophies because it predates the inclusion of ’em, is to simply collect coins, discover hidden medals, and pass every checkpoint, earning 10 seconds for each checkpoint, before times runs out. You also win points by jumping, smashing, and flipping around. There are a total of eight racetracks in the game, all of them taking place in one of the rooms of the house and are filled with obstacles. It initially does feel like you are a kid’s bedroom like in Toy Story, with larger-than-life toys around you to smash into, and the bouncy music really makes you feel like a kid just goofing around with your toys.

There’s a single player mode, along with a multiplayer mode, where up to eight players can battle against each other online, as well as leaderboards, where you can view high scores. Naturally, I didn’t bother trying to play online because I just know how it’s going to go; I can only imagine how empty and lonely that digital realm is for a…twelve-year-old game.

I don’t have much more to say about Toy Home. It’s not a complicated game. It is what it is, a driving collectathon, and that’s fine. The only part I wasn’t enamored with was the control scheme, but I probably could get over it in time. Still, my goal with this project is to play what I can and see if the games hook me hard or are only interesting enough for an hour or so of my gaming time. I don’t see myself devoting much more of my life to Toy Home, sorry to say to all those at SCE and Game Republic.

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.

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Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Mad Riders

I’m tired of talking about racing games. I already did this recently for BlazeRush, for Monster Jam: Battlegrounds, and for Midnight Club: Street Racing, and…I’m just exhausted when it comes to words describing a game where you race around a course a few times and aim for first place. There is nothing exciting to it; instead, give me a Super Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing, where, sure, you want first place, but there are more creative ways to get there, such as launching torpedoes at enemies or dropping banana peels behind your vehicle to cause some accidents. I understand the purpose of going from point A to point B, over and over again–it’s the shortest route–but it ain’t interesting.

Well, Mad Riders is about off-road racing. Players control an all terrain vehicle, or an ATV if you are down with the lingo, and race against other ATVs around a series of tracks. You can collect coins placed along the way to activate a short boost in speed, and blue tokens allow players to temporarily access shortcuts, though I never found any of these myself. When in the air, players can perform tricks, which also provide a bit of boost so long as you land them safely. Naturally, there are obstacles both on the ground and in the air to avoid. Other than that, it’s lap after lap, all while trying to maintain the leading spot. Cue the uproarious applause from the audience.

Mad Riders features 45 tracks that can be played over five different race modes, including a time trial mode and another where players try to score as many points as possible by performing stunts. Races can be done either individually or as part of longer tournaments, so you have options how you want to spend your time. Naturally, everything, even racing games, incorporate RPG-like elements, so you gain experience points for both completing races and performing stunts, and this glorious trick of XP is used to unlock new vehicles and color schemes. Ya-hoo. The game also has a multiplayer option with races containing up to twelve players, but I didn’t bother trying this, seeing as I’ve had bad luck finding anyone else to play online on many of these older PlayStation 3 titles.

That’s it. I have nothing else to give Mad Riders except a hand-wave and pushing the uninstall button. A-buh-bye.

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.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Dyad

I don’t know how to immediately describe Dyad. I played it, I got three stars on some objectives, I did what I was told to do, and yet–I am lacking the words to describe the overall experience. Or maybe experience is the perfect word for it. It’s a thing you experience, from its visuals to its sounds to the way it feels to zip forward and backward in a futuristic tunnel-landscape that continuously throws shapes and colors and hazards at you, all while keeping the momentum somehow frantically chill. I really don’t understand, but that’s okay. Some things in life are meant to be mysterious or undefined, and that’s that.

Here, I’ll use some words stolen from Dyad‘s Steam page: experience a mind-bending, psychedelic sensory overload. Blast through a reactive audio-visual tube creating a harmonious synthesis of color and sound as you hook, graze, and lance enemies to master Dyad‘s 27 unique levels. Sure, that’s a better description than I could ever come up with and, at the same time, is still difficult to parse. Also, I only played through the first eight levels, under the menu strangely titled 2.76 TeV. Again, I’m dumbfounded or I’m just plain dumb to whatever this game is trying to communicate–you tell me. Also, please don’t actually call me dumb, I’m feeling extra sensitive lately.

Dyad basically is its own language. A language of drugs, of violence, of premium, utopian bliss. There are terms for everything you do, such as hooking enemy pairs, lancing enemies, grazing, and so on. They mean things, specific actions. Many of the missions task you with doing a certain amount of these actions or simply racing through a number of sectors, with these actions earning you points throughout. The more points the better, obviously. The goal is always to do what the mission says while also hitting three stars, because getting those opens up trophy and remix versions of the level. The trophy missions are naturally tied to unlocking an actual Trophy, while the remixes are more about…well, mixing things up. As if the standard space-flight down the tube wasn’t zany enough.

I have another game similar to Dyad on my soon-to-play PlayStation Plus purging list, but it is only similar in that it is also described as a drugs game–Hohokum. I don’t do recreational drugs, just ZzzQuil and whatever my oncologist is giving me for my cancer, but those drugs don’t have the same effect as the ones people probably like doing before playing games of this nature. I once got super drunk and had a really fun time playing against bots in Red Faction II‘s multiplayer mode, but that’s probably about it for me and my wild side.

Dyad is certainly right for someone, just not me.

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.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Haven: Call of the King

I don’t believe I ever got past the first couple of levels in Haven: Call of the King, and that’s part of why I regret trading it in. I never gave it a fair shake or saw much more of it past the opening area, where you mostly do a bunch of platforming while escaping a collapsing mine and explore Virescent Village in search of one of Haven’s friends.

Haven: Call of the King is a single-player PlayStation 2 game developed by Traveller’s Tales–yes, the LEGO people–and published by Midway. It came out way back in the day, specifically the year 2002. It’s a combination of different gameplay types, namely action platforming, puzzle solving, and some shooting. The game was intended to be the first chapter in a trilogy of games, but was a commercial flop upon release; as a result, the story was never finished. I’m pretty sure I got my used copy from GameStop for a measly few bucks, and it didn’t even come in a case if I recall correctly. At some point, I traded it in with a bunch of other games for something, which is why it is now starring in this beloved Grinding Down feature.

Here’s all I know of Haven: Call of the King‘s plot, based on the very limited amount of time I spent in its world. Lord Vetch and the Overlord talk about The Voice and mention something about the slave named Haven–how there has been some trouble regarding him. See, he is one of several people who are infected with a virus that requires a constant supply of antidote, which the despot Vetch controls. The scene then cuts to Haven in his home as he is working on building a mechanical bird called Talon. Haven is late for work, so he heads off to the mines. There, he finds his friend Chess being hassled by some guard. The henchman notices Haven is watching, so he turns and fires his laser at Haven. He misses, instead taking out a chunk of the wall and causing the mine to begin to collapse. The true point of the game though is for Haven to find some mysterious bell Vetch has hidden away. Why? I know not.

One of the things I remember standing out in a big way in Haven: Call of the King is that there are no loading screens between environments, unlike Crash Bandicoot. It’s done more like as in the first Jak and Daxter. The game does all its loading during very quick cutscene transitions between levels. I know that this is pretty commonplace nowadays, but back that it was a big deal. Evidently, there were numerous minigame types folded into the standard platformer gameplay that I never even got to touch. There’s a variety of vehicles, including a jetpack, a boat, an airplane, a jetcar (that’s better than a jetpack, yes?), a glider, and a spaceship, and each has various gameplay goals attached to it, such as dogfighting, racing, manning a gun turret, or completing simple mission objectives. It’s a game that seems stuffed to the brim with things to do. The first area alone has a number of different things to collect–cog wheels, blue lights, pulsating egg-like things, heart refills, and so on. You’d almost think of this as more of a collect-a-thon if there wasn’t also a huge focus on action sequences and nimble platforming.

One unique element to Haven: Call of the King‘s platforming gameplay revolves around Haven’s main weapon, which is called the mag-ball. It’s a yo-yo type of weapon, with a fairly short range and a very tiny business end; however, the problem was you simply didn’t have fine enough control over which way Haven was facing to aim it properly. There also wasn’t any kind of lock on or auto-aim to help take out enemies or burst acid/fire pots. The mag-ball can also be used on tracks in the air to get Haven from place to place, kind of like the grind boots from Ratchet & Clank.

While the game presented itself as cartoony and kid friendly, it definitely has some dark undertones to it, what with all the slavery business. Sounds like Haven: Call of the King ends on a dreary note, and that’s all she wrote, as this trilogy is certainly never going to be finished. A strange game, for sure, one of its time and era–Haven’s rather appropriate bit of facial hair really stamps this game into place–and I honestly do regret giving this one up. At least I can revisit it on YouTube whenever I’m in the mood to see how this all ultimately unfolded.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Smuggler’s Run

To me, Smuggler’s Run was probably my first dip into an open world environment. The fact that I was driving a vehicle and could leave the road at any point for a zip through the desert, going left or right as I pleased, felt revolutionary at the time. In fact, this type of driving was encouraged, especially when the U.S. border patrol began chasing after you. I wasn’t locked into a course with walls and barriers or even invisible walls, forced to follow the path that the developer wanted me to follow, doing the same thing as anyone else playing the game was doing. I was a smuggler on the run, running how I saw fit.

Like I just said, in Smuggler’s Run, you play a smuggler who needs to prove himself in this underground world and has a number of different vehicles at his disposal to do so, including dune buggies, rally cars, and military vehicles. These vehicles are used to smuggle assorted cargo through three different large, open levels. It’s a fairly weak plot to begin with, and your mission objectives are spelled out for you via some quick narrative before each mission. The missions  range from basic smuggling operations that involve moving the contraband from point A to point B, to customized versions of a checkpoint race and the loot grab modes, to completely original objectives like destroying a series of radar towers.

Smuggler’s Run had a couple of different modes to explore, and I’ll cover ’em briefly here because, honestly, I really only played one mode over and over again before eventually using this game and some others as a trade-in offer for…well, I have no idea what I got for them, but that’s beside the point. Smuggler’s Mission mode is basically the story campaign I described in the previous paragraph, seeing you go through three consecutive levels (forest, desert, and snow) with about ten missions per level. Turf War mode had three different mini-games, two of which involved smuggling cargo while fighting against a rival gang; the final mini-game involved a race through a popular spot in a level. Lastly, Joyriding mode allowed you to freely roam to and fro in any level without having to deal with the U.S. border patrol or CIA, and it was a great way to get to know the ins and outs of any level before taking it on via the story missions.

If I recall correctly, your vehicle will take damage not only from collisions with other vehicles and objects, but also from bouncing all over the particularly rough terrain. When your damage meter runs out, your engine stalls, and if a police vehicle touches you while you’re stalled, you’ll be placed under arrest. If no cops are around, you can restart your engine and continue on your merry way…though chances of that were seriously unlikely. The AI-controlled police were absolutely relentless, chasing you everywhere you go, which is why I mostly spent my free time in the Joyriding mode, free from such hassles.

For its time, Smuggler’s Run looked fantastic. The game’s terrain is large and detailed, and pop-up and fog were nowhere to be found…though that giant green arrow pointing you to your mission objective was then and is now beyond fugly. Each of the three maps are massive, with the missions taking place in smaller sections, but you aren’t limited in where you can roam. There’s also quite amount of small details everywhere, such as tire marks, active wildlife, train tracks, and actual hiking trails, which are just things you expect nowadays, but really helped add a bit of realism to the game on the PlayStation 2.

Evidently, they made a sequel with Smuggler’s Run 2, though I never played it. The only interesting factoid I know about it is that the game was originally supposed to take place in Afghanistan, but following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, as well as the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the developers changed the Afghanistan levels to the deserts of Georgia/Russia instead. Rockstar also later released downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto Online named Smuggler’s Run, which added a customizable hangar and additional vehicles to play around with. At least they didn’t completely forget about this IP.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – BlazeRush

Hmm. At some point in May 2018, in pursuit of my purging of these numerous PlayStation Plus games I have downloaded over the years and left unplayed on my seriously neglected PlayStation 3, I did a few rounds of this thing called BlazeRush. I’m now coming back to this post months later with little memory of what I experienced, though I remember not being too impressed, much like with other car-based games from this blazing feature of mine.

Allow me to tell you what this is BlazeRush is all about. It’s an arcade racing survival game with no health, no leveling up, and no brakes, hence the rush part of its title. You can play locally or online multiplayer–though I had no luck with the latter–and you play by selecting a vehicle to your taste and chase, blow up, and cut off anyone that gets in your way. There are three planets to race on, each with their own set of tracks, along with 16 cars to pick and a variety of weapons to use.

I’ve seen a lot of others talking about BlazeRush comparing it to Death Rally and Rock n’ Roll Racing, two other vehicular combat-based racing videogames I’ve never touched in my life. My go-tos were the original Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8 and not much more since then, honestly. So this didn’t really hold my interest for too long, though I will say the controls are solid and everything moved rather fluidly. Knocking another vehicle off the track sure felt good…until an opponent knocks you off seconds before you get a powerful pick-up.

Ultimately, I don’t have much more to say about BlazeRush. It was that kind of experience, I guess. Here’s hoping the next game I purge isn’t another racing game. I know, I do it to myself.

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.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Midnight Club: Street Racing

This might be hard to believe, considering my long and well-documented love for all things racing games, but I willingly bought a copy of Midnight Club: Street Racing for the PlayStation 2 some time back in that wacky, inexplicable decade known as the aughts. I suspect I got it for cheap at the Blockbuster near my college’s campus when they started selling used games–or rather “previously rented”–but that’s just a suspicion, based mostly on the fact that that is where I got a small chunk of my early PS2 collection during my poorer days eating ramen noodles and working a few hours during the week in an art gallery. For the record, and yes, I just looked, here are all the games still in my collection rocking a “Previously Rented Game – Quality Guaranteed” label from the now defunct Blockbuster business:

Yup. Quite a super-squad there. With that said, let’s get on to the star of today’s show. Everybody, start your engines. Vroom vroom vroooooom…

Surprisingly, for a game centered around driving speedy cars quickly and aggressively, Midnight Club: Street Racing kind of had a story behind all its engine-driven action. Granted, around that timeframe, my experience was fairly limited to car-related adventures through things like Vigilante 8, Super Mario Kart, and Crash Team Racing, where vehicular combat was the central element, and it didn’t matter who was behind the wheel so long as they could toss projectiles out like everyone else. So, taking place in both New York City and London, you’re a bored-as-bored-gets cabbie looking for some street-style racing action…for reasons. Magically, you stumble across your first challenger named Emilio and are then invited to join the titular Midnight Club to continue proving your worth and burning gang leaders in races. There’s no real introduction, and the dialogue sections are flat images with character portraits speaking while two cars sit idly next to each other. Look, it’s not Great Expectations, or even Fast Five, but it’s something.

Not shockingly, when you see that Rockstar had a hand in this, but Midnight Club: Street Racing is a bit open-worldish. Y’know, a genre just starting to hit its stride then. You’re able to cruise around the respective cities, looking for trouble in the form of hookmen, which are visible on your mini-map, which, when you glance at the screenshot above, defies the definition of the word mini greatly. I mean, that was the UI for the era–big, bright, and loud. Anyways, once you get behind them, you’ll have to keep up with their ride until they feel that you’re worthy of a race, which is you against that driver’s entire posse. Also, you can call up these hookmen on your cell phone–a novel concept back then–for a more fair one-on-one race. If you win the race, you get to add your opponent’s car to your garage, which I guess is akin to carving up a dead animal and wearing its skin as a prize. I don’t know a lot about cars.

I remember being initially impressed by the scale of Midnight Club: Street Racing offered, but do remember the cities feeling lifeless and empty. Now, I’ve only ever been to New York City, and I remember a lot of cars and honking while there, as well as swarms of people; here, it is just mostly empty streets, with little traffic to deal with, and that just wouldn’t cut it today. Still, one must consider that this game came out before things like Grand Theft Auto III and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. It was also frustrating that, to even start a race with another member of the Midnight Club, you needed to follow them to the starting line first, weaving through traffic and praying they didn’t get too far ahead of your slow whip, which was often more challenging than the race itself.

Most races are checkpoint races, which means you can veer off the beaten path so long as you hit all the checkpoints and cross the finish line before anyone else. That might sound like there’s a ton of freedom at hand, but this is a condensed city-scape and not miles of Smuggler’s Run‘s open terrain, and there were generally only one or two ways to get the job done efficiently. If rubbing and racing isn’t your thing, well…there’s an arcade mode, which lets you set up head-to-head, checkpoint, and two-player races. Also, some sort of capture the flag mode where you need to bump into the car carrying the flag to steal it and then deliver to some hotspot on the map. I don’t believe I ever took down the gang champion of New York City, thus never even seeing the second half of the game set in London.

I have no idea if Midnight Club: Street Racing hold up in 2018, and I’m not interested in finding out. Still, if I had my copy around, I might pop it in randomly one night for a zip down memory lane, but oh well. Much like Blockbuster, this franchise stalled years ago, and newer, more efficient racers have taken the lead, like Burnout Paradise.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.