Tag Archives: racing

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.

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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.

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.

We live in a rainbow of chaos in Runbow

To me, there are two kinds of platformers: good and bad. Just kidding. I’m talking about ones where the platforming exists as a means to get you from point A to point B so you can do action C, and ones where the platforming itself, the jumping and landing and getting from spot to spot safely, is the entire crux of the game.

I like both to varying degrees, though I certainly prefer the former, enjoying more laid-back jumping like in Sound Shapes, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, and Sugar Cube Bittersweet Factory over punishing affairs like So Many Me, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels. Those are almost instantly frustrating and what I like to call un-fun, though there is a masochistic side of me that continues to return to them, to see if I maybe have the twitch-based skills to jump quick with godly precision. Runbow is a mix of these two platformer types, with some levels being a breeze and others being the sort of wall I bang my head against for fifteen minutes, dying over and over and over until I get the pattern down perfectly.

First off, I didn’t choose Runbow, it chose me by being one of July’s freebies on Xbox One and its bright, colorful appearance. I believe it originally came out for the Wii U a couple years back and was later ported to PC, New Nintendo 3DS, and Xbox One from 13AM Games, an indie team based in Canada. Its origin stems from the 2014 Global Game Jam, and the quick elevator pitch is that it’s an action platformer focused on players trying to reach a trophy at the end of each level, dealing with obstacles, enemies, and vanishing platforms along the way. Players can perform a double jump as well as a punch attack to defeat enemies or gain extra reach while jumping up or horizontally. The rub is that the background of each level constantly shifts between a cycle of colors, causing platforms and hindrances of the same color as the background, such as blockades and spikes, to disappear/reappear. Levels are timed, and you are awarded either one, two, or three coins for beating it under a specific time.

I’m currently working my way through the singe-player Adventure mode, which tasks you with saving Poster District from the evil Satura. Why? Not sure, and it doesn’t really matter. This is just an excuse to complete a bunch of levels–140 in total–until you can take her on yourself four separate times. What is nice is that if you are mainly gunning for Satura, you can forge your own path to her, sticking to green (easier) levels instead of following yellow or red ones (harder). The map is broken into four quadrants, with each one its own theme containing unique challenges and dangers. You can play as a number of different characters, some from famous indie games, like Shantae and Shovel Knight, but they all jump the same as far as I can tell so it doesn’t really matter who you go with; I like male Red Hue dressed as a lumberjack, personally, but you do you.

I’ve not tried it yet, but there’s a mode called The Bowhemoth, which is described as a single, ultra-difficult challenge that takes place in the belly of a colossal beast. Evidently, it will test the skills of even the toughest platforming veterans, so I’m greatly concerned. I’ll give it a shot, but might have to *ahem* bow out if the jumping is too tough. I have, however, tried out the online competitive modes of Arena and King of the Hill, both of which were too chaotic for me to grasp and enjoy. I often found myself unable to find myself on the screen and just hoped for the best, which went as well as you can expect.

 

 

My goal for Runbow is to complete all 140 levels. Yup, you heard me. Not three-star every one, but at least complete them and fill in the poster map. After that, I think I’ll be done with it altogether as I’m not interested in its online competitive modes or its co-op action. Still, it’s a fun, seemingly friendly product, with good tunes and a neat gameplay mechanic that has you strategizing each and every jump. Stay tuned for the eventual game review haiku, hopefully.

The first to finish this free-to-play Ben-Hur race is the last to die

gd Ben-Hur second post pic

It sure has been a lot of games completed haikus–seven in a row!–and nothing much else here on Grinding Down for these past few months, and that’s fine. This happens every year. My archives prove it so. Summer is crazy-busy for me at the day job, which basically means I find myself with both less free time to think and write about all them videogames in my possession. Plus I’m trying to get some comic books done for MICE. Do not fret; I’m still playing things here and there, jumping from game to game and system to system like an unchained glutton, but unfortunately I’m just not finding the time slash energy to put down all my hot takes. That is until now.

The other night, while mindlessly scanning the list of new releases on Xbox One’s store, I noticed a free-to-play thing called…Ben-Hur. Hmm. Curiosity got the better of me, and I had to know what exactly this was. Not because I’m some huge fan of the 1959 film starring Charlton Heston as the title character or even the least bit interested in this new re-imagining of the source material (though Morgan Freeman’s hair looks amazing). I’m just forever bewildered by tie-in videogames of all shapes and sizes, whether they are for movies, comic books, or even pizza-delivering establishments. I went into Ben-Hur thinking it’d be a quick, lackluster experience that existed only to constantly urge you, the player, to stop playing, drop some cash, and go sit in a movie theater instead, and I wasn’t disappointed in that prediction. At least I got a bunch of Achievement points, right?

Here’s how Ben-Hur goes, and try not to blink or you’ll miss the entire rundown: you participate in a chariot race where need to mash the A button to accelerate–but not too much as your horses will tire–and pull the left and right triggers to whip opponents on either side of you in hopes of taking them out for good. The natural goal is to come in first place, and you can do this by being a strong racer or simply eliminating the competition. Whipping the horses or running opponents into traps and other obstacles on the course does the trick. A season is made up of three individual races, each with their own number of laps and opponents. That’s it.

My first session with Ben-Hur lasted a total of twenty-eight minutes, in which I both won the season without breaking a sweat–or my chariot–and popped 8 of the 10 easy-as-pie Achievements. I’ve since gone back and gotten one more Achievement, and a part of me wants to get the last one, which requires destroying every opponent in every race of a season, but I think if I don’t get it the next time I play this will simply be removed both from the Xbox One and my memory. The tricky part is that you, the titular Ben-Hur, must destroy all the chariots yourself; they can’t be destroyed by other players or their own undoing. That’s as challenging as this live-or-die race gets, and the most hilarious cause-and-effect happening is seeing these health power-ups tossed out on to the track the moment you take a teeny tiny bit of damage.

Turns out, Ben-Hur was published by AOL and developed by Float Hybrid, which creates “branded experiences,” and Krome Studio, the developer of games I actually enjoy, such as Ty the Tasmanian Tiger. Maybe that’s what was missing from Ben-Hur: boomerangs and that distinct-sounding Australian English that I’ll never be able to perfectly replicate. Oh, and no, this did not inspire me to purchase a pair of tickets for the new movie. If anything, I’m inclined to stay far, far away.

Sorry, there are no more skulls left in Motocross Madness

final motocross madness xbox 360 post

Motocross Madness is a game I played for a bit after getting it as a freebie back in August 2014, but then drifted away from for a good chunk of time. Many months, in fact. Truthfully, I really only enjoyed the heck out of the game’s Exploration mode, which plopped you down in the world where the game’s race tracks exist, but gives you freedom to explore off the tracks as you please to collect gold coins and skulls. These feed into the medals you get, as well as provide money and XP, so they are more than just shiny trinkets to grab. The standard races and trick sessions are fine enough, but a bit too perfunctory and easy to perfect. My heart can’t resist collecting things; for further proof, see games like LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, Disney Magical World, and Kung Fu Rabbit.

Right. So, over the last few months, I’ve been noodling away at Motocross Madness, playing for a bit and collecting a skull or two. Incrementally edging my way up to a 100% completion rate. It became a thing I did to fill in the gaps between other games or if I had fifteen to twenty minutes to kill before I had to make dinner. However, it became more of a hassle–in my mind than in reality–to turn on my Xbox 360 now that I had a shiny Xbox One to slobber over, and so Motocross Madness got visited less and less. That is until a few weeks back, when it was announced to now be backwards-compatible on the new console. I’m probably the only person in the world that saw that news and genuinely felt warmth in my heart, but whatever.

I recently had some time off of work over the holidays, and I used some of it to, besides draw and go see the ultra cute and sing-songy Elf the Musical in New York City, well…play more Motocross Madness. I’m totally fine with this. Never let anyone tell you what to do on your days off. Along the way, I also sat down and figured out how to use the streaming programs on the Xbox One, which lead to me recording about four hours of me getting the last flaming skulls and Achievements for all the Internet to see. If you’ve got time to kill, feel free to watch the archived videos over at my YouTube. Please understand before going into these vids that I’m still relatively new to this and am figuring out microphone/gameplay audio settings, but I’m thinking 2016 will be the year I put more effort into this venue.

Collecting skulls was fun despite a few frustrations. It’s multi-part; first, you have to find the skull in the environment, and then you have to figure out how to get it. Sometimes they are on the ground, and you just ride your bike up to it, but the majority are high in the sky, requiring a sick jump to grab. It’s only when you get down to having a single skull left in a large environment that it becomes maddening as you search every nook and cranny, desperate to catch the flicker of orange flames. Eventually, I caved and looked up a walkthrough online, quickly scribbling down locations on a hand-drawn map so that I’d, at least, still not know exactly where these skulls were and have some involvement in their capture.

When examined without the Exploration mode, Motocross Madness is actually a substandard racing game with bikes. The races themselves aren’t all that challenging, especially once you upgrade your hog, and the trick system is not in-depth, allowing you to only do a few moves in the air…unless you’re into crashing. Once you are on “fire,” which happens after building a meter for successfully doing tricks, you can do another set for more points. I highly recommend performing the Rodeo Cowboy each and every time. It probably gets a pass overall because it uses your avatar, which makes the costumes and tricks more fun to see than some generic-looking dude or dudette. Still, once I got all the skulls, I didn’t really know what to do; online racing was no more exciting than the single-player stuff, unfortunately.

Oh, if you were curious what my crudely drawn maps actually looked like, they looked like this:

WP_20160103_16_30_33_Pro

Yup–my art skills are wildly good. Now to figure out what I can stream next. I like the idea of having a goal for streaming, not just playing through the game’s main campaign, though I understand a lot of people do that. Perhaps I can capture getting the remainder of Fallout 4‘s Bobbleheads or causing some random chaos to happen in Just Cause 2. Must think on this. One thing I know for certain is that, just like when I finished up LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, an invisible weight has been lifted off my shoulders (and mind), and I don’t have to return to this digital world ever again. Unless I want to.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #2 – Motocross Madness

2016 gd games completed motocross madness

Vroom, vroom all around
Egypt, Australia, Iceland
For coins, fire skulls

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.