Tag Archives: racing

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.

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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.

This fresh meat is Rage’s latest MVP

I’m still not completely enamored with Rage, which is somewhat striking considering its similarities to Borderlands and Fallout 3. Granted, it’s not exactly the same as those other games, but it has elements or an essence of, such as kooky character designs, a barren wasteland thriving with mutants and bandits, and the use of vehicles for getting from point A to point B.

Evidently, Rage also has some online multiplayer, and it’s on a separate disc, too. Split into two types, there’s the Legend of the Wastes co-op challenges and Road Rage matches. The former are specially created missions meant to be played with a partner, and the latter consists of racing around a map, shooting other players and collecting special nodes to acquire points and hold the lead. Chances are I’ll never get to play Rage co-op–unless someone reading this has a copy of the game for Xbox 360 and wants to be my friend, then please, by all means, message me (gamertag: PaulyAulyWog)–so I did some Road Rage matches for about half an hour, climbing from a Level 1 wasteland racer to a Level 4 wasteland racer. Woo. I also earned the following two Achievements:


Fresh Meat (10G): Complete a public Road RAGE match


MVP (20G): Get first place in a public Road RAGE match

The first one’s pretty simple, but let me tell you how I got the second one. Sure, there’s a story; there’s always a story. For Road Rage, I ended up getting into an online party consisting of two little boys (both Level 1s) and some male adult (Level 20). Yeah, it was a little awkward. Anyways, the first few matches consisted of the Level 20 guy murdering us; me, I was still learning the rules and how to play, and the kids, well, they were little kids, not too skilled and very vocal about it. Eventually, the Level 20 guy mentioned he had to use the restroom, but that we should continue with a match anyways. And so we did. The two kids, who I assume were friends, ended up getting stuck in rocks or the landscape right from the get-go, begging each other to shoot the other in hopes of respawning–which never happened–and so I was free to roam the map, collecting all the power-ups and points and killing an idle Level 20’s vehicle over and over and over. I won the match with ease and never said a word to anyone.

So, yeah, I cheesed my way to the top of a match, but whatever. I probably would’ve gotten it eventually, as Road Rage isn’t too difficult to figure out. It’s somewhat fun, but there’s not a whole lot of incentive to keep playing; leveling up earns new vehicles and weapons for these vehicles, but I did just fine with the little ol’ scout. You can also unlock new badges and skin jobs, but meh. Plus, and here’s where y’all can call me a whore, there’s no more Achievements left associated to Road Rage matches.

Back to shooting mutants badly in Rage and running out of ammo, I guess.

Videogame genres I just can’t play

Obviously, readers of Grinding Down should know that I have a deep, unquenchable love for RPGs. They are my favorite type of videogame, enough so that adding basic RPG elements to other types of games is enough to get me drooling. But, for all my years of gripping a controller, there are still some types of games that don’t interest me and probably never will. Let’s take a look at them to see maybe why…

Tower/Defense

Set up a bunch of stuff and then sit back, staring at the screen as all the action happens without any more involvement from you, the player. Do this for a lengthy period of time, until waves of enemies stop washing over you. I don’t know. It just always seemed boring, and the majority of tower/defense titles feature top-down perspectives or ones with the camera pulled so far out that nothing can be seen. So there I am, waiting for stuff to happen, and then when it does, I can barely make out my units from the enemy’s. A resounding meh.

That said, I’ve still not yet played Plants VS. Zombies, which is purported to convert any and all haters of this genre.

Sports

Ha! If I don’t play them in real life, there’s certainly no enjoyment to gain from experiencing them digitally. Though I do enjoy a round of golf on my 3DS now and then. Very relaxing. Except when I double-bogey a par three. Then I get the rage sweats.

Realistic First-person Shooters

I believe my distaste for war shooters stems from childhood and my father. He’s a hunter, and raised me to respect guns. In fact, I was the only kid on my street not allowed to get a laser tag toy gun the year everyone was jumping off that bridge, and thus missed out on all the late night bonding with neighbors that is vital to a hermit-in-hiding’s upbringing. We used to go target shooting though, and I remember always holding the gun downwards at the ground, in constant fear of it ever discharging by accident. I only ever wanted to point at empty soda cans or paper plates with targets drawn on them, and even then I didn’t like the sensation. Realistic FPS games demand you aim at people and pull the trigger, and with ragdoll animation it’s all a little too life-like when they go down. The infamous “No Russian” level from Modern Warfare 2 is hard to even watch with no controller in hand. I’d rather take down aliens or monsters or robots with brains than shoot a fellow human being, armed or not, which is why some of my favorite shooters are Borderlands and Fallout 3. Surprisingly, not Halo; I don’t really get that series.

Racing

Most of my week is spent in my car, driving to, driving from. Granted, it’s not a race car doing 150 mph and taking turns like a pro–it’s a 2007 Chevy Cobalt for heaven’s sake–but it’s still driving, a foot on a pedal, pushing forward unemotionally. With realistic racers, you just drive. You go around a track X number of times and try to break a record. I prefer a little more chaos, which is why the only racing games I’ve ever enjoyed are Jak X: Combat Racing or Mario Kart. I can, however, appreciate how detailed these cars actually are in games like Forza Motorsport 4 or Gran Turismo 5; some of those replay might as well be broadcast on TV, as they are extremely hard to differentiate between real and computerized.

Tactical Role-playing Games

What? Wait, didn’t I just confirm my love for RPGs and anything with RPG elements to it at the beginning of this post? Yes, yes I did. Way to read, reader. But there’s an exception to every rule, and when strategy and grids and isometric camera angles are added to a RPG, the game changes dramatically. It’s more about where your party is placed on the playing field than the magic spell they cast or the armor they choose to don. I remember feeling so duped by Vandal Hearts for the PlayStation back in 1997, and have never really given many of games in this genre a chance. Recently, there’s been Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Overclocked, which I’ve struggled with.

So, what game types can’t you play? Speak up below in the comments section and/or tell me what I’m missing out on by not giving Battlefield 3 a chance.