Tag Archives: spoilers

Problem after problem in Wallace and Gromit’s new indoor holiday resort


I don’t know how to get into this post without spoiling the ending to the first episode of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures, so if you are interested in seeing how Wallace and Gromit solve the problem of giant bees invading the neighborhood…well, don’t read any further. No joke. The next paragraph is going to lay it all out. Stop now, if you are behind the times like I am, catching up on these jaunty, whimsical 2009 point-and-click adventure games from Telltale Games. All right, here we go.

So, at the end of “Fright of the Bumblebees,” Wallace comes up with a way to counteract the hyper-powerful growth formula he fed to his flowers to make the bees happier, but resulted in them also growing to extreme and deadly sizes. You don’t play an active part in this puzzle solution after taking down the large Queen Bee, just see the outcome, which has Wallace coming up out of the basement beaming with excitement over his discovery. Unfortunately, in his journey to make the bees smaller, he has also shrunk himself down in size. Immediately cut to some bouncy, knee-slappy music and then the credits.

In my mind, since Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures is billed as an episodic adventure series, I figured that the second episode “The Last Resort” would pick up on this zany plot twist and steer the story in its respective direction. Nope. It’s a whole separate story, and the second episode opens some time after Wallace shrunk himself, now back at his normal size with no comments on the matter. Huh. I found this really strange, and I guess we can blame The Walking Dead for its dedication to keeping everything connected from one episode to another. Granted, there’s still a loose connection to the previous events.

In “The Last Resort,” using the profits from their now-saved honey business, Wallace prepares to take Gromit to Blackpool for a little vacation time. Alas, the stormy weather both spoils their plans to hit the beach and creates a small flood in the cellar. Wallace comes up with the idea of converting the water-logged cellar into an indoor holiday resort for the rest of the townsfolk. If you build it, they will show up, and they do, but many are unhappy for various reasons, and Wallace makes it his personal mission to make everyone’s stay at West Wallaby Waterworld the most pleasant ever. Later, Ms. Flitt’s maybe-boyfriend Duncan McBiscuit is mysteriously injured, and no one is allowed to leave the house until the culprit is caught.

Gameplay-wise, nothing has changed from “Fright of the Bumblebees” in that you still both control Wallace and Gromit at different parts, walking around the environment with WASD or arrow keys and clicking on items to pick up/examine. There’s no item-combining; you just select an item from the inventory and use it on what or who you want. Something I never did in the previous episode that I discovered this time around was hitting the tab button, which highlights everything on a screen that can be interacted with. That’s neat, though it’s pretty obvious what items and people can be interacted with within a single scene.

I’m nearly done naming Duncan McBiscuit’s attacker(s) and proving it with hard-steel proof, but at least I know that episode three “Muzzled!” will only be loosely connected to whatever unfolds from here onwards. Regardless of that, I’m still enjoying the bombastic stories and silly character motivations and plan to see this whole series to the end. Truthfully, I just can’t get enough of Gromit staring into the camera, shaking his head.

Waiting for you, Silent Hill 2, to unravel in my mind


Silent Hill 2 is pretty fascinating from all angles. After nine or ten hours played and one ending unlocked, I can say that confidently. Maybe even intelligently. It is a marvel of the horror gaming genre, as well as what a lot of “scary” games–now and forthcoming–should aim for in terms of story-telling, atmosphere, and sound design. It doesn’t have to be jump scares all the time. However, no one should try to ape its combat system, as that aspect continues to be the worst part of this survival horror franchise and should be stripped out completely in lieu of more puzzles or just quiet exploration. Everything else though? Psychologically unnerving, but in a good way. Probably.

Before we go any further, let it be said: spoilers. I’m going to be talking openly and veraciously about what happens in Silent Hill 2, from beginning to middle to end, taking out my handy magnifying glass and leering at everything not covered by thick fog, unless it’s too disturbing to do so. If you have not fully experienced this game, just stop reading and go play it. It’s not terribly long. In fact, I was checking out the Xbox 360’s Achievements list for the version included in the most recent HD collection, which you probably shouldn’t get, and one of them is for beating the game in under three hours. Oh my. It took me just around ten; however, it’s not a game one should rush through on their first visit, but it also doesn’t overstay its welcome. So go play, let Silent Hill’s disturbing horrors take over your mind, let the unsettling sound design raise the hairs on your arm, let the bosses be bothersome–and then come back here for some discussion.

From what I can tell, no one goes to Silent Hill voluntarily. In Silent Hill 2, James Sunderland finds himself drawn to the eerie town after receiving a mysterious letter from his wife Mary. One minor problem: she’s been dead for several years now. That’s the simple setup and main goal for the whole game: find Mary. But as James progresses and meets both monsters and men hidden in the infamous PlayStation 2 fog tech shrouding the town in secrecy, another story begins to be told, one without many words, but lingering there on the edge of reality nonetheless. This is all about James, not Mary. For James is a Very Bad Man™, an antihero, a sad stick of a human being, and deserves to be punished. Everything stems from his horribleness.

See, Mary was ill and dying. The game never explicitly says–how shocking!–from what, but you get the impression that it’s not the flu. Just some bad business. And then Mary died. Unfortunately, James killed her before the disease could and then blocked out the memory. Mary did not die three years ago; she got sick three years ago, and he killed her very recently. He goes to Silent Hill to face his literal demons; in fact, once you learn this, the original letter from Mary disappears from your inventory, solidifying the reason for being there. It was not a crime of compassion, but rather selfishness and shame, because James no longer wanted to look at his sick wife being sick–the disease was apparently quite disfiguring–and began to find himself attracted to the nurses in the hospital, his love going astray.

Along the way, James comes across other people trapped in Silent Hill. There’s Angela, an evasive young girl who we later learned was abused by her father. Eddie, who is puking his guts out upon first meeting him, seems to have a bit of a mean streak because the world was always ragging on him for his weight. Laura, a young girl, just keeps running away from James at every chance–and rightly so. Lastly, there’s Maria, a woman he finds in the park; strangely, she resembles Mary both physically and in her voice, but she’s also different in minor and major ways. To me, these people are not just here for shits and giggles, but represent a vital portion of James as a whole: Eddie is his uncontrollable hatred of others, suicidal Angela is his hatred of himself, Maria is the love he has for himself, and Laura is everything innocent that remains, for she is able to run around Silent Hill carefree, not seeing a single monster. Or they could be lost souls, struggling with their own problems at the same time James is.

Of course, you can’t talk about Silent Hill 2 without taking a look at everyone’s favorite big baddie to cosplay as–Pyramid Head, the iconic blade-wielding monster. He pops up now and then to torment James some more by killing Maria, a woman that closely resembles his Mary, over and over and over again. You fight Pyramid Head all by your lonesome a few times in the game, but you can never damage him, never stop him. Basically, Pyramid Head represents the fact that James can’t avoid his guilt, that the selfish murder of his dying wife will haunt him always. He’s pretty terrifying, especially his first appearance, which implies that he is sexually assaulting one of the nurse monsters, which adds to James’ reprehensible behavior; you can over-analyze as you see fit.

For the majority of the game–let’s say 75%–you know nothing. You are just a man named James in a strange town looking for your wife. You come across monsters, you find other people trapped, and you work your way from building to building, looking for answers. It’s only when you finally get that big answer that you can begin to question everything revolving around James, including the man himself.

A lot of all the above theories are implied or simply hidden in the fog of one’s mind, and without any kind of examination, Silent Hill 2 comes across as merely a man trapped in Purgatory, fighting off or running from scary monsters. By that alone, it’s still a fantastic journey, but the fact that it is so layered is beyond rewarding. Other games in the franchise are more straightforward, focusing on a cult and the obvious evil powers floating around the fictitious town, though I believe Silent Hill: Downpour dives into some psychological issues. I find Silent Hill 2 fascinating for the questions it doesn’t answer or bring up or even hone in all; everything is there for interpretation, and it’s up for you to figure out how the story goes.

Chances are high I’ll never play Silent Hill 2 again. The “Leave” ending is canonical for me, but I looked up some of the other ways this goes down–even the jokey ones–on YouTube, and have seen everything I wanted to see, including how the puzzles change on different difficulty settings. At some point, I’ll move on to see what Silent Hill 3 is all about, but nothing will ever be as successful at burrowing into my brain like James Sunderland’s visit to a foggy town to heal himself of the horrible choices he made. Nothing.

The College of Winterhold questline is magically short

[Major spoilers abound for the following quests: Revealing the Unseen, Containment, The Staff of Magnus, and The Eye of Magnus. You’ve been warned.]

In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the first quests I ever followed with passion were those of the Mages Guild. They were strange and varied, some even playing to my sneaky side with tasks like stealing gems or enchanted books from fellow wizards. Others had me gathering alchemy ingredients from just about everywhere. In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I started to do a bunch of quests during one of my few playthroughs, but never got further than getting in good with magic users initially, and judging from my experience with completing the Fighters Guild questline, I assume it’s going to be the same ol’ quest a whole bunch of times in a row. Not really interested in that. And then in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you do a handful of quests–albeit really long ones–and then it’s all over. I was honestly surprised last night when Lohgahn was presented as the new Arch-Mage of the College and given my own private quarters.

Let’s start at the beginning though. After getting into the College, you are tasked with exploring Saarthal, an ancient set of ruins that might have something mystical inside. You kind of go there to train with other classmates, but soon find a crazy, magical orb (as well as an extremely tough Draugr called Jyrik Gauldruson). As you begin to investigate and research this orb, another mage called Ancano becomes very interested in what you’re doing. Eventually, you learn that the Staff of Magnus can reveal the answers floating within the orb, the Eye of Magnus. You go out to find the staff, and upon returning to Winterhold learn that Ancano has turned traitor, released the power of the Eye, and must be stopped. Oh, and the Arch-Mage is dead. Zing! You fight off some truly annoying creatures called magical anomalies, and then, with the help of Tolfdir, take out Ancano for good. After the fight’s over, several members of the Psijic Order appear, congratulate you, and take the Eye away as it is deemed too unstable to be kept safely at the College.

Here’s two Achievements tied to the questline that I unlocked with extreme magic:

Revealing the Unseen (10G): Complete “Revealing the Unseen”

The Eye of Magnus (30G): Complete “The Eye of Magnus”

Oh, and thanks to all this sneaking around and loosing of arrows into skeletons, I managed to hit a new milestone in leveling up:

Expert (25G): Reach Level 25

But yeah, fun times at the College of Winterhold are over surprisingly fast. The questline consists of eight separate quests, but only three or four really deal with the major plot of uncovering the Eye of Magnus. A couple are lengthy affairs, and others are just about surviving a fight. I kind of expected a lot more, or at least more sidequests that played into advancing through the College. I guess I just got used to moving up in ranks from Oblivion, slowly but surely getting closer to the top. In Skyrim, it was like do this, do that, stop the evil, become the next Arch-Mage, and that’s it. Enjoy your new pad. Oh, I will. Looks like it’s filled with rare alchemy ingredients and soul gems. But is there anything else left to do at the College now? I’m thinking no…which means it is time for Lohgahn to find something else to do. Maybe the main quest? Naaaaah.

Games Completed in 2011, #6 – Super Scribblenauts

I once mused if it’s even possible to complete a game like Super Scribblenauts, a game that is an unending as one’s imagination, but I must sadly say that, yes, it is finishable. I mean, it has an end boss and credits and a set number of levels. And I saw all of that jazz so I’m calling this one completed even though it’s going to stay in my travel case for a good while so I can continue to play in its sandbox.

Super Scribblenauts is the follow-up to Scribblenauts, a Nintendo DS game that stood on its premise of “write anything, solve everything.” Players had to collect a starite, a floating or hidden star, in each level by writing in the solution. Sometimes it would be wings to fly up to the treetop or maybe a chainsaw to cut it down. The game hosted a large dictionary and numerous levels, as well as a play-away start screen where players could waste hours away thinking of things to write. Scribblenauts was unfortunately hampered by a wonky physics and a terrible control scheme, causing our dear leader Maxwell to fall to his death often. Everyone was pretty bummed out as it could have truly obtained greatness.

Enter Super Scribblenauts, a sequel that worked extra hard to fix the problems in the initial game. Players can switch between a touchscreen-only control scheme or use the much welcomed d-pad. In addition to all the words from the original entry, new words are added as well as numerous adjectives. That pegasus can now be a happy pregnant pegasus; that sword can now be a large flaming sword; that house can now be an angelic polka-dotted house. And so on. Not every level requires adjectives used, but they do help to spice up the words you’ll continually spawn. And speaking of levels, Super Scribblenauts has about half of the amount in the original (120 instead of 240 or so), but this isn’t a bad thing. These new levels are much deeper and many can still be replayed three times in a row for a bonus challenge.


But let’s talk about the last level of Super Scribblenauts: 10-5 (Follow the UFO!). I went into it expecting nothing more than a normal puzzle level that, when completed, would round out the last constellation. Nothing more, nothing less. The level opens up with Maxwell’s doppleganger hopping into a UFO, stealing the last starite, and zipping away to space. We’re told to follow him, so I wrote in a UFO of my own, and off we go! Once in space, the constellation shapes we unlocked earlier from completing levels form on the bottom screen with stars. By touching them, they fly up to the top screen to attack our enemy’s UFO. Do this a few times until the doppleganger crashes. Alas, the planetside crash ends up destroying the starite. What’s a boy to do? Well, I then wrote STARITE, collected it, and BEAT THE GAME. Credits began rolling instantly.

Hmm…yeah. A bit like a bucket of cold water to the face. I literally sat unmoving as the credits rolled by, but maybe that was because the credits are actually enjoyable to watch. Maybe. But yeah, it’s a little out of left field to have a boss fight in a game like this, especially when there was nothing foreshadowing such a thing all along. I mean, there’s no story. Are we supposed to care about this doppleganger? I happen to think he’s pretty cool and would get along with Maxwell just fine in the same fashion that Scott and Nega-Scott can bond like brothers. 


Did Super Scribblenauts achieve the greatness the former game missed out on? No, not quite. It just feels like the game we should have gotten from the beginning. Still, a fun time, and one I’m definitely gonna revisit from time to time. I do love creating a friendly purple dragon and riding it into the sunset.

Well met, Landsmeet

After finishing up my latest review for The First Hour last night, I switched on the ol’ Xbox 360 and to my better judgment…did not play Grand Theft Auto IV. C-c-c-combo breaker!

Instead, I loaded up Dragon Age: Origins, which I had previously taken a break from because the game itself seemed to be at a perfect spot for break-taking. That is, moments before the Landsmeet was to gather and discuss what Ferelden should do about the darkspawn threat, who should be king/queen, and whether or not Loghain is guilty of his purported crimes. Reviews said this was a crucial moment in Dragon Age: Origins, with the potential of game-changing results, meaning party members might up and leave (or worse) depending on what actions you, the Grey Warden, take. Not something you walk into lightly.

Spoilers to follow, readers.

So, with some trepidation, I started the Landsmeet. This was set up like a town hall meeting, with all the different delegates standing around, shouting their claims and strategies. Loghain very quickly enters to try to sway support his way, but the Grey Warden proves to be a thorn in his side. Your goal is to get more votes of support than Loghain. Depending on what sidequests you’ve done, different options come up. I first decided to rat out Loghain’s misuse of elves in the Alienage, upsetting the nobles tremendously. But then I mentioned Alistair and how, seeing that he’s Maric’s kid, should be the rightful king. This didn’t work out well. Eventually, support swayed my way, and Loghain rebeled. I fought him myself in a one-on-one duel, allowing Alistair to lop the turncoat’s head off. Alas, this moment was ruined by the fact that the sound effects of a sword swinging, blood gushing, and viewers gasping were off by three to five seconds. Way to go, beta testers.

But then I had to pick who should be Ferelden’s new ruler, and since Alistair would not stop whining about how he didn’t want it–despite getting both Anora and Alistair to agree to wed and rule in unison–I passed the torch along to her alone. It’s not like she’d want to marry her father’s murderer now. This isn’t the Lifetime channel after all.

So, other than Loghain’s demise, which was not a super shock considering his villainy persistance, the Landsmeet did not surprise me like I thought it would. Nothing terribly dramatic or party-shattering happened. I guess I just made the best decisions and did enough vote-swaying sidequests to make it easier to get Loghain tossed aside. Oh well. It’s done now, and the final battle approaches. Too bad I still have some sidequests to do before heading back to Redcliffe…

Also, I simply love the name and artwork for the Achievement unlocked after the Landsmeet is over:

Rabble-Rouser (20G): Completed “The Landsmeet”

BioWare obviously cares about Achievements. And not just having them, but giving them attention and detail. The Mass Effect series has Achievement artwork that looks like medals or badges earned from military service, and the ones for Dragon Age: Origins so far are like ancient relics forged by the Maker himself. Simply astounding. I don’t think there’s any other company out there currently that puts this much effort into e-peen things that ping. Kudos to them!