Tag Archives: sports

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Foosball 2012

The last time I played foosball in real life was most definitely college–shout out to all my Rowan University alumni–and most definitely after a few drinks were drunk. It’s the sort of sports-like experience that an overwhelming majority of people have no idea what they’re doing, but still manage to have a great time violently spinning rods in an attempt to score a goal. It’s like air hockey, but more aggressive, but better with friends.

I realize I might be speaking Greek to those unfamiliar with foosball. In North America, we call it foosball, but you might know it as table football or table soccer. Basically, it’s a table-top game that is loosely based on football, with the aim being to use control knobs to move figures mounted on rotating bars to kick a ball into the opponent’s goal. The play area has ramps in the corner so the ball doesn’t get stuck, and you can often end up scoring on yourself if you aren’t careful with your spinning tactics.

As you might have suspected from the title alone, Foosball 2012 is a videogame version of foosball that was released to the PlayStation 3 and Vita sometime in June 2012. Many critics found it beyond underwhelming, and I also found is instantly forgettable, coming to it many more years later. The title features both single and multiplayer modes, along with PlayStation Move support and cross-compatibility (including cross-play and game saves) between the two systems, which is neat and cool for those that have both systems and like taking their save data on the go. That’s not me; also, I don’t have a PlayStation Move controller and probably never will at this point.

I’m not against sports simulation in videogame form. Sure, it’s never been my go-to for gaming, but I enjoy videogame versions of things like golf, tennis, and football now and then. Maybe not pool. And I’m totally down for either take on them–whether they are zany, don’t follow rules, and full of killer power-ups, such as Super Mario Strikers, or trying to play things more traditional, such as MLB The Show 19. There is definitely an audience for both; however, when it comes to foosball, I don’t think there’s a place for it here, as the game is so much better with real-life people egging you on. There’s something about the feel of the knobs and that satisfying sound of spinning a dude so fast you miss it and scoring a goal on your frazzled opponent that just can’t be replicated digitally, even with online play.

Thank goodness Foosball 2012 was a PlayStation Plus freebie. I’d be upset if I had purchased this. Goodbye, table football. Maybe I’ll see you again, but only IRL.

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 – Hustle Kings

As a young lad growing up in Smithville, NJ, I lived just down the road from our local community swimming pool and clubhouse. No, really, I could walk there in about five minutes tops, and there was a path behind a neighbor’s house that lead through a stretch of woods that I became quickly familiar with once I had a bicycle and a job at the ice cream parlor appropriately named Scoops. I’d often go to the clubhouse by myself and play pool; hey, it’s easier to play pool solo than it is ping pong. And for those that don’t know, pool is a cue sports played on a table with six pockets along the rails, into which balls are deposited. There are many variations to try, but I’m most comfortable playing eight-ball or nine-ball or just failing hard at trick shots.

Moving on, Hustle Kings is a pool game, and, based on what I learned from the training events section, a rather complicated one…if you want it to be. The game features lush, photo-realistic visuals and 3D gameplay to ensure that a digital game of pool feels just like the real thing, minus the smoky environment and stench of beer-drenched college-goers. When you’re ready, you can even test your skills against fellow fans and wannabe hustlers via online multiplayer matches. Or maybe not, anymore, as I was glancing at a Trophy guide and noticed that servers for the PlayStation 3 version are no longer functioning. Biggest shrug ever.

Some of the things you can do to enhance your pool game other than just hit the cue ball with your stick is putting backspin on it or honing your shot for the best angle or learning how to curve around a specific ball to hit another one into the pocket. It’s a lot of setting up your shot and then hoping everything works out okay; there’s several different camera views to help with this minutiae. I played a couple of free play games and did almost none of this and had a decent time still popping billiard balls into pockets, all while avoiding the eight ball until the very end. I will admit to using the hone shot option a lot because, just like in Peggle, it’s good to know how the ball will move from this singular action.

I honestly don’t have too much to say about Hustle Kings; it’s probably fine, and if you are a big pool fan, you’ll love how intricate your shots can become. For me, it’s too much, and now I’m trying to find this old Flash-based pool game I used to play online while avoiding work at an office gig back in the heydays. This is, not surprisingly, an impossible task, as there are countless online pool games you can play, and many of them all look the same. If you know any late 1990s/early 2000s online pool games that might be what I’m talking about, hit it up in the comments below.

Hustle Kings, side pocket, don’t chicken bone this cinch. Yes, I totally looked up a list of pool terms.

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 – Starwhal

Starwhal is an easy game to purge from my PlayStation Plus collection on the PlayStation 3. Why’s that? Because it’s heavily dependent on local multiplayer for fun times, and I have no fleshy friends to join me on the couch and play against. The entire point of this fake future sport that forces narwhals to battle each other to the death is to poke each space narwhal–a starwhal, if you will–in the heart with their pointy horns. Do this enough times and be the last one standing to claim victory and enjoy a buffet of whatever it is that narwhals enjoy eating. Hold on, I’m actually looking this up.

Seafood. A lot of seafood, like squid, Greenland halibut, shrimp, Arctic cod, rockfish, flounder, and crab. I’d enjoy some of that too, honestly.

Anyways, the game’s options are limited. You can play a deathmatch mode either versus your fleshy friends or add in AI-controlled opponents. I tried this three or four times and didn’t really enjoy it. The starwhals are purposely difficult to control, and I never found myself getting a good grip on steering them in the right direction. They feel unmanageable and remind me of trying to guide a squire on a leash across a field full of nuts and other squirrels. There’s a whole lot of flopping about. If I managed to damage an enemy, I promise you it was purely accidental, and I didn’t win a single match against the computer. Oh well.

There’s also over 30 Obstacle and Target challenge levels to hone your combat skills, but again, I struggled with simply controlling my green-colored, wig-wearing starwhal from one side of the screen to the other. Couldn’t even beat the gold time for the first challenge area. I figured they were only going to ramp up in difficulty after that and decided this was just not for me. Similar to things like Sportsfriends and Crawl, these types of gaming experiences are better with friends, where you can together laugh and cry out in frustration as your starwhal flops the wrong way, causing you to lose the match. Without them there, it’s just me and a growing grimace, listening to some pretty rad tunes.

Paulwhal, out!

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.

Gimme Five’s random questions just keep coming

gd-gimme-five-xbox-pc-impressions

If I could have just one TV channel and not include anything else in my personalized cable package, it would easily be the Game Show Network. So long as they let me cut out Idiotest and replace that nightly time slot with either dead air or a live feed of some dude’s sick-ass-fish-heck aquarium. On a related note, fish heck should totally be called Pheck. Anyways, both options are 100% better than Ben Gleib’s shambling mess of brainteasers wherein the goal is for contestants to prove to the audience they are not dumb while everyone points and laughs at how dumb they are, especially the host. Ugh. I’m also not a fan of Divided, but I don’t want to get into it here.

Smooth transition time: I am, however, a big fan of Gimme Five, a surprisingly addictive trivia game that puts your knowledge of anything and everything to the test. No, really, the subjects at hand–pun totally intended–vary immensely. I’ve gone from answering questions about coins in the United States to famous Wimbledon winners to identifying prime numbers to figuring out what counts for furniture in the question-asker’s mind.Well, if I’m being honest, Melanie helps me out on all of the math-related items while I handle the ultra hard tasks of naming X-men characters and female protagonists in videogames.

Basically, the game’s goal is simple: answer as many trivia questions as possible–before time runs out or you get too many wrong. See how far you can get. I usually hit a snag between questions 15 and 20, though we did reach question 30 the other night thanks to the mighty skip power-up. Each question has five correct answers, and you must select from nine potential click-able squares. Because this is a videogame and not simply someone giving you a multiple choice test to take, you can use some power-ups to help in this endeavor, such as one that shows you all five right answers, one that highlights a single correct answer, and one that skips the question entirely. Depending on what item you equip before you start playing, you’ll have different amounts of each power-up, as well as other perks, such as bonus time added when answering correctly; I personally like having more skips than anything else because I will never know a single NASCAR championship driver–so stop asking me.

In doing a little research for this post, I discovered there was another game called Gimme Five that came out over a decade ago, from Namco, on mobile. Think about what mobile meant in 2005. I have no idea. Sounds like it was a card-based mini-game thing. This more recent Gimme Five feels mini in its user interface and design, but is addicting enough to keep me coming back for one more run of random questions. I just crossed the level 30 mark and have seen a fair share of repeated questions, but that’s okay, because now I can answer them quickly thanks to memorization and without having to burn a power-up. The developer Shuboarder could also add a few more famous starting quotes, and if they need inspiration, just watch any episode of Criminal Minds.

As you play, you earn KP, which naturally stands for kudos points and not everyone’s favorite animated comedic-spy thriller Kim Possible. This is a type of currency that you save up and spend either on unlockable items to affect your power-ups or you can use them to continue after you hit a dead end. However, each time you continue it costs more KP, and you don’t magically start fresh with a full stock of power-ups and time. If you answered incorrectly and only had a few seconds left on the clock, clicking continue will start you with a new question and the same amount of time to go, so you need to use your continues wisely. The first one costs 10 KP, the second 40 KP, and I’ve never been brave enough to use it a third time though I suspect I’ll have to if I’m ever to see the 50th question.

Strangely, I don’t remember Gimme Five being a product that cost money, back when I installed it in early February 2017. It was a free thing then that certainly looked free and felt free and also offered up 1,000 Gamerscore points, along with in-game statistic tracking. But it seems like it’ll strip your wallet of $4.99 now if you want in on all the crazy questions, and I’m not sure it’s worth that amount of digital cash seeing as there’s a billion trivia games out there, many of which are free or no more than a dollar. I am having fun, as is Melanie, but it also helps that I got into this thing early when it was a freebie.

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.

Got the itch to Quidditch

I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and everything from the books to the movies to the LEGO-ized videogames to the tiny, but fantastic theme parks are laced with pure joy because once I interact with them, I’m beyond content. Here’s some photographic proof too, of Tara and I enjoying some frozen butterbeer on our honeymoon, even if it’s probably overpriced:

I think the world and lore and workings of the Harry Potter universe are stellar, with J.K. Rowling going the extra seventy-seven miles to make sure that everything clicked and made sense in a magical manner. She even made up her very own sport, which, contrarily to what you may believe, is not a simple task: you need rules, goals, strategy, players, teams, fields, designs, logos, tournaments, history, and so on. Quidditch is no Calvinball.

Quidditch is a mix of soccer, basketball, and football, with the most striking difference being that it’s played by witches and wizards on brooms and not on the ground. There’s a lot happening at once, with multiple balls to pay attention to: the Quaffle is a large red ball used for scoring points by tossing it through an opposing team’s hoops; Bludgers are angry, enchanted balls that Beaters hit away or at other players; and the Golden Snitch is a small, golden ball the size of a walnut that, when caught by a team’s Seeker, rewards that team with 150 points, ultimately ending the match. It’s fast-paced and anyone’s game all the way down to the Snitch.

And so it’s strange that, for all these years of Harry Potter’s growing popularity, there’s only been one videogame take on the magical Quidditch. I mean, what with the big push of online multiplayer and socializing these days, I find it amazing that Quidditch hasn’t been bundled in with the latest Harry Potter game as a multiplayer option. Instead, we just have Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PC, and Game Boy Advance. Recently, as I searched high and low for PS2 games to add to my collection, I found the Ps2 version of Quidditch World Cup for $2.99 and said, “Bloody brilliant!” Well, no, I didn’t actually say that. But if Ron was with me, surely he would’ve.

The game’s okay. You start out doing some broom challenges, which teach you the basics of passing, shooting, stealing, catching the Snitch, and so on. Then you pick a House team, and it’s off to try to win the Hogwarts cup. I went with Ravenclaw since that’s the House I belong to, and I found beating Hufflepuff, Slytherin, and Gryffindor to be extremely easy. Like, they never scored a point against me. Maybe I was just really awesome at virtual broom-flying? Nah, that’s not it. After the Hogwarts cup, it’s on to the Quidditch World Cup, and I chose Japan, dueling it out with good ol’ USA. The spike in difficulty was sharp, and the game was super close, ultimately coming down to whoever caught the Snitch first. Thankfully, Cho did her thing, and we won, a victory surely earned unlike those back in the Hogwarts days. After that intense match, I took a break and checked out some of the Chocolate Frog cards I unlocked throughout play.

If anything, Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup showed how much of a Muggle I actually am. The game taught me about the Golden Snidget, a small, golden-yellow bird previous used in Quidditch before it became deemed too cruel and unsafe for the animals. I never knew about this backstory to the wizarding sport, and in all seriousness, I just assumed Electric Arts decided to spell Snitch wrong or in a special British way. Go figure.

SEGA Superstars Tennis is a great videogame to play when you don’t want to play a videogame

Hmm…longest blog post title yet for Grinding Down?

Well, let me explain a bit.

Lately, I’ve been playing a good number of what I refer to as “heavy” games. These are the often emotionally draining experiences that take hours upon hours to complete, let alone get into. Examples include BioShock, Dragon Age: Origins, and Fallout 3. In fact, I actually stopped playing BioShock for about a month because I couldn’t handle the pressure of not knowing where every enemy was and when it would attack me and omg what made that sound. Eventually I got over this, but still, it was a game I had to really be in the mood for, except at the end when I just rushed through to kill that horribly done final boss. However, sometimes I just want to mindlessly play a videogame; y’know, tap buttons until it is time to go to bed.

So I have a few of these cuts that I keep on the side to play when I need a mental breather. I’ll talk about the others later on, but for now enter…SEGA Superstars Tennis. I bought this game used for $4.99, and it’s everything I thought it would be. You play as Sonic (or select from a range of other SEGA-owned characters) and you play tennis. You can also select to not play tennis and enter a world of odd yet highly varied mini-games that will unlock music tracks and bonus levels. This is where I’ve been spending most of my time.

The mini-games all use the tennis court layout, but their objectives are all different. On the House of the Dead court, you’ll play a Space Invaders-like game, hitting zombie targets as they draw closer to you; the Jet Set Radio court puts you to the task of “tagging” graffiti; Super Monkey Ball is all about hitting balls into hoops for points, and the Puyo Puyo court involves you saving tiny critters by getting them into rockets via moving arrows. Just to name a few.

The nature of these mini-games are why SEGA Superstars Tennis is a solid videogame to play when you don’t want to play a videogame. For most of them, you barely have to do much other than hit A and steer the ball in the right direction. Get a grade of an “A” or higher and you unlock the next mission, stage, music track, and so on. It is constantly rewarding you for playing, which is effective. And some (not all) of the music tracks are really great. I’d constantly find myself trying to keep a volley session going between myself and Ulala (from Space Channel 5) just to hear the whole tune.

But yeah, for around five bucks, it’s an excellent filler between those heavy gaming sessions, one that I welcome every time. Alas, I’m almost done with every mission. Gotta look for another cheapy title to fill the void eventually.