Tag Archives: The Last of Us

Some collectibles are better than others, but these stink

worst collectibles to collect rain gd post

There’s no shame in saying it, but I like collecting things. Both in real life and via my digital, interactive entertainment. That’s not to say I’m a hoarder, but if you give me a list of items existing somewhere out there, I’m most certainly going to try my darnedest to find them all and happily cross each one off. This most likely stems back to my younger days, on family vacations in Avalon, NJ. Besides playing a lot of Yahtzee by the swimming pool, I signed up for every scavenger hunt offered by our hotel that I could, and these often involved finding innocuous items like a specific type of seashell, a pair of sunglasses, and so on. I have fond if fuzzy memories of running around the hotel grounds like a maniac, looking for things and screaming with joy when they were found.

That said, as a player of videogames, sometimes finding items is not fun. Yeah, I know. What a hot take. Personally, I don’t need to be told specifically where each collectible is on the map, like in later Assassin’s Creed titles where you can just purchase these waypoint symbols from a shop. I prefer discovering them myself, but I also like knowing, generally, how many are in an area or which ones I’ve already found. Some record-keeping is vital, that way I don’t need to take mental notes as I pick up each shimmery doodad. The fear of leaving an area for good and suspecting I missed something is enough to lock my feet in the dirt.

Also, while not required, I greatly enjoy when the collectibles contain something else to them other than being a thing you gnab, such as some bit of additional in-game lore. Like in Tomb Raider and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, you find a thing, say a rusty knife, and that’s a collectible for sure, but you also have to interact with it and discover a hidden symbol to bring out story details. The collectible becomes more than just an object to pocket. Heck, at least collecting all those miscellaneous gizmos in Tom Clancy’s The Division got me some sweet, colorful outfits.

Because of recent actions, I’ve decided to put my brain to the task of coming up with a bunch of collectibles that absolutely stink. These are either not fun to find, do nothing for the player in the end, or maybe cover both of these issues. Regardless, boo to them, and boo to me for attempting to collect (some of) ’em. It’s a skill in others that I greatly admire, the ability to walk by these shiny sprites and polygons and not even care. Teach me how.

Gears of War – COG tags

COG tags are a mainstay of the Gears of War series, but they only become easier to track and find starting in Gears of War 2, which introduced the war journal, a sort of in-game notebook for keeping tabs on a number of things. However, for the first Gears of War, all you get is an X out of Y line when you pause the game. That’s it. I beat the game back at the end of 2013, with something like one-third of the COG tags found.

Recently, I glanced at the Achievements list to see if there was anything I could potentially pop before deleting the game from my Xbox One for forever and saw that two were related to finding the rest of the hidden thingamajigs. Alas, I basically had to follow a video guide to find each one, level by level, because I had no memory of the ones I had already picked up. Also, barely nothing happens when you bend down to grab these COG tags save for a less-than-impression sound cue. Obviously, this was early on in both the franchise and console generation, and figuring out how to implement collectibles was still in a nascent stage.

L.A. Noire – golden film reels

I’d have to go back and confirm this, but for some reason I feel really strongly that I only ever came across one of these 50 gold film canisters scattered about L.A. Noire‘s sprawling Los Angeles. They all contain names of films from the 1940s and 1950s. That’s cool. However, the problem is that they are extremely well-hidden. Maybe too well. In my search for hopping into the driver’s seat of every car in the game, 95 in total, another stinker of a collectible of sorts, I thought I explored a good chunk of the map. I guess not. I have no idea if finding all 50 golden film reels does anything for Cole Phelps and his ultimate destiny. It’d be cool if you could take these reels back to the police station and watch a few scenes during your coffee breaks, but I’m sure the licensing around something like that would be nightmarish.

Rain – lost memories

This blog post’s origins began with Rain, a game I completed on the first day of 2016. The collectibles in Rain are in the form of lost memories that the player can find to learn more about the young boy’s past. That’s fine and dandy, and there are 24 in total to collect, but here’s the sick kicker–these only are available to find after beating the game. Also, these only appear once you are in the exact location, which means you can’t spy them off from a distance; you have to know exactly where they are to start.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I burned my lunch hour to collect them all of them in a single go, following an online guide and abusing the checkpoint system so that I did not, in fact, have to play through the entire game again. Sorry, Rain–you have some great things going for you, but you are not that amazing or varied of an experience to go through again simply to now be able to collect floating orbs that give you the slimmest of slim story details to a story fairly slim on details to begin with. Ugh.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Blue Minikits

Speaking of ugh, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Here’s the thing. I’m totally and 100% completely used to collecting a number of things in all the LEGO videogames, from red bricks to gold bricks to characters to studs and so on. That’s just part of the flow, of going through levels and seeing what you can’t grab just yet, returning with the right characters/powers to pave the way. It’s been like this since day one. However, recently, Melanie and I worked our way through LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and it truly was like going back in time.

As part of our climb to hit 100% completion, we had to find 10 blue minikits in every single level. Sounds tedious, but not tough. Except it is because there is a time limit, and sometimes missing one blue minikit means replaying the whole thing over. You are also not able to use any cheats, which means having to deal with enemies while frantically scouring the scene for blue minikits. Most are hidden somewhat in the open, and others are dastardly wedged behind objects in the environment. The hardest level, without a doubt, was “Speeder Showdown,” where you kind of need luck on your side to progress swiftly and the extra five minutes was not enough. Took us multiple attempts, but the job is done, and, as far as I know, this type of gameplay hasn’t shown up in other LEGO titles.

The Last of Us – All of Them

Amazingly, there are four types of collectibles to hoard in The Last of Us. Specifically, 30 Firefly pendants, 14 comic books, 85 artifacts, and 12 training manuals that improve your crafting skills and such. I’m pretty sure only the last set has any impact on gameplay, and the remainder are just things for Joel to bend down, pick up, and pocket away for no other reason than to give you something to do in-between moving from a safe space to an area full of Cordyceps-inspired monsters. A few help flavor the world, for sure.

Okay, I just loaded up the game–evidently, I found 95 of 141 as of when I last played, which is way more than I initially assumed. Not sure why it felt so low in my mind, but maybe I was thinking of Trophies, which the game is stingy with. Oh well. Either way, these are pretty obscurely hidden throughout the game, and the artist in me really wanted to be able to open the comic books and read a few pages instead of just staring at the covers.

I know for a fact there are many more that I’m not touching on, like the flags from the original Assassin’s Creed, score pieces from Eternal Sonata, and kissing 50 women from The Saboteur.

That said, I’d like to know what collectibles gave you the most grief. Join the conversation below in the comments.

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2015 Game Review Haiku, #14 – The Last of Us

2015 games completed gd the last of us

Searching for hope, cure
To survive, they turn savage
Plants can be deadly

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

Adding to the Backlog – Seven PS2 Games at a Severe Discount

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My original and only intent for heading to the local GameStop over the weekend was to pick up a used copy of The Last of Us, that way I could continue onwards from where I left of after playing a friend’s copy during that overly hyped blizzard last week. As I’m wont to do, I checked out the mini-section for PlayStation 2 games, since I think this shop and one other in the area are the last of their kind to still sell these case-less games for real cheap. It’s certainly only a matter of months until they stop. So, I saw a sign, a literal one hanging right in front of me–all PS2 games were 75% off. Oh boy.

I stopped doing these “adding to the backlog” posts long ago as it just didn’t interest me to call out every new game that I either got or downloaded for free. Which happens pretty frequently with me, thanks to indie bundles and PlayStation Plus and so on. Some purchasing occasions are more exciting than others, like this one. I can’t expect many to care, though SlickGaming might take note to see if his local GameStops are also running a similar promotion. Right. Here’s what I nabbed, and for future reference I’m going to include how much each one cost me after taking 75% off the listed price tag:

Dark Angel: Vampire Apocalypse

Bought for $0.67. Yup, that’s sixty-seven cents. Be prepared to see others in this listed around the same price. Anyways, I had no idea what this was, but after some quick research, it seems to be an action RPG inspired by titles like Diablo and Fallout. Okay, sounds good. Though I’m quite puzzled over how the main character’s anatomy works on the case’s cover, which, thankfully, did not come with my purchase.

My Street

Bought for $0.45. A mini-game collection with a plot involving you being the new kid in the neighborhood and beating an infamous bully to the ground before the first day of school starts. Yeah, I can get behind that, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a ton to My Street. I feel like I played a demo of it way back in the day and liked what I saw, but the memory for that is extremely fuzzy. Call me crazy, but I’m more inclined to try this one out first of the whole group.

Sonic Mega Collection Plus

Bought for $2.25, which was the highest of the bunch, but that makes sense when you realize that Sonic Mega Collection Plus is actually twelve to fourteen games on a single disc. A few of those copy over to my copy of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, but that’s okay. A collection is a collection, and there’s some rarer Sonic titles here, though I promise to never touch Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine again. Still bummed to hear about Sega leaving the gaming business.

007: Agent Under Fire

Bought for $0.45. Funny enough, 007: Agent Under Fire was eventually going to be a Games I Regret Parting With post, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. Now I never will. It was actually my first Bond game, though I have no memory of how it went, save for some weird wristwatch shooting sections.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4

Bought for $0.45. Skating!

Tony Hawk’s Underground 2

Bought for $0.67. More skating!

Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

Bought for $0.67. I NOW HAVE ALL THE SKATEBOARDING GAMES, I WILL NEVER TIRE OR GROW WEARY OF SKATEZ AND HALFPIPES AND SICK, SWEET OLLI TRICKS NO NEVER!

Woo, seven more games to…well, not play right away. Yup, you know me, I have a few other things to attend to first, such as finishing up The Last of Us, DuckTales Remastered, and possibly starting either Final Fantasy IX or Silent Hill 3, both of which are on my to-do list for 2015. Also, now I want to pop over to the other local GameStop and see what PS2 games they have for super cheap before the deal vanishes and they just toss everything into a bin and set it ablaze. Gah, it never ends.

Dealing with a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus

ps3 gd the last of us impressions

Let me just say this: I am terrified of the Cordyceps fungus. This is a fungus that infects insects and arthropods. It attacks its host, replacing tissue and sprouting ominous stems that grow outside of its body. Eventually, these stems release spores into the air, infecting other hosts, and the cycle repeats ad nauseam. It’s rather special, like the work of a mad scientist whose only goal is to eradicate everything. So far, the fungus has no negative effect on humans and is even used in some medicine and recipes, though I have no desire to nom nom on creepy shrooms.

The Last of Us imagines a world where this is not the case. Where one unlucky dude got infected–and then millions did. I ended up dog-sitting for some friends during that recent, so-called storm of the century, and I took The Last of Us, Destiny, and Red Dead Redemption off my friend’s PS3 gaming shelf, intending to give all a whirl in between petting dogs and letting dogs go outside to do their canine business. Alas, I only ended up playing the first of the three, and it really took me by surprise. Yeah, I know, I’m pretty late to this train, but, based off all the talk in 2013 during “game of the year” time, I’m well aware that many are thrilled with how The Last of Us turned out. That it is a good, possibly great game. That’s not what surprised me. Let me explain.

I thought The Last of Us was going to be scarier than it is. I mean, its ideas and the inevitable actions of man in a post-apocalyptic world are horrifying, but that actual sneaking around enemies, both human and mutated, is more mechanical–and often frustrating–than anything frightening. Sure, I’m still not a fan of the sound Clickers make, but I can get past it. Literally. It just takes patience and willpower. For the longest time, I stayed away from The Last of Us, liking it to things like Dead Space and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, horror adventures built mostly around jump scares, tension, and a sense of hopeless dread. The Last of Us does feature the latter two elements heavily, but there are no cheap scares here. At least as far as I’ve gotten, which is up to when Joel and Ellie arrive at Eastern Colorado University.

I’m playing The Last of Us on its normal difficulty, but have found several sections extremely frustrating. Namely, navigating a room full of shiv-only Clickers, running from a noise-making generator, and that suburban sniper sequence. I may or may not bump it down to easy, which is not the worst thing in the world, seeing as I’m really just going through the combat scenarios to see the next cutscene or interaction between characters. This could’ve totally been a highly polished point-and-click adventure game sans guns and action-driven conflict, and I’d be enjoying my time all the same. Or maybe not. Maybe these combat sections are imperative to the plot, to see how violent Joel gets, how violent he has to be to stay alive. All I know is that playing The Last of Us is not what I look forward to most.

That said, possibly one of my favorite trends in videogames over the last decade is being able to see enemies–and track them–through walls. This was one of the early upgrades I got in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I know tagging enemies in Far Cry 3 and 4 is important to keeping tabs on everyone, and that very same tagging system helped keep me alive in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Here, in The Last of Us, Joel can enter “listening” mode any time he wants; this puts him in a crouch, turns the world black and white, and pops up visible silhouettes of enemies in the area. I find myself walking around in this mode so often that I forget how colorful Naughty Dog’s world is, how lush with greenery and rust and blood it actually is. I hide by listening.

I suspect I’ll be back for some post-The Last of Us writing, given how powerful the narrative is turning out and unfolding. Plus, I think, unlike with Tomb Raider and Dragon Age: Inquisition, I will give the online multiplayer a shot. A sneaky, stealthy bow shot, that is. Er, hopefully.

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2013

2013 top 10 games didn't play Sad-Puppy

Well, I’m not gonna deny it–this year went fast. Except for June through July, but that always seems to drag by due to non-gaming reasons I won’t get into, but otherwise, the months really did seem to slip by. This was extremely noticeable once I began to actually work at my “five games I want to beat in 2013” checklist, and it seems like I was only able to polish off three out of five: Chrono Cross, Silent Hill 2, and Primal. I’m pretty proud of that, but I probably should have started much earlier than the summer. However, I did complete a good number of games over the past three hundred and sixty-five days, and one might consider some of them big AAA titles that are probably going to be on everyone’s final praise list, such as BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V, though they absolutely won’t make mine. Sorry, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is my game of the year; just deal with it.

Once more, here’s what I didn’t get to play last year, the year before that, and the year before that:

Also, do not worry: I have plenty of sad puppy photos to do this kind of post for many more years, so long as videogames keep coming out and I keep not playing ’em. That sounded more threatening than I originally wanted. But enough behind-the-scenes talk. Let’s get into the meat of this yearly post, shall we? The meaty meat, I mean.

10. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

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Sounds like this is a return to form, though the last Assassin’s Creed game I played was Brotherhood, so hopefully people are meaning that game. I’ve kept my distance from the franchise since then for good reasoning, as the later games have seemed repetitive, clunky, and sub-par, but I do enjoy pirates and the ship-based combat looks kind of neat. I wonder if the multiplayer is still there, as that is surprisingly an enjoyable slice of cat-and-mouse. This could be a really perfect summer time-sink for 2014, though I still also have an untouched copy of Assassin’s Creed II in my backlog to get to as well. Hmm.

9. Saints Row IV

Saints-Row-4-Has-Character-Tailored-Alien-Abductions

Originally, the Saints Row series was just another take on Grand Theft Auto, if a bit more ambitious and zany. I never got into it until Saints Row: The Third, and that was only after hearing the Giant Bomb staff praise and praise and praise it. I’m glad I finally listened to them, as I absolutely loved my role as the leader of the purple-clad gang on the rise, but I haven’t made the jump to Saints Row IV yet, as this year I gave my time and money to Grand Theft Auto V instead. I probably choose poorly. In this one, you can literally jump up to rooftops, thanks to alien superpowers. However, the console versions don’t sound up to par to the PC, but I don’t have a great gaming computer so I might just let this one slip by entirely.

8. Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider trailer - video

Here’s a little known fact about me: I’ve only played the original Tomb Raider. That’s right. Just the first one, and I remember it fondly, despite it probably aging terribly. My copy sits proudly next to Suikoden and Suikoden II. The sense of exploration was fully realized–for the time–and I loved how the game slowly revealed its supernatural hand with each level. Like Indiana Jones, a perfect mix of serious and silly. This 2013 reboot looks gritty and grimy and throws Lara in one terrible situation after the next, but sounds well done. Plus, she can use a bow for stealth kills. Mmm. Stealthy. Rhianna Pratchett wrote the script, which gives me hope that Lara, as a person, is more fleshed out here as well.

7. Rogue Legacy

didn't play rogue-legacy

I enjoy rogue-likes because, for me, they don’t ask for much. You can do a run, and if things end terribly, then that’s it. Try again. Conversely, if you’re on a hot streak, every action, jump, and sword swing becomes stressfully vital. This is why I continue to poke at The Binding of Isaac, in hopes of hitting a lucky note and making it to Mom easily, brimming with powers and extra hearts. Alas, that’s not happened yet–but it totally could one day. Rogue Legacy seems to share a lot of that, with the neat mechanic of playing as the children of whatever character you just got killed. These kids acquire different traits–such as colorblindness and vertigo–which affects how you move through the main castle. It’ll probably end up in a Humble Bundle some time in 2014.

6. The Last of Us

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Look, I barely got through Silent Hill 2 this year. Horror-themed games are very difficult for me to keep my cool in, and it sounds like the majority of the combat scenarios have you creeping around enemies, trying not to make a sound. That sounds fine to me, actually, but the monster designs and sounds they make are very unnerving, and I just don’t think I could ever get through The Last of Us, which is a dang shame, as it certainly sounds like an amazing–if depressing–experience.

5. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

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The last Mario-based RPG I played, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, and so I remained skeptic when a new one came out, even though it lives in an entirely different franchise. However, according to some reviews, it sounded like this one was maybe too hand-holdy, which is funny because Sticker Star couldn’t lift a finger to help you out. When I bought Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection, I also grabbed a used copy of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story on the Nintendo DS for free. I suspect I’ll give that one a go and if I love the mechanics and all that jazz will move on to the newer iteration.

4. Super Mario 3D World

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Super Mario 3D Land is one of the rare 3DS titles that I continue to pop back into the handheld and fart around in for a few minutes, always with the hope of earning a couple more stars. See, I’m in the post-completion content, but only halfway through it, so there’s still plenty more to see. And it sounds like Super Mario 3D World is all that and more…and on a console, which is where I’d truly rather be playing my plumber-based platformers. Throw in a silly cat theme, and I’m salivating from the mouth. Alas, no Wii U in this house, and still no interest in getting one any time soon unless there’s a big price drop or more interesting games in the pipeline. Sorry, I have no interest in the Smashing Bros.

3. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

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Love me my LEGO videogames, and I haven’t played one since LEGO Lord of the Rings, which means Tara and I are severely overdue for some co-op funtimes. Any will do, really, but I’d rather side with Iron Man and Wolverine over Batman and Superman. That’s right. I’ve always been a Marvel fan before a DC one. The formula doesn’t look to have changed one block–hub world, individual levels, a billion things to collect and unlock–but that’s okay, because at least I know what I’m getting here.

2. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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The subject matter of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, two siblings on a mission to save their deathly ill father, hits a little too close to home for me, and so I doubt I’ll ever get around to playing it. It’s not a direct parallel to my life, but there are enough elements present to put more weight on my shoulders, push me closer to the ground. Yes, I suffer from depression and would rather avoid mediums that enhance my feelings of hopelessness. I do love the idea of controlling two separate players with both analog sticks, but ibb and obb showed me just how difficult this could be for my brain to wrap its mind around. Also, Ni no Kuni did it first. I suspect the Giant Bomb podcasts will end up spoiling the story’s key moments and ending.

1. Gone Home

gone home did not play

Sigh. My gaming laptop is really great for playing indie Flash games or point-and-click adventure games that don’t require too much in terms of software. In the past, I’ve been able to play bigger productions, like Red Faction: Armageddon, but only if I turned down every setting, and even then it’s a bit rubbish. Same goes for Fallout: New Vegas and Skyrim; there is no draw distance because I can only see a few inches in front of my character. All of that is to say that I don’t think I can run Gone Home at the required settings to do it justice. Evidently, the game is loaded with high resolution posters, pictures, notes, and so on, and a big part is exploring the house and looking at stuff up close. I have no other way to play Gone Home, so hopefully it’ll come to consoles at some point, but I kind of doubt it.

Well, there you go. Or rather, there I go, not playing all these games. Of course, there’s more that didn’t make the list, such as Papers, Please and The Stanley Parable, but I had to draw a line somewhere. Given that I still haven’t played a few games from the previous lists yet–hello, Portal 2!–I wouldn’t hold my breath expecting to see me get to all of these next year. Maybe one or two. Plus a ton of older games. Can’t forget about the PS1 and PS2.

Anyways, what games did you miss out on this year? Shout ’em out in despair in the comments section below.

Let’s give it up for extreme violence at E3 2012

First, a true fact: I am not at the physical E3, set at the Los Angeles Convention center, but I can still hear the clapping.

Clapping, in general, is a standard at a convention or event where someone talks and then pauses in anticipation. It’s also pretty much expected when shown something exciting, such as a new game trailer or even just a teensy weensy teaser to get the blood a-pumping and the heartrate up. It’s a reaction, and it is, more or less, a confirmation that what was shown was appreciated or desired or looked upon favorably. Golf claps and sarcastic, slow-building claps that are found only in cinematic talkies are different beasts. However, from what I witnessed via live-streams of E3 2012 press conferences, there are two instances of clapping that struck me as…woefully odd. Disappointing, too.

One happened during a live demo of The Last of Us, and the other during a live demo of God of War: Ascension, and both are sad reminders of why the media portrays gamers as violent-minded folk. When you clap for extreme violence, you are clapping with genuine excitement. You clap because you care.

In God of War: Ascension, during a boss fight, Kratos does his QTE thing and rips out a monster’s brain and then slices it in half, as if the ripping out the brain didn’t already do the needful. This got a rousing reaction from the crowd, with applause to back it up. In The Last of Us, Joel takes the head of a man attacking him and slams it repeatedly into a small dresser until the side of it–the dresser, that is–is covered in blood and the man is unmoving. The audience at the conference really liked this moment and decided to let the world know by starting giving it a round of applause.

Both of these moments immediately made me uncomfortable. I myself felt no need to clap; granted, I was watching from the other side of the United States, first in an office and then second in bed in my pajamas with a kitty cat by my feet. I spent most of the God of War: Ascension live demo reading the comments over at GiantBomb and laughing along, but I did watch the live demo for The Last of Us with genuine interest. I loved when Joel got shot and kind of stumbled back, but brushed it off due to the intense scenario he and that Ellen Page girl were in. I loved how crazy fast everything was happening, and I loved why Joel had to do that horrible thing to that man–to survive, to keep going. I don’t love the moment itself, but the push behind it. That kind of violence really shows the grittiness of the game and that it is in fact The Road and all post-apocalyptic tropes and themes, and that to keep on truckin’ one has to do what one has to do. By no means should these actions be applauded–but they should be understood. The audience members clapping like little kids on Christmas morning clearly did not understand what was happening on that big screen in front of them.

I’ll end with this polar opposite scenario then. In LEGO City Undercover–a debut videogame I now desperately want, but only on the Nintendo 3DS as I’m still not convinced a Wii U is worth acquiring–police detective Chase McCain races down a criminal, tackles him in broad daylight on a populated city street, and the evildoer explodes into LEGO bits and studs. No one clapped.