Tag Archives: Wallace and Gromit

Adding to the Backlog – Three More PlayStation 2 Titles, Woo

I’m not out to collect every single PlayStation 2 game ever made, because they sure did make a whole lot of them, but I have a list of several titles that I missed during the console’s heydays and am genuinely interested in acquiring and, when the time is right, playing. Yes, playing, because I love games of varying ages, especially JRPGs from this specific era in the industry, for reasons I’m not totally clear on just yet. They don’t make them like they used to, and when they try, they don’t always succeed. Anyways, for a good while there, I was able to find some PlayStation 2 cases at my local GameStops, but they eventually needed more shelf-space for other things, like amiibos and virtual reality gear, and stopped stocking them.

Recently, at a comic convention last April, I was able to grab a working copy of Dark Cloud, which I once had and was actually the very first game I got for my system as a young boy with some steady income before being dumb and trading it in for something else. The game, not the system. I’m still rocking my original PlayStation 2 because I take good care of my stuff. Right, the last time I added a bunch of old-ish games in one solid lump was back in February 2016, with me stocking up on an astounding ten games for my collection; you’ll not be surprised to learn I’ve not tried a single one of them yet. Sigh. One day, when the world is full of free time and no consequences or guilt-laden clouds.

Over the weekend, while Melanie was taking a buttercream flowers class, I had an hour or so to kill in Somerville, NJ, and so I stopped in Retro Classics to peruse their wares. I’ve been in the store before, picking up PS2 copies of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Hobbit for my constantly growing assemblage of all things related to The Lord of the Rings, but the last time I went I forgot to bring a list and found myself second-guessing whether or not I had this or that copy of said title and was reluctant to make any purchases. It’s always good to be prepared, and this time I totally was.

Here’s what I got:

That might not seem all that exciting of a haul to you, but Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse is something I’ve never seen out in the wild, and my love for strange JRPGs from this era was too strong to resist grabbing a copy for around $15.00. Perhaps I now have more of a reason than ever to finally play through the first game, eating up those lengthy anime-driven cutscenes and e-mails and card-based minigames, knowing there is actually more to follow. The store also has a retail copy of Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra, but it was a little too pricey for me at the moment. You can see that I also nabbed Wallace & Gromit in Project Zoo, which pairs nicely with my case-less copy of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and X-Men Legends so that I can go back to the beginning of when these comic book hero videogames became more RPG than mindless punching and optic blasting. I’m pretty pleased with the trio.

Anyways, that’s all for now. Alas, most of my list of desired PS2 games are really obscure beasts, like Summoner 2, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Legaia 2: Duel Saga, and I just don’t think I’ll ever run into them at a store and I’m too timid to try and find them online for a “good” price and deal with trusting a stranger somewhere in the world to deliver on their promises. I’ll keep looking, but I won’t hold my breath. Because I’ll run out of air rather quickly. Until then, looks like I have some other things I can play. Y’know, when I find the time.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #30 – Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures, Episode 2 – “The Last Resort”

2014 games completed 30 the last resort resized

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #28 – Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures, Episode 1 – “Fright of the Bumblebees”

2014 games completed 28 wallace episode 1 resized

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

Golf is not a fair game in The Bogey Man

wallace bogey3g

Ah, here we are, the final episode of Telltale’s Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures. It all began with bee-growing trouble in Fright of the Bumblebees, then delved into the ins and outs of running one’s own in-door beach resort in The Last Resort, and lastly dealt with a con-man trying to steal dogs and dough simultaneously in Muzzled! This fourth episode focuses very much on the sometimes relaxing, sometimes stressful game of golf. I’m going to honestly try my best not to load this blog post up with a zillion golf puns, but understand that you are asking me to resist doing what I love most, and so it’s a challenge. Like, all I really want to do is say that after three episodes of pointing, clicking, and rather routinely solving puzzles, this final act is actually just more of the same…par for the course, if you will.

Anyways, The Bogey Man, unlike the other episodes, picks up immediately where the other one left off, and I’m going to have to spoil what happened at the end of Muzzled! in order to explain why Wallace is out doing what he’s doing. See, in a moment of pure coincidence, Wallace accidentally proposed to Felicity Flitt and is currently awaiting her answer. We all know he wants to live the single life and spend his hours noodling away with inventions in the basement, but Miss Flitt seems good to go, so long as Wallace isn’t a member of the snooty country club called the Prickly Thicket. Cue Wallace–and when put to it for his master, Gromit–doing everything possible he can to, first, get in the club and, second, ensure it stays operating since Constable Dibbins is set to close it down out of pure jealousy. All for love, of course.

You do get to play some golf in The Bogey Man, but strangely it is never on an actual golf course. I found the game’s cover art very misleading. Instead, you’ll play two holes–read two puzzles–through town and Wallace’s own home, as well as figure out a memorization-heavy riddle back in the country club’s headquarters, which requires Wallace and Duncan McBiscuit to hit a series of five paintings in a set order. I found the finding the three keys puzzles to be overwhelming and unfocused, especially since you get clues for all of them in one bang and are then left to attack them as you please. These required some back and forthing, and I eventually looked up the solution to one of them after growing frustrated. Everything else was pretty easy to figure out as, again, you only have so many items and options available to you, so trial and error will get you to the end eventually.

The previous three games focused on a big baddie villain–queen bee, devil dogs, mustached menace–while The Bogey Man is…more reserved. Though Duncan can be a jerk. Sure, there’s a complicated mechanism in the country club that goes haywire to protect its deed, forcing Gromit to unravel things while Wallace and friends are trapped inside a room quickly filling with sand–see, a sand trap–but otherwise, it’s a pretty low-key affair. Instead, you learn a lot more about Wallace, Gromit, Duncan, and Miss Flitt’s ancestors, and even Major Crum gets an interesting piece of dialogue now and then. It’s quieter and probably not what you’d expect in a finale, but I enjoyed getting to know where these characters came from, and seeing some resolution for the Flitt/McBiscuit sub-plot was a nice touch, one I didn’t expect to see right there, minutes before the credits rolled.

Well, with Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures now played and done, I can move on to…other episodic series of adventure games. Like Back to the Future or Sam & Max, still sitting pretty and uninstalled in my Steam library. Or maybe I should go back to focusing on smaller, singular experiences. I do need to eventually get around to Ben Chandler’s PISS, which is a weird thing to write, as well as the latest–and last–ghost-absolving journey for Joey and Rosangela in The Blackwell Epiphany. Hmm. Choices, choices…

The Half-hour Hitbox: April 2014

april 2014 half-hour hitbox

Well, this turned into a terrible month, and so I haven’t been writing about games a lot here these last few days, but I still continued to add to this thing, like a man who pokes a fire looking for it to grow, to spread. And spread it has, so here are some short paragraphs about the games I’ve played for a bit, as well as the ones I’ve played for a good while and just haven’t gotten around to giving them their fancy own blog posts. All in due time, or possibly never again; I really can’t say right now.

Line ’em up, knock ’em down.

The Everloom

The+Everloom+Walkthrough

When does a dream become a nightmare? Is it when you can’t escape it? The Everloom is a minimalistic adventure game by Lucas Paakh that dances around these questions while guiding the player through a realm where imagination runs wild. It’s basically fetch quest after fetch quest, and I’d easily dismiss it as flat boring gameplay-wise, but it’s absolutely gorgeous to both look at and listen to. The pixel graphics are crisp and colorful, with some amazing parallax scrolling effects when moving throughout the forest section. Some bizarre characters and outcomes, too.

Where Is My Beard?

where is my beard capture

A strange and cute little Flash physics-based puzzle game. Man, that was a mouthful. Where Is My Beard? tasks you with rolling a bearded face–also known as a decapitated head–into non-bearded face-shapes to decorate them with facial hair. Sometimes this involves building a bridge across a gap and other times involves playing with gravity just right to that the ball hits every single target. There are 20 levels in total, and only two really roadblocked me for a bit; thankfully, when you refresh the level, all the pieces you put down remain in place, so you can tinker with placement and keep trying things without having to rebuild your schematic from scratch. It’s got a fun art style á la The Binding of Isaac. Oh, and watch out for the crabs…

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

hitbox castle of illusion

A PlayStation Plus freebie for April 2014 and, from what I’ve played so far, a walk in the park. Granted, I only did the first world and am now in the toy-themed levels, but it’s a fairly mundane platformer, and yes, there’s irony there, given that it is set in a fantasy land and magical castle. You walk left and right, you jump on enemies to kill them, you collect things, you throw projectiles, and the bosses all follow a simple pattern. I love me some Disney, but this is just a little too tame for me, though it’s nice that the game came packaged with the original Genesis title as well.

Deadlight

1394545373_deadlight-gameplay-2

A freebie on the ol’ Xbox 360 this month for the Games With Gold campaign. Deadlight is a mix of Limbo and Shadow Complex, but with zombies–also called shadows–and more of a focus on puzzle platforming and avoiding combat when possible. I haven’t gotten too far, and so far, it’s okay. I’d probably be more impressed if I haven’t read most of The Walking Dead comics–all of volume one–and followed the show so closely, as they are pretty similar in both looks and story-telling. Also, the main character’s jumping is really clunky, and that’s something you want to make sure is right in your platforming game, that jumping to platforms feels smooth.

Disney Magical World

disney-magical-world-your-room

I’ve definitely got a bigger post in the works for this Animal Crossing: New Leaf-wannabe and still own individualistic collectathon brimming with classic Disney characters and gimmicks. Not going to say anymore other than it has surprised me, and it’s kind of what I need right now in my life: a solid bit of distraction that does not make me work too hard to progress.

Metal Gear Solid

ps1 metal-gear-solid

Yup, my journey through all of the Metal Gear games continues, and I beat Metal Gear Solid over a couple of sittings, taking around 11 hours or so. As you might expect, I have many things to say about this one and Solid Snake and the use of FMV and remembering locations differently, meaning we’ll leave it for another day. Next on the list is…VR Missions, which I don’t expect to be very exciting, though I do hope they offer more of a challenge than the n00b-friendly ten in Metal Gear Solid‘s main menu. I wonder if I’ll be able to do ’em all.

Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures, Episode 3: Muzzled!

wg103_wallace_muzzle-620x

Not really picking up where the last episode ended, Wallace and Gromit meet Monty Muzzle, who comes to town to try and raise money for a dog shelter. Unfortunately, this mustached man has ulterior motives, and it falls upon Wallace and Gromit to save some dogs and get the townspeople’s money back before Monty can slink away. What follows is more of the same single item-only puzzles and funny dialogue. I looked up a solution or two, but enjoyed everything regardless, especially the idea of a fish and chips-flavored pie. Again, this episode ends on a big cliffhanger, one I really hope doesn’t get dropped as we move into the final act of this grand adventure.

The Half-hour Hitbox is a new monthly feature for Grinding Down, covering a handful of videogames that I’ve only gotten to play for less than an hour so far. My hopes in doing this is to remind myself that I played a wee bit of these games at one time or another, and I should hop back into them, if I liked that first bite.

 

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

1338696-last_resort_gromit

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.

There will bee honey in Fright of the Bumblebees

wallace gromit fright bees early impressions

I’ve been badly struggling with the cold weather this winter, and there are a lot of stupidly small and stupid–yes, stupidly stupid–details that I won’t go into, but to make a long story short, I’ve been spending a lot of nights getting into bed early beneath the heated blanket. While this warms me up and keeps me warm, it does take a toll on my gaming schedule, as I’ve had to let Tomb Raider and Spelunky and basically anything sitting on a console’s hard-drive in the frigid downstairs area sit idle until I can stomach the weather long enough to play ’em properly. Heck, even playing my 3DS can be tricky, what with my arms unmoving beneath a burning blanket. I know, I know…woe is me.

And so I thought, “What videogames can I play in bed on my laptop that don’t require a lot of quick reflexes and constant attention?” Certainly not a first-person shooter. Or an RPG with time-driven combat. Ah, yes. Yes. Point-and-click adventure games. Though not all of them. If I remember rightly, the ending puzzles of Telltale’s Back to the Future‘s first episode demanded fast fingers, but not to worry–I’ve got plenty of adventure games in my backlog to devour. Slowly devour, that is. In my Steam library, I have oodles, and I honestly don’t even remember when I got them, but the entire complete episodic series of Tales of Monkey Island, Sam & Max, and Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures are there, installed, just waiting for me to get into bed.

I figured the safest–and less demanding of them all–were whatever Wallace and Gromit were up to, and so I loaded up the first episode “Fright of the Bumblebees” and tilted the laptop balancing on my chest enough that my fingers could creep out from the stashed warmth and click around. Well, Wallace has a new business called “From Bee to You,” which specializes in delivering fresh honey to customers. After some less-than-stellar results with Wallace’s prior inventions, one customer demands that he provide fifty gallons of honey in repayment. Unfortunately, Wallace has used up all the flowers in his garden and is now forced to improvise an enhanced growth formula to turn regular daisy seeds provided by his neighbor into giant bee-feeding flowers. Alas, while the formula is successful at creating giant flowers for the bees, it also turns the them into dog-size monsters able to terrorize everyone.

It’s a very cute story so far, and Gromit makes some of the best faces at the camera since Jim from The Office. I’m not too familiar with the stop motion animation movies and previous videogames–though I did lightly dip my big toe into Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit–but it is a lot of puns and kid-friendly antics and consequences, with goofy-looking characters and colorful, charming locales. Oh–and cheese. And incompetent coppers. Anyways, the graphics are nothing to write home about, and either are the puzzles, but they are fun and logical enough to solve nonetheless, and the story moves along at a good clip, not wasting your time with too many pointless objects and unnecessary observations.

A couple complaints. While not as bad as in other Telltale products like Poker Night at the Inventory and The Walking Dead, the engine hitches for a second or two when transitioning from section to section. I also had the entire game freeze when I attempted to use the fast-travel map as Wallace. Also, while not terribly game-ruining, I wish you could have Wallace or Gromit walk to wherever you click, instead of relying on WASD or the arrow keys to get them investigating a room fully. Lastly, when you use an object on another object, if it doesn’t complete a puzzle, the item disappears from your mouse cursor, meaning you have to select it all over again if you want to use it on the thing right next to the thing you just checked. That might sound like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but it can be really tedious to have to keep selecting an item over and over just to see if it works or not.

So far, I’ve looked up a single puzzle solution–it had to do with cheese, so shame on me–and from the size of the walkthrough, it seems like these episodes are actually rather lengthy. Which is fine by me. I’ll keep nibbling away at Fright of the Bumblebees until I can come out from under the covers though I worry that the story is maybe too light and inconsequential to keep its stingers hooked in me for the other three episodes. Unless they are standalone-ish and all something else entirely. Only time–and the weather gods–will tell.