Tag Archives: Windows 8 phone

Warning: enter Vault 713 at your own risk

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I waited a long time to play Fallout Shelter; I probably should have kept waiting. This free-to-play mobile room manager from big ol’ Bethesda was revealed and released to the world–well, for iOS devices–in June 2015 during the company’s E3 press conference. It later came to Android devices in August 2015. It never came and never will come to those that use a Windows phone despite that making some degree of sense. You might not know anyone in that last category, but if you are reading these words and follow Grinding Down, you at least know one sad soul–me. Well, it recently made its debut on Xbox One (and PC).

Allow me to run down what you do in Fallout Shelter since there’s no story to follow, save for whatever adventures you create in your brain as you tap and drag and force people to breed with one another. Basically, you build and manage your own Vault as an overseer–a.k.a., the never-questioned ruler of this nuclear safe haven. You guide and direct your Vault’s inhabitants, keeping them happy through meeting their essential needs, such as power, food, and water. You can rescue dwellers from the wasteland and assign them to various resource-generating buildings in your Vault, using the SPECIAL statistics system from the other Fallout games to key you in on their strongest abilities. Your dwellers level up over time, increasing things like health points and how good they are at producing resources. The number of Vault dwellers can grow two ways: waiting for new survivors from the wasteland to arrive at your doorstep or by pairing a male and female dweller in a living quarters room to, after some time has passed, produce babies.

Some other things exist to mix up the waiting on rooms-on-timers gameplay. You can take a risk and “rush” a room to completion. If you’re successful, you’ll get the resources right away, as well as some bonus caps. However, if you fail it, badness arrives in the form of fires, radroaches, or attacks from raiders. There are challenges to be mindful of, such as equipping a dweller with a weapon or gathering up X amount of food, and completing these will earn you caps or lunchboxes, which hold randomized loot. Once you build the Overseer’s room, you can send your people out on quests to find better items (weapons, armor) and caps. Everything takes time, and that makes way more sense for the mobile versions, but after sending out three people to shoot some wild radroaches I found myself staring at a bunch of rooms that wouldn’t be ready for harvesting for at least ten minutes with nothing else to do. Fallout Shelter is a game of waiting, which is not what I want when I plop down on the couch to play something.

On the Xbox One, navigating around the Vault is done via the thumbsticks. This can be a finicky process, and I once accidentally spent caps on removing boulders after the cursor jumped too far from the room I really wanted to select and gather resources from. This wasn’t the worst because, yeah, eventually I planned to clear them rocks, but I wanted it to be my decision, on my schedule. You can zoom in closer to the rooms to see some funny if frivolous bits of dialogue from your dwellers. The majority of the game is driven via menus, and accessing them is thankfully pretty simple and easy to use with a controller. That all said, I’m not a huge fan of the combat; it’s basically hands-off and hope you get some good invisible dice rolls like you’re back battling cliff racers in Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which is frustrating to witness. Here’s a true scenario from my time in Vault 713: a teeny tiny radroach nearly depleted my level 14 dweller’s health as she missed shot after shot after shot with a decent hunting rifle. Blargh.

I should have mentioned this earlier, but it’s pivotal towards my future progress in Fallout Shelter, of which there probably won’t be any more, so here we go: my Xbox One is broken. Or perpetually breaking. One of those. Some time after Black Friday last year, something happened. My “pins” disappeared from the front dashboard with a message saying, “Sorry, we can’t show these right now.” Then I discovered that I could access the store tab, but nothing I clicked on would work. I could mash the “A” button to no effect. Same goes for a lot of the advertisement tiles on other pages, unless they were tied to the Internet Explorer app. I tried doing a hard shutdown, unplugging my router, resetting the WiFi connection, and checking for further updates. Nothing seems to work. I am not interested in a factory reset, and I’ve managed, for the most part, to survive. I can still access apps like Netflix and Twitch and download those Games with Gold freebies by logging in on my Xbox 360 and adding them to my account. Lifehack central, y’all.

However, the other night, after gathering enough food, water, and power to keep my people beaming with happiness, I saved and shut the game down. A message came up that said the game was trying to sync my save with the Cloud, and so I let it do its thing, not wanting to mess anything up. Which never seemed to finish. Five minutes went by, then ten. Then twenty. Then thirty. There’s no way a game the size of Fallout Shelter takes that long to sync save data that is probably as big as a Cheez-It crumb. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait much longer and simply closed the console down as it was. When I tried to load the game up the next day, it couldn’t find my save even though it is also on my console’s internal memory, and the screen that shows your three save slots just spins infinitely, unable to find anything. I can’t even start a new Vault. This happened over a week ago, and I still can’t access Vault 713. And I was one room away from unlocking the Achievement for building 25 rooms. Grrr.

I could probably download Fallout Shelter on PC and either start again or see if my save in the Cloud carries over. I could, but I won’t. I’d rather play the Dead Money DLC from Fallout: New Vegas again. Or test my luck out in the wasteland proper. I thought I’d be more bummed about this, but there are a zillion other pieces of digital entertainment available at my fingertips.

Feverishly swiping away at my phone to Make It Rain

make it rain windows 8 phone game impressions gd

I am a patient man. Perhaps maybe the most patient, but that is a test that anyone claiming such a thing could easily fail. I mean, if someone sits next to me and continues to flick my nose once every three seconds for the rest of my given life, I don’t expect to last long. For the most part, when it comes to videogames, I don’t mind having to wait. Sometimes the waiting, whether it is for a certain upgrade or pivotal story-beat, can be kept to the shadows when grinding or side quests are involved, and other times, like with a lot of today’s mobile entries, such as Disney Magical Kingdoms or The Sims FreePlay, the waiting is the entire game itself.

Make It Rain: Love of Money didn’t start out being a waiter, but it eventually hit a point where progress was unobtainable except through the passing of time. I’ll tell you how I know for sure in just a bit, but I guess I’ll cover the game’s story and mechanics first. Story-wise, it’s a mix of the thoughtful, coming-of-age journey Kaitlin’s sister experiences in Gone Home and the multiple dimensions, always-a-lighthouse time-funkaroo from BioShock Infinite, with a dash of Jazzpunk‘s zany playfulness thrown in for good measure. Okay, no. Just kidding. There isn’t a lick of narrative here, just a means to get digitally rich. Perhaps you are an absent-minded app developer who accidentally created this money-making product and must now figure out the quickest way to make it big. Your adventure may vary.

The game’s theme revolves around money, greed, and corruption, and opens with a Biblical quote, every single time, to remind you of the evils of temptation and your place as a servant to a higher being:

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

That aside, once you are playing Make It Rain, the greed takes over, and all you can do is earn money and spend money to help earn more money faster in the future so that you’ll have more money to spend on earning money. Money money money. You can do this in a few ways, with the main method being swiping the screen in the same fashion that one might swipe a wad of money from their hands if they wanted to “make it rain” on a stripper. It’s an amusing means to an end, even if it’s demeaning in nature. I often made it rain on my cats, for what it’s worth. Another way to earn money is by putting your hard-earned green stuff into things like insider trading, subprime mortgages, and the bribing of political figures. Doing this raises how much money you earn by swiping, how much you earn when not swiping or the game is off, and how much your bucket can hold before you need to empty it and start again. All of this has me wondering how much cash I’ve accrued in Fable II since last turning it on.

Make It Rain is the type of experience that can be never-ending. I decided to toss a flag and march towards it, with the end goal being to unlock every Achievement. By September 2015, I had all of them, save for three. One Achievement was for purchasing two bee-related services, of which I had one already, and the other cost a whole lot of money that seemed, given the game’s pacing, decades away. The second was for swiping 100,000 times, which I’m convinced is glitched. Lastly, the developers would love to reward you with a digital picture and 5 Gamerscore if you connected the app to your Facebook account. Well, zip ahead a whole year later to today, and I’ve crossed off two of those three and decided that “Erased Fingerprints,” the Achievement for swiping way too much, is never gonna happen.

I hope to never write about Make It Rain again–really, there’s not much more to say, and a part of me is still baffled that I played this and consider it something one plays–so let me tell you how the last year went, which was all about earning $123 KBB to purchase the Electronic Apiary. I first started out trying to both increase the size of my bucket so it could hold more cash, as well as boost how much I got per hour when not playing the game. I quickly became less interested in actively making money and preferred to let the app work its magic in the background. This proved glacier-like slow, with each increase being so minor that you never really felt you were making any ground, but so major that all your funds were depleted and you had to start from square one. I then decided to give up on trying to upgrade either and simply empty my bucket whenever it filled all the way up, which was probably every day and a half or two days. Granted, I often forgot to do this, which only prolonged the experience. This took, oh, about a year, and I’ll point you back to the very first sentence of this blog post.

It’s strange. In just the last few weeks or so, I’ve polished off a number of games that have been lingering in my backlog for a good, long while: Final Fantasy IX, Crimson Shroud, Spyro the Dragon, and now this. Also, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, a game I’ve been tapping away at its puzzles since 2014, is creeping close to the finish line. It’s like these things happen in large, social waves, and I have to wonder if some of the games I’m playing now won’t see their special haiku rewards for still some time. Again, I really don’t mind the wait. Occasionally, it’s not ideal, but sometimes it’s all you can do. In terms of Make It Rain, money doesn’t grow on trees overnight.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #60 – Make It Rain: The Love of Money

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Swipe to make money
Fill your bucket with green stuff
Digitally rich

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #39 – Ridiculous Marathon

2016 gd games completed Ridiculous Marathon

Running, being chased
Avoid those trucks, the spike traps
One day, nothing left

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Jerky McJerk complains his way to be everyone’s nemesis

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I may or may not be nearing the end of my time with The Sims FreePlay, which I only really picked up again in September 2015 after not touching it for a good long while. I say may because I just popped the last, in my mind, feasible Achievement, which involved a lot of grinding and a solid time investment, and I say may not because, even though the remaining Achievements seem unattainable, there’s a part of me that wants to keep trying. In terms of goals, there’s really not much left for me to focus on, to grasp at achieving, and because this is a free-to-play game, restrictions abound when it comes to things like decorating your house, adding more Sims, and so on. I’d rather go play The Sims on a console or PC to get the full experience…or a fuller one via cheat codes.

First, take a look at this shiny thing, which required a lot of complaining on one man’s part, bless his terribly rude soul:

nemesis of the state achievement
Nemesis of the State: Have 1 Sim be nemeses with 16 Sims. (15G)

This took awhile. I’ve been actively working towards this goal for the last few months, and even created a specific Sim called Jerky McJerk to fill this role. That way it would be easy to track, especially once my Sims count reached over twenty, with only one Sim that everyone hated as a community. I made sure to dress Jerky McJerk in the pinkest suits ever seen to ensure I didn’t forget this man’s job in being rude and obnoxious to everyone he crossed paths with, except for toddlers and babies, as they are unaffected by impoliteness. Don’t know if that’s a hard fact or not, but I’ll believe it for now.

It’s a grindy goal, one that I often did while watching Giant Bomb or a TV show during my lunch break. Basically, I’d scan my list of villagers, see who wasn’t a nemesis with Jerky McJerk yet, send him over, and hit the “complain” interaction with them–for five minutes total, requiring about 30 interactions in the end. All without having my Windows phone’s screen time out. This resulted in me occasionally tapping the screen and checking it every few seconds to make sure all was going well. Rinse and repeat until Jerky McJerk is the bane of sixteen Sims total.

The problem was that, more or less, I had Jerky McJerk make enemies with about eight or nine people rather fast, but after them, I had to wait until more Sims were added to my town. Sometimes this didn’t happen right away because I’d rather spend my hard-earned Simoleons on buying new buildings pertinent to ongoing quests, like the stables or swimming center. It was only recently that I realized I had a decent amount of Lifestyle Points–that’s the orange currency in the pic above–somewhere around 80 or so since I never spent them. You can use these to buy new houses for rather cheap. Still, once you buy a house, you have to wait upwards of 36 hours for it to be “built,” which is why this process took so long. Good thing I’m Mr. Patience Man.

So, here’s what is left for me to accomplish in The Sims FreePlay: have my town be worth 12,000,000 simoleons, have it be worth 30,000,000 simoleons, and complete 1,000 goals. Sadly, after playing the game nearly daily for nearly five months, my town is only worth about 3,500,000 simoleons. That’s kind of harsh. I’ve not spent a single real dime, and I have to imagine that if I did plop down some digital cash my town’s worth be much higher. The “quickest” way to raise your town is to buy buildings and houses, both of which are costly and take time to complete after purchasing. Then you have to go through the long process of sending your Sims off to work every day to earn enough money to buy the next building or house, both of which go up in price the more you build. I’m not prophetic, but I think I can see the future, and it’s looking like a slow burn.

Evidently, there’s an exploit to help you boost your town’s worth by 30,000 simoleons, but it too is grindy and requires dedication. Not sure if it is even ultimately worth going after in such a manner. I’d rather hit these mile markers traditionally, and if I’m looking to complete 1,000 goals then surely it’ll happen along the way. The way could be years down the road. Also, one problem: I have no idea how many goals I’ve completed so far. Sure, sure–it’s feels like I’ve done a thousand and then some, but since there’s no stat tracking in-game, it’s impossible to tell, and I’m not about to start counting now.

I suspect I’ll keep tapping away at The Sims FreePlay for a bit more, just to see if I get any closer in a quicker fashion, but a part of me already feels ready to call this adventure dead and done. Which is strange, because I probably won’t uninstall the game right away, which means this cast of characters that I would play omnipotent being to and command they do my bidding will simply sit ignored on my phone, bereaved, with no chance of progressing. Huh, it’s kind of like when I’d play The Sims back on the PC, put a fellow in a row by himself, wait until he had to use the bathroom really bad, and then remove all the doors. Yup, I was that player.

All actions in The Sims FreePlay take time

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Life is strange, and I’m not actually referring to the episodic adventure game about angst-fueled teens and time rewinding from Remember Me developer Dontnod Entertainment, which is definitely somewhere on my mental really-must-play list. Life is Strange, that is–I’ve already enjoyed the heck out of Remember Me. Anyways, when I started playing The Sims FreePlay, I was a married man. In fact, I named my first Sim’s dog after my then wife’s family’s dog. Still with me? At some point, I probably had intentions to recreate my true-to-life family, giving everybody their own house and fashion style. By the time I got back to it, all that had changed. Now I just hit the randomize button and go from there, though I did create and name one woman to resemble Joan Cusack.

Over the years, I’ve dabbled with a few games in The Sims franchise. My favorite was probably The Sims Social, which you experienced via Facebook and had all the annoying hooks of a social media site-driven gaming experience by pestering friends for stuff, but still let you do whacky things like plants full-grown trees inside your house. I have not yet tried planting an entire forest inside my home in The Sims FreePlay, but I suspect it can get just as zany, considering it doesn’t mind that I send both parents off to work for eight hours straight and leave a baby alone in its crib, unsupervised.

The Sims FreePlay, which is not the greatest of names, is yet another strategic life simulation game in the franchise, developed by EA Mobile and Firemonkeys Studios. Basically, it’s a freemium version of the The Sims for mobile devices, with some restrictions and other differences. You begin adding people to your town, decorating their houses, finding them jobs and hobbies, and building relationships. It’s up to you to develop them and create stories, like the one I’m slowing working towards where it is just a single woman living in a drab, non-decorated house full of cats. There’s also a Sim called Oscar Skinner who may or may not be a serial killer from a Criminal Minds episode.

Unlike console or PC versions of The Sims, your actions aren’t roadblocked by simple concepts like money. Instead, everything in The Sims FreePlay takes time. Real-life time, as the games follows the clock á la Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which means you can’t send somebody to their day job at ten at night. Trust me, I’ve tried. Actually, other than that, it’s not terribly restricting. However, this sort of mechanic is perfect for a mobile game–I’m playing on my legendary Windows 8 phone–wherein I can log in, give everybody a task to do for the next seven or eight hours, and then check back later to receive experience points and money, which we all know is stupidly called Simoleons. As you add more Sims and level up, extra houses and construction jobs cost more to perform.

There’s some other currencies to keep in mind as this naturally is a free-to-play game. Say hi to Life Points and Social Points. Both of these currencies go up much slower and in more specific intervals–like through leveling up–and you can use Life Points to help complete tasks instantly that one might feel are taking too long. Personally, I’ve only used them to bake a birthday cake to help an infant become a toddler. Life Points can be earned by completing goals, hobbies, driving around town, or can be dug up in your lawn by pets, and I don’t know exactly their purpose yet, but I have a few saved up.

I am enjoying the actions in real time element of The Sims FreePlay except for when it comes to a bunch of small tasks, like grabbing a snack, using the toilet, washing your hands, and then calling a friend for a quick chat. All of these tasks take about seven to thirty seconds each to complete and help keep your Sim’s attributes high and healthy. However, you can’t stack these actions up to happen one after another; instead, you have to hang around or remember to check in to assign the next task, which can be tedious, especially once your number of Sims begins to grow higher than four. Currently, the majority of my Sims are at work, so I don’t need to check back for several hours, though a good tip is to always leave one Sim available for miscellaneous tasks.

Besides Achievements to unlock (I’ve gotten 10 out of 20), there are a bunch of in-game goals to complete. Actually, there’s an Achievement for finishing 1,000 goals, so everything is circular. Many are easy, like “bake some cookies” or “be romantic with another Sim.” Right now, there’s even a Halloween-themed quest line involving ghosts and purple monsters, though it is timed, which is unfortunate as I doubt I’ll get it all done. These at least give you something to focus on when you can’t decide what to do with an adult Sim or it is too late to send them to work. The Sims FreePlay does allow you to spend real money on Simoleons and other thingies, but it’s not pushy about it nor have I felt constricted for not dropping some cold cash. I hope that never changes; if it does, I always have my disc copy of the original The Sims coupled with a print-out of cheat codes to sate my appetite.

Also, I’ll report back if I’m successful with my crazy cat woman mission. Don’t want to leave y’all hanging.

One can’t stop moving in Lara Croft: Relic Run

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First, once more, it’s hard to find good screenshots for Lara Croft: Relic Run that adhere to my blog’s specifics, which is why the above image looks all stretched and odd. It’s better than no image, I guess. I already used my one allotted Angelina Jolie shot for the game completed haiku. Or maybe I should’ve just used the game’s title image screen, which is easily found as a desktop wallpaper in all types of dimensions, but I’d rather you at least see what this adventure into the dinosaur- and lizard monster-laden jungle looks like. It looks like the above, just not all stretched and odd. In fact, the visuals in this mobile game are top-notch, though it moves a little too fast to really notice.

It can be hard to determine when one is done with an endless runner, as the genre name itself implies a certain indefiniteness. That said, I think I’m done with Lara Croft: Relic Run, having played for many hours and gotten most of the Achievements and seen nearly everything I want to see as Lara herself zips forward, slides to not lose her head on a low ceiling or fallen branch, shoots a red barrel to explode and kill two monsters, and tumble to her grisly death as she misses a jump, but snags a shiny map icon along the way down. Whew. Long sentence.

Hey, remember Temple Run 2? Yeah, me too. Well, Lara Croft: Relic Run is mostly Temple Run 2, but with its own branding and a few slight differences, though I guess all endless runners are simply about moving forward, collecting stuff, and not running into walls. In this one, you control Lara herself, except no scary monster beast is chasing behind you; instead, you are running forward, in search of relics, which will hopefully provide clues to a missing friend. Or unlock the mystery behind a shadowy conspiracy. Honestly, the smidgen of story text you get from each collected clue barely gives you any idea of what is going on, but that’s okay–story takes a backseat in this, especially when you start hopping off a T-Rex’s back through fallen rubble like some kind of cool action hero.

You jog forward into the jungle, swiping left and right to change lanes, up to jump, down to slide. As you hustle, Lara will collect coins, occasionally shoot things, like lizard-monsters tossing spears at her face, fight a T-Rex in various ways, gather glowing clues to unlock relics, and rinse and repeat until she stumbles and tumbles to her death. Which definitely will happen eventually as the obstacles ramp up the farther in you get. Then, before your next run, you can use those gold coins (or harder-to-get diamonds) to purchase power-ups or upgrade your outfit/weaponry, as well as buy curses to send to other players on your friends list, which affect how the game looks and plays for a limited period of time.

One element I’m really not fond of in Lara Croft: Relic Run, which I also wasn’t fond of in that Tomb Raider reboot, is that when Lara Croft dies, she dies in the most outrageous manner possible. Her bones seemingly separate beneath her skin, and arms and legs flip and flop like fish out of water. The camera occasionally lingers on a shot of her crumpled form for a few seconds too long. It’s a little too much for a cartoony game about running and jumping.

I’m walking away from Lara Croft: Relic Run with three Achievements still locked. One requires Lara to run a certain distance without every sliding, which I swear I’ve done before, but it might be glitched. The other asks you to send six curses to friends, but only provides five to purchase; good job, Square Enix. The last one requires Lara to collect a total of 1,000,000 coins; seeing as I’ve only garnered 79,461 after all my play-time, this is too much of a grind for even l’il ol’ grindy me. Yup, the dude that got co-op Achievements by himself in Lara Croft: Guardian of Light doesn’t want to make the effort here, which probably says enough.

I wonder what the next free-to-play endless runner I’ll try will be. A sick part of my brain worries that it’ll be Despicable Me: Minion Rush.