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Sorry, there are no more skulls left in Motocross Madness

final motocross madness xbox 360 post

Motocross Madness is a game I played for a bit after getting it as a freebie back in August 2014, but then drifted away from for a good chunk of time. Many months, in fact. Truthfully, I really only enjoyed the heck out of the game’s Exploration mode, which plopped you down in the world where the game’s race tracks exist, but gives you freedom to explore off the tracks as you please to collect gold coins and skulls. These feed into the medals you get, as well as provide money and XP, so they are more than just shiny trinkets to grab. The standard races and trick sessions are fine enough, but a bit too perfunctory and easy to perfect. My heart can’t resist collecting things; for further proof, see games like LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, Disney Magical World, and Kung Fu Rabbit.

Right. So, over the last few months, I’ve been noodling away at Motocross Madness, playing for a bit and collecting a skull or two. Incrementally edging my way up to a 100% completion rate. It became a thing I did to fill in the gaps between other games or if I had fifteen to twenty minutes to kill before I had to make dinner. However, it became more of a hassle–in my mind than in reality–to turn on my Xbox 360 now that I had a shiny Xbox One to slobber over, and so Motocross Madness got visited less and less. That is until a few weeks back, when it was announced to now be backwards-compatible on the new console. I’m probably the only person in the world that saw that news and genuinely felt warmth in my heart, but whatever.

I recently had some time off of work over the holidays, and I used some of it to, besides draw and go see the ultra cute and sing-songy Elf the Musical in New York City, well…play more Motocross Madness. I’m totally fine with this. Never let anyone tell you what to do on your days off. Along the way, I also sat down and figured out how to use the streaming programs on the Xbox One, which lead to me recording about four hours of me getting the last flaming skulls and Achievements for all the Internet to see. If you’ve got time to kill, feel free to watch the archived videos over at my YouTube. Please understand before going into these vids that I’m still relatively new to this and am figuring out microphone/gameplay audio settings, but I’m thinking 2016 will be the year I put more effort into this venue.

Collecting skulls was fun despite a few frustrations. It’s multi-part; first, you have to find the skull in the environment, and then you have to figure out how to get it. Sometimes they are on the ground, and you just ride your bike up to it, but the majority are high in the sky, requiring a sick jump to grab. It’s only when you get down to having a single skull left in a large environment that it becomes maddening as you search every nook and cranny, desperate to catch the flicker of orange flames. Eventually, I caved and looked up a walkthrough online, quickly scribbling down locations on a hand-drawn map so that I’d, at least, still not know exactly where these skulls were and have some involvement in their capture.

When examined without the Exploration mode, Motocross Madness is actually a substandard racing game with bikes. The races themselves aren’t all that challenging, especially once you upgrade your hog, and the trick system is not in-depth, allowing you to only do a few moves in the air…unless you’re into crashing. Once you are on “fire,” which happens after building a meter for successfully doing tricks, you can do another set for more points. I highly recommend performing the Rodeo Cowboy each and every time. It probably gets a pass overall because it uses your avatar, which makes the costumes and tricks more fun to see than some generic-looking dude or dudette. Still, once I got all the skulls, I didn’t really know what to do; online racing was no more exciting than the single-player stuff, unfortunately.

Oh, if you were curious what my crudely drawn maps actually looked like, they looked like this:

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Yup–my art skills are wildly good. Now to figure out what I can stream next. I like the idea of having a goal for streaming, not just playing through the game’s main campaign, though I understand a lot of people do that. Perhaps I can capture getting the remainder of Fallout 4‘s Bobbleheads or causing some random chaos to happen in Just Cause 2. Must think on this. One thing I know for certain is that, just like when I finished up LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, an invisible weight has been lifted off my shoulders (and mind), and I don’t have to return to this digital world ever again. Unless I want to.

My first “Paul Plays…” video, covering Deep Sleep

Okay, so here’s the thing. I played a bit of Deep Sleep, which I recently wrote about, and talked as I pointed and clicked. I’m tentatively calling these things “Paul Plays…” with the intention of naturally doing more. My audio is relatively low compared to the game’s audio, and it’s been an ongoing process, learning how to do this on my own. I will try tinkering with my microphone settings some more before the next go. If any of y’all have tips or suggestions, by all means–share with me. Otherwise, give it a click.

Thanks for checking it out!

Men in distress, and the women who save them

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Have y’all been keeping up with Anita Sarkeesian’s Damsel in Distress video series, which “explores how the damsel in distress became one of the most widely used gendered clichés in the history of gaming and why the trope has been core to the popularization and development of the medium itself.” The second episode was just released yesterday, and it covers violence against women in videogames within the previously mentioned trope. Sarkeesian’s analysis is very interesting and well-executed (save for one moment where she breaks professionalism for a snarky jab of Bionic Commando‘s main dude’s arm), but be warned, there are graphic scenes of violence against women used throughout, and spoilers are an unconcerned thing of the past, for games both new (Pandora’s Tower) and old (Breath of Fire IV).

I do hope that Sarkeesian eventually examines that games that do–or try to–steer away from the blatant damsel in distress trope, whether successfully or not. I agree fully with her point that you can like and love something immensely while at the same time also be critical of its problematic parts. Heck, take Fallout: New Vegas, a game that literally freezes or glitches out every time I play it, but I just enjoy the world so much that I keep coming back. That said, I also think there is something beneficial to be gained from praising the games that try to go a different route.

Before we get going, let me come clean. I am a writer and an artist, a creator if you will, and some of my previously published work might possibly have hints of the damsel in distress. I say hints as I don’t believe I have it exactly on the nose, often using the trope as a base and then spinning it so that the damsel ends up saving herself. Most importantly is The Stolen Lovelight, a short graphic novel that I wrote and my wife Tara Abbamondi drew. It is about a young woman named Arisia Randir who is trapped in a terrible relationship. With seemingly no way out, she ends up paying for her own kidnapping. Men and men-like things will try to save her from further trouble, but she’d rather handle things on her own and find a new place to call home. And that’s my pitch, I guess.

Originally, I tried to come up with some kind of cute, whimsical title to counter the whole damsel in distress thing (like Distressed Dudes), but my short analysis is better served with a straightforward approach, and so listed below are a few videogames that I’m aware of where you play as a woman, and you’re off to rescue a man…a man in distress.

Beyond Good & Evil

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One of the earlier missions in Beyond Good & Evil has green-lipped, photo-snapping Jade sneaking into a DomZ facility to rescue Double H, a heavily built IRIS operative who has been kidnapped and tortured to the point of incompetence. His physical appearance against Jade is striking, what with him fully decked out in a knight’s suit of armor. I suspect that Michel Ancel was having some fun here, as now you are the knight in metaphorically shining armor in this scenario, plucking him from harm’s way to get him on your team. Later on, Pey’j, the father figure in Jade’s life, also gets kidnapped, giving you a reason to fly to the moon.

Primal

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Man, I really love Primal, and yet it’s a game I’ve never completed. Grrr. It’s on my wishlist for 2013, but we’re almost halfway through the year, and I’ve made zero progress on putting the game’s disc in my PlayStation 2. Granted, I am working on Chrono Cross at the moment, so there’s at least that. Anyways, in Primal, you play as Jennifer Tate, a 21-year-old woman who has to travel through various demonic realms to retrieve her stolen boyfriend. Lewis is in a band, but a bunch of demons believe that they need him to…uh, create chaos. So he is abducted, and Jen is hospitalized. A tiny gargoyle helps her on her path to saving her boyfriend and, ultimately, the world.

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

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Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest has the evil pirate Kaptain K. Rool nabbing the titular hero of the first game. You know who I speak of. Turns out, despite being a crocodile, he really loves his fruit, and won’t hand Donkey Kong back over unless Diddy returns his previously stolen hoard of bananas. More importantly, you can play as Dixie Kong, Diddy’s girlfriend, who can use her ponytail as both a weapon and way to glide across large gaps.

I know it’s only three examples, but those are all I can think of at the moment where the man is in distress, and you play as the woman (er, female monkey in Dixie’s case) rescuing him.

Can y’all think of any others? Inform me in the comments section below.

The early life and times of an Imperial Dragonborn with an obsession for cheese wheels

My Grinding Down post…uh, post playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the very first time did not turn out like I originally planned. I was hoping to do more of a summary of the times, the handful of hours spent, about the things Lohgahn did or did not do since stumbling into freedom, as well as my usual colorful commentary on all things broken with Bethesda’s supposedly brand new engine. In the end, I babbled on about the quest The House of Horrors and how surprised and conflicted I was by it. So here we are again, for Skyrim post numero two.

If you’ve ever read any of my posts on Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, or Deus Ex: Human Revolution, then you know how I like to roleplay. At least initially. Sneak, steal, and get by with skin still on my bones. Sell everything not sealed down. And so that’s how it began, with Lohgahn getting his greedy Imperial hands on a bow and quiver of arrows as soon as possible. He snuck through caves, snuck up to villages, snuck through the forest, and so long as he was able to hit an enemy first without being detected, they were usually dead with one shot. If not, they generally didn’t reach him by the time he had reloaded his bow. However, I did have a backup strategy for when things got up-close and personal, and that was a combo of fire magic and an enchanted axe that also contained fire magic. Yeah, fire’s cool. Also now have a fire-based Shout, so watch out frost-based critters.

And sadly, I’ve been using the bow less and less. Now I’m really into summoning a spectral wolf companion or a demon from another plane to help out in battle. I haven’t gotten another stable companion since Lydia died, and I don’t know if I ever will. I do enjoy going at it alone, even if the dragon fights are tough with nobody else to aggro at. Speaking of dragons, I’ve taken down six now. Some perks I’ve picked up are zooming in with the bow, gaining a bonus to armor protection if wearing all pieces of light armor, and more damage with one-handed weapons. It’s weird seeing where Lohgahn started and where he’s at now, a mixed bag of tricks. This could potentially be dangerous down the line, with him decent in multiple styles, but not strong in a single element. We’ll see. I might not ever even complete the main storyline considering how many side quests rock and how many miscellaneous tasks I’ve got in my log.

And now, some more blabbering about a fantastic quest I turned in recently called A Night to Remember. Spoilers follow, people. After a hard day of looting bandits and cooking their food, Lohgahn headed to the tavern in Whiterun for some drink and music. Well, he certainly got one of those two things. A man named Sam Guevenne challenged me to a drinking contest for a magical staff, and I accepted, guzzling back three glasses of whatever we were guzzling. After blacking out, Lohgahn woke up in an entirely different hold, with no memory of what happened. He then has to piece it together, and in the end, after talk of stolen sheep and getting married, it’s more mindgames being played by Daedra princes. I think I’m going to absolutely love every single Daedra quest in Skyrim.

Also, I’ve begun recording some of the glitches in the game. Here’s one where doors in my Whiterun house magically stand up without walls. I’ve got another one to upload that’ll make your head spin.

In summary, after roughly fourteen or fifteen hours, Lohgahn loves cheese wheels, is now level 16, and has only done a smidgen of the main storyline quests. He has, however, been deemed a hero of the people. It’s true. See right here:


Hero of the People (30G): Complete 50 Misc Objectives

He’s thinking about learning more about magic, and yet, at the same time, wondering if he’d fit in with that underground thieves guild. Hmm…

Be like Bolton, and get back to the good part!

In honor of today’s big Purchase of the Month–that’d be LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, not Brink, which is getting horrible review scores–I give you Michael Bolton crooning over Jack Sparrow’s fantastical adventures:

“Big sexy hook” doesn’t even begin to describe this work of art.

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean will have you scrubbin’ ye barnacles in anticipation

While I wait and wait and wait some more for LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 to come out, I guess I’ll have to settle for a little Jack action. Specifically, Jack Sparrow, as he’s the main star of the next franchise to fall to the power that is LEGO. And this is a good thing. You can see why below in LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean‘s debut trailer:

Ha, that’s totally Jack Sparrow in LEGO form. No denying it. Even has the drunken swagger down. Hope one of the many collectibles is bottles of rum.

It’s been reported that the game will be released on “all major platforms” this summer, and that the game will cover the events of the first three movies, as well as the upcoming fourth film, On Stranger Tides. Gameplay will follow in the footsteps of all the other LEGO videogames. Meaning that it will be light-hearted and extremely addicting. Looking forward to this filler until we can get back to fighting a LEGO Voldemort…

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to arrive with a new engine

Will a lot of people be getting married on November 11, 2011 (11/11/11) or buying Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim? Well, I think I know my answer…

But yeah. This new entry in the Elder Scrolls series was just announced over the weekend at some videogame award thingy that I didn’t watch. However, many already speculated that a fifth game was in the works. I mean, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was a huge hit; how does one not follow up on it? I personally think it’s a good thing that it’s taken five years (Oblivion came out in 2006 for the Xbox 360) to come into the public view. A lot has changed in terms of gaming prowess, and a lot is seemingly going to change as Bethesda is reporting that Skyrim is not going to be running on its infamous Gamebyro engine. Instead, it’s using a brand new one, and let’s quote a dude here:

“We can now confirm that the TES V: Skyrim engine is all-new. And it looks fantastic.” – Nick Breckon, community manager at Bethesda

This is good. Very good. The Gamebyro engine, which fueled Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Fallout: New Vegas, is definitely showing its age. It’s been showing its faults and glitches for many years, and the time for change is upon us. I can naturally only hope that this new engine is in the same vision of Gamebyro, but more beautiful, more capable, more durable. First-person RPGs are all about seeing the world all at once, and when that world is a fantasy world, a place lush with flowers and trees and rocky hills and blazing sunsets, it’s vital that the system can handle everything. I have to also wonder if the fighting/magic system will get an overhaul–I hope it does.

Nonetheless, we have a bit of a wait. So while we all consider how the skill system will work or how X will do Y to Z, we can check out the teaser trailer below:

Dragons! Take that, Dragon Age!