I’ve been beavering away on my other blog over the last fortnight, only permitting myself the odd hour or so for gaming. I’m still ducking into Halo: Reach on a daily basis, racking up cRedits while I can; I’ve just cracked into the Eclipse rank, with over eight-and-a-half million cRedits earned. Well over a third of the way there, and I’m still learning new techniques to further speed up the acquisition. And it is still, of course, a great game to play :)

Halo begets Halo, of course, and – despite being distracted by the upcoming Festival season – I’m still mindful of my lingering desire to get at least one game a month off The List. With that in mind, I looked at the remaining effort required to polish off Halo: Anniversary: a couple of tricky Achievements, and solo & co-op Legendary playthroughs.

The Legendary playthroughs are nowhere near as daunting as they were back-in-the-day; with the advent of the Bandanna Skull and its infinite ammo capability, grenade spamming takes a fair chunk of the challenge out of it. But some of the Achievements looked a little trickier; The Library on Heroic without dying? The Library in less than 30 minutes on Legendary?

So off I went: grenade spamming my way through The Library netted the “no death” cheevo pretty quickly. The speedrun, on the other hand, took a bit more effort… and grenade jumps. A couple of key grenade jumps. But a lazy Sunday afternoon (after I’d got some writing out of the way!) saw them both knocked off without too much trouble.

A couple more Achievements (on the Keyes level) popped, but right now I’m feeling a bit guilty; I probably played a bit too much today (after all, there’s still about 28 posts left to write on the other blog), and I’ve still got fifteen levels to play through on Legendary before Anniversary is off The List. It’s not going to be a January game.

…but I pretty much knew that already. Last week, feeling a little bit desperate (even though only halfway through the month), I looked at one of my other Lists – the Things To Buy List. My objective? Something new that I already wanted that I could finish by the end of the month.

Solution: PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX.

What a bloody awesome game. As much as I loved the first Championship Edition, DX renders it absolutely obsolete with a ruleset that never fails to delight. There’s nothing like getting a 60+ ghost combo going, audio pitches going up as you urgently seek another power pill to stretch your combo even further. My HORI Stick (or one like it – mine, a much older model, lacks the turbo functionality) got a great workout as I pushed through all the Achievements in a couple of hours over two nights; another couple of nights saw me get an overall A-Rank on all maps, my personal completion requirement. A little more play to better a few key Friends, and I was done.

Finally, I had a little mojo lull a couple of days ago; rather than start something new (my standard response to any attack of the glums is to spend money), I decided to fire up an old friend: Rez. And I will state, here and now, that Area 1 is one of my most cherished gaming experiences; I love it ever-so-much, I really do. Most other Rez-fans will wax lyrical about Area 5, and I can understand that; but Area 1 is so beautiful, the music so joyous, the audio punches so perfect, that for me… well, it’s beyond compare.

That thought made me dig up my Rez (Part 1) post… which was made almost four years ago. So much has changed since then: the SO has since departed, and – rather than play on my old 23-inch widescreen monitor – this week I was playing on a 52-inch monster screen… with a decent sound system. As I played through it again in the dark, quite possibly annoying the neighbours with the bass-beat, I fell in love with Rez all over again.

In fact, there’s a task to the handful of you that read this: go play Rez. Area 1 if you like, Area 4 is a blinder too, Area 5 if you want the majesty. And if you don’t already own Rez? Well, you’ve got a shopping trip to do (to XBLA, or off to eBay for some PS2 or Dreamcast Rezzing). Go on; you won’t regret it.


It’s been a pretty grim start to the gaming New Year, all up. I spent a couple of days sick in bed (yes – too sick to hold a DS up), and 343 Industries can’t seem to keep their Custom Challenges running smoothly anymore, thus butchering my cRedit earning potential (but not before I catapulted myself to Mythic rank). Not to mention the fact that I’ve finally gotten into the groove of belatedly writing on my other blog… resulting in the mojo drifting a little.

Yes, I fired up Halo: Anniversary to try and claw at some Achievements… but after an hour, I felt like I was bashing my head against a brick wall. I tried memorising more of my final Challenge Room in Bionic Commando: Rearmed, but I think my muscle memory is full about ten seconds into the room. Finally – surprisingly – I found something to enthuse about: WipEout HD.

Now, let’s get one thing quite clear: I’m absolutely rubbish at WipEout HD. I’ve struggled to complete the first four grids of the Campaign on Novice, and that’s with the edge-autosteering Pilot Assist on… because if I turn Pilot Assist off, I spend most of the race rubbing walls until I explode. And that’s no way to earn loyalty points.

I find WipEout HD to be quite… ummm… loose in the control department; it’s certainly no Ridge Racer 6 (with its solid and dependable drift mechanic), and nor is it taut like F-Zero GX (or, at least, like many of the craft within GX). But I knew that was the case before I “purchased” it (as part of the “Wefucked uplcome Back” package following last year’s PSN debacle) – I knew that it would be a List-lingerer, that it would take some serious dedication. And that’s where I find myself now, at the foot of a mighty mountain to climb…

…but I’ve just found this fantastic Beginner Basics video – and I’ve already picked out some control tweaks to perform. But, most importantly, I’ve just spied the message 21:40 into the video… and I’m now switching off Pilot Assist. I’ll suffer, to be sure, but I have to learn sometime.

Buggered if I know how I managed to get 18% of the Trophies with Pilot Assist on, though ;)

My 2012 Gaming Resolutions

So… Gaming Resolutions, eh? These are rapidly becoming a bit of a joke with me.

Every year I present a collection of commitments, any of which in isolation look completely manageable, and every year I fail to satisfy those commitments. Every year, I plan to pare The List down, and every year it is merely whittled.

And, more to the point, every year I feel myself drifting further away from the mainstream gamer. As I write this, I’m listening to Giant Bomb’s 2011 Deliberations, and I’ve played precisely zero of their Top Ten. True, I want to play Saints Row: The Third, Bastion, and Portal 2, and they’ll undoubtedly be picked up next year, but still… none of them.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at last year’s Resolutions…

…to leave 2011 with The List pared back to 50. No shit. I’ve just pulled that number out of my arse, and I’m sticking to it.

Verdict: Fail. The List currently sits at 67. So that’s actually a Big Fail.

…to keep on top of stuff obtained through the year. Again. Last year’s goal of 50% was completely reasonable, yet I missed it. Try harder!

Verdict: Thirteen new games appeared this year; seven of those were off The List by year’s end. Success!

…to make an impact on every platform. Again. But do it this time!

Verdict: Fail fail faility fail. The only platforms that were touched were the Wii (and I only just scraped that in), 360, PS3, and DS. Sounds like a comprehensive FAIL.

…to clear up some of the doubles. This will feed in nicely to the pruning of The List indicated above; after all, I’ve got two copies of No More Heroes 2. Three copies of Jet Set Radio! Two copies of Ikaruga… ummm, let’s not fret about that one too much ;)

Verdict: Gimme an “F”. Gimme an “A”. Gimme an “I”. Gimme an “L”. What does it spell? petee.

…to clear up some of the lingering 360 titles. There’s a bunch of games in which I’ve acquired all the Achievements, but haven’t crossed off The List. Ninety-Nine Nights needs a bit of OCD collection lovin’, Rez needs some 100% levels. Let’s get some of those wrapped up, yeah?

Verdict: What starts with “F”, and sounds like “tail”? That’s right – me.

Clearly, 2011 was outright shithouse in terms of Resolution adherence. So what do I do – choose more resolutions that look attainable, then dismally fail yet again? Or do I pare down expectations somewhat?

Let’s find out…

In 2012, I resolve…

  • …to leave 2012 with The List pared back to… 64. Yep, the same target as two years ago. Soft, but – on previous efforts – pretty unlikely.
  • …to (still) keep on top of stuff obtained through the year. 50% is fine, since it means that some of the back catalogue is getting wrapped up.
  • …to knock Perfect Dark Zero, Skyward Sword, Uncharted 2, and Halo: Anniversary off The List.
  • …to beat Luxor 2‘s Normal skill level.
  • …to make some inroads on both WipEout HD and F-Zero GX. Racing ahoy!
  • …to clear up some of the lingering 360 titles… fo’ real this time. Ninety-Nine Nights, Rez, Shadow Complex.
  • …to break at least 500 GS in Child of Eden.
  • …to play something new; something outside the stuff I know I like. To take a risk!

So there you have it – my targets for the next year. Fewer broad sweeping statements, and more focus on the current generations (because there’s a technological change a-comin’, kids).

And, cut’n’pasting a line from previous years… What are your Gaming Resolutions for 2012?


A couple of months ago, I lamented on my OCD’s intentions towards Halo: Reach. I broke down Reach‘s driving forces to three elements: a co-op Legendary run, all Commendations, and hitting the rank of Inheritor.

Absolutely no effort has been put into the Legendary run, and Commendation progress has ranged from slow (Firefight) to steady (Campaign) to non-existent (Multiplayer). cRedit accumulation, though, had been consistently around one hundred thousand cR per week… pretty slim returns, really, considering that the prized Inheritor rank requires a mere twenty million cRedits.

But this week, after having pushed through my Normal run through Halo: Anniversary (clearing up a heap of the Achievements as I went), I made a couple of discoveries. The first was a rather easy hundred thousand cR (a “reward” for finding all the Terminals in Anniversary) – not bad for ten minutes work. The second discovery, though, has a far greater impact on my OCD… for it has the ability to net about a hundred cRedits per day.

I remember laughing at the cRedit cap, knowing I’d never come near it; I’ve hit it twice in the last week.

Two words: Custom Challenges.

They’re like Reach‘s Daily Challenges, but… bigger. Plumper.

So the couple of days has seen a lovely little routine play out: hammer out some Custom Challenges. Scoot across for a bit more Anniversary. Back to Reach, across to Bionic Commando: Rearmed (for some more attempts at those dexterously brutal Challenge Rooms), back to Reach, out for Christmas drinks.

It’s a pretty tough life, this.

Zelda: Combat Evolved

Ever since I started dicking around with the idea of mungifying the names of the games I’d been playing as a cheap way of coming up with a title for blog posts, it’s been a little piece of joy each week twisting the words around to fit the mood summoned by the games.

This week, however, the title – whilst cheap – was just too easy.

The namesakes (or gamesakes, right readers?) should be easy to figure out – and rightly so, because the gaming time I could scrounge together in the last week (in amongst work, acting classes, and more christmas celebrations (or cellarbrations, right readers?) was completely and willingly devoted to Skyward Sword and Halo: Anniversary.

After around fifty-seven-and-a-half hours, my first playthrough of Zelda: Skyward Sword wrapped up with a thumb-numbing final boss battle. And (apart from the previously-mentioned, dreadfully slow) first three hours of treacle, it was an absolute delight. I stuck with my commitment not to consult GameFAQs until after I’d finished the game, and that turned out to be a great move; combined with my self-imposed media blackout prior to the game’s release (early review scores excepted, of course), it meant that each and every step was a surprise. The boss battles were just fantastic: the second dungeon battle, as I briefly mentioned before, stands out as being wonderfully creative and stupidly good fun. Dungeon puzzles were both subtly signposted and devious: the collection of Link’s collected items included a few regulars, but the introduction of the new items allowed a freshness and depth to the puzzles that always left me grinning like a loon.

And that’s the great thing about the latest Zelda installment: it leaves you feeling good. And, more surprisingly, it made me feel smart. And that’s a wonderful feeling to get from a game, and certainly not something that’s been conjured up for quite a while now. But now the freshness – and surprises – have passed; I know what the game’s got up its sleeves. It’ll be interesting to see what my Hero Mode playthrough will yield (yes, there’s a “hard” mode to do, along with a mere handful of collectibles to snaffle that I missed on my FAQ-Free run) when I can apply myself to the task…

…in the meantime, though, I’m playing a game which offers the very opposite of surprises: Halo: Anniversary. Now, I’m no Halo guru, but I played the original on the Xbox a lot – so the levels are very familiar to me.

So why did I find it so hard to get back into the Anniversary love-letter? Normally it’s the fear of the unknown that prevents me from plunging into games; this week, however, it was almost like the fear of the familiar.

But one night I forced myself to load up my most recent save – right at the start of the Truth and Reconciliation sniper spree. Goading myself to pick up an Achievement associated with the start of that level seemed to be the tonic; suddenly, I was sucked back into the realm of Halo. The completion of Skyward Sword gave me time to run-and-gun my way through the next level-and-a-half, with a slight sidetrip to snaffle the tricky Bandanna skull. But I’m feeling it again… that Halo joy is back.

Next week? After I finish my first run through Anniversary, I might start on some of those more belligerent Achievements – speed running The Library on Legendary? Oh, alright then :)

Then again, Skyward Sword‘s Hero Mode beckons…

Reach Among Assassins: Anniversary Sword Deception

Sure, there’s been many weeks of non-blogging, but that’s not to say that there’s not been many games played at The Moobaarn… quite the opposite, in fact. In between festival shows and acting classes and 80’s Brat Pack film sessions, I’ve been squeezing in Silly Season games wherever possible.

So welcome to this brain-dump. All signs point to it being a mess.

Let’s start with the easy stuff, first: I’m now a Field Marshall in Halo: Reach – with only 579,000 cRedits required to my next rank bump! Oh Reach, you’ll be the death of me.

Alongside the Reach Dailies, I’ve been trying to regularly squeeze in a couple of games of Uncharted 2 multiplayer… and I feel compelled to say that I’m really quite enjoying it. The twenty-odd-thousand people still playing online seem to be remarkably similar in ability – certainly compared to (say) Reach, or even Uncharted 3. There seem to be kills available for everyone, with the best players (everyone else) maybe only doubling the kill-count of the lowly (i.e., me). And I think the relatively even playing field makes it a bit more fun to play right now, as opposed to its sequel – I popped on for my second session of Uncharted 3 multiplayer and was quite soundly trounced, despite ranking up a couple of levels (I’m up to 12 and 6, respectively. A long way to go!)

I also pottered through my second playthrough (on Normal) of Uncharted 2‘s campaign. And, I have to admit, it was a touch more enjoyable on that run – though the emotional leaps-of-faith the game wants the player to take are still absurd (let’s all shed a tear over the team-killing Nazi who we’ve known for five minutes). And with that completed, I started my second playthrough of Uncharted 3… and, again, was disappointed.

I have to admit that it’s kind of satisfying (in a self-validation kind of way) to see some of the (admittedly soft) backlash against Uncharted 3. The game seems to be walking a fine line between game-of-the-year and starting-to-creak; criticism is rife. My favourite analysis was Michael Abbott’s piece over on Brainy Gamer (which also has a great podcast); truthfully, I’m a bit pissy about it, because I had ten half-coherent lines written that have been rendered pointless by Abbott’s far more eloquent take on things.

Abbot’s central assertion – “playing Uncharted 3 is less about watching a film than shooting a film” – is pretty much beyond dispute. But my contention is that, with the game trying to act like a movie director, with the player reduced to the role of an actor (or, more appropriately, a stuntman), there’s an implicit limitation to the freedom on offer; as my acting coach tells me, the writer fucking hates it when an actor drifts off script.

But what other options are available to the gaming world if we chase the action-movie trope? The player cannot be the director in an interactive storytelling experience; after all, we’re all griefers at heart. You can imagine the YouTube clips of Drake leaving Elena to die, hot-footing away with Chloe at the first available opportunity… it’s impossible to constrain the player, and yet still make them feel in complete control of a rolling storyline. There’s no real answers out there at the moment, but I’m pretty certain – despite all the plaudits – that Naughty Dog have done pretty much the best they can do within that style of narrative… it’s just that they’ve chosen a dead-end path.

And I’m buggered if I know what the “right” path forward is.

But back to the actual game for a moment: despite the slick presentation (a noticeable improvement on Uncharted 2, with the exception of less in-game tweaking options… maybe a consequence of the tighter storytelling control?), it’s still an experience that’s story first, gameplay second. But at least Naughty Dog put some effort into melding the narrative and interactivity together…

…which is more than what can be said of Assassin’s Creed. After much good-natured goading from a dear friend, I finally decided to see what this series is all about – and, not being the kind of person who can start a series halfway through, I bit the bullet and launched straight into the original, knowing full well its reputation for being an occasionally glitchy grind.

What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the extent of the grind.

Now, I love a good grind, I really do, but Assassin’s Creed takes it to new levels. The game itself has some glorious gameplay – all half-an-hour of it. Seriously. Within half-an-hour, you’ve seen all the glory on offer. There’s some wonderful, free-flowing combat and counters and running; it’s genuinely exciting running around knifing people, and even when an attempt at a stealth kill fails and you become surrounded by a cluster of enemies, the rhythmic RT-X bounce eventually kills them all with little thought.

But that half-an-hour of fun? You’re repeating it another sixty times. And every time you hear a rescued civilian say “another minute and they’d have made off with me” in a rotten English accent, you start wondering whether you’re on the right team or not. Of course, the game’s plot likes to suggest that, too… but I’ve never – ever – felt more divorced from a game’s storyline. Plot is purely injected through awkward cutscenes, with absolutely no attempt to engage the player through the gameplay. I dreaded the cutscenes, watching them only through duty, and feeling painfully bored throughout. But then it was back into the game for another half-hour of bliss like the last one…

Still, Assassin’s Creed was only on The List for a grand total of eight days, so that’s reasonable enough… but I doubt I’ll be firing it up again anytime soon. And I highly recommend that anyone thinking of playing it not plan on speeding through it… for that way frustration lies.

With Assassin’s Creed all wrapped up, I waited anxiously for the release of Halo: Anniversary; the original Halo holds a very special place in my heart, and I was really looking forward to sinking my teeth back into it.

Why, then, have I barely touched it?

I don’t know, I really don’t. I started a Normal game (just to get back into the groove of the levels), and pushed through the first through levels in quick order… but at the beginning of “Truth and Reconciliation”, I just turned it off. I didn’t want to face that night-sniping cliff-face crawl, followed by the bastard Belly of the Beast battle, followed by the fight through the Covenant craft… it all felt a bit too daunting.

Luckily, the rest of my life saved me from worrying about it too much… and then the latest Zelda game was released, closing out my Silly Season.

Now – first impressions of Skyward Sword were not great. Yes, the graphics really are lovely, the controls take a bit of re-learning before regaining their familiar efficacy, but dear god it’s a slow opening (something I also mentioned when I wrote about Twilight Princess five years ago). But here’s the good bit: I’ve now played twelve-and-a-half hours, and I’ve only just reached the second dungeon.

So there goes all my credibility as a gamer.

Truth be told, I’ve had a ton of fun just piss-farting around: I’m constantly leaving my current task to see if any other side-quests have opened up. I’m constantly returning to the Skyloft hub to watch hint movies for tasks I’ve already completed! Now, it’s not smooth sailing yet: I’ve yet to figure out how to collect bugs effectively, I barely made it through the first boss fight with one heart intact, and Skulltulas are my most feared enemy… but I’m through the boring stuff. I can sense the good stuff to come. And I’m bloody loving it.

So get ready for six weeks of Skyward Sword updates ;)