2011: The Year in Review

And so, as 2011 draws to a close, I have this lingering feeling that – for me – it was a pretty rubbish year for gaming. Which seems like an odd thing to say, with so many big titles that should have tickled my fancy. But there were massive tracts where I completely lost my mojo, and where I couldn’t bring myself to write at all; there were some foolish purchases, and a lot of buyer’s remorse.

The List barely shrank, a result of thirteen new games being ever-so-slightly outweighed by fourteen completed. But only seven of those new titles were released in 2011, which really limits my ability to talk about the “current” state of gaming. So, as a result, my annual collection of half-arsed awards will likely span a number of years.

But all that sounds rather morose, and that’s not the point of these awards; so let’s bring the fun!

Proudest Achievement of the Year: Whilst I could happily slot Uncharted‘s Crushing Trophy in here, it’s pretty hard to go past the mountain of sweat and hope that had to be scaled for Gears of War‘s Seriously Achievement – even though it was almost entirely boosted. Whilst not a patch on the latest version of Seriously (which one of my friends acquired after an estimated 1100 hours), the uncertainty behind the original gives it a special place in every recipient’s heart. Massive kudos to my boosting crew for their seemingly endless help, without which I would still be stuck on less than 200 kills.

The “Friendly Tumour” Award: Another award for the game that initially hides its charms, but grows on you, this has to go to the original Uncharted; despite having picked up last year’s Shrugging “Huh?” Award, the harder difficulty levels completely won me over… yet another instance of difficulty making a game better.

Disappointment of the Year: Uncharted 3 (and, to a lesser extent, Uncharted 2). After the joy I (eventually) found in their predecessor, it was sad to see the much-lauded sequel stray away from that open-combat formula into tightly choreographed set-pieces which, whilst gorgeous to look at, eschew gameplay for storytelling spectacle. The latest chapter just epitomises style over substance.

Multiplayer Moment of the Year: Teaming up with gibajon to tackle Kameo‘s Time Attack Achievements. Each level became a puzzle, a carefully choreographed piece of complementary teamwork, with massive relief when we successfully got each A-Rank… and to then discover that our scores were all within the Top 50 in the world – well, that was pretty bloody special.

Under-Appreciated Game of the Year: Despite being another potential victim of style over substance, with simplistic and extremely limited gameplay, Enslaved gets the nod here for its astounding graphical presentation, genuine heart in the storytelling, and amazingly good DLC extension. Totally recommended as a gentle, enthralling game.

The “What Have I Done?” Time-Sink Tentacle: A lot of people raved about the free-roaming nuttery of Just Cause 2; for me, it was an OCD nightmare. Two playthroughs of over one hundred hours each, with every possible side-mission, destructible, and collectible covered off. And, due to a bug in the game, the maximum you can get is an annoying 99.95%.

The “About Bloody Time” Conferral: This could go to the insidious Wii Play, a List-dweller for far too long (until a recent sick-day saw me twist my way to Pose Mii victory), but instead it goes to the mainstream gaming press, for growing a pair of balls and daring to say something negative about some of the recent AAA-titles.

AAA-HypeTitle I Missed Award: More Modern Warfare? More Elder Scrolls? More Assassin’s Creed? Well, I at least played the first of that series. Still, I appear to remain well outside the mainstream gaming zeitgeist.

The Ingénue Infrastructure Gold Star: Come on… you didn’t expect me to forget about Sony’s little problem earlier in the year, did you? Well, at least it got me playing the PS3 again, with a couple of decent freebie games as compensation for wide-open web servers.

The Nutball of the Year Coconut: I love me some crazy game stuff. Shadows of the Damned brought tawdry schoolboy humour, coupled with a talking skull that transforms into a gun that transforms into a motorcycle, hallucinatory sections where you run over your girlfriend’s lingerie-clad body, and boss fights that included giant goat-headed demons pissing evil onto statues. But it was pipped by the non-stop visual orgasm that is Child of Eden – and there’s no better demonstration of that than Giant Bomb’s Quick Look. The whole video is pretty great (“September 11, 2019… too soon, man”), but if you’re after the infamous Space Whale comments, skip about 22 minutes in.

Boomshankalank – that’s 2011 over and done with. And, as with last year, I don’t have a post ready-to-go about my game of the year… but that’s okay, because my Game of the Year is a bit of a no-brainer. While it arrived late in the year, the game that impressed me most was such a wonderfully deep experience that it almost wiped the memories of the games that preceded it.

My 2011 Game of the Year is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Despite an almost impossibly slow opening, the latest Zelda iteration has such wonderfully emergent gameplay that there doesn’t seem to be a wasted second as you progress through the plethora of tasks at hand. It’s a game that I cannot wait to re-visit – something my OCD will accommodate, with another pair of playthroughs required.

And so, without further ado… Happy New Year!

Reach for the Damned

Last week? 225 words. This week? Fewer.

Of course, this week saw more Halo: Reach… plump dailies make the cRedit snaffling easier. Less than 102,000 cR to go until Field Marshall rank.

The only other game that got a look in? Shadows of the Damned. The Legion Hunter difficulty has been conquered (and the last of its Achievements popped), with the only tricky bits being the last two bosses. The earlier of the two has a well-known “issue” that, whilst easy to work around, still makes the battle tough; the final boss was more difficult, with ammo in scant supply and constantly consuming my (thankfully well-stocked) health-providing drinks. But, as premature congratulations popped into my TrueAchievements feed, I leapt back into the fray on the hardest difficulty level: Satanic Hell. And if the jump to Legion Hunter was significant, it was bettered by Satanic Hell; one hit from a demon leaves the screen throbbing red, and George possessed a one-hit kill (guess how I found that out).

But my gems have been glitched already, and I’m pushing ahead – lord knows how I’m going to manage that final boss, though. That will probably be the reason Shadows remains on The List.

Nothing to see here…

Last week, I opened my post with the blunt promise that it would be “short, sharp and shiny” – then proceeded to blather on for another seven hundred words.

No chance of that this week, simply because there’s precious little to opine on.

Halo: Reach, with its 343 Industries-fattened Daily Challenges, gets a look-in every second day; less than 200,000 cR to Field Marshall, now. And Child of Eden gave up an Achievement for hammering through the easiest level on the Hard difficulty setting. But the only game that’s got any serious playtime this week has been Shadows of the Damned.

Whilst a good sixth of my second playthrough was spent glitching Red Gems (to ensure that Garcia Fucking Hotspur’s weapons were at their most powerful), the second run – on Normal, or “Demon Hunter” difficulty – proved to be four hours quicker than the first, weighing in at a lazy twelve hours. The game didn’t really seem that much harder than the easiest difficulty; but, now that I’ve leapt straight into a Hard (“Legion Hunter”) playthrough, the difference is more apparent: being struck by a demon is now a worrisome event, with the potential for the second strike being fatal. Still, I’m in the midst of the gem glitching again, and looking forward to the rest of the game… although tales of buggy final boss encounters concern me somewhat.

225 words. Now that is short.


Short, sharp and shiny this week, since not much gaming has taken place in the last seven days (due mainly to a spot of sickness, the Adelaide Festival of Ideas, and offering oodles of moral support to a friend in need).

After belting through Uncharted 2 last week, I wanted a bit of a palate cleanser; I decided to push on and finish my first (Easy – or “Lemon Hunter”) playthrough of Shadows of the Damned. I noted in my last post that the game’s writing had been improving as the game went on; later chapters are a cunning mix of frustration (there’s lots of instakills) and glee, especially once the weapons get amped up and the demon parts start flying. There’s some wonderful nuttery (the oft-cited segments where you control the protagonist as he runs over an enormous rendition of his girlfriend’s lingerie-clad body) and a few choice bits of dialogue; the bosses aren’t too obtuse, and it was all a good bit of fun. Lemon Hunter complete; three difficulties to go!

Having got that out of the way, I thought I’d bounce back to Uncharted 2 for a second playthrough; I managed to get to the first of the stealth bits before turning the PS3 off in disgust. I didn’t mention hating the stealth segments in my last post, but my word I thought they were awful. And far too plentiful! So that’s a nice little turn-off.

Feeling spurned, and having snaffled a fair few GamerSmarties from Shadows, I started poring over my 360 titles for more gettable Achievements… and decided to give Child of Eden another bash. Playing through the earlier – and hence familiar – levels was fine, but when I attempted the fourth level again I was reminded at why I found it tough going previously: the “game over” mechanism amounts to little more than a very sudden (and occasionally disorientating) message that can be crudely translated as “fuck you”.

And that, y’know, doesn’t really inspire me to leap back into the fray.

Still, I was convinced that Eden was at least beatable… and, after many attempts, I managed to squeeze through the end of the Passion Archive. That unlocked the final regular level, and when my first attempt lasted for a good fifteen minutes before that blunt message reappeared (doubly galling given the glacial pace of the Journey Archive’s opening minutes), I had a peek at YouTube for a level playthrough… only to discover that I’d died within about ten seconds of the final “danger” spot of the game.

On my second attempt I breezed through… grabbing a nice, fat, hundred-point Achievement in the process. But the end-game… oh my. For all that Rez managed to emote in its final stages, Eden completely misses the mark for me. Now, I’ve raved about Miz previously, but there’s one crucial bit of evidence that indicates that he and I aren’t on the same page: he thinks Heavenly Star is an awesome and inspiring song, and I most certainly do not. So that’s a bit of a bummer.

My OCD quakes at the thought of having to gold-star all those levels, especially when my first attempt at the Hard difficulty ended in shameful failure. So that will be an interesting learning experience…

One last note: I was sorry to hear of the passing of Steve Jobs. The first computer I ever coded upon in anger was an Apple ][e, and once upon a time (in the System 6-7 days) I was a massive Mac Fanboy – I’ve still got the “Windows 95 = Mac 88” t-shirt to prove it. Whilst everything I’ve read (and heard, from people who’d met and worked with him) indicated that he was a… difficult man in the workplace, I’ve nothing but admiration for the bloody-mindedness that Jobs applied to his companies to ensure they produced the products he thought the public wanted. Without his focus, I’m certain the smartphone market would be nowhere near as vibrant and exciting as it is now, and the computer market in general would be stuck with beige-box aesthetics. But most of all, I respect Jobs for not caving to the music industry – and for setting a precedent for the paid digital download of media. That’s something that I really do believe in, and without Jobs’ efforts the digital delivery landscape would be a far more fragmented beast than it is now.

Rest in peace, Steve.


After wrapping up my Uncharted Platinum last week (and writing a few thoughts about the game), I decided to return to the previously-disappointing Shadows of the Damned.

My first impressions of Shadows had not been kind; once I got past the fear generated by the awesome soundscapes, I didn’t like the awkward aim-then-fire control mechanism, and it felt like my avatar (the gloriously-named “Garcia Fucking Hotspur”) was a lethargic blob. Enemies were difficult to target, and…

Blah blah blah.

That line from my Uncharted piecemy first impression can be useless – should be tattooed on the backs of my eyelids. Whilst Shadows is by no means brilliant, I had a shitload of fun with it this week; I’m about two-thirds of the way through it, I reckon, and – after ditching my existing save-file and starting again from scratch – it’s been a real romp. I took advantage of a well-known glitch to max all my weapons out very early on; this had the unexpected effect of making me play with a much more carefree manner – a recklessness. Without The Fear, the game become much more engaging for me, and so I got to experience Suda51’s wacky bosses… and the dialogue has just been getting better and better. Garcia struggling to read a storybook was an absolutely brilliant touch.

But, being quite honest, Shadows was only a placeholder, something to pass the time – because I was absolutely gagging to play Uncharted 2. I wanted to hammer the first playthrough, so I fired it up for the first time on Friday night, expecting to spend the weekend romping through Drake’s second outing. Unexpected Grand Final plans on Saturday stymied my intentions, though, but (after a little recuperative snooze) I leapt back into it on Sunday… and finished it that evening. Two big sessions is all it took.

Now – as I’ve said before, my first impression can be useless, so I’m not overly concerned at my comparative lack-of-enthusiasm regarding Uncharted 2 at the moment. But I will tap out a few notes: I love the new grenade mechanism. I hate the new armoured enemies. I love that the Shiny Teeth from the first game have gone. I hate that they’ve been replaced by shiny eyeballs that make Chloe look like she’s wearing mirrored contacts. Speaking of Chloe… I hate her voice acting – it sounds like it was recorded separately to everyone else. Hate the city bits. Love the temple bits. And it’s still a pretty poorly signposted game, though I know that only annoys me on the first playthrough.

Here’s the thing, though: for all the “hate” mentioned above, I really quite enjoyed belting through Uncharted 2 the first time… certainly far more than I enjoyed the first run of its predecessor. But – and that’s a big “but” – I couldn’t shake the feeling (once again) that I was disconnected from the game somewhat, like my actions didn’t really matter. It really feels like the player is flung from one spectacle to another – and whilst these set-pieces are really quite exciting, and certainly well scripted, I always felt a little cheated when I reflected on them.

But hey – this gaming thing is still a relatively new artform. Uncharted 2 is pointing us in the right direction in terms of storytelling – that moment in Chapter 17 is really, really well done – but we’re not there yet.

Of course, that’s just my first impression, so who knows what I’ll think in a month’s time ;)

Oh – Halo: Reach remains a constant. I’ve just hit General Grade 4; now begins the long climb to the last of the military ranks, Field Marshall. 344,841 cR remaining…

Teaching the Young’uns (Part 1)

After last week’s burnout missive, there’s precious little to report this week; despite the suggestions (some reasonable, some barbaric) that were proposed, I’m no closer to deciding on my next major gaming focus. Between cheap Reach Daily Challenge sniping, I took a lot of the suggestions to heart: I gave Geometry Wars^2 another couple of bashes (I seem to be getting worse with every attempt), I fired up Ikaruga for the first time in aeons (blimey, I need to work on my dexterity – and vision), and gave Shadows of the Damned another run (and gave up in scaredy-pants fear after two checkpoints. And I’m still in Act 2!)

My nephew – who knows little other than his blinkered world of gaming – dropped by with his father on Friday night, and – as usual – asked if he could play something. Now, I’m a real stick-in-the-mud of an uncle: he’s only eleven, and I’m very careful about what I will let him play. I’ve admonished him loudly about buying games like inFAMOUS for his PS3 (and then chastised his parents); while he maintains that he doesn’t like “shooting games”, and attempts to project himself as an angel as a result, he had no qualms whatsoever about running around as Evil Cole, electrocuting civilians with abandon. I asked why he never took the “good” option; his response was that he was just chasing the better weapons.

But I’m not going to moralise right now; instead, I’ll just recount what happens when he asks if he can play a game.

Once upon a time, it was simple: I’d just fire up the Wii. I was happy for him to play nearly anything on my Wii (No More Heroes excepted, of course), and he was happy to do so, even going so far as to carry a number of his own games around with him any time he thought there was going to be a Wii in the vicinity. Since his mother bought him a PS3, however, all passion for the Wii has fallen by the wayside: he’s now very much a graphics hound, and the first phrase out of his mouth when evaluating any game now is usually of the form “the graphics are[n’t] very good.”

Which rankles a bit.

A brief side-story: my ex had a couple of twin nephews that we would take from their parents about once a month. Pizza and gaming we traded for their admiration; we were most definitely the cool aunt and uncle (I was introduced to some of their young school friends at a social gathering with almost mystical awe). These boys, too, originally saw little beyond the images projected on-screen; but, over time, I was able to help them see beyond the visual quality, and to look for other aspects in a game: control, storytelling, feeling. Not my nephew, though. He has resolutely sidestepped any efforts to educate, to expand the way he thinks about games. And that saddens me a lot; he’s obviously passionate about gaming (quite possibly at his health’s expense), but that passion is only skin deep. Anyway…

The Wii’s not good enough for him anymore, and the only games I’ve got on the PS3 are Uncharted, inFAMOUS, and WipEout – one of which he lacks the dedication to play, the other two I think are inappropriate for a boy his age. So we’re onto the 360 – handy, because there’s a lot of XBL Arcade games on the hard-drive that I fire up without leaving my seat (after all, I’m a lazy bugger); on the other hand, there’s not that many that I actually want to see elevated on my gamercard. That’s OK, though, since I’ve got a house profile set up… but what to play?

I’ve tried arcade re-imaginings, like Pac-Man – no interest. Too boring. Costume Quest entertained for awhile, but his habit of not reading on-screen text stymied his ability to progress: no progress, no interest (that buggered up Stacking as well). Twin-stick shooters are an abstraction too far, and I’ve even tried goading him – using the phrase “this is one of my most favorite games ever” – with Space Giraffe.

This week, though, I was at a loss. So I fired up Rez. And he hated it. While he played, I tried explaining why I loved it, but he remained mystified. “Not very good,” surmised my nephew, putting the controller down and picking up his 3DS; “it should have some boss battles.”

“You want a boss battle?” I said, snatching the controller. “Check this out.”

I chatted with my brother as I hammered through the early levels of Area 4. The child was disinterested, and I could hear the beeps and boops as he flitted through various NES-era games that he downloaded as part of the 3DS Ambassador Program. Despite my brother’s blank expression as he watched the glowing abstractions of Rez flow by, I explained why I thought Rez was such an important game – both personally, and within annals of gaming – and, despite nearly being fifty and having limited understanding of the form, I could see some words get through to him.

And then came Area 4’s boss: the Running Man. “Now this is a boss battle,” I said, and the boy looked up, half-interested. That’s when Area 4’s music picks up pace, becomes ominous… the early stages, abstract collections of cubes, almost lost him, but when the Running Man appeared with a cacophony of crashing drums, his curiosity was piqued.

“Can I have another go?” he asked. He tried Area 4, convinced he was better gamer than his uncle; he died early. But I could see some absorption: a look beyond the screen. A foot almost imperceptibly tapping with the rhythm.

Then I fired up Child of Eden.

My brother was left murmuring to himself, for the sake of his child – equal parts of “what the fuck” and “bloody hell that TV’s good.” My nephew tried to play, failed to progress very far, tried again, then asked “this is out on the PS3, isn’t it?”

“Later this year,” I said (September 23 over here).

“I might ask for this for Christmas,” he mused, eyes on the screen.

Now, I’ve no idea whether he means that, or whether he was saying what his cool uncle just wants to hear… but I’ll take that as a win.

But his education isn’t over yet, not by a long shot. I’m still waiting for him to get old enough – no, scratch that, mature enough – to start talking about games on a deeper level. I want him to be astute enough to explain why he does (or does not) like Ico without making me bite my lip in frustration. I want him to be able to win me over and get me to try something new – because, even though he knows I hate fighting games, I’m not going to change my mind and admit that the latest Tekken is awesome because it “looks cool.”

But, since I’m the games-as-presents purchaser in the family, he’s going to get Child of Eden for Christmas anyway. And I’ll (ironically) be goading him until he gets the Platinum.

Another Big Completionist List…

This should be a quick’n’easy weekly post – I’ve mainly played a ton of Halo: Reach. I’m still really enjoying myself – even more so, now that I’ve discovered the gloriously silly Grifball. Running around the map, smashing gravity hammers with scant regard for anyone’s safety (with, thankfully, no punishment for betrayals), and occasionally actually paying attention to the Grifball, is a soothing palate cleanser after a couple of hours of Team SWAT or Firefight Doubles Arcade.

I’ve hammered my way through most of the Colonel Grades, and have just attained the Rank of Brigadier; the targets I mentioned last week were clearly far too low. And with the variety of games I’m comfortable with now, it feels like it’s relatively easy to snaffle 200,000 cRedits a week… if I avoid playing anything else.

And, y’know, I’ve got a few other games to work on as well.

The most overt of the “other” games is Suda 51’s Shadows of the Damned, which I finally got around to starting this week. And, for me, it’s a pretty conflicted game: I’m not into the control mechanism at all, and – as soft as this may seem – I’m finding it a bit too scary to play late at night… thank christ I decided to ignore the game’s gamma-adjustment suggestion. On the plus side, however, there is a generous amount of Suda nuttery on display, and Akira Yamaoka’s soundtrack is fucking amazing. But overall, I’m finding it tough going at the moment – not so much in difficulty, more in desire and application.

But what about the other “other” games – the long-term List-dwellers? My old Gears-boosting buddy Lita asked (on my TA friend-feed) whether I had a breakdown on my outstanding requirements… and I figured that was a pretty good thing to write about (rather than try to recount some sticky-grenade antics from the week’s Halo-play).

Now, a lot of these requirements are driven by my desire to see everything the game’s creator has included – to fully acknowledge their work. It’s not just a matter of Achievements (or Trophies), though they may indeed span the breadth of (or even exceed) what I would have normally deemed “complete”; it’s the satisfaction of the OCD itch that tells me something wonderful may be hidden inside a game’s bits and bytes. To that end, I’ll often do a chunk of research (i.e., hammering GameFAQs) to see what may be embedded before deciding on a reasonable completion target; I’m always open to suggestions, though…


  • Wii Sports: All Pro-levels, all Gold Medals in the practice events (yes, I know there’s a Platinum Medal, and that there are maximum Sports rankings, but I see no need to attain them).
  • Wii Play: All Gold Medals.
  • Paper Mario: I’m almost done with this (though I’d love to replay it at some stage) – I just need to ensure I’ve collected all the recipes.
  • MadWorld: Complete the Hard difficulty level, get all collectibles.
  • Wii Fit Plus: Ummm… no idea, really. Make sure everything’s unlocked? Actually use it again?
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: I’ve got two versions of this – the US and the Japanese. Both should be completed on Bitter difficulty; I’m dreading the return to it, actually.

Xbox 360:

  • Perfect Dark Zero: All Achievements. That covers all the difficulty levels, and I’ve played too much of the multiplayer as it is.
  • Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved: All Achievements.
  • Mutant Storm Reloaded: All Achievements. The one remaining cheevo for this is Black Belt Grandmaster (complete the whole game on the hardest difficulty setting in one go); never going to happen.
  • Robotron 2084: All Achievements. Even less likely to happen than the above. I struggle to make Wave 10, let alone Wave 100.
  • Ninety-Nine Nights: Ah – the first game on this List for which I have all the Achievements, yet is deemed Incomplete. There’s a bunch of random drop collectibles to be snaffled here; quite looking forward to revisiting this at some stage, actually.
  • Lumines Live!: All Achievements, all Skins unlocked, all Puzzles solved.
  • Halo 3: Hey, it’s a Halo… complete Legendary Solo.
  • Boom Boom Rocket: All Achievements. No DLC required, since it was a pack-in freebie.
  • Luxor 2: All Achievements.
  • Rez HD: Oooooh… 100% shoot-down all levels.
  • Ikaruga: All Achievements. The Gamecube version of the game deserves to have all A-Ranks, too. S-Ranks are just pie-in-the-sky thinking.
  • Geometry Wars Evolved^2: All Achievements. Should be doable.
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed: All Achievements. Probably won’t be.
  • Shadow Complex: This has a bunch of internal Master Challenges; I reckon these should be doable (in much the same way that the Braid time-trials got reeled in).
  • Bayonetta: Ah, Bayonetta. Your Achievements came so freely, yet you are less than a third complete. There’s two whole characters (and hence playthroughs) left to go here; one requires all Platinum levels, the other the successful completion of a bastard hard challenge. Never going to happen.
  • After Burner Climax: Christ, I’d forgotten about this. I feel compelled to get all the Score Attack medals. The problem is that I’m incredibly shit at the game.
  • Halo: Reach: Ugh. Witness my torture! 100% Commendations, 100% Armory, Legendary Co-op Campaign, Inheritor Rank. Most of that is insane.
  • Child of Eden: All Achievements. Never, ever, going to happen.
  • Shadows of the Damned: All Achievements, though I think there’s an additional difficulty level unlocked after Legion Hunter. That’d be in-scope, too.

PlayStation 3:

  • Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune: All Trophies. Ugh.
  • WipEout HD Fury: All Trophies. Pretty near impossible, I reckon.


  • Time Splitters 2: All unlockables… ummm… unlocked. This pretty much translates to all Gold Medals, play through on Hard.
  • Panzer Dragoon Orta: Everything in Pandora’s Box unlocked, a successful playthrough on all sub-levels, and a Hard playthrough.
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War: Explore dialog trees and repercussions (tricky!), but I’m not sure whether I’ll force myself to do a Realistic run…
  • Outrun 2: Unlock all Cards. I’ve no idea as to the feasibility of this.
  • Halo 2: Hey, it’s a Halo… complete Legendary Solo. Also create a series of save-points near the Skulls.


  • F-Zero GX: All machine parts unlocked, Story Mode complete on Hard, all character responses witnessed. Never, ever, ever going to happen.
  • Metroid Prime: Complete on Hard, and complete the embedded version of the original Metroid.
  • Super Monkey Ball and Super Monkey Ball 2: Have all levels unlocked for practice… including Master and Master EX. Incredibly unlikely.

PlayStation 2:

  • Bujingai Swordmaster: All coins collected, all goodies unlocked.
  • Frequency and Amplitude: All songs unlocked.
  • Katamari Damacy: Roll up all the countries in the end segment, and get 75% or better in the Constellation levels.
  • We Love Katamari: Collect all items. Don’t really know about any of the levels yet; I’ve not played this since the weekend after I bought it.
  • Super Galdelic Hour: Check to see whether the end-week sketch image changes depending on results.
  • Vib Ribbon: All Gold.
  • N2O: Complete on Hard.


  • Ballistic: Complete on Easy (yes, that’s right, Easy… because it’s a fucking shit game and there are no additional rewards for completing the higher levels).
  • Tempest 3000: Collect passwords for every (available) level. Oh, and finish the game.


  • Jet Grind Radio and Jet Set Radio: I’ve got three versions of this: US, PAL, and Japanese. I know the US and PAL releases differ, but I don’t know whether I’ve got the slightly-buggy-but-hard-as-nails JP version, or the re-badged US version. Regardless, all three must be played until all characters are unlocked.
  • Space Channel 5: Dunno about this one, really. All routes explored?


  • BattleMorph: Erm… finish it!
  • Cybermorph: Likewise!
  • Defender 2000: All 100 levels, plus a look at all the other bits Yak squeezed in there.
  • Iron Soldier: Just finish it…
  • Tempest 2000: Just the 100 levels, thanks. A playthrough on Beastly will not be required.
  • Towers II: Completion with all four characters. This one may be painful.
  • Zero 5: Figure out what’s going on, first and foremost. Then… finish the game.
  • VidGrid: Complete all the levels.
  • Blue Lightning: No idea about this one at the moment.


  • Starship Titanic: Finish the game, exploring the dialog tree along the way. Play with the parser!
  • GridRunner Revolution: Finish all levels in Normal, Endurance, and Thrusty modes.
  • Space Giraffe: LNLM both visualisations.


  • Electroplankton: Explore all modes!
  • Chrono Trigger: A Level 3 Perfect File, as described here (minus the cat requirement).

So there you have it… all the expectations I have for myself. These are complicated, of course, by the fluid nature of the industry: I feel compelled to focus on the Achievement and Trophy hunting in the short term, in case those mechanisms disappear in the future! That’s also reflected in my current Reach efforts, too – I feel like I have to hit those targets before the Reach servers disappear, or the community dries up.

So – for the very few who make it this far, please comment: what’s the most stupid thing you have ever committed to, in terms of game completion?

Reaching for the Implausible

Last Monday night, having just got home from the first of four movies in the local Bill Murray Bonanza (Ghostbusters!), I decided to have a bit of a spring-clean of my Mac. Unsurprisingly, the desire to organise things nice’n’neat soon passed, leaving a half-arsed confusion in its wake, but one thing I did accomplish was the thinning down of open browser tabs… from fifty(!) to a far more manageable twenty.

One of those browser tabs was my Bungie.net Halo: Reach profile page, which I always left open so I could easily check the latest Challenges… just in case I wanted to chase some easy cRedits. Just before the browser tab disappeared, however, I snuck a glimpse at the latest Weekly Challenge – 10,000 cR for an incredibly easy task. “No problems,” I thought, and fired up Reach for the first time in months.

It's-a me... petee-moo.
Hello, I’m petee moobaa… I’ll be your target this evening.

Several hours later I forced myself to go to bed, several Daily Challenges conquered alongside significant progress on the Weekly. But I’d been bitten again; my wandering attention had been grabbed by Reach. And that’s a bit of a problem, because – in terms of List-worthiness – I don’t really know how much Reach will actually placate my OCD niggles. All the Achievements have already been acquired, and there’s three clear indicators of complete-ness: Campaign progress (I’ve still got a co-op run to do on Legendary), Commendations (awarded for accruing in-game events), and Rank.

For those (ha! like anyone reads this) who haven’t encountered Reach, I’ll elaborate a little. Commendations are split into three equally-sized categories, and are typically based around kills – Covenant kills in the Campaign and Firefight categories, your online foe in Multiplayer. There’s Commendations for sprees, using certain weapons, destroying vehicles… that sort of thing. Commendations each have five levels before you max them out – Iron, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Onyx – and attaining each of these five levels adds a point to your Commendation rating – there’s a maximum of 225 Commendation points, upon which your Commendation percentage is based.

The problem is that the requirements for some of these Commendations are… ummmmm… insane.

Now, don’t get me wrong – most of the Campaign and Firefight Commendations are relatively easy to snaffle. Manipulate the game into giving you a useful Checkpoint, get your kills, restart from Checkpoint… rinse and repeat. Boring, but doable. But when it comes to (say) the Firefight “Grounded” Commendation – “Destroy an enemy-occupied vehicle in Firefight matchmaking” – well, I’ve seen maybe a total of fifty vehicles in all the Firefight I’ve played (and I’ve played a lot – I’ve got a handful of Commendations at Onyx already).

Let me repeat: I’ve seen fifty.

To get an Onyx Grounded Commendation, you need to destroy six thousand.

So that’s, like, pretty daunting.

And to a cack-handed player like myself, inexperienced in the ways of online FPSs, the multiplayer Commendations seem equally as remote.

But let’s also mention Rank: Rank is based solely on the accumulation of cRedits. You glean cRedits for just about every violent act in Reach, with little bonuses being awarded for completing Challenges (tasks assigned by Bungie that range from the simple – “kill 100 enemies in any game mode in Reach” – to the insane – “complete <level>, Legendary, All Skulls On”). There’s a cap on the number of cRedits you can earn each day – currently, that’s 120,000. And the topmost Rank is Inheritor – which requires an accumulation of twenty million cRedits.

Do the math – that requires hitting the cRedit cap every day for 167 days.

To put that into perspective, I got a lot of my early Firefight Commendations playing Gruntpocalypse (on Corvette, natch), which netted me about one thousand cRedits every fifteen minutes or so (including setup time). I’ve never come close to the cRedit cap.

So there’s my dilemma; my OCD says “you really won’t be happy unless you’ve got 100% Commendations and an Inheritor Rank”, but the pragmatist in me knows that my OCD has no firm grasp on the time required to achieve those goals.

So, then – baby steps. It’s nearly been a year since Reach was released, so why don’t I set some sort of reasonable target for the anniversary?

I decided that I’d aim for 50% Commendations, and up to the Rank of Colonel Grade 3. That left me with about 300,000 cR and about a dozen Commendations to acquire in about six weeks; 50,000 cR a week seemed doable.

I started poking around the hive-mind, looking what The Kids were doing for easy cRedits these days; “Firefight Doubles,” asserted one youngster. Off to Firefight Doubles I went for a look.

And, bugger me, it was insanely good fun – twenty minutes of rushing forward, guns blazing, before being mercilessly slain and starting again, the only penalty being precious seconds (of the maximum allowed twenty minutes) wasted. There was no need for communication between my partner and I; occasionally we’d cover each other, but most of the time it was just plasma-coloured mayhem.

And then, during the end-game, the reward – over 3,200 cR.

Holy shit, I thought. Three thousand for twenty minutes of fun. Now we’re talking.

So I started hammering Firefight Doubles; if there was a lull, a moment where a match wasn’t immediately available, I’d leap into the Rumble Pit, a generic Multiplayer playlist. Now, I’m amazingly shit at multiplayer – my kill/death ratio was sitting down around 0.7 – but I figured that any kill would add to the overall tally. Based on previous performance, I expected that I’d manage two-to-three kills a game.

And I pretty much managed to keep that average up.

Saturday morning, though, I noticed a message pop up as I fired up Reach – big cRedit jackpots in Team SWAT! Now, I’d never played Team SWAT (team-based, no shields, rifles & pistols), but I was willing to give it a bash if there was a potential for a “big jackpot”.

I was slaughtered, a true impediment to my team. Two kills per game, if I was lucky.

But after the third game… boomshanka. Twelve thousand cRedits.

Easy! :)

So – I’ve been playing a shitload of Reach, hopping between Firefight and Team SWAT. And bugger me if I haven’t noticed a tangible increase in my skills – most SWAT games I’m now garnering six or seven kills, and my team appears to be winning more often than not. And the feeling that these old eyes, these old hands, are steadily improving is absolutely joyful; maybe not quite as joyful as breaking through that 50% Commendation barrier, or knowing that I’m already within striking distance of Colonel Grade 3, but… hey, this stuff is fun.

But it’s a bloody long road. And I’m not sure I can reasonably manage it. I suspect that, as with most games lately, boredom will set in and I’ll eventually get distracted, leaving Reach behind… only to return with a vengeance for another hit of the cRedit pipe later.

And all week, Suda 51’s latest game, Shadows of the Damned, lay unopened on the couch armrest, begging to be played.

Kamxor 2, and Supporting the Ones You Love

The précis for the past week reads somewhat similarly to last week’s effort: nothing but Kameo and Luxor 2.

I’ll start with the latter: I think I’ve managed to burn myself out on Luxor yet again, pushing through to Stage 12-4 on Normal (and up to the Supervisor of Fledglings rank); whilst I’m getting some jollies from my conservative approach to grinding through the levels, the rewards have started to be outweighed by the relentless pressure of the game. It’s stopped being fun and, though I’m a mere eleven stages away from another rare achievement (and the chance to get my gamerscore modulo five again), I might have to step away… again.

Kameo, though, is finally – after having picked it up on the 360’s launch – off The List. Monday night saw me knock off the two remaining solo Thorn’s Pass Achievements, and a greedy late night attempt at my final Score Attack A-Rank ended in failure when I neglected obscure game traits – like Kameo’s health. But Tuesday morning I woke up nursing a dribbly, muddle-headed cold, and subsequently had two days away from the office… I still had sufficient hand-eye co-ordination to play, however, and a repeat attempt at the final Score Attack was a half-billion-point success. Enabling Kameo‘s inbuilt cheat modes (through Score Attack unlockables) yielded a simple Expert-mode walkthrough, and with that… Kameo was done.

But I still want to write a longer piece on Kameo, so I plunged straight back in and started a whole new game, just to check whether my memories of the game were correct. And it was a blast – my A-Rank skills allowed me to blitz my way through the game, and I almost 100%-ed the game inside a dozen hours, and my level scores nearly all exceeded the A-Rank requirements (except that bloody Forgotten Forest level – grumble). So – the information gathered will now likely gestate for a couple of months before popping out into an experience-piece (as opposed to opinion-piece, or review).

There’s one more thing I’d like to write about this week (having just pissed away a large amount of time watching stuff on YouTube), and that is the battle that I’m facing on an almost daily basis about whether or not I go on a big game-buying frenzy. Now, let’s be quite clear, here: I’m well aware of the need for retail therapy, but what I’m currently feeling isn’t an instance of that; rather, I’m currently being jostled by the desire to Support the Ones I Love conflicting with the need to reduce The List.

One of my many Other Lists is a collection of names that I feel have earned my immediate support – creators that will get my money almost immediately upon release, no questions asked. But that List has been causing me a lot of double-takes lately; whilst Llamasoft seem to have targeted the non-List-impacting iOS, Double Fine have seen fit to release Trenched which, by all accounts (and I admit to not having even tried the demo), is a tower defence game that requires friends for Good Times (a problem for me, since its release in Europe – where most of my XBL friends are – has been caught up in a legal quagmire). And I’m not a fan of tower defence stuff… at all. Platinum Games have delighted with Bayonetta, and then disgusted with a not-returned-to-in-ages MadWorld; the demo for Vanquish didn’t impress me (on either the 360 or the PS3). And after the stunning Killer7 and No More Heroes, I was shattered by the crapulence of Suda 51’s No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle, and am thus wary of grabbing Shadows of the Damned (especially when Suda 51’s next game is slated to be the zombie-filled Lollipop Chainsaw – because I hate the use of zombies in games). If Shadows is shit, that may put Suda 51 in the three-strikes territory for me (as it has for other people).

In short: I want to buy Vanquish to support Platinum. I want to buy Trenched to support Double Fine. I want to buy Shadows of the Damned to support Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture. But I’m scared by the resultant pressure on The List; whilst Shadows looks easy enough, Vanquish most certainly does not, and I’m already struggling with Luxor, another game-style I don’t get on well with, and I doubt Trenched will offer the same opportunities to brute-force progress.

My arm gets twisted when I hear that sales for recent games have been “disappointing”; whilst I have no real idea how accurate the numbers at VGChartz are, Child of Eden is pegged at less than six-figure-sales, and Shadows of the Damned has struggled to sixty thousand sales (split evenly between the 360 and PS3).

And that, frankly, is bullshit.

I went straight out and bought a brand-spankin’-new copy of Shadows. I’ve not played it yet, but at least I’ve put a penny in Grasshopper’s pocket. Vanquish will have to wait – part of the lust behind that was driven by the discovery of a local store selling lenticular copies (on both platforms) for a mere AU$30. But then that’s almost too cheap; I’d actually rather pay AU$50 to buy it on XBLM (or, I assume, PSN) because I believe in digital delivery, and because I figure Platinum would actually get more out of that.

…oh god, what have I done?