Teeth Gnashing

Right! Back into the fray…

There’s been no updates the last couple of weeksmonths because of a number of reasons – the first of which is actually a really good excuse. My old web host, MD Web Hosting, decided it’d be a lovely and completely non-impactful idea to change the web server that moobaa.com was hosted on. That’s all fine and good, but they only decided to do this six days after the old server crashed. That’s six days without e-mail, websites, everything. Then, when they eventually responded to my clearly foolish request for web hosting (gasp!) the replacement server – although admittedly much quicker – was also bereft of any cgi-bin support – hence, my blog-powering MovableType installation was… um… dead.

So – off to a new host, then. Ilisys, for those who care, recommended by a friend and sealed by the “carbon neutral” flyer. Support has been excellent, and everything else feels great – though it’s a real flashback dropping back to a Linux host. And, since I was changing hosting providers and OSes, I took the opportunity to re-visit my choice of blogging platform – and bugger me if WordPress hasn’t grown a massive set of balls since I last looked at it. It’s now approximately ten times easier to install than my old MovableType platform, and doesn’t suffer from the annoying “publish” stage that MT did… The flipside of this is, of course, that pages are dynamically served, but for the audience numbers I’ve got (single-digits for both my blogs, I’m sure) it shouldn’t be an issue.

So – welcome to the new look (though the Theme should be changing as I tweak), and for those of you who rely on RSS please note the new RSS feed location (though, hopefully, the old one should continue working).

Anyway… onto the gaming.

To cut a (very) long story short, the past couple of months has been a real mix. It started off brilliantly; I got completely sucked back into Excite Truck, despite the nastiness of the outstanding tasks: Super Challenges are a real pain in the arse. A bit of concerted effort saw the last Ring Challenge in Fiji fall; a handy hint is that strategic crashing can make all the difference. The Smash Challenges also fell relatively quickly – luck and aggression in equal doses seem to be the recipe there. But the final two Gate Challenges had me stomping and swearing. A lot. Especially when a “perfect” run in Canada saw my score two points shy of the S-Rank target. The China Challenge just continually kicked my arse; I rarely finished the course, and never within cooee of the target score.

Firing up the Wii at half-time whilst watching the footy, I thought I’d give both tracks a quick bash – for “practise”. And bugger me dead if I didn’t completely nail both courses, one after the other, in a feat of driving the likes of which I’ll never achieve again. Yes, all Challenge S-Ranks were snaffled, I’ve got some pretty stars on the Excite Truck title screen, and a bunch of fun racing yielded all the trophies on offer. Excite Truck is off The List.

A quick tinker turned into a 20-hour, week-spanning 100% Psychonauts run, which re-affirmed the sheer bliss that is this game. I’d be quite satisfied if Schafer’s gem was the epitome of gaming – the graphics are superb (try running up to the camp Lodge at night), the sound is perfect, and the gameplay is divine. On my second time through the game, even the final couple of levels (which I’d initially considered ridiculously unbalanced) posed no problems, and the OC-collect-em-up was a delight. Totally worth it – if you’ve got a 360, download it on XBLA Originals; buy the PC version on Steam, and the Xbox & PS2 versions are available at the Double Fine store (which also sells a truckload of other Psychonauts goodies, including some great hoodies – you’ll see me strutting around in the burgundy – and an adorable Mr Pokeylope one-piece baby thingy for the smaller gamers out there).

Mutant Storm Reloaded kept the high-score bug well fed, until I got seriously – seriously – waylaid by Mutant Storm Empire. Not only did I hammer out the OCD-tastic “All Beastie Combos” Achievement, but – through the application of plenty of blood, sweat, and swearing – I nabbed the “Black Belt Grandmaster”, too. Bloody proud of that, I am; even though it pales into insignificance compared to the difficulty of its predecessor, it’s still no cakewalk. The high-score chasing on Empire also sees me in the Top 40 worldwide for Tally Mode, and Top 80 for Adventure Mode – not bad for a rubbishy player such as myself.

I also played Ikaruga and, in doing so, knocked major chunks off my completion percentage that I’m only now recovering. Dear lord, I am supremely poor at that game. I managed to cherry-pick a few Achievements (namely the easy beat-the-boss events), but I’ll be arsed if I’ll ever be able to nut out the A-ranks…

Killer7 is also off The List now, thanks to a blast through Normal and Hard skill levels, followed by the quite awesomely tricky Killer 8 (Bloodbath) mode. The Hopper 7 joke level was a lovely cherry-on-top, a tongue-in-cheek wrap-up to a stunning game. More to come on that.

After my previous rants and raves about the shitty statements by XBLA management, they ever-so-cleverly managed to win me (and millions of others) over with their superlative Summer of Arcade – which managed to get two (and maybe three) purchases out of me. Geometry Wars 2 kicked off proceedings, improving on the original XBLA title in nearly every way and proving to be more fun than a very fun thing indeed – except for the “Wax Off” and “Treaty” Achievements, those were fucking annoying. Braid followed, and deserves each and every superlative given to it – the initial time-controlling platform hijinks, however intoxicating, gave way to fiendish level design and cerebral delight. The final level was stunning – despite the learned lack-of-peril, I felt a genuine sense of panic and dread as flame chased Tim across the screen… Gorgeous plot twist? Epilogue which strays dangerously close to self-indulgence? Oh yes – it all makes the overall package feel complete, and if this is indicative of higher price-point games, then bring ’em on.

Week three of the Summer of Arcade brought Bionic Commando Rearmed, the demo of which impressed the hell out of me – that’s a “Buy” somewhere down the road. Despite the gorgeous pre-release screenshots, Galaga Legions was singularly unimpressive… A sentiment repeated a week later with the much-anticipated Castle Crashers, which seemed to be a stunningly well-produced button-masher. And I’m not overly fond of button mashers.

But now I seem to be in a Texas Hold’Em rut, trying to eke out the final Achievements to get this freebie blight off The List. A bit of concerted effort – and learning to curb my instinct to go All In when I get a card 10-or-above – has yielded a few cheevos, but there’s a long grind to $1,000,000 ahead – I’m currently at $369,000.

A few drunken games of Space Giraffe, the odd cack-handed wobble at Geometry Wars, a disappointing poke around Burnout Paradise‘s Cagney update, and a heart-racingly brilliant flogging of Burnout Paradise‘s Bikes update rounds out an eventful couple of months. A few games conquered, a few games acquired, a few games pending. And a lot to write about.

5 thoughts on “Teeth Gnashing”

  1. Have you done the secret stars and the speed run on Braid? The subtext in Braid (if you’ve not read a plot spoiler) is great, but confusing as hell.

    Also, if you’re looking for a present for our new arrival, that one-piece… ;).

  2. good to see ya back online again, although all your old posts are now top of the list in Google Reader! lol, stupid Google Reader – the XML has a date field in it, so use it! ;-P

    talking of burnout paradise, i’ve just ordered it on the basis that it must now be one of the best value racing games out there! I know they’ve probably just held back some stuff from the original to make it look like a load of generous free-of-charge updates, but i must admit, it’s a damn good game for £24.99 (which is what it now costs at Play.com)!

    Good choice on WordPress too – it is a great blog platform… you wanna get your pretty URLs sorted though – have a look for the mod_rewrite stuff in the docs – i’m sure it’s in there somewhere and now you’re on a Linux box, it should be easy!

  3. @ aureole: I’ve only snaffled one of the secret stars on Braid, and can barely scrape through half of the short time trials! That last Achievement is going to take a fair chunk of effort, I reckon :}

    @ Richard: yeah, I’ll sort the old URLs eventually. Got to get my other blog WordPress-ified first, though… :} But, most importantly, go out and hunt down Paradise right now – it’s really very good, and utterly fantastic with mates :)

  4. seriously, though, how great is Psychonauts? It’s funny running into this amazing gem that everyone else has experienced ages ago and falling in love with it. The challenges are nice and rewarding: getting the safes is weird downer seeing that half the stories are really sad, but enough to make me obsessive about getting them. 100% figments though? Not happening.

  5. Oh yes – Psychonauts is one of the best gaming experiences of my year, no doubt. Unfortunately, it shares that honour with No More Heroes, Rez HD, Braid and Killer7 – though the latter technically has a 30 Dec 2007 start-date.

    Yes, I record such things ;)

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