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?

2010: The Year in Review

So, with 2010 drawing to a close, and after enduring my last New Year’s Eve as a thirty-something, I take heart in the old adage: another year older, another year wiser, right?

Erm… not quite.

2010 turned out to be an odd year, rife with emotional turmoil and great steps forward in responsibility, mixed (paradoxically) with chunks of silly self-indugence; and that personal stuff impacted on my beloved hobby somewhat. This year marked the first time in years that I’d failed to complete a game in a calendar month… not once, but twice, with December being barren as well. But I don’t feel as unhappy about that as I thought I would: massive inroads into long-standing bugbears were made in December; the foundation of an assault on The List in the year ahead.

But enough yakking; it’s time for my light-hearted, piss-weak, ridiculously-limited-and-skewed look back on 2010!

The Where-Have-You-Been-All-My-Life Award: Why hello, Miss Fifty-Two Inch Telly with HDMI Inputs; I do love you so very much, and can’t possibly imagine what life would be like without you now… Side-by-side, or Picture-in-picture, is the most wonderful thing to have happened to my Gaming World in aeons. Miss Portal was a worthy runner-up, but so far back in the field it didn’t matter.

Blast From The Past Award: So… Chrono Trigger, eh? 70 hours in, and only one of the thirteen endings unlocked. Bloody nice game too. RPG-grinding goodness just made for those long plane flights I suffer for my work.

Proudest Achievement of the Year: After hours and hours of shit-yourself scaredy-cat timid play, I finally beat Halo: Reach on Legendary… solo. A Monument to All Your Sins was mine.

The “Go Fuck Yourself” Dismissal: Introduced last year, this Award allows me to vent at a game that annoys me. This year’s winner? Astropop. May I never play – or mention – it again.

Disappointment of the Year: Not much of a contest for this one; No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle takes the gong for taking a big steaming shit over everything that was wonderful about the original game (my Game of the Year for 2008).

WTF Gaming Moment of the Year: Pretty much all of Bayonetta. Wackiness from beginning to end.

Surprise Discovery of the Year: Back in 2006 I bought Gears of War and, after completing all the campaign elements, I tried out the online multiplayer… and was disgusted by the nature of the people who habited that world. Arrogant, gobby fucks, the lot of them. So imagine my surprise when, returning to Gears for the first time in three years to do a bit of Achievement boosting, I discovered that the vast majority of people still playing the game were kind, fun-loving, and considerate… a delight to play with. Massive props to Lita, narv, beets, Bolch, Raven, Slash, Danger, and others who I’ve just offended by failing to explicitly mention… you guys (and gal) are awesome :)

The “I am the King of the World” Throw-Your-Arms-In-The-Air Trophy: I like the name of this one, and it goes to Braid – or, more specifically, the whittling down of my speed runs until the final Achievement popped, and all the Hidden Stars were collected. An utterly wonderful game, and a totally doable – and immensely rewarding – Achievement.

The Shrugging “Huh?” (for Most Notable Lack of Comprehension for Critical Acclaim): Uncharted. Why, exactly, do people rave about this game, with its sloppy controls? Or am I only going to figure it out on my fourth painful playthrough?

Multiplayer Moment of the Year: Boosting in Gears when three people popped their “Seriously” Achievement in one session was pretty impressive; but Crackdown 2 takes this award for the Battle Bus adventures I experienced with a bunch of people online.

The More-Of-The-Same… And-We-Like-It-That-Way Appreciation Award: Super Mario Galaxy 2 takes this one easily, after Crackdown 2 sadly failed to challenge it. Galaxy 1.5 it may be, but that’s just fine by me; the gameplay is as solid as a rock, and just as rewarding as the original.

The Easy-Peasy… Oh Shit! Discovery Award: This is a new award intended to honour the game that looked like an easy one to beat, but reveals itself to be a List-haunter. After Burner Climax was a doddle to get all 200 GS in, but obtaining all the medals in Score Attack mode? Insane, and about as doable for me as Wave 100 in Robotron. Whoops… a great example of an impulse buy gone bad.

The “I Love You… Honest” Missive of the Year: Get ready for a surprise… because the PS3 console hardware takes the gong. I love my Slim, it’s a beautiful box of electronic goodness – quiet, cool(-ish), and powerful. If only the DualShock controller, XMB software, and PSN were up to the same high standard…

Under-Appreciated Game of the Year: Why oh why aren’t more people raving about Costume Quest? It was the perfect example of a bite-sized, joyous, downloadable nugget of a game, with a wonderful sense of humour and awareness.

AAA-HypeTitle I Missed Award: CODBLOPs. Gran Turismo 5. Red Dead Redemption. Heavy Rain. Mass Effect 2. Assassin’s Creed. I missed ’em all.

Boomshanka – that’s 2010 over and done with. And, for the first time in ages, I don’t have a post ready-to-go about my game of the year… because I like to have crossed stuff off The List before assembling the final article. I like to have experienced all the game has to offer before I clumsily rant about how great it is. And the two real contenders for my Game of the Year are both still firmly on The List.

Halo: Reach coupled a fantastic campaign (which encouraged you to empathise with characters you knew were going to die) with stunningly flexible multiplayer; rich stats tracking wreaks havoc with my OCD, meaning I’ll never be truly satisfied until I hit that Inheritor rank… in another 19.4 million cRedits’ time. Until then, I’ll be ducking in for my Daily Challenges, popping grunts in the head, and belting through the campaign again… and loving every second of it.

But Reach misses out.

Because my 2010 Game of the Year is Bayonetta.

From the moment I first saw Bayonetta in her first teaser trailer – a few brief glimpses and half a lingering calf – I was smitten. A strong female lead in a game of gunplay? Oh, yes please. But when the first gameplay videos came out, I became conflicted; it looked like a hack-and-slash button masher, a style of play with which I’m completely cack-handed. But when I got my copy (well, two copies, really… with playing cards and Scarborough Fair replica pistols) in my hands, all concerns were erased; Bayonetta plays amazingly well, allowing even the clumsiest player to bludgeon their way through to the utterly gobsmacking ending. The combat also has incredible depth; there’s oodles of different combos and attack options, always something new to learn, but endless options should one route prove too difficult.

I love it.

And the storyline… words can’t describe it. I cannot imagine a crazier progression; sure, I’ve engaged in battles on the wings of flying aircraft before, but I haven’t laid the smack down on a many-cocked god-like creature with my hair-fists before. I’ve not had the opportunity to unleash my hirsute hair suit (see that! clever!) as a demonic monster that bites the heads off enemies while I look on, comfortable in my statuesque nudeness. I’ve not ridden a motorbike along the body of a space-bound rocket, punched a space-statue in the eye, battled a massive deity, then flung her through space, guiding her into the sun.

I mean, seriously… Bayonetta won the WTF Gaming Moment of the Year for good reason. But it’s winning my 2010 Game of the Year for a thousand better reasons.

A New Era…

Last night I had cause to look something up on this blog – a quip I’d made at some stage – and happened to notice that it was nearly three months since I’d posted an entry here. That caught me a little by surprise, really; and now it’s time to make amends, and time to get back to writing. And I’ll open with a grandiose statement:

It’s a new era at The Moobaarn.

Indeed, it’s a new Moobaarn.

In the three months since my last post on this blog, I’ve moved house, bought my first new TV in over 15 years, and – gasp! – acquired a brand spanking new PS3. Luckily, those last two events were linked, thanks to Sony’s latest promotion; I’ve not assisted SCE’s ledger by actually purchasing one of their now-profitable bits of gaming hardware. And the out-of-box experience is great; it’s a lovely chunk of kit, and was set up with no real drama.

Turning the PS3 on yielded another story. It strikes me that the XMB at the core of the PS3’s interface is every bit as cumbersome as the original blade interface of the 360, and completely at odds with the ten-foot interface paradigms of the Wii and the NXE. I reckon the interface – like the DualShock controller, something I’ve never really got on with – was designed by engineers, for engineers; the organisation and design is very clean and regular (symmetrical, in the case of the DualShock), but it fails to compensate for the volume of information… it just doesn’t feel fit-for-purpose, lumbering under the load of the options forced upon it by the opportunities afforded by the hardware.

Anyway, enough bitching.

Having a big HD telly for the first time led me to crack out some of the more graphically impressive 360 titles; Bayonetta‘s arse looks spectacular, Prince of Persia a cel-shaded work of art, and Space Giraffe even crazier than I remember. I tried getting my eye back into the twin-stick-shooter genre with little success (Mutant Storm Reloaded and Geometry Wars Evolved^2 both rebuffing my advances), and there was even some Halo 3 multiplayer during a zombie-themed Double-XP weekend that netted a few new achievements. Yes, the acquisition of a HD TV certainly performed wonders for my flagging gaming mojo.

Prior to delivery of my new TV, though, I was stuck in my new Moobaarn with most of my possessions trapped away in a barely stable structure of boxes. Sure, my old TV had been setup, but the 360 and Wii were buried underneath scores of books and old videotapes that had (perhaps mistakenly) also made the move. Desperate to make some impact on The List, I dug out my original Xbox and started flicking through the pending titles there; Panzer Dragoon Orta got a bit of a bash, but surprisingly I spent a fair wodge of time playing TimeSplitters 2. Now, I’ve ranted at length at this game on various internet fora, especially targeting those that recommended that game to me; as the second console FPS I ever played, it was a woefully abysmal experience compared to Halo. In fact, the in-game stats indicated that I’d spent a scant six hours playing TS2, completing it on the easiest difficulty setting, before running away to play something that felt right. I really didn’t like it at all.

Those same in-game stats, however, indicated that I’d only “completed” 10% of the game on offer… and that just doesn’t sit well with my OCD. So I started churning through some of the Arcade and Challenge modes, determined to attain Gold Trophies in all events… and, lo and behold, I found myself actually enjoying the game! What a pleasant surprise. Anyway, the percentage had crept up to about 34% by the time the new telly arrived and the old Xbox was consigned to a disused part of the entertainment unit; I will return to play more TimeSplitters 2, though, you mark my words.

My sole PS3 purchase so far has been the original Uncharted, and… well, colour me unimpressed. Woolly controls, glaringly shiny teeth, and paint-by-numbers action has done little to warm me; it really does feel like a prettied-up Tomb Raider clone with an awful lack of precision. In its defence, I’m only about half-way through the game, but my favourite bits thus far have been the oft-maligned jetski sections. Sure, Uncharted 2 may have been the critic’s choice for 2009, but on the strength of its predecessor I’m not sure I’ll bother.

But the good thing about this experience is that I think I’m starting to crystallise what appeals to me as a gamer. Without wanting to sound patronising in any way, Uncharted conjures up the same feeling, the same approach and mood, as Gears of War did for me; not in the gameplay (though there’s certainly some similarities there too), but in the way it’s presented: linear progression with well-defined set-pieces. And, just as GoW irked me massively (co-op hijinks with friends notwithstanding), I think Uncharted is going to pan out the same way.

Ummmmm, what else have I been doing in the last couple of months? Well, I’ve knocked two Wii games – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Super Paper Mario – off the list, the latter being a paniccy weekend completion of one of my aforementioned In Case Of Emergency games when I realised that I wasn’t getting my skills together to complete Wii Play. Yes, the best part of five grand dropped on a nice new HD telly, and I’ve spent most of my time playing Wii games. And that continues even now, with the local release of Super Mario Galaxy 2 last Thursday… a couple of days solid play has allowed me to gather 118 Power Stars, enough to access one of the finest levels of gaming I’ve ever encountered… but more on that later.

Next week? Crackdown 2… and I cannot fucking wait. Which makes me reflect on the fantastic world we live in; only a fortnight ago, I wandered into my preferred vendor of gaming goodness and slapped down pre-orders on Super Mario Galaxy 2, Crackdown 2, and Halo: Reach, and two of those are released within a week of each other. How awesome is that?

Bayonetta’s ShadowPortal

This week began as the previous couple did: with the glorious Bayonetta. I’m still utterly smitten with both the lady and her game, and managed to polish off not only a run through the Non-Stop Infinite Climax difficulty, but all the Alfheim Portals as well – leading to all the Achievements associated with the game being unlocked, and my overall GamerScore just sneaking above 92% (23,867 of a possible 25,940). Hurrah!

But that’s not the end of Bayonetta, oh no – there’s a small matter of unlocking the additional characters, and performing complete runs with those, too… and a little obstacle called Angel Slayer, a bonus level unlocked once all the Alfheim levels were completed. To say that Angel Slayer is tricky is an understatement; there’s fifty-one individual “rooms” in the level, and I’ve successfully managed to beat twelve of them.

So there’s a bit of work left to do there, then ;)

After a friend pointed out that Portal: Still Alive was the XBLA deal of the week, I decided to buy it and see what I’d been missing. You see, I’ve played precious little of this much-lauded game: a few quick levels when the demo was first released on XBLA had been my entire experience, even though I knew full well that the game didn’t really get going until the late-teen levels.

So – time to rectify this (supposed) gaping hole in my gaming experience.

…blimey, that last level is pretty special, isn’t it?

To be fair, my experience with Portal is probably a little compromised because of all the hype that preceded it; there was no way it could possibly have matched the frothing exaltations and Game-of-the-Year nominations. Yes, it’s a wonderfully unique experience, but it’s more of an amusé than a banquet, a fact that it seems to accept and revel in. And really, there’s only five levels of content there – but, as I alluded to before, that last level is certainly worth experiencing.

Finally this week was a return to Shadow Complex to complete a 100% items run. It was pretty easy on Hardcore and, when the going got tough in some select boss battles, I simply dropped the difficulty down momentarily – a feature which I hope many more games take advantage of. Dunno how I’m going to manage that ChAIRness internal Achievement, though.

Of course, it’s rapidly approaching that games-free time of year for me – there’s less than a fortnight before the start of the Adelaide Fringe. And I’ve only just finished writing up last year’s events!

Quicker and Dirtier…

A couple more Bayonetta notes is all you’re getting this week.

Firstly, finish the game to unlock the Couture options. Purchase the Witch Queen Couture Bullet, then change to that costume (RB at the Chapter Select screen). Now play the game again, watching all the cutscenes. It’s filthy… but in a totally good way.

Now do it all again, but with the P.E. Uniform. And then the Various – Type B costume.

Oh my.

Lest this blog become a teenage-ish outlet for physical lust, let’s mention the game again: it’s still bloody brilliant. My complaints last week about the difficult of Hard have been completely scotched after a bit of experimentation with the purchasable items; some nice combinations led to a Saturday-afternoon hammering of Hard mode, and an eventual completion time of a touch over three hours. Replay one botched level, and bang – 2:59:58, enough to unlock yet another item in The Gates of Hell. And now I’m coasting through the Non-Stop Infinite Climax skill level; that should be wrapped up by Australia Day.

Then there’s the simple matter (ho ho) of wrapping up some of the Alfheim Portals (little challenge levels within the game), and I’ll have nabbed all the GamerScore available to me from the game. But that doesn’t mean that Bayonetta will soon be off The List, oh no – there’s so many little unlockables within the game that I don’t even really consider myself a third of the way there yet. And that’s after nearly sixty hours!

I’ve got a few other games like that hanging over me on the 360; Rez HD really does require 100%-shot-down runs, and Ninety-Nine Nights has a whole lot of random drops to collect. But that’s the price I pay for being me, for letting my OCD have its way with my gaming hobby.

And I think about the sixty hours invested in Bayonetta so far, with the prospect of at least a hundred more, and I quiver with joyful anticipation :)

Quick and Dirty…

Not much to talk about this week, really…

Thanks again SEGA person :)
Oh wait, there really is a lot to talk about :)

I’m really, truly loving this. Three playthroughs (on the three easiest settings) have yielded a bunch of strategies that I know will be completely useless when I start playing on Hard – in fact, I started a Hard playthrough today and got summarily thumped by the more aggressively devious AI and additional enemies. Grace & Glory in the Prologue? You’ve got to be kidding me!

There’s just so much in Bayonetta; even tonight, after 45 hours of playtime, I discovered a new Torture Attack animation. I’m still getting to grips with Durga and Lt. Kilgore, and the Alfheim Levels? Crazy.

So much to do. So little time.


Post-blogging last week, I started a run-through of Shadow Complex on Insane… blimey! That’s a tricky bugger. Consulting online guides indicated that the usual plan of attack on that difficulty level involves the early acquisition of one of the Golden Guns… which, in turn, are only unlocked after a 100% run-through of the game. Which, of course, I had buggered up by not acquiring a particular item before a certain game event. Which is a bit annoying, I must say. I soldiered on as much as I could, before dropping the difficulty down a notch… or two. Efforts will be ongoing with Shadow Complex, I think; even more so, given the extra internal achievements – including the implausible 100%-ing Insane in less than 3 hours.

But enough about that; this week was really all about Bayonetta. Waaaaay back in May last year, I wrote the following:

To be honest, though, my mind has been more focussed on a game that’s still some months off: Bayonetta. Ever since I first laid eyes on the initial teaser trailer, I’ve been gagging for more goodies from Platinum – and they’ve delivered some delicious tidbits on the complexities of modelling Bayonetta’s arse. Now, I’m a bit of a fan of a bit of female protagonist posterior, and Bayonetta backs that up with some nutball looking action – I can’t wait.

And, ever since then, anticipation fuelled expectation and led to a game that I had hyped to the max in my own head.

But you know what?

My expectations – and hence, the hype – have been absolutely met.

Bayonetta is lush. There is so much spit-and-polish on the entire package that it gleams. It oozes style and class – and, most overtly, sexuality. Hideki Kamiya has most certainly succeeded in his desire to create a sexy witch, and the engine-driven cinematics (as well as the demon-invoking incantation scenettes) really flaunt Bayonetta’s gorgeous form – sometimes embarrassingly so. Certainly, this is targeted at a more adolescent market than the one I’m supposed to be in, but believe me – I’m not complaining.

The action is fast and furious, and every chapter managed to elicit a genuine exclamation of “what the fuck??!?” There’s plenty of fan-service – not only for those eager to view the female form, but also more senior game players, with cheeky and good-natured homage paid to previous Sega properties. Sure, there’s a few sticking points – the final boss battle had be a bit exasperated and backtracking for goodies, leading to a fair amount of item whoring in my Normal playthrough of 31 hours (Kamiya reckons the first playthrough should be about ten-to-twelve hours) but I admit to having a big sloppy grin on my face for the vast majority of it. The second playthrough (on the very aptly named Very Easy difficulty) was a spot over six hours; item and skill acquisitions are preserved, which should be the break I need to be able to get through the Hard and Non-Stop Infinite Climax (yes, that really is the name) difficulties. However, some of the tasks required to unlock goodies in-game verge on the silly; finish Normal in less than three hours? Get Platinum medals for every chapter? Dreaming.

It’s by no means a perfect game – for some inexplicable reason, the camera speed defaults to mogadon mode, which frustrated me immensely until I poked around the menus a bit. The narrative aspect of the game is also lacking; the opening exposition takes place during an inconsequential battle (yes, I know I raved about how No More Heroes does almost the same thing, but this just didn’t seem to work), and the story itself is a little… ermmm… odd. But there’s so much Good Stuff in Bayonetta that drowns those criticisms out; cheeky laughs and flirty winks, humour a-plenty, and some of the most bizarre battles I’ve ever seen.

And much more besides, but I’ll not mention that for the moment – it’s still too soon. I’ve been blessed by folks who got me one of my copies a couple of days early, so I accept that there are many who’ve yet to experience the glory of Bayonetta. But I implore you – play through on Normal. Watch all of the credit sequences. There’s some fantastic stuff in there :D

Hypocrite? Maybe!

This week has been all about two things. I’ll address the less wonderful one first.

Luxor 2. Or, as I like to childishly refer to it, Luxor Poo.

I don’t go for these Match-3 style games much; they’re generally not puzzley enough to be a decent puzzle game, and generally feel too chancey to make me feel like I’m progressing. Or getting anything “productive” done. And yes, I know my entire hobby is largely a massive time-sink and, had it not been for a midlife-crisis-esque plunge back into the gaming pool, I could be spending my evening hours swotting up on the next hot bit of ephemeral technology du jour, hopefully making myself ultra-employable. But I’ve already got a job that I can just about get my head around, so I’m not really sure it’s a great loss.


Given my self-imposed lot in life is to climb this mountain of games to a competent degree, I like to feel like there’s always some progression. It’s always nice to be able to measure things, create projections, determine that there is an end-point and that it will be met. But games that have chance as a central ingredient throw a spanner into the works there: sometimes Lady Luck will bless you with good fortune, enabling you to tear a hole in the outstanding progress; other times will leave you gnawing your own lip in frustration.

Last week I ranted about how much I hated the presence of chance in GTA: Chinatown Wars; as punishment (I guess… what else could it be?) I decided to celebrate the conclusion of that piece of shit game by starting another that I had every expectation of loathing: Luxor 2, a cross between Space Invaders and Zuma. And I fucking hate Zuma. But start it I did and, after a brief flurry of gettable Achievements, I settled into the groove of beating all 88 levels at each of three difficulties.

That’s a lot of levels. Even at one a night, that’s… bloody ages.

Early going was swift, hoofing through the levels with cack-handed button mashing. Five levels per weeknight felt doable. But then extra colours were introduced, my simplistic gameplan fell to pieces, and… Level 7-4 stopped me dead.

For three days.

And then I got into Lady Luck’s good books; she gave me a wink, lifted her skirt a little, and showed me a different approach. BAM – I’m through, but with gritted teeth. Where I was feeling – dare I say it – joy before, revelling in the steady progress, now most of my gameplay was taking place close to the failure point, the ominous “you’ve nearly fucked it” music creating apprehensive chants in my head. I’m constantly on edge, minutes feel like hours, and the only moments of pleasure are coming from the successful completion of a level. And, even better, when I score enough points to advance a rank. I’m currently on Easy Level 11-5, rank “Goods Counter”, but I admit to leaping up and in celebration when I attained “Donkey Washer”.

So – Luxor 2. Milking it for what I can get. Will never finish it on Hard, or even Normal. But I’ll keep on plugging on.

The other game that I’ll never finish is Bayonetta, the other focus of my gaming time this week. Extended play of the 360 demo leads me to believe that I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of beating this game on anything other than the easiest difficulty levels; I don’t have the background in DMC-ish action to be able to discern the action in a way that enables me to respond to it. It looks beautiful, of course, but the combo system has my thumb flailing (go on, close your eyes and imagine a flailing thumb… ewwwww) and, after walking through the level in Easy mode, I was summarily trounced on Normal. Still a Day One purchase for me through, especially with Australia getting a cool special edition :)

A couple more parting shots: my New Year’s Resolutions have been playing on my mind a lot lately. Mainly because I’m absolutely stuffed if I can meet them. I’ll still try and give ’em a shot though… if I can pull myself away from Luxor.

I also mentioned above that I chose Luxor 2 as punishment for having played GTA: CW; not strictly true. In all honesty, I looked at my completion percentage over on MyGamercard.net and saw that it was approaching my all-time high of 91.83% (which was 15520 of a possible 16900… that should tell you how long ago that occurred). Knowing that I had three unplayed games in the offing (Luxor 2, Boom Boom Rocket, and Feeding Frenzy), I decided to take the hit on my percentage early, so as to not set myself a tricky new goal. I’d rather tackle the old goal with all my penalties on the table. At the same time, I didn’t want to drop below 90%.

That’s how I tick. That’s a demonstration of the fucked up machinations of my mind. You can stop reading now ;)

Je Retourne! (Part 3)

Four weeks since my last post. Four weeks, three of those spent at a construction camp an hour out of Karratha, tethered to the Interwebs – and hence, my sanity – by a satellite connection that was lucky to hold 5KB/s for a solid minute. And so, with the exception of this weekend (grinningly punctuated by my annual dose of Eurovision kitsch and bloc favouritism), my gaming has been sporadic – and mostly handheld based.

And by “handheld,” of course, I mean “DS.” The PSP has only tempted me with Patapon, Loco Roco, and (more importantly) the potential for a powerful emulation platform. Prior to the DS, my only other handhelds were also Nintendo in nature: old style Game & Watches (Helmet & Donkey Kong). But I digress, distracted by history and Sweden’s off-key Eurovision entry.

Just before my last painful journey to site, I picked up my first-ever entry into the Grand Theft Auto franchise: GTA: Chinatown Wars. And early impressions were fantastic – I loved the open world, the presentation, the scope. After 13 hours (56% complete), however, the lustre has most certainly been lost: where I initially thought the writing was mature, it now feels hopelessly juvenile; where I once savoured the morsel-sized missions, it now feels like an annoying grind. If this is the franchise that defines modern gaming, then I’m not really sure I want in; an especially ironic comment, given my undying love of Crackdown, which owes so much to GTA‘s heritage. But where Crackdown is wonderfully refined and constrained in its maturity, GTA: CW feels like it’s trying too hard to be Adult. Technically impressive and fun in small doses, sure – and it most definitely deserves to sell more than its reported numbers. But it’s hardly the most compelling thing on the DS.

Compare and contrast with another recent DS acquisition – Soul Bubbles. Seemingly victim to an unsupportive import policy (it was available in Australia for all of two weeks, I reckon), I had to get a UK mate to snaffle this for me (Amazon UK had it for a paltry 6 quid). And it’s a cracking game – utterly unique control mechanism, fun without frustration, a perfect little package. It’s shameful that this has gone so unnoticed.

Other site-based gaming has been limited to more Sight Training (which has proven to be quite enjoyable in a minigame-ish way) and Rub Rabbits (which leads me to believe that practice may, indeed, may – eventually – make perfect). The last couple of days has presented opportunities to get back into my Zelda Master Questing, with a couple of today’s dungeons surprising with their re-jigged ease; both Dodongo’s Cavern and the much-feared Jabu-Jabu’s Belly felt much easier in their Master Quest renditions.

To be honest, though, my mind has been more focussed on a game that’s still some months off: Bayonetta. Ever since I first laid eyes on the initial teaser trailer, I’ve been gagging for more goodies from Platinum – and they’ve delivered some delicious tidbits on the complexities of modelling Bayonetta’s arse. Now, I’m a bit of a fan of a bit of female protagonist posterior, and Bayonetta backs that up with some nutball looking action – I can’t wait.

The near future, however, is (annoyingly) still dictated by work – do I have more lovely Zelda in my future, or am I going to be grinding more GTA: CW in airplanes? It’s pretty much a day-by-day proposition at the moment, but hopefully there’s only another four-to-six weeks of this flux left. I want a chance to feel at home again, bed myself back into my old gaming habits; I haven’t turned on my 360 since March!