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 ;)


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.

2009: The Year in Review

2009 was quite a weird one for me; even as I acknowledge my dearth of console gaming knowledge, I’ve never felt more distant from the gaming mainstream. I managed to ignore the miniscule lure of the PS3 for another twelve months, I still don’t do Rock Band, I’ve avoided Borderlands and the Fallout series like they were OCD quicksand, and semi-realist games like Forza 3 and Modern Warfare 2 tick none of my boxes. In fact, the only mainstream toe-dipping I reckon I’ve done this year are with Halo 3: ODST, New Super Mario Brothers Wii and, maybe, Brütal Legend.

Despite that, The List has largely been treading water; throughout the year, I bought sixteen new games, and I completed a total of sixteen games. It didn’t help that a cleanup led me to discover previous purchases, conveniently forgotten, plumpifying The List somewhat; just a lazy 71 games outstanding now, helped along by cheap end-of-year deals on Xbox Live.

But hey! This is supposed to be a flippant, if not light-hearted, awards ceremony blog entry written by an uneducated guy you don’t know, recycling ideas that were never that flash in the first place. On with the show!

Proudest Achievement of the Year: Wrapping up Burnout Paradise. Every collectible, every Achievement, and – most chuffingly – every Challenge :)

Disappointment of the Year: Wii Fit still hasn’t had any impact on my weight (though that could possibly be due to the fact that it hasn’t been played… nor has it’s younger brother, Wii Fit Plus), and the much-anticipated GridRunner Revolution sadly failed to light my fire. But the biggest disappointment of the year was provided by MadWorld – so much potential pissed away in immature monotones.

Surprise Discovery of the Year: We Ski, bought nervously at the same time as MadWorld (with the nervousness instantly replaced by regret as soon as the “Checkout” button was clicked) proved to be stupidly good fun. Sure, it didn’t last long, but that flame burned unexpectedly bright enough to be memorable.

Under-Appreciated Game of the Year: A game that had a release window of about a fortnight over here, that local distributors didn’t want to know about, and wound up being sourced for less than five quid (new!) from Amazon in the UK… Soul Bubbles is a gorgeous little game, completely at home on the DS. Please try to buy a copy! :}

Multiplayer Moment of the Year: Halo 3: ODST takes this one easily. Firefight, all my team-mates dead, being chased around by half-a-dozen Brutes… and I had no ammo. Black Eye skull was on, meaning no health regeneration. And I managed to get the Team through. Fucking magic feeling :)

The “I Love You… Honest” Missive of the Year: A toss-up between all the games I’ve bought, but not played, this year. Shadow Complex, Space Giraffe on the PC, The Maw… but Chrono Trigger takes the gong here.

The “I am the King of the World” Throw-Your-Arms-In-The-Air Trophy: Finally – finally – conquering Level 64 of Tempest 2000. It’s just a pity I’m now stuck on another level only a little farther along.

What Was All The Fuss About? Award: This is going to look like link-bait, but… The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. I’ve been chewing through a bunch of Zelda games this year (hey, I 100%-ed Ocarina thrice in 2009!), but I’m utterly perplexed by the adulation this game receives. Takes all types, I guess – and I definitely seem to be in the minority. “It was good, but not great…”

The “Go Fuck Yourself” Dismissal: The Grand Theft Auto series, on the basis of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. I swore I’d never speak of it again.

The Everything Old Is New Again Award: Sure, PAC-MAN Championship Edition is a wonderful extension of the original game, but Bionic Commando: Rearmed takes the cake for a superb re-imagining of the original, with just a tiny taste of the original Commando rolled in as well. Gorgeous.

Blast From The Past Award: After a straight month and two 100% playthroughs, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker provided some of the year’s gaming highlights, with gloriously solid gameplay.

That’s What Gaming’s All About Award: Easy one, really – New Super Mario Brothers Wii eschews modern gameplay “essentials” and delivers a stunningly fun, taut, and challenging single-player experience.

The “Friendly Tumour” Award: An award for the game that initially hides its charms, but grows on you, Brütal Legend snaffles this with ease. The first playthrough had it odds-on for the Almost-But-Not-Quite Award, but repeat visits opened up the glory that Schafer built.

The “Flow Like A River” Natural Gameplay Award: Well… I had to give something to the most recent Prince of Persia game, because it was a real revelation early in the year. Fast, fluid, and rewarding gameplay, backed up with charm and gorgeous stylised graphics.

AAA-HypeTitle I Missed Award: Again, pretty much all of them… though it was pleasing to see that the gaming public may be becoming a little sceptical of the hype machine (after the rapid deflation of Modern Warfare 2‘s bubble, and a retrospective post-coital “meh” being applied to memories of GTA4).

And BOOM! There goes 2009. Big props to Prince of Persia, most of the Zelda series, New Super Mario Brothers Wii, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Soul Bubbles, and We Ski… oddly enough, only one of that lot was released in 2009. But let’s start looking forward to 2010, and Bayonetta, lots more No More Heroes, and a return-to-form for Llamasoft on the iPhone.

But now, I’m leaving 2009 pretty much as I started it: banging my head against a brick-wall of an OCD Zelda requirement. Phantom Hourglass is demanding that I find four more ship parts, and I dare not keep her waiting.

Happy New Year!

Windy CommandoSports

It’s been an odd week.

A week of creeping horror, with the dawning realisation that my aging skills may not be enough to drag me through the Hard difficulty on Bionic Commando: Rearmed, let alone the Achievement-linked Super Hard mode. Hard is proving to be… well, ninja hard: there’s very little room for error, with three hits killing you in levels that seem to be more heavily populated with bullets. I’m still enjoying it, but in short bursts; often I’ll fire up the 360, figure out a quick route through a level to the boss fight, and then get absolutely belted. Try again, same result. Switch off 360 in frustration. Turn it on ten minutes later for another go. Repeat.

A week of lost love, with my very first 360 controller’s thumbstick disintegrating beneath me. This was the controller that helped me get most of my significant gaming victories; Ridge Racer 6. Space Giraffe. Crackdown. And now, after suffering years of my abuse, she’s gone. I only wish I could tell her how much I miss her, but… y’know… gaming time is precious. She’d have wanted me concentrating on the next Achievement, not moping around her grave.

A week of unwanted excessive effort, with my Wii Sports practice yielding a Gold Medal in the Bowling Power Throws, and an unfortunate Platinum in the Boxing Dodging. That Platinum will gnaw away at my mind for years, I can tell… I’d happily revert to a backed-up save of my status to under-achieve a Gold in its place, if it wasn’t risking my Boxing rank (740-ish… but Tennis is up to 1740-ish!) And, of course, excessive vigour in the remaining Bowling training modes leads to a dodgy shoulder and elbow.

A week of returning to old friends. Beset with doubts of my own abilities, bereft with injuries, I just wanted something to crash in front of the telly with on a drowsy Sunday. Wind Waker seemed like a perfect fit, and before I knew it bedtime had arrived, I’d forgotten to eat dinner, and I had to sadly bid the Deluxe Picto Box goodnight. I love that game – the wonderful pacing (compared to Twilight Princess, anyway), the gorgeous presentation… and the OCD pandering of it. I will fill that Nintendo Figurine Gallery, oh yes I will.

CommandoSports and the Missing Mojo

At the start of the week, I was feeling pretty good about myself: I’d knocked Burnout Paradise off The List, and I was snaffling regular Achievements from the purportedly difficult Bionic Commando: Rearmed. My plan was to hammer away at a few of BC‘s Challenge Rooms, a spot of current project N2O, and a little bit of Geometry Wars practice. So, how did I do?



I started positively enough, clearing four or five Challenge Rooms a night. The first dozen or so were straightforward enough, although it’s a bit peturbing to check the Friend’s Leaderboard after successfully clearing a “tricky” level and seeing that a mate completed the same Room in one-fifth the attempts. But suddenly the Rooms started getting… well, impossible. I resorted to YouTube, awash with videos of people completing these rooms in stupid-quick times with maximum rank. I see – and replicate – some new tricks, and eventually the Rooms become straightforward again; tricky, sure, but nothing practice can’t overcome. Well, practice and 180-ish attempts. I kid you not.

And suddenly, it’s Friday night and there’s only six of the Challenge Rooms outstanding. A couple of them are quite silly; number 55, in particular, leaves me absolutely bemused; no videos or descriptions make the slightest bit of sense to me. I mean, check this out:

Start by just dropping down to the platform below. Face the left wall to grapple the first block. Once you’ve done that, wait till you’re at the height of your swing going right. Press down to do the arc jump and at the height of this jump, throw your grapple at the white block. If you hit this successfully, you’ll pass through the wall. Once you do, press down to let go and then immediately do a vertical grapple back up to the white block. Pull yourself up, press down to let go and immediately press B to do a regular diagonal grapple so that you start swinging. Then just hold right to fall off and finish the stage.

I watch, I read, and I try… and, after the 150th attempt with not a single second grapple connecting, I think: fuck this.

And, just like that, my Gaming Mojo disappears.

Saturday saw me listless, not willing to commit to any gaming time at all. Most would consider that normal, not undesired, behavior, but to this O/C Gamer it feels something like the Kiss Of Death… how can the psychological weight of The List be reduced if I’m not working to lessen it? But I reluctantly decide to give myself a bit of time, and spend the day catching up on anime (yet another habit stereotyped by the thirty-eight year old male). Sunday starts much the same, but a brisk walk through the parklands at least inspires me to fire up one of my Go-To Games.

I’ve got a couple of Go-To Games, games that I can use as mood shifters, as comfort food for my thumbs: Jet Set Radio Future is the perfect medicine for when I’m feeling sick-and-sorry for myself. Speed-running The Library in Halo raises my confidence when it’s shot. When everything feels like a grind, New Super Mario Brothers reminds me that games are, indeed, fun. But today I opted for a spot of tennis in Wii Sports.

And it was just the ticket.

I love Wii Sports tennis. Now, I’m not good at it (with a Rank hovering around 1400, whereas the EliteScores high is 2400), but I find it a great palate cleanser. A few games, and I’m feeling perky again; suddenly, I wonder where I’m at with my Wii Sports goals.

My targets are pretty simple: all Pro status on the games, all Gold Medals on the training levels (and yes, I am aware that there are Platinum Medals… I just don’t think they’re a reasonable goal). A quick review tells me that the only Pro rank I’m missing is in the boxing, and there are eight Golds missing: all the bowling, all the boxing, and a couple of the golf. A couple of hours sees my boxing Rank leap from 200 to 600-ish, a Silver and a Bronze where there was previously none in the boxing training, and a lucky Gold in the golf Target Practice.

Oh, and a wrenched shoulder.

That is why I don’t play more Wii Sports.

HaloParadise: Rearmed

So – it’s been a fortnight since I last wrote (due in no small part with a little distraction called “four years of tax returns”), and in that time it’s been bedlam in the gaming world… or, as it’s more popularly known, E3. And whilst a large number of the “big” announcements had been leaked beforehand (the PSP Go, Team Ico’s The Last Guardian footage), there were still a couple of surprises: New Super Mario Brothers Wii looks fantastic, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 arrived without any prior fanfare to offer more of the same – which is most definitely a good thing. Just Cause 2 got a lot of positive press, Brütal Legend earned some new fans (and an idiotic lawsuit from Activision), and Halo: Reach was announced.

And then there was this girl:

Excuse me, Miss. Have you seen my ferret?

I don’t want to appear as if I get sucked in by any game featuring curvy vixens, wrapped in a thin veneer of “she’s just a strong female character, honest” justification for ludicrous over-the-top overt sexuality. No, it takes a bit more to have me drooling… and Bayonetta‘s batshit-insane antics have me sold. The gameplay looks to be the type of Japanese insanity that will leave it on The List forever, but I can’t not buy it; visuals are amazing, the character designs wonderfully bizarre, and the whole aesthetic just makes me well up with gamelust.

The arse, tits, and specs sure help, too.

Thankyou SEGA person :)


Seeing Halo 3: ODST in various presentations encouraged me to round up a group of friends to go Achievement hunting in Halo 3. Ten “players” (four of them, strangely enough, on my 360) in a little social group yielded us the perfect opportunity to grab a wad of the Mythic Achievements… and a two week EXP-ban from Bungie. Oh well.

But the big (bigbigbig) news was the release of Burnout Paradise‘s Big Surf Island. Now, I don’t mind admitting I was like a little schoolgirl just prior to its release: giggling to myself in anticipation, hitting F5 to reload the Marketplace page online every couple of seconds and, whilst it was loading, refreshing the 360 Marketplace tab. It finally appeared, and my release vigilance rewarded me with a speedy download… and then I was there. On The Island.

And it was wonderful.

Big Surf Island reminded me of everything that was glorious about Paradise: the big jumps, the endless distractions, the beautiful handling. Some UK friends eventually came online, joined in, and we must have burned that Island for six or seven hours that night… and the next night, I went back for more, even with all the Achievements, events, smash gates, and billboards wrapped up. I’ve belted through the Island Challenges at least seven times now; I find myself driving to the next location before the current Challenge is finished.

Casting my eyes over the Island Stats, I noticed that I’d pretty much OCDed the add-on… except for one thing. “Vehicles: 8/9”. A bit of research revealed that final car is unlocked when the game is Complete… which, in Criterion’s thankfully symbiotic manner of speech, matched my definition. Everything done, 500/500 Challenges.

And there I was, sitting on 478/500 Challenges like a schmuck.

They were all Bike Challenges, too; four- to seven-players. Figuring there may be four-to-seven other people out there thinking like I do, I ducked into Bike mode and created an Open Freeburn session in Paradise. And waited.

For the first hour or so, not much happened; people would appear, and I’d have enough time to mouth their words for them – “this isn’t the Island! and what’s this motorbike?” – before they disappeared. By the end of the second hour, though, I seemed to have a party of four who were actually desperate for Challenges. Shy as we all were, there were no headsets in use, which made for some pretty cool bits of silent co-operation and camaraderie. Hours three and four saw numbers drift around a core group of six, until suddenly I realised that I had one Challenge left…

One. Challenge. Left.

A six player Challenge. And I had a party of eight.

I figured that this was my time to be an Xbox LIVE prick. I selected the two mouthy newcomers (one of which seemed to have a vocabulary that consisted solely of “fuck”, “bitch”, and “nigger”) and kicked them out of the game, then quickly started that Final Challenge. It was a doddle, and there was a palpable sense of relief when I saw “500/500” pop onto the screen. I opened the party back up, and started taking requests off other players until I could take the mouthy randoms no more. I killed the session, scooted back into Island Car mode, and looked at my new – and final – acquisition: the Diamond P12. I painted it a soothing pink.

And then I realised: Burnout Paradise is off The List.

And I felt very, very pleased with myself :)

Later, I fired up Bionic Commando: Rearmed for the first time. I’d tried the demo after its appearance during last year’s Summer of Arcade, and had put it on the To Buy list; the recent price-drop (to 400 MS Points) made it a steal, regardless of the apparent difficulty of the Achievements. And, two levels in on Easy, I was getting increasingly frustrated; the controls felt alien and obstructive.

But suddenly, something in my head clicked – and the bionic arm became second nature. I breezed through the rest of the game… but I was very aware (by the presence of awkward white blocks) that Easy was… well, deliberately easy. The final level looks nigh-on impossible without the safety of the white blocks; I’m not looking forward to Super Hard difficulty at all.

It’s a lovely game, though: it exudes polish, and it a visual delight. The vector cannon upgrade is positively delicious, and there’s a neat aural and visual surprise in the last level that had me grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Next week? More of Bionic Commando: Rearmed‘s Challenge Rooms. More Geometry Wars practise. And a return to game du jour, N2O.

And some lustful thoughts involving Bayonetta.