RocketChild LuxoRuga


That’s what I though to myself on Tuesday evening after scouring the PSN Store – to no avail – for Dyad. I should have read the fine-print on all the announcements – Dyad‘s July 17 release date was for North America only, with the EU release (which should result in an Australian release) still a couple of weeks away. Deflated, I had to make do with watching poor YouTube videos of other people’s first encounters with the game… but I soon realised I was hyping myself up too much.

Of course, this week’s Giant Bombcast contained a good deal of Dyad discussion which did little to temper my longing, but there was a quick remark in there that made me a little sad – apparently Dyad‘s creator, Shawn McGrath, has been trying to contact Jeff Minter to see what he thought of the game, but Jeff hadn’t responded to any of his messages. From the look of it, Dyad seems like it really could be Minter’s cup of tea, but I wonder whether it’s a cruel reminder of the failed Unity project…

The Bombcast also lead me to another podcast, too – the GameSpot GamePlay Spoilercast for Spec Ops: The Line. Now, I had absolutely zero interest in playing this game prior to hearing the Giant Bomb crew flubber about its narrative, but the Spoilercast – featuring the lead writer on The Line – was absolutely fascinating, making it sound like the story arcs are indeed worthy of investigation. But that interest is curtailed somewhat by the mention of a rather straightforward third-person shooter that sits atop the narrative, and the potentially jarring content within; maybe it’d be asking a bit much of myself to actually enjoy such an experience. In fact, I’m pretty sure that enjoyment would be out of the question, and that I’d be playing it to experience a confronting narrative experience… and I reckon I prefer that sort of thing in the cinema.

So, apart from talking myself out of buying one game – and not being able to buy another – it’s been a pretty solid week on the 360 for me. Plugging along with Luxor 2 (98 levels left!), snaffling another few Achievements in Kinect Adventures (whilst leaving the rest for a co-op session with my ex). I overcame my fear of the Passion Archive in Child of Eden to 100% it and, along with the last Archive, unlocked enough GamerScore to boost my tally on the game to 540 GS – and with that, another Resolution fell.

But, rather than moving on to the next Resolution, I started prodding one of my spreadsheets… and noticed that I’ve got a bit of a milestone coming up. In 222 GS time, I will hit a new personal best completion percentage for my Xbox Live profile – and that number is a pretty significant driving force for me. Now, Kinect Adventures has 350 GS up its sleeve, so I’m not really too concerned about that milestone… but, earlier this morning, I needed 40 GS to hit 96%, and 468 GS for 97%.

That 97% level is tickling my fancy a little, and it should be doable once Kinect Adventures is taken into account; but I thought it’d be nice to get that 96% mark out of the road today. So – back to Child of Eden I went, attempting to snaffle some Achievements for completing levels on the Hard difficulty level… before being rudely rebuffed. So I returned to a game I’d not touched in yearsBoom Boom Rocket – and, with TA hints, a twenty-cent piece, and a lot of swearing, I managed to eke out two Achievements and 20 GS.

So… 20 to go. I search my pending Achievements again… oh alright, let’s give Ikaruga a bash again.

After a couple of hours it was becoming clear that I wasn’t really improving all that much – I need another 700,000 points to hit an A rank on the easiest level. But it’s still a bloody brilliant game – tight as a duck’s chuff, though. But it was a welcome distraction from settling down with the next thing on the Resolution list, which will probably be Perfect Dark Zero… again…


Last week I proudly rambled about ignoring any desire for retail therapy (aka impulse purchases); unfortunately, there’s a couple of titles that have been on my radar for awhile now that have caused my “buy now” button to throb with anticipation. Luckily, Vanquish deemed itself a non-buy, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn has been pushed into 2011 for PAL regions. Epic Mickey isn’t out for another four weeks, and that feels like a good Christmas / New Year reward to myself. But I have a List (another one) of companies for whom I grant myself a free pass; whose games I will buy Day One, sight unseen, without guilt. Double Fine is one of those companies; Costume Quest is their latest game.

Now, to be fair, I was planning to hold off buying Costume Quest for another couple of weeks (to bump the required Microsoft points purchase into the next credit card billing period – sometimes, I can think too small), but then I mulled on my gaming achievements of October – only one game completed (and what a shit game it was). That didn’t feel like much of an accomplishment at all and, knowing that Costume Quest was supposed to be a relatively short romp, I downloaded the demo to tease myself.

Within five minutes of starting the demo, I’d decided that I was purchasing the full version immediately. Yet such was the wonderful sense of humour and fun on display in the demo, I couldn’t tear myself away from it until it was done. The graphics are gorgeous, the sound full of subtle little bits of joy; the battle system is absolutely delightful and so wonderfully streamlined that it knocks the recently-caned Chrono Trigger into a cocked hat.

When I started playing the full game (around 10pm on Friday night), the grins returned immediately. Five hours straight before I forced myself to bed, and then the game reached out to waylay me on my way to the markets the following morning. Another couple of hours, and the game is done – everything collected, all Achievements snaffled. But that didn’t stop me from leaping back in and playing another 100% game (using the other character) almost immediately; that playthrough was wrapped up by lunchtime Sunday. Costume Quest, on and off The List within days – and thoroughly recommended.

(An aside: the Statue of Liberty’s “Anthem” special attack would have to rate as one of the most magical gaming moments of the year :)

The surprise for the week was a completely inexplicable desire to play Boom Boom Rocket. I’ve no idea where that hankering came from; it’s (essentially) a rhythm-action game, and I generally suck when rhythm is concerned – as evidenced by my performance this week. Playing on Medium, the best grade I managed was a B – and that was after many, many attempts – and venturing into Hard was a complete joke… the game was over in seconds as I battered away at my gamepad with seemingly scant regard for the colours I was supposed to be matching. The timing was askew, too. Needless to say, the hand-eye coordination needs a bit of work there.

The big effort this week, though, was the continuation of my solo Legendary run through Halo: Reach. Last week, I’d managed to get to the penultimate battle: a brute-laden firefight. I’d managed to shuffle a selection of around half-a-dozen potent weapons to that location – a fully-laden DMR, a plasma launcher, needler, shotgun, rocket launcher, needle rifle. All I had to do is choose which to take into battle… and the significance of that decision stymied my enthusiasm to do anything. But, walking home from work Monday night, I snapped – just get in there, I told myself, and do some damage. If it doesn’t work out, dig up an old checkpoint and try again.

I got home, backed up my current savegame to multiple memory sticks, and went in.

The first attempt didn’t go to plan. Covenant 1, petee 0. Ahem. Second attempt was a little better; got a few brutes knocked down, then went to trigger the secret ammo cache (such foresight!). Sure enough, a big block of blammo popped out… then landed face-down on the ground, completely inaccessible to me.

Ummmmm. Restart, try again.

The next attempt is much better; pop some brutes, cap some grunts, ammo cache accessible. I sit up top with my UNSC distractions, and they promptly walk in front of multiple streams of plasma fire and die. Prone and alone, I take cover down below… and there I stay for nearly three hours, popping my head out the door, maybe squeezing off a sniped round or two before being drowned in plasma and retreating to safety.

Seriously – nearly three hours. Check out the (very boring) stats yourself. That’s 39 kills, 9 deaths, 168 minutes.

But here’s the thing, though: from that tiny room, nursing every bullet in my DMR, I felt safe. I was alive. It was all manageable – I’d poke my head out, whittle down the enemy, and then retreat. Checkpoints seemed plentiful, and I felt like I was very slowly making progress.

Eventually, I kill the easily visible enemies – and some of Martin O’Donnell’s characteristically ominous tones start playing. “Hurrah,” I think, “I must be on the final wave already. That was surprisingly easy! Three hours well spent.” I keep up my ultra-conservative play, sniping from shelter with my DMR, and letting loose with my shotgun should brutes venture into my little hidey-hole. One by one the red dots disappear off my mini-map; I can still see the odd brute running around on an outcrop in the distance, but there’s only one enemy somewhere above me. I wait until I’ve got a checkpoint, then wander outside to check out the red triangle that distracts me from the bottom corner of the screen.

Oh shit. Hero brute. With a Gravity Hammer. Which he uses to flatten a surprised me.

Restart from checkpoint. Venture out again. He intercepts my run, mashes me up good. Third time around I notice that merely stepping out of my saferoom is enough to bring him running down to my level; then he’d either rush the room, or pace fretfully outside before returning to his rooftop position.

I hatch a plan. Lure, grenade, shotgun… Oh. Hero brutes have shields. Well there is a painful lesson learned.

On about the twelfth attempt, he rushes the room into which I’ve backpedalled, spraying shotgun shells. He lunges with his hammer, I dodge… and suddenly I’m halfway down a stairwell with two handrails between me and him. The AI doesn’t quite know how to negotiate the stairwell, and he looks to be running on the spot. I reload the shotgun and empty it into him. Reload, more shots… and then he’s dead.

And now I have a Gravity Hammer.

The checkpoint flashes up; I switch off the 360 and go to bed. That night I dream of Covenant slain and yet to face my wrath. Work couldn’t finish quickly enough the next day; I scoot home, back up the savegame again, then start my final assault. And now it’s easy; catch the enemy’s attention (an errant shot here or there, or just running out in the open), then beat them with the mighty hammer. Of course, there was another massive wave of enemies before the end of that section – my previous audio cue guesses were completely wrong – but, with Hammer in hand, I felt good. Strong. Legendary.

Checkpoint. Onto the final battle. The n00b combo (overcharged plasma pistol, followed by a UNSC pistol headshot) is… well, not second nature, but doable. It clears the room out, and there’s one last ultra-fast, ultra-shielded, ultra-angry elite between me and my objective.

He, too, gets stuck on the furniture. And dies by my hand.

As I executed the end-game sequence, I didn’t feel the same overwhelming emotional attachment to the game that I did when I completed the first Halo on Legendary (I had literally wept tears of joy that almost obscured those fleeting seconds of extra footage I’d worked to hard for, and had so yearned to see). But, as my Xbox popped up a “Achievement Unlocked – 2 for 275G”, I must admit that felt a little bit sad that the task was over.

Then I came to my senses. Never again… never again. There’s no need to put yourself through that again. No need to tiptoe through Nightfall, no need to launch an attack on the Corvette, no need to panic-run through Bugger attacks. Never again.

Wait a minute… “Data Pads,” you say? Of which over half only appear in Legendary?

Sign me up!


After a healthy dose of New Super Mario Brothers Wii earlier in the week, I admit to burning out on it a little; World 5 just ground me down, with the final Castle nabbing about 35 banked-up lives. I eventually pushed through, doubled back and went through half of World 4, but I’m a little weary of it at the moment. Still fun, but not compelling.

As previously noted, my previous best percentage-complete on the 360 (in terms of attained Achievement points) was just prior to the addition of all the extra Halo 3 Achievements, when I had a GamerScore of 15520 out of a possible 16900… 91.83%. That’s a nice goal to return to, but I’ve had those “discovered” games (from the recently re-discovered XBLA pack-in disc from my 360 Arcade purchase) just waiting to damage my lovely percentage. So this week I bit the bullet and fired up the last of them.

Boom Boom Rocket reminds me of Fantavision (which I’ve only played once, so please forgive any misconceptions there). It also reminds me of rhythm action games and, as such, I am completely at odds with it. Yes, I managed to claw half-a-dozen achievements out of it, but I doubt I’ll get many more, simply because I am utterly crap at it. Sigh; that’s a percentage-denter.

Feeding Frenzy, on the other hand, was a four-day doddle. Brute-forceable Achievments mixed with a curiously apologetic demeanour; the game actually says “sorry” to you every time you fail. Odd. Still, it was a straightforward – if unengaging – load of Achievements… a percentage booster.

So – with all games at least played (including PAC-MAN Championship Edition, Luxor 2, and Uno), that’s a total of 747 points out of 1000 from that re-discovered XBLA disc. Well below average, but with only Luxor 2 and Boom Boom Rocket to work with, unlikely to improve much.

After popping into Halo 3 for a quick bash on this weekend’s DEXP playlist (Living Dead – two of my remaining Halo 3 Achievements are zombie-related), I returned to Brütal Legend, engaging the Normal difficulty for the first time. It’s handy to have half-a-clue what’s going on, and the maps that I’m affording myself on subsequent playthroughs are divine. But, despite the fantastic storyline and voice-work (and incredibly detailed character models that I seem to have missed on my first playthrough), it’s feeling a bit like a slog… here’s hoping the following days make it feel a little easier, and a little more fun. And then I’ll be venturing online with it… oh dear :}