I’ve been beavering away on my other blog over the last fortnight, only permitting myself the odd hour or so for gaming. I’m still ducking into Halo: Reach on a daily basis, racking up cRedits while I can; I’ve just cracked into the Eclipse rank, with over eight-and-a-half million cRedits earned. Well over a third of the way there, and I’m still learning new techniques to further speed up the acquisition. And it is still, of course, a great game to play :)

Halo begets Halo, of course, and – despite being distracted by the upcoming Festival season – I’m still mindful of my lingering desire to get at least one game a month off The List. With that in mind, I looked at the remaining effort required to polish off Halo: Anniversary: a couple of tricky Achievements, and solo & co-op Legendary playthroughs.

The Legendary playthroughs are nowhere near as daunting as they were back-in-the-day; with the advent of the Bandanna Skull and its infinite ammo capability, grenade spamming takes a fair chunk of the challenge out of it. But some of the Achievements looked a little trickier; The Library on Heroic without dying? The Library in less than 30 minutes on Legendary?

So off I went: grenade spamming my way through The Library netted the “no death” cheevo pretty quickly. The speedrun, on the other hand, took a bit more effort… and grenade jumps. A couple of key grenade jumps. But a lazy Sunday afternoon (after I’d got some writing out of the way!) saw them both knocked off without too much trouble.

A couple more Achievements (on the Keyes level) popped, but right now I’m feeling a bit guilty; I probably played a bit too much today (after all, there’s still about 28 posts left to write on the other blog), and I’ve still got fifteen levels to play through on Legendary before Anniversary is off The List. It’s not going to be a January game.

…but I pretty much knew that already. Last week, feeling a little bit desperate (even though only halfway through the month), I looked at one of my other Lists – the Things To Buy List. My objective? Something new that I already wanted that I could finish by the end of the month.

Solution: PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX.

What a bloody awesome game. As much as I loved the first Championship Edition, DX renders it absolutely obsolete with a ruleset that never fails to delight. There’s nothing like getting a 60+ ghost combo going, audio pitches going up as you urgently seek another power pill to stretch your combo even further. My HORI Stick (or one like it – mine, a much older model, lacks the turbo functionality) got a great workout as I pushed through all the Achievements in a couple of hours over two nights; another couple of nights saw me get an overall A-Rank on all maps, my personal completion requirement. A little more play to better a few key Friends, and I was done.

Finally, I had a little mojo lull a couple of days ago; rather than start something new (my standard response to any attack of the glums is to spend money), I decided to fire up an old friend: Rez. And I will state, here and now, that Area 1 is one of my most cherished gaming experiences; I love it ever-so-much, I really do. Most other Rez-fans will wax lyrical about Area 5, and I can understand that; but Area 1 is so beautiful, the music so joyous, the audio punches so perfect, that for me… well, it’s beyond compare.

That thought made me dig up my Rez (Part 1) post… which was made almost four years ago. So much has changed since then: the SO has since departed, and – rather than play on my old 23-inch widescreen monitor – this week I was playing on a 52-inch monster screen… with a decent sound system. As I played through it again in the dark, quite possibly annoying the neighbours with the bass-beat, I fell in love with Rez all over again.

In fact, there’s a task to the handful of you that read this: go play Rez. Area 1 if you like, Area 4 is a blinder too, Area 5 if you want the majesty. And if you don’t already own Rez? Well, you’ve got a shopping trip to do (to XBLA, or off to eBay for some PS2 or Dreamcast Rezzing). Go on; you won’t regret it.


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.

Reach Among Assassins: Anniversary Sword Deception

Sure, there’s been many weeks of non-blogging, but that’s not to say that there’s not been many games played at The Moobaarn… quite the opposite, in fact. In between festival shows and acting classes and 80’s Brat Pack film sessions, I’ve been squeezing in Silly Season games wherever possible.

So welcome to this brain-dump. All signs point to it being a mess.

Let’s start with the easy stuff, first: I’m now a Field Marshall in Halo: Reach – with only 579,000 cRedits required to my next rank bump! Oh Reach, you’ll be the death of me.

Alongside the Reach Dailies, I’ve been trying to regularly squeeze in a couple of games of Uncharted 2 multiplayer… and I feel compelled to say that I’m really quite enjoying it. The twenty-odd-thousand people still playing online seem to be remarkably similar in ability – certainly compared to (say) Reach, or even Uncharted 3. There seem to be kills available for everyone, with the best players (everyone else) maybe only doubling the kill-count of the lowly (i.e., me). And I think the relatively even playing field makes it a bit more fun to play right now, as opposed to its sequel – I popped on for my second session of Uncharted 3 multiplayer and was quite soundly trounced, despite ranking up a couple of levels (I’m up to 12 and 6, respectively. A long way to go!)

I also pottered through my second playthrough (on Normal) of Uncharted 2‘s campaign. And, I have to admit, it was a touch more enjoyable on that run – though the emotional leaps-of-faith the game wants the player to take are still absurd (let’s all shed a tear over the team-killing Nazi who we’ve known for five minutes). And with that completed, I started my second playthrough of Uncharted 3… and, again, was disappointed.

I have to admit that it’s kind of satisfying (in a self-validation kind of way) to see some of the (admittedly soft) backlash against Uncharted 3. The game seems to be walking a fine line between game-of-the-year and starting-to-creak; criticism is rife. My favourite analysis was Michael Abbott’s piece over on Brainy Gamer (which also has a great podcast); truthfully, I’m a bit pissy about it, because I had ten half-coherent lines written that have been rendered pointless by Abbott’s far more eloquent take on things.

Abbot’s central assertion – “playing Uncharted 3 is less about watching a film than shooting a film” – is pretty much beyond dispute. But my contention is that, with the game trying to act like a movie director, with the player reduced to the role of an actor (or, more appropriately, a stuntman), there’s an implicit limitation to the freedom on offer; as my acting coach tells me, the writer fucking hates it when an actor drifts off script.

But what other options are available to the gaming world if we chase the action-movie trope? The player cannot be the director in an interactive storytelling experience; after all, we’re all griefers at heart. You can imagine the YouTube clips of Drake leaving Elena to die, hot-footing away with Chloe at the first available opportunity… it’s impossible to constrain the player, and yet still make them feel in complete control of a rolling storyline. There’s no real answers out there at the moment, but I’m pretty certain – despite all the plaudits – that Naughty Dog have done pretty much the best they can do within that style of narrative… it’s just that they’ve chosen a dead-end path.

And I’m buggered if I know what the “right” path forward is.

But back to the actual game for a moment: despite the slick presentation (a noticeable improvement on Uncharted 2, with the exception of less in-game tweaking options… maybe a consequence of the tighter storytelling control?), it’s still an experience that’s story first, gameplay second. But at least Naughty Dog put some effort into melding the narrative and interactivity together…

…which is more than what can be said of Assassin’s Creed. After much good-natured goading from a dear friend, I finally decided to see what this series is all about – and, not being the kind of person who can start a series halfway through, I bit the bullet and launched straight into the original, knowing full well its reputation for being an occasionally glitchy grind.

What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the extent of the grind.

Now, I love a good grind, I really do, but Assassin’s Creed takes it to new levels. The game itself has some glorious gameplay – all half-an-hour of it. Seriously. Within half-an-hour, you’ve seen all the glory on offer. There’s some wonderful, free-flowing combat and counters and running; it’s genuinely exciting running around knifing people, and even when an attempt at a stealth kill fails and you become surrounded by a cluster of enemies, the rhythmic RT-X bounce eventually kills them all with little thought.

But that half-an-hour of fun? You’re repeating it another sixty times. And every time you hear a rescued civilian say “another minute and they’d have made off with me” in a rotten English accent, you start wondering whether you’re on the right team or not. Of course, the game’s plot likes to suggest that, too… but I’ve never – ever – felt more divorced from a game’s storyline. Plot is purely injected through awkward cutscenes, with absolutely no attempt to engage the player through the gameplay. I dreaded the cutscenes, watching them only through duty, and feeling painfully bored throughout. But then it was back into the game for another half-hour of bliss like the last one…

Still, Assassin’s Creed was only on The List for a grand total of eight days, so that’s reasonable enough… but I doubt I’ll be firing it up again anytime soon. And I highly recommend that anyone thinking of playing it not plan on speeding through it… for that way frustration lies.

With Assassin’s Creed all wrapped up, I waited anxiously for the release of Halo: Anniversary; the original Halo holds a very special place in my heart, and I was really looking forward to sinking my teeth back into it.

Why, then, have I barely touched it?

I don’t know, I really don’t. I started a Normal game (just to get back into the groove of the levels), and pushed through the first through levels in quick order… but at the beginning of “Truth and Reconciliation”, I just turned it off. I didn’t want to face that night-sniping cliff-face crawl, followed by the bastard Belly of the Beast battle, followed by the fight through the Covenant craft… it all felt a bit too daunting.

Luckily, the rest of my life saved me from worrying about it too much… and then the latest Zelda game was released, closing out my Silly Season.

Now – first impressions of Skyward Sword were not great. Yes, the graphics really are lovely, the controls take a bit of re-learning before regaining their familiar efficacy, but dear god it’s a slow opening (something I also mentioned when I wrote about Twilight Princess five years ago). But here’s the good bit: I’ve now played twelve-and-a-half hours, and I’ve only just reached the second dungeon.

So there goes all my credibility as a gamer.

Truth be told, I’ve had a ton of fun just piss-farting around: I’m constantly leaving my current task to see if any other side-quests have opened up. I’m constantly returning to the Skyloft hub to watch hint movies for tasks I’ve already completed! Now, it’s not smooth sailing yet: I’ve yet to figure out how to collect bugs effectively, I barely made it through the first boss fight with one heart intact, and Skulltulas are my most feared enemy… but I’m through the boring stuff. I can sense the good stuff to come. And I’m bloody loving it.

So get ready for six weeks of Skyward Sword updates ;)

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.


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…

Admitting You Were Wrong…

Not much gaming this week, primarily due to Social Distractions: a dear friend’s birthday bash, some slam poetry, and a creeping addiction to Treme. I still pottered around the edges of the Reach Daily Challenges, though, and I creep ever closer to the end of the General ranks – though at a much decreased rate. I just don’t have the passion for the two hours a night (that it used to take me to snaffle about 20k cR) at the moment.

And I really hadn’t felt inspired to push on with anything else, either; Geometry Wars^2 entertains, but not in a gripping manner, and I just cannot face Child of Eden or Shadows of the Damned yet. The mojo still hadn’t selected a target, and that was starting to get me down.

As another distraction, I thought I’d catch up on a few videos that I’d bookmarked for later viewing, and I started with Giant Bomb‘s Quick Look at the upcoming Ico / Shadow of the Colossus re-release for the PS3. I was on the fence as to whether I’d purchase this: I loved Ico dearly, but Colossus really didn’t work for me at all (even after I changed the controls to something that made sense to my uncoordinated fingers). But the Quick Look reminded me of all the utter loveliness of Ico again and, as I watched the video, I had an almost synaesthetic recollection of what it felt like to play that game.

Now, Ico was the first game I really played on the PS2, so it is inexorably linked to the feel of the DualShock 2 for me. And, as much as I dislike all editions of the DualShock controllers, it just worked for Ico.

But the video left me with a Sony-esque yearning in my fingers – something I’d felt earlier this year. I fired up the PS3 for the first time in ages, and started playing Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune from scratch.

And, after a quick ten-hour run through the game (on Easy, natch), during which I netted most of the available trophies, I have to stand up and say: I Was Wrong.

Because it’s a bloody nice game.

I think I can justify my earlier bitching (and my whiny “Shrugging ‘Huh?'” award): the DualShock 3 doesn’t help at all with control accuracy, and I’ve steered clear of enough mainstream games recently that I’ve not overdosed on Nolan North, so the writing and dialogue on this second run through the game felt fresher. In fact, it almost screened like an action movie.

And that’s how I decided to play it, running-and-gunning rather than sitting cowardly in cover. Isolating bad guys and giving them the old one-shot-one-punch combo. Actually using grenades!

In short, I had a ball playing Uncharted for the second time – and I’ve immediately started another playthrough. I know that I’ll wind up gnawing my own fist when it comes time to do the Crushing run, but hey – after my Reach Legendary heroics, I should be able to grind it out, I reckon. And then, maybe I’ll move onto Uncharted 2… just in time for the release of Uncharted 3.

A real up-to-date gamer, I am ;)

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.

Reach Burnout

And so, after nearly five weeks, my Halo: Reach flame has burnt itself out.

The beginning of the week was fine; I’d just hit the rank of General, and my daily inclination of 25,000 cRedits was proving to be pretty easy going. Grab the Dailies, pop into Grifball, a couple of games of Slayer, have a little Firefight Doubles session. Tuesday night saw my cRedits-in-hand break two million – enough to purchase the single most expensive item in the Armory, the Inclement Weather armor effect. Bought and equipped, it seemed to turn me into a target in Multiplayer Matches – Grifball is now insanely silly, with the opposition drawn to the lightning & black storm-clouds surrounding me.

But, thereafter, I lost something. Willpower, I think it was.

The climb to the next rank was a bit of a struggle, and even though the increments between ranks has dropped to a less daunting 150,000 cR, I’m just not feeling it anymore. The fun grind has been reduced to just a grind (with a few bits of fun mixed in).

It might be time to focus on something else, I reckon. I’ve gained about 1.4 million cRedits since I fired Reach up again… General Grade 1, nearly 62% Commendations. That’s a pretty good platform to build on.

But I must admit that I’m a little bit concerned that I feel so spent after only five weeks. Sure, it was five pretty hard weeks, but the difference in passion now, as compared to when I fell back into my Reach-fest, is pretty marked. And the permanent distraction of all of Reach‘s statistics (and I do love a good number crunch) has led to yet another month where nothing has been struck off The List; an all-too-common occurrence in the last year or so.

But what’s going to be next on (or, more importantly, off) The List? I had a bit more of a fiddle with Gridrunner Revolution this week, but I’m not sure it’s something I want to focus on, y’know? Burbling around in the background is fine for that one, I reckon. I had a bit of a fiddle with Geometry Wars Evolved^2 (in a vain attempt to see whether it could help avert the Completion-less month), and that could lead to some ongoing interest… then again, there’s always a potential return to initially underwhelming pair of Child of Eden and Shadows of the Damned.

Or maybe a freakish left-turn into bizarro-land… Towers II on the Jag.

In the words of Fox News… you decide.

(That was a hint to you, dear Reader. What do you think I should tackle next? Put forth your arguments! Something already on The List is preferred, but other titles will be considered…)

Reach Revolution Podcasts

This week in The Moobaarn? Reach, and plenty of it. Up to Brigadier Grade 2 now, 59% Commendations. And, apart from mentioning that Grifball is my new favourite cRedit whoring method, that’s all I want to write about that.

There’s a new addition to the family this week – my first new PC since 2004. Sure, I’ve bought a couple of laptops since then, but I’ve got no hardware newer than my pre-unibody MacBook Pro. And bugger me if hardware hasn’t marched along… sure, that’s hardly an astute observation, but there’s such a massive leap in performance from my last PC that it actually makes me feel like my new mid-range video card was actually an overspend. Where the old graphics card used to cough and splutter under the Shader 2.0 efforts of my most recent PC game acquisition – Gridrunner Revolution – the new video hardware barely raises a sweat under Shader 3. And Gridrunner really benefits from the extra grunt; running it full-screen at (essentially) 1080p is akin to serving up a visual feast. Delightful, and I’m looking forward to spending some more time with Minter’s work.

But, in the absence of any game-progress-related talk (I’m saving all the best Reach-related stories for later), I thought I’d tap out a few words on a topic that has been sitting on the back-burner for a while now – gaming podcasts. And when I say “a while”, I’m talking years – I’ve got a note from July 2009 that was meant to act as a post-prompt that was conveniently ignored.

Now, I listen to a lot of podcasts – probably up around twenty hours a week. Music, current affairs, tech, politics, and – yes – gaming. But of all those topics, of all those podcasts, the gaming field has proven to be the one with the biggest turnover… because, quite frankly, a lot of them really suck.

Or, worse, are borderline offensive.

I realise that there’s a large element of personal taste involved in any podcast selection; after all, you’re essentially making new friends. You’re inviting new people into your ears. It’s like a more intimate extension of the old Zzap!64 philosophy: provide consistent personalities that the listener can learn to recognise and identify with. So when I listen to a podcast for the first time, and hear nothing but testosterone-fueled conversation which wouldn’t feel out-of-place ensconced in a date-rape joke, then you’ve lost me almost before we’ve started.

I usually give podcasts a fair bash before deciding that they’re not for me; my most recent rejection received a good dozen episodes – nearly twenty hours! – before I decided that these people just did not deserve the ear-time. Well-meaning – and even pleasant – in their own circles, I’m sure, but me and them were just never going to get along. But some gaming podcasts struggled to make it through one episode; they were people I’d be ashamed to share the same air with, as laden with narcotic fumes as it would appear to be.

But when you do get a podcast that works for you… well, it’s like a little reunion every episode. A great example of that is the Giant Bombcast crew; when I first started listening to their two-hour-plus ramblings, full of discussions on energy drinks and cooking and – hey – a little bit of video gaming, I initially thought that they’d be heading to the Reject pile. But a few episodes was enough for me to get a feel for the regulars, and their insightful gaming commentary shone through. And their recent E3 episode featuring David Jaffe is amazing, featuring a wonderful, heartfelt discussion on the interactions of design and development, with Jaffe weighing in as only he can.

I’ve tried really hard to stay positive here by not naming any podcasts that I simply don’t get along with. But here’s a list of those that are still in my RSS feed, including a few that are sadly no longer with us…

  • Giant Bombcast: An audio spurt out of the Giant Bomb crew, this is probably my favourite gaming podcast at the moment. Yes, it’s usually bloody long, but it’s totally worth it – especially if you have any interest in Mortal Kombat or Starcraft (some pet loves of the crew). Great guests, passionate commentary.
  • Retronauts: Just about the only 1UP podcast I can handle, even if the regulars have a seemingly unhealthy interest in the Final Fantasy series. They’ve recently shifted formats to a alternating themed call-in shows (which can be disastrous) and in-depth panels; the recent Deus Ex episode [MP3 – 92MB] was great.
  • 8-4 Play: Despite the lame podcast name (and rocky first few episodes), Japanese translation company 8-4 push out this great podcast from Japan, focused on Japanese games and gaming. It’s a great alternate take on the western podcasts, and their episode that featured a surprise drop-in from Tetsuya Mizuguchi was fantastic.
  • GDC Radio: GDC Radio used to have a bunch of fantastic (and free!) recordings from GDC. Sadly, they all appear to be stuck behind a paywall now;
  • Kotaku Talk Radio: Another production that seems to have fallen by the wayside, the Kotaku folk put out a handful of decent shows. The show featuring Tim Schafer was beyond great, though.
  • Platinum Games PGTV: No audio here, but plenty of video… including director Hideki Kamiya’s Bayonetta playthrough (with commentary!).
  • Major Nelson Podcast: If you can forgive the (expected) Microsoft bias (not so apparent now, but in the year after the 360’s launch their was some real shonky “interviews” in there), this is actually a relatively enjoyable bit of banter.
  • Zero Punctuation: Oh come on, is there anyone out there who doesn’t watch Yahtzee’s stuff religiously?
  • The Arsecast: Hands down, the funniest gaming podcast committed to the Internet ever. Though it’s been four years(!) since an episode was released, this short-lived indie-focused one-man show is beginning-to-end brilliant. Graham loves his indie stuff, and his scripts are riotous in either their effusive enthusiasm or brutal mockery. If you can handle any level of classical British humour, download every episode forthwith… and thank me in the comments.

Apparently, there’s also a Grasshopper Manufacture podcast that’s occasionally available on their Facebook page – I’ve never seen (nor heard) one, though.

And what about the two of you out there who’ve read this? Do you have any gaming podcast faves?

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 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.

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.