I certainly didn’t mean to let this blog atrophy for a year (yes, my last post is celebrating its first birthday today), and it’s not as if I haven’t been writing: in that year, I’ve written over two hundred posts on my other blog, and a ream of tearfully self-indulgent joy-words on Facebook. But this blog… well, I just haven’t really felt like writing about gaming much.

In fact, I haven’t really even been playing games that much… at least, not compared to previous years. And there’s a couple of reasons for that.

The first thing to drag me away from gaming is the last-minute writing I tend to do on my other blog; the last couple of months of the year, as well as January, tends to be chock-full with panicky Fringe recollections after I back myself into a corner and have to finish the previous year’s Festival writing before the next one starts. (This year is a little different, though: discipline saw me wrap up the 135 posts I committed to before the end of August!)

Another factor was the Next Generation of consoles… or, rather, the complete lack thereof within The Moobaarn. With the exception of the Wii U (of which I’ve been an owner since its 2012 launch, and a happy owner since December 2013), I’ve not plunged into the current console generation yet: there’s nothing really there to interest me, quite honestly, and the one game that I’m really looking forward to – Bayonetta 2 – is a Wii U exclusive… so there’s no need for me to commit… yet. So whilst other people wax lyrical (or wane painfully) about this generation, I’ve not got much – if anything – to say.

And then there’s the little manner of my latest little addiction, affectionately referred to as my K-Pop Midlife Crisis, which commandeered the normally lucrative Christmas gaming time and instead sent me to Seoul for my first real holiday in nearly a decade. But that’s not really a story for this blog… well, some parts of it kinda are. Maybe.

And finally, the gaming world… well, it can be a bit of a shit-storm, can’t it? Three big incidents in the last couple of months alone: Puppy Games Dark Side of Indie PR blog post launched a shitstorm of hatred from narrow-minded, short-sighted “gamers”. The initially hilarious Moms Against Gaming Twitter feed showed that many cannot recognise satire, and rapidly became tragic: the blundering hatred spewed forth by some “gamers” can truly defeat a hopeful man. And as for the bile directed at Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn (and, thence, Phil Fish)… well, you know what?

Fuck those people. Fuck them all. Fuck them for tainting a hobby I enjoy – and, in identifying themselves as “gamers”, they do taint gaming in general – and, most importantly, fuck them for threatening people like that.

(Oh – and swatting? Seriously… what the fuck?)

And when I say “fuck them”, hopefully you’ll note that I’m not saying “I’m going to FUCKING KILL THEM”, or including some threat of sexual violence. No – I use a commonplace dismissal, a common expression of exasperated disappointment. Because that’s what I feel: Exasperation. Disappointment. Frustration. And a massively conflicted and confused quagmire of emotion whereby I want them to receive their comeuppance for their petulant comments (that, unfortunately, must be taken seriously), but which the pacifist in me wouldn’t want to see inflicted.


So… that might explain why I’ve felt a bit disconnected from gaming – or at least writing about gaming – lately. But it’s not like I haven’t been playing anything… So, carrying on from last time:

In between my random treasure drop Uncharted 3 multiplayer excursions, I played Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons in September 2013. It’s a short – but powerful – little game, with a handful of amazing moments packed into it; many will mention the emotional impact of the third act of the game, but for me the sheer exuberance of the goat-ride through the mountains made it totally worth playing through a second time.

The inspired decision to buy a second PS3 – and learning to operate four controllers at once – saw me boost with myself and collect the rest of my Uncharted 3 trophies surprisingly easily… I only wish I’d thought of doing so earlier. I toyed briefly with the idea of continuing to play Uncharted 3, but common sense got the better of me. I think I made it to Legacy 3, and I’ll certainly remember some of the team antics that occurred as a ragtag group of Aussies gathered together to take on the opposition (whistling “toot toot!” after every kill. Super mature ;)

A play through of Psychonauts on the PC was completed (it really is a wonderful game), and November saw the purchase and completion of Remember Me on the PS3: an interesting game with some occasionally compelling combo combat mechanics, and voice acting at both extremes of the spectrum. And whilst the game doesn’t outstay its welcome, it seems like the narrative could have had a few more things to say; overall, it proved to be a fun distraction, but hardly necessary.

With the release of the latest handheld Zelda title – A Link Between Worlds – I finally had an excuse to pick up a 3DS XL (especially after the universally glowing pre-release hype). However, I’ve barely played more than an hour or two of that game since then: but I have played (and completed) Super Mario 3D Land, which proved to be the perfect game for ten-hour plane rides to Korea. I absolutely adored 3D Land… but then Super Mario 3D World was released on the Wii U.

Holy shit. What a game! Tight controls, wonderful level design, and everything that’s great about Mario. I’m way off finishing 3D World – Champion’s Road is insane – but I’ll keep plugging away until I’ve got all those stamps. The Wii U still gets plenty of use from Wii Fit U, too – my spreadsheet of score bands is pretty comprehensive at this stage, and – just like its predecessor – it’s encouraged me to lose some weight, too. Bargain!

Xbox Live Games For Gold offered up some appealing items: Sleeping Dogs was knocked off in April (and I highly recommend playing The Zodiac Tournament Pack – even if you got the game for free, that add-on is worth every cent of its additional cost), and Lara Croft: Guardian of Light was a quick jaunt in March. And I’ve also snaffled Dark Souls via GFG… I’ve been too scared to start that one, though ;)

Once the last piece of DLC was released for Bioshock Infinite, I dove back in to finish that off. The wave-based Clash in the Clouds DLC freed the gunplay from the jarring contrast of the narrative, and was actually a pleasant challenge; and Burial at Sea was just fucking lovely. Really lovely storytelling, immersive gameplay, and… just wonderful. Way better than the original game.

The StreetPass freebies on the 3DS have kept me busy for a while; Picture and Mystery Manor fell quickly (after the discovery of HomePass), with Quest and Battle soon following. Garden was a bit of a pain in the arse, and I’ve still got one task outstanding for Force… hopefully I’ll conquer that soon, just as I conquered my Heroic run through Halo 2 a few months back, and rolled up all the countries at the end of Katamari Damacy.

But the biggest gaming accomplishment – yes, better than nailing the final Achievements for Lumines Live – was completing Dyad. Some of Dyad‘s Trophy Levels are fiendishly difficult… but incredibly rewarding. I’d honestly be hard pressed to think of a more satisfying moment in my gaming history than seeing Dyad‘s Platinum Trophy pop… it really was everything I want from a game: An abstraction of a world. Consistent rules. A test of mettle.

The plasmic eye candy helped, too.

But you know what’s missing from the year’s worth of gaming above? Any mention of Perfect Dark Zero. Again. Oh, and any discussion of the not-insignificant content of my Steam account. Because discussion of that would cause The List to leap into triple figures.

And we wouldn’t want that, would we?

A Big Whiny Bitchfest

This was a week where I wasted countless (or, more accurately, around a dozen) hours reading a lot of gaming-related forums – some oriented around the fans, some targeted to the industry, and some complete road-crash material.

It all started with a desire to clear up some old items in my RSS reader, some stale links. One pointed me in the direction of a forum meltdown triggered by (what the forum dwellers thought was) the “lack of research” (they thought was) evident in Retro Gamer‘s Metal Slug entry in their “Definitive” series. Now, I’ve encountered – or observed – author “Reverend” Stu Campbell’s work on other forums, and read some of his earlier work (all the way from his ST-era stuff to his superlative – though petulantly antagonistic – Space Giraffe review), so I’d know pretty much what to expect… he’s strongly opinionated, with the conviction to stand by his beliefs. I also used to read Retro Gamer pretty regularly, and found that its English roots were very evident, being constantly reminded of the glory days of Zzap!64 in tone and style.

However, there’s a bunch of people out there who aren’t familiar with the style of Retro Gamer… or Stu. And one of them created a monstrous list of why his article was lacking. Stu responded in his inimitable, aggressively uppity manner… and the following forty pages were, at times, really painful, combining the worst of fanboyisms and internet arguments. And yet I could not look away; it was true car-crash reading, branching into other forums and accompanied by utterly inane “expert” stupidity, supplemented by dubious “facts” being interpreted by those lacking the context and understanding to do so with any integrity. A real downer for the human race, there.

So I went looking for something a little more considered, a little more understanding. A little more highbrow. I thought I’d found it with a story quoting Dave Jones at Gamasutra, where he revealed that Crackdown only just broke even – and lamented the fact that, despite 1.5 million sales, there were about another 1 million secondhand sales. Now, Gamasutra is usually pretty solid in terms of the quality of user comments, but a brief perusal of IndustryGamers and Kotaku didn’t really lift my flagging spirits much.

Now, I don’t really expect anything different; most of these commenters are going to be in their late teens or early twenties, and experience has told me that their judgement is likely to be a little… ummm… ill considered. One-sided, if you will. And that’s OK: that’s usually just a lack of world experience. But I find it pretty ironic that a group of people who clearly don’t give a shit about the integrity of the written word are so eager to take everything so literally; puzzling logic leaps and assumptions abound. And the saddest thing is that the broad opinion seems to be that clearly RealTime Worlds were charging too much for Crackdown, or that their management and spending is clearly reckless. After all, 1.5 million sales should be plenty to keep the company rolling in coin, shouldn’t it?

Ummm… do the math. With current-gen games costing in the region of ten million dollars (Ghostbusters cost $12-15 million), and the expectation of sixty million dollar budgets for AAA titles in the next generation, isn’t it about time we started paying something a little more realistic for games? Complaining that Xbox Live’s Games On Demand service is pricing titles above what you can pay at retail isn’t really the point (though I find the murmurs of per-region pricing to be totally reprehensible), especially when – at almost the same time – Microsoft’s Indie Games initiative is actually making it harder for indies to make any money off the service (by reducing the maximum amount that can be charged for titles). The pressures of selling games at retail have generated a completely unrealistic expectation of cost in the gaming community, and no-one seems to be bothering to consider whether their actions are actually contributing towards a sustainable economy. After all, retail prices are driven by shelf-space and launch windows, with no opportunity for long-tail payoffs, and platforms like the iPhone are also creating downward pressure. After all, if the casual player gets the same game-time out of a $2 iPhone game as a $100 console title, where do you reckon their money is going to start going?

And that leaves us in a position where the only people left to buy The Big Games will be the hardcore, the same people who have been gaming all along. But costs are going up, and they want to pay less for more. So the pressure will be on to make every console title a guaranteed hit.

Do you see where this is going?

Ugh – I’m going to get depressed again.

As for gaming this week: T2K. The location of the final Item in Katamari Damacy (thanks to the fabulous Katamari on the Web forum). And a dozy drizzly hungover session with the original Halo, which – despite the obvious aging of its chunky models – still manages to feels absolutely delightful and perfectly weighted. And more Space Invaders Infinity Gene, accompanied by PomPom‘s Poppi on the iPhone… perfect ad-break-sized portable gaming.

A Moment Of Glumness…

Warning: this is very much a stream-of-consciousness post, likely to only carry any kind of significance to me. By all means, read on; I won’t be disappointed if you just shake your head sadly and unsubscribe ;)

But first, a side note: I’m not including iPhone/Touch games on The List… yet. I still regard them as distractions, rather than compulsions. But if you’ve got the technology – and pay attention here, because this is the best advice you’ll get from me all year – check out Space Invaders Infinity Gene. It’s absolutely batshit bonkers, and in a good way.

Only two games received any love this week: Katamari Damacy and Tempest 2000. And, in investing some time into them, I think I’ve learnt something about myself & my attitude towards games.

Katamari has been on the boil for about two weeks now, and – by all accounts – it’s progressing well. I’m missing just one Item (the Drainboard, from Dove Lake), so if anyone out there knows where it is – or even what it looks like – please please pretty please let me know… the 1437 other items really miss it. There’s a couple of other outstanding tasks – 75% runs on Gemini and Cancer, plus a 100% run through the final roll-up – but everything else is all done… even the Names collection.

Returning to Tempest 2000 for the first time in a couple of months reminded me just why I stopped playing it in the first place – from sheer frustration at lack of progress. Levels 63 and 64 still resolutely refuse to give me a morsel of compassion, though I seem to have at least upped my likelihood at completing Level 63 to about 5%. Yes, five percent – one attempt in twenty will see me complete the level. A sniff around YouTube yields video of someone breezing through 64, claiming that the two penultimate levels are indeed harder than 64; this leaves me scared.

Scared, because I can’t see daylight. I can’t see where the skills are going to come from to push through this barrier, to go on to (satisfactorily) complete the game; it already requires a perfect storm just to get me through one of the “easier” levels. Strangely enough, Katamari also inspired the same kind of response in me – I’ve scoured the specified levels for my missing Item to no avail, and really cannot see how I’m going to complete that game without assistance (and no, the Drainboard is not mentioned in any FAQs). It’s a feeling eerily reminiscent of the hunt for the final Orb in Crackdown, but at least I could devise a methodical, systematic approach to that problem; I’m feeling utterly lost with Katamari.

But I did have a great time with Katamari early on; I compiled a massive checklist of levels to beat, Cousins and Presents to find, Items to locate, then set myself a deadline and started working towards it. Of course, initial progress was easy – and immensely fulfilling – as the earliest tasks were cleaved off the list, and ETAs based on averages revised.

This may sound like utter lunacy – but this is how my brain works.

It’s not “oooh, this is fun, let’s play some more”; that would be fine and dandy, and these weekly entries would read like pretty much every other one-man gaming blog out there. No – instead, my brain constantly reminds me of little deadlines and tasks and expectations, all of them self-imposed and utterly compelling. A little compulsion telling me that I really should complete another game this month, whittle down The List a little, before subsequent retail therapy inflates said List.

Now, I can cope with all this… as long as all my collated tasks appear tangible, doable, within the realms of my ability. And I’ll happily recognise that, whilst I’ll never be a great gamer, I’m solidly competent, and there are some things that I feel I really should be capable of.

And Tempest 2000 is one of them; I’m convinced I should be able to conquer that, and maybe even make a dent in Beastly Mode (though that’s not a List-worthy requirement). So this feeling of frustration is really quite biting, and harkens back to an earlier post… which, having just re-read it, actually makes me feel much better.


I read a few blogs where the author has stated that the reason for their blogging was to allow them to Google their own trials and tribulations in the future; it appears I’ve just benefitted from that, too. I’ve just re-located my own mental salvation. What the hell, it’s only the second day of the month – still 29 days left to complete something! – and there’s so much fun to be had. I’ll beat T2K eventually, and someone will point me in the direction of the Drainboard, and I’ll fluke the country roll-up in Katamari. And along the way, there’ll be Gridrunner Revolution and numerous other trinkets of loveliness that remind me of all the fun stuff this hobby provides.

Ah, much better.

That, my friends, was therapy in blog form.


Sadly, it’s another dull week for writing, with only Katamari Damacy being played in anger (all cousins and presents found, 93% item collection), mainly due to the weekend being reserved for an exploration into my other middle-aged love – anime – at AVCon. Whilst the anime & Japanese pop-cultural parts of AVCon were relatively poorly organised (screening times ignored, the last RvB movie being curtailed because they didn’t check how long it was before scheduling, panels being cancelled at the last minute for “unforseeable” – that is, legal – reasons), the gaming aspects were quite well done.

There were a plethora of tournaments (Rock Band and Street Fighter 2HD / 4 being the most popular), as well as an “Ultimate Gamer” competition – which saw hopeful contestants playing a bunch of older games (Super Mario Kart on the SNES, a Tetris variant, and a handful of others) as well as newer titles (Showtime challenges in Burnout Paradise the only one I can remember right now). The tournaments looked really well organised: electronic scorekeeping, tight schedules, and well-defined rulesets kept the action going. The Street Fighter tournies wound up with a decent sized audience, too, who were also well catered for.

The distribution of current-gen consoles on the floor was somewhat surprising; the 360 seemed to dominate the general-play machines, there were a stack of Wiis (and SSBB tournaments), and only a couple of PS3s – though, notably, PS3s were used for the Street Fighter tournies. A couple of other surprises: one slim PS2 seemed to be playing nothing but We Love Katamari all weekend, and one Wii was pumping out F-Zero GX for a good part of Saturday.

GameTraders had a decent-sized stall set up in the vendor area, and I caressed a new copy of Chrono Trigger DS for a few minutes with serious intent to buy, before eventually putting it down because (a) DS piracy leaves me wary of buying even “new” games, especially at open stalls like that, (2) I’d just spunked upwards of $350 on anime and manga, and (iii) I need a hundred-hour game on The List like I need a hole in my head.

So, gaming-wise, the weekend was a bit of a bust; but AVCon gave me the opportunity to stop and have a think about my hobbies, my passions. Because I was consistently one of the oldest people there (once the reluctant parent entourages were removed from the equation), and… well… it felt kind of lonely. In panels, in screenings, in pushing my way to the front of the Madman stall. In fact, during the dreary cosplay competition, the one highlight was firing up the DS and joining one of the many PictoChat sessions that permeated the weekend. Though one of my fellow Chatters was sitting right next to me, there was a point where I was clearly the dissenting opinion in the session; I asked why, I received an appropriate explanation, and scribbled “wow – I feel old.” “You ARE old” came the reply, causing me to whip my head around the room to see whether I could find my literary assailant.

The bloody cheek of kids these days!

I had odd flashbacks to RV4, the Retrovision event I attended in the UK back in 2004. It feels like a lifetime ago now, but the camaraderie and enthusiasm for the retro games on display then were unforgettable; a roomful of people such as myself reminiscing and replaying old classics (with frequent diversions into newer things, too). JagFest 2004 was a similar experience – open, inviting, friendly, understanding, and patient… all qualities sorely missing this weekend.

Sigh. Enough of that.

Lest I sound too grumpy, let me just toss in a quick link to a History of Gridrunner written by Jeff Minter himself, ahead of the forthcoming Gridrunner Revolution (formerly GR+++). As usual, Minter’s writing is divine, and he easily conjured forth memories of those earlier games (and check out his recent exploration into programming the Atari 2600 for more great stories!)

And then prepare for the release of Gridrunner Revolution with GR++… c’mon, it’s a paltry $10 for the PC or Mac. And it’s spectacular.


Short and sharp this week: Wind Waker is done. Two play-throughs, 100% items & collectibles in both, and the second run had everything I could think of done: all platforms, all caves, every ring-of-light I could find on the Great Sea, every Tingle-related sidequest… I even collected all the Blue ChuChus. So that’s it… Off The List.

Two new games have been started: the easy one is Katamari Damacy. Starting from scratch, two sessions have seen me finish the game and collect 82% of all items – let’s face it, it’s not a long game, but it is still a joy to play (except when you’re 4mm short of a katamari size to unlock an Eternal level with ten seconds left to play and you can’t see anything because you’re trapped in a house and the camera is zooming out). The goal here is 100% items, all Eternals, 100% the “final” level, 90%+ for the Constellations, and within 10cm of the North Star. We’ll see how I go.

The other game… well, this one I’ve only played briefly before. It’s called Find A New Location For The MooBaarn, aka House Hunting. And what a frustrating game it is! Crappy time to be playing it, too.

A Mixed Bag

Being Australian, there are times where I don’t want to fuck around with words. Hence the title of this post, because this week’s gaming has been a real mixed bag.

Having wrapped up Master Quest last week, I needed a new project; and, being mindful of my New Year’s Gaming Resolutions, I figure I’d best start work on the Playstation side of things. To that end, I started N2O.

N2O is an interesting one; I bought it, of course, because of its links with my 8-bit past. Written by Tony Crowther (responsible for the first Monty Mole game, and the Loco / Suicide Express / Black Thunder trio of near-identical games, amongst others), it’s very much a love-child of Tempest and one of Crowther’s earlier games, Phobia. Fly along the rim of undulating tunnels, shoot bugs. Easy.

But, as a shooter, it’s got a bit of depth. There’s a great speed-up mechanic (the more you shoot, the faster you travel), and there’s a certain puzzle-solving element to it, too. But it’s blackened somewhat by (seemingly) random weapon drops and a tendency to obscure your view with too many twists in the tunnel. Still, I’m having a fair bit of fun with it at the moment; I’ve clocked it on Easy, and am about a quarter of the way through Normal. Whether or not I require Hard for Completion is yet to be decided.

But the problem with N2O (and a lot of other twitchy shooters) is that I can’t concentrate on them for long stretches; so off into the vaults I went, checking out a few other games for the Next Project. I fired up Bujingai – again – and got nowhere on the boss I’m stuck on – again. I pootled around in the wacky world of Katamari Damacy, looked at all the items I need to collect to satisfy my OCD, and quickly moved on to Frequency – Harmonix’s original rhythm action game. Unfortunately, the use of the word “rhythm” there makes me completely unable to play it.

Hoping for a cheap win, I dug out my Nuon and threw the unknown Ballistic on. Oh shit – it’s Zuma. I fucking hate Zuma. Nine of the twenty-five levels was all I could bear; the Completion Requirement for that one will be All Levels On Easy, I think. And that’s kinda fair enough, given the harder skill levels just increase the speed.

Then there was a little bit of Wind Waker, but I turned that off after an hour or two… I’m wary of burning out on Zelda, as I did when I first encountered the games (when I played through Ocarina and Wind Waker, back-to-back, in a two week holiday of gaming where I rarely left the house). I fired up the 360 for the first time in two months, grabbed all the Burnout Paradise and Halo 3 add-ons that had been released in my absence, and then scored a couple of easy skull-finding Achievements in Halo 3.

Finally, I pulled my finger out and finished GTA: Chinatown Wars. There’s still oodles left to do in-game – I only finished with 81.15% – but it’s still the annoying experience that I remembered. It reminds me somewhat of Heroes or Dexter on TV; fantastic openings that convince you that they’re groundbreakers, before extended exposure reveals a tepid unsatisfying grind. Sigh.