Jet Set Luxoruga Adventures

Well… it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Thankfully, sheer laziness has been only a secondary cause for my lack of blogging; the primary reason is that I’ve been to busy actually playing games. And procrastinating. But, spurred on by a (necessary) resurgence of my other blog, I’ve decided that the words need to flow on this one, too. Too much of a blockage can get uncomfortable, y’know?

When I last posted something on this blog, I was battling with Ikaruga – in attempting to get an A-Rank on the first (and, by far, the easiest) level, the best I could manage was a B++… 1.86 million points, and little idea of how I could realistically up my game to get that extra little points bump. After watching a pile of replay videos (a wonderful feature of the XBLA port), I realised that I was missing out on some serious use of the energy absorption / release mechanism: not only was the homing super-weapon useful for chain maintenance, but absorbing bullets actually scores points.

I switched from Easy mode to Normal mode, with the result that slain enemies dispatch little clusters of same-polarity bullets… and there was an immediate pay-off, with a score bump to 1.93 million. Another day of practice and I hit 2.03 million – and with that Achievement unlocked, my Gamerscore completion percentage hit 96%.

The following weekend I accompanied my nephew to AVCon where, as luck would have it, they had a Gamecube running Ikaruga in an unofficial high-score competition. Once I got (re-)used to the wonderful Gamecube controller, I figured I knew the level well enough to get into the 1.5 million range… but, after about half-an-hour of play, I managed to snag a score just over 2.1 million – better than my own local highscore, a fact that is likely to play on my mind in the future. When I left AVCon that day, I was still the highest score by about 1.8 million points(!).

Ikaruga [1] 2,182,540

After moving furniture around to accommodate the camera, I managed to rope my ex into helping me out with Kinect Adventures… she was incredibly sceptical of the Kinect initially, but we were soon leaping around, sweating up a storm, pushing through for the co-op Achievements. She gracefully retired, and I spent another couple of nights flailing around to get the requisite platinum ranks… and knocking Kinect Adventures off The List.

Quite unexpectedly, I found myself playing Luxor 2 again, pushing through the Normal difficulty level and into Advanced. Things seemed to be pretty easy going early on, but I hit a tough patch around Stage 9: some levels were taking up to two hours to tip-toe through. Perseverance paid off, though, and I breezed through the final handful of stages in one grumpy after-work evening; a weekend of more troubling levels in the tricky Challenge of Horus netted the final skill-related Achievement. A few hours of whoring, and Luxor 2 was also off The List.

With that large project off my plate, I started looking for another to tackle… and, with the imminent re-release of Jet Set Radio, I decided to tackle the three Dreamcast variants of the game that I had squirrelled away (two of them still shrink-wrapped!). After discovering the extent of the game’s unlockables – and its annoying peccadilloes – through a play through of the PAL version, I threw away my progress and started from scratch, stepping through all three versions of the game in parallel. The differences with the Japanese version were most noticeable, of course, but even the US and PAL versions had their (inexplicable) differences… but by the time I finished all three games, I was well practised in the game.

So when the 360 version was released on September 19, I leapt into it with gusto. I surprised myself by Jetting most of the levels on my first attempt – muscle memory really pays off, I think! TrueAchievements had me pegged as the sixth person to “complete” the game (though I seem to have dropped to eighth now), and I would’ve been much higher on that list… had I not taken a little trip to Melbourne to see Tetsuya Mizuguchi speak. Oh – and to meet him. He watched me play Child of Eden, don’t-you-know. But there’ll be a (longer, painfully detailed) post about that later ;)

Miz and Me

There’s other games that’ve been played – Child of Eden, Rez, Burnout Paradise, Mario Kart Wii – and most recently I’ve returned to Uncharted 2 (in an effort to wrap that up before year’s end, as resolved). I’m still champing at the bit for Dyad (which is caught up in Certification Hell), but there’s not really that much else that’s tickling my fancy at the moment. I’m just cleaning up older games at the moment – or, as I like to think of it, following through on prior commitments.

Oh – and the Wii U? I’ve only got one thing to say about that…

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…

Child of Luxor Adventures

Short and sweet: I managed to push through the remaining Luxor 2 levels to finish off the Normal difficulty, earning myself two Achievements in the process… and, more importantly, successfully fulfilling one of my Resolutions for 2012. I flirted with the idea of pushing on, wondering whether I could commit to finishing the game this year – but I’m all too aware of what would likely happen if I chose to do so: I’d hammer through the first thirty-or-so levels, burn out, and then buy a whole bunch of new games in a cycle of guilt and inadequacy that I can recognise, but not seem to do anything about. So I’ll put Luxor aside for now, perhaps only tinkering with a level or two (of the 108 outstanding) if I feel a real hankering.

I also quickly wrapped up another Kinect Adventures Achievement, but the bulk of the week’s game-playing time was taken up with my attempt to tackle another Resolution – breaking 500GS in Child of Eden. I scored a few 100% Purification runs, and a couple of small cleanup tasks, raising my total to 450GS… and I was feeling pretty good about things. Confident, even. I’d originally planned to just hammer playthroughs of the game until I unlocked all of Lumi’s Garden (a handy little 50GS), but I’d had pretty good fun working on those 100% levels… maybe I could clear them all out for 90GS? Or hammer through a few more levels on the Hard difficulty?

All those plans were scuppered the moment I decided to play through the Passion Archive again. I’d only completed that level once before – no big deal, I figured: that was back when I was trying to push through the game as quickly as possible. And my first revisitation was going oh-so-well – I was actually on pace to 100% the level until I fluffed the very last wave of patterned squares. Not bad, I thought, I’ll pick that up next run. But then came the boss fight…

…oh dear. Purple bullets filled the screen in seemingly incomprehensible patterns; my reticle digitally flailed in response to my panic. Death came quickly.

The memories came flooding back: I’d been stuck on that level for weeks on my first run through the game (in fact, three months elapsed between the conquering of the Beauty and Passion Archives). All of a sudden, my confidence was sapped – did I actually think that I was even capable of learning to tackle this boss? A boss which required ten minutes of slog before I even reached it?

And, of course, that just brings up more Fear – these are the easy bits of Child of Eden, I’ll say to myself; I haven’t even started to look at the high-score runs yet, let alone Gold Star runs. All I’m doing at the moment is brute-forcing my way through the game… there’s no skill there yet, and I need plenty.

And that inadequacy just makes me want to go and buy something new. Luckily Dyad is out this week…

Of course, beyond all Dyad‘s glorious technicolour synaesthesia there will be a game that I’m monumentally shit at… but damn I’ll look pretty while I’m being shit!

The Temptation of Spelunky

A bit of a slow week for me, gaming-wise; Ubisoft have been resolute in their claims that nothing is wrong with the Assassin’s Creed II Uplay service, and none of their suggestions have helped me claim my final mission of the game. So I reckon I’ll give them a fortnight to try and sort something out before dismissing the game as Completed.

I’ve been pottering around with Child of Eden most nights, just trying to brute-force my way into some additional Achievements. I finally cracked the Evolution Archive on the Hard difficulty setting, though it was a close-run thing; I seem completely unable to handle the speed of the incoming enemy fire during the phoenix stage of the boss fight, and I’m buggered if I know how I’m going to gold-star that level (on Hard or Normal). But I’m up to 400GS for that game now, with my Resolution‘s target of 500GS well in sight.

Today, though, found me in a mopey kind of mood. I didn’t want to return to Eden, I’m too scared to practise the boss rush in Skyward Sword, and – despite loading Perfect Dark Zero and watched the superlative opening FMV – couldn’t face that, either. I paired up with a random for the sole online Kinect Adventures Achievement, which inspired me to look at some other games that need some work… but after giving both of the 360’s Geometry Wars games a bash, and been staggered by the poor voice acting in Ninety Nine Nights, I decided to fire up Luxor 2 for the first time in ages… and there I stayed for the rest of the day, grinding out a handful of levels. Only six more levels before I get another Achievement in that, and another five levels for more GamerScore… but it’s getting much, much tougher now, and exploiting the gamesave feature is genuinely nerve-wracking; several times now I’ve made poor calls (with hindsight) that have left me fighting to recover.

But the big game – kinda, sorta – of the week is Spelunky. Now, let me make one thing clear from the outset: I’ve not bought Spelunky (yet), but that doesn’t stop me from being head-over-heels in love with what it is. With what it does. With how it unashamedly brutalises all who choose to play her. The random level generation and deep mechanics, in conjunction with its rich visual lexicon, are a joy to behold; the difficulty cliff and unrepentant intolerance for mistakes is absolutely charming. Giant Bomb’s Quick Look had me giggling away, with back-to-back yelps and sighs of “I fucking hate this game” / “I fucking love this game” warming the blackened areas of my heart. And the demo agrees with everything anyone has said about the game: it’s cruel. It’s vicious. It’s brilliant.

And yet… I’m not sure I’m going to buy it.

As I’ve mentioned before, The List weighs heavy on my psyche, and Spelunky – with it’s chance-influenced Achievements and demand for devotion – would undoubtedly be a List-dweller. And I like enough of what I’ve already played to want to be able to play the game well – even really well – but that would take an almost obsessive amount of time… time which I don’t really have. Time which should be spent becoming better at F-Zero GX, or Metroid Prime, or Geometry Wars… because these are all games I love too, and games that I want to be good at.

Sadly, I don’t think there’s enough room in my life for Spelunky… at the moment…

My 2012 Gaming Resolutions

So… Gaming Resolutions, eh? These are rapidly becoming a bit of a joke with me.

Every year I present a collection of commitments, any of which in isolation look completely manageable, and every year I fail to satisfy those commitments. Every year, I plan to pare The List down, and every year it is merely whittled.

And, more to the point, every year I feel myself drifting further away from the mainstream gamer. As I write this, I’m listening to Giant Bomb’s 2011 Deliberations, and I’ve played precisely zero of their Top Ten. True, I want to play Saints Row: The Third, Bastion, and Portal 2, and they’ll undoubtedly be picked up next year, but still… none of them.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at last year’s Resolutions…

…to leave 2011 with The List pared back to 50. No shit. I’ve just pulled that number out of my arse, and I’m sticking to it.

Verdict: Fail. The List currently sits at 67. So that’s actually a Big Fail.

…to keep on top of stuff obtained through the year. Again. Last year’s goal of 50% was completely reasonable, yet I missed it. Try harder!

Verdict: Thirteen new games appeared this year; seven of those were off The List by year’s end. Success!

…to make an impact on every platform. Again. But do it this time!

Verdict: Fail fail faility fail. The only platforms that were touched were the Wii (and I only just scraped that in), 360, PS3, and DS. Sounds like a comprehensive FAIL.

…to clear up some of the doubles. This will feed in nicely to the pruning of The List indicated above; after all, I’ve got two copies of No More Heroes 2. Three copies of Jet Set Radio! Two copies of Ikaruga… ummm, let’s not fret about that one too much ;)

Verdict: Gimme an “F”. Gimme an “A”. Gimme an “I”. Gimme an “L”. What does it spell? petee.

…to clear up some of the lingering 360 titles. There’s a bunch of games in which I’ve acquired all the Achievements, but haven’t crossed off The List. Ninety-Nine Nights needs a bit of OCD collection lovin’, Rez needs some 100% levels. Let’s get some of those wrapped up, yeah?

Verdict: What starts with “F”, and sounds like “tail”? That’s right – me.

Clearly, 2011 was outright shithouse in terms of Resolution adherence. So what do I do – choose more resolutions that look attainable, then dismally fail yet again? Or do I pare down expectations somewhat?

Let’s find out…

In 2012, I resolve…

  • …to leave 2012 with The List pared back to… 64. Yep, the same target as two years ago. Soft, but – on previous efforts – pretty unlikely.
  • …to (still) keep on top of stuff obtained through the year. 50% is fine, since it means that some of the back catalogue is getting wrapped up.
  • …to knock Perfect Dark Zero, Skyward Sword, Uncharted 2, and Halo: Anniversary off The List.
  • …to beat Luxor 2‘s Normal skill level.
  • …to make some inroads on both WipEout HD and F-Zero GX. Racing ahoy!
  • …to clear up some of the lingering 360 titles… fo’ real this time. Ninety-Nine Nights, Rez, Shadow Complex.
  • …to break at least 500 GS in Child of Eden.
  • …to play something new; something outside the stuff I know I like. To take a risk!

So there you have it – my targets for the next year. Fewer broad sweeping statements, and more focus on the current generations (because there’s a technological change a-comin’, kids).

And, cut’n’pasting a line from previous years… What are your Gaming Resolutions for 2012?

Kamxor 2, and Supporting the Ones You Love

The précis for the past week reads somewhat similarly to last week’s effort: nothing but Kameo and Luxor 2.

I’ll start with the latter: I think I’ve managed to burn myself out on Luxor yet again, pushing through to Stage 12-4 on Normal (and up to the Supervisor of Fledglings rank); whilst I’m getting some jollies from my conservative approach to grinding through the levels, the rewards have started to be outweighed by the relentless pressure of the game. It’s stopped being fun and, though I’m a mere eleven stages away from another rare achievement (and the chance to get my gamerscore modulo five again), I might have to step away… again.

Kameo, though, is finally – after having picked it up on the 360’s launch – off The List. Monday night saw me knock off the two remaining solo Thorn’s Pass Achievements, and a greedy late night attempt at my final Score Attack A-Rank ended in failure when I neglected obscure game traits – like Kameo’s health. But Tuesday morning I woke up nursing a dribbly, muddle-headed cold, and subsequently had two days away from the office… I still had sufficient hand-eye co-ordination to play, however, and a repeat attempt at the final Score Attack was a half-billion-point success. Enabling Kameo‘s inbuilt cheat modes (through Score Attack unlockables) yielded a simple Expert-mode walkthrough, and with that… Kameo was done.

But I still want to write a longer piece on Kameo, so I plunged straight back in and started a whole new game, just to check whether my memories of the game were correct. And it was a blast – my A-Rank skills allowed me to blitz my way through the game, and I almost 100%-ed the game inside a dozen hours, and my level scores nearly all exceeded the A-Rank requirements (except that bloody Forgotten Forest level – grumble). So – the information gathered will now likely gestate for a couple of months before popping out into an experience-piece (as opposed to opinion-piece, or review).

There’s one more thing I’d like to write about this week (having just pissed away a large amount of time watching stuff on YouTube), and that is the battle that I’m facing on an almost daily basis about whether or not I go on a big game-buying frenzy. Now, let’s be quite clear, here: I’m well aware of the need for retail therapy, but what I’m currently feeling isn’t an instance of that; rather, I’m currently being jostled by the desire to Support the Ones I Love conflicting with the need to reduce The List.

One of my many Other Lists is a collection of names that I feel have earned my immediate support – creators that will get my money almost immediately upon release, no questions asked. But that List has been causing me a lot of double-takes lately; whilst Llamasoft seem to have targeted the non-List-impacting iOS, Double Fine have seen fit to release Trenched which, by all accounts (and I admit to not having even tried the demo), is a tower defence game that requires friends for Good Times (a problem for me, since its release in Europe – where most of my XBL friends are – has been caught up in a legal quagmire). And I’m not a fan of tower defence stuff… at all. Platinum Games have delighted with Bayonetta, and then disgusted with a not-returned-to-in-ages MadWorld; the demo for Vanquish didn’t impress me (on either the 360 or the PS3). And after the stunning Killer7 and No More Heroes, I was shattered by the crapulence of Suda 51’s No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle, and am thus wary of grabbing Shadows of the Damned (especially when Suda 51’s next game is slated to be the zombie-filled Lollipop Chainsaw – because I hate the use of zombies in games). If Shadows is shit, that may put Suda 51 in the three-strikes territory for me (as it has for other people).

In short: I want to buy Vanquish to support Platinum. I want to buy Trenched to support Double Fine. I want to buy Shadows of the Damned to support Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture. But I’m scared by the resultant pressure on The List; whilst Shadows looks easy enough, Vanquish most certainly does not, and I’m already struggling with Luxor, another game-style I don’t get on well with, and I doubt Trenched will offer the same opportunities to brute-force progress.

My arm gets twisted when I hear that sales for recent games have been “disappointing”; whilst I have no real idea how accurate the numbers at VGChartz are, Child of Eden is pegged at less than six-figure-sales, and Shadows of the Damned has struggled to sixty thousand sales (split evenly between the 360 and PS3).

And that, frankly, is bullshit.

I went straight out and bought a brand-spankin’-new copy of Shadows. I’ve not played it yet, but at least I’ve put a penny in Grasshopper’s pocket. Vanquish will have to wait – part of the lust behind that was driven by the discovery of a local store selling lenticular copies (on both platforms) for a mere AU$30. But then that’s almost too cheap; I’d actually rather pay AU$50 to buy it on XBLM (or, I assume, PSN) because I believe in digital delivery, and because I figure Platinum would actually get more out of that.

…oh god, what have I done?


Last Sunday night, post-blogging and lacking inspiration, I found myself pottering around aimlessly: looking at everything, settling on nothing. My plan for the month was in disarray, and I didn’t really know where my (legitimate) game-for-the-month was going to come from. I still have a few fall-back games that I can push myself through (you know, the type of backburner game that’s pretty much done, but just needs another weekend’s TLC before being struck off The List) – so a Plan B formed, and Paper Mario and Super Galdelic Hour started meandering to the foreground of my mind…

…in the meantime, though, I figured I’d put some effort into one of my long-term games. Chrono Trigger? No, that’s too long-term. Rez HD? Not while I’m still struggling with Child of Eden (which didn’t any game-time this week). F-Zero GX? I want to play something, not be reminded about how crap I am.

And somehow I found myself playing Luxor 2.

Now, I’ve written before about my love/hate encounters with Luxor 2, and when I loaded it up for the first time since I got on Stage 13-4 I was full of trepidation. But, fully aware of the struggle I was having just finishing the first third of the game, I had no great expectations… other than accepting that I was engaging in match-3 practice.

So imagine my surprise when judicious use of the account-signout “feature” saw me inch my way past my stumbling block… and the next stage. The next night saw another three stages completed; the following night another fell. That left me on the final level of Easy difficulty… when I was whisked away to Perth on work. Any spare moment on that trip, my mind flittered back to Luxor 2; the moment I stepped back into my home, the 360 was booted. Forty-five teeth-gritting minutes later, I’d scrounged my way through the game.

And then I leapt straight back into the Normal difficulty level. Currently at Stage 6-1, with my rank a lowly Cutter of Reeds. And, once again, I find myself curiously thinking that I may be feeling something that approximates fun… I’m unexpectedly eager to push on, anyway.

But, having posted a link to last week’s post on my my TrueAchievements feed, one of my old boosting buddies left a comment on TA suggesting we return to our previous Kameo challenges. Some months ago we’d given up on making further progress on the (zero-gamerscore!) Time Rank achievements after our Water Temple attempts left us bewildered and bemused; however, some enterprising German lads had posted some new video guides online, and they left my mate gibajon champing at the bit. So we started tackling them again… with initially predictable results. We were well off the pace, unable to even finish the level.

But we learned; we worked things out. We acted as a team. Sure, it was a pretty uneven team – with gibajon’s slick skills showing my old-man floundering for what it really is – but we worked out how to cover for each other. We polished each little section of the game, we started getting the feel for the flow of the level. The first time we actually finished the level – with a scant three seconds left on the clock, earning a convincing E-Rank – felt like a triumph. Getting within thirteen seconds of our A-Rank target, we knew we could squeeze the extra seconds from somewhere; but when the breakthrough came, and we finished easily… well, it’s safe to say we were both pretty happy.

Then came the next level… less than a dozen attempts. The next… less than a handful (despite my protestations about the apparent impossibility of the task). The final level, with tight initial timings and requiring a healthy dose of luck early on, was more testing, but eventually it too was conquered.

And suddenly Kameo‘s Time Attacks were out of the way – and a little bit of digging led us to discover our world-wide rankings were a more-than-credible 38, 41, 30, 35, 22, and 25. We got gibajon a few extra hosting Achievements, and then somewhat sadly went our separate ways – the Co-op camaraderie was brilliant fun. But it left me further enamoured with Kameo again: it’s still a lovely game, and – now that I’ve managed to blitz the hardest remaining A-Rank – it’s feeling like it may be off The List sooner, rather than later.

I’m pretty sure it deserves another playthrough, though…

A game I totally suck at: Willpower

I had every intention of not buying any more games this year, quaking with both anticipation and fear of the upcoming onslaught of Must-Buy titles in the New Year (Bayonetta and No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle in January, No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise in February, and a whole heap I’ve temporarily forgotten about in the same way that Brütal Legend and Halo 3: ODST slipped my mind a few months back).

So when previews of New Super Mario Brothers Wii showed a huge multiplayer focus, and with rumours of it being dumbed down with the stupefying “Super Guide” playthrough mechanism, I figured it’d be pretty easy to skip over. To just forget about it. Sure, I’d probably buy it for my nephew at Christmas, but I could get away with not owning it myself.

And then the reviews started popping into my RSS reader. “Like two completely different games in single and multi,” they said. “A return to the hardcore,” spouted others. “Don’t be deceived – behind the cute graphics is a fiendishly difficult game,” said the straw that broke the camel’s back.

So I bought it. And it’s… nice. Fun. But not brilliant.

Surprisingly, I love – really love – the purported “dumbing down” of the game. There’s a stack of hint movies that can be unlocked in exchange for your Big Coins, with each movie being a run-through performed by some gaming ninja. Seriously – some of the “Super Skills” movies are amazing, putting every other speed run you’ve ever seen to shame. Other hint movies include sample 1 Up leeching runs, and some mighty helpful Big Coin guides. And the Super Guide – the big green action item that appears onscreen when you die more than eight times in a level, allowing you to trigger a run-through of the level by Luigi – is magic; in stark contrast to the sharp skills of the hint movies, the Super Guide movies are much more sedate and cautious, almost timid.

I’m finding NSMBWii to be exactly the right level of frustrating – it all looks doable onscreen, I can grok what’s required of me, and then it just requires a bit of coordination to get the actions lined up for the win. For the Big Coin. And blimey, some of those big coins are tough. Still, I’m halfway through both Worlds 3 & 5, having cleansed out World 1 (and leaving only a few coins behind in World 2). But, as I said, it’s not brilliant… yet.

The only other gaming of this week was Luxor 2 – up to Level 13-4 of Easy, and it’s feeling nigh-on impossible. That’s not brilliant at all. It’s a chore, really. Penance.

…oh, Just Cause 2. That’s another one for the New Year.

The one downer of the whole week – besides succumbing to a frankly embarrassingly minor assault to my willpower – was that NSMBWii had the good grace to update my Wii firmware, nixing my USB Loader hack. Bugger – back to the optical disc thing, then. Hopefully I can still get my region-free hacks to work, lest Madworld may be going even further off the backburner.

Hypocrite? Maybe!

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

For three days.

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

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

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

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

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

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