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?

Quicker and Dirtier…

A couple more Bayonetta notes is all you’re getting this week.

Firstly, finish the game to unlock the Couture options. Purchase the Witch Queen Couture Bullet, then change to that costume (RB at the Chapter Select screen). Now play the game again, watching all the cutscenes. It’s filthy… but in a totally good way.

Now do it all again, but with the P.E. Uniform. And then the Various – Type B costume.

Oh my.

Lest this blog become a teenage-ish outlet for physical lust, let’s mention the game again: it’s still bloody brilliant. My complaints last week about the difficult of Hard have been completely scotched after a bit of experimentation with the purchasable items; some nice combinations led to a Saturday-afternoon hammering of Hard mode, and an eventual completion time of a touch over three hours. Replay one botched level, and bang – 2:59:58, enough to unlock yet another item in The Gates of Hell. And now I’m coasting through the Non-Stop Infinite Climax skill level; that should be wrapped up by Australia Day.

Then there’s the simple matter (ho ho) of wrapping up some of the Alfheim Portals (little challenge levels within the game), and I’ll have nabbed all the GamerScore available to me from the game. But that doesn’t mean that Bayonetta will soon be off The List, oh no – there’s so many little unlockables within the game that I don’t even really consider myself a third of the way there yet. And that’s after nearly sixty hours!

I’ve got a few other games like that hanging over me on the 360; Rez HD really does require 100%-shot-down runs, and Ninety-Nine Nights has a whole lot of random drops to collect. But that’s the price I pay for being me, for letting my OCD have its way with my gaming hobby.

And I think about the sixty hours invested in Bayonetta so far, with the prospect of at least a hundred more, and I quiver with joyful anticipation :)


Aside from a brief reminiscient blast through Ninety-Nine Nights (to test out the NXE’s dump-to-HDD performance with that title), most of the week was taken up with – you guessed it – World of Goo. I’m having a blast hammering through those OCD ranks on my second profile; only eleven left now, but one of those is the deeply unfair Bulletin Board System. Still, this actually feels like a doable endeavour, so I hope to knock the Goo off The List before the New Year.

The weekend, however, was a different story. At the turning of the page on the calendar for the last four months, I decreed that That Month would hark the Completion of Mutant Storm Empire; all that remained were some very gettable co-op multiplayer Achievements. I had an accomplice who pledged to assist in the endeavour, but every time we made a serious attempt we’d encounter some type of glitch: players getting stuck on walls, cameras zooming off in the distance, and other happenstances that could be used as an excuse for our generally poor play. Given that he was in the UK, and I in Australia, I attributed such glitches (except for the poor play, of course) to network latencies, and decided last week to search for a partner who was a little more local.

I peeked on the Achieve360Points forum, but couldn’t find a partner-seeker who’d already been sated; the forums yielded one potential match who, when contacted, claimed to have never played the game. Odd that it was on his GamerCard, but who am I to stalk? Eventually, though, I found a chap in Wales who enthusiastically agreed to help out and, after two big sessions on the weekend, we managed to get the 10x Multiplier and Millionaire Twins Achievements… thus allowing me to cross Mutant Storm Empire off The List. Cheers Edd! :)

Once that was done, however, I ducked back to help another pal out in his quest for Achievements. Today’s target? The O/C Gamer’s GOTY 2007, Crackdown. And fuck me, it’s still absolutely brilliant. We both cackled with unbridled glee as we romped through the easiest skill level, engaging in massive amounts of mayhem as we went; my Mercenaries muscle memory only helped in that regard as I kept mashing the reload and switch-weapons buttons inappropriately, leading to room-filling explosions rather than the intended close-quarters gunfire. If anything, I left that joyous session nostalgic – pining for the first time I encountered that world, the almost motherly embrace I associate with my growth and progression through the game.

And then I wonder – has anything made me feel like that this year?

Ninety-Nine Nights

I love Rez. Rez is ace. And, leveraging my O/C nature, I scoot about looking for other games that had been subjected to producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s touch. And so, when video became available for N3, I downloaded – and enthused. This looked like a bumper hack’n’slash-fest with squillions of characters onscreen – something that I find appealing. After all, the scene in Kameo where you wander into a valley of carnage is one of the few memorable moments of that game.

The six-out-of-ten review in Edge (which began with the line “Ninety-Nine Nights deserves a better score than the one at the bottom of this page”) only heightened my anticipation of this game. Edge roundly criticised N3‘s flaws, but their description of the underlying game mechanic had me salivating. A pre-cursory (after all, my mind was already made up) pootle through the demo available on XBLA made did little to discourage; thus, I pre-ordered, I picked up, and I played.

The initial intro movie is beautiful – certainly FMV, but still lovely. The titles looked a bit… clunky. Very clunky. Stuttery framerates, poor design. Really disappointing. The save system is cack-handed, giving the gamer every opportunity to unwittingly over-write their progress. There’s no checkpoints or opportunities to save within levels, which often means that the frustrated player can often lose half-an-hour of progress because of a poorly executed boss battle. The plot and character development is pretty much non-existent and, when it is there, is astonishingly lame.

And, worst of all, this game crashes. A lot.

A peek about the Xbox Forums indicated that I was not alone in this issue; often, the DVD drive in the ‘360 would slow to a stop, and the next time the game requires some data to be streamed in, it crashes, resulting in the fearful Blade-Of-Borkedness popping out from the right-hand side of the screen.

So the trick is to never let the drive spin down; I discovered that popping into the inventory screen every couple of minutes seemed to cause sufficient activity to prevent problems. It’s a bitch of a thing to remember when you’re in the middle of a 5,000+ hit combo, though, and tends to kill the mood.

But despite all these niggles, N3 is still a worthy diversion. Graphically, it’s a treat, with some decent character models appearing onscreen… and there’s a lot of them. At some points in the game, you can spy the plain scenery covered with two dozen of your own henchmen and literally – yes, literally – hundreds of bad guys in floods of hackable goodness. Sure, the baddies are relatively low-polygon in nature and blend into a blurry mush of things-to-kill, but that’s all that’s required of them… the important number in N3 isn’t the number of vertices per bad guy, it’s the number of bad guys on the screen.

In fact, the only graphical quibble lies in the design of some of the playable characters. And it may be a cheap shot (and, believe it or not, I don’t want to turn this blog into a repository of my fave pervy images), but I’d like to know how this is supposed to protect a knight in battle:

Inphyy and her WonderBra [2,575 KB]
Aim for the cleavage.

Gameplay is pretty simple – select a character (starting with principal protagonist step-siblings Inphyy and Aspharr, other characters are made available as the game progresses). Wade into battle. Mash X and Y in various rhythmic combos until all opposition has been vanquished. There’s a two-stage mega-weapon power-up, and it’s a joy seeing each character’s Blue Orb Spark for the first time. Vigk Vagk, in particular, has a visually spectacular attack; Tyurru, despite her nubile 12-year-old jailbait qualities, has an attack which slows the 360 to a crawl as it models a tidal wave flooding the surrounds causing maximum damage.

Levelling up characters can be a bit of a chore, but the extra combo variations make it worthwhile. Tyurru, in particular, morphs from a crapulent weakling into a veritable superweapon as she clambers through her ranks. And Inphyy’s Level 9 Seraph Butterfly combo (a joyfully simple A, A, Y) is a joy to behold.

Tyurru [34 KB]

So, in short – enjoyed the game, hated the crashes. The O/C in me is still playing it for the purposes of item collection, but – due to the random drops and lack of complete list – it’s difficult to determine when this task will be complete. Still, it’s not an onerous duty – in fact, as long as the crashes are avoided, it’s a secret pleasure.