After having a wussy little whine at my lack of skill with PAC-MAN Championship Edition last week, I had a breakthrough win mere minutes after posting, beating Challenge Mode 1 after the squillionth attempt. Surprisingly, Challenge Mode 2 fell shortly thereafter; pushing me well above the MGC averages and making me substantially happier.

Even more surprisingly, I managed to rattle off the remaining Achievements with barely a repeat attempt, closing the book on PAC-MAN CE in quick-fire fashion. And, in case I’ve not mentioned it before, it’s a lovely game: a thoroughly enjoyable re-imagining of a bona-fide gaming classic. And, thankfully, a testament to the adage “practise makes perfect.” If only that applied to Geometry Wars, too.

With PAC-MAN CE out of the way, and not feeling compelled to return to Brütal Legend just yet, my thoughts turned to the next game to tackle (conveniently forgetting all the other ongoing games I’ve got lined up on the coffee table). I thought about the recently discovered 360 games; sure, I could leap into Feeding Frenzy, reputed to be an easy – if grind-irific – 200 GS, but that would just make me obsess about nothing more than fish for a couple of days, and I could kinda do without that. Boom Boom Rocket? Nup, I’m really not in the mood to start learning a rhythm game. Hell, I even considered Luxor 2 for awhile, Zuma traits be damned. But in the end, my eyes drifted from my 360 to the little black box charging quietly next to it: my DSi. And GTA: Chinatown Wars.

This GTA has proven to be as problematic a purchase as, say, Gears of War or Metroid Prime 2. They’re all games that are critically – and widely – lauded, but somehow manage to leave me stone cold. Prime 2 shares thin (but classy) company as being one of the few games that have ever been banished from The Moobaarn (I gave it to a friend gratis and, now that he’s got a week off, I reckon it’s high time he finished it – right, DJ?) But GTA: CW holds pride-of-place in the aforementioned bunch, because it feels utterly loathsome, distinctly player-unfriendly. Spiteful, even.

Now, I’m all for games of skill; nothing thrills me more when, as with PAC-MAN CE above, a bit of practise yields progress. But GTA: CW seems to be completely against that idea, awarding Gold Medals to the recipients of chance. Metal for lucky breaks.

And that really, really annoys me.

A Gold Medal run on a Time Trial side mission could be thwarted at any stage by a random car drifting onto the road, obscuring your path. Normally, one would expect to be able to compensate for happenstance by using their skill, but GTA: CW‘s tolerances are so tight that any slight deviation will cost you the Medal. Rampages fare no better, with the ability to clock up big scores restricted by the random spawning of bad guys; if your killing spree chain gets broken, then you ain’t getting that Medal.

Thus, GTA: CW seems intent on making you repeat the same side missions over and over and over and over again, on the off chance that this time you’ll be smiled upon by the binary gods, this time you won’t make a trivial mistake… this time the stars will align. And that’d be fine… if the game was actually any fun to play.

But it’s not.

Not for me, anyway. I know there’s people out there who love their Rampage modes, and would happily play it ’til the sun comes up; but I’m not one of them. GTA is not my game; it’s just something that I want finished soon, so I can spring the little cartridge out of the DSi, pop it into its box, and bury it in the cupboard.

And maybe, for a minute or so, I’ll feel a happy glow from having conquered that piece of shit game.

But, even with my record currently at 90.69%, 36 Gold, 3 Silver, and 12 Bronze, there’s no happy glow now – just the promise of more painful repetition. Grrrrr.


I started this gaming week by forcing myself through some of GTA: Chinatown Wars – there’s plenty of side-missions yet to be done (I’m currently only 82% complete), and tons of Gold Medals to be acquired. Despite the fact that I can avoid the stupefying storyline, I still feel as though IQ points are shed for every moment that I play this game.

Which could explain why I’m so amazingly crap at PAC-MAN Championship Edition. It’s the only game that I’ve played where my accumulated gamerscore is less than the average of all registered players; I view this as an abject failure, but nothing I attempt helps me play any better. Disappointing!

But the big news of the week was, of course, the release of Brütal Legend. As a fan of eighties metal and Tim Schafer, I was looking forward to this with great interest; and, thanks to a handy tip from Aussie site The Economical Gamer, I was holding my copy in my hot expectant hands within hours of the release date being broken. And so, on Tuesday night, I settled down for a good, solid dose of metal and gaming.

And it was goooood.

I’d avoided playing the demo released on Xbox Live, wanting to come into the game fresh; and the opening titles & menu screen were every bit as awesome as others had raved. The first level was great, a decent bit of hack-and-slash, with some wonderfully expressive character models on display. A few hand-holding tutorials, a bit of decent driving, a few enjoyable boss battles, and evidence of some massive OCD collection side-quests, and I’m hooked, lauding Brütal Legend‘s praises to all who’ll listen.

It wasn’t until the following evening that I happened upon the first RTS section of the game. And, ummmmm, I wasn’t really sure that I liked it. The second one was a little better, but something didn’t feel quite right. Now, I’m no fan of RTS games in general – only having tinkered with a couple vicariously – but I wasn’t sure whether I was enjoying myself during those sections… at all.

Now, I know that Schafer himself has said that it’s not an RTS game, and I suspect that the problem here is all mine; after all, I’m the type of guy who’ll tip-toe through an FPS with health constantly at maximum and all guns fully loaded. I hate the death of any of my avatars, which is why I’m probably having a tough time enjoying myself with those aspects of Brütal Legend. And that’s a massive shame, because there’s so much there to love: the music selection (all 107 songs) is phenomenal (except, maybe, for Def Leppard’s poppy Rock of Ages, which feels woefully out of place), the storytelling is Schafer-sublime, and the voice-cast is superb – OK, so maybe Lemmy is a little too laid-back, but Ozzy is perfect. Lovely little touches – the cymbal bushes, the post-game interactions, the multiple Double Fine intros – are there in abundance… but I can’t shake the memory that Psychonauts managed to deliver phenomenal production, a fabulous story, and a great game.

Still, I’ll soldier on with Brütal Legend – I’ve only 100%-ed Gentle at this stage – and, hopefully, I’ll discover some love for the RTS-ish bits.