It’s an “away” week for me – I’m currently sitting in my Significant Other’s kitchen in Sydney, air-conditioner thankfully tempering the 36 degrees outside – which means that I’m (somewhat self-)limited to mobile gaming. Sure, she’s got a Wii (and PS4) here, but – with the exception of some Skyward Sword practise a few months ago, I’ve not really tinkered with consoles here… it’s very much her (or rather, her kids’) hardware.

I have tried to make a bit of an effort to clean up the iOS section of The List a bit in the last few months, playing a few games pretty heavily, but my inability to Complete anything (just one good run needed for Monotaur, a 1000 Nagoya Attack game for Space Invaders Infinity Gene, a defined endpoint for Super Tiny Leap, and a lifetime of skill for Pilot Winds) left me a little… well, mopey. In an effort to liven up my interest a bit, I decided to have a little taste of all the games that I’d acquired for that platform that I’d never played before… and there were a few.

Hundreds impressed early, with a beautifully clean aesthetic and smooth gameplay. Forty levels on one plane ride was perhaps an overdose, in retrospect, though I yearn to return to it… if only to figure out what the mysterious messages embedded in the game mean (I hope I can get them re-displayed!). Pivvot was an interesting followup, with relatively swift gameplay making me feel completely cack-handed. I haven’t quite figured out my Completion requirements for that one yet – unlocking everything is a bare minimum – but I’m sure I’ll return to that one soon. Great music, too. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective certainly looks great, but it appears that the DLC Chapters are unavailable (again, apparently), so I’m unsure what I’ll do about that.

But the bulk of my playtime this week has (unfortunately) been with Nihilumbra. I can’t recall when I snaffled this game, or on whose recommendation I decided to acquire it, but it has been one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had in years. The last level of the game’s Story Mode conjure more ill-tempered profanity from me than anything in recent memory, with unclear mechanics and twitchy controls getting in the way (hah!) of a heavy-handed monologue that seems like it’s been translated to English from a depressing East-European fable (via a dissimilar African language). I’m determined to Complete this one as quickly as possible, but the Void Mode – super-difficult remixes of the Story levels – is almost tedious in its aggressive hate for the player.

So… I’m not liking it much.

I’ve got another week here, banging my head against Nihilumbra‘s obstinance and (hopefully) some cheerier DS-ing, before returning to Adelaide for a couple of weeks… and I’ve already got a plan-of-attack for my console-time: Dark Souls.

Apparently, I like torturing myself.

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.