2009: The Year in Review

2009 was quite a weird one for me; even as I acknowledge my dearth of console gaming knowledge, I’ve never felt more distant from the gaming mainstream. I managed to ignore the miniscule lure of the PS3 for another twelve months, I still don’t do Rock Band, I’ve avoided Borderlands and the Fallout series like they were OCD quicksand, and semi-realist games like Forza 3 and Modern Warfare 2 tick none of my boxes. In fact, the only mainstream toe-dipping I reckon I’ve done this year are with Halo 3: ODST, New Super Mario Brothers Wii and, maybe, Brütal Legend.

Despite that, The List has largely been treading water; throughout the year, I bought sixteen new games, and I completed a total of sixteen games. It didn’t help that a cleanup led me to discover previous purchases, conveniently forgotten, plumpifying The List somewhat; just a lazy 71 games outstanding now, helped along by cheap end-of-year deals on Xbox Live.

But hey! This is supposed to be a flippant, if not light-hearted, awards ceremony blog entry written by an uneducated guy you don’t know, recycling ideas that were never that flash in the first place. On with the show!

Proudest Achievement of the Year: Wrapping up Burnout Paradise. Every collectible, every Achievement, and – most chuffingly – every Challenge :)

Disappointment of the Year: Wii Fit still hasn’t had any impact on my weight (though that could possibly be due to the fact that it hasn’t been played… nor has it’s younger brother, Wii Fit Plus), and the much-anticipated GridRunner Revolution sadly failed to light my fire. But the biggest disappointment of the year was provided by MadWorld – so much potential pissed away in immature monotones.

Surprise Discovery of the Year: We Ski, bought nervously at the same time as MadWorld (with the nervousness instantly replaced by regret as soon as the “Checkout” button was clicked) proved to be stupidly good fun. Sure, it didn’t last long, but that flame burned unexpectedly bright enough to be memorable.

Under-Appreciated Game of the Year: A game that had a release window of about a fortnight over here, that local distributors didn’t want to know about, and wound up being sourced for less than five quid (new!) from Amazon in the UK… Soul Bubbles is a gorgeous little game, completely at home on the DS. Please try to buy a copy! :}

Multiplayer Moment of the Year: Halo 3: ODST takes this one easily. Firefight, all my team-mates dead, being chased around by half-a-dozen Brutes… and I had no ammo. Black Eye skull was on, meaning no health regeneration. And I managed to get the Team through. Fucking magic feeling :)

The “I Love You… Honest” Missive of the Year: A toss-up between all the games I’ve bought, but not played, this year. Shadow Complex, Space Giraffe on the PC, The Maw… but Chrono Trigger takes the gong here.

The “I am the King of the World” Throw-Your-Arms-In-The-Air Trophy: Finally – finally – conquering Level 64 of Tempest 2000. It’s just a pity I’m now stuck on another level only a little farther along.

What Was All The Fuss About? Award: This is going to look like link-bait, but… The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. I’ve been chewing through a bunch of Zelda games this year (hey, I 100%-ed Ocarina thrice in 2009!), but I’m utterly perplexed by the adulation this game receives. Takes all types, I guess – and I definitely seem to be in the minority. “It was good, but not great…”

The “Go Fuck Yourself” Dismissal: The Grand Theft Auto series, on the basis of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. I swore I’d never speak of it again.

The Everything Old Is New Again Award: Sure, PAC-MAN Championship Edition is a wonderful extension of the original game, but Bionic Commando: Rearmed takes the cake for a superb re-imagining of the original, with just a tiny taste of the original Commando rolled in as well. Gorgeous.

Blast From The Past Award: After a straight month and two 100% playthroughs, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker provided some of the year’s gaming highlights, with gloriously solid gameplay.

That’s What Gaming’s All About Award: Easy one, really – New Super Mario Brothers Wii eschews modern gameplay “essentials” and delivers a stunningly fun, taut, and challenging single-player experience.

The “Friendly Tumour” Award: An award for the game that initially hides its charms, but grows on you, Brütal Legend snaffles this with ease. The first playthrough had it odds-on for the Almost-But-Not-Quite Award, but repeat visits opened up the glory that Schafer built.

The “Flow Like A River” Natural Gameplay Award: Well… I had to give something to the most recent Prince of Persia game, because it was a real revelation early in the year. Fast, fluid, and rewarding gameplay, backed up with charm and gorgeous stylised graphics.

AAA-HypeTitle I Missed Award: Again, pretty much all of them… though it was pleasing to see that the gaming public may be becoming a little sceptical of the hype machine (after the rapid deflation of Modern Warfare 2‘s bubble, and a retrospective post-coital “meh” being applied to memories of GTA4).

And BOOM! There goes 2009. Big props to Prince of Persia, most of the Zelda series, New Super Mario Brothers Wii, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Soul Bubbles, and We Ski… oddly enough, only one of that lot was released in 2009. But let’s start looking forward to 2010, and Bayonetta, lots more No More Heroes, and a return-to-form for Llamasoft on the iPhone.

But now, I’m leaving 2009 pretty much as I started it: banging my head against a brick-wall of an OCD Zelda requirement. Phantom Hourglass is demanding that I find four more ship parts, and I dare not keep her waiting.

Happy New Year!

Je Retourne!

And so I return from my self-imposed gaming exile, having seen a lazy 103 Fringe shows. Pity I’ve only written up half of them :}

In the five weeks since I last posted, I have got some gaming in – the Prince of Persia DLC was obtained and conquered, and proved to be a fair step up in difficulty over the original. Some great exposition (if you went digging for it), some lazy character design, but all-in-all a worthy 800-point purchase (on XBLA – no idea what it is for you PS3 peeps, and PC PoP fans miss out altogether). And towards the end of the Fringe, I got sucked back into the glorious world of New Super Mario Brothers on the DS – and what a magnificent game it is. Utterly, utterly fabulous.

I was surprised, though, how much I hankered for a bit of gaming during the first few weeks of my “holiday” – until I gave in to Prince of Persia, I was wandering home from theatrical sojourns each night feeling a genuine yearning for a bit of gamage… something, anything. Christ, I was even considering digging up FreQuency for a bit of a bash. Once the Fringe was over, though, it was on for young and old; Geometry Wars practice has recommenced, with an eye to getting my skill levels up, and already I’m seeing promising progress (not bad for someone who celebrated his 38th birthday a few weeks back). I’ve dug up a decent copy of Tempest 2000 for the Jaguar (my first copy had a dodgy EEPROM, hindering progress somewhat), and I’ve progressed to Level 64 so far… but getting beyond that may be an issue, since I’ve yet to make any impact on it at all.

But the big story (for me) has been Majora’s Mask. I was having a real problem even firing the game up; it’s left such an unsavoury taste in my mouth that I just couldn’t face it. Eventually, I pushed myself into playing it again, if only to start practicing the shitty Town Shooting Gallery minigame – which had all the hallmarks of being another Gerudo Fortress archery pain-in-the-arse. Surprisingly, I managed to nail the Gallery for a perfect score, yielding my desired Heart Piece, well before lunch today… looking at the clock, I bit my lip, grabbed a FAQ, and finished the bastard off. 100% complete (all collectibles), two saves – one penultimate and one with all Masks. And that game is finally out of my life.

I know there’s a zillion people out there who loved Majora’s Mask – but it really, really didn’t click with me. At all. Sure, there’s some nice bits – the beauty of the final level, the Kafei & Anju quest – but I found so much of the core game to be cumbersome, clunky, and oppressive, that I couldn’t bring myself to admit that I enjoyed it. Pretty impressive to think that the whole game fit in 64MB, though.

DashDefenceBurnout: MajoRuga

A return visit by my UK friends led to a rather drunken flurry of gaming on Monday night – the Resident Evil 5 demo, the R-Type Dimensions demo, Ikaruga, Dash of Destruction, and EDF 2017 all got a look in.

My gaming pal, Andy – prior to his backpacking odyssey, he was quite the prolific GS accumulator – was keen to check out Resi 5. I’ve never played any of the series, even the “second best game ever” (according to Edge) Resident Evil 4… “survival horror”, as a genre, doesn’t appeal to me in the least. Mostly because I know I’d have trouble actually watching the screen, such is my scaredy-cat nature (I couldn’t play through the demo of Bioshock, remember?) So it was quite a treat to have a Resi fan accompany me as we co-opped the demo levels.

Our opinions couldn’t have been further apart, either – he loved the graphics, I thought it looked depressingly dry and dusty. He loved the action, I felt hamstrung and helpless. He felt immediately at home, I didn’t have the slightest fucking clue what I was doing – though once I figured out how to knife zombies, I was good. For about ten seconds. Before they ate my brains.

Erm… no. Not buying that one.

R-Type Dimensions will also remain unpurchased; I was never really a fan of it in the arcade (though I recall applying plenty of blood, sweat, and tears to get through the bastard on freeplay during a lock-in at the TimeZone around the corner from my old Uni digs). And whilst the XBLA version certainly looks pretty, and plays faithfully, I can’t deal with the psychological weight of it. Christ, Ikaruga‘s bad enough.

Apart from the abovementioned – and a Valentine’s Day bash through Paradise City with my online chums – nothing else really got played this week… except Majora’s Mask. Which, it must be said, has turned into a mechanical sufferance. The Water Temple (or whatever it’s called) has been conquered, all the fairies therein have been captured, and I step-by-stepped a walkthrough to do it. I’m not proud of that, but the sad truth is that I no longer care; I just want that game off my List soon and forever.


The week started with my traditional games of Archon on Australia Day – after digging up my Stelladaptor and firing up VICE-64, the first game (playing as Dark) was a little dicey – my usual teleport-the-Basilisk-into-the-backlines technique only yielded a dead Basilisk, a panicked resurrection, and soon thereafter my Shapeshifter went MIA. A war of attrition followed, but exploiting the silly C64 AI yielded a win. Playing as Light was a much more conventional – but no less enjoyable – affair, and Archon once again proved itself a wonderful game.

A fair bit of work has been done on Majora’s Mask in the last fortnight, too – pretty much everything up until the final two dungeons is done, save the Town Shooting Gallery heart-piece (which looks like it will be a Gerudo’s-Archery-level of frustration). All the Mask quests are done and, whilst my attitude to the game has softened somewhat due to the touching nature of the Kafei & Anju side quest, it’s still a bane, still a thorn in my side; I suspect I’ll be finishing Majora’s sometime next month and never touching it again.

Finally, I had some wonderful guests from the UK staying with me over the last couple of days; and, as a “thankyou” for the accommodation amidst their backpacking odyssey, Andy & Jax treated me to a copy of Prince of Persia. Andy and I created a new account on the 360, then started playing with interest – we joked “let’s see how long it’ll take for the first Achievement.” And colour us surprised when the first toast appeared within two minutes, with another handful appearing at regular 2-3 minute intervals. Inside an hour we’d netted over a hundred GS, but at that point we stopped caring – because the spectacle of Prince of Persia is really something to behold.

For starters, it’s gorgeous to look at – the cel-shading-lite is delicious, owing a lot to Crackdown. The audio is lovely, but bemusing – I’m genuinely undecided as to whether the voice acting is brilliant, or shit! Having played a lot more of the optional cutscenes (that provide a lot of backstory to the Prince and Elika) I’m prepared to lean to the former; there’s a lot of humour and sensitivity buried in there, but it’s tempered by the fact that the plot appears to be a rehash of Bullet Witch (and yes, that’d be a spoiler… if anyone had actually played Bullet Witch ;)

So – next week sees more Majora’s and Prince of Persia; realistically, I’m expecting to Complete them in February and March, respectively.



Tonight, I could take the easy way out: refer to my last post, and simply substitute Burnout Paradise for Ridge Racer 6. After all, it’s been another work-affected week, I met up with pretty much the same group of people for Paradise burning a-plenty (and my 400th Challenge), and played Majora’s Mask… pretty much the same as last week.

But I won’t take the easy way out. Instead, I’m going to write a few more paragraphs about That Which Tortures Me So – Majora’s Mask.

Now, I’ve only just finished the second Temple, after more stumble-heavy to-ing and fro-ing that feels more like a point-and-click adventure than a 3D action RPG-lite. I’ve abandoned my quest for Purity and now have an accessible GameFAQs walkthrough by my side; I’ve been driven to bloody-minded anger by some of the “puzzles” that are being presented, and that second Temple was just fucking infuriating. And that’s the thing that’s most annoying, in a way: the first Temple was a delight, reminding me of the delight that can be found in the Zelda canon. It’s just that, after the second Temple kicks you in the balls, drops you four stories, then says “walk back up here the long way, loser”… well, I get a little discouraged.

And let’s be quite clear here – I’m really not trying to be a difficult contrarian in taking an active dislike to this game. I fully appreciate that some people love and cherish this game (such as oft-commenting Steven O’Dell – thanks for the comments mate, I really appreciate them :)

But I just am not clicking with this Zelda outing. And it could be partly due to the fact that this game simply does not feel polished, does not feel tuned. A simple example would be watching the Goron form of Link play his drums in place of the ocarina; there’s no animation sync to the notes played, so it just looks… well, lame. As for the Songs themselves, they also display a lack of polish – in Ocarina, all the Songs you input were small fragments of larger tunes, giving a feeling of interaction – your initial inputs trigger off a beautiful tune. Majora’s, on the other hand, has principal Songs lasting just your input notes, leading to an unrequited cliffhang. The Song of Soaring is really shitting me off in that regard.

Is Majora’s Mask an ugly duckling? I bloody hope so, I really do – I still hold some belief that the last half is going to bring forth some amazingly heartfelt emotion and deliciously grinducing (that’s grin-inducing, folks) gameplay. But at the moment I’m considering practicing Astropop instead, because this is simply not enjoyable.


It’s been a very quiet week for gaming, with time (and inclination) diminished due to work-related pressures best described as “panic”. All good fun, supposedly, but it’s a bit of a bitch when do-it-for-the-team commitment impacts my OCD.

A return to Ridge Racer 6 with my UK (and AU)-based chums revealed that the old girl has lost little of her charm. After some quality racing with a field of a dozen, we decided to crank the handicap up to give some of the younger players a chance at the win. And bugger me if the pack doesn’t immediate bunch up, with less than two seconds separating first from last – resulting in tons of swearing and laughs and more swearing. Fantastic stuff – I do love our little semi-yearly stoushes.

The only other game to get a look-in this week was Majora’s Mask. It’s an infuriating game; I plodded painfully along throughout the week, not knowing what exactly it was I was supposed to be doing, gleaning a mask here, a happy Townie there. Eventually, frustration overwhelmed me – I had to head to GamesFAQs where I (thankfully) found a spoiler-free walkthrough… and inching through it (to avoid any spoiler-free spoilers ;) revealed that my frustration stemmed from a very early mis-reading of the game. Well, not so much a mis-reading… more a case of Majora not living up to my Zelda expectations.

See, I’m struggling to remember a back-and-forth quest in any other Zelda game; so, when I’m asked for a potion, and I couldn’t previously buy one at the shop where I’m expected to buy one, I’m hardly likely to return there, am I?


So I’m a little disappointed, to be honest. I’ve finally got to the first dungeon, and cleared it out without too many problems, and that was as enjoyable as I was expecting the rest of the game to be… but then it was followed by an annoying race. Oh, and I managed to defeat that Temple Boss with no idea what I was doing (seriously – I didn’t even know I was hitting him). I’m still feeling unfairly oppressed by the pressure of the time limit, and I’m encountering issues where the game will hang – once after 50 minutes of play – which particularly annoys because of the limited ability to save the game in any meaningful way. But I can see some cleverness (and contradiction) in the structuring of the game in its Groundhog Day cycle, but hopefully I’ll be seeing more of the good stuff, and less of the frustrating bits.

Now all I hope for is an easing of the pressure at work – hey, I need at least a couple of hours gaming a night!


After my flurry of posts over the New Year, I would’ve given myself a break if I’d not managed to get something out this evening; but it’s been a good couple of days off work, I’ve got plenty of gaming in, and I’m feeling like a boast ;)

After snaffling the Biggest Quiver in Ocarina of Time last week, I proudly mentioned this on one of my friendly gaming forums – to which a pal slyly replied “But have you caught the Hylian loach?”

Shit. I’d completely forgotten about the Ocarina fishing component. I knew the Loach was supposed to be a prick to catch, but I figured that I’d get away with just seeing it – something I managed quite quickly. But then I cast my eyes across an Ocarina Guide that mentioned…

Are you THE MASTER? If you are, you can get the following:

100 Golden Skulltulas
36 Heart Pieces
Have four Bottles (fair and square)
Tons of Secret Grottos/Areas
Lots of Golden Rupees
Own a cow
Get 1500+ points on the Horse Archery Game
Caught a 20 pounder
Caught the Hylian Loach
Have all the weapon upgrades
All Masks
Big Goron’s Sword
…and like to torture chickens.

Bastard. It’s almost like he was goading me.

So a-fishing for the Hylian Loach I went. And, I must say, everything you’ve heard about the Loach is true. Four hours of gentle teasing, waiting, quiet chasing, and lip biting before I got the bugger to bite – but then, when he bit, he was landed without too much fuss…

...and all he gave me was 50 fucking rupees.

Another couple of items collected, a slight mis-step (taking Fairies, rather than Blue Potions, into the Ganondorf fight), and Ocarina of Time was struck off The List. And it goes without saying that it’s still a magnificent game – utterly deserving of all the plaudits afforded it over the years and, I’ll posit, better than any other game I’ve played in the last year.

With Ocarina complete, I gently eased myself into Majora’s Mask – and after a handful of hours, I have to say that I’m not overly impressed. I don’t like the repetition (especially that fucking Deku animation when I stray too close to the Deku flower), I don’t like the dark tone, I don’t like the implied time restriction – and right now I’m just feeling a bit out of my depth. There almost seems to be too much information on offer, too much to do – and I don’t feel able to even chip away at it. Here’s hoping there’s a breakthrough soon, lest I reluctantly resort to GameFAQs – something which I’m trying to do less and less these days – but I’m buoyed by the fact that Ocarina also started slowly, and I’ve grumbled about the opening of Twilight Princess before, and they both ended up being corkers.

Whilst the second day of the New Year saw a Zelda game Completed, the third day saw the Completion of a Suda51 game – Flower, Sun and Rain. Whilst the story was great, the gameplay – being little more than an interactive story, requiring you to move from one location to another & click through pages of dialogue, and never presenting the opportunity to fail – left a lot to be desired. Very hard to recommend, unfortunately; thankfully, it didn’t trouble The List for long.

Finally, there was another visit to Burnout Paradise this week, pootling around with friends and snaffling a few more Challenges (385 of 490 complete, now). Fabulous stuff, and a handy reminder of this game’s online strengths.

Next week: more Majora’s. A scheduled return to Ridge Racer 6 with my old racing chums. Given that it’s a return-to-work week, that’ll be plenty :}