Saturday, September 15, 2012

Skyrim Hearthfire

It's common knowledge that I love the Elder Scrolls games.  All of the character customization and ability to sort through weapons, armor, ingredients, and other loot speaks directly to my soul.  So when the video preview for Hearthfire appeared, promising me the ability to design and build my own house, my heart was aflutter.  What I envisioned was a dream-come-true combination of Skyrim and Minecraft.  Instead, I received a really limiting and less fun version of Kingdom for Keflings.

Players are allowed to purchase three specific lots of land and build a house on them.  Each house begins as a small starter home and then is built upon after that.  Players have the option to add a Main Hall and three other wings such as a kitchen, armory, greenhouse, bedrooms, etc.  There is a limit as to which wings you can have and where they go on the house.

As far as decorating inside the home, each room has a workbench that allows you to build everything the room needs.  The game places each piece of furniture and fixture into the room for you and there is no way to rearrange items.  The only customization is that you don't have to build everything in your room.  You can leave it barren or not have as many benches or decorations, but that's about it.

There are a few advantages to these new houses.  First, the greenhouse wing allows you to plant any growing ingredient you want and mass produce them.  For example, I had a quest that required 20 jazbay grapes.  Instead of hunting for the obscure grapes, I simply planted some in my greenhouse and harvested a couple in-game days later.  There is also a library wing full of bookcase that allows you to place all those books you collected onto shelves for display.  Other wings provide similar functionality. 

Overall, it's not a bad DLC.  I like the extra functions that the houses serve as far as storage and production goes.  I also like that building these houses helps to boost skills like Smithing and Alchemy if you put in the time.  The developers appear to have fallen short of their advertising implication of customization since the ability to make the houses truly your own is very limited.  At the cost of only 400 MSP or $5, I think this DLC is worth it in the end.  It adds a little something new to the game that players haven't seen before and it gives everyone a reason to put that Skyrim disc in one more time.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mass Effect 3 DLC: Leviathan

Mass Effect 3 has had plenty of free DLC.  There have been several new maps added to the multiplayer portion of the game.  There has also been an extended ending added at the demand of the fans.  But can the first major single player, post-release DLC live up to the in-depth story and compelling game play?  This is Bioware, of course it does.

The new content, Leviathan, takes Commander Sheppard and the team on several missions to discover the origins of some ancient artifacts.  Beyond that, I can't tell you much without giving away the story.  But I will tell you this, it's a hell of a good story.  The add-on really expanded the mythology of the series and contributed to the history of the galaxy and even somewhat the ending of the third game.

The cost of the DLC is 800 MS points or $10.  For this price, it's an extremely short addition.  I hunted in every corner and slaughtered every enemy and still barely dragged out two hours.  There were some intensely memorable moments with breathtaking cut scenes; I just wish there was more.

Overall, I think that this DLC is worth the purchase.  The achievements are easy, the story is amazing, and it's nice to have a reason to pick up the single player campaign again. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Skyrim Dawnguard

I have never made any apologies for how much I love the game Skyrim. So it should be no surprise that Dawnguard scored some pretty high marks with me as well. While this add-on was well received, there were a few minor missteps along the way.

First off, if you didn't like Skyrim then you won't like the Dawnguard DLC. It plays, looks, and feels exactly like the main game. The graphics are really amazing and include some stunning new areas to explore, complete with creepy enemies and entrancing vistas.  Like I said, identical to the initial offering.

The content itself allows for hours and hours of game play. Thus far, I have drawn out about 20 extra hours. While some games give you 6 hours for $60, Dawnguard gives 20+ for $20. Spending your money on this expansion is certainly justifiable and well worth it. What makes this game so long is that there are two very different ways to play. One way allows the player to help vampires reign supreme and the other way helps the vampire hunters. Both story lines have some similar areas, but the change in perspective and different missions give it high replayability.

One aspect of the game that fell short was that the general idea of vampires is so overdone. I expect the best from the Elder Scrolls series and tapping into such an over-saturated pop culture topic is annoying. Granted, the vampires aren't glittery or sexy, I'm still definitely tired of hearing about them. And the only vampire hunter I will ever respect is Buffy. I hope that next time they explore some of the creatures we know less about, it will be the Snow Elves or the Dwemer.

The only other thing I wasn't thrilled about was not even really game related. The DLC comes with an achievement that requires the player to kill a legendary dragon. Unfortunately, legendary dragons don't spawn until at least level 70. Despite having over 140 hours into my main character, I was only a level 52. I spent all my time doing things that don't generate xp like harvesting ingredients or talking with villagers. In order to unlock this one last achievement, I have to grind, grind, grind my way to level 70.  

Other than those two very minor gripes, the Dawnguard DLC totally lives up to the hype and its namesake.  If you loved or even just liked Skyrim, download this content.  If nothing else, it's something new that will keep you busy for the next couple weeks until all the big games start hitting the shelves.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lessons From the Controller

In my life, I have two separate females that have taken it upon themselves to become gamers.  They looked at a handful of friends that played games and decided they were going to as well.  I should be hyped that my lifelong hobby is expanding to include new people, but this continually growing activity is bringing in some unwanted company.

My general problem with these two people is that they don't actually play.  They bought an Xbox or downloaded a PC game and never play them.  They make status updates about how much they love playing games and include random aspects of their "gamer" lives, even posting pictures.  And when they engage in real world conversation about video games, it always includes generic comments, listing off a few classic titles, and patting themselves on the back for making references that are so well known my grandmother could have made them.  To be fair, Grandma Schweers was pretty bad ass.

In essence, these women can talk the talk but in no way can they walk the walk.  It's hard to understand where they come from.  Perhaps they thought that owning a few triple A titles would make them seem cool, elite, or maybe even smarter?  Or maybe they are just trying to get in on this new "nerd is cool" wave that is rolling through pop culture right now.  I have never looked at games from that point of view.  I play because I simply always have.  I like it, so I do it; I have no justification.

Video games becoming more and more popular has brought in a lot of people like this, both male and female.  Some people that join the culture actually do play the games but don't really show the appreciation or respect.  They get on forums, into chat rooms, or log into game servers only to yell things like "Halo is for fags, Battlefield rules!"  I don't need that, no one does.  But despite all this, I still think the video game world is a "more the merrier" situation. 

So my general life lesson from all this is that I have to take a deep breath and let go.  As much as I want to nurture and protect this passion of mine that has been present my entire life, I have to accept the fact that I can't.  I want the industry to grow as big and fruitful as possible.  I want more developers with creative ideas and new, amazing technology to blow my mind.  I want to play with new people, have long debates and hear new points of view about my favorite games.  And more players mean a more sustainable industry.  All those things are happening, but with the good comes the bad.  In order for growth, there must be growing pains, both in the video game landscape and in life.  So as much as people talk up games but don't actually contribute to the culture in any positive way, I must accept them for they are signs of progress. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

ah-ah-ah-I Work Ouuuutt

Moving and shaking!
Despite my lack of blogging, I have been playing a surprising amount of Xbox lately, and knocking some achievos out of the park.  I'm pretty happy with this, and my gamerscore is soaring.  What whaaat!

I have been working on my fitness with Dance Central 2, inspired hugely by the new Xbox app Kinect FitPlay.  It is a free app, and it has achievements.  Read: free achievements.  But you definitely have to work for them.  It has been inspiring for me though, because you get achievements for logging in and burning calories for having a streak of 2, 4, 7 and 10 days.  At the same time you get achievements for burning specific numbers of calories, and for you and your friends total calories burned.  It is super fun and inspiring to see the streak of days you've exercised go up.  For the first 10 days I was super dedicated until I got that achievement, then I lagged off, but now I'm trying to get back into it for the calorie achievements.  It's nice to get these bonus achievements for games I'm already playing and enjoying.

The hubby photo bombed this finishing move.
The downside is that there are only like, 8 supported games right now.  Dance Central 2 is on there though, but not DC1, go figure...  Supposedly there will be more games added on, and I certainly hope so.  Once Upon a Monster is on there, but from everything I've read online and from my own experience, it is not working.  No one seems to be getting any calorie tracking from it.  Hopefully the app has an update and rectifies this situation.

However you spin it though, I can't complain.  It is a fun app, it's got me (and my family) up and exercising, and it's free.  Go download it.  And then add me as a friend so that we can burn calories together!!

Friday, July 13, 2012


So there is an achievement for Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 called "Idling", where you have to sit during gameplay with no controller input for 5 minutes.  This seems appropriate for me and my gaming life right now, as I have little to no time for it, and when I do play it seems like I'm spending more time distracted from it than engaged in it.  I'm sure you've noticed the silence around the blog.  Debbie has been moving across the country, starting a new job, and exploring her new town.  I still can't seem to figure out how to fit gaming into a life with three kids.  I'm not saying the blog is going away by a long shot, just asking you to hang in there with us while our game time idles.

The one thing I have been doing?  Playing on my new iPod Touch.  Man, I am so obsessed with this thing, you'd think I was the first person on the planet to have one (not the last.)  But Draw Something is everything I dreamed it would be.  And Bejeweled Blitz is on there, and it's free!  You know I love me some Bejeweled.  So, in my spare moments, I have been playing around on there.  3-5 minute gaming sessions are perfect for me right now, as sad as that is.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Universal Movie Tycoon

I love movies.  I love free games.  So when I saw an opportunity for a free game about movies, I was on board.  Universal Movie Tycoon brings all the things I love to my iDevice, but in a very awkward way.

As the name suggests, Universal Movie Tycoon is one of those tycoon games.  It allows you to build your own version of Universal Studios.  You get to decide where the movie sets go, the directors' trailers, and parking lots.  There are more production related tasks like choosing where to film a movie.  Do you want the coming-of-age comedy to be filmed on a high school set, or take the less traditional route and film in an office building?  Do you want to hire just any random actor for the dramatic role, or pay the big bucks for the best dramatic actor, ultimately increasing your profit?  You make all these decisions.

Most notably, and probably one of the more fun features of the game, is that you are making real Universal movies.  Pick the actors for Despicable Me or choose the set for Bridget Jones's Diary.  This game app was released for the iPhone and iPad as a celebration of Universal's 100 years, but it's not without a significant sales pitch.  There are little buttons scattered around the app that link you directly to iTunes to purchase the movies.  Of course you don't actually have to buy them, but the developers made the effort.  The sales push is far less annoying than other free games, but it's still very noticeable.

There are two forms of in-game currency.  One is a coin system that is fairly straight forward; make money from movies, spend money on scripts and sets, then make more movies.  The second in-game currency is this weird little thing called Move Magic.  You are given certain amounts of them to start with, but they are difficult and slow to earn.  Some of the tasks require huge amounts of Movie Magic so that means either waiting a long time, sometimes days, to earn enough, or buy some from the Apple Store.

There is so much stuff, this is just a zoomed in, small portion of the game play area.
The game functions well enough.  I initially played Universal Movie Tycoon on the iPad.  Even with the much larger screen, it was hard to not accidentally touch the wrong building or select the wrong item; there is a lot crammed into the game play area.  When I played this on the iPhone, the smaller screen obviously made the issues that much more prevalent.  

If you like tycoon style games, this should be a lot of fun.  If you aren't sure whether or not you are into that type of thing, download this one.  I have a hard time passing up a free game, and this is one of the better ones.  While the game play itself loses it's luster after about a week, give Universal Movie Tycoon a try anyways.  It's free.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sound Satisfaction

Sure the graphics are smooth, the game play is intense, and the music has me moving, but all I want to do is hear that sound.  That sound comes from the most menial tasks, insignificant characters, and quirky developers on the landscape.  They fill you with a sense of victory, completion, and enjoyment.

The first sound that always comes to mind is brought up here at Achievos on a pretty regular basis.  I think we have even written blogs specifically about it's effects.  The sound of an achievement popping is so satisfying as a direct result of what it represents.  Every time one is unlocked, it means that a milestone in the game was reached, a significant portion of the game is completed, and the overall gamer score is on the rise.  I imagine that gamers get the same response that a basketball players gets when he hears the ball swoosh through a hoop hitting nothing but the net.  It's a sound that means victory.

My next favorite sound comes from the game Bastion.  The in-game currency is this broken, blue fragment.  Collect them as you go and use them to pay for upgrades.  As they fall from dead enemies and broken pieces of environment, they do a fast drag along the ground to the player.  The sound it makes is like a large, uneven but polished rock rolling or falling toward the main character.  I think I like this sound so much not because of its monetary value, but because it's so unusual.  When collecting currency, there is usually a high pitched chime or some other obvious tone related to money.  Bastion provides a more hearty, deep, and somehow magnetic sound that puts a pretty serious smile on my face.

My last favorite sound is that of a well-connected shotgun blast.  When that heavy thud matches perfectly with the backwards jerk of a body, it's unbelievably satisfying.  To me, the blunt and violent sound of a shotgun blast feels like an instant victory.  If my KDR is 5/20 with a sub machine gun or an assault rifle, I'm annoyed and feel like a gaming failure.  But if I put up those same numbers using a shotgun, I feel like a king.  It's instant gratification.  I am close enough to see the whites of an enemies eyes and the shotgun blast declares me the immediate winner.  

These are just a few of the video game sounds that brighten my day.  It's not a John Williams score or an 8-bit repetitive tone, they are just small, simple sound effects that add a lot.  What are some of your favorites ?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Do You Have Valor?

Achievos is proud to welcome new Honorary Achievo Kate Luckdragon.  She is a self-proclaimed sci-fi junkie and bookworm.  She's also a graphic designer, comic book nerd, and all around awesome chick.  Even though she has been totally swamped with the final stages of college she still makes time for getting her game on.

“In this life you were born to CONQUER! Take charge as commander of a city and dominate the landscape. Ally with the strong in the land to establish mighty guilds. Outsmart and out-build your enemies in this intensive multiplayer strategy game.”

Sounds bad ass right?

I've never been a huge fan of real-time strategy games…I was always more of a puzzle and rpg kind of gal. But one night, I was looking through games on my iPad and came across Valor. Though the game starts slow, I've been playing for a few months now and currently have 4 cities on 3 different worlds and I've enjoyed every minute of it.

In a nutshell, the object of Valor is to build up your city and conquer other cities with the army and scholars you've built up. Once you conquer other cities, those cities are yours to rule as you see fit and the other player loses their spot on that world. As with most things, there's so much more to it than that.

First, I'll start with buildings. There are several different building types that you can construct in valor and each building has a specific purpose to allow for advancement and all around brutality. If you were to start playing today, I would recommend building up your resources, warehouse, and farm production as quickly as possible. The more resources, food and storage you have, the better your chance of faster advancement. This game is real-time, which means that when it says it's going to take thirteen hours for you to level up your lumbermill, you're gonna have to wait thirteen hours. The wait isn't that long in the beginning, and if you have a mellow night at home just hanging out, you're guaranteed to get your city up and running in just a few hours…but you'll need to go back daily (or, several times a day) if you want to keep advancing.

After you've gotten a decent production of lumber, clay and iron, you can move on to working on your City Hall, which is where you upgrade and construct buildings & your Market, which allows you to trade resources with other players.

Here are a couple screen shots of my cities on Lynx: World 64.

Then comes probably the most important part of Valor…your army. Your army consists of three buildings; barracks, stable and workshop. Inside the barracks you will find lancers, sentries and berserkers as your choices for infantry. In the stable there are scouts, knights and guardians for cavalry. The workshop holds your rams and ballistas for siege. If you are interested in reading further about each one, click here for the Valor Wiki (

As you upgrade your city, you receive 'research points' that you can use to upgrade your units to higher levels. One mistake that I made in the beginning was that I spread out my research points between each category. In retrospect, that wasn't a good idea. I decided to specialize my guardians, berserkers and ballistas. After getting rid of my scouts, sentries and rams - my attack score went through the roof because I was condensing my research points and making my army extra awesome! It was excellent. I would also recommend checking out this chart, it helped me tremendously in choosing what units to recruit and pour my skill points into.

I bet you're thinking something like this right now: “So, Kate, you've told me all about what units are, now what the hell do I do with them?!”  That's simple…ATTACK EVERYONE! J The world that your city is on is filled with hundreds of other cities, doing exactly what you're doing and just waiting to be attacked. I gauge my attacks based on point level and only go after those with similar points to me so it's more of a fair fight- but that doesn't always work. Players with smaller armies have wiped me out before. That is where your strategy comes in…you can send scouts to the opposing city to see what you're getting in to, or you can just charge in and see what happens. The latter is usually my preferred method because I find it more fun that way.

One thing that's gotten me hooked on Valor is the team playing. The game allows for guilds to form. Find yourself a good guild and be active in the forums, then you've got all the back up you need for large scale attacks. I've actually met some cool people through this game and it's quite enjoyable to work together to take another guild out or conquer a series of small cities. For more reading on strategies, go here:

So, there you have it, my extremely basic guide to Valor. There is obviously so much more but you will learn if you pick up the game and start playing.

Happy slaying!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Walking Dead: A New Day

If there is anything people should know about me, it's that I am 100% over the zombie fad.  I don't like scary things in general and the genre is super bloated.  The only area where I have made exception is with The Walking Dead.  In the same way that a good sports movie has little to do with sports, The Walking Dead has little to do with zombies; it's all about the characters and relationships.  The game based on the popular graphic novel follows suit.

When people think of a zombie video game, the images that come to mind are horde shooters from Call of Duty, super gory deaths in Resident Evil, and free-roaming with a machete in Dead Rising.  The Walking Dead is a point and click adventure that puts the player in control of the character Lee Everett as he meets people along his journey to find refuge from the zombie apocalypse.  Lee must make important choices about who to save and which people to side with during arguments and conversations.  Every choice has an impact on the games outcome and how the other characters treat the player.

I haven't played too many games like this, but I am told that it is similar to the Back to the Future PC game.  It is a point and click game, so the suspense expected from a zombie game is definitely lacking.  I don't mind the more calm feeling, but for some it's a real let down.  For the most part, the controls and game play are pretty self-explanatory and intuitive.  

I had two major gripes about the game.  The first being that the Y-axis does not invert.  The episodes of the game are short, I finished in around two hours, so it's hard to adjust so quickly to the not-inverted controls and then immediately go back to another game two hours later.  It seems obvious that there should be an option in the menus to change it, but there isn't.  I have my fingers crossed that they will include it in future episodes.  Also, there is a timer when it comes to making decisions and sometimes that timer is damn fast.  I understand that the mechanic behind it is to force me to make a quick, impulse decision as I would in real life, but it goes so fast that I can't read all the options before time runs out and a decision is made for me.

Other than those two negatives, this game is full of a whole lot of positive.  The scare factor doesn't make it unplayable, the characters and relationships are compelling, and it's a refreshing choice in game style for an over-saturated genre.  For a measly 400 MS points on Xbox or $5 on PSN or PC, I highly recommend picking up this title.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gamer Fuel?

Seriously people... I am addicted to the Lego games.  I have recently been knocking out some achievos on Lego Pirates of the Caribbean.  I got this game a while back and played a little, just enough, in fact, to make my gamerscore odd.  There is an achievement for 12 points - "Welcome to the Caribbean" - that you get right off the bat, and having that odd number on my GS was driving me bananas.  But the achievement to balance it out - "Pieces of Eight" - required me to have 888,888,888 studs total.  Talk about a time sink.  But I am proud to say I did it and my score is nice and even again.  :-)
So why did I tell you that story, other than to illustrate my O.C.D. tendencies when it comes to gaming?  Because the thing that got me back into Pirates was popping that achievement.  It is fun, but it wasn't on the top of my list to play at the time, and yet it got a good week of my game time.  And it isn't the only one.  Bejeweled 2 has twelve achievements - I have popped one and spent countless hours on the others to no avail.  But I keep returning, keep trying, keep avoiding other awesome games (Mass Effect 2 I swear I will return to you) just to try and get a stupid 5 or 10 pt achievement!!  Also, in my defense, Bejeweled is pretty fun.

And this achievement need culminated in a conversation on the Achievement/Trophy Hunters group this morning.  Someone told someone else to avoid a game because it didn't have trophies associated with it.  That game?  Oblivion.  I feel like that was gaming sacrilege.   That game is amazing and deserves your time whether you're getting achievements or trophies or free kittens or any other arbitrary rewards system.

Ok, this would be pretty tempting.
All this said: What games have you played only to pop achievements?  What games have you avoided because of the lack of achievements?  I didn't re-play the first Fable when we got our 360 because there weren't achievements.  Instead I moved right on to Fable II.  I have considered XBLA games that I have decided not to buy simply based on their achievement list.

Hi, my name is Linz, and I have an achievement problem.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Skeptic Debbie is Skeptical

I have been playing in the world of Elder Scrolls for the last two games, those being Oblivion and Skyrim.  With the slaying of enemies, looting chests, and extensive customization, these games speak directly to my soul.  As much as I love and breathe this series, I can't bring myself to embrace the idea of an Elder Scrolls MMO.  

I recently had my first taste of the MMO world and I wasn't a huge fan.  Having read up on the articles and releases surrounding the Elder Scrolls MMO, I don't see where it will be much different from other games in the genre.  In fact, it is somewhat shocking how closely the game will be following the same generic, formula of other titles.  Whenever a new game is released, it promises to be the WoW killer, and they never come close.  I expect an Elder Scrolls version to follow suit.

One thing I don't understand is why there is a need for an Elder Scrolls MMO at all.  These massive online games provide hours and hours of game play, but so do the regular games.  In Skyrim, I have 150 hours on one character, and there is obviously re-playability with different races and skills that I could easily dump another 150 hours into.  Plus, with future DLC and all of the user generated mods, the current title seems almost endless.  I don't need another monstrous game in the exact same world.  A world that won't even have dragons.

Yes, there is definitely a sizable wait in between titles, but that is what makes coming back to the series so great.  You never miss Call of Duty or Halo because you almost can't keep up with those franchises.  I want Bethesda to know that it's okay to be a tease and make me wait it out.  I also have a hard time understanding the general appeal.  Maybe people want a multiplayer experience.  Maybe hundreds and hundreds of hours aren't enough.  I just have this feeling that someone said "An Elder Scrolls MMO, that would kick ass", but the thought process stopped there.

I have faith in Bethesda and their abilities; they have yet to do me wrong.  I just hope they follow that old adage about fixing things that aren't broken.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Double Dragon, I can’t quit you…

I have played a million and a half games in my lifetime.  One game that will always be in my head is an arcade classic by the name of Double Dragon.  It was the first arcade that I have ever finished and still one of my favorite things to play to this day. 

The year was 1988, I was a rambunctious seven year old, full of energy and hope like every other kid at that age.  I had a Nintendo, which I played every single day, rain or shine.  That year I had broken my arm climbing a fence, and I remember cutting a hole in my cast so that my thumb can mash down the controls on that super small controller.  That’s pretty hardcore if I do say so myself, but that’s a horse of another story altogether.

There was a grocery store right on the corner in my neighborhood.  It’s been there since the 70s and was owned by a Puerto Rican family who befriended my family because that’s what neighbors used to do back in the day.  I miss that.  In the 80s and 90s it seemed like every grocery store, every fast food joint you would walk into had a room just for arcades; it attracted kids and brought more business.  Luis, the shop owner was late to the party on this, but once he realized it, had at least 2-3 machines in the store at all times, switching them out every few months, depending on popularity.  The first two arcades that were featured filled this tiny store with kids and teenagers alike.  The first game was a fighting game called Yie Ar Kung-Fu.  It was a first of its kind, just pitting one on one fighting with semi-special moves. It was no street fighter, but it definitely laid the groundwork for future fighting games.  

The second game caused a line from the machine to the middle of the bread aisle.  This game had two lines, one for each player.  This arcade was Double Dragon.  If ever there was an aura from an inanimate object, this was that moment.  Quarter after quarter, from start to completion, the game never saw an empty line.  Kids and teenagers alike would discuss their methods, tips and even offer to give the person in front of them an extra quarter to let take their place in line.  That’s how I met my drummer actually.

Finally, it was my turn in line to play and I was floored.  This was the first time I have ever played a game with another person that used teamwork to take out the bad guys.  I punched, kicked, head butted and later learned to elbow my way up and down that game.  Many a quarter was used to perfect my method.  Once I learned the elbow trick, I was able to zip through the game's 4 missions without much of a resistance from Abobo and his crew.  My earliest and greatest achievement in gaming was finishing Double Dragon with one quarter, of course, it was a day where the grocery store was empty so I shared my victory with Luis’ daughter Marisol, who was my age, but could give a damn about video games. She was my first rejection, but the victory was too sweet to bring me down.

I would play Double Dragon every day until it was taken out.  I would always ensure that the high score read “KWK” and if not, I would mop the floors, take out the trash, whatever it took for more quarters to rectify the situation.  The other arcades that replaced it never had the excitement that Double Dragon did.  It was definitely a golden age for the grocery store, kind of like the movie Awakenings.  For that summer, it was amazing, but after that summer, it was just a memory.

Flash Forward 23 years.  I still play Double Dragon on the Xbox LIVE Arcade, which is one of the few games I have all of the achievements for.  And I lead my friends list on the high score, which is the only way I would allow myself to sleep at night.  I recently found an arcade in the suburbs of Chicago that is quite amazing.  It is a mecca for arcades and old school gaming, as well as one of the strongest fighting game communities.  This magical place is called The Galloping Ghost Arcade.  As soon as I walked in, I felt 7 all over again. The excitement was back.  And even better, the aura of an arcade was glowing in the first row toward the back of the arcade.  As I followed it, I found my first childhood sweetheart, Double Dragon.  I fell in love all over again.  Even though I had over 200 arcades to spend my time with, I couldn’t help catching up with Billy and Jimmy Lee.  

For a time, I set the local record there and only recently was taken down.  But I try to go back as often as I can to reclaim my throne.  It’s not just a score to me; I feel like I owe this game my best, because it stuck with me for so many years and cheered me up through every breakup and downfall in life.  I had Double Dragon, and that could never let me down.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rolling in the 'Cheevs

So we got our Xbox in 2008 (I think in June?  I'm not entirely sure, and it would require more research than I can put in right now to find out...)  And on Novermber 10, 2011 I hit 10,000 Gamerscore, which means it took me a little over 3 years to get 10k.  It is now May 2012, and I'm edging in on 15,000 (currently 14,282).  That means that I have done as much in 6 months as I did in approximately a year and a half before.

I hit 10,000, and ever since I have been rolling in the 'cheevs.
I feel like this...but better.
I am on such a roll that today I turned on SSX, and the mere act of turning it on gave me 15 gs.  Talk about boss mode, right?  (If you're wondering, I got the achievement for having all the bronze explore badges, the final one I had needed required a rival to lose to my challenge which happened when I was not playing the game.)

My roll was increased on May 2 when I 100%-ed Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4, and May 10 when I got the 100% on Kingdom for Keflings.  I had been sitting on a couple multiplayer achievos on Keflings that just needed time and effort to knock out, and I am glad to have them done.  I found help on the Achievement/Trophy Hunter Facebook group that Debbie mentioned in her blog about having the best multi-player experience possible.  It is great to have a group to go to for achievement help, instead of just shooting in the dark on the hope you find someone tolerable and, more rarely, actually helpful.

The much bigger deal for me was the completion on Lego Harry Potter, because it is my first "real" 100%, my first 1,000 gs on a single game.  It feels amazing!!  And it has inspired me to try and get more 100%'s knocked out.  I returned to Borderlands to get the achievements for playing a character of each class.  I took down a few achievos from Carnival Games, and even dominated Bejeweled Blitz Live.  Now I'm re-entering the world of Mass Effect (2, so I can get to 3 and know what all this controversy is about!)

It is definitely a great time for me and my gamerscore, and I am proud!  Hopefully this particular blog inspires you to go out and 100% something.. Leave a comment and let me know which game you're going to work on.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

You Never Know Until You Try

At Achievos, we are constantly encouraging people to branch out and try new things.  Swear your loyalty to shooters alone?  Try an RPG or action game.  Refuse to buy a Kinect without having played it ?  Spend an afternoon at a friends' house to see if it's a better fit than you think.  I had always sworn off MMO games, so when Star Wars: The Old Republic came around, I thought I finally found my way into the genre.  As the blog title suggests, it didn't go so well.

A lot of my friends play one MMO or another, and they have all warned me that they quickly become a giant time suck.  I was warned to get all of my affairs in order and stock the kitchen because I wouldn't be leaving my apartment any time soon.  With all the praise and warnings, I was optimistic and ready to dive into a world of video games and never return.  But when I arrived, I was so miserable.

My very first problem, is the computing requirements for such a game.  This is going to sound braggy and gross, but I happen to have a really awesome laptop.  It has the latest and greatest chip, cards, and processors (at least for the next five minutes) and it was burning up and loud as hell trying to keep up with this game.  There wasn't any lag and it looked great, but these games put a serious strain on my machine.  Some people are totally okay with tying up a huge portion of their hard drive with one game, because maybe that's the only PC game they really tackle.  That's just not my style and I'm over-protective of my baby.

Hardware aside, I really did not like the game play.  The things I didn't like were not exclusively linked to SWTOR, they run common through most MMOs.  First, I don't like the locked camera angle.  In most games that I play, be them PC or console, I can shift around the camera much easier.  Being locked in place really gives me that sea-sick feeling.  And as Linz can tell you, it's tough to play a game when you need to barf.

The other main thing that I didn't like was that the game play in general was not my style.  I absolutely love opening every chest, exploring every corner, and defeating every last enemy.  But with an MMO, it can be nearly impossible to visit every corner of every world.  As I found out with SWTOR, the enemies regenerate in an area within minutes, there is no way to completely clear the field.  In some games, a player can clear out a dungeon and when they come back later in the game, some of the more minor enemies have respawned.  But in SWTOR, and I'm told other MMOs, enemies respawn so quickly that the idea of completely clearing out an area really isn't logical.  For most people it doesn't matter, but for me, it drains out all the fun.

This isn't a hate blog about SWTOR, and I'm smart enough not to bash all over MMOs given that millions and millions of people play them.  I wrote this as yet another example of how important it is to try something new.  Before I played this game, I had always wondered if I was missing out on something that I would really like, or even better, be really good at.  I can now rest easy knowing that I'm not missing out on something.  I've given it a try and it's not for me.  Better yet, I now have some experience with MMOs that I never had before.  When it comes up in conversation, I not only understand, but I can contribute.  I can also now use it as a comparative reference. 

That may not have been my end goal, but I'm glad I tried it anyways.  I learned something new and now the very large gaming portion of my brain can rest a little easier.

Monday, April 30, 2012

It's Tricky!

SSX released on Xbox/PS3 at the end of February, and it was the chance for me to re-live a ton of my college gaming glory.  Did it grant me this one hope?
Spoiler alert: It totally did.
The graphics and sound track make me feel like I'm back in the dorm with SSX Tricky & SSX 3 on the GameCube.  I mean, obviously the graphics are outstandingly improved on the new systems, but the general look and feel of the game is the same.  The tracks are rendered beautifully.  Avalanches, trees, rocks, ice patches...they are all so realistic.  Especially when your snowboarder crashes into them at 100 mph.  No, there is not graphic violence and blood splattering, when your rider is damaged you get a dark vignette on the screen which fades as their health rebuilds.

And the sound track, a staple of the old games, is still super fun.  It fades into the background, offering a radio-like atmosphere to your playtime, and is not annoyingly repetitive.  And, of course, when you get into Tricky mode it plays the one song that you want to hear: It's tricky to rock a rhyme to rocky a rhyme that's right on time it's triiicckyyyyyy...  Thank you, Run DMC... I can not hear your song without wanting to go super-uber.

Finding a crazy long rail and grinding down the entire face of the mountain is
definitely one of the top experiences in this game
Now here's where it gets...tricky?  Ha!  When I first started playing I felt a little overwhelmed.  The controls felt crazy, and I was discouraged thinking that it was more of a button-combo-pressing game, which I suck at.  As I went along, it got easier, and it continues to do so.  I get better and better the more I play, and doing the tricks feels more and more natural.  Perhaps if I had started with the original controls I would've been more successful, but I am playing with the new style.  Debbie had similar issues and switched to the old-style controls, which felt more natural to her, but it screwed her up to start new and go back.  In short, a warning: If you have prior SSX experience, you may want to start with the old style controls.

So the game has the look, the sound, the fun... Sounds perfect!  What could possibly be missing?  Oh, multiplayer.  Yeahhh..  There is a really fun option called RiderNet where it links up everyone playing the game and you can compete against each other in races, trick competitions, and survival events.  This is so fun!  I mean, it is totally upsetting to play a trick event and get 3 million points when the top scorer has 21 million (how?!)... but still really fun.  What's not really fun?  Being able to actually play, side by side, with a friend.  You can't just pick a run and do it together.  This was how I spent college!  This is what I looked forward to!  Shredding that fresh white powder with Debbie all over again... and that dream was taken from me.  You can, and are encouraged to via RiderNet, compete against your friends best scores on the events.  Your friend has a "ghost" that plays down the mountain as your opponent. So at least there's that.. I just want to actively play with someone.  Boo to you, game, for taking away multi-player fun.

All in all though, this game has lived up to the hype that we here at Achievos bestowed upon it.  I still have fun playing it, even when I feel like I suck at it.  And even though I got totally rage-y over some of the more difficult deadly descents (kind of the "boss battles" of this game), I still kept going back for more.  It is so fun, and so worth your money.  Get this game!  And then add me as a rival.  I shall shred your ghosts to pieces!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You Are The Wind Beneath My AC-130's Wings

So you and your friends are amped about a brand new game coming out and best of all, there's co-op.  You both coordinate your schedules to maximize your playing time together.  Once you put in the disc, you quickly realize that maybe it's better to just stay friends.  Here is a short guide to helping you find the ultimate partner in gaming.

It's always best to know your own gaming habits first.  Are you someone that only plays for 30 minutes or an hour at a time, or do you insist on powering through in one ten hour session?  Do you take frequent take breaks for food, phone calls, and socializing, or are you able to stay focused on the goal ?  Are you a talker or are you stickly business ?  Its important to understand what your gaming habits are so you can chose a co-op partner accordingly.

Something else to take into consideration is that it's usually much easier to run a co-op campaign from beginning to end with the same person.  Stopping in the middle and picking up with someone new can mean possibly missing parts of the mission or struggling to latch onto someone's very different play style.  If you find yourself playing with someone and it's not working out quite as well as you hoped, cut them loose sooner rather than later.  Getting off on the right foot with the right person might mean starting the campaign over from the beginning, so if you wait too long, you could be stuck with a junky playthrough or be replaying a huge portion of the game.

Not only is play style important, but make sure that your goals match up.  It's no secret that I like me some achievements, so I always try to find a partner in crime that wants the same thing.  If you happen to be looking for fellow achievement hunters, you can try or over at the Facebook group Achievement/Trophy Hunters which services both the Xbox and PS3 players. 

No matter what your end goal is, make sure that you have fun.  If the other player(s) or even the game itself just isn't doing it for you, there's no reason to tough it out and no shame in walking away.  Its better to keep your friends than win the game.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Another triumphant return!

Like a zombie, rising slowly and menacingly from the grave, Linz returns to the blogosphere.  (Did I seriously just use that term??)  But seriously, I have missed you guys.  And gaming, big time.  You may recall from our last giveaway that 6 weeks ago I gave birth to baby Magneto, and since then my time has been totally eaten up with mothering the little mutant and taking him home to Iowa to meet the family.

So all of this has left me little to no time to game.  I finally got Super Mario 3D Land and my 4-yr-old promptly took it under her wing to play and dominate at it.  I've only been able to sneak in a couple levels.  And, as you all know, Debbie and I both got SSX upon its release and, even though it is the love of my gaming life, I have barely scratched the surface.  Pity party for me!  I am home now, and going to start re-dedicating myself to some "me time" (which translates into "Xbox party..with Debbie.")

This lack of actual time to game has left me with a lot of time to think about gaming..and when I think about it, I often think about the prices of things.  Big on my radar right now: the price of games, and the chance that next generation systems are on the horizon.  When we were visiting friends I got to talking about gaming and found that I am super cheap, and often refuse to buy games when they are brand new and crazy expensive, but I am far from alone.  I have many friends who feel like they have been so burned by purchasing a game for $60 only to have it be less than 10 hours of game play, or drop in price in a week or two.  Commence gamer rage.  I am seriously questioning the logic behind the $60 price tag.  I think the companies would sell so many  more copies and so much sooner if they dropped back down to $40, or even $50..  People could buy the games when they're new, thus raising the game companies numbers, instead of just waiting around until the game is old and drops in price or they can pick it up used.  Just a thought.

And this thought that next generation consoles are coming.  I still haven't even upgraded from my ancient Xbox Elite system (meaning I don't have the fancy new slim one, or the even fancier Star Wars one ... Debbie.)  I don't want to be forced into buying another new system yet!  Granted there is no release date or really any specific news on new systems, but they are always there, hovering like expensive ghosts on the horizon.  All I can say is that when they come, they damn well better be backwards compatible because the lack of that makes me hulk-sized-angry.

The same friends I was talking to about the price of new games were saying that when new consoles come out they refuse to buy.  My own husband even said that when they come he will just play our current system until it dies, and then give up gaming instead of continuing to try to keep up with the new stuff.  I don't know if I could ever give it up..but man, if these current gen systems came out at $400+, just think of how much the next ones will be.  How much are you willing to spend to game?

Monday, April 16, 2012


Bastion has been floating around on XBLA since last summer.  But only after it recently popped up on sale did I finally bite the bullet and make the purchase.  The only thing I regret is not buying this game sooner.

Bastion puts players in control of the main character known simply as "The Kid".  The Kid wakes up after a vague event called the Calamity which has left his world fractured into floating pieces of land.  The Kid must fight monsters to collect pieces of a monument that helps to rebuild his home world's sanctuary, The Bastion.  Most residents of the world have been turned into Pompeii-like statues, but there are a few that survived and help along the way, most notably the older character, Rucks.  Rucks also acts as the narrator of the entire game and his deep voice solidifies the sense of great story telling and helps to draw the player in.

The fighting is really easy to pick up on and pretty smooth.  There are plenty of fighting options that include guns and melee attacks as well as some minor magics.  The normal game setting was tough enough to keep my attention but easy enough that I was never stuck or overwhelmed.  For those who are looking for a more difficult experience, there is a shrine that can be activated to empower enemies or lower the players power.  For those who have younger kids or anyone that just wants the story with less struggle, there is a No-Sweat Mode.  This offers up unlimited lives and enough perks to essentially make the player invincible, the player still dies but there is no restarting the level or even going back to checkpoints.  Between the level of somewhat cartoon-ish violence and the ability to lower the difficulty, this is a great game for that age when young players are getting bored with petting animals or hanging with Dora, but aren't mature enough or skilled enough to play the adult games.

Yes, you can fall of the edge, but no, it doesn't kill you.
I thought this game was extremely charming and very engrossing.  Depending upon your skill, each level can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to complete.  I don't think I spent more than 10 minutes on any given level so it fits great into short amounts of time like first thing in the morning or the 15 minutes of energy you have left before bed.  The graphics were detail and clear, the story was interesting, and the game play was fun.  I definitely recommend downloading Bastion.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Long Term Winning

I've written about L.A. Noire several times in the past.  I did some reviews and talked about my frustrations with the driving, but through it all I still played it to the very end.  Last weekend, I took the finally few steps to 100% complete this massive game.  I obviously hate myself.

I tracked down every vehicle, every golden reel, and correctly accused every single person.  As much as that game frustrated me, I still don't regret pouring so many hours of my life into it.  As with any other game that I complete, I have been relentlessly bragging.  I feel that my bragging rights are boosted even more because it's a Rockstar game.  That company has such a history with making overwhelming games; from Grand Theft Auto to Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar games are huge in both environment size and number of tasks/missions.

Whenever I finish a game like this, I go out of my way to find some more to finish up.  I know that I only have five or six achievements left in Portal 2 that are destined to get my attention this week.  And with EA and other developers slowly shutting down servers as games are aging, I am even more anxious to wrap up past-season's titles while I still have the chance.

I encourage you to take this time to tackle a few of the older games before the next wave of server shutdowns shows up.  And while you're at it, you might as well just finish that thing 100%.  While everyone else is locked into their favorite multiplayer for the summer, you can edge that gamerscore ahead without anyone being the wiser.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Draw Something

Remember a couple months ago when everyone was playing Words with Friends?  And remember about a year ago when everyone was playing Angry Birds?  Welcome to the new mobile gaming fad, Draw Something.

Available for both iOS and Android devices, Draw Something is the latest craze in person to person gaming on the go.  While other games put you up against someone else, Draw Something has you working somewhat cooperatively in an attempt to guess what each other is drawing.  One person has their choice of three words to draw.  They draw it out as best they can and then the image goes to Player Two.  Player Two watches the drawing appear on their screen, matching stroke for stroke almost like watching a short movie.  There are twelve letters along the bottom of the picture to help Player Two guess the word.  Think of it like a cross between Pictionary and a word jumble.

There are several really unique elements at play with this game.  First, the choice of words range from car to Paul D, yoga to knockout.  There are constantly new words added, but I will tell you right now that I have drawn the word "lava" more than once.  Second, there is the option to use in-game currency to buy more colors.  The more colors you have, the easier it is to draw.  You can also use that same currency to purchase bombs that give you new words to draw or remove some of the unnecessary letters to make guessing easier.
This is what I drew for Madonna.  I also drew it for chef, pirate, and the color orange.
Not everyone is fun to play with.  While it would seem like lacking drawing skills would be super detrimental, its actually not that bad.  Its less fun when people draw only the easiest words in the list.  I know you can draw a house, but I would rather see you draw LeBron James without writing his name.  The worst is when players flat out write the word, since no one really wins, this seems kind of pointless.  But every once in awhile, you come across a player that is blow your mind amazing.

I was going to guess Madonna for this one too.
The best part of this game is that it is available absolutely free.  There is a paid version of the game which removes the ads that pop up in between turns.  But I found those ads completely manageable and easy to ignore if you really don't want to fork out the two dollars.  I definitely recommend downloading Draw Something.  No matter you artistic level, there is fun to be had.