Monday, January 30, 2012

Lumos Live !!

Actually, the name of the game is LUMINES LIVE but a girl can dream.  Available on the Xbox LIVE Arcade for a mere 800 points, LUMINES LIVE is another one of my favorite, mindless puzzle games.

On the surface, LUMINES looks a lot like Tetris but there is more to it.  Instead of dropping the classic, static brick shapes that we all grew to love, this game drops squares made up of four bricks.  The bricks can be one of two colors.  The object is to clear the board by making solid squares of color.  The change in the basic objective of the game works against the player.  When most people begin playing this game, myself included, it is difficult to not make lines.  The knee jerk reaction is to think like Tetris and fill up the board length wise or even Dr. Mario style by going up in down, maybe even a little Connect 4 up in there.  Switching over to a square objective definitely takes some getting used to.

Unlike Tetris and some other puzzle games, there were several modes to play.  The Challenge Mode allows players to continue dropping squares until there isn’t any more room.  The squares slowly speed up and the music changes.  To make the level transitions harder, the colors change.  What was once orange and white, is now a transparent green and grey.  Trust me when I say that mentally processing the change is harder than it sounds.

Just keep telling yourself "square, square, squares"
There is a Puzzle Mode that I found to be very difficult.  Large shapes are highlighted in the playing field and the objective is to fill up that shape with one color and have the opposite color outlining it.  Completing this without any help took a lot of time and one misplaced brick can set the player back significantly.  The other single player activity is Mission Mode.  This one reminds me a lot of the challenges from Peggle.  Each mission has a predetermined set of colored bricks already in the field at the start.  The player is given one predetermined brick and you have to clear the field completely in one drop.  The first mission is very easy and took seven seconds to complete.  After that, they become increasingly more difficult with more bricks and can be incredibly hard.  These modes are far less mindless that the general Challenge Mode.  They require more thinking and strategy.

Lastly, there is a multiplayer mode.  Players can link up locally or over Xbox LIVE to have themselves a good ol’ fashioned versus match.  The first person to run out of space and reach the top of their board loses.  There are a few quirks here and there that add complexity to the multiplayer.  As one person gets more points, the center line shifts over to squeeze out and give the person in last place less space.  Also, any squares cleared up against the center line can also clear matching bricks on the opposition’s side. 

Multiplayer, notice the jacked-up change in bricks.  Those adorable flowers might be the death of me.

I liked this game.  I definitely wouldn’t play it solely for achievements or for the multiplayer.  But if you are looking for yet another mindless game for those times when you lack the focus, LUMINES LIVE is the game for you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Walk me through this...

So I finished the Fable 3 main story-line a few weeks ago.  Hurray!  But then I realized I had 8 gazillion collection quests to complete.  I've put in an hour or two here and there trying to get'em done, but it's slow going.  And I'm torn... Do I go to a walkthrough to tell me exactly where to go for the 30 books, 50 flowers, 50 weapons, 30 items of clothing, 50 gnomes, 50 keys....(Do you see how this is a scosh on the overwhelming side??)  Admittedly, in just playing through the game I have gotten halfway through most of the collecting, but that almost makes it worse.  Now I don't know which ones I've found and which ones I haven't if I do end up consulting a walkthrough.
Collection quests: teaching gamers how to become hoarders one gnome at a time.
So, in the end, I have two issues with these quests.

1) To use or not to use a walkthrough

I teased Debbie just a couple days ago about being a Cheater McCheaterson for using a walkthrough on L.A. Noire to five star the missions for an achievement.  But really, when the games are so huge and extensive that you can easily miss something that will cost you precious time later (replaying the same quests/areas over and over and over...), does that justify using the walkthrough?  Obviously this is only an issue if you are an achievo addict like us, because if you don't care if you get the achievement you won't have to worry as much about collecting/100% completion.

2) What is the point?

I'm doing these collection quests just for the achievements... but I wonder, while whiling away my hours searching for digital flowers, why do the game developers even put these things in there?  Especially the way they are handled in Fable 3..  In this game I have to wander areas that are confusing and maze-like just to find a single piece.  I wouldn't be in the area other than to get the item because that's the only reason it is there.  So it's cyclical.  If they didn't create the collection quest, they wouldn't have to create the area - and vice-versa.  If they want to create a huge game world, I feel like the collection quests are just a superficial addition, and the areas just end up feeling really pointless to me.  Especially because Fable 3 has the WORST map system ever, so I can't even easily tell what areas I've been in or where I'm at at any given time, and I end up wandering the same hallways and caves repeatedly.  It's infuriating.

It's the classic question of what came first? The chicken or the egg?  But in this case the chicken is the collection quest and the egg is the space that houses the collection item  What do you think?  And do you spend your time finishing up the collections for the achievos, or do you just let go and move on?

I suppose if you try hard enough to read this,
it could contain spoilers?
P.S. - This game and its myriad collections have my OCD flying at an all time high.  I have a 3 sheet spreadsheet, one for weapons/books/clothes, so I can check off what I've got and what I don't for ease of finding and finishing the collections.  It's beautiful and was time consuming to make, but oh-so-satisfying.  If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it up right.  Mama likes checklists.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Castle Crashing Chaos

Despite knowing each other for years, there is very little that Linz and I have in common.  While that's probably a testament to our friendship, we have yet find a video game that we both play.  Instead of just hanging out in party, we attempted to enjoy our time playing the same game.  We both purchased Castle Crashers and its fair to say that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

Castle Crashers in a side scrolling beat 'em up title with a shallow third dimension.  While it can be played with a single player, the game is designed for co-op.  It allows up to four players at one time to venture through woods, rivers, and castles to save princesses and kill bad guys.  Along the way, characters have the opportunity to pick up sidekick animals that provide perks.
This game is pretty tough if you play alone; there is no progressive or corrected leveling to accommodate for the number of players.  But completing this quest with a party of four isn't exactly easy.  There is so much activity on the screen that I find it difficult to even keep track of where my character is.  With four characters, four supporting animal friends, and a boatload of enemies, it's really tough to stay on top of everything.  The super shallow third dimension makes it easy to get lost behind bigger enemies or even co-op partners.

This is all happening at once ..... all the time.
It's not that I don't like Castle Crashers, but it is a game to play when you are feeling light at heart.  This is not a game that should be approached with any level of concentration.  If the potentially frustrating chaos isn't evidence of such, the animation of woodland creatures constantly pooping should be.  Seriously, they spray feces when they stand still, after a fight, or just to propel themselves faster.

In the end, I do recommend Castle Crashers as a party game that doesn't take itself too seriously.  I think the cost of 1600 MS points is a bit high, especially considering it's over two years old.  But if you have the green and you're in the right mood, this could be the perfect game for you.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Couldn't Fail If I Tried

I have recently begun playing L.A Noire; I know, I'm super behind the curve on this one.  Lindsey reviewed the game back in the day and I have to say that all of her statements stand pretty true.  But I have a bit of a beef to pick with this game.  It's almost impossible not to win.

In L.A. Noire, players are given cases to solve.  The better you do, the higher rating you get, the maximum being a 5 star rating.  Being the obsessive gamer that I am, I instantly made it my goal to find everything and earn all 5 stars on every case.  Eventually, I came to a case where I thought I was beyond thorough and received only four stars.  Upon replaying the case, I couldn't believe all the stuff I missed.
I had managed to miss multiple giant cut scenes, a location, and multiple interview/interrogation opportunities.  It added up to be almost 30 minutes of game play.  The game has an option to allow the detective's partner to do all the driving so the player doesn't have to.  Apparently while doing this, I missed the chance to respond to a lead that came into the car's radio.  Once again, driving has led to my virtual demise.

What really struck me was how much of this I had still missed but completed the case with four stars.  Is it even possible to fail a case ?  Or to get only star, someone has to miss every single interview question and never look at the body?  If it wasn't for my obsessive achievement hunting, how little would I have to do and still be allowed to progress?  I would've accused the wrong people and everyone at the precinct would have thought I was a total moron.  But I could still complete the game.

It makes me wonder what decisions lie between making a game impossible to beat versus impossible to lose.  Is there a game that you thought was just entirely too easy or forgiving ? 

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Shocking Revelation

Are you standing up?  You might want to sit down.  Are you sitting down?  You might want to stand up.  Do a few stretches, maybe a jumping jack.  (A few calisthenics never hurt anyone.)  Ok, sit back down: I'm about to drop a big reveal on you ---

I got a 3DS for Christmas.  You may recall Debbie's take on the 3DS being a money suck, and my opinion that, although Nintendo is my soul mate, I wasn't behind the 3D thing.  At all.  And that leads us to the next big reveal ---

The 3DS hasn't sold me on it one bit.
It's pretty, but there's not much behind the looks.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not hating.  I am glad to be a 3DS owner.  In fact, there are a lot of things that I really like (I'll get to those in a moment) - but the fact of the matter is the "draw" is supposed to be the 3D aspect, and it kind of sucks.  If it is on you have to be holding the DS at the perfect angle to see it, blah blah, all the things you have already heard.  It's a total pain.  And if anyone else is playing and the 3D is on and you try to peek over their shoulder and see what's up, prepare yourself for some vertigo, my friend.

Of course, stacked on to those issues is the fact that physiologically I can't see 3D.  When I first got it, charged it up, and turned it on I tested out the 3D capabilities.  I couldn't tell a difference.  My hubby and brother-in-law could see it though, so if you are not dimensionally-challenged it'll be a better experience for you.  That said, my 3D dial is firmly in the "off" position.  I went into parental controls and blocked it, but then every time you want to load a game you have to enter the pin number and that is a total pain, so whatever.  I think my kids only turn it on by accident every now and then.

On other bummer before I get on to the things I like: I didn't get any games with the system, so I've depended on the downloadables and, finally, got Nintendogs & Cats (full review to come later).  I wanted a game to really see the 3D effects but, as I stated, it doesn't change much for me.  I suppose there are a few more shadows?  Idk.  I have been scouring stores to get Super Mario 3D Land but it's sold out everywhere.  If you have a copy, give it to me.

Face Raiders - shooting your friends is fun!
Ok - things I like:  The browser is convenient, especially if you're familiar with the Wii.  The one thing I don't like is the loss of the little slider so you actively have to scroll through each page to go through the icons.  Whatever.  And I love the games it came with.  The AR Cards are neat to play around with and having a game or your favorite characters come to life in your living space is so fun.  Face Raiders is also enjoyable, and comes to life in the space around you, although it can be a little dizzying to play.  But can I just say that I lost the system to my children the minute they found out it had Netflix capabilities?  So cool.  I think my littlest is under the impression I bought it so that she could watch Tangled over and over.

I originally planned to talk more about Nintendogs in this blog, but like I said, the full review will just have to come later.  My thoughts on the 3DS have overtaken me.  I like the system, am glad to have upgraded, and can't wait to get my hands on upcoming titles like Paper Mario and Luigi's Mansion 2.  Hell, I can't wait to get my hands on current titles.  Super Mario 3D Land you will be mine.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Growing Older and Hopefully Wiser

When I was a little kid, I disliked many foods.  I hated cheese until I was 10 years old.  I didn't understand how people could possibly think it tasted good.  The thought of putting a slice of American on my sandwich sent me into tantrums.  I also used to hate mushrooms, but I now order them on everything I possibly can.  I don't know how it happened.  From burgers to omelets, cheese and mushrooms have become my new favorites.  Like this inexplicable change in physical taste, I have completely evolved in my gaming.

I am not a person who plays for the sake of nostalgia.  Just because I loved a game when I was a little kid, doesn't mean I have unrelenting loyalty to the franchise for the decades that followed.  While some series have taken dramatic nose dives in terms of quality, the ones that remain consistent seem to bore me. 

As a small child, I played the few games that were available like Zelda, Mario, and Sonic.  Through the years, I began leaving those behind and playing more sports games.  NBA Street, SSX, and even a little hockey filled my college years.  As the latest generation of consoles came out, I was inundated with new games.  While my preferences before may have come from lack of choices due to the young age of the industry, my adult gaming experiences were saturated in shooters.  I have spent years pouring myself in Call of Duty.  I joined a clan, played competitively, and obsessed over my statistics.

Now, even after spending the last four years dedicated to one genre, I find myself moving on again.  I can't get enough RPGs in my life.  I have always played RPGs here and there.  Growing up, Final Fantasy was a staple in my household.  But now more than ever, I want to set off on a great adventure.  I get the urge to explore caves and save the world.  My days of finding release from blasting people with an AK have morphed in my desire to loot treasure chests.  I would much rather do a dungeon run in search of a secret amulet than play Search and Destroy.

Everyone has changes in likes and dislikes as they grow older.  I like to think of my change as a sign of maturity.  Not necessarily that an adventure game or an RPG is more mature than a shooter, but that I'm mature enough to try something different.  I'm glad that I have been able to break away from the self-created pigeon hole and find something new within my hobby.  I encourage everyone else to try something new too.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Little Education

Zelda is not an RPG.  Take a deep breath; sit down if you need to.  I have heard people make statements in the past about the Zelda games being their favorite RPG.  Sometimes I bite my tongue; sometimes I don't.  Twice this week I have heard someone refer to Zelda as an RPG, so it's time to put this piece of knowledge out on the table.

An RPG is a game in which the player takes on the role of a character.  The choices that the player makes effect what will happen to the character.  That second sentence is the important one.  Almost every game has the player assuming the role of character.  If we let the first sentence alone define the game type, games like Call of Duty would be an RPG.  Basically everything except RTS and puzzle games would be crammed into the category.

Zelda lacks the ability to make choices outside of a predetermined story line.  You can't have Link make moral decisions about situations that will make the game go in one direction or another; the story is completely set forth without variation.  You will go to temples, you will fight bad guys, you save the princess.  Zelda is an action game.

A solid example of an RPG is Mass Effect.  Players take over the role of Commander Shepard and determine whether or not they should be a good or bad guy, what type of fighter they should be, where specialties, both combat and personality, will lie, and even who will live and die in the story.  Other games that follow suit would be Final Fantasy, Fallout, and Elder Scrolls.

Its just a friendly reminder of game categorization.  Now, next time you hear someone refer to Zelda as an RPG, you have a solid response.  A little knowledge to start the new year off on the right foot.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Monkey See, Monkey Do

We have been long time players of Carnival Games for the DS.  It is a favorite title.  The games are short, sweet, and simple.  The kiddos love it.  I've also heard good thing about the Wii title, but have never played it.  This week, we got Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do for the Xbox Kinect, and we are totally loving it!  There is just one drawback...
He will haunt your dreams.
This little creeper is the monkey helper for the carnival barker, and he is so ... scary looking.  The rest of the game graphics are to be expected.  The games look like real carnival games.  There is one where you ride a roller coaster and catch coins as you go and that one is a blast, and the roller coaster looks really real.  The carnival barker has smooth animation, and more of that Mii/Avatar look than the really "3D" graphic look.  And then there's Mr. Terrifying himself, the monkey with odd teeth and buggy, too human eyes.  I love monkeys.  They are adorable.  Why did they have to make this one look like it will take your soul through the cold, mechanical eye of the Kinect?  And he's everywhere!  He turns on the games.  He doles out tickets.  He is even the star of games, and you have to dance with him.

Ok, so I may be extra swayed because I get totally ooged out easily.  I'm terrified of ET and that creepy dancing baby from the Ally McBeal show.  Now Mr. Monkey is just part of that group.  It's not really "scary" necessarily - my children aren't the least bit afraid of him.  They just don't know.

Other than the monkey though, the game is so fun.  The carnival games are all done by simple motions that you would expect to do if you were playing the games in real life.  That said, there are games that are totally, insanely frustrating because you just can't get them.  Just like the frustrations of playing these games in real life!    If you like playing carnival games at real carnivals, you will enjoy this game, it's as simple as that.

And the best part of this game?  Just playing through each carnival game gives you like, 140 gamerscore!  Winning!  The rest of the achievements seem do-able too, they will just take some practice at perfecting the games.  I will dominate this one.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Aaaaaaaand Here We Go

After a lengthy, relaxing, and joyous holiday, Linz and I are back in action here at Achievos.  During our break, we spent time with family, devoured some delicious holiday eats, and played all the new games left for us under the tree.  Starting off a brand new year, I had some major gaming victories.

First, my gamerscore broke 30,000.  Keeping in line with Lindsey's trend of blasting past milestones, I have added over 400 points to my score in the eight days since it happened.  While reaching that high number felt nice, it definitely didn't feel as amazing as I thought it would.  Hitting the 5,000 mark was fun and reaching double digits with 10,000 was great.  And I remember losing my mind when I hit 25,000; it felt like such a big deal.  But 30,000 just hasn't done it for me.  I took pictures, I let out a little brag, but I mostly just kept playing.

One of the major gaming events that did rock my world was reaching the final level in Age of Empires Online.  My Greek civilization final hit level 40 unlocking 100 glorious points.  Of those who know me, or better yet, have me on their Xbox friends list, can easily see that a huge amount of my 2011 was spent playing AoE.  I might be playing less in 2012, but it will still be on my to-do list.  I have already started my Egyptian civ and so far I'm sitting pretty at level 7.

The best was yet to come.  On January 1, 2012, the very first day of what is destined to be a wicked awesome year, I completed Skyrim.  I didn't just finish the main story line, I earned every single achievement that game has to offer.  The only other time I have felt this proud was when I completed the last Elder Scrolls game, and Fallout 3.  All of these were made by gaming behemoth Bethesda Software, and all three of the titles clocked me in at over 100 hours of gameplay.  There should be an achievement alone for dedicating 300+ hours of your life to one developer.

This is my 105 hour victory
All that being said, we have major things in the works for our personal lives, our gaming lives, Achievos, and for you.  Be on the lookout for more blogs, more misheard titles, and more free stuff !  We found a hidden cache of leftover PAX goodies and an OnLive console that are just dying to be shipped to a deserving reader.  With that, we here at Achievos wish you all the gaming best in the new year !