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.