Welcome Park Insider Tips

Welcome Park on the Vita is not an especially compelling experience, but in case you've never used multitouch or a camera before, it provides what may serve as a suitable introduction to doing those things. I had entirely dismissed the idea of spending more than 30 seconds in it until the first trophy notification popped up. For reasons still unknown to me, I have now S-ranked the hell out of Welcome Park. Below are some things I learned, but your mileage may vary.

Digit Chase

Welcome Park Can Teach You How to Touch Things

Here, you need to do a series of activities that test your ability to count to five (and in one case, ten). For reference, it goes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

There are trophies for beating each individual event's target time and for beating the overall target time of 60.0 seconds. To do this, you should be under 27.0 seconds on the Tap Stage, 15.5 on the Flick & Drag Stage, and 17.5 on the Rear Touch Pad stage.

Tap Stage

Use both of your thumbs. You'll need them. Each phase of this stage contains the same combination of targets, but they are positioned differently on the screen each time you replay it. If you don't get under 27.0 seconds, do some finger stretches and hit that "Retry" button.

Flick & Drag Stage

As the current target peels down and fades away, you should already be turning the wheel to the next target. This will become easier and easier to do as targets are eliminated. You'll need 15.5 seconds or less here.

Rear Touch Pad Stage

This is the most annoying of the stages, largely due to the sometimes shaky responsiveness of rear touch events. I don't have any tips here, so just rear tap away in less than 17.5 seconds and move on.

Hello Face

You need to take three pictures of faces. Done and done and done .

Sound Loop

You should frantically tap the screen while yelling into the microphone. At some point, an achievement will appear. You may now leave this activity.

Skate Axis

This could actually pass for a decent minigame. You need to get 500 points while dodging inexplicably lethal bouncing marbles. Grabbing every star that appears will get you to 500 points very quickly.

Snap + Slide

I saved the best (read: worst) for last, because this is where shit gets real. Here, you need to take a picture and then solve a sliding puzzle made up of pieces from that picture. There is only one picture you should ever attempt to do this with.

This Image is Snap + Slide's Worst Nightmare

Hold your Vita's camera up to the image above and line up the cross-hatches such that Snap + Slide creates a 16-piece puzzle with precisely these 16 numbered squares. You then need to solve both 3x3 and 4x4 puzzles within certain time limits. The 3x3 ones are simplistic, but the last 4x4 one is going to be a challenge.

Fortunately, these sliding puzzles let you defy the laws of physics by pushing entire rows and columns up and down when the puzzle's borders turn into wavy rainbows. You'll want to take advantage of this in the 4x4 puzzles by doing the following:

  • After the puzzle activates, if the 1, 2, 3, and 4 blocks are not all in separate rows from each other, restart the puzzle.
  • Otherwise, when the puzzle activates, you should slide each row left or right such that the 1, 2, 3, and 4 blocks are in their correct columns.
  • Soon, the wavy rainbows will change directions, allowing you to slide each column such that the 1, 2, 3, and 4 blocks are all on the top row.
  • You now have 1/4 rows correct, but unfortunately the above method will not work for the other three rows without disturbing the first row. Thus, you'll have to slide individual blocks the rest of the way and hope for the best.

Conclusion

Welcome Park is not particularly entertaining, but trophies are shiny. There is still plenty of room for improvement and some hardcore min/maxing here, so feel free to share your own insider tips, along with any fond memories of the good times you've spent strolling through the Welcome Park.

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This is Not a Blog | 7.27.2011

Another week, another blog. Yes indeed, I really do have intentions to keep this thing on a consistent schedule. Let's get right into it, shall we?

I mentioned last week that I had recently purchased a Nintendo 3DS but hadn't had much of a chance to actually play around with it. In the past week, I've experimented with the built-in apps, taken on some Ocarina of Time, and failed miserably in my quest to make a single StreetPass connection. I've also played some other games, finished (yes, finished!) The Witcher, and continued to stress test (read: abuse) my new 4G modem.

Nintendo 3DS: One More Dee

I generally do not enjoy 3D technology. While the effect can occasionally add a nice touch, it's still too often used as a gimmick to sell more expensive televisions and get more people to actually go out to the movie theater. Coming at the 3DS from this point of view, I never considered buying the device for its 3D capabilities. While the 3D tech here isn't without merit, the meat of the experience for me is the ability to play a new generation of first-party Nintendo handheld titles.

In keeping with this background, I didn't give the 3DS much more than a passing glance until it had a major first-party release in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. After that, all it took was one GB quick look and one ensuing wave of nostalgic glee for the game to magically appear in my Amazon shopping cart. How'd that get there? Well, might as well buy a 3DS to play it on…

Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime demonstrates the proper posture for playing games on your 3DS.

As it turns out, the 3DS is a pretty competent console. The circle pad affords a borderline luxurious level of comfortable control, the friends list/web browser/home screen overlay during games is well-realized, there are plenty of gadgets and parlor tricks to play around with, and the 3D is... fine... I guess. Not wearing glasses is a definite plus, but it means that your head needs to be in a fairly constrained position relative to the screen. This is probably fine if you live in a television commercial or furniture catalog, but in practice I'm typically not sitting perfectly still and holding my hands out 25-35 cm from my eyes.

Another slight disappointment has been StreetPass. I rather expected that my largely suburban and non-Japanese environment would not be conducive to the feature, but I have yet to see that blue indicator light up even once. In what I had hoped would be a good test of StreetPass, I took the 3DS with me to a crowded indoor mall on a rainy Sunday afternoon. While I did some shopping and got my phone replaced at the Apple Store, I assumed my 3DS was busily comparing notes with its nearby peers. After finishing up at the mall, I eagerly pulled out the console to be greeted only with an unlit LED and an empty notification inbox. I guess I'll have to wait until PAX Prime next month before I can really take a shot at StreetPassing.

All that said, I've really been enjoying my n playthrough of Ocarina of Time. This is a game which I, not owning a Nintendo 64 when I was young, considered to be the holy grail of gaming for many years. I did everything in my power to play OoT, from spending inordinate amounts of time at Nintendo 64-possessing neighbors' houses to using emulation software that only half-captured the game's majesty. Ocarina of Time is the video game that I've most consistently appreciated over the longest period of time, and as such it stands as the prime candidate for my favorite game of all time. With that in mind, you can probably imagine that I'm thrilled as hell to play a gorgeous remastering of it on a portable console.

The Witcher: My Work Here is Done

I finished The Witcher. Damn, did I finish the hell out of that game. Driven by a mad compulsion to complete the first iteration before tackling The Witcher 2, I decided at some point last week that I was going to make a break for it over the weekend. After surrendering nearly all of my Saturday to help Geralt of Rivia face the sinister Salamandra, I was rewarded with an ending cutscene that only intensified my desire to jump straight into the second game as soon as possible.

I wonder what item the Lady of the Lake will choose to bestow upon you...

Along the way, The Witcher provided some truly memorable moments, occasionally taking the time to riff playfully on typical fantasy tropes while injecting its own brand of dark realism. You may find yourself stumbling into classic Arthurian legend when you meet the Lady of the Lake, but her knights have long since left her deserted, leaving her domain to be threatened by warring factions and racial tension.

As much as I love Mass Effect and Dragon Age, the shades of gray presented in this game make both BioWare series look like black and white morality plays. You'll almost certainly try to straddle the neutral ground here, hedging your bets, not sure which side to take — all because there is no clear right or wrong. The Witcher expects this though, and eventually yanks you sharply away from any hope of staying neutral in its intensely polarized world.

Despite the more-than-occasional system crash and broken combat sequence I experienced during my time with this game, I've remained wholeheartedly on board with the way it has unfolded.

The Witcher 2: Just Kidding! More Work!

Playing The Witcher 2 makes me glad that I finished the first game. Not only are there some satisfying narrative connections and character reappearances, but the entire game feels like a vindication of the struggles encountered in the first go-round. Did you labor through repetitive combat sequences and sometimes-broken controls out of devotion to a game that you knew really was great under its flaws? If so, The Witcher 2 is for you. They fixed everything that drove you nuts, but kept in tact the spirited grittiness, satisfying mechanics, and narrative ingenuity of the original.

That dragon killed me about five times while I was trying to capture this screenshot.

While all of these improvements had me jumping at the chance to get into some of The Witcher 2, my computer took a slightly different approach: it turned and ran. As it happens, The Witcher 2 is rather graphically intense. The game looks gorgeous and presents a surreal, high-fantasy ambience that is achieved largely through some very clever lighting effects. Unfortunately this means that even on the lowest of the low settings, your GPU is still going to be dynamically illuminating Geralt's armor as he emerges from the splotchy shade of a forest to gaze upon fully animated waves breaking along a distant shoreline.

After some tweaking, I was able to get the game to run relatively smoothly on my machine, but it has become clear to me that CD Projekt did not exactly have the GT 330M in mind when they set the graphics baseline here. I'm perfectly happy to see PC graphics moving forward, but it's unfortunate that a storyline I care so deeply about was nearly denied to me as a result.

If your PC can run it, you should definitely play this game. Oh, but you should probably play The Witcher first. So, um, get on that.

Odds and Ends

I've acquired a copy of Dragon Quest IX, which I see can be a very long game. Realistically, I doubt I'll make it very far, but the last Dragon Quest-related game I played was Dragon Warrior Monsters, and that was a very long time ago. Lately I've had a craving for a good, lengthy, and portable JRPG, so hopefully this will scratch that itch.

I picked up Trenched and Bastion on XBLA, with plans to pick up From Dust tomorrow.

Trenched is enjoyable, but I've had at least two instances where I get to the end of a long, grueling mission only to have my structure destroyed on the last wave. I've been meaning to jump into some multiplayer, but I wanted to make sure I was at least semi-competent with the basic mechanics and load-outs first.

Bastion is enjoyable as well, managing to be visually and aesthetically alluring at a level that is seriously impressive for an indie title. Every detail of this game is beautifully crafted and cared for, resulting in an experience that leaves you eager to explore more of the enigmatic world that Supergiant Games has created. From a gameplay perspective, I've found the Proving Ground challenge levels to be especially entertaining. Trapper Shingle had me standing up in front of my television, leaning in close to make sure I timed every roll and reload exactly right, eventually netting me a thoroughly satisfying first prize.

This next week is going to be fairly busy, but I'm hoping to dive a bit into From Dust, a game I've heard about here and there but still am not sure I fully understand. Hopefully that will change in time for next week's not-a-blog.

Cheers!

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This is Not a Blog | 7.19.2011

There's no time like the present to start a blog, so, uh, here's a blog!

Lately I've found myself really enjoying user blogs here. People like JJWeatherman and Psycosis have blogs with multiple posts on them — something I am clearly lacking. On the off chance that someone out there wants to hear what I have to say about the video games I'm playing, I figure it's time to give this a shot.

Steam: Not for Use on Hotel Internet

Let's say you have the distinct pleasure of relying on hotel internet for an extended period of time. In between admiring your 0.2 Mbps download speeds and 900+ ms ping times you might just want to try and log in to Steam — you know, just to say hi to some friends and maybe play an offline game or two. Unfortunately, hotel internet is playing coy with you. Steam makes a futile attempt to start before incongruously trying to update itself.

Let's say that after trying repeatedly to open Steam and banging your head on your keyboard a few times as your attempts inevitably fail, you temporarily forget how computers work. You briefly consider that reinstalling Steam might be the answer to all of your problems. You, being far smarter than I, probably reconsider this course of action almost immediately. I, however, press on, managing to delete all of my downloaded games in the process.

These guys bailed me out of hotel internet hell. In return, I'm stress testing their network for them.

So now I'm not only stuck on hotel internet, but there are 80 GB of games in the cloud that I need to re-download. The solution? I ordered one of these. I am now in the process of downloading 80 GB of data over the Clear 4G wireless network. I'm pretty sure I'm their new favorite customer.

The good news: ping times under 100 ms and download speeds between 0.25 and 3 Mbps, depending on the time of day. It's not going to get me to 80 GB very quickly, but at least it's going to get me there.

And of course the first game I re-downloaded was...

The Witcher: So I Hear There's a Sequel

The Witcher is a very long game, and I've been playing it for a very long time. Unfortunately, these two facts are only partially correlated. Between unsuccessfully guessing where to go next, dying on significantly more than one occasion, losing progress to an unrelenting series of computer crashes, and taking frequent breaks to drool wistfully at the stunning beauty of The Witcher 2, this game has taken me some time to get through.

This man thinks he is The Witcher.

I am thoroughly enjoying my time with The Witcher, but let me emphasize that it is a lot of time. I'm 40+ hours in and most of the way through Chapter III. I'm told there exists a Chapter V, and that this is followed by an Epilogue. This interminability is almost enough to tempt me into starting the sequel. In fact, during a particularly frustrating series of events involving a bugged door and a scripted encounter, I actually launched The Witcher 2 (which I had spent the previous day downloading in the background).

If there's one thing I now know about The Witcher 2, it's that the main menu screen is incredible. It's gorgeous to look at and the music is superb. It's enough to make you wholeheartedly jump into another 40 hours of monster slaying, and I almost would have, if it weren't for this message:

The Witcher saves unavailable, information will not be imported.

Well, goddammit.

Chime: Ding!

You know how some games are more like choreographed light shows than actual games? Take The Polynomial: Space of the Music — there's probably a game hiding in there somewhere, but I certainly haven't found it. By contrast, Chime is both a choreographed light show and an actual game. If you're not on top of your tetromino matching, you're probably not going to be making very good music.

Covering the entire grid with 'quads' (solid rectangular clumps of interlocked pieces) is actually an intriguing challenge. If you're not exceptionally careful, you will leave one or two uncovered cells here and there, forcing you to go back and rebuild an entire quad around each gap. It gets frenetic and surprisingly fun when you have to balance the rescue of stranded partial quads with the building of new ones in uncovered territory.

I haven't yet invested enough time to master all of Chime's mechanics, but I am wholeheartedly digging its overall style. The combination of starkly minimalistic menu layout and graphic design with a lush, bright, and overwhelmingly colorful game board really works for me. As an added bonus, Chime is developed by the non-profit OneBigGame, which means that the majority of the purchase price goes straight to charity. If you didn't pick this up during the recent Steam sale, you might want to consider just grabbing a copy at $4.99.

Okay, Maybe This is a Blog

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! One more quick shout-out to JJWeatherman for inspiration on header formatting and post structure. Hopefully I'll be back next week-ish with another one of these. Not mentioned above is my recent purchase of a Nintendo 3DS, which I'll reserve for discussion in a future post once I've had some more time to actually play around with it.

Cheers!

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The Game Idea Generator

Recently, I was required to develop a game as part of an interactive computer graphics course. I kept having ideas like "tetris on steroids" and "bejeweled meets ricochet", so I decided to hack together an automated system to generate thousands of such ideas. The result was ultimately completely unhelpful in relation to the project, but has given me a few good laughs with its ridiculous suggestions:

The multiplayer of Gears of War meets the art design of Mario Kart Wii.

The next generation of Golf.

The controls of Grand Theft Auto IV meets the characters of Nintendogs.

...that last one could get rather ugly. If you want, you can give it a shot for yourself:  http://oddfinch.com/gameideas/ 
 
Let me know if you find anything awry, but note that unfathomably terrible game ideas are a feature, not a bug.
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