Midway: May - Downloading Lombaxes

Well, since it’s been almost two years since I last made a blog post, I’d thought I would start afresh and renewed. Now with with a more hopeful, positive outlook replacing the try-hard too clever by half snark that made my last blog kind of embarrassing to re-read. It being the middle of May, why not just write about what I played during the first half. Also came up with the title Midway: May, only problem is it sounds like some video series devoted to a defunct company done by a guy who wears a hat and his friend who dresses up like Scorpion for bad skits. Unfortunately, I can’t make good on this idea, but if anyone wants to, go right ahead. But yeah, thanks to a recent PSN sale I was able to catch up on one of my favorite series from the PS2 era, Ratchet & Clank.

Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty

Back when this sequel to 2007’s Tool’s of Destruction came out in 2008, I was still a strong proponent of physical releases. I was tempted to import the PAL release, but decided against paying something like sixty percent more for a four hour game. So when it was on sale on the PSN recently I snatched it up.

So this game’s great, well some of it is...well the first hour and a half. Not the first fifteen though, the part after the introduction. A extended sequence where Insomniac strips away what the series has prided itself on since 2002. The Guns. Instead, you spend your time on Hoolefar Island exploring a decent size level, looking for towers to climb. The towers help power the shield generator for the island or something, I don’t really remember. What I do remember are some great sections of platforming as made my way up the tower to turn a bolt with a circular motion of the left analog stick. The series always, post one with its weird character momentum, had decent controls for platforming, but the level design never really took advantage. The platforming, at least after the original, was used as more of a break from the combat than the main obstacle. I never found R&C’s platforming challenging before, but I did find myself repeating some tricky sections dealing with the gravity boots in Quest. This isn’t Super Mario Galaxy quality here, but for a series that relied more on its shooting mechanics and quirky weaponry, it was refreshing to see such a focus.

The Dynamo becomes the wrench

Which only made the switch to combat all the more disappointing. With the smaller scale, it makes sense why Tools of Destruction's weapons and enemies are recycled, what with all the environments being original. Less understandable is the design of the combat scenarios, they’re just kind of lame. Often you enter a area, usually circular and fight a couple waves of enemies. Or during the intro set piece, where you jump from one pirate ship to a identical pirate ship, climb a ladder that always in the same spot and hit a launch pad to another ship. It’s not that great of section, so course they repeat it for the climax.

So the shooting sections aren’t that great, but it’s still a worthwhile experience because of Hoolefar Island. That level reminded me of 2004, back when 3D platformers that didn’t star Mario were still alive. Nostalgia for I-Ninja, or Vexx...if Vexx wasn’t garbage.

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault

And whoosh, there goes all my warm fuzzies. This game is a straight up bummer. Following the template of games like Iron Brigade and Orcs Must Die!, FFA attempts to meld the tower defense genre with actions games, but with the inclusion of platforming and level exploration. It doesn’t work. Much like the lazy innuendo.

It seems like a decent concept, in between waves of enemies attacking your base, you explore the level, gaining more weapons and slowly overtaking sections of the battlefield from the enemy forces. Problem is, neither style feels satisfying. Maybe I’m just terrible at gathering resources(most likely), but I always found myself starved for bolts. There never seemed to be enough boxes around to give me a decent amount of bolts. Being the poor hero, I usually could only spring for maybe two turrets and a barrier on either lane. This frugal defense meant that I had to handle most of the enemies, hopping back and forth, holding down the R1 trigger to spray the enemies with blaster fire.

Yes blaster fire, not much point in getting use to the other weapons because of how efficient the weapon is and the way the weapon system works. You start off every level with only the wrench and charge boots, and have to go searching for weapon drop pods, and after playing a weak minigame you have a choice between (what seems) sorta-randomly selected weapons. The blaster is a given, and from the three levels I played, I always received it first or near first. It’s tedious having to rebuild Ratchet’s arsenal every time by wandering around the environment. This is half of the platforming/adventuring aspect of the game.

The other half being Ratchet gaining control of the map by attacking enemy outposts. There’s two mirrored outpost, one on the left and one on the right of the map. Pretty much Ratchet walks up, kills every enemy in the area, and turns a bolt. Maybe jumping across three slow moving platforms. Getting both of those, there’s one more enemy base directly across from you on the map. Much like the gathering of weapons, the act of gaining control gets tedious pretty fast as it plays out the same pretty much every time.

Remember when Insomniac said they weren’t going to focus on maintaining sixty frames per second before? Well, I was somewhat dismayed at the news, but I believed they would keep their games locked at a solid thirty. Nope. This is the first R&C game that I can recall dipping into the low twenties during regular gameplay. Well, Deadlocked did have slowdown, but that game was on the PS2 with a large amount of enemies and explosions onscreen, so I’m not gonna be as lenient for FFA. So yeah, I only played three levels of this game, so maybe the systems and designs work better later on. Maybe the multiplayer, competitive and co-op are good, but I’m not gonna see. Finishing that third level left a bad taste in my mouth, and I deleted the game from my HDD.

Start the Conversation

In which I remove the exclusivity from my exclusive bonus.

Well, being that I'm a simple-minded fool who still finds it fun to shoot fools with the same general mechanics I first payed fifty dollars for back in 2007, I pre-ordered MW3 on amazon. The fact that I can get the game on release day for zero shipping charge(Prime member) and zero tax is more than enough incentive to spurn any attempts from gamestop or Best Buy to get my dollar. But of course, exclusive pre-order bonuses are the name of the game now. Amazon usually doesn't get much in the way of in-game stuff, instead going "Hey, you just bought this game for sixty dollars, that's great. So great in fact, here's twenty dollars to spend on our website. What's that? The price of the game dropped release date, well here's your ten dollars back."

As a college student, that's fucking grand. Less grand is there promotion for MW3, ten dollars off a turtle beach headset. As someone who's sole tatic in multiplayer shooters is running around until I find someone too shoot or is shot, hearing someone footsteps fails to give me much of a woody*. But unbeknownst too me, there was a another pre-order bonus, an exclusive one. I checked my email not too long ago, and sandwiched between a email from redbox and a facebook notification that three people I don't talk too are celebrating the birthday before the one that grants you the right to drink your misery away, was one marked as important. The words Exclusive and Amazon grabbing my attention, enticing me to click before I read the full title.

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

The Amazon Video Games team thanks you for your pre-order of "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3". Now it's time to get you your exclusive MW3 Wallpaper.

Here is your link:
*SNIP*
Thank you for your continued support of Amazon.com/games.

~Amazon.com Video Games Editors

A wallpaper? An exclusive wallpaper? Am I really supposed to get excited about this? Please don't take this as me bitching about getting something for free when Amazon could've easily given me only the game. But in terms of pre-order bonuses, wallpaper, I'm sorry exclusive wallpaper, seems comparable to unlockable concept art. Though maybe the wallpaper is dope as fuck, maybe

Oh...Well, so it's kind of lame, and now it's now longer exclusive cuz I uploaded it too giantbomb, free for the taking for you non-amazon-pre-ordering folks. Goddamn me.

*Been watching Generation Kill again, Whopper Jr. man.

EDIT: And this post wasn't at all inspired by the Blog Initiative, not at all.

2 Comments

Re-reading Hitchhiker's Guide, thought this was funny.

"A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wave bands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive -- you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same program."

Goes from dials and buttons, to touch screen, then finally motion sensing. With the description seemingly being pretty appropriate, barring the statement of lack of muscular expenditure.

7 Comments

My mentality in high school contained in 43 minutes of music.

 I used to be a huge metalhead back in highschool. Thrash, death, sludge, power, some other crappy subgenres of metal filled my Ipod. Then inexplicably one day, my tastes of the rather extreme ends of the metal genre all but dissipated, making way for interest in comparatively more mellow music. The only leftover of my metal days being my love of sludge metal, Melvins still reign supreme in my eyes. Since then, my tastes have been expanded, especially during the past year largely in part due to Bruce's great recommendations. I had to wake up early this morning to drive my little bro to school, and while I was waiting for him to get ready, I went on to my computer. On a whim, I decided to type "Suicidal Tendencies You can't Bring Me Down" into the search bar on youtube. It had been a while since I'd last listen to Suicidal Tendencies, they were one of the many bands I decided to stop listening too. What I felt watching this video, besides amusement at how terribly Vevo censored the music video, was that not dissimilar to what I felt when I watched The Great Mouse Detective for the first time in years, or when I randomly googled Reptar. I felt nostalgia, even when it had only been about a year and a half since I last listened to it.
    
    Once I got back from driving my little bro, I listened to it again. This song perfectly encapsulated my high school days. Breaking out "Lights...Camera...Revolution!," I sat down in my living room and listened to the whole album while fittingly enough, Saved by The Bell and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air played on the tv screen. Going through each track, I started thinking. My life was never like "You can't Bring Me down," it was my mentality that fit that song, my mentality that I never really based my decisions on. Or maybe I did, I don't really know. That's kind of why I decided to write this down, force myself to think about the four years of my life that would be better off forgotten. That, and I'd been meaning to write a blog for this site for awhile, but had never been compelled to sit down and actually write something.
 
  

  

    I don't think it would surprise anyone if I were to say I was a pretty hardcore geek in high school. I was for the most part aware of it, but to the extent of how bad it was, not so much. It wasn't so much that I was oblivious to it, it's just that I was such a geek that I was aware of the worse of us*, so I had a certain air of superiority about myself, not much, but it was there. I also had this false sense of superiority around the group I hung out with, the goth/outcasts kids. I didn't necessarily feel like I was better than them, just that I was ahead of the curve. I only had a brief venture into hot topic goth wear back in middle school, which I soon realize how stupid all that shit was. My friends hadn't caught on so fast. But yeah, so there I was with the outcasts. I didn't want to conform with the American Eagle prep nature of the school, but neither did I want to conform with the anti-conformists, who I felt were just conforming to a different drum. So, I rebelled my own way, khaki shorts and collard-short sleeves shirts baby! The main reason why I hung out with those kids was because I shared similar interests; video games, anime(used to be into it), and the big one being music. Metal. Dude, metal was awesome. I was in to almost every kind of it, as long as it was heavy. It was like I was listening to pure angst. This fit in perfectly with my rather passive aggressive way of rebelling. I didn't really have to do anything, I just had to listen. Listening to Death, Kreator, Opeth, and of course Melvins, was like a big "F.U." to all those kids listening to their pop-punk shit like Blink 182 or Yellowcard.

  
    

      I don't really remember how or when I was introduced to Suicidal Tendencies. But like most people, the first song I heard by them was "Institutionalized." I loved it, fit perfectly in to my mindset of "people don't understand me." So I went and listen to their other stuff. I thought their Self-titled album was great, but what with me being such a huge metalhead, "Lights...Camera...Revolution!" 's more thrash metal over hardcore punk was what really got me hooked on them. "You can't bring me Down" opens the album, and what a opener it is. Probably the most thrash metal song on the album, it starts with the first of three guitar solos, and slowly builds up to a wall of sound. Mike Muir yells "What the hell is going on around here?!" right before the song explodes into main riff. If you couldn't tell by the title, the song deals with never backing down and standing up for what you believe in, specifically censorship in this song. All the songs on this album are just as blunt when it comes to the lyrics, and overall the album is kind of one note when it comes to themes. If the song isn't about standing up and fight, it's about life sucking. You know what though, I was in High School, I didn't give a damn about subtlety or restraint, it was all about raw angst. Which this album deliver in spades. Even "Alone," the closest thing to a ballad on this album still shreds...and just guess what Mike Muir sings about in that one. It might seem like I'm mocking the lyrics, but I genuinely appreciated them. As someone who suffered from on and off again depression, I found lyrics like:

"Can you say "feel like shit"?
Yea maybe sometimes I do feel like shit
I ain't happy 'bout it, but I'd rather feel like shit than be full of shit!"


comforting. Sure, by the time this album was released Mike Muir was long past his angsty high school years, or the lyrics are a bit of step down compared to the ones found on the self-titled, but I can't listen to this album now without being in a time bubble. Back when I was fifteen, when my Sundays consisted of listening to metal and playing splitscreen multiplayer games with my friends. This was all I wanted from my music. I'll admit though, the simple lyrics don't always work. "Lovely" is a complete failure. Consisting almost entirely of Muir saying "Love, love love, lovely," the song beats you over the head with sarcasm. Jeez, I don't get it. He just spent the last two songs saying how much life sucks and he's lonely, now he's saying everything is lovely. The song would be bad enough without having two songs devoted to detailing how alone Muir feels, but "Lovely's" placement on the album just makes it all the more annoying. "Send me your Money" also fails to really connect. Maybe it's that I wasn't even born when the album was released, but I grew up knowing televangelists were full of shit. So the message doesn't seem as powerful or groundbreaking as it may have during the summer of 1990.
 
  
  

      Usually I find it hard to look back on my days in high school in a positive light. This album helps me do that. It reminds me of those days past, those days that the album helped brighten up. Listening to it now, even if it's kind of sophmoric, makes me happy. Thank you for reading this, and I apologize if t seemed kind of rambling, aimless or if the actual music critique is rather weak. Do you guys have any albums or songs that elicit similar feelings?
11 Comments