Week of March 13th: SIE HABEN MUNDGERUCH!!
Let's get something out of the way so this post doesn't end on a downer. FHM Germany ran an article featuring Grandma in their April issue. It's more or less a large picture with some snarky copy underneath. Grandma and I both have spoken with many nice people from Deutschland; we have nothing against Germany. Our regular readers will remember that Der Spiegel ran a fantastic article about mature gaming recently. Now comes, FHM Germany, opening their article (titled by the way "Sterben will gelernt sein") with the sentence: "Sie haben Mundgeruch und Erektionsprobleme."
It doesn't take three years of careful language study or a Babelfish attempt to understand what that means. The article goes on to describe a function of gaming that Grandma and I somehow missed; to win a war one had lost in the past.
Look, there are layers of cultural baggage and resentment for the previous generations in Germany that I can perceive but never truly understand without being German, myself; just as there are similar sentiments for the racist lynch-mob voters in our own history here in The States. I'm not going to compare the two. I'm not going to stew a culture war claiming national superiority or even give the expected cheers of patriotism right now.
Do you know why?
Because it's fucking FHM Magazine, THAT'S why!
It would be one thing if a carefully written grand thesis on the nature of mature gaming compared to the younger generations prepared out of respect for the readers was printed in a nationally syndicated publication of high regard. But this is FHM, a magazine that only serves one purpose no matter what language it's printed:
Nobody reads the ARTICLES!! Are we expecting a lot of traffic from this article? Probably not. Thousands of copies will be found in the German speaking countries of the world with the pages stuck together with German speaker spooge. All men are wankers and those who say they are not have a copy of FHM Germany hidden under their pillows. And more power to them! Whack off as much as you like, it's a natural sort of thing. (Although, for future reference, just go to www.foobies.com for your pornography. I'm not even kidding. Why pay FHM any money when you can get this shit for FREE?!)
If any of Grandma's fans want to send us a copy, e-mail me for the address. At the very least I can give it my little brother so he can discover the joys of naked foreigners. (The kid has to learn somehow.)
Now what the hell was I talking about... Damn.
Ah, yes! Grandia III, a Square-Enix game for the Playstion 2 freshly translated for Anglophone consumption! We're going to provide you a full review next week after Grandma completes the game and gives me her notes. Until then, watch our new video to get the general idea.
Grandma is digging Grandia III. It reminds her of Final Fantasy so much it's SICK. She hasn't been able to find a subtitle option, so you'll notice her big ol' honking headphones connected to the Surround Sound amplifier so she can make out the plot. She's used them since the middle of the first disc, so I'm not quite sure what's going on in the game anymore. All I hear is her reactions. I do know that she thinks the voice acting is well done, she simply wishes they would have something better to SAY.
The gameplay is starting to force her into accepting a MMORG style; although the turn base attack meter looks like something from Zenogears. What Grandma thought were beginning only tutorial messages turned out to be a full game option that she quickly flicked off.
"It makes it too damn easy if it tells you exactly what attacks to use. What's the POINT?! At least in Final Fantasy when you used 'scan' you had to WORK for it!"
Grandia III isn't just a set up for Final Fantasy XII, however; it simply has all the right ingredients. It's what occupies most of her day anymore.
It wasn't that long ago that Grandma purchased Marble Blast Ultra for the XBox 360 via the XBox Live Arcade and declared it "fucking impossible." She's gotten a lot better, mostly from practicing in solo mode. She's finished all of the beginner and intermediate levels, and she's damn close to completing all of the hard class levels as well. One needs the patience of a social worker in a polygamy compound in order to play Marble Blast Ultra. This game punishes you every time you fall off a cliff with an annoying noise and a 3 second delay from the rest of your life, leaving you permanently off-step. We think it's Bill Gates way of conditioning children to appreciate the lessons of physics.
The game becomes multidimensional when the gravity shifts directions; and, of course, it contains that wonderful video-game cliche: ICE.
After awhile, you begin to pay attention to other things to take your mind off of the possibility of taking apart your XBox 360 very carefully with a screwdriver and then burning each individual piece in a vat of acid to seek revenge for the pain caused by Marble Blast Ultra; the graphics for instance. The graphics are crisp and beautiful, and the backgrounds look like something from an early lantern-picture. If you look closely at Grandma's marble, you can even see Cleveland! It's the polluted red blotch right next to the polluted green blotch.
Multiplayer mode has one, huge flaw. If it's intentional, it's pretty fucking stupid. No matter how well or how poor you're doing in a match; bouncing other players off the grid collecting the precious colored gems or trying to catch up by snagging a super-jump powerup from some other rat-bastard even though everyone else is already at a gem site... the game will freeze for a couple seconds and you find yourself hurdling in some other direction, usually right off a cliff. It will PISS YOU OFF TO NO END.
It is for that reason that you will rarely see Grandma in a multiplayer match in Marble Blast Ultra.
Crystal Quest, also for the XBox 360, is an entirely different beast. Crystal Quest serves a couple of functions for Microsoft. First, it's a giant "Fuck You" to Apple. Many of you old timers will remember the Apple][e as that funny looking machine that ran Oregon Trail and ate floppy discs for breakfast. Some of us, though, remember it for Crystal Quest. Second, it once again proves the XBox 360's "next-gen" status by contrasting a new, vastly improved game to it's ancient counterpart. Sure, it's the easy way out, but it works.
It is impossible not to compare Crystal Quest to Geometry Wars. Both games have similar controls, progression of enemies, and opportunities for achievements. Grandma and I love Geometry Wars, but it is because of the differences that we can appreciate Crystal Quest.
One difference is that, unlike Geometry Wars Evolved, you can see the whole field of play at once. If there are any surprises, it is not because an enemy appeared in a cropped corner, it is because we weren't watching carefully. Unlike GWE, bombs in Crystal Quest that destroy enemies will still get you points, allowing for a strategy of a different sort. While GWE is a never ending onslaught of enemies, Crystal Quest levels end upon the successful collection of all gems on the screen and maneuvering into an exit portal. The portal becomes more narrow and will even move in later levels.
It really is a fun game, but before you plop down your 400 Microsoft Points for a copy of your own, there are some things you should know so you don't waste your life trying to get onto the leaderboards as the game is given to you. There are some parameters you're going to have to change.
First, go into help/options; then game options. Now slide the control bar all the way to "fast." It's not so fast it's uncontrollable, but being able to zip around the screen quickly enough to complete the "Wave 1 under 5 seconds) achievement is near impossible on the standard setting, and it will let you escape easier. Second, slide your difficulty or skill level bar all the way to "HARD."
Otherwise, there is really no point in even trying.
In hard mode, common gems are worth 10,000 each. Large gems can be worth over 1,000,000. In standard (5) mode, it will take you a little while to reach that sort of score. In hard mode, enemies are worth more also, but there will be more of them and they will be more accurate and more frequent with their shots. You will also see more mines around the screen. In hard mode, if you touch anything, you're dead. In standard you can bounce a little.
If you buy the game and struggle your way all the way to the 60th wave and check the leaderboards, you will be incredibly angry to find that someone who only reached the 15th wave has almost triple your score.
The achievements in Crystal Quest are not impossible feats. Here's what ya' do: To get the "Score 10 Million achievement" without stabbing yourself in the eye with the nearest sharp object, simply begin a new game in hard mode; now in every wave from 2 to about 10, shoot every enemy on screen until they stop coming, now grab a single gem. You could get all of them in a few seconds if you wanted to, but don't do that. Just take one. Now repeat the process. Kill every enemy until they stop, then grab a single gem. This will increase your chances of having the larger gems appear. You're also racking up some points you wouldn't otherwise get by plowing through the level. Also: the time bonuses are basically worthless. Don't rush yourself into a mine, it's not going to help you at all.
If you want to play dirty with the "Marathon Achievement" because you suck for some reason, turn the skill level down all the way to "1" and play for a half hour or so until you get to Wave 60. It's one of the few achievements that are not dependant on skill level. Collecting 30 bombs or 30 lives is best done on skill level "5," as is the "Navigator" achievement. It's a piece of cake and it looks really nifty on your gamercard.
And who doesn't want a nifty gamercard?!
[We're holding Ask Grandma Hardcore on Thursday this week so everyone gets a chance this time; also- we're going to sit down later today and answer the late questions you left us in the previous thread. Nobody get's fucking left out, man! NOBODY!!]