This blog is the chronicle of my experiences with Grandma, the video-game playing queen of her age-bracket and weight class. She will beat any PS2, XBox, GameCube, etc., console game put in front of her, just like she always has. These are her stories. She is absolutely real. She lives in Cleveland.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Grandma chooses Evil over 80's
Grandma and I had a little extra cash today. This is a pleasant opportunity for entertainment we couldn't pass up, so she decided on a new game. It all came down to 'Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80's' for the PS2, or 'Overlord' for the XBox 360.
Grandma decided to go with Overlord. Everything she and I had read about the 80's expansion for GHII was fairly negative, especially about the price and the short playlist. That kind of thing REALLY stands out when she's making a decision. "It'll be cheaper later," she predicted; looking at the box the way clairvoyants look at tea leaves. She hadn't played anything resembling an RTS since Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth so "why the hell not?"
I'm really hoping she likes this one, seeing as Odin Sphere is pissing her off so much (more on that later). Grandma doesn't shop for games to get digusted, she buys them to have fun.
God help me if this isn't like Fable.
At Best Buy we noticed small piles of Wiis and PS3s stacked neatly in pyramids while the employees stood to the side, apparently shooting the shit to pass the time:
BB Dude #1: "Yeah, a guy came in and saw all the Wiis and PS3s around and he said 'are those boxes empty?' and I was all like 'nope!' So he bought TWO of each system!" BB Dude #2: "A lot of people don't know we have them in stock!" BB Dude #1: "I know! Well, these will be gone soon, I'll tell you that right now."
Now I caught this set-up; so did the guy in the baseball cap who breathed through his nose in something like a laugh. But to the rest of us, the bait was planted; in the crowd milling about the games section pretending to look intently at the front label of the movie 'Rent' on UMD and flicking through strategy guides, reaching for their cell phones or trying to remember something in the back of their minds... Are these things rare? Should I get one? Maybe I could sell it if everyone can't find one. I bet the kids would know. Man, they'd be thrilled if I got them something nobody else can get...
The trick is to let the bait stick. The sales associates go back to whatever they were doing, shut up, and let the customers come to them. That's the way Baiting is supposed to work. But these guys were hardly seasoned pros; lacking the skills and tact of a Ricky Roma-esque, Five Tour Black Friday veteran. A mistake was made.
BB Dude #1: "Um, Hey Bill. I gotta tell you about this guy. A guy came in and saw all the Wiis and PS3s around and he said 'are those boxes empty?' and I said 'nope!' The guy bought TWO of each system!" BB Dude #2: "People don't know we have them in stock!" BB Dude #1: "I know! Well, these will be gone soon, that I can tell you."
They recited it just a tiny bit louder and just a little bit closer to the center of the crowd. Only 10 minutes had passed, maybe a bit more. It was almost comical. The bubble popped. People sensed insincerity. They smelled it on these guys. They grabbed their carts and went away, into the appliance section, into the DVD racks, into the cameras, anywhere but there.
The Best Buy guys lost their fish. It was hard to suppress the urge to give them some knowing, jackass smile; something that said "They know what you did."
We grabbed Overlord from the rack and left them to their shame. It would probably be another 45 minutes or so before a new crowd gathered close enough for them to try again, that is- if they could work up the courage.
Maybe they learned something.
I don't know.
The EDF: 2017 completion is coming slow because, honestly, we both suck at the harder levels, and when you split the screen vertically in half it makes noticing mobs of insects flanking you sort of difficult to spot.
Has anyone played Overlord yet? (PC or 360, I'm just trying to get an idea of what to expect.) What do you think?
[We have to moderate comments now; sorry about that. You can still post anonymously without signing up for anything, I just have to check it off before it shows up.]
Earth Defense Force 2017. Grandma doesn't know WHAT to tell you
Grandma is still forming an opinion on EDF: 2017. It's a game of many contradictions. The graphics are shit, and yet the graphics are awesome. The dialogue is terrible and annoying but the dialogue is hilarious. The game is easy as hell and hard as FUCK. Its manner of leveling up is tedious but god DAMN those weapons are sweet. The plot is absurd and stupid. The plot is absurd and AWESOME. It's so unrealistic, you can blow up entire buildings with a single shot from even the weakest rocket launcher; a rocket launcher with which you begin the game. Then again, you can blow up BUILDINGS with a SINGLE SHOT from even the WEAKEST rocket launcher, including the rocket launcher with which you BEGIN THE GAME!
AWESOME! Grandma received her copy as a gift from Vic Ireland a little while back. He said "be SURE you try the co-op mode and FORGET about the first two difficulties, they are way too easy." He was right, although those first two difficulties can come in handy for leveling up. We'll talk more about that upon the full review, but right now we'll address the plot.
The plot of this game is something that confounds Grandma.
"So... it's the future. 2017. Ten years from now. All of a sudden, a giant metal ball ...thing... comes down to earth with a bunch of flying saucers which drop giant fucking ants, spiders, robots, and dinosaurs all over everything. They also release these flying things that shoot lasers. The ants look pretty much like normal 'Earth' ants, only they're twice the size of tanks. The spiders jump around and shoot web at people, which kills them. The robots come in two sizes: big and huge. The dinosaurs or lizards or whatever the fuck they are look like a tyrannosaur or something only with giant, shiny metal plates all over it and a big blade on its tail. There's also this giant thing that looks kind of like an AT-AT.
But who are the aliens?! Are the aliens the giant ants? Ants, even giant ones, can't build a complex, laser shooting robot or be able to understand all the shit they would need to know to fly a giant mothership battle-saucer to different planets. They don't even have HANDS. And the small UFOs: if you don't shoot them down, they'll just keep dropping the ants or spiders FOREVER. The UFOs are not that big. So what happens exactly? Is it some kind of teleporter? That wouldn't make sense either, because they would also need an infinite supply of giant ants somewhere. And if they DID, why would they even bother invading tiny planets when they already have a huge one big enough for billions and billions of giant ants?!
Tim tells me 'well, it's like Pac-Man. Pac-Man didn't have a plot.' So that's it then, we're just supposed to think of this dude as Pac-Man and the aliens as ghosts that just happen to be invading, no explanation given. Bullshit. You know why? Because Pac-Man didn't try to explain itself (at least not until later when they decided they wanted to milk that thing for all its worth.) When you put in a quarter for a game of Pac-Man, it didn't give you a back story saying "you are PACMAN, a yellow animal who needs white dots to stay alive, but the ghosts are there because-" you know what I mean. Nobody cared to think anyone would care.
But then there's this game. The people around you fighting the aliens are screaming shit like 'This is for my brother!' or 'let's get something to eat!' So I don't know what I'm supposed to think. Am I supposed to care about some guy's brother or remember that people get hungry or am I just supposed to blow up aliens and have fun doing it? Sometimes I think they want both. I don't know.
I really don't know."
We're still working on the last achievements, which pretty much require co-op for us because they're so goddamnned hard. Both Grandma and I have been through the game a few times on the easier difficulties, but the harder modes seem like a completely different game. I really like it!
I think Grandma wants to hurry up and get it over with so she can focus on Odin Sphere. The one thing we both agree on is that after awhile, it can get reeeeealy boring if you don't have a clear goal.
Grandma's latest fun-filled injury: Torn Rotator Cuff
Well this one's confusing. How the hell she ended up with a common sports injury is beyond me, but one thing is for certain: her ass ain't pitching in the post-season. Of course they asked her about her enthusiastic Wii playing style just thirsty for a new "video games are harmful" scandal, but the truth is much more boring. She's pretty sure she just slept on it wrong and twisted it. Then again, sensationalism is quite fun so... OMG WII BOWLING! So it looks like she's going to have to go in for some sort of 'micro-surgery' which she's just THRILLED about. In the meantime she's just doing her thing, swearing at Earth Defense Force 2017 and Odin Sphere as though it was their fault it hurts to get a jar of peanut butter from the top shelf in the pantry. Also, she relays this message from her uncomfortable position of frustration and pain:
"What the hell is wrong with people who drop out of a game of Catan once they realize they're losing? Don't do that! And Texas Hold 'Em on XBLA, what they do is they start playing a game, win a hand, and then set themselves as 'away' so they keep folding as the rest of us play. The deal is they usually end up in second place and their rank goes up. They don't lose as much money so they can build up their bankroll. It's not fair to the rest of us, goddammit! Don't fucking cheat by bringing your friends in to pad their rankings, that's bullshit. I'm about ready to stop playing the thing because that's all people do anymore.
Also, if someone at our table doesn't have a headset, or they have it muted, you don't have to keep saying 'HELLO, HELLO, HELLO' to them. Then you leave negative feedback on someone's gamertag thing because they don't know how to say 'Shut the hell up' without sounding rude. Don't do that. IM them if you want to find out why they're not talking. Don't ask us. We don't know! Why would we know?
As Grandma ponders the etiquette of Xbox Live, I'll keep ya posted. Sunday we'll probably talk about Odin Sphere or Earth Defense Force 2017; whichever one she's focusing on, really. I'm also working on some new videos as well, so... on we go!
Grandma has Destroyed Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters
It took Grandma a while to complete this one, which is strange because it hadn't left her PSP since Jennifer from Sony sent it to her. Honestly, I blame my almost perfect scheduling and driving abilities. All the various doctor's appointments she has endured lately had relatively short wait times in the queue rooms filled with uncomfortable chairs and old Newsweek magazines and various unpleasant children's toys. This is usually the time she really puts toward completion for a level or two in handheld games, but we're so goddamn used to the appointments that I can time it pretty well so she doesn't have to wait long.
She doesn't like to whip out her PSP when she's supposed to be paying attention to a nurse's instructions for matters of convenience and to avoid what is now the common "oh... you're that grandma who plays with those electronic things! How cute!" Such people tend to think Grandma lacks the qualities of other grandmas who provide delicious baked goods to the faculty upon repeat visits. While in the hospital, however, she had all the time in the world to play uninterrupted. Ratchet & Clank has always been one of Grandma's favorite series. She scolds the rest of us when we accidentally say Jak and Daxter. "Naughty Dog and Insomniac are similar but not the same. GET IT RIGHT." She found Size Matters to be a nice addition. The first time she played it was a demo at the Mondrian Hotel during Sony's press junket before last year's E3. She was attracted to it then for the same reason she likes it now:
It's more or less just like playing it on a PS2. The graphics are the same, really. And not in that half-ass kinda way where the cutscenes are pretty but the gameplay is blocky, either- it actually looks GOOD.
She really didn't have anything to say about the sound quality or voice acting because she tended to play it with the sound off so as not to be rude to those around her. Even her frustration was muted, to an extent anyway, when Grandma encountered problems with her least favorite aspect of the game: the camera control.
That fucking camera. For weeks it was all I heard about. Sure, the game was fun but THAT FUCKING CAMERA. It's strange because most of the reviews I've read list the camera system to be fairly intuitive; moving towards the FPS practice of using the shoulder buttons exclusively for camera operation (Grandma points out I shouldn't say 'exclusively'). For whatever reason, however, Grandma couldn't stand it.
"I can't see, I can't see, I CAN'T SEE, GODDAMMIT! FUCK!"
Taken out of context, you can see why she tried not to say such things in a hospital; lest they think her diabetes has finally rendered her blind.
In one twenty minute period of sitting next to her while she played the thing, she mentioned the camera 10 times.
"I have to hook over to that thing to swing across there or else the goddamn fish gets me but the fucking camera won't let you change direction while you're swinging."
"Shit. No!!! I can't SEE!"
"At least with the races you don't have to deal with the god damned camera. I STILL run into the fucking wall, though."
Oh yes, the races. Another now ubiquitous part of platform gaming that started with Crash Bandicoot riding a pig. Grandma HATES the races. If it's not MarioKart, forget about it. In fact, scratch that: even MarioKart pisses her off sometimes. I think it's because if she makes a mistake or if something goes wrong she needs some time to yell a bit and regain composure. In a race, however, once you screw up, the results of your error continue to fly by, just making Grandma more angry.
"I hate this fucking camera. I can't see what's hitting me."
You get the idea.
Now, Grandma loves her handhelds, but her heart is always with the big consoles. You can imagine the contrast of her downloading the new Ratchet & Clank trailer for the PS3 at the same time finishing up the PSP game.
"God, look at that. Now why can't I just hook up the PSP to the television and play it so it's BIG." -"That kind of takes away the point of having a handheld game, doesn't it? I mean, then you're not playing a PSP game, you're just playing a ...GAME... game. Does that makes sense?" "I guess. Still, that'd be cool."
And then they announced the new and improved PSPs at this year's E3 presentation which include, you guessed it, a fucking video output. That conversation will be forever etched in my memory as one of those prophetic Grandma instances of the industry reading her mind. I'm a bit skeptical, to tell you the truth. All of the camera problems Grandma encountered would still be there in the shoulder buttons, they'd just be ...bigger. The DS and the PSP both are without the greatness of dual-thumbsticks; it's just something most of us have learned to live with. I don't know. I guess we'll find out in September.
When all is said and done, Grandma recommends R&C: Size Matters to anyone who has a PSP. It's probably the best platformer out there for the system, and the camera control issues aside (which Grandma tends to blame on herself) it's a hell of a lot of fun.
And it's a Ratchet & Clank game so of COURSE the weapons are cool :)
Also, to all those nurses and orderlies out there: just because Grandma games doesn't mean she doesn't make delicious cookies.
You just don't get any. (The chocolate smears on the PSP screen.)
Sweet mother of god I need to update. Grandma has been back from the hospital for awhile but she has frequent, scheduled trips to physical therapy to deal with now. The whole situation has been less than pleasant. Meanwhile, the 'mini E3' anti-hype coming from the games industry has put her in a somewhat healthy funk; allowing her to once again be her old visceral self. She wants to play and review some games. Actually, she wants to play and review some GREAT games, but the well is dry at the moment it seems, so she'll settle on yelling at any available shitty port she can get her hands on. So! Let's see... She finished Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters. She STILL has to review that fucker. Now that we're back, that shouldn't be difficult. She and I have been playing Earth Defense Force 2017, another gift from Vic Ireland (Thanks Vic!) and we're trying desperately to complete the last stages of the "Hardest" difficulty on co-op while simultaneously building up health by farming some of the more populated levels for Armor so we can take on Inferno mode later.
She wants those fucking achievement points.
She FINALLY received the last achievement for Texas Hold 'Em Poker on XBLA even though she had drawn a Royal Flush a few times over the months, and she's close to getting the last achievement for Catan.
She played, and then gave up on Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree saying it just "wasn't the same" as her little DS favorite.
I bought her Odin Sphere because she was curious as hell and bored out of her mind. She just started the thing last night.
I'm thinking of pulling Guitar Hero II for the 360 back out so we can get all the achievement points we can and practice for GHIII and Rock Band so she's not so self-conscious about her rhythm game abilities when the time comes.
First of all, thank you guys so much for all the e-mails wondering if Grandma was still alive ;) She especially loved reading those comments and e-mails so she had an excuse to slap me upside the head and yell "POST SOMETHING, DAMMIT!" Truth is, that was my fault. Like Grandma, I too fell into a little funk for the past month when it came to gaming. She wasn't saying much about the demos and trailers coming out of Mini-E3, so everything I wrote felt repetitive and lame. I mean, when you look at our front page, one of the entries at the bottom is about Grandia III and another is about that crazy upcoming DS game called "Brain Age". That's goddamn pathetic. I'm not posting near enough to do Grandma justice.
No more of that shit. Our new posting schedule is Sunday-Wednesday-Friday, every week.