The Zen of 360

Currently we are a quarter of the way through the 31st year of my being on this Earth. Since getting married and buying a house 4 years ago, I’ve noticed small indicators that I’m growing up. As Dipper pointed out, I’ve started really stretching my legs and moving into the house. The rooms are starting to take on personality and become indicative of Tkout and my styles. Three weeks ago I went on a spending spree, purchasing hostas, lilies, and canna plants for the house. This coming weekend, I hope to landscape the front bed and finally have a front yard worth looking at for more than two seconds. I’m hoping Phoebe will want to help with the window boxes. Two weekends ago I hosted Easter dinner for my family, and turned the house upside down for a whole three days beforehand, cleaning, hanging pictures on walls, organizing the kitchen counter, etc.

As good as I feel about all of the aforementioned changes, nothing will point out that you’re old faster than playing a video game with a 9 year old. Shit you not.

I’ve played board games with Phoebe. We have sat on couches, her building LEGOs or coloring, while I crochet. I’ve gone to one of the local art museums with Dipper and Phoebe. We’ve played with my pets and her kitty. We’ve curled up and watched horror movies, as well as shows she has wanted me to watch with her. I’ve watched her play video games before. None of this prepared me for the experience I had Friday night. (To be fair, we played Katamari on a previous Friday, but she was coming down with a really bad cold and was more than a little out of it.)

Per our usual ritual, Phoebe and Dipper came over Friday night. This time they brought LEGO Dimensions with them. Phoebe was very excited to introduce me to the newest digital crack.

We ordered dinner and got the game set up. Once dinner was over and we were sat down in front of the XBOX 360, Phoebe proceeded to give me an introduction and tutorial to the game that was not unlike being strapped to the top of the USS Enterprise just as it hits warp speed. Being older and more self-conscious, and also lacking a serious amount of time spent in front of a console in many years, I was wanting to go granny speed. Learn the controls. Check out the characters. Basically get my bearings. Phoe was not having any of that. Before I knew what was going on, I was sucked through a vortex and dumped out into the Wizard of Oz. While I was busy hitting things to get the little LEGO studs as possible, Phoebe was demolishing the sleeping flowers in the Batmobile. Before I knew what was happening, we were watching Batman accost the Scarecrow and accuse him of releasing a hallucinogen, thereby producing. The cutscene ended, I smashed a few things, and before I could collect the studs, I was in the middle of a boss battle with the Wicked Witch.

Wicked Witch? More like WTF! This change of activity was born of her intense boredom at my attempt to collect every single stud available. Over the course of the next 2 hours, I was convinced I was going to lose my shit and wind up in a straitjacket. Even though I was having a ton of fun, I couldn’t figure out what the hell I was doing to save my life. Phoebe had already played that level before, so she knew every trick and battle, and she was eager to show it all off. The need for a straitjacket went both ways – Phoebe was going nuts because I was constantly off doing something counter productive to her goal of getting to the next level. (This I admit fully, freely, and with total shame.)

This past weekend, I spent time by myself playing the same level. It took fucking forever. I was after every stud, every secret corner, and switched characters to see what they could do. I enjoyed my run through, but there was something missing.

Today while walking back from lunch, I was thinking about gaming with Phoebe Friday. I was looking ahead two weeks to our next Friday together, and thinking about playing the game together. About how ready I would be. How I wouldn’t force her to have to wait for my slow ass to catch up. I realized what was missing. You see, adulting means that your priorities change. I was focused on getting studs for upgrades later, and for completing as much of the level as I could. I wanted to be sure-footed with my characters and their vehicles. I was thinking ahead to the packs I needed to purchase in order to interact with some of the content, and wondering how the experience would change if I were to switch up the characters. I was overthinking how to reach the highest heights, and what would happen if I met an obstacle I couldn’t overcome.

Phoebe was burdened by none of those things. She approached the game with a balls-to-the-wall excitement. A need to explore and experience. An almost palpable urge to see and do as much as she could. To her, there were no obstacles. If she couldn’t break it, build it, climb it, or go around it, she switched characters and tactics until she figured it out. Each time, she went at the problem fearlessly and joyously. 

More than anything, I can’t wait to play LEGO Dimensions with Phoebe again. To willingly strap myself to the top of the USS Enterprise and wait for her to hit warp speed. Being a stodgy completist can wait for when I’m playing the game on my own. What I want is a slice of reckless abandon. To run balls-to-the-wall into the digitized sunset with no idea where I’m going, how I’m getting there, or even what I’m doing. Which, considering how slowly I play the game and the amount of bullshit adulting I need to do between then and now, won’t be that hard. All I lack is a small, bright-eyed, golden-haired pilot.

 

 

 

A So-So Zombie Game.

Xbox 360 Core System with their peripherals.

Image via Wikipedia

I purchased “Blood Drive” for the XBOX 360 pretty much as soon as it came out.  (I might add that I spent $49 or so on this game.)  It was a fairly obvious choice for me – it was a zombie game.  When I went home and told my friends about it, they were horrified.  One particular friend even admitted to having it on his to-do list to tell me not to purchase the game.  I couldn’t figure out why, and I looked up some reviews of my own.  Without going into detail, the results were disappointing.

I’ve been playing it for a little while now (about an hour) and there are some obvious disadvantages with the game, as well as a few pluses.

In many ways, “Blood Drive” is a rip-off of the “Left 4 Dead” franchise.  This game features zombies that look and act uncannily like the Boomer, Hunter, Charger, and Tank.  The gameplay became monotonous rather quickly – instead of trying to find ways of effectively driving, I found it easier to hole up in an alleyway and drive back and forth until the timer ran out, crushing whatever happened to be under my bumper at the time.  When “Blood Drive” begins, there is absolutely no tutorial, and I died a few times until I looked up and tried to memorize the controls.  Even with the controls memorized, there is so much going on in the beginning that its hard to focus.  Zombies are attacking the car, the car is running over barrels and rolling, hordes are charging, and somehow I’m supposed to not only navigate successfully, but learn to fire a random harpoon weapon?  I think not.  Also, in order to get to the single player sections with different scenery and goals, I have to survive some kind of 5 minute challenge that I could’t find.  I can’t imagine the hours it would take me to get to the 5 minute mark.  The longest I lasted in the environment was 1:10:?? and it was difficult lasting that long.  Another big issue I have with the game is the sensitivity of the controls.  It would be wonderful to be able to hit more zombies, but often the game feels more like a driver ed simulation, with me passing by hordes of zombies just begging to be run down.  They’re even running after me with blood dribbling down their clothes, growling and snarling.

“Blood Drive” should have had a 2 player mode.  This game is perfect for multi-player, however you need someone else to drop the money on the game, hop on when you are playing, and agree to play with you.  If the designers had gone with a split-screen mode, it could have been a salvageable game.

After effectively tearing the game apart, I’d like to mention some of the pluses.  The addition of a pimp zombie was pretty funny and interesting, and the overall look of the zombies themselves were pretty interesting.  Each driver was laid out with a different car and personality.  There were 8 initial to choose from, and before you began the game you got to add extras to your car.  Think of them as care packages, that ranged from increased speed to increased durability.  They were meant to help with your chosen car’s weakness.  (It should be added that steering was a noted weakness for most cars in this DRIVING game.  Why is that?)  The ambulance was very difficult to drive, due to its center of gravity.  Cars that drove lower to the ground seemed marginally easier to drive.  The music style changed for each character, mirroring the personality of the driver as well.

I am relatively sure I will be trading the game in this afternoon for a measly $20.  I want to trade it in before it depreciates further.  Its an alright game, but I am not sure if I’m interested in spending the hours it will take to unlock content that should be available from the start.  The lack of information in the game booklet was also a severe letdown.  If I’ve learned anything from “Blood Drive”, it’s that a) there are some games you should rent rather than buying flat out b) don’t buy video games full price – or close to it and c) not everything zombie-based is exciting.  The idea for a zombie racing game was a great one, but major and unforgivable faults keep this game from being what it really could (and should) have been.