Playing the Lame PRESENTS: “Random filler because I have nothing interesting to talk about.”


“Random filler because I have nothing interesting to talk about.”


“Ten games I used to increase the size of my E-penis.”

So, before we begin… so, remember a few weeks ago, when I called Jack Tretton an unapologetic asshole for spewing the verbal equivalent of diarrhea on his competitors in the gaming market? How I pointed out that Sony, in general, has a major perception problem in the market because they like to behave like they’re number one when they’ve been number three for years? How I generally pointed out that Jack was behaving like a child, between implying that young men with DS consoles have no self respect and women either don’t play video games or don’t play the PSP at all, and that he needed to stop crying about how tiny his market share is and do something about it?

Right, so, I’m going to go on the record here and note that a multiple week network outage for their PSN service, complete with the announcement that hackers have likely stolen identity information and POSSIBLY stolen credit card information from users of the service, wasn’t the best thing that could have happened right now. Granted, it’s nice that they’re giving users free games and services to compensate for this, but make no mistake: an outage of this scope and magnitude was probably not what he was hoping for as a marketing positive, let’s just say that.

I mean, this is absolutely a horrible thing, not just for PSN users, but in general. It’s a major breach of faith by the parent company, it’s a major concern for anyone who uses the service, and it really brings to light the fact that you should be more concerned about your security, between password security, varying logins, multi-factor authentication, and so on. Now, of course the Sony defenders are out in full force, going so far as to actually get angry that various organizations and governments are making it known that they want to bring court action against Sony, and this is hardly surprising. The defenders don’t seem to realize this is all because Sony allowed hackers to potentially steal private info from the end users, IE the very defenders who are upset about this, and while that should be surprising, it really isn’t. Fanboys will forever defend the objects of their devotion, even if it causes them credit card fraud (theoretically), so this is really nothing new or surprising.

But to the rest of you, I say that I have no interest in laughing at your misfortune (Sony’s misfortune, on the other hand, I’ll probably be laughing at until the end of the year), and instead I say that I am going through the exact same thing as you, and like you, I’m not at all happy about it. No one wants to have to go through all of their potentially at-risk logins to find out what in the hell is going on or if they’re at risk, even if they do have a good security plan going on. No one wants to be a victim, especially not when someone else was supposed to be protecting them. To you, I say to take this event and frame it, memorize it, and remember it, because at the end of the day, it’s better to trust yourself over the supposed companies who claim to protect you. It’s nice that a computer forensics organization is digging through Sony’s servers with a copy of the Forensics Tool Kit, looking for hash values and bits of information that might really tell us what was taken for sure, and it’s great that Sony is rebuilding their system from the ground up to be more robust against attacks. However, Sony should have done that the exact second they started asking for credit card information, end sentence period, and the fact that they did not should be a wake up call that you cannot trust anyone to do anything they claim to be doing, even if the potential billions of dollars in losses should be a motivator to do so.

It’s your money.

It’s your credit score.

It’s your private information.

Make sure you protect it. Don’t trust them to do it.

Thank you.

On that note, let’s move onto something a little more stupid, shall we?

So as I mentioned a few weeks back, I’m working on what I’ve dubbed “The Cheevo Initiative”, in an effort to build up my Achievement score on Xbox Live, purely for my own amusement over anything else. To that end, I’ve gone back through my archive of old games, looking for anything I could clear out one hundred percent, and astonishingly, I actually realized I had a few games that I could do this with that wouldn’t end up making me want to hit a child in the process. While something like Deathsmiles is likely to make you cry and something like Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 is likely to put you off long before completion, there are plenty of games out there that are easy enough to earn Achievements in, depending on your skill level and the amount of time you’re willing to devote to this thing. As such, both because I haven’t had a chance to do as much with Wreckless as I’d like and because I figure it’s something that might be of vague interest to someone out there, I’m going to comment on the first ten games I “completed”, that is, cleared of all of their available Achievements, to see how I felt before and after spending hours trying to mine Achievements out of the games, to see how, if at all, this changed my opinion of the products. In other words: I wanted to see how the effort of actually trying to clear all of these points affected my opinion of the product, to see if Achievements and/or how they are used by the developers have a positive or negative impact on the experience.

So, let’s go do some science.

Your soundtrack for this little endeavor is Trypt0fanatic, the newest album from the band Kidneythieves. I was apprehensive to pick it up at first, largely because what I’d heard from the record hadn’t particularly interested me much, but after some significant time spent listening to the album, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s fairly good, all in all. Free Dominguez and Bruce Somers have gone in a direction that somewhat maintains the original style of the band while also evoking hints of Etro Anime and, to a lesser extent, Poe, and the album is both familiar and experimental enough to be interesting, if not consistently fantastic. The only significant issue I have with the album is that it comes off like the band was trying to kind of evolve a bit here, and that’s fine, but there are points where it feels like they tried too hard to keep the Kidneythieves sound intact, leaving some songs sounding overproduced and/or unpleasant in general, but all in all, I ain’t mad at it or anything.

1.) Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection

Before I started Achievement Mining:

This was the first game I completely cleared out, back when I was first considering trying to boost my score, as I had seen something that indicated that getting all of the Achievements for the game was astonishingly easy, all in all, so I shrugged and decided to give it a shot. I figured, hey, it’s a collection of old Genesis games, and most of the Achievements are hardly a problem to get, how bad could it be, right? A brief review of the Achievements revealed that, from what time I’d spent with the games in question back when they came out, that most of the Achievements are generally ones that can be earned inside of twenty minutes, give or take, so I figured that the few Achievements I wasn’t too happy about having to earn would be relatively tolerable, all things considered.

After I finished Achievement Mining:

Well, while it IS true that many of the Achievements are incredibly easy to earn, several of them either require you to go through a tedious amount of effort to unlock them or require you to abuse the save state system to earn the points. On the other hand, only one of them is what I would define as “hard” in the strictest sense of things, so at the end of the day, I’d say that it’s probably something you could clear out in a rental period with no difficulty if you for some reason don’t want to own a bunch of awesome older games. All told, it took me about two days, give or take, to clear out all of the Achievements in the game, and while none of them made me want to cry, a few of them were, frankly, stupid and pointless. Off the top of my head:

– “Stealing Points”, which makes you earn 40,000 points in the first stage of Bonanza Brothers, is a pain in the ass in general, both because you’ll often end up earning this by the skin of your teeth and because fuck Bonanza Brothers.

– “Don’t Get Lost”, which makes you get to the fifth floor in Fatal Labyrinth, is unpleasant because fuck Fatal Labyrinth.

– “Flicky to the Rescue”, which makes you rescue twenty Flickies in Sonic 3D Blast, is unpleasant because fuck Sonic 3D Blast.

– “Getting Chicks”, which makes you earn 80,000 points in Flicky, is unpleasant because, well, I think you get the idea by now.

I mean, I’m able to appreciate the concept of Sega wanting to get people to play games they might have not otherwise played by way of asking them to spend half an hour to an hour on a single game to they can experience it, so, yeah, I get why you’d want to attach somewhat involved Achievements to, say, Vectorman 2 or Sonic Spinball or whatever. That’s all fine. That said, most of these games aren’t very good. I mean, Vectorman 2 and Beyond Oasis are fine and great, respectively, so I can nod and go along with the need to do a lot in those games (to a point), but why do I have to play Sonic 3D Blast for half an hour? It wasn’t a good game when it came out, and time has NOT AT ALL been kind to it. Why would you force players to spend long amounts of time playing games that have been proclaimed, by general consensus, as “the shits”?

Probably the worst of the lot is “Yatta!”, however, because it makes you beat Doctor Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, and even if you use a code to get to the last challenge in the game, the fight is pure dumb luck to win at that point and the computer will mostly beat the shit out of you for an hour before you luck into the right combination to pull out the win, so it’s about the opposite of fun, to be honest.

All in all, on one hand, I enjoyed the time I spent with the better games in the collection, like Streets of Rage and Golden Axe, but the time I spent playing games I did not like and don’t want to ever play again, in effect, has inspired me to not want to touch the games I do like in the compilation. In general, I feel that the nostalgia experience that comes from older games only works in short bursts to begin with, and forcing yourself to play games you didn’t like when you were a kid some fifteen years later, only to realize that they’re even worse than you remember, is likely to have the effect of poisoning your appreciation of the games you liked in the first place. I mean, I’m not saying that I hate Streets of Rage now, but I am saying that I really don’t want to play it for a long while, if nothing else.

2.) SAW II

Before I started Achievement Mining:

I decided to give this one a go since I was working on the review for it at that point anyway, and I figured it couldn’t be too bad to clear out. I figured the worst Achievements of the lot would be the ones associated to picking up collectibles (correct) and clearing out minigames (correct), and that beating the game twice wouldn’t be that big of a deal (not so much). Also, I figured that since I’d earned about seventy percent of the Achievements my first go-round anyway, it couldn’t be that much of a pain to get the last few that were left.

Now, had it occurred to me at the beginning that 1.) I didn’t need to actually beat the game on Insane difficulty to clear all of the Achievements, and 2.) I didn’t actually need to beat the game twice in the first place to clear all of the Achievements, it probably would have been pretty damn easy, with a couple minor exceptions. As it was, well…

After I finished Achievement Mining:

So, on one hand, I did enjoy the “You Wasted Your Life” Achievement for “Playing on Christmas”, IE changing the internal clock on the console to 12/25 and booting up the game, if only because… well, either way it’s kind of true. On the other hand, it took me about a week to fully clear out all of the Achievements, as while the game isn’t especially hard even on Insane difficulty, some of the sections are a beast in general, and Insane difficulty really just makes the whole situation worse. We’re talking about situations where the controls don’t really allow for easy evasion of charging enemies, and with the difficulty jacked to a point where said enemies can seriously kill you in two hits, and they will hit you, well, it’s not a lot of fun all around. Now, in fairness, as I noted, I didn’t HAVE to complete the whole game on Insane, so that’s really on me, but even so, I’m… not super happy about how it all turned out, shall we say.

The hardest Achievements to earn are those associated with the normal puzzles in the game, as well as those associated with collecting various, uh, collectibles throughout the game, meaning you’ll end up spending a decent amount of time either following a guide or repeating sections after the game is over to complete these tasks. The collecting based Achievements are mostly just tedious, at least, so you can, for instance, just get the appropriate puzzle pieces/dolls/recordings/notes/whatever by jumping into a section of the game and picking them up, so while they’re not especially fun, they’re really not challenging or anything. The puzzle Achievements, however, ask you to complete various puzzles within a set amount of time on both Normal and Insane difficulty, and these can be a bit of a bear, depending on the puzzles in question. Lockpicking, for example, isn’t too bad, as it’s just a matter of timing and you can retry as needed, so “Smooth Criminal” and “Master Thief” aren’t too bad to get, for instance. Some of the others, however, such as the Achievements for the Kaleidoscope minigame on both difficulties, suck out loud. Probably the worst of the lot is “Mechanic”, which is an Achievement for clearing a Jigsaw Box on Insane difficulty, as the puzzle difficulty gets JACKED OUT in general on Insane. This is fine for a challenge, but not fine when the best chance I have of earning a time-based Achievement is in a position where completing it spikes a Checkpoint and the checkpoint prior is far enough away to be annoying as hell. Let us say that I spent a good amount of my time being… displeased with the game after that.

In the end, while I basically ended up finishing out the game and saying “Well, I never want to play that ever again”, I can say this is as much from the choice to play through the whole thing on Insane as the challenge of grinding out the Achievements, so I wouldn’t say that the experience of earning all of the possible points in and of itself was horrendous. I stand by the score I awarded the game, as the really bad parts in Insane are few, and the challenge is actually quite reasonable otherwise, but that being said, there’s nothing else of worth to do with the game and while I didn’t hate my time with it, neither do I want to do anything with it ever again.

3.) Tekken 6

Before I started Achievement Mining:

This was one of those games I basically gave up on, Achievement-wise, when I realized that it was going to be next to impossible to get one of the Achievements and nearly so for a few others, but after some consideration, I decided to give it the old college try and bang my head against the wall again, this time with significantly better results. See, half of the Achievements can be cleared out in Scenario Mode, and most of them are exceptionally easy to earn. There are only a few really tedious Achievements to unlock in Scenario Mode, and for the most part they’re not so bad as to be insurmountable, with one or two exceptions. There are only five online-based Achievements in the game, and of those five, only two actually require you to win a match, which the law of averages implies you’ll manage to do eventually. Most of the offline Achievements you can earn outside of Scenario Mode, again, are mostly either simple or incredibly tedious, to be honest, and, again, with one or two exceptions, none of them are abysmally tough to unlock. As such, I figured, this wouldn’t be TOO bad, and set to work on clearing it out.

After I finished Achievement Mining:

First off, this is probably the first game on the list that I’d spent time trying to clear out Achievements for, way back when I first got it, so all in all, I can safely say that it took about six months to clear all of the Achievements. Of course, that includes a several month break, so in reality, it took about a week and a half to unlock everything, all in all. As noted, there are only five Achievements that require any sort of online play: “Fighting Amateur”, “Fighting Enthusiast”, and “Fighting Master”, which don’t even require you to win as much as just play up to thirty fights online, and “Moving On Up” and “No Pressure”, which ask you to win one Ranked and Player match, respectively. In other words: you really don’t need to be great at the game to clear out the Online Achievements, which is an occasional issue with fighting games that feature online components, so in that regard, Tekken 6 gets a big thumbs up. The final few Scenario Mode Achievements I’d not completed at that point, “Treasure Master”, “Enemy Hunting Master” and “Alien Hunter”, for getting two hundred treasures, defeating two thousand enemies, and defeating ten aliens, respectively, were all about grinding above anything else, and the time invested was minor, at best. As such, most players can expect to clear out most of the Achievements with a little effort and time, if nothing else.

That said, there are two Achievements that are absolutely brutal and pretty much poison the experience: “Machine Crusher” and “Gallery Completionist”. The former asks you to beat NANCY-MI847J, a giant robot you encounter in Arcade Mode as a sort of bonus battle before you encounter the bosses. On one hand, earning the Achievement is great because NANCY is such a cast-iron bitch that beating her and getting the Achievement is incredibly satisfying. On the other, earning the Achievement is terrible because she’s such a cast-iron bitch to beat, and you have to plow through multiple Arcade battles to get back to her if you fuck up. The latter asks you to unlock everything in the Gallery, which either means 1.) beating the story battles with each character in the arena or 2.) grinding for HOURS to unlock everything by burning the time needed to do so. The former involves fighting Azazel thirty or so times, AT MINIMUM, which is such a frustrating proposition that I seriously just time-grinded half of them before trying to legitimately fight my way through Azazel to get the rest, and honestly, both options sucked out loud. Also, a special note goes to “What a Nightmare”, if only because Devil Jin in Scenario Mode is somewhat beastly, as are all of the demons you have to face prior to him, but this was just a matter of mild repetition and not nearly as bad as the other two mentioned previously.

Honestly, most of the Achievements in Tekken 6 were, dare I say, fun to unlock, and the few that weren’t especially enjoyable were either over fast enough that it didn’t matter or mildly satisfying to complete if only as justification that HAHA FUCK YOU I’M BETTER THAN YOU TEKKEN 6 YOU BIIIIIIIIIITCH… ahem… so really, I can say that Namco can take solace in the fact that they actually set up their Achievements properly. They’re not hard to earn if you’re willing to devote some time to either grinding or improving your skills, and Tekken 6 is the first game in the list so far that I’m not opposed to playing again, so good job folks.

4.) Spider-Man: Friend or Foe

Before I started Achievement Mining:

This was a game I’d considered clearing out a few times at previous points, but had abandoned because the last Achievement you can get is a severe grind-fest and I frankly wasn’t in the mood for it. Well, after the grind that was the final series of Achievements in Tekken 6, I figured I might as well clear this one out and get it over with, as while I enjoy the game (and I still do), earning the Achievements? Not so much. I mean, it’s super easy to clear this game out, don’t misunderstand me, it’s just time consuming. It’s next to impossible to not beat the game, and getting all of the collectibles in the stages is exceptionally easy, as the game keeps track of which ones you miss so you can go back for them as needed. This is literally a game that requires no skill whatsoever to max out, frankly, but it tests your patience towards the end in a few different ways.

After I finished Achievement Mining:

Well, to start, in terms of overall time, it took me about three years to completely clear out the game. Yup. No, this isn’t the worst offender on the list, time-wise, either. In terms of actual time played, however, I’d say it took about two weeks, give or take, to clear out the game, mostly because of the grinding and some minor backtracking. As noted, it really isn’t hard to clear out almost all of the Achievements, because they’re either tied to things you’ll have to do anyway or they’re tied to collecting things that, frankly, you’ll find in no more than two playthroughs so long as you keep an eye out. With one exception, if you wanted to clear out a game completely, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is really a fine game to do this thing with, as it’s both simple and fun to do this thing with.

That one exception, however, is “Fury’s Fourteen”, because I HAD TO GRIND THE LAST STAGE LIKE TWENTY TIMES JESUS CHRIST GUYS. Even if you play through every stage in the game twice you’ll still have to grind like crazy to max out EVERY. SINGLE. CHARACTER. Because the game is absolutely brutal about the amount of experience points you need relative to the amount it gives you to do this thing. This is literally not a fun endeavor in the least, and I cannot stress enough how much I absolutely hated completing this Achievement, just because it was the most boring thing I’ve had to do in… well, weeks, actually, but that’s not the point.

All in all, it’s nice knowing that I have all of the characters completely maxed the hell out in case I ever want to play the game again for some reason, but the multiple hours I spent just earning the points needed to upgrade everyone kind of removed the desire to do so, as it sucked out loud. If you break it up over a few days it probably isn’t too bad, all in all, but as a one-and-done endeavor it’s painful, to be honest, and either way it’s repetitive as hell. This was not one of the best ways this could have been handled, honestly, and it’s a horrid ending to an otherwise fine, if unchallenging, experience.

5.) Avatar: The Burning Earth

Before I started Achievement Mining:

This was the first game I opted to play exclusively because I’d been told that it was easy to clear out, and I figured, what the hell, right? It’s not like I always have something good to rent from Gamefly, so I might as well rent stupid stuff too. At the time I had no real idea what the hell Avatar was even about (note: this is a game based on the Nickelodeon cartoon, not the James Cameron movie), so I figured if nothing else maybe the game would tell me something about it, in case I needed to have a conversation with a ten year old at some point in the future.

As it turned out, I actually ended up watching about half of the series with my friend Lola, and it’s actually pretty good, to be fair. The game, however? Well, as much as I’d like to be able to weigh in with an opinion on it…

After I finished Achievement Mining:

… earning the full Achievement score for the game requires you to stand against a wall and spam a button for five minutes. I’ve taken dumps that were more difficult than this. I’m not exaggerating in the least, either; earning the Achievements took, literally, five minutes. If we want to count the time it took to take out of the envelope and pop in the console, fifteen minutes, tops. When I realized how little effort went into something so blatantly fucking simple as trying to come up with Achievements for your game, I pretty much said “Nope” and sent it back.

So, in the end, five minutes out of my life for a thousand points added to my Gamer Score was probably worth it. In retrospect, however, I probably should have, y’know, played the game a bit, but at that point all I knew about the story was that it was based around a bald kid with a stick, what the hell did I care? Having actually seen the series at this point, I can say that I actually did enjoy it, and in retrospect, have decided it’s for the best that I didn’t play the game, as I probably would have been very sad. So, we can call it a win all around, I think.

6.) TMNT

Before I started Achievement Mining:

This was another case of me revisiting a game I hadn’t played in years just to clear out the Achievements, though this time around it was less of a case of “having done everything I wanted to do with the game” as it was “finding the game to be wholly boring and without merit” as far as abandonment reasons are concerned. This was one of those games where I was basically sold on the idea of Ubisoft developing the game entirely, figuring that the company could basically just build it into a Prince of Persia engine or something, only to find out that they weren’t doing any better of a job with the license than Konami was. This is another game that requires next to no effort to clear out, as you’ll literally unlock all but two Achievements by playing through the game normally, and of those two Achievements, one is very easy, and one is only marginally annoying, so, really, I should probably be ashamed of myself for not earning them all the first time around.

After I finished Achievement Mining:

So to begin, once again, in terms of the overall time it took to clear this out, I spent a little shy of four years, thus making this the second longest amount of time I’ve spent clearing out any one game. In terms of actual time played, however, I’d say it took about a week to clear the game out, give or take, mostly due to some minor backtracking I had to do with a couple stages. See, here’s the thing: all but two of the Achievements in the game are tied directly to the storyline, meaning that you’ll HAVE to unlock them so long as you complete the game. As far as this goes, that’s actually not a bad idea; reward the player with some points for sticking with the game stage after stage, give them some positive reinforcement to complete your boring game, and you’ll at least get them to see the game through to the end. Well, in theory, anyway, as my multiple year hiatus shows this isn’t set in stone conceptually.

The two non-story related Achievements, however, “Get Your First Coin” and “Clean Sweep”, can basically be earned in ten minutes if you’re fairly careful, which kind of defeats the purpose of having extra Achievements in the first place. The former can be cleared by, literally, booting up the first stage after you’ve completed it and collecting the first gold coin you see, about thirty seconds from the start. THAT’S IT. The latter isn’t much better, either; all you have to do is get through a stage without taking damage, which you can do, again, in the first stage if you’re careful, inside of ten minutes. As such, this basically defeats the purpose of even having non story-related Achievements, because hell, ANYONE could clear out those two Achievements. Beating the actual game itself is harder than completing either of these two tasks, to be honest, so I’m really not even sure what the point was, here.

Frankly, I think it’s interesting that, about four years after this game came out, Ubisoft still has yet to do anything memorable with the TMNT franchise, and likely isn’t going to do anything worthwhile with it, ever. Of the five games released under the TMNT brand name that I’ve played, TMNT for the next-gen systems was mediocre to poor, TMNT for the GBA (yes, I count it as a different game, shut up) was something of a single player remap of the old Konami arcade games (and very good, actually), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up was a fine, if unexciting, clone of Super Smash Brothers, Turtles in Time Re-Shelled was a fine but unexciting 3D remake of an old Konami arcade game, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Arcade Attack was the shits. I mean, this is a company that routinely craps out solid gold with games like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Prince of Persia and the various games that bear Tom Clancy’s name, so it’s just really astonishing that they pay so little attention to the TMNT franchise as to just release rehashed concepts and crap games instead of, y’know, something people would want to play.

I don’t get it, and I probably never will.

7.) Terminator Salvation

Before I started Achievement Mining:

So this is the second game in the list that I played specifically because I was told clearing out the Achievements on the game wasn’t especially challenging or time consuming, and I figured that it wouldn’t be a big deal to clear the game out. I’d read various reviews prior to playing the game that stated that the game was generally unexciting, but I assumed that “unexciting” was better than “unplayable”, and I assumed that I’d just be bored out of my skull playing through the game at the worst.

Well, we know how that turned out.

After I finished Achievement Mining:

So here’s the thing: I hate games that tie in Achievement earning to a specific difficulty level. I mean, I get that it’s something of a badge of honor to be able to say “I beat this game on Hard!” or whatever, but fuck you, you’re lazy as hell. This is a universal constant, for the record; I direct as much scorn towards the laziest, shittiest developers who do this thing as I do toward Irrational Games and Bioware for doing it in Bioshock and Mass Effect 2, respectively. It’s a lazy tactic, to be honest; it’s the developer saying “If you want a full one hundred percent you’ll need to punish yourself AND complete the whole game again OR start from the worst difficulty in the game”, and that sort of shit is, frankly, needlessly punishing. I’m sorry, I don’t know why you play video games, but I play them to have fun, and beating my head against a wall because there’s ONE Achievement left that I CANNOT FUCKING GET because of the fact that I have to beat the game on “Ass-Rape” difficulty isn’t fun, it’s annoying.

Oh, and while we’re here, a double-sized “fuck you” goes to Visceral Games for putting an Achievement into Dead Space 2 that requires you to go through a difficulty mode where there are no checkpoints and you can only save THREE TIMES. I’m old, okay? I don’t have that kind of patience any more. It’s bad enough that I basically have to play through the game three times to begin with, since the Zealot and Hard Core Achievements don’t stack, but I have a busy life. I like being able to save every so often so that I don’t have to, y’know, waste hours of my life trying to accomplish simple shit. I get that you needed to make the mode challenging somehow, but it’s 2011 and save points by themselves are horribly outdated concepts that smack of false difficulty. If the only way you can think of to make the game more challenging is to limit the amount of saves I have available on top of limiting when I can save, then you are unimaginative shitwhistle and you should feel bad about that.

Just saying.

Anyway, the point is that Terminator: Salvation does the whole “beat the game on X difficulty” deal, and the fact that, 1.) as mentioned previously, it’s nearly impossible to play through the game on Hard difficulty, coupled with 2.) the fact that aside from the two difficulty based Achievements, there are no other “extra” Achievements in the game, pretty much shows the amount of thought and effort that went into this game. Fortunately, however, the Achievements in the game are bugged, meaning I was able to simply perform some simple save game gymnastics to clear out the final two Achievements and move on with my life, as well as beating the final stage of the game twice on the Hard difficulty, so at least I did something vaguely challenging. The fact that the third stage was more challenging than the end of the game is kind of sad and condemning in and of itself, of course, but that’s hardly the point. The point, rather, is that even without this nonsense I never want to play through the game again; with it, I almost wish I’d never tried to begin with.

8.) Wanted: Weapons of Fate

Before I started Achievement Mining:

And back we go to GRIN, again, though at least this time around they managed to make something that actually works. I’d actually wanted to play the game way back when it came out, both because the reviews that came up about the game were generally positive and because I enjoyed the demo that was released for it, but I never had a chance to really do anything with the game until recently. As it happened, it turned out that this was another game where unlocking the Achievements was a cakewalk, so I figured since I’d wanted to play the game to begin with, I’d kill two birds with one stone and give it a go to clear it out, just to see if I’d been right to avoid it way back when or if I should’ve played it at the time. After Terminator Salvation, I was also curious if GRIN had learned anything from that game, because going by Bionic Commando, the answer to that question was “Nope”, and I was hoping I’d be proven wrong here.

After I finished Achievement Mining:

Okay, so here’s a follow-up to the “Achievements given for clearing various difficulty modes” point from before: when the end result of your Achievements are that I have to clear your game SIX FUCKING TIMES because 1.) it’s not clearly explained that difficulty Achievements stack and 2.) there are Achievements that, at a MINIMUM, require you to go through the game FIVE FUCKING TIMES even if you start from the hardest goddamn difficulty available (Normal) and clear it first (which unlocks the hardest difficulty), then I officially am no longer sorry your company went bankrupt because you deserved it. Okay? That is some of the most creatively bankrupt bullshit I’ve ever seen in my entire life and every single person involved in that should be INCREDIBLY FUCKING ASHAMED of themselves.

On the other hand, GRIN is apparently incapable of making a game where the Achievements aren’t broken as hell, so I only had to play through the game three times. The other three Achievements, “Butcher would be proud”, “Dr. Lobotomy”, and “Catch me if you can” allow for exploits that let you start the game and skip to the last level to clear them out, and THANK FUCK for that because if I had to play through that game six times I would probably STILL be cursing.

The unfortunate part is that GRIN got the concept completely right otherwise. There are all sorts of hidden Achievements based on clearing out collectibles and hidden kills, the game itself is actually pretty fun, and they really had a whole bunch of good ideas on the table when they got going that make the game enjoyable on all three difficulties. It’s a very limited game in a lot of respects, for sure, but it’s also easily a game that would have been a good framework toward something else if GRIN had stayed in business, and it showed that the company actually learned something from their prior games.

Of course, that’s somewhat negated by the fact that developer apparently made a game that, by the terms of “Catch me if you can”, can be beaten from start to finish in an hour and a half, but at least I didn’t hate the whole experience, so there’s that.

The point is that I really enjoyed the first, and even the second, playthrough of Wanted: Weapons of Fate, but by the time I’d beaten the final stage for the sixth time I had officially written off ever wanting to see the game ever again, let alone play it. There’s a functional point where making the player go through a game multiple times is just kind of a crime against the person who is financing your existence, and this game crossed it multiple times with no shame or remorse. It’s fun and all for what it is, but this is really the sort of game that only remains fun if you DON’T try to do everything you can with it, because it kind of confirms that the developers have no joy in their hearts and take that out on the player, and that’s terrible.

9.) Megamind: Ultimate Showdown

Before I started Achievement Mining:

So here’s our third game I only played for the points, and like Avatar, I had no familiarity with the concept going in whatsoever. I rented it because I’d been told that “it’s easy to clear out” and that was good enough for me. I don’t see a lot of movies during a calendar year, mostly because I just find it hard to care about them; while I still love reading and playing video games, movies and TV shows don’t interest me in the least and unless the show or film is immediately interesting to me on some level, like Dexter or Machete, I simply can’t be bothered to give a shit. As such, the entirety of my exposure to Will Ferrell amounts to Austin Powers, Zoolander and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, so Megamind really wasn’t the sort of thing that was going to grab me based on its star power, so to say, and while I do like superheroes, I don’t like them enough to watch a film about superheroes who aren’t reasonably popular Marvel or DC properties unless the film is The Incredibles or Kick Ass. The point being, I seriously had no idea what Megamind was about before I started. I just played this game for the points, and while I should probably be ashamed of that or something, it’s an arbitrary number associated to an internet profile, I’ll do with it what I want. I’m an adult and if I want to play children’s games to improve my gamer score I’ll damn well do it. You’re not the boss of me.

After I finished Achievement Mining:

Well, as a game meant for kids, it certainly matches up to that observation, as it’s a pretty basic, simple, uninspiring title. This is one of those games that you can, quite literally, clear out with minimal effort on your first go-round, which I did, and as a kids game it’s… okay, I guess? I mean, there’s very little challenge to it and it’s obviously meant as a tie-in to the film it’s based around and, as a result, comes off as rushed in most respects, but it didn’t make me want to fling the disc in disgust or anything. It’s just mediocre in all possible respects, save possibly for the visuals, which are somewhat above average, but at this point one really expects nothing less.

I will note, however, that the Achievements, as they are structured, are set up fairly well relatively speaking. There are various Achievements related to collecting things, as well as various Achievements related to beating the various stages in the game, so players in general can feel like they’re accomplishing something outside of just playing through the game. It’s also nice that the game offers Achievements for beating the bosses without dying, and while this isn’t hard per say, it’s a little more challenging than just completing a level or what have you, so it gives less skilled players the chance to really get something out of the game for getting better at it. That’s what I’m talking about, by the way, when I note that having Achievements based on the difficulty level of the game is creatively bankrupt. Challenging the player is a good thing, and asking them to do things that might not be easy per say for them to do is a good idea. Portal 2 has Achievements that do this, Dead Space 2 has Achievements that do this, hell, lots of games do this just fine. Give the player a challenge to strive for, something to accomplish that’s just a bit beyond the skills of the normal player, and reward them for this. Making the player slog through the entire game over again at a harder difficulty with arbitrary restrictions placed against them just to do it isn’t fun for anyone, especially not the person playing, when they know it can be done better because a cash-in game for kids has a better understanding of how to do this thing than a major release from a major corporation.

10.) Fight Night Round 3

Before I started Achievement Mining:

This is another game that I abandoned and came back to after the fact, mostly because I just became overwhelmed with things to play and didn’t get a chance to come back to it until long after the fact. Fight Night Round 3 actually isn’t a terribly problematic game to clear out at all, to be honest; all of the Achievements are tied to specific fights you’ll eventually have as you progress through the Career Mode of the game, and there’s really nothing specific you have to do but keep playing until you beat them all. Now, in fairness, it’s forgivable that this was done, as the game came out in the first year of the 360’s lifespan, and most developers were really just trying to figure out what they could do with the system in the first place. As such, I’m not too upset about this thing. However, while I didn’t note it in the Avatar piece above, in the same way that I find difficulty level based Achievements abhorrent, so too (albeit to a lesser extent) do I find Achievements that reward you for doing nothing abhorrent. While, again, King Kong and Fight Night Round 3 were released in the first year of the console and can therefore be forgiven for offering Achievements anyone could earn with no trouble by just playing the game, the aforementioned Achievements in Avatar are, frankly, inane, as they are in any game that just rewards you for doing what you’re intending to do. Guys, come on. There’s a good balance to how to reward the player, and lots of games do it right: give me a few weird objectives that I might not normally do or a few harder than average tasks and give me points for them. Giving all the points away for nothing or making me trudge through ten hours of play for one Achievement isn’t rewarding, it’s a dick move, and we all know that you’re either lazy or assholes, respectively. Work with me here.

On the other hand, games like this make it easy for me to spike my score, so I can only complain so much, y’know?

After I finished Achievement Mining:

This here is our real-time winner for the “Longest amount of time spent clearing out a game” award, clocking in at four years, at least until I someday go back and clear out King Kong (which will probably be any day now). That aside, however, as the game basically just gives you points for playing it, I don’t have a lot to say about it one way or the other; I thought it was a fantastic game when it came out and time has not dulled that opinion in any noticeable way, to be honest. The game still feels fluid when playing it, the boxing is still full of charm and impact, and watching the Burger King walk me to the ring as a trainer (seriously) is still great shit, all told, and I still, some several years after the fact, enjoy the game more than any of the games in the series that followed it.

That said, HOLY SHIT was it rough jumping back into the game from where I left off about three years and change after the fact. Note to players out there who leave games on the shelf for a while before picking them up: PRACTICE FOR A WHILE FIRST BEFORE JUMPING RIGHT IN. I cannot stress this enough. I seriously got wrecked in the first fight I played, and it took about an hour of practice before I was ready to go back in and clear out the fights I needed to win to pop the last Achievement I had left to earn, the “Everlast Achievement”, for winning a fight sponsored by Everlast, duh. That said, at long last, after several years of letting the game basically collect dust, I finally did what I set out to do with it when I first picked it up, and in the end, I can safely say that I enjoyed the experience all the way around.



So the final tally ends up with eight games I have no desire to play ever again versus two games I’d play again with little provocation, though if we strip out the four games I can safely say I only bothered with for no other reason than to get points (Avatar: The Burning Earth, TMNT, Terminator Salvation and Megamind: Ultimate Showdown), that brings us to a more comfortable four to two ratio. After spending hours and hours clearing out Achievements from the games, I can safely say that, given the choice, I’d be happy to go back to Tekken 6 and Fight Night Round 3 tomorrow and play them again, but I’m somewhat less excited about ever playing Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, Wanted: Weapons of Fate or SAW II again, and while maybe I wouldn’t have to do this thing with any of those games if I’ve seen all I intended to see, the fact is that they were enjoyable enough on their own merits that I might’ve considered doing so until actively going through all of the associated Achievements basically drained the life out of that interest.

I think that’s an interesting observation, actually. Let’s ponder that.

Of the six games mentioned there, I would say that at least four of them (Tekken 6, Fight Night Round 3, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection) could be called “good” games at the very least. Of those games, one rewarded me with Achievements for doing nothing more than playing the game, two rewarded me for grinding, and one rewarded me for spending time with several smaller games on the compilation. At a base level, it doesn’t seem like this should be a big difference from one game to the next, but let’s consider how this actually works out.

Fight Night Round 3 basically hands you Achievements like candy, saying “Hey, thanks for playing, have this”. It’s not especially rewarding, so to say, but it gets the job done, all things considered, and the game is good enough that it hardly matters.

Tekken 6 asks you to grind away at the game for a few hours after completing the main campaign, but it’s constantly rewarding you with new gear and such to stick on your character of choice, you can do this grinding across several different stages and get the appropriate rewards, and very little of the work needed is obscenely oppressive until the very end of the experience.

Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection forces you to spend fairly large amounts of time with games that, in some cases, weren’t even well received when they came out, either as a way of saying “Hey, really spend some time with this and see if you like it” or saying “We like this and we’re going to make you play it because we don’t care what you think”. It puts Achievements into the game that are both easy and hard to earn, true, but it puts them into most of the games on the disc, even games that probably shouldn’t have been on the disc in the first place, and playing an unpleasant game until you complete the arbitrary objective set before you is never a fun time.

Spider-Man: Friend or Foe basically requires you to play through the last stage over and over again, as it’s both the shortest and most profitable stage you can play, to clear out its final Achievement. While it’s entirely possible you could end up going back to older stages to earn points if you somehow miss a bunch of collectibles, even if you go through every stage in the game twice you’ll still have some grinding ahead of you at the end of the game (and I know, because I did this thing). In short, the game asks you to complete too much grinding to clear out its final Achievement, and the end result sours the whole experience.

I think that, as games continue to move forward, Achievements/Trophies/Whatever will become a big part of any console’s existence. That’s likely just a fact of life at this point. Whether or not people care about them, it’s nice to have a metric that notes how good you are (or, in my case, how many games I play) relative to other people, and that little number, while you might not care about it, is a minor but amusing incentive to perform tasks within your games. As developers really begin to understand how to work with Achievements, we see that they begin to use this metric as a way of increasing the lifespan of the product by adding in these Achievements to keep us coming back to clear them out. Hell, you can’t even download an expansion pack anymore without getting a ton of Achievements to go with it, and gamers who user to have games completely cleared out are now seeing those games pop up with new Achievements they didn’t even know about because new DLC gave them new stuff to do. It’s simply becoming a part of the experience, and while you might not find a lot of people who love that stupid little number, most people don’t hate it and wish it would go away either. It’s a part of the market at this point, and it likely will be for a long time to come.

The point here, then, is this: these scores are a part of our online existence, more or less, and as such, whether we openly want to see them get larger, we do, on some level, like it when we unlock something that improves them. If a game is particularly good, we might actually consider trying hard to really clear out all of the Achievements for that game, just because we like it so much and want to be the best we can be at it. So, when a developer puts little thought into how they put their Achievements into a game and says either “Fuck it, just give them out for doing everything they’re supposed to do in the game” or “Fuck it, just stick one to the “ËœPrison Bitch’ difficulty level”, that’s something of a souring experience for gamers. No one wants to have something handed to them, and while this isn’t likely to put off the player, neither is it going to make them feel like they’ve accomplished something. Conversely, no one wants to feel like they have to treat a game as a full time job, and spending weeks getting skilled enough to make a run at the top-tier difficulty level is likely to make a player rethink their opinion of that game they love so much, and conversely, whether or not they want to spend money on its sequels. When a concept becomes so ingrained into our environment that games begin including these sorts of rewards even when the system doesn’t support this, you know it’s become a big deal, and I think as time goes on, good developers will start to differentiate themselves not just by the quality of their games, but by the quality of their Achievements, and I think that this might be coming sooner than we think.

Something to think about.



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One response to “Playing the Lame PRESENTS: “Random filler because I have nothing interesting to talk about.””

  1. […] literally a year ago, more or less, I wrote a column detailing my exploits in the world of attempting to earn Achievements and max out games I’d […]

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