by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Gaming”

And Then There Was This Random Ewok . . .

Posted 29 July 2008 in by Catriona

I often tell my students (although perhaps I shouldn’t) that the Indiana Jones series made me want to be an academic. (Of course, this was long before critics started saying that the series had nuked the fridge.) Then academia turned out to involve very little in the way of fighting Nazis, which was a slight disappointment.

This introduction, complete with jokes I’ve already told before, is only leading up to the fact that I’m really enjoying Lego Indiana Jones.

(Of course, I’m loving the game less now than when I started the post two hours ago and then decided I really should finish the day’s work before blogging. In the interim, I’ve picked up the game again—after finishing my work, naturally—only to have it crash during a particularly difficult section of the fight scene in Cairo markets, and now I’m going to have to play the whole damn episode over again. But my point remains valid.)

I came across the Lego gaming phenomenon with Lego Star Wars, which was hands down the most fun I’ve ever had with a video game, excluding only some amusingly vicious rounds of Mario Party.

We started with the original trilogy (how I hate having to call them the “original trilogy”) for the Game Cube, but we did get some way through the prequels/sequels (depending on whether you’re using a chronology from inside the movies or outside them) for the X-Box. (And, yes, we do have far too many obsolete gaming systems, including a Playstation One—thankfully, not an original Playstation, but the later re-visioning—and, buried somewhere in the depths of the entertainment unit—a Nintendo 64.)

I’m fairly certain we finished the Game Cube version—at least on Story Mode, in which you’re constrained by the narrative. In Free Play, which you can’t access until you’ve finished Story Mode, you can swap between characters (even if they weren’t in that particular scene/movie) and therefore access more areas: some areas might be droid-only, or only Dark Force accessible, or require a jetpack.

We didn’t finish the X-Box version, and it wasn’t the damn pod race (almost as frustrating and boring as in the movie) that threw us, but a later flying sequence, where we kept exploding. Neither Nick nor I are natural flyers, apparently. We’re also rubbish jumpers, which is something of a problem.

But Lego Indiana Jones I’ve been keeping my eye on. I want it for the Wii, so we can play two player modes: Nick, I suspect, is less keen on this, since I’m a shocking loser (I sulk: although I tried very hard not to sulk when my stupid dwarf was the first to die in the D&D campaign on the weekend) and a shocking winner (I gloat), and tend to get cranky when playing video games, as well (the spatial construction throws me: I want to see further than I can, and get annoyed when my vision is restricted and I therefore fall into a big pit of slime or get electrocuted).

But that’s beside the point. Basically, I’m playing the game at the moment on my DS, greatest of all the handheld gaming systems.

It has the same basic concept as Lego Star Wars in that you play through an episode in Story Mode, constrained to play as the characters who appear in that part of the movie, and then you can unlock Free Play, and roam around a number of different, otherwise inaccessible areas.

So far, I’ve only made it through Raiders of the Lost Ark in Story Mode, and I’m running back through it now in Free Play.

And it’s fun, especially now the burden of actually liberating the Ark of the Covenant has been lifted from my shoulders.

What I’ve always loved about these games is the slightly irreverent and anarchic approach to the source materials. The cut scenes with the little Lego versions of the characters are hilarious—although my favourite is, and always will be, the one on Tatooine where Luke hits a stormtrooper with his speeder and Obiwan gives him an immensely disappointed look.

But I also like the odd capabilities that the characters have.

Fair enough: scholars are needed to open certain doors. I suspect that some of the ones I can’t get through require the Maharajah, but I haven’t played Temple of Doom yet, so he’s not a playable character. And Indy himself can use his whip to draw down bridges or to climb up the side of buildings.

But Marian Ravenswood is a “bottle-throwing character,” which not only makes her a useful ranged fighter, but also enables her to blow stuff up by tossing liquor bottles into flaming barrels.

She’s also a “monkey-carrying character” or at least she is after you pass the Cairo scenes. This, by some strange stretch of the imagination, means that if Marian steps on a red platform, she can transform into a monkey and access out-of-the-way areas.

Now that’s just cool.

Marcus Brody, on the other hand, can slide down wires using his umbrella. (He’s also quite handy at fighting off Nazis, an activity for which he also uses his umbrella.)

What I need to do now is access one of the smaller characters so that I can get through tiny doorways. But that means either the Maharajah or Short Round, and I’m having too much fun with Raiders to move onto Temple just yet.

Oh, and there was an Ewok. I don’t know why: he was in a hidden area that I could only access once I had Professor Belloq as a playable character.

I think I also met Santa Claus at one point. He was another hidden area, in a small hut outside Marian’s tavern in Tibet, dressed all in red and surrounded by elaborately wrapped parcels.

I accidentally hit him with a candy cane.

I hope I don’t end up on his “naughty” list.

And Yet More Packrat Woes

Posted 8 July 2008 in by Catriona

I mentioned way back when the frustrations of playing this game when the set you’re trying to build depends on hard-to-find pop-up cards.

Well, it’s getting worse—and it’s almost enough to drive me out of the game.

I thought Rat Pack, with its reliance on the 4000-point Fountain, was bad enough. But it’s nothing—nothing—to the In Bloom set. I’ve completed the set—or I wouldn’t be able to be flippant on the subject—but, oh, it was a soul-destroying process.

(What? I have a life! I’m . . . very busy and important, actually. Shush.)

In Bloom relied heavily on two pop-up cards: Rain and Sunshine. They weren’t as heavy as the Fountain—they were only 2000 points apiece—but they were much harder to find.

And you need many more of them to get a full set.

You need to vault one of each.

Then you need one Sunshine to make a Watermelon, and one Rain to make a Praying Mantis.

Then you need one of each to make a Firewheel—a type of flower, apparently, but I have no idea whether it’s a real one or not.

That’s already six cards: six cards that you cannot get any other way than have them randomly pop up without warning in your pack.

But it was the high-end card that was the destroyer of souls: the Alamofire—another flower, but this time I’m sure it was a fictional flower. It looked like a waratah, or maybe a protea, but was named after the company that designed the game.

The Alamofire was made from two Firewheels and a Praying Mantis: that’s five pop-up cards for the final card alone.

Is it any wonder that we were all secretly composing “Goodbye, cruel game” messages in our heads?

(No, I don’t think I am blowing this out of proportion. Why do you ask?)

And now it’s happening again, with Winston World.

Winston World is a lovely amusement-park-themed set: the game has multiple designers, and some of the cards are a little . . . well, ugly, really. (Yes, Born to Be Wild set with improbable Hells’ Angels rabbits, I am looking at you.) But Winston World is drawn in soft pastels, and the rides all have starscapes behind them, so it seems as though it’s an amusement park on another, distant planet.

It’s beautiful.

But it’s relying on pop-ups, and I’m going spare.

I need a Carousel. That’s all I need.

Okay: I need three Carousels. But that’s not important right now.

If I have a Carousel, I can make a Winston Wheel, which I gather is some sort of Ferris Wheel. Then—once it finishes its four-hour “baking” process and, really, what is the purpose of that?—I can make the top-end card.

But can I find a Carousel?

You know the answer to that, I’m sure.

And for those of you also playing Packrat—I have accumulated four hundred credits while I’ve been looking for that damn Carousel. That’s probably more information than you need on how long I’ve been wasting on this particular ambition.

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