Xbox 360 games

[Review] Life Is Strange (XBox One)

Undo. Rewind. Do over.

Don’t you wish sometimes you were given a second chance to go back in time and correct mistakes made, or make right a bad ending? Be careful what you wish for! That is one lesson learned while playing the Square Enix game, Life is Strange!

Max Caulfield moved away from Arcadia Bay, Oregon to Seattle, Washington with her family when she turned 13, leaving behind her best friend, Chloe. Five years later, Max returns to Arcadia Bay to enroll in the prestigious Blackwell Academy on a Photography scholarship.  The geeky and kind Max enjoys spending her time peering through the lens of her Polaroid camera (her chosen medium) and taking pictures of nature. Blackwell Academy, for what it’s worth, is full of the typical cliquey high school drama. Max tries to avoid it, and concentrate on what is important to her – the upcoming Photography contest, and her dreamy teacher, Mr. Jefferson.

It was a violent incident one day on campus that made her aware of a new power she had at her fingertips – the ability to turn back time. She soon put her powers to work, changing negative outcomes to more favourable ones whenever the opportunity would present itself. This newfound ability was surprising and unbelievable. Her powers worked well for a spell, and was even fun, but soon, too much turning back father time created a shit storm of negative environmental events which become hard to untangle without risking lives…and timelines.

Life is Strange is a graphic adventure game where the player is provided a set of choices that have consequences depending on the path you take. This was about the only difficult thing about the game – making choices for Max. Thankfully, unlike some other choice-driven games like the Walking Dead, there is no time limit – you actually have time to read and reflect on the decision (in the Walking Dead, they give you, like, 10 seconds for four choices – barely enough time to decode and process what I just read…). The menu system for the game is pretty easy to use and is where you have access to Max’s personal journal (which was interesting, voyeuristic) and her cellphone to receive texts from her family and friends.

Although set in modern-day, this game’s layered sub-plots and relationships between characters brought back a tonne of teenaged memories for me – the friendship between Max and her best friend Chloe, Max’s insecurity about her talent as a Photography student, taking art classes and opining about art, putting up with cliques…I saw a lot of myself in Max. Even decisions having to do with loyalties with friends (who hasn’t dealt with that?).

Let’s talk about the style of Life is Strange: gorgeous. The game’s use of light, shade and tonal gradation to emote a feeling was very effective. I mean, I could stare into those sunsets all day. The game also lingers long and takes its time, using strategic shots to set a scene. Every shot appears to have been thought out and successfully executed. Absolutely awesome.

The version I played was from the Life Is Strange Limited Edition package on the Xbox One – a gift from my husband – and it is awesome! The collection includes the entire game, a scrap book and a soundtrack CD – pretty damn cool. The music is an off-beat mix of atmospheric modern-Indie Folk, alternative and dance; Syd Matters, alt-J, Foals and Jose Gonzalez (to name a few) fill the game’s soundtrack with a sound that pairs well with the stylings of Life is Strange. I know some people won’t like the music, and I can’t say I like all of it, but I think most of it is very good.

This game was the first one I played on the Xbox One, and I have to say I am pleased with the smooth experience. No glitches at all, and everything looked crisp. Overall, I highly recommend Life is Strange. It’s available for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and Windows.

9/10

Life Is Strange (Xbox One)
Dontnod / Square Enix
Released: January 2015

[Review] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (Xbox emulator)

Cowabunga!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as a franchise, eluded me. When TMNT rose to fame in the late 80s, I was of the age and headspace where pizza-eating, ninja-fighting reptiles was “kids stuff”. Since, I have paid little attention to TMNT. I am really fresh on the details surrounding the whole backstory, too.

That doesn’t mean I refuse the opportunity to pick up and play a TMNT game if it comes a-knockin’. That opportunity arrived last weekend when the hubs invited me to play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, originally available in coin-operated arcade. Lucky us, we played the game via an arcade emulator installed on the hubs’ original Xbox. Arcade emulators are great: you get to play a game as much as you want without having to drop any quarters!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the Arcade Game is a side-scrolling beat’em up with a simple premise: the four TMNTs have to save their friend, April, from their evil nemesis, Shredder, who has kidnapped her and holed her away in a burning building. You choose which Turtle you want to play (I can’t remember which I chose) and you and your cohort(s) go to town, beating up a posse of characters, mostly ninja warriors who are working for Shredder. It is a typical beat’em up, that was enjoyable at first, but ended on a frustrating note.

When I was a kid, my only real exposure to genuine cabinet arcade games was the Pac-Man arcade table at Peachy’s Pizza Parlour in Sudbury, ON in the 80s. Back then, my sis and I would beg my Mom for two precious quarters so we could play some two-player Pac-Man while waiting for delicious pizza and panzerotti to make it to our table. Of course, anyone familiar with playing cabinet arcade games knows: one quarter is never enough. As we returned to our table, begging our Mom for more quarters, she often remarked how expensive this game was. Pac-Man can be challenging, and of course that is how these games are designed: to be difficult enough so you hardly ever win, but addictive enough to make you drop another quarter and play more.

A similar experience was had with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game. There was no coin dropping here – just gameplay. But, this was once an arcade game, and it was clear that the gameplay was tied into whether you’d continue to drop your next quarter into the slot. The game was fun at first. I remember turning to the hubs and commenting that it was pretty good – I was enjoying it.

But, that feeling didn’t last for the whole game, especially in boss fights. Those were frustrating and seemingly unfair: imagine hitting an enemy repeatedly and they’d receive no damage. You get your ass handed to you, and you die a few times before finally getting a chance to beat the Boss. Doing the math, I could only imagine how many quarters it would have taken back in the day to win against the Bosses in this game. And, Holy Toledo, I’d be rich! Noah’s Arcade from Wayne’s World was onto something…

Wayne's World 2 insulting the sponsor

Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game was repetitive and frustrating. I know there are better TMNT games out there.

6.5/10

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game
Konami
1989

[Review] Streets of Rage 2 (Xbox 360)

Recently I reviewed a very cool beat ’em up game, Streets of Rage, played on the Sega Genesis. For two weekends straight following that review, the hubs and I tackled its sequel, Streets of Rage 2; this time, we played the game found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the Xbox 360.

Axel and Blaze reprise their fighting spirit in the sequel that sees Mr. X, the big cheese in the syndicate, resurface – hell-bent on wrecking more havoc on the city. Along with fellow friends, Max and Skate, they battle against thugs with pipes, jet packs and Lee press-on nails to get to Mr. X in the ultimate showdown.

The game starts in with a funky late 80s-type techno beat à la Inner City’s Big Fun and Snap!’s The Power.  So, while we toe-tap to the cool urban beats, the characters fight off bad guys in backdrops that vary from a back alley, rundown arcade, and somewhere that resembles a Walt Disney World knock-off.

I decided to play Blaze again; the only female character you can play in Streets of Rage 2. Not only has the sequel caused Blaze to lose her MJ Thriller jacket and some of her clothes with it, she has developed a tic where she flings her long hair for no apparent reason (Um, why? Seriously, this is not a rhetorical question…). Thankfully, the one thing about her that I liked in the first game remains here: she still walks and beats up with purpose. The food – apples and whole chickens this time – appear again for characters to fill up their health. Gold bars and bags of money appear behind trash cans and give you extra points.

What is new to the sequel is the ability to make your character do certain moves aside from simply punching and kicking, similar to the button maneuvring of Mortal Kombat. Tripping and rushing the baddies are on the menu. This really steps up the fun factor of the game for me. However, inadvertently beating up your teammate resulting in the depletion of their health also remains in the sequel. There must be moves that you and your teammate can do together as one in the game, but we never took time to figure it out. Instead, it just looked like Blaze and Axel were clinging to each other like they were recreating that scene from last week’s the Young and the Restless. Great if you’re trying to get two characters from Streets of Rage 2 to act like Devon and Hillary…not great when you’re trying to fight off Buffet’s bad breath at the ballpark…

Overall, the fun from the first game continues in Streets of Rage 2 – enough that the hubs and I replayed this game four times to make it to the end! Why four times? The game is tough, even on the easy setting. Yep, it’s a kickass game for sure…It literally kicked our ass four times! I didn’t finish, having lost all my lives, then exhausting my two continues each time we played. The hubs skillfully managed to defeat Mr. X on his own so I was able to see how the story ended. Fun times overall, and I totally recommend it!

8/10

Streets of Rage 2
Sega

[Review] Alan Wake Was My Disturbing Boyfriend (Xbox 360)

Confession time.

I have been happily married for years to a wonderful guy. But, for the better part of one month, I was obsessed with a different guy.  His name was Alan Wake, and I was enraptured by the man, the myth, THE GAME for most of February 2012, and as long ago as that was, I have to say the memory of that game stays with me to this day.

The first time I saw any part of Alan Wake I was standing in an EB Games waiting for my hubs to decide what current offering he was going to buy, when one of their TVs started playing the trailer to Alan Wake. I was instantly taken in. It had a few criteria I was interested in – it looked realistic, dark, and appeared to have an intriguing story behind it. But above all, it looked scary.

I had some experience with scary games – Shiver: the Vanishing Hitchhiker (of course), Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for the PSP, and the Walking Dead game on the XBox 360 come to mind. I had sweat through those games and made it to the credits unscathed. So, I thought, I could take on Alan Wake on the 360.

Alan Wake tells the story of a writer of thriller fiction whose wife goes missing while they are on vacation in rural Washington State. As he searches for his wife, he finds himself in a nightmare of sorts, where he is living in the plot of one of his scary books, but one he doesn’t remember writing. Armed with a flashlight, he ventures into the darkness of the forest looking for his wife, fighting enemies (also called ‘the Taken’), evil ravens and possessed inanimate objects. The light is the one thing that protects you from enemies, so you are searching relentlessly for batteries for your flashlight, some flashbangs, a spotlight or streetlight to save you from the evil (and to get to a safe point). Guns also help you to attack your enemies.

I found ‘the Taken’ scary as heck, and I think that is what freaked me out the most about Alan Wake. My nightmares often have scary dark figures chasing me, so imagine being surrounded by dark shadowy figures that wield axes or sickles at you, and yell odd things that scare the crap out of you. Thanks to a decent 5.1 stereo system, I got to hear ‘the Taken’ in all their angry surround-sound glory (you can listen to them here, if you don’t care about spoilers). Partner this with a misty dirt path through the forest in darkness, and you have the makings of a horror game.

Speaking of, the scenery in Alan Wake is truly breathtaking. You can tell the developers took five years to make this game. No detail was overlooked, nor overworked.

The final screen! I had to take a picture!

The final screen! I had to take a picture!

Alan Wake made me keep the lights on when I played it. My hands shook in petrification. I was even dreaming of the game in my sleep. At one point I said to the hubs that I thought I’d have to put the game down for awhile. The further I went into the game though, the more I wanted to see how the story ended. I would then find the courage to carry on and fight some more Taken. And I am glad I did – Alan Wake is one of my all-time favourite scary games.

Also read: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Alan Wake
Developer: Remedy Entertainment / Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Released: May 2010 (North America, Xbox 360)

This blog was originally posted in June 2013 – but because of my recent appearance on the Retro Fandango podcast where I proclaimed this game as my favourite, I spit-shone’er and made it new to you. Hope you enjoyed!

[Review] BioShock (Xbox 360)

I wasn’t planning to play anything other than hidden object games this month…but along came the first person shooter,  BioShock, and as it turns out, it was a worthwhile deviation!

You are in a plane that suddenly crashes into the ocean. Wading your way through the burning jet fuel you come upon a lighthouse, and you think “thank God!” But, soon enough, those thoughts change to “OMG!” as you are under attack by mutant zombie-like creatures. Suddenly you have the ability to shoot fire from your fingertips and are armed with a large wrench.

You hurry into an open elevator which takes you down into an underwater city called Rapture. This city looks like something out of 1950s New York: the buildings are in an art deco style, and iconography reminiscent of a long lost era. Music from Bobby Darin and Bing Crosby play. The interiors of buildings are “under glass” and interconnected by tubes underwater. Whales and other marine life swim by the windows. Stepping out of the elevator, Rapture has the appearance of a dream-like magical utopia. But, something isn’t quite right about this place…and you soon discover this city’s name should be changed to “Rupture”as it is in complete decline. Those interconnected tubes are leaking water. The “town-folk” for the most part have mutated into an un-dead state and are out to kill you. Meanwhile figures in old-fashioned Jacques Cousteau diving suits protect possessed little girls and do so at all cost. And finally, there are people trying to tell you stuff about the history of Rapture, and what you are supposed to be doing. What an unsettling and surreal experience. This was the first 20 minutes of BioShock, people!

The rest of the four hours I spent on the game that evening were a total blur, aside for a brief pee break when I noticed the dark clouds in the distance, and later the violent thunderstorm that blew through my town. Severe weather normally distracts me to the point I have my head pressed against the glass, taking pics and watching the sky above. Not this time – no. Not with BioShock on the tube and the Xbox 360 controller in my hands. I was riveted. Every evening for a solid week was spent playing this game.

BioShock was one of those games that I stumbled upon more by encouragement than by accident. It started when the hubs asked me if I would like to participate in a game of the month project, called the Cartridge Club. A group of gamers choose one game of the month to play. At the end of the month the group reports back on their experiences. The Club is overseen by the Cartridge Bros, two brothers from Halifax, Nova Scotia who are into gaming and have their own YouTube channel. The hubs has been a part of their community for a while now. Several gamers from the Cartridge Club followed my Mass Effect diary, and encouraged me to join the club. I agreed to join to maybe expose myself to different kinds of games. This month’s Cartridge Club game is BioShock and shortly after I agreed to join the team, the hubs got so excited that next thing I knew, I was riding shotgun on the road to the nearest EB Games to get the Xbox 360 version (because a lady deserves her own copy of course!).

The game is gorgeous and much care was put into the environment. No stone was left unpolished. The music was atmospheric and really set a mood. I have read where other gamers consider BioShock a scary game;  I definitely wouldn’t say it was scary. Creepy, yes definitely. I found this game surprisingly forgiving with a lot of room to screw up. I was playing it on the easiest setting, but I have played other games that were much harder, which leads me to conclude that either the games are getting easier, or I am getting better at them. From my experiences with Mass Effect and Borderlands, switching and managing my weapons was not a problem at all. Gaming first person shooters is getting easier for me, thank goodness. It’s all about the experience!

I am not going to delve too far into BioShock’s plot, except to say it was a tangle that I found a bit confusing without my friend Wikipedia (haha). There are voiceovers that tell the player elements of the story and what to do, but often I didn’t catch them because I was too busy kicking some mutant’s ass to listen. So much goes on in BioShock that grabs your attention – it’s hard to multitask in this game. There is a whole back story you can follow too, by collecting audio logs in the game which can be played and replayed in the menu system. I am sure I missed several of them, and thankfully I didn’t feel like they were necessary to the overall enjoyment of the game. I loved BioShock, and I feel it deserves another play-through which I look forward to in the future.

4/5

Bioshock
Developer: 2K
Released: 2007

[Review] Bully (Xbox 360): I’m a Failure at Being Bad

Ever want to be reminded of when you were a flunkie in school, were beat up on and could never get ahead? Play Bully for the Xbox 360, and have those memories come flooding back.

Bully Cover

Jimmy Hopkins is a troubled kid, always making waves wherever he goes. He has recently been dropped off at the Bullworth Academy, a private co-ed boarding school to get straightened out. As it turns out, he encounters bullies all around – boys…girls…Jimmy navigates through school, skipping class, running away from prefects, defending himself and running errands for cash. The goal is for Jimmy to climb his way above the social strata to reign supreme. I don’t think he had a prayer with me at the helm…

bully-a

The Good: Great graphics, great sense of humour.

The Bad: Some of the missions don’t even give you a chance, nor enough time to complete.

Bully is what is considered a sandbox game, meaning, open world; you are free to take Jimmy anywhere you want on the Bullworth campus, any time. It isn’t without consequences, however. You do need to manage Jimmy’s time, and decide if today is the day you take Jimmy to music class or if he is going to break into the lead cheerleader’s locker to steal a notebook for another classmate without getting caught. You are given a clock, and the expectation from the school is that Jimmy will  go to two classes a day – morning and afternoon – and do this without breaking into a fight. Jimmy’s reputation precedes him however, as Bullworth’s pack of bullies make it their mission to push him around whenever he’s in their sights. Jimmy then has a choice – to plead for peace, or make them a knuckle sandwich.

Bullworth_Academy_In-Game

Jimmy also has a true a-hole for a friend, Gary, who goads Jimmy whenever given the chance. Gary’s stake in this is his hope that he becomes the King of the Hill. Jimmy plays it cool that he isn’t interested in that at all. Instead, he completes missions for nerds, beats up bullies and generally tries to dodge the long arm of the Principal’s office.

Caught by a prefect

Caught by a prefect

Having Jimmy complete class assignments is what will allow you to advance in the game. Music, Art, Chemistry, English and Biology are on the table. Each class, you are made to complete a task in a 3 minute period. Some of the tasks are fun while others don’t seem to give you enough time to complete them. In Biology class for example, Jimmy (you) is made to dissect a frog in under three minutes – pinning, cutting, and removing a heart, stomach and intestines. He/I failed this task half a dozen times. Meanwhile, like in my real life, Jimmy excelled in Art, which in Bully was a simple game reminiscent of Qix.

I tried repeatedly in the first chapter to complete missions Jimmy was made to do, and with all the effort, Jimmy/I would still flunk out. So this meant he had to keep repeating these tasks…and keep flunking – very frustrating. The failing grade was for both classroom assignments and missions he was given outside of class that very often saw him in trouble for skipping or for fist-fighting. Those two elements –  skipping and fighting – are very much against my nature and I had a hard time participating in those activities…initially, at least…

When I first started playing the game, I made Jimmy quite the model student. He went to class like a good boy and pleaded for peace from his bullies. By the time I was ready to drop the game however, I started saying not-so-nice words…My mind-set degenerated from nice to what Jimmy could get away with; I made him play hooky every chance he got, and not only was he beating up on bullies, he was drop-kicking the prefects. I didn’t see any improvement in terms of his social status, so I decided to make him live up to the name of the game. Why not; the little dude was failing anyway. Let’s see what this game will do to him.

4

As it turns out in the first chapter, Jimmy never really gets into too much trouble for his behaviour. He had run-ins with the principal who made him mow the lawn a couple of times, but nothing life-altering. But, one constant – he would fail. Always. And it was at this point I said to myself in true Jimmy Hopkins fashion: “Ta’ hell with this game!”

I tried Bully once before back in 2010. The hubs was trying to get me involved in playing games at that point and this one seemed interesting enough. At that time I wound up abandoning the game. Recently, I figured my gaming tastes would have matured, thus the reason to try Bully again. My save point from 4/5/10, was at 4.3% complete. When I fired up the game this time I thought, “Gee. I didn’t make it that far…let’s try this again.”

Well, folks, I am here to tell you, I think I have a little perspective on why I dropped this in 2010, because it’s the same reason I am dropping it today. My conclusion: I don’t think I like sandbox games, or at least I don’t like this one. Similar to 2010, I only completed 4.65% of this game. That might seem very little, and it is, except I spent a whopping 5 hours on that teeny portion, and I had enough. Really, I don’t think anything is wrong with Bully other than Bully and I are not a match made in heaven.

6.5/10

Bully (Xbox 360)
Developer: Rockstar Games
Released: 2006

[Gaming Diary] Mass Effect (Xbox 360): Part 13

This is my Thirteenth AND FINAL entry in my gaming diary for Mass Effect (Xbox 360).

Can you believe it?? Lucky Thirteen! Before I move on, a big thank you to those who have stuck through reading every one of these long-winded posts.

First-time reader and need context? Please go here.

Update from part 12 of the Gaming Diary:

Pepe Shep, Kaiden and Garrus race against the clock to get to the Normandy before Saren’s Base is blown to Smithereens.

Did they make it in time?

Part 6: Virmire

(Continued)

Flight Lieutenant, Joker, tells the crew on the Normandy to “hold on!” as he tries to outrun the detonated bomb on Virmire. The ship manages to escape, but Ashley, unfortunately, perishes, along with Captain Kirrahe and his crew.

In the debriefing room, Pepe tells the crew about the latest “vision” he experienced on Virmire of the Protheans being attacked. Liara offers to do another mind meld with Pepe as he was having a tough time interpreting it. She recognizes the location of this vision; a Prothean research station called Ilos, which was part of her Prothean research. This must be where Saren is headed!

Pepe “skypes” the Citadel Council and tells them what he has discovered about Saren. Although they congratulate Pepe for a successful mission on Virmire, they don’t believe that Saren is in cahoots with any Reapers, or that anyone is under threat. Pepe plans to go to Ilos to search for Saren, but before that the Normandy gets called to return to the Citadel immediately.

Part 7: Return to the Citadel

Pepe is confronted by the Council about going to Ilos to look for Saren. Basically, because they don’t believe a word he says about Saren, they will not support his mission. Ambassador Udina is also present, and supports the Council findings, telling Pepe to drop it, and that this is political. Kaiden calls the Ambassador a bastard!

Frustrated, Pepe tries to formulate a plan to go to Ilos without Citadel support. Unfortunately, because technically the Normandy is controlled by the Citadel, a block has been put on the ship preventing it from leaving, so essentially, Pepe is grounded. I loved his reaction, too. Completely outraged at the situation with a complete lack of support from the Ambassador…a great plot twist! That Ambassador is a bastard!

Not all is lost here…Pepe finds an ally in Captain Anderson. Remember him? He stepped down as Captain of the Normandy to allow Pepe to lead the way. Over a couple of brewskis, Anderson tells Shep that he needs to go to Ilos come hell or high water. And Anderson knows how to stop the block, but it means some risky business; breaking into Udina’s office computer so he can turn off the blockade. He believes so much in Pepe he will risk his life on it.

Then we see Captain Anderson walk into Udina’s office, punch the Ambassador’s lights out and break into the computer!

Good one! (Photo: i54.tinypic.com)

Off Pepe goes to Ilos!

Part 8: Ilos

As mentioned, Ilos was a Prothean research facility that has since been destroyed. Once Pepe and crew land there, it is desolate, covered in moss and overrun by geth. If I didn’t have any shooting skills up until now, this part was very good practice!

Ilos (and the confounded mako) [Photo: img2.wikia.nocookie.net]

Pepe, Liara and Garrus encounter a Prothean computer terminal where they are able to access a VI able to tell the team a bit of history of what happened on Ilos. Its name is Vigil and looks like an electronic tangled mess.

Vigil (Photo:i1.ytimg.com)

Vigil explains that Pepe had been called to the facility through his beacon visions to “break the cycle” of reaper destruction. The conduit that Saren is looking for is found on Ilos and it is a basically a pipeline between Ilos and the Citadel. The citadel itself is actually a mass relay (a mass transit device) that once activated, the reapers can pull through and start destroying all organic life in the galaxy. But, no one knows about its sinister use as it is well hidden from organic life. The keepers (creatures on the Citadel that monitor its operations) are seemingly benign and keep the Citadel’s functions running, but the Reapers can use them by sending a signal to have them open the mass relays.

An aphid…ah, I mean a Keeper…

But, right now this signal is not working. Through research at Ilos, the Protheans were able to hone in on this signal the reapers send to the keepers. As it stands now, the Reapers are trapped in dark space unable to send the signal accurately. By indoctrinating Saren, Sovereign can use him to use the conduit to bypass the citadel’s defenses and gain access.

Vigil continues to explain more about the Prothean’s fate; how some survived the attack, but so few did they couldn’t recolonize. Vigil suspects those that remained are now dead.

Vigil ends the conversation by giving Pepe a data file he can use in the Citadel’s master control unit to take over the Citadel’s functions to give him control as the Reapers need to be stopped at all cost!

It’s back to the mako and a race against time as Saren has found the conduit back to the Citadel.

The Conduit on Ilos. (Photo:images.wikia.com)

Part 9: Race Against Time – Final Battle

Here is where there is a ton of action. Mostly, I forged ahead with Garrus and Liara at my side. I did die a couple of times, no doubt, but got through it. A lot of geth, and krogan here.

Funny, all this time through the game, I complained about the mako and how awkward it was to drive. But no matter where I took it, it never tipped over – until Pepe crash landed on the Citadel! Landed right upside down! A final death for the confounded mako!

Sovereign arrived through the conduit and traveled through to the centre of the Citadel and attached itself to the ship. This is one ugly mofo ship. The music ramped up when it arrived.

Sovereign arrives at the Citadel (photo: img3.wikia.nocookie.net)

…and attaches itself to the Citadel *shudder (img3.wikia.nocookie.net)

Eventually, we find an indoctrinated Saren at the helm of the Citadel’s master control operations trying to bypass its security. The Battle Saren Royale takes place and he proves tough to kill. He is completely under Sovereign’s influence, with a power that packs a punch. Pepe manages to finally kill him, but not without losing his life a couple of times.

Then, the opportunity arises to successfully destroy Sovereign. This was a wild ride that ended with Sovereign blown to bits and essentially destroying the Citadel. The scene hauntingly reminded me of 9/11 with the fire and chaos…

The scene on the Citadel following the destruction of Sovereign (img2.wikia.nocookie.net)

With Sovereign destroyed, this means war against the Reapers! I feel a sequel to Mass Effect coming on…

Now, there are two major decisions I had to make to finish this game.

First, I had to decide whether I should let the troops ordered to protect the evacuated Citadel Council continue to do so, or leave the Council to their own devices to allow all troops available to fight Sovereign. It sounds cruel, but I chose to exhaust all troops to fight Sovereign, resulting in the Council’s death. It might seem my reasoning was influenced by the Council’s lack of support for Shep, or how historically they weren’t trusting of humans. But, my reasoning was actually more to do with having more manpower to fight Sovereign and less about my feelings toward the Council’s past actions against Shep. I thought about the fact that at the end of it all, there would be no Council, but I figured there was potential for a fresh start as well. I could have saved the Council, and wonder what that outcome would look like, but, in the long run, I don’t regret my decisions here or anywhere in the game.

Udina and Anderson

The second decision came at the very end of the game. Pepe and his crew survived the final battle, along with Ambassador Udina and Captain Anderson. Pepe meets with both of them to discuss creating a new Council as the old one was killed in the attack. The Ambassador envisions a new Council with a human at its head. The Ambassador asks Pepe who would be a good candidate, and I chose Anderson. My reason was that likely we would need someone on board with military experience. Plus, the Ambassador’s lack of support and dick moves against Pepe when he pushed to go to Ilos ticked me off (yes, my feelings came into this decision)!

Final Round-Up

Mass Effect was one of the best games I have ever played. This brand of storytelling, along with the excitement of gameplay was stellar. And it being an RPG, I was afraid I would have to totally babysit my characters. It turned out not to be as bad as all that.

The only two critiques I have with this game were having to maneuver the mako (of course), and a beef with the weapons…I chose weapons that were not supposed to overheat after 50 rounds, but alas, they’d overheat after five! And these were high-level weapons! I obviously managed – I finished the game for Pepe’s sake! Just not sure why my weapon would overheat so quickly…

Final Thoughts

I was admittedly reluctant to start this diary for fear that it would be a lot of work…and it was. But, I am not one to quit easily, and now that I am at the end I am proud that I finished Mass Effect ALL BY MYSELF, and now I have a thorough written record of my journey.

Thanks for reading!

[Gaming Diary] Mass Effect (Xbox 360): Part 12

This is my Twelfth entry in my gaming diary for Mass Effect (Xbox 360).

First-time reader and need context? Please go here.

Update from part 11 of the Gaming Diary:

Pepe Shep, his crew and a salarian army head out to Saren’s base to fight geth and get inside. Shep sends Ashley to fight with the salarians who will take on the front of the base, while Pepe, Kaiden and Garrus will infiltrate the back.

(Photo: lvlt.bioware.cdn.ea.com)

Part 6: Virmire

(Continued)

Wow, a lot happened in this round , so forgive me if I have missed some things. Let me highlight the most important bits.

Pepe and crew head to the back of Saren’s base. Immediately, they head towards a geth communcation tower with the intention of killing it (and they do!). The next task is to head into the building to deactivate the alarms. They make it inside the building and along the way they are attacked by all sorts of geth, krogan and indoctrinated salarians. Speaking of salarians, Pepe finds some locked in cells who have been indoctrinated and are acting a little off. When given the choice to lock them up to die there, I chose for Shep to let them go.

Sooner or later, Pepe finds one of those beacons similar to the one from the first chapter that gave him those weird Prothean visions. He makes another “connection” which replays the vision to the viewer in a little more detail. I am starting to get a sense of what happened to the Protheans at the hands of the reapers and it is disturbing.

Those poor Protheans, running for their lives…(Photo: img4.wikia.nocookie.net)

Shortly after Pepe experiences this cipher, we finally meet the Overlord of the galaxy – Sovereign – in the form of a hologram. And although initially we thought this Sovereign was a ship, it isn’t; it is a giant reaper!

The hologram of Sovereign – the reaper leader. (Photo: static3.wikia.nocookie.net)

This…thing resembling a large industrial insect (of course) is the harbinger of doom. Pepe managed to ask it a ton of questions and basically it comes down to this: the reapers come out of the woodwork after laying dormant for centuries, kill any and all organic life in the galaxy and then sink back into the night. They are responsible for the Protheans’ death. No explanation WHY, or at the very least, we “organics” cannot comprehend their reasons for it. The whole thing is effed up, dude!

Following this meeting with Sovereign it is time to nuke Saren’s entire base. But not before being confronted by Saren.

Saren on Green Goblin’s ride (Photo: img2.wikia.nocookie.net)

He is flying around on what looks like the Green Goblin’s boogie board.

The Green Goblin. I dunno, the similarities are striking! (Photo: img2.wikia.nocookie.net)

He tells Shep he has formed an alliance with Sovereign so that he would be spared from the unstoppable apocalypse of “organic life”. Shep sees through his B.S. and tells him he has been indoctrinated by Sovereign, for Sovereign’s sake, and that he will be thrown under the bus along with everyone else. Saren wasn’t going to listen, and starts shooting, along with his troop of geth and krogan, while flying around on his boogie board. This part was difficult, as you were supposed to shoot at Saren, but he was a moving target, like an annoying black fly that will strike when least expect it. All this is happening while Kaiden is busy installing the bomb.

Next thing you know, Saren falls off his boogie board and Pepe and Saren start kung-fu fighting (frightening!). Pepe right hooks Saren, knocking him down. Saren then musters up the strength to jump onto his board and flies away. Bye-bye, Green Gob-ahem, I mean Saren…

Then, the race is on to get the mako on the Normandy in time before the bomb is detonated. And then…

Boom! (Photo:img4.wikia.nocookie.net)

Until next time…

[Gaming Diary] Mass Effect (Xbox 360): Part 11

This is my Eleventh entry in my gaming diary for Mass Effect (Xbox 360).

First-time reader and need context? Please go here.

Update from part 10 of the Gaming Diary:

Pepe Shep and crew are stuck on Peak 15 on the planet Noveria, looking to eradicate the rachni, an alien species that sort of look like a cross between a lobster, shrimp and some gross crawly insect. The bewwwbly matriarch gets sent to boob heaven.

(Photo: meodia.com)

Part 6: Virmire

Plot Developments and Gameplay combined:

The crew in the Normandy get some intel that there is a Salarian troupe on the planet Virmire that says Saren is there. Time to pack up and get in the mako again!

Upon approaching Virmire, the Normandy detects strong geth transmitters around the area, but manages to drop Shep, Garrus and Kaiden* just under their shields undetected. It didn’t take long, however, to be swarmed by geth.

One thing I noticed immediately when the mako landed on Virmire was how much it reminded me of a tropical island. So lush! Birds were flying around, and there was a vast ocean beyond a quay. Beautiful!

Virmire (Photo: guides.gamepressure.com)

The area you travel in the game consists of various canals among these rock cliffs. At one point, the mako traveled downhill in a water-slide culvert thingy. Weee! If it wasn’t for the fact that Pepe was actually getting his ass shot off by geth, he may have wanted to take a vacay there.

Pepe, Ashley and Kaiden enjoy some free time on Virmire before defending the universe from Saren…Hey, one can dream, right? (artist’s interpretation) (Photo: fc00.deviantart.net)

The first part of this mission involves killing these huge geth transmitters found on the planet. All the way through Pepe used the mako to kill various types of geth machinery – geth drones, armatures, juggernauts…Amazingly the mako made it through all of it, but not without getting a critical mission failure (I died).

BTW, the hubs casually sat with me while I was playing this part of the game.

When I first went to fight these geth on Virmire, I ran a lot of them over with the mako instead of shooting at them. Yeah, true confessions: I wanted to see what I could get away with. Could I get through this part without shooting at anything? Yeah, obviously not. And of course, the mako didn’t make my life any easier. When I “died” the first time, I set things right the second time around and fought them.

One of the many types of geth I fought (Photo: img4.wikia.nocookie.net)

After managing to kill all the transmitters, we travel to an area where the Salarian army who sent for us has set up camp. The leader is Captain Kirrahe and upon Pepe’s arrival he asks if he was the only group sent to help him because they are in real trouble as he has lost most of his men investigating the island for Saren’s base. He says the base is packed with geth and that he won’t be able to gain access without a heavy fight, with presumably more casualties.

It’s at this point that Kirrahe also tells Shep that Saren has also been breeding Krogans (remember Wrex?) to fight in his army. Wrex happens to overhear the convo and asks how this could be. Krogans have a genetic mutation within them called a genophage which increases the chances of miscarriages and stillbirths in female Krogans. Saren’s kind, the turians, created the genophage as a biological weapon a long time ago as a way of decreasing the Krogan population during a war between turians and krogans. Well, guess what? Saren found a cure for the genophage, and is turning things around for his benefit! He is now breeding Krogans to be a part of his fighting army. It’s for that reason that Kirrahe says this cure needs to be destroyed. Wrex doesn’t agree, obviously. These are his people and at last there is a cure to help his species. Wrex confronts Captain Kirrahe before Shep steps in.

Now what follows is the most jaw-dropping sequence I have experienced in Mass Effect so far..

Shep goes over to reason with Wrex. He is very disappointed a decision to kill the genophage cure will be enacted. Wrex considers Shep a problem and pulls a gun on him. At this point, the game gave me five choices in conversation, and one of them was “Shoot Wrex”. When I read that, I was like, “What?! NO!” I chose “We can work this out”.

We can work it out…we can work it out…. (Photo: img.gawkerassets.com)

Well, immediately after I chose “We can work this out,” Ashley comes in from behind and:

POW! (Photo:img3.wikia.nocookie.net)

That’s right, Ashley shoots Wrex dead! I couldn’t believe it! The hubs and I looked at each other in shock!**

Pepe then returns to Kirrahe who has a plan to infiltrate Saren’s base, but it involves the use of one of Shep’s crew members. The game gave me Kaiden or Ashley to choose from to fight with the salarians. I chose Ashley, and here is why: Ashley always seemed to have an independent fighting spirit in the game. She always says she is ready for anything, and since she went ahead and shot Wrex on her own, I figured she would have enough in her to battle with the salarians for another showdown. I didn’t see this as punishment for shooting Wrex.

Until next time…

*I chose Garrus and Kaiden to accompany Pepe with no real rhyme or reason. I like Garrus, and only used Kaiden in the early parts of the game.

**The hubs has played Mass Effect at least 3 times and said he had Wrex die while he played, nor had ever heard of him dying in the game. Well, look what I accomplished! LOL

[Gaming Diary] Mass Effect (Xbox 360): Part 10

This is my Tenth entry in my gaming diary for Mass Effect (Xbox 360).

First-time reader and need context? Please go here.

Update from part 9 of the Gaming Diary:

Pepe Shep and crew head out into a snow storm to find the Bewwwbly Matriarch on the planet Noveria.

(Photo:cdn.akamai.steamstatic.com)

Part 5: Noveria

(Continued)

Plot Developments and Gameplay Combined:

Shep and crew pile into that confounded 6-wheeler known as the Mako, to power through a blizzard that is ravaging the planet Noveria. Their plan is to go find the Bewwwbly Matriarch up on an area hilariously called Peak 15 (at least it isn’t called “Peek” 15, although, we’ve all seen enough of them, haven’t we?)

With that, in case you’ve forgotten who this Bewwwbly Matriarch is:

i Ay Carumba ! [You’re welcome] (Photo: img1.wikia.nocookie.net)

The crew arrive at Peak 15 after fighting a ton of geth. The facility is shut down for the most part, and Shep needs to fix the power. Along the way, they encounter these…gross looking insect things called rachni that look like…blech!

GROSS ALERT GROSS ALERT GROSS ALERT! BLECH!

The rachni (Photo: media.moddb.com)

These things called Rachni crawl around and appear when you least expect them. They also spit this green venom at you and send their babies to try and kill you. They weren’t that difficult to eradicate, fortunately but were all over the place.

Shep manages to find the main Peak 15 computer called “Mira” that educates Shep a bit in what happened there. Shep then goes deep into the computer’s core to reset its modules.

Folks, at this point, it’s CASUAL GAMING TIME!! Yep, that’s right, Mass Effect has casual gaming puzzles within! In order to repair the computer, you are made to do a Hanoi Tower puzzle! At last! Something I am familiar with!! I mean, how many hidden object puzzle games have I played that had this puzzle in it??

Mass Effect’s Tower of Hanoi puzzle – ahoy! (Photo: img2.wikia.nocookie.net)

The power is restored, and everyone’s happy, right? Time to go home, Pepe? Not so fast!

In our journey to find the Bewwwbly Matriarch, we encounter a security Commander charged with looking after the area. He informs Shep that the place is overrun by rachni (no sh!t, Sherlock…). Mrs. Bewwbs is in the hot labs shaking things up in there. Finally, we confront her there looking after a rachni queen locked in a glass chamber and she tells us how overpowering Saren’s Jedi mind tricks has over her. She has a window of sanity that is open long enough to explain the rachni are trainable beings that were being bred there to create foot soldiers for the Saren “destroy all humans” campaign.

What comes next sounds vaguely familiar…Originally, rachni were bred by the Protheans and used by them to fight in war. Of course, like the geth, they learned too much and turned on their masters. Back then, they managed to wreck havoc in the galaxy. The Protheans tried to eradicate them, killing over 200 worlds in the process. But, they didn’t get them all, and they managed to breed and colonize.

Big bugs colonizing and wrecking havoc?? I feel like I am talking about roaches and the Orkin man, here.

Sure, he can solve your silverfish problem, but what about rachnis? (Photo: lh5.googleusercontent.com)

Anyway, things did not turn out well for Mrs. Bewwwbs…them hoots went to hooter heaven as she turned on Shep and crew, sending her troops on the attack. Shep made quick work of her.

The rachni queen talking through this asari soldier (who is actually dead…) (Photo: i1.ytimg.com)

The rachni queen locked in the glass chamber manages to talk to Shep through one of Mrs. Bewwbs’s dead asari soldiers, basically asking Shep to let her people go or kill them outright. Their life has been misery, and they just want to live in peace. She would make a point of teaching her children about Shep’s kindness. (Aww) I chose to let her go.

However, there are still evil rachni on Peak 15 that are beyond saving and continue to cause trouble. A neutron purge solved this after speaking with a lone researcher found in the hot labs who explains everything they were doing with the rachni there. Ironically, he gets impaled by a rachni, himself. Boo.

After eliminating the evil rachni, it was the end of this chapter. I have to say, this was the quickest chapter play ever in the game, and saw the most action. It flew by! I am managing to make sure I upgrade my weapons for each team member. I think this is what is helping me through the battles at this stage.

Instead of proceeding to my next chapter, I am taking the break to do some side missions that you can do if you want. Some of them involve landing on planets and picking up ore samples or investigating. Admittedly, I have had to bail out of a couple of them because the battle with some of the beasts was too intense, or I didn’t have enough technical experience to handle fixing certain things. Ah well.

Until next time…