the twisted genius of the game llama

Our tale began a few months ago… Xbox Marketplace was offering 300 free Microsoft points if you bought 2000 with your Visa card.  Never one to pass up a deal, I gave Microsoft my $25.  I figured I’d need some points eventually anyway.

Then the predicament: what to buy?  I could have waited for a happenin’ Gold Deal of the Week, but I needed games then and now!  Figured I’d catch up on one of the best games of 2009: Shadow Complex.  It’s a game that I had somehow missed – be it for the (at the time) high XBLA price of $15, or the already sizeable pile of unplayed games in my backlog, or just the fact that the demo felt like just another MetroidVania clone.  Nevertheless, I gave in to all the critical praise and picked it up.

Flash forward a few months to my first chance to really play it.  WHAM.  It’s awesome.  Before I started, I browsed through the list of achievements.  (It’s just what I do; I’m sure many of you are the same way with new games.)  “Get 100%” (Completionist), “Beat the game with less than 13% of items” (Minimalist), “Reach level 50” (Serious Complex), la de daa, nothing too unattainable, I hope.  But I have to replay the game to get all the points?  I do not approve.  I wouldn’t do that with Mass Effect, I don’t want to be forced to do it with Shadow Complex.

Until I played it.

For the first playthrough (on Normal), I scoured every corner and got the 100% achievement.  I only reached the pitiful experience level of 21, but man… I had a good time, and it only took roughly eight hours to find every single item.  Not too shabby, so I instantly restart the game and crank it up to Serious difficulty (for the experience boost) with the intent of getting as few items as possible for the “Minimalist” achievement.  I’m not done with this game yet; it feels like there’s still so much more to experience.

After pimping up main character Jason on the first game, I came to realize that, without sweet armor, it is VERY easy to die.  Or maybe it was the increase in difficulty.  On second thought, it was probably that.  But whatever.

I die a lot, and the game timer keeps going every time I reload from the last checkpoint.  That doesn’t feel fair – my actual playtime is being doubled just because I can only get shot twice!  Maybe the problem is that I have to keep jumping over all the health upgrades…

Neglecting all the exploring makes the game feel much different.  It becomes a lot more straightforward and action-y, but the increased enemy damage and decreased health means that I also had to do my fair share of sneaking: utilizing ventilation shafts, hiding behind boxes and lobbing grenades, letting the baddies’ friendly fire weaken their ranks before I charge them headfirst, usually to my death.  Still, like Guitar Hero III’s “Buy a guitar already” achievement, it encouraged a different style of play, and that’s neat.

After about four hours and dozens of deaths, I manage to complete the game with the maximum 13% of items collected.  Since exploring and item collecting is tied to experience points, I didn’t get nearly as many as I would have liked.  My second playthough got me to level 42, however.  Just eight more levels to the last achievement!  This ended up taking much, much longer than it should have… yet it seemed so close, and so attainable.

Shadow Complex only has twelve achievements for a paltry 200 gamerscore, but they are a good example of what is good – and bad – about the achievement-collecting metagame as a whole.  The good: each unique achievement rewards something different, be it collecting all the loot and searching every nook and cranny of the map, or neglecting yourself to the point at which even a simple henchman battle can be your last.

Also good: the achievements are spaced out, but lead you by just far enough to encourage you to keep playing.  First, get 100%.  Second, beat it with less than 13%.  Third, reach level 50.  Each achievement builds on the last so no single achievement seems so far out of reach as to be impossible.  After one playthough, I wasn’t even halfway to the Level 50 achievement.  After my second, it seemed within grasp.  Would I have played the whole game over again (and again) just for the last ten points?  No.  But would I play it again for ten, and then one more time on top of that for ten?  Looks like it.

The thing is: Shadow Complex is really a terrific game.  There’s a sense of exploration, of wonder, of progress, of achievement (pun intended).  If it wasn’t a pure joy to play, people wouldn’t complete it once, let alone three times, no matter the lure of a pittance of achievement points.

It also made me realize, as SC sat in my Xbox Game Library with 190/200 points – just waiting to be topped off – that completing a game (something I have done so very rarely) can feel just as satisfying as beating a game.  If an arbitrary “ba-DOOP” can make you feel so warm and fuzzy inside, perhaps you really have achieved something by attaining that last ten points: finishing what you started.  The personal satisfaction of conquering and utterly decimating every challenge thrown at you gives a great feeling of power.

… even if all I did was beat a video game.

What’s next, world?  Bring it on.  I aced Shadow Complex – I can handle anything you can throw at me.

Pac-Man eats Mario’s mushrooms.

Pac-Man’s ghosts eat Mario’s clothes.

Mario moons Pac-Man after working the pole.

In Russian.


Gotta love typos!  Check out this image from the Xbox Marketplace website:

0 Day Attack on Earth price typo

Focus here:

0 Day price onlyWhat a deal.

It’ll probably be fixed by release on Wednesday, or maybe it’s just trying to be like the Australian version of Mass Effect on Games on Demand?  That was 6,000 points… this might be the next step for Microsoft price gouging!

By: Nick Simberg | December 9th, 2009

So… I wrote a review for a little indie game called Beat Hazard a while back… and now I’m on the box!  Booyah.  Check it out here.  GL’s in the description too!  Suck it, world.

How many other guys (or websites or magazines, for that matter) get a plug right in the Xbox Live Marketplace game description?  I can’t think of any, honestly.  Go Gamer Limit.  I’ll be here all week.

Beat Hazard Marketplace image

Game Informer just celebrated its 200th issue.  Yay for surviving!  So, just like with issue 100 (except now with more!), they compiled a list of the “Top 200 Games of All Time.”  And, just like 100 issues ago, the original Legend of Zelda took top honors.  Eh.  Check this list out; did yours make it?  My favorite is number 30, “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivious.”  HA!  Just like the transcriber.

1. The Legend of Zelda (NES, 1987)
2. Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985)
3. Tetris (PC, 1984)
4. Grand Theft Auto III (PS2, 2001)
5. Half-Life 2 (PC, 2004)
6. Doom (PC, 1993)
7. Metroid (NES, 1986)
8. Final Fantasy III (SNES, 1994)
9. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES, 1990)
10. Ms. Pac-Man (Coin-op, 1981)
11. World of Warcraft (PC, 2004)
12. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1992)
13. Super Mario 64 (N64, 1996)
14. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PS3/360/PC, 2007)
15. Final Fantasy VII (PS, 1997)
16. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (NES, 1987)
17. Chrono Trigger (SNES, 1995)
18. Resident Evil 4 (GameCube, 2005)
19. Metal Gear Solid (PS, 1998)
20. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 1998)
21. Super Metroid (SNES, 1994)
22. Contra (NES, 1988)
23. Galaga (Coin-op, 1981)
24. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS, 1997)
25. Street Fighter II (Coin-op, 1991)
26. God of War (PS2, 2005)
27. BioShock (360/PC, 2007)
28. Diablo II (PC, 2000)
29. Half-Life (PC, 1998)
30. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivious (360/PC, 2006)
31. Tecmo Super Bowl (NES, 1991)
32. GoldenEye 007 (N64, 1997)
33. Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992)
34. Sonic the Hedgehog (SEGA Genesis, 1991)
35. Starcraft (PC, 1998)
36. Civilization (PC, 1991)
37. SimCity (PC, 1989)
38. Mega Man 2 (NES, 1988)
39. Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox, 2001)
40. Gran Turismo (PS, 1998)
41. Resident Evil 2 (PS, 1998)
42. Pokemon Red and Blue (GB, 1996)
43. Final Fantasy X (PS2, 2001)
44. EverQuest (PC, 1999)
45. Final Fantasy Tactics (PS, 1998)
46. Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3/360, 2008)
47. Super Mario World (SNES, 1991)
48. Deus Ex (PC, 2000)
49. Guitar Hero (PS2, 2005)
50. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS2, 2001)
51. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, 2007)
52. Pac-Man (Coin-op, 1980)
53. Battlefield 2 (PC, 2005)
54. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox, 2003)
55. Ico (PS2, 2001)
56. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3, 2009)
57. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (PS, 2000)
58. Mass Effect (360, 2007)
59. Adventure (2600, 1980)
60. Arkanoid (Coin-op, 1986)
61. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (GB, 1993)
62. Star Wars: X-Wing (PC, 1993)
63. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64, 2000)
64. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, 2004)
65. Fallout 3 (PS3/360/PC, 2008)
66. Zork (PC, 1980)
67. Soul Calibur (DC, 1999)
68. Double Dragon (Coin-op, 1987)
69. Dr. Mario (NES, 1990)
70. The Sims (PC, 2000)
71. Age of Empires (PC, 1997)
72. Mortal Kombat II (Coin-op, 1993)
73. Rock Band 2 (PS3/360, 2008)
74. Tomb Raider (PS, 1996)
75. Super Bomberman (SNES, 1993)
76. Mario’s Picross (GB, 1995)
77. Ninja Gaiden (NES, 1989)
78. Command & Conquer (PC, 1995)
79. Kingdom Hearts (PS2, 2002)
80. Final Fantasy II (SNES, 1991)
81. Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES, 1988)
82. Left 4 Dead (PC, 2008)
83. Okami (PS2, 2006)
84. Shadow of the Colossus (PS2, 2005)
85. Metroid Prime (GameCube, 2002)
86. Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube, 2001)
87. Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (PC, 1995)
88. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (PC, 2000)
89. God of War II (PS2, 2007)
90. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, 2006)
91. Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PS2, 2004)
92. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (PC, 2002)
93. Skies of Arcadia (DC, 2000)
94. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (GameCube, 2003)
95. Silent Hill 2 (PS2, 2001)
96. Counter-Strike (PC, 1999)
97. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Genesis, 1992)
98. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS3/360, 2009)
99. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PS2/Xbox/GameCube/PC, 2003)
100. Portal (PC/360, 2007)
101. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC, 2002)
102. Heroes of Might & Magic III (PC, 1999)
103. Donkey Kong (Coin-op, 1981)
104. Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3/360, 2009)
105. System Shock 2 (PC, 1999)
106. Resident Evil (PS, 1996)
107. Gears of War (360, 2006)
108. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3, 2008)
109. Crash Bandicoot: Warped (PS, 1998)
110. Halo 2 (Xbox, 2004)
111. Tetris Attack (SNES, 1996)
112. Final Fantasy XII (PS2, 2006)
113. Earthbound (SNES, 1995)
114. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (PC, 1998)
115. Command & Conquer: Red alert (PC, 1996)
116. Advance Wars (GBA, 2001)
117. Fallout (PC, 1997)
118. Team Fortress 2 (PS3/360/PC, 2007)
119. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (Xbox, 2005)
120. Mega Man X (SNES, 1994)
121. Lemmings (PC, 1991)
122. Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn, 1998)
123. NHL ‘94 (SEGA Genesis/SNES, 1993)
124. Warlords (Coin-op, 1980)
125. Shadowrun (SNES, 1993)
126. Twisted Metal 2 (PS, 1996)
127. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee (PS, 1997)
128. Metroid Fusion (GBA, 2002)
129. Homeworld (PC, 1999)
130. Kingdom Hearts II (PS2, 2006)
131. Pilotwings (SNES, 1991)
132. Quake II (PC, 1997)
133. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (PC, 1997)
134. Borderlands (PS3/360/PC, 2009)
135. Final Fight (Coin-op, 1989)
136. Star Fox (SNES, 1993)
137. Madden NFL ‘99 (PS/N64/PC, 1999)
138. Call of Duty 2 (360/PC, 2005)
139. Wolfenstein 3D (PC, 1992)
140. Diablo (PC, 1996)
141. Civilization IV (PC, 2005)
142. Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle (PC, 1993)
143. Assassin’s Creed (PS3/360, 2007)
144. Burnout 3: Takedown (PS2/Xbox, 2004)
145. Unreal Tournament 2004 (PC, 2004)
146. Power Stone 2 (DC, 2000)
147. Super Castlevania IV (SNES, 1991)
148. Super Mario RPG (SNES, 1996)
149. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (PC, 2002)
150. ActRaiser (SNES, 1991)
151. Fable (Xbox, 2004)
152. Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (PS2, 2003)
153. Asteroids (Coin-op, 1979)
154. LittleBigPlanet (PS3, 2008)
155. Crackdown (360, 2007)
156. Gauntlet (Coin-op, 1985)
157. Devil May Cry (PS2, 2001)
158. Pong (Coin-op, 1972)
159. Battlefield 1942 (PC, 2002)
160. Thief (PC, 1998)
161. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (360, 2005)
162. Far Cry (PC, 2004)
163. Robotron: 2084 (Coin-op, 1982)
164. X-COM: UFO Defense (PC, 1993)
165. Peggle (PC, 2007)
166. King’s Quest VI (PC, 1992)
167. Doom II (PC, 1994)
168. Tempest 2000 (Jaguar, 1994)
169. Braid (360, 2008)
170. Ridge Racer (PS, 1995)
171. Bully (PS2, 2006)
172. Ikaruga (GameCube, 2006)
173. Lode Runner (Apple II, 1983)
174. Gunstar Heroes (SEGA Genesis, 1993)
175. Dig Dug (Coin-op, 1982)
176. Castlevania (NES, 1988)
177. Tekken 3 (Coin-op, 1997)
178. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS, 2005)
179. NBA Jam: Tournament Edition (Coin-op, 1993)
180. Max Payne (PC, 2001)
181. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3/360/PC, 2009)
182. Samurai Shodown (Neo Geo, 1993)
183. NFL 2K5 (PS2/Xbox, 2004)
184. Vagrant Story (PS, 2000)
185. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SNES, 1995)
186. Marble Madness (Coin-op, 1984)
187. Infamous (PS3, 2009)
188. Planescape: Torment (PC, 1999)
189. Kid Icarus (NES, 1986)
190. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (Xbox, 2004)
191. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2, 2004)
192. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (GameCube, 2002)
193. Jak 3 (PS2, 2004)
194. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (DC, 2002)
195. Ultima (PC, 1981)
196. Call of Duty (PC, 2003)
197. NHL 09 (PS3/360, 2008)
198. Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (Xbox, 2004)
199. Tactics Ogre (PS, 1997)
200. Beyond Good and Evil (PS2/Xbox/GameCube, 2003)

Source: Nintendo Everything

Not much to say about this one.  Kinda funny.  Enjoy!

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 broke the record for an entertainment property’s first-day sales with some $311 million dollars, stomping the Microsoft-exclusive Halo 3, which trumped previous title holder Spider-Man 2 (the movie).  That’s fine.  That’s cool.  And, after all the hype, that’s to be expected.

Still, I heard this news first delivered on Minnesota Public Radio by news guy Bob Collins in the most elitist, down-talking way imaginable.

Now, 89.3 The Current, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is probably one of the finest radio stations in the entire world.  Yes, they bring up the point that “you can’t hear this music on other stations” a lot, but it’s true.  They focus on local music, indie music, and a few “pop” songs like Weezer, Muse, and Modest Mouse (if those can truly be considered pop).

They are a completely public radio station, meaning that they rely on donations and listener support.  Personally, I send them $10 a month for making my car rides 100x more bearable.

But when Mr. Collins delivered the news about Modern Warfare 2, he could not have sounded more out of the times, or more patronizing.  I believe it was something like this:

Modern Warfare 2 broke the single-day sales record for an entertainment property yesterday, with over $311 million in sales in North America and the U.K. alone.  That’s a lot of – I don’t want to say children, because I know they’re not children – that’s a lot of grown-ups with too much time on their hands.”

Seriously, Bob?  Every afternoon, you come over from MPR News to sit down with (and flirt incessantly with) Barb Abney and deliver your headlines.  You know she’s a DJ, right?  She spends her days and gets PAID to listen to music and talk on the phone all day.

People who play games are “grown-ups with too much time on their hands”?!  How about people who read fiction books?  How about people who go and see indie films at the local theater?

How about people who spend their days and nights listening to music instead of doing something productive, hmm?

Games are a hobby, but they are not entirely without merit.  The storytelling is finally advancing to a point where a game’s narrative is actually a priority for developers.  The twitch-reactions of first-person shooters increase hand-eye coordination by many times.  And it was even revealed in a recent study that FPS’s help increase night-vision abilities in humans.

So don’t you stand there in your ivory tower built on the backs of hardworking musicians that have probably played hundreds of shows for little more than applause.  A VIDEO GAME is the most popular single piece of technology of all time.  Not a CD.  Not a movie.  Not a book.

What else do they have to do to earn your respect?  What else do they have to do to be considered a viable entertainment medium by you elitist hipsters?

Yes, popular does not equal good.  But popular does signify acceptance.  If the world has finally accepted video games as their favorite entertainment medium, perhaps you, Mr. Collins, should get with the times.  You don’t want to be one of those kinds of people that still think the Internet is a “fad,” do you?

I am incredibly tempted to cancel my membership to The Current based on this statement alone.  Perhaps if I really have “too much time on my hands,” I shouldn’t be wasting it listening to the radio.   That’s as unproductive as playing a video game, isn’t it?

Gamer SOCKS.
By: Nick Simberg | November 9th, 2009

Perusing the Gamer Limit homepage, you see an ad in the top right corner.  Sometimes it’s to increase your already powerful man-muscles with herbal supplements.  Or it’s an ad for Dragon Age.  One time, it was an Indian dating website.

Now, one-upping the Gillete Fusion gamer’s razor: Hanes gamer socks.  Not for DDR dance mats.  Just… to wear when you game.

Hanes Gamer Socks

Can’t pwn n00b$ without a sturdy pair of cotton socks.  Gamers have smellier feet; that’s why Hanes had to go back to the lab to rework the formula specifically for us stinky nerd-types.

Hanes goes above and beyond the call of duty, however.  They also offer links to Gamer Tips that they even made themselves, offering advice on common gamer issues like hand exercises and posture for comfort, and even what to wear to game most comfortably and effectively.

So the next time you want to Rock Your Socks Off in Rock Band, make sure you have a pair of these things hanging around.

See the (totally real) site here.

Street Fighter Tattoo

The term “epic fail” is thrown around a lot, but I don’t know if it applies any moreso than right here.  Unless it’s meant as a joke/critique on society… but for some reason, I really don’t think so.

From @jaredr‘s Twitter.  (It’s not his arm, though.)

But this… is his tattoo.  Looks like it hurt.  Hope he never gets fat.

Jaredr's SF tattoo

New games come out all the time, and we are forced to upgrade.  This especially applies to online games, where the lobbies empty – and stay that way – shortly after release, as gamers move back to their old Halo 3 or Call of Duty standby.  Tattoos last longer than the video game industry has been around.  Seems a little… permanent, doesn’t it?

A world unto itself
By: Nick Simberg | October 27th, 2009

No matter how networked our games and gamers will become with the ever-increasing popularity of Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, every game will continue to be separate from each other – there will never be one all-powerful uber-game, no matter how hard WoW may try.

Each game contains – and is – its own separate universe.  There are ups and down, spectacular features as well as flaws.  Even similar games have their own identity.  Even clones of more popular titles…

You can’t take a step to the right in Halo 3 and then find yourself magically in Halo Wars.  Whereas human cities merge and mesh in ways that keep you from telling where one ends and the other begins, games are segmented.  Fractured.  Individuals.

Like humans.

When I was a mere blogger, I was in my own little world.  True, every word I wrote could be read by people across the Internet, but it never really felt that way, even if an occasional comment was left.  I had my deep, black background and my neon green text.  It was mine.  Occasionally, the outside world would peek its head in to let me know it was listening, but, in general, I felt left to my own devices, my own thoughts, and my own desires.

If there was a news story I wanted to comment on, I did.  If there was a funny video I found, I posted it.  When I wanted to delve into my vast backlog of classic games for a nostalgic moment, that was okay too.  Anything and everything was fair game.  I was my own world.

Now, things are different.  I am no longer an isolated incident, saying whatever I want with no regard for how the universe might react.  I am part of a bigger world – Gamer Limit.  With thousands upon thousands of readers, I have an audience.  It forces me to not only improve my writing, but also to write for them, no longer just for myself.  When I find an interesting news story, I can share it, but in a more informative manner.  No longer allowed are the meandering thoughts of a carefree wild alpaca.  Now, focus is required.

This isn’t a bad thing, just… different.  Better?  If I expect to get an eventual career in this field, then yes, it’s better.  If I want to write whatever I want with no regard for readership, my blog will never become anything more than a hobby.  I am my own world, but Gamer Limit is a spiral galaxy in which I have as much gravity as the next solar body.

Working as a cohesive unit, the galaxy will grow, absorbing lesser universes’ power as it expands to a greater mass with every published article.  Eventually, hopefully, I will be an inhabitable world supporting my own biospheres, life cycles, and food chains.  Until then, I am content to merely do my part, and watch the stars.