Thursday, May 24, 2007

Achievement Chowdown

Well, I'm just about finished with my latest XBL arcade phase—Eets: Chowdown. When I was a kid, I was a big fan of both Lemmings (coming soon to PS3 "arcade") and The Incredible Machine games. Eets is a spiritual successor to both and, I'm relieved to say, a lot of fun. Of course, I'm also a girl and Eets himself is irrestibly cute!

In light of recent talk about the addictive quality of achievement-getting, I should also mention that the game is simple to "achieve"—with two small exceptions: one that's painfully difficult and one that's only a slight obstacle.

Double Marshoburger

Eets: Chowdown comes equipped with a fun, addictive shooter game called "Marsho Madness." Some people think it's more fun than the regular game. I think it's a neat add-on. Basically, items march inexorably toward your Eets (firmly rooted in place at the center of the screen). Each item is labeled with a button combo (like "X, Y, B") that must be entered in before you pull the trigger. Type the combo accurately and the items will be destroyed. Of course, there are all sorts of little variations, but that's the crux of the game.

The Double Marshoburger achievement is awarded to players who score 1,000,000 points in a single game. This is painfully difficult. According to the Eets leaderboards, only about 40 people have actually managed to accrue a cool million points in Marsho Madness. Determined to join their ranks, I searched all the best achievement websites (of which there are really only three). I found the best strategies on, where Chamaelleo gives a detailed "guide" with pointers on how to join the 1000k club. The only tidbit I want to stress is that your score is heavily dependent upon your multiplier, which resets whenever you die. So, like in Geometry Wars, longevity is definitely rewarded.

Ninja Skillz

In the regular Eets game, you place various items on the screen to guide your little Eets creature towards a puzzle piece (placed in a different part of a unique landscape for each puzzle). The Ninja Skillz achievement is awarded to players who complete 20 puzzles without using three or more of items provided for that puzzle. This is the "slight obstacle" achievement. Honestly, all it takes is a slightly obsessive personality and a bit of patience.

Many of my Ninja Skills puzzles were a matter of only a little ingenuity and a whole lot of running the puzzle over and over again so that Eets would bounce in just the right way.

After finishing the game (and during my search for Marsho Madness tips), I found the Xbox forums to have the best collection of Ninja Skillz puzzle solutions. In case anyone is curious, here are my 23 Ninja solutions:

Smore Land 6
Just use the Prankster Whale. Face left. Place the whale to the right of Eets with its tail brushing up against the bush and a little below the level where Eets is. When the game starts, suck up Eets and he should fall right to the puzzle piece platform. (The same method was described by MysticWeirdo.)

Smore Land 9
Just use the Ginseng Factory. Face left. Place the factory on the platform next to Eets, between the two GiftBoxes. When Eets is about to jump, shoot him with ginseng so that he falls to the Explodomallows below and gets the puzzle piece. The Ginseng Factory placement isn't all that important—it's all in the timing. (The same method was described by Alexalted.)

Smore Land 14
Just use the Prankster Whale. Face right. Place the whale between the pink tree and the GiftBox. The whale's bottom fin should be just touching the top of Eets' head. When the game starts, wait for Eets to start his jump off the platform, then suck him up and he should go up off the screen and back down onto the skinny pillar in the center. When he lands to the right, shoot him with the Choco Cloud until he falls off. Whether he eats the happy bud or not, he should get the puzzle piece. (The same method was described by Syanaide.)

Kaboom Desert 2
Just use the Prankster Whale. Face left. Place the whale above and to the right of Eets. The whale's tail should be nestled as high as possible in the mouth crevice of the rock man. When the game starts, grab Eets immediately and toss him up off the screen and into the mess of Happy Marshmallow Buds. If he lands right, the Sleepy Sow won't be set off until Eets bumps it. Then Eets will get hit in the explosion, fall down, and jump to the puzzle piece. (The same method was described by Xebu.)

Kaboom Desert 3
Just use the Prankster Whale. Face right. Place it above and between the Happy Marshmallow Bud and Ginseng Factory. The Whale's eye should be level with the Giant Marhsmallow's eyes. When the game starts, shoot Ginseng to make Eets angry. Grab Eets with the whale and toss him towards the Sneezy Sow. Your goal is to bounce Eets straight up off the pig, where he'll then get caught to the left and eventually fall down onto the puzzle piece. (An alternate and even trickier method was described by Xebu.)

Kaboom Desert 7
Just use the Prankster Whale. Face fight. Place it overlapping Eets up and to the left. The whale's upper fin should meet its body just below the tip of the rock man's nose. When the game starts, use the whale to toss Eets into the upper Explodomallow. He will rebound onto the far right platform, then rustle the Explodomallows enough so that they eventually fall and clear a path to the puzzle piece—while Eets is on the left platform.

Kaboom Desert 15
Just use the SpringBoard. Rotate 15x and place it under Eets. The right edge of the SpringBoard should be not quite touching the lower-left protrusion on the cactus. When the game starts, activate the SpringBoard. If placed and timed correctly, Eets will bump his head on this platform and land to the right. Eets will eat the Angry Marshmallow Bud, then the Explodomallow, and be sent flying into the puzzle piece.
(The same method was described by MysticWeirdo.)

Kaboom Desert 16
Just use the Prankster Whale. Face right. Place it in the pit to the left of the second present from the bottom. The whale's tail will slightly overlap the barrier to his left and his mouth is just below the bottom of the present. When the game starts, hit B to shoot the Angry Marshmallow Bud
(AMB). It will explode some stuff, then fall down through the pit, where you quickly hit Y to shoot it into the last remaining Explodomallow. If your whale is positioned properly, the AMB will bounce off the center rocks, then down into the pit one last time. Grab it again to launch the AMB to rest on the far right platform. Meanwhile, Eets is bumping into the Sneezy Sow enough times to eventually break through to the pit. When he does, grab Eets with Y and launch him onto that far right platform. Eets will eat the AMB, then jump into the puzzle piece. (An easier and more elegant solution was described by Mystic Weirdo.)

Ginseng Hollow 5
Just use the Sneezy Sow. Face tail to the right. Place the pig to the left of the Ginseng Factory. When the game starts, hit X immediately so that the pig will clear the way to the puzzle piece. If the pig is in the right position (and not in the middle of its exploding animation), Eets will trip off the ledge, rebound off the pig, and bounce into the puzzle piece. (The same method was described by MysticWeirdo.)

Ginseng Hollow 14
(I used the same method OniKenkyaku used in his video on YouTube.)

Ginseng Hollow 16
Use the SpringBoard and Prankster Whale. Place the SpringBoard flat below Eets. Place the whale to the right of the x2 multiplier and centered below the Sneezy Sow. (The whale should face right and the tip of his tail should be below the "2.") When the game starts, bounce Eets to the upper SpringBoard, then hit Y when he is near the bottom of the second SpringBoard. Eets should bounce off the first flower, then over the second flower and into the Explodomallows. If you do this just right, he'll bounce straight up when they explode and down into the Sneezy Sow. Grab him with your whale when he walks into reach, then rebound Eets off the bottom of the far right vines.

Marshomech Lair 2
Use the Scared Marshmallow Bud and Ginseng Factory. Place the scared bud on the small platform to the left of Eets. Place the Ginseng Factory up against the left side of the Marshomech. When the game starts, shoot the Marshomech once to get it to storm to the left side of its platform. Shoot ginseng again to turn on the light bulb next to the Prankster Whale. Meanwhile, Eets will jump down, become afraid, and sneak past the Marshomech. Once Eets is to the right of your Ginseng Factory, shoot him four times to make him angry. He'll jump up to the whale and you can fire him up into the puzzle piece. Be careful not to shoot Eets off the ledge or turn off the light bulb once it's lit. (OniKenkyaku suggests
a trickier—but much better—method.)

Marshomech Lair 6
Just use the Ejection Cart. Place it on the far left side of the flat peak near Eets. When the game starts, Eets will climb up into the cart. As soon as it starts to roll, eject Eets so that he bumps his head on the rocks (and Happy Marshmallow Bud) above him. Eets will eat the
bud, become happy, and eventually make his way over to the puzzle piece. (This is really similar to the solution posted by OniKenkyaku.)

Marshomech Lair 8
Just use the Prankster Whale. Place it above Eets. (The corner of his mouth is above the tiny pink pyramid below and the top of his back is just below the bottom of the first gift Eets will get.) When the game starts, immediately grab Eets with the whale. He will run ito the pointy crystals, but keep falling to the right. Bouncing off the Sneezy Sow, then the far right wall, he'll trigger the Angry Switch, turn around, and leap straight to the puzzle piece. (This is a super snazzy method, but much harder than the solution posted by chrille331.)

Marshomech Lair 11
Use the Sneezy Sow and Prankster Whale. Face both the whale and the pig's tail to the right. The pig goes in the pit below the other Sneezy Sow. Place the whale to the left of Eets. When the game starts, shoot chocolate once to clear out the bottom of the pig's pit. Grab Eets with the whale until he gets the puzzle piece. For me, that was three times: first, Eets bounced up to the left; second Eets bounced off the Choco Cloud; third, Eets bounced off the Sneezy Sow and into the puzzle piece. (The method described by MysticWeirdo seems a little easier, but OniKenkyaku has a lot of success with this alternate version.)

Marshomech Lair 15
Use the Prankster Whale and TNT Cart. The whale faces right; the cart is not rotated. Place the whale below and to the right of Eets. It should cover the left half of the gap over the x2 multiplier and the whale's tail should just touch the little spiral pattern on the ledge. Place the TNT cart between the Marshomech and the Explodomallow. When the game starts, make sure nothing explodes. If it does, reposition your cart and start over. If the cart is set, use the whale to grab Eets and he will bounce strangely along the top ledge and crystal and fly over the Marshomech—who should be heading towards the whale. When Eets is over the TNT cart, hit Y and he will explode into the the puzzle piece. (Onikenkyaku's solution is way cooler.)

Topsy Turvy 2
Just use the Prankster Whale and SpringBoard. The whale faces right; the SpringBoard is rotated 12x. Place the whale between the Choco Cloud and the right-facing Metal Reflector. The whale's tail should be centered on the Choco Cloud. Place the SpringBoard directly right of the puzzle piece, brushing against the right side of the Metal Reflector. When the game starts, an Explodomallow causes the Marshomech to stampede towards the Happy Switch. When Eets is happy, shoot him up off the screen with your whale. Eets will walk along the top, then jump down on the right. Use the SpringBoard to fling Eets into the puzzle piece. (The same method was described by dwinch.)

Topsy Turvy 3
Don't use any items. When the game starts, wait for Eets to run into Bob. This will cause the TNT cart to fall down and roll over the Happy Switch. When it does, press Y to clear a path to the switch. Then, press B one ba-jillion times to fill that space with choco chips. Eventually, one will fall down and hit the Happy Switch. When Eets is happy, you can grab him with the whale, then launch him up to the right of the Choco Cloud. Barrage Eets with chips and you might eventually hit him just right so that he flies into the puzzle piece. This takes a million tries, but it's lots of fun—in a sadistic sort of way. (I am so embarassed at how many attempts I made before I got this... especially after seeing MysticWeirdo's astoundingly simple solution.)

Topsy Turvy 5
Just use the SpringBoard. Rotate 15x. Place it so that Eets is nearly resting on the left half of the SpringBoard. When the game starts, spring Eets up and to the left. Before he reappears onscreen, shoot ginseng at the Giant Marshmallow so that it hits Eets on the head while he is walking on the platform below. If you time this correctly, the Giant Marshmallow will bump Eets and send him into the Explodomallows. They will explode and Eets will fall down into the puzzle piece. (I came across two other methods by MysticWeirdo and OniKenkyaku.)

Topsy Turvy 13
(I used the same method OniKenkyaku used in his video on YouTube.)

Topsy Turvy 16
(I used the same method OniKenkyaku used in his video on YouTube.)

Smore Mishmash 2
Use the Happy Marshmallow Bud and Prankster Whale. Place the bud on the platform with Eets. The whale faces right. Place it below the second Happy Emotion Platform. The bottom of the whale should be brushing along the bottom edge of the screen. When the game starts, begin firing ginseng to make Eets angry (use the Metal Reflector and hit him when he's onthat first emotion platform). When Eets is angry, he'll fall down to your whale. Spit him back up into the puzzle piece. (This method is far less brilliant than OniKenkyaku's.)

Smore Mishmash 5
Use the Ginseng Factory, SpringBoard, and Choco Cloud. The factory faces right; the SpringBoard rotates 4x. Place the factory near the left of the Sneezy Sow. Place the SpringBoard below the Emotion Platforms and lined up with the puzzle piece. Place the Choco Cloud to the left of the Marshomech, up next to the GiftBox. When the game starts, shoot the Sneezy Sow with ginseng to make it blow up the platform under Eets. Eets will fall down, bump into the Choco Cloud, and walk the other direction. On his second pass over the Scared Emotion Platform, he'll trigger the Angry Switch and fall down. Use the SpringBoard to fling him into the Puzzle Piece.

Once I realized the achievement would be pretty easy, I stopped obsessing over every single puzzle. And when you finally get the achievement, it's hard to even bother looking. But there are two in the last world that I seem to recall being pretty easy to get (in case you're stuck trying to get any of the others).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Boston, Politics, and Games

Mayor Thomas Menino is catching heat from some corners of the gaming community for his "encouraging" remarks in light of last month's conference at Northeastern. You can get the full scoop at GamePolitics, but here you will find my two cents:

An important understanding.

Menino is a politician. And politicians notoriously say all sorts of things to get money and votes. Take, for instance, the hot quote from The Boston Globe being cited by angry gamers: "We want to help these young people and entrepreneurs understand that we’re a digital-friendly city. My administration is dedicated to helping creative industries flourish."

You see? He wants to help developers! The MA government is going to offer aid to entrepreneurs who want to start game companies in Boston. That's great news. Why are people upset about this?

Well, because Menino has held some pretty controversial stances on gaming legislation and advertisement in Boston. The three noteworthy issues:
  • Last February, a letter was issued to the MBTA demanding the removal of M-rated videogame ads from MBTA trains and buses. Menino eventually signed that letter.
  • Last November, Menino announced plans to sue Sony for PS3 launch-related disturbances at the Sony store in Copley.
  • In January, legislation was proposed preventing the sale of M-rated games to minors in MA. Menino supported (if not motivated) the drafting of this legislation.

The devil's advocate.

What I would like to point out is that these are three relatively benign stances to have held.

(1) This advertising controversy is old news. Remember when cigarette companies were catching so much heat for using cartoons like Joe Cool to promote their products? But since a small non-profit in Boston will never successfully stop Rockstar's GTA campaign (after all, playing M-rated games, unlike smoking, is still legal for minors), they target the people purchasing the ads. Should game companies be marketing violent games to children? Probably not. Are we able to stop this without infringing on developer's freedom to market their products? I don't know. Furthermore, it wasn't Menino who decided M-rated games were the equivalent of X-rated movies. That was silly Daniel Grabauskas at the MBTA.

(2) And, yes, Menino is sueing Sony for the "disturbances" at their store in Copley. And, yes, it was the fault of the Sony Store. For not releasing numbers, for encouraging customers to wait in a mob on the other side of the street, for doing all of this without giving a heads up to local law enforcement. At every Best Buy in the Boston area that night, the store manager visited at least once, an orderly line was formed, and police were warned about the possible chaos. I don't blame Menino for sueing Sony. (I might point out that Menino didn't even sign that MBTA letter until the absurdity of the PS3 launch. Maybe our fine mayor was thinking how stupid and violent gamers can be.)

(3) The legislation. I've made it clear in the past how I feel about this. The gaming industry absolutely should be allowed to make a game with any content they choose. And children of any age, with their parents' support, should be allowed to play those games. But the fact remains that 13-year-old children should not be buying M-rated games. Or R-rated movies, for that matter. As a sales associate at a game store, I will not sell M-rated games to minors. And I will not sell them to parents without making sure they're aware of the content. The proposed MA legislation is a little insane (preventing minors from purchasing any game that "lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors"?), but its intention is the same.

End rant.

So that's what I think about all that. Of course Menino is pandering a bit in order to win political and financial confidence. But he isn't all that much of a hypocrite. I'm not sure I would have made any of his decisions differently. And I'm as devoted a gamer as you can get.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Have Achievement Points™ Ruined Gaming?

In my post about the Shivering Isles, I wondered whether Achievements have ruined gaming. (Or maybe ruined me as a gamer.) Dead Rising, which has received acclaim for its creative use of Achievements, seems like exactly the sort of game that is either making our lives as gamers more wonderful... or more revolting. If anyone has any advice for how I might cure my illness...

Just to re-cap.

From my ruminations on Shivering Isles: "And that's why Achievements are a beautiful thing. (Or are they?) I visit all the changing rooms at the Willamette Mall... because it's an achievement. I comb the Pacific City skyline for orbs... because it's an achievement. GoW II rested in its original wrapping for weeks and even Puzzle Quest is hardly enough to lure me away from my 360. My PS3 is gathering dust (mostly) and my Wii is left by the wayside. All because of those lovely, addictive, damned points. Seriously... why would I ever play Cloning Clyde instead of Twilight Princess!?!"

The sad reality.

There is an achievement in Dead Rising that requires you to kill 53,594 zombies in a single play-through. (That's the exact population of Willamette, according to the opening cinema.) After browsing the message boards, my boyfriend discovered that the best way to earn this achievement is to take a car into the maintenance tunnels, do a quick loop to mow down any zombies in your path, then rinse and repeat. About 150 times.

To me, this represents the ultimate in gaming insanity. Yesterday, I watched him drive this monotonous route for nearly 3 hours of straight, tedious gameplay. All for an Achievement. He is currently spending another 7 hours playing through the game a third time (and wrestling with some pretty frustrating AI) so that he can escort 50 survivors successfully (and answer all the transceiver calls). And when he's finished this, I have no doubt that he will play through a fourth time to get any achievements he might be missing. This is insane! This I do not condone! This is exactly... what I want to do now! I'm not proud of this weakness. Why should we keep playing a game when it becomes painful? Aren't there a hundred beautifully designed games begging for our attention? Is any frackin' game worth 200 Achievement Points?

But whether or not they foresaw the Achievement craze, Microsoft must be feeling pretty smart about now. I am buying and playing games for this system because of Achievements. Of course there are exceptions. (Any true gamer buys a game like Rainbow Six: Vegas on 360 because of online play.) But why preorder GTA IV or Assassin's Creed for 360 when they will be co-released—and potentially more graphically stunning—on PS3? Because that's exactly what I did.

I have absolutely no defensible point to argue here.