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Love Letters Discovered

Daily Grind Daily Grind: Minecraft's Cheeky Chops Sam's avatar
Cheeky Chops
So, despite being able to carry sixty-four blocks of cobblestone in a single slot (keeping in mind that the hole left after removing two blocks is enough for a man to stand in), it would appears that only a single raw pork chop can exist in the same space.

Therefore by process of elimination, I have deduced that either Minecraft's pork chops are so slimy that stacking them is impossible, or that they are big enough to bring a whole new meaning to 'eat-all-you can'.

Other hypotheses welcome...
Daily Grind: Monster Hunter Tri Ian's avatar
Monster Huntin
I really had no idea what Monster Hunter was when picking this game up. I'd briefly watched Josh play a few minutes of Monster Hunter Freedom 2, and understood it to be a sort of like the parts of an MMO which are dull (grinding for drops/resource gathering/crafting) made into a janky action game with long load times. I also know that the Monster Hunter games are obscenely popular over in Japan, so figured there was probably something I was not getting. As I am not the biggest handheld game player, this Wii game seemed like a great way to get into the series to see if I can figure it out especially as it seems technically much more competent than the PSP games.

Awesome: Classic Controlling - Tutorials - Get you Going - Kill a Thing - Hmm, Upgrades

Boresome: Camera Issues

So wait, Monster Hunting? Is that in this game? Read on to find out.
Daily Grind: Blur Online Multiplayer Beta Josh's avatar
Baby Girl, I'm A Blur
Despite the numerous Wipeout games that have been released across Sony’s platforms over the last few years, none have held more significance than the first game in the series which was released alongside the PlayStation in 1995. With an aesthetic crafted by retro-minimalist graphic design studio The Designers Republic and a soundscape of european electronica plucked from from the decade’s burgeoning scene, the game’s success was a product of zeitgeist as much as effective design.

It’s interesting then to see Bizarre Creations, whose 1996 release Formula 1 was just as instrumental to the PlayStation’s early success (at least in Europe) as Wipeout, take inspiration from its former publisher’s futuristic racing series. Their latest title, Blur, is a weaponised racer which presents the technological stopgap between the modern supercars of our world and the anti-gravity vessels of the Feisar corporation.

Far from rehashing a dormant genre, the studio has been keen to talk up the social aspects of their game. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are cited as being just as essential to Blur’s design as the racing games the studio has spent the previous 14 years of its existence producing. Curious to see this fusion of combative competition and social interaction, I spent some time with the multiplayer beta that’s currently running on Xbox Live.

Awesome: Power Play - Pole Position - Social Climber - The Neon Handshake

Boresome: Stopping Power - The Twits

To find out whether the Blur Online Multiplayer Beta lives up to its acronym, Read on!
Grind-In: Final Fantasy XIII - Chapter 5-8 Ian's avatar
I had a cat called lightning once
It’s been a long straight road over the last 12 or so hours of my continued playthrough of Final Fantasy XIII, but I’m still as eager to play more of it as I ever always. It is a bit strange when you stop to think that all the game really boils down is running down a road and fighting the 5-10 fights needed to make it to the next cutscene. You occasionally stop to fiddle with your Crystarium or upgrade some weapons, but those seem pretty linear too. Any time I start trying to describe the things in this game it sound boring, but it’s somehow not actually boring to play. Let’s see how boring I can make all this stuff sound.

Read on for more of my continued playthrough of this thing.
Daily Grind: Splinter Cell Conviction Demo Ian's avatar
Im sam, and Im shooting guys.
Ubisoft must have had some sort of renaissance recently and discovered the lost art of making Splinter Cell games. I've been a long time fan of the series, and have played every game including both versions of Double Agent. While I'm glad they didn't go with the totally crazy Hobo-Sam Fisher version from 2007, I have been a bit worried about the direction they've been talking about taking the franchise in over the last few months. To boil it down, everything they've said has sounded like they are planning on making it more of a shooter than a stealth game. While I can see how a shooter will almost certainly have more general appeal these days, there are a million other shooters around so it would be a shame to lose the one thing that made Splinter Cell unique.

I'm please to report that yes there is some stealth left in the game if the demo is anything to go by, but at the same time you can get through the entire demo with relatively little problem just by immediately shooting everyone you come across. In fact it's probably considerably faster to shoot everyone. The only real reward for being stealthy is that you build up a way of making the shooting even easier, so it's clearly been designed with gun use in mind. My general play style for the previous games was to pick off the guards in each area quietly one by one without alerting anyone until no-one was left remotely conscious. I'm not sure if that's how I'll end up playing this game though.

Awesome: Mission Control - Last Known Position

Boresome: Is this set to low detail? - Get Your Murder On

The Big Deal: Mark and Execute

Read on for the big deal, apparently.
Grind-In: Final Fantasy XIII - Chapter 4 Ian's avatar
Considering how slowly the game gives you elements of the battle system and pace at which you are taught when and why you might want to use the various options, I think Chapter 4 is the point where you really get good idea of how the game works. According to the clock I'm 12 hours and 6 minutes into the game, so still would be barely out of Midgar if this were Final Fantasy VII.

Read on for a summary of my thoughts based on as much time spent with the game as the entireity of most games.
Daily Grind: Puddle Josh's avatar
Splish Splash
With the increasing prominence of the independent game scene and its burgeoning crowd of advocates, it’s not that difficult to imagine a future where an elitist videogame equivalent of the Straight Edge movement exists; no drink, no drugs, no Activision. “Sorry, I only play second-person logic adventures crafted by Swiss mathematicians.” This isn’t to say that those interested in indie development are deliberately obtuse, and as you might have gathered from last Thursday’s edition of Thankless Answers, I’m something of a fan myself. Although I believe that it presents massive potential to drive ingenuity in the industry as a whole, the motivation for my interest is also somewhat less noble; I like free stuff.

IGF appeals to both the artist and cheapskate in me, because the months leading up to the festival present myriad opportunities to reap the toil of bedroom coders around the world and see what kind of cool projects they’ve been plugging away at. Having already secured a place in the Student Showcase Winners category of this year’s IGF, six developers from French school ENJMIN have just one day left to see whether their entry, Puddle, will reside victory over the other participants. I spent some time with the liquid-navigating puzzler to discover whether it has any real chance of making a splash at tomorrow’s awards ceremony.

Awesome: Water Colours - Full Tilt - You've Got Potential, Kid

Boresome: Bite The Curve - Live Without Warning - Fail Safe

To find out how I tackled a liquid snake of an entirely different kind, Read On!
Mini Grind: Mass Effect Galaxy Ian's avatar
Gold and Grenades
It probably says something to the quality of the Mass Effect universe that it's one of the few video game related properties that I have ever delved into the seedy Expanded Universe of, if you'll excuse my borrowed Star Wars term. In my teen years I am sorry to say that my Star Wars fandom lead me to read some truly terrible books (mostly written by Kevin J. Anderson who felt he need to come up with something to top the Death Star which resulted in the Sun Crusher). I started as I meant to go on when getting into Mass Effect by reading the novel Mass Effect: Revelation before playing the first game, which actually nearly as terrible as I was expecting. I don't seem to have had the same compulsion to delve into the Dragon Age peripheral books and web games. As much as I liked Dragon Age I think I have a bit of a Sci-Fi bias when it comes to my escapist settings.

It's with this frame of mind that I found myself playing Mass Effect Galaxy on the iPhone recently during a particularly boring commute. I actually bought it some months ago when it was released, but was immediately put off because of how horribly it performs. With the passing of Mass Effect 2 and the big DLC not quite here yet, I found myself attempting to ignore the often the single digit framerate to try and finally get into Galaxy. I haven't used my iPhone for too much gaming in general. I pretty much only have Mass Effect Galaxy, id's Wolfenstein RPG, and Peggle. Sam and Josh are probably going to end up convincing me I need to get Plants vs Zombies if only for Crazy Dave.

Awesome: Mass Effect is Awesome - Saturday Morning Cartoon

Boresome: Worst Framerate Ever - The Combat Sucks

Read on to see if this game is worth two bob.
Mini-Grind - Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Campaign Ian's avatar
No Gold or Grenades
It's not often that I jump straight from a game directly to its sequel, usually I like the gaming equivalent of the palette cleansing ginger you eat between pieces of sushi that is playing a game in a totally different genre. Last year I found switching between Borderlands and Modern Warfare 2 was really messing me up as they both control very similarly but just different enough to get confusing, and it made the frame-rate in Borderlands seem way worse that it really was compared to the locked 60fps of Modern Warfare 2. I ended up playing the latest Ratchet between them which was about as different as you can get.

Directly switching from Bad Company to it's sequel like this is a real good way of immediately spotting all the things which have changed. I've played through the first four levels of the single player which has been quite enjoyable so far, though the levels do seem to be considerably shorter than the first game. From checking the achievements there seem to be thirteen levels compared to the seven in the first game. I should probably be able to chew through the rest of them pretty quickly, then I guess it's back to Dark Void or Yakuza 2 until Final Fantasy XIII shows up.

Awesome: Cool Effect! - Sharper Combat

Boresome: Personality Transplant - Someone got Modern Warfare in my Bad Company!

Read on for more single player coverage of a predominantly multiplayer focussed game!
Daily Grind - Battlefield: Bad Company Single Player Ian's avatar
Gold and Grenades
I have mentioned before that I have a weird inability to play a game unless I have played as many previous games in the series as is reasonably possible. If I were to try and justify this, I would probably mumble something about wanting to see how the various ideas and concepts have evolved over the lifetime of a series. I would also make a cough that sounds a bit like I said that I probably care more about the story in games than most people do, so always want to have as much context and back story of the world and characters as possible. With this in mind, I find myself playing through the single player of Battlefield: Bad Company before I start on its recently released sequel.

I am writing this after having completed all seven missions of the single player campaign, but I don’t really feel like I need to write a full in-depth review as at this point it’s not really serving anyone, unless I can find a way to send it back in time to June 2008 where it would be ignored anyway because it’s not about the multiplayer. So here is a grind instead. Enjoy!

Awesome: Tone and Character - Freeform Battles - Destruction - Health System

Boresome: Why I die? - Iron Sights

Read on for the incredibly timely low-down on this 2008 classic.
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