The worst Xbox 360 achievements I earned

I’ve recently taken the decisive step to ditch my old Xbox 360 and purchase an Xbox One S, bringing me back into the light from a four year period of darkness on what the wider public refer to as “serious gaming”. [1]

Playing on an Xbox console is synonymous with the strangest of progress markers: the Achievement. I unlocked my first achievement for over a year on Monday night, “Cast Member”, essentially for starting to play a fun platformer called BattleBlock Theater. I had this sudden dread fall over me, which reminded me of a time when I had fallen out of love for video games and had instead got addicted to increasing my GamerScore, which for those of you who don’t have an Xbox console is their way of keeping track of your progress in a videogame in a way that displays your progress to everyone on your friends list. It’s a hollow existence, especially when you don’t know anyone on your friends list and you’re doing it anyway.

So to remind myself to not get involved in this silliness again, I thought it would be cathartic to list out the worst “achievements” I earned in my first run during the Xbox 360 era. Before I start I will answer the two questions that will spring to mind for you as you read: I was largely single and my job wasn’t very taxing.

1000 GS for “completing” Avatar: The Last Airbender

This is probably the most shameful on the list, and it’s one I can’t even believe I did. In the time where the internet existed but Netflix hadn’t taken off, there was a thing called Lovefilm in the UK that allowed people to rent DVDs, Blu-rays and games via post… Sorry, what? Oh… it still exists.

Anyway, I’d heard that there was a glitch in the training section of this children’s game that allowed you to unlock all the achievements in around five minutes. I rented it, I exploited the glitch, then put the game back in the post.

For what? I’ve no idea. I’ve spent the intervening time (almost a decade) hiding it from anyone I speak to.

80 GS for Treasure Hunter in Final Fantasy XIII

This started off as an innocuous attempt to complete my first Final Fantasy game since the seventh installment on the PlayStation. What ended up happening was a 60 hour end game that book-ended the conclusion of the game with misery and a huge detriment to my mental and physical health.

The game finishes after about 40 hours and there are a few standard completionist-type achievements for maximising all of your stats and getting five star ratings all Cie’th Stone missions, but this one took the biscuit.

Whilst collecting all the weapons and items might seem like a normal request, what was required was an unexpected and very slow slap in the face. The precise requirements were a heck of a lot of gill, some very precise catalyst items and (most importantly) six trapezohedrems. It was unrewarding and unforgiving and all I got was 80 measly GamerScore points. It’s almost worthy of a t-shirt, but for the fact that nobody would want to wear it and nobody else would understand it.

1650 GS for being a frustrated completionist by Family Game Night

Due to a rights issue, Yahtzee wasn’t available on Family Game Night in the UK (it isn’t owned by Hasbro outside the United States). So whilst I sat there playing Connect 4 for hours and hours with nothing to show for my efforts, I also wasn’t even able to 100% the achievements.

So what have we learned? I’m an idiot.

120 GS for 100 matches won in Pro Evolution Soccer 6

This is where the online community of website True Achievements comes into play. I managed to hook up with someone else with the same chronic completionist issues as myself and spent several long nights connecting and then immediately quitting online Pro Evolution Soccer 6 matches, taking it in turns to get default wins. The game was so awful we couldn’t even bring ourselves to keep playing it; even on the last game we decided we’d play an actual game and the lag was so bad we got kicked out. This all happened five years after its initial release and took about ten hours of our lives that we will never ever get back.

Please help me.

50 GS for Duo-Hedgeidecimal on FIFA 09

I’m still split on this one. I’m not sure if it was a complete embarrassment or a triumph of the wills.

This achievement required 20 players to play in the same match session at the same time, making a 10 v 10 game. It was a logistical nightmare that was co-ordinated by a group over on xboxachievements.com. That we got it over the line was something of a fantastic gaming moment.

But why? Why did we do it? I’ve got no idea. The match was actually played, but it was dreadful. No fun to be had here.

765 GS for some random achievements in Football Manager 2006

The sad thing about this was that I played this game for months and months in an honest manner when I first owned an Xbox 360. At the time I only had Football Manager 2006 and Top Spin 2 so I had to make do. Then, six years later, I booted it up and within a couple of weeks had boosted my GS for the game from 15 to 765, by exploiting glitches and collaborating online.

Nobody on my friends list owns this game and nobody I know in real life would be impressed by the so called achievements.

1000 GS for 100% completion of Truth or Lies

This took me just under four hours to complete on 20th January 2011. It’s probably the worst game I’ve ever played, involving a quiz where you ask your friends to be honest about the answers to questions. I sat there, alone, answering questions in particular tones of voices that exploited a glitch with the interface between the microphone and the software.

Just imagine that.

A hollow existence indeed.

[1] By this I mean I’ve been playing on my Wii U for four years, so even though I’ve enjoyed gaming moments like the stupidly challenging Champions Road on Super Mario 3D World, or the very much adult-themed Bayonetta 2, or the complex fighting mechanics of Super Smash Bros. U, all of these are on a Nintendo console so can’t be really serious games, right?

 

Video game review – Yoostar 2: In The Movies (Namco Bandai, 2011)

The premise of this game is fantastic. Making use of the Kinect camera controller for the Xbox 360, the disc contains 80 movie scenes from famous films (and Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke) for the player to act out, placing their performances over those of the original actor or actress. Sound fun? Well, yes. Kind of.

The thought of acting out scenes from films may appeal to some, but for many even considering standing in front of a room full of people and attempting to deliver an accent-perfect Derek Zoolander just isn’t a good way to spend an evening. It fills them with dread.

Another crowd-pleasing Ben Stiller film scene. Great for crowds of Ben Stiller fans.

For those willing to get involved, enthusiasm doesn’t reward much. The technology causes many issues by just being generally poor: images are low resolution, the background of the playing environment occasionally make their way into the finished scene, the sound is hard to hear when acting and the cue points are really hard to predict.

Both the film choice and the scene selection leaves a lot to be desired. It may be fine if you really like Ben Stiller. Too often there are scenes where your character is looking sideways on. This only works if you know the film off-by-heart or you happen to have a series of strategically-placed mirrors allowing you to read the script as you look away from the screen.

When it goes right it has the ability to cause hilarity. The Terminator is one of the better scenes as Arnie remains relatively still and doesn’t say much. The Casablanca clip works well too, being that it doesn’t require perfect comic timing.

It has the makings of a fantastic party game but unfortunately the flaws mean it never really hits the required heights. Still, it kept my party entertained for about an hour and at the price I paid (£1.33) that is excellent value for money.

Yoostar 2 is available now. Pay no more than £3 for it.

South Park: The Stick Of Truth (Obsidian, 2014)

After a good number of games based on the South Park franchise – some good and some pretty terrible – finally the quintessential tie-in has arrived. The reason? We finally feel like we’re living in the middle of an episode.

The plot line revolves around alien anal probing, the aborted foetus of a Kardashian, an ooze that turns people into zombie nazis, Cartman being an asshole and underpants gnomes. Fairly standard stuff for an RPG really. You play as the new kid in town -invariably referred to as Douchebag throughout – and join Cartman, Kenny and Butters in their quest to find and protect the Stick of Truth.

The plot-lines are full of comedy gold, which is bound to keep South Park fans happy whilst entertaining newcomers. The mechanics of battle, as RPGs go, is fairly basic. You have a choice of weapons to fit into two slots, plus a few summons and magic choices too. The enemies aren’t complex enough to worry you too much and you can usually put reducers on tougher enemies pre-battle to ensure you win. It wouldn’t trouble the complexities of, say, the Final Fantasy series.

I have to say I found certain parts really frustrating. I stupidly checked out the achievement list before I started, and this alone ruined my fun in my first play through. I had in my mind there were a number of missable tasks to complete for 100%, including collection of the Chinpokomon and making friends with all of South Park (for the hilariously-titled “More Popular Than John Lennon” achievement), which were tied together. Unfortunately, the checkpoint system used when saving means that you’re often taken back a couple of screens when you reload and I missed one collectible even though I knew I’d already collected it, but unbeknown to me it didn’t register when I reloaded. All this means I have to do a complete second play-through to finish the game. Why oh why do games do this? The worst case was Tomb Raider’s Chatterbox achievement. I’ll have to make a conscious decision to not think about achievements in future, but I guess it’s my OCD kicking in.

Another frustration will only be relevant to those playing in Europe. PEGI saw it fit to censor a handful of segments due to them being in bad taste. How you can decide that anally probing a cast member on an alien spaceship is off-limits, whilst happily allowing a battle against a Kardashian’s reanimated aborted foetus is beyond me. Sort it out!

The game has some amazing side quests, involving all your South Park favourites. Jimbo and Ned, Mr Hankey, Al Gore and Manbearpig, Crab People, Mr Slave and Randy all feature in the bonus material that will keep you entertained beyond the main plot of the game.

Small annoyances aside, I really recommend this to anyone with an interest in comical video games or indeed South Park itself. That this game almost never saw the light of day is a travesty and it’s wonderful we get to enjoy it now. It’s probably not very challenging to experienced gamers, but there’s plenty to enjoy if you want to commit some time to it. At the newly reduced price it’s a complete steal.

Best Games 2013

Aside from being a massive fan of all kinds of cinema, I’m also an occasional keen gamer. I usually pick up games a while after they have been released so they are cheap, and that was true this year with games such as Catherine, FFXIII-2 and Rayman Legends taking up a lot of my time despite being over a year old. I even played Dragon’s Lair!!

I have managed to play a small amount of games that were actually released this year, so I thought I’d write a few words about some of my favourites.

Tomb Raider (XBOX 360 / PS3)

As a twelve year old boy, the release of Tomb Raider II on the PlayStation came at a key moment of my life. The game was one of the biggest sellers, had rave reviews and was a fantastic showcase for the new console I’d just received for Christmas. No longer was I controlling a minuscule blocky man-character, but a fully-formed female equivalent of Indiana Jones.

The curvaceous way she was designed, of course, was fully aimed at me, and I can’t say this didn’t raise its appeal to me. Living in Britain in the mid-90s, even at a young age, I was aware of lad culture. The likes of Loaded and FHM were everywhere, and it wasn’t long before Lara Croft was featured in these magazines and being considered as a sex symbol. At the time there was definitely a split opinion on whether Lara Croft was an empowerment to women or she was objectifying them. The unrealistic figure by which she was designed juxtaposed with her physical power and mental strength. Perhaps this debate helped raise the franchise’s relevance in the wider gaming market and helped it shift enough copies to become one of the biggest sellers of the 90s.

It was refreshing, then, when I started on my copy of this franchise reboot. Gone are the unrealistically top-heavy curves seen fifteen years ago, replaced with a much more relatable – and frankly way more practical – figure.

The storyline picks up with a young Lara going on one of her first archaeological journeys. The action is set on an ancient island near Japan, with her team shipwrecked and seemingly incapacitated. A gang is also on the island, trying to resurrect an ancient Japanese ritual using Lara’s friend Alex as the new Sun Queen. The script is extremely well written and the voice acting is surprisingly good for a video game.

It plays as part-action, part-RPG, with players required to level up their weapons as the game progresses. There are a variety of tools with which to kill your enemies and hunt animals, and the bow is especially fun to use.

It is perhaps a slight victim of the time in which it is released, with an overwhelming amount of collectibles to be had and some pretty frustrating achievements (the one I missed – Chatterbox – still narks me now).

The other flaw is the tendency to flick to Quick Time Events in key moments. I personally hate this style of gameplay. Unfortunately Square Enix love it, and tried to use it to ruin last year’s otherwise excellent Final Fantasy XIII-2. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to work out when you’re supposed to be watching and when you’re supposed to be inanely pressing a button when it appears on the screen.

Overall though the game is a fantastic reminder of what I loved about the original games. The action keeps on coming, the characters are fully realised and the storyline keeps you gripped as much as plenty of big blockbuster films released this year. The gap between movies and gaming as a means of storytelling is getting smaller every year, and it is great when a game like Tomb Raider comes along to remind us how much more engaging a video game can be.

Minion Rush (iOS)

What can I say? It’s like Temple Run but a minion times better. I’m still playing it daily six months later. Not something I’m proud of, but it’s damn addictive.

FIFA 14 (XBOX One / PS4 / XBOX 360 / PS3)

Okay, I’m aware the selection of a FIFA game in a best of the year list is a far cry from controversial, but the game is excellent.

I pick up new FIFA games once every two or three year. As such, I always appreciate the improvements that have been made and allow myself time to start to miss the game.

It’s extremely vast, with heaps of game modes to select. You can play an exhibition match, which would be the mode of choice when you’re at a mate’s house and want a quick game. You can do the usual suspects of creating a custom league or cup, or playing through the 2013-14 season with you favourite team in one of the many licensed leagues they have acquired. You can take control of a single player and play through a career, either as a real life player or a created player. You can take it online and play against friends competitively or with unknowns (who inevitably select the ridiculously good Real Madrid).

There’s Ultimate Team, where you build a squad of players by opening digital packs of cards and selecting your best team from what you find inside. There’s a robust skill games section that is still challenging me now. There’s also a mode where you can relive key moments from recent matches, and either recreate what has happened or “put right what once went wrong” (oh boy). You can take control of a single player online in 5v5 and try to complete challenges along the way. Finally, there’s also the promise of a World Cup 2014 expansion pack, which will breathe further life into its playability.

What I’m trying to say is that whilst it’s only a slight improvement on last year’s installment, you have to stand back and admire the value-for-money package that is now on offer. I could never bring myself to buy it every year (or indeed twice in one year as early adopters of the next-gen consoles have done), but coming back to the franchise after a break really makes you appreciate what is on offer here.

New Super Luigi U (Wii U)

New Super Luigi U was actually an add-on pack for New Super Mario Bros U, released in 2012. It’s essentially a rehash of the game and most of the levels are very similar in design and layout, with a few tweaks to increase the difficulty.

It is a much more difficult game than it’s immediate predecessor, perhaps because that was perceived as far too easy for most gamers.

One of the key differences is the reduces time allowance. This time you only get 100 seconds to get through the level and pick up all the star coins. Many times the pace is frantic and you have to repeat levels to pick up one or more star coins. I was in panic mode every time until I had the genius idea of turning the music off.

It’s not a groundbreaking game but it was a welcome challenge to fill the space between the first instalment and the excellent and in every way far superior Super Mario 3D World (see below).

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

From the moment you start playing the first level, you know where the heart of the game lies: fun. It’s pulls out all the stops to give the player variety and it’s filled with imaginative ideas to breathe life into a familiar franchise. The cat suit is a stroke of genius, and new power-ups keep appearing as the game progresses.

The game is best played in multiplayer mode, which quickly comes sneakily competitive due to a winner being announced after each level based on points.

By the third world, you realise that the ideas haven’t been loaded top-heavy. They keep on arriving thick and fast, sometimes incorporating ideas from previous franchises – the Mario Kart-inspired Mount Must Dash is hilarious.

There are Captain Toad mini levels that test not your reaction skills but rather flex your logic, reasoning and spatial awareness.

The collection of the green stars really ups the replayability, functioning like the star coins of the New Super Mario series but significantly more challenging.

The end of world bosses are a great example of how to add variety to a game’s gameplay, shying away from the now well-overused jumping on the head three times style of most Mario games (it’s now over 30 years old!!).

Once you’ve finished the obligatory eight worlds, expect plenty more with the somewhat expected post-game play in the form of a bonus world. After that, you’ll be treated to another two! It will keep you going for months.

The style of the game, the immense detail on everything from the characters to the background of the world maps, the exquisite and highly varied music. All of the components add up to a highly immersive and extremely enjoyable gaming experience, a real return to form for the franchise. Whether it is enough to save the now seriously flagging Wii U remains to be seen, but if there’s ever a man to save a console it will be that tiny plumber.

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