Weekly Little Big Planet: dark on the rock

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You see, their young enter through the ears and wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex. This has the effect of rendering the victim extremely susceptible to suggestion. Later, as they grow, follows madness and death.

Full disclosure: I’m cheating this week.

That’s not a screenshot of a community level up there. I want to bring you community levels for the above-the-fold part of these weekly columns. The way I did with the dailies. But I couldn’t for this week. My PS3 went all wonky last week and refused to connect to the Play-Stay-shone Network. This happens from time-to-time. Usually I just ride it out. But I couldn’t for this week’s column because I was fixing to go out of town and needed a couple levels in the bank. So I cheated and played a story level. It was called “Invasion of the Body Invaders” and it was great. You go into the body of Dr. Higginbotham and fight infections.

Heh. That makes me think of PC gaming all of a sudden. How stupid that is! With all of those nasty viruses. Glad I switched to my trusty console. Phew! I’m sure all this PSN silliness will be sorted out by the time I get back hom—

Wait. What?

After the jump, stockpile syndrome

As in Helsinki, Sweden.

While the haterz busy themselves gloating over what the demise of the PSN means for this dopey little column, I’m busying myself with sending out a dispatch from the coast. No, not that one. The other one. Virginia is on a coast too, you know.

I figured since I’d be away from my beloved home computer and therefore any chance to at long last get back to League of Legends (no offense Dell Mini) and my [now obviously] favorite console, my Xbox 360, this week would be a good time to unwrap some of those DS games that have been gathering dust on my shelf for a couple of years and give them a spin. Especially since I wouldn’t be anywhere near a playground. So I put the half dozen or so DS games I’d been putting off for one reason or another in a pile on the floor of my office, closed my eyes and mixed them all around. Then I blindly chose three. And those three came with me on my trip to Virginia.

In two cases I got lucky.

A couple of years ago we were trying to figure out how to round out a night at our weekly LAN party. It was late, well after midnight, but we could tell the evening wasn’t quite over yet. There wasn’t really enough time to fire up something new on the computers. There certainly wasn’t enough time to drag out the instruments. We’d done all of our movie talking at the front end of the night, as per. Yet we weren’t quite ready to leave and Tom, our host, wasn’t ready to kick us out. We had but a few scraps of time left at the end of Shoot Club…what to do?

Suddenly Tom moved to a small stack of games in front of the television and began unwrapping something. A little lightbulb had gone off. He fed something into the 360. We asked. He just smiled and fired up a controller and handed it to somebody. Canadian Paul, I think. We turned our attention to the screen.

Up popped Peggle.

Peggle? Really? Who hasn’t played Peggle? Come on!

A dingus raises his hand.

I find myself at a loss to describe what transpired. It’s sort of a blur. Suffice to say that as our rounds of Peggle wound down, Canadian Paul made the following statement…

“Are you even seeing what we’re seeing on the screen? Or is it all green flowing text like in The Matrix?”

He said that line to me.

I cannot explain why I pwned at Peggle on that night. I cannot. It was just one of those things. Like Chris Paul having the game of his life on a given night in the playoffs. Except without the talent or expectations. The guys don’t expect me to be good at any games, so when a lightning/bottle moment happens, they get kind of excited. Think Rudy and you’ll get the idea.

As we filed out the door that night, Tom told me to hold up. He disappeared in the back room for a moment, then emerged and pressed something into my hand. No, not a lightsaber. What’s wrong with you? It was a copy of Peggle Dual Shot. And I’d just gotten a DS.

So it was kind of a cool moment. But let’s not dwell on it because I’m losing dude-cred by the millisecond here.

Sadly, Peggle Dual Shot languished on my shelf, unopened, for years. I have to say I kind of felt paralyzed whenever I considered opening it. Canadian Paul’s quote would reverberate in my head. What if that whole night was a fluke? But it made the cut in the blind selection, so it got played on this trip.

How’d that work out, you might ask?

Awesomely, I will answer.

Years after playing Peggle that first fateful evening I have returned to it and found that I love it, and am darn good at it. Yeah, it’s only Peggle, and anybody can be good at it, but it’s something I’m good at. And there’s a specific pleasure in that. Along with the joy of the return.

To say nothing of the fact that you get to hear that cool theme from Die Hard on every level. The one Handel borrowed for that mass of his.

What’s more, Peggle has become my go-to for relaxation between DS games on this trip. Because in addition to the three mystery games I brought, Pokemon White was still in my DS, and now that I’m slogging through subway battles I’m starting to wish the game would magically disappear. So while playing that, and the game I’m about to mention, it’s great to have something I know I’m good at to sneak in between rounds. That’s Peggle. Although I do have to say one thing: Spooky Balls are stupid.

Blind DS Game #2, then, is Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords.

Don’t worry. I don’t have a long self-involved pseudo-messianic story involving my discovery of Puzzle Quest. Simply, I knew my friend liked it and wrote positive reviews about it. I tinkered with it a bit on his DS before buying my own copy. I bought it when I found it on sale at a fundraiser. Then I shelved it because I was afraid that I wouldn’t get it.

That’s a lie, actually. I knew I’d get it. I just didn’t want to put the work in to learn it.

On this trip, at long last, learn it I did. Or am doing. And what a pleasure that is. As I talked about when discussing Company of Heroes last week, I’m learning by doing, and often by losing. Unlike Peggle, which affords me the opportunity of conquering level upon level without failure, Puzzle Quest punishes me for not paying attention. I figured I was just going to be matching crap. I can do that. Match a bunch of jewels and stuff. Meh.

Puzzle Quest smacked me upside the head in the second training go round and said, “Hey! Dingus! Pay attention!”

I’m on vacation. I didn’t feel like poring over the manual. I paid for that by losing. You know what? Losing focused me. Loss by loss I focused and began to figure it out. How the different colors of mana work. How the spells work. How the attacks work. I’m still way early in the game, but I’m getting it, and that brings its own level of pleasure. I don’t get why it is that orcs can appear in any random game without having to pay money to the Tolkien estate, but whatever. And I don’t get this weird Demand/Resistance/Well-Okay-Then thing the characters in games like this (and Pokemon White) do. But no matter. I’ve just slain my first spider with a Forest Fire spell. Plus, I can put in Peggle if my frustration level goes into the red, so I’m good.

The final game of my three blind picks was…sigh…do I have to even talk about this? I told you I got lucky with two. I’ve talked about those. Let’s just leave it at that, okay?

Rats. The last game was Brain Age. I was hoping I’d be raising a puppy on this trip, but no. I’m training my brain. Which is annoying because I played this game several years ago at a friend’s house and my Brain Age-o-Meter aged my brain at eighty-five or something. I’m not even kidding. But I chose this blindly so I have to play it. Ugh.

Let me just say this. I blame my sister’s dogs for the fact that I still have a sucky brain. I was breezing along naming colors tonight while the family slept, which is no mean feat for someone slightly colorblind (this does make some of the mana identification in Puzzle Quest a challenge, incidentally). I was kicking ass, and what’s more I wasn’t talking loud enough to bother the sleeping humans in the house. But the four effing dogs just couldn’t leave well enough alone and brought the whole house running. So I blame them that my brain is only twenty years younger than last time.

Screw Brain Age. Where’s my Peggle.

Next time: a level-headed dingus
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