Misadventures in Hiking: Mount Gorgonio (06/30/13)

Note: I know I’m super behind on posting all my “misadventures”. This is a problem when they all get squeezed into one summer. With NaNoWriMo coming up, I need to get my head back into making up adventures and writing words down onto paper… hopefully.

Gorgonio summit view

View from the summit.

For our final training hike, we hit Mount Gorgonio, the tallest mountain in Southern California at 11,503 feet, via the Vivian Creek Trail. After the first few misadventures from our previous hikes, we were hoping to not have anymore misadventures since this was going to be another long and tough hike. We were gaining 5,840 feet in about 9 miles with an 18 mile round-trip total hike, but with our track record, we ended up adding miles anyway.

Aside from the length, steepness, and altitude making this a strenuous hike, we had an added factor of it being a hot summer day. However, I was hoping that it would be slightly cooler since we were at a higher altitude.

We reached Gorgonio around 7:00 AM, which was later than planned, but it was still early and cool. We grabbed our gear, applied sunscreen and bug repellent, then we were on our way.

Our first adventure started at the at the dry creek bed of Mill Creek. Instead of walking along the dried creek bed, we were walking in the creek, where it was mostly sand and rock filled terrain. We started to worry when we walked for about half a mile and still didn’t see the trailhead sign. Fortunately, we hadn’t miss or passed the sign, and we were on our way up the steepest mile of the trail.

This is the steepest and probably the hardest part of the trail since you gain 1,000 vertical feet of elevation in a mile. This mile was a challenge, but it was over pretty quickly, but there were some switchbacks that would give an acrophobe some pause. Once you get out of this “tough” section, the trail levels out and you have a beautiful steady hike for next two miles. Along the wooded trail, there was plenty of shade and the creek could be heard running in the background. However, there was one thing that marred the beauty of this trail. There were a lot of insects. There was part of the trail that had a lot of foliage and bugs, so we basically had to run through it with our heads down so rogue insects wouldn’t try to invade our face holes. In addition, these insects were fierce since they were biting us through our shirts. I haven’t had to use insect repellent in most of these hikes, but for Gorgonio during the summer. I highly recommend insect repellent with Deet because the “hippie” citronella insect repellent did nothing to keep the bugs away.

High Creek Junction

Junction to the Camp

After racing through a cloud of insects, we decided to take a break at the junction to Halfway Camp. During our short respite, a group of trail runners came up from behind us. As they ran passed us, one of my friends recognized one of the runners as Billy, the “LA Runner”. We chatted with him and mentioned we were training for Mount Whitney. He told us he was up at Mount Whitney the week before and mentioned that it was beautiful. The runners then continued on their merry way, while we gathered our gear and continued our adventure to the top.

High Creek

High Creek

We stopped for a food break at High Creek. Water was flowing at a decent rate and some of us filled up on the nice cold water since this was the last source of water, and the weather was starting to warm up.

Ridge Trail

Trail along the ridge.

 The moment we reached the ridgeline the clouds in the sky turned sparser, and it got hot since we broke the treeline at high noon and shade was very sparse. This part of the trail that hugged the ridgeline to the top wasn’t hard, per se. But we had finally broke 10,000 feet, and we were all starting to feel the effects of the altitude. In addition to being at an 10,000 feet, it was hot and we were pretty exposed on the ridge.

Once and awhile a cloud would cover the sun and we would get a nice break from the heat, but those moments were few and far between as we got closer to the summit, which still felt very far away. Hikers coming down the summit tried to be encouraging and pointed out where the top of the mountain was and said the summit was close… but in my head it was still not close enough. I think at this point we saw the runners we encountered earlier heading back down the mountain. Although we only saw two of the four, which we thought was odd, but we just assumed they were planning on going down another trail.

Almost there

Almost there!

Mount Gorgonio SignWhen I finally reached the sign that pointed to the summit, I felt energized to reached the summit, but that energy dissipated when we encountered the “false peak”. Fortunately, the true peak wasn’t much further, but it sure felt like forever. I think our main motivation of getting to the summit at this point was so we could break for lunch.

 We finally reached the peak at around 2:00 PM. I didn’t think I was going to make it to the top since my knees weren’t feeling that great after the Mount Wilson hike the week before. But icing my knees daily for a week and wearing a knee brace for the hike definitely helped.

Gorgonio Summit Sign

Gorgonio Shoe PicAt the top there were a few hikers just chilling at the peak eating, talking, or napping. We pretty much did the same after we got pictures of the sign and our traditional “shoe pic”. While we were enjoying our sandwiches, there were quite a few chubby chipmunks eying our sandwiches and backpacks. When we didn’t give them food, I’m pretty sure they gave us a stink eye for not sharing.

 Chubby ChipmunksWe stayed at the summit for about 45 minutes before we reluctantly reminded ourselves we were only halfway done. I found the register and signed our names as the others groaned and prepared for the long descent. I was not looking forward to the trek down since we had to descend at a slow pace because one of us had bad knees and could not travel as fast as the couple “Speedy Gonzales” of the group.

Due to the slow pace we were traveling, we quickly realized that our goal to get off the mountain by 7:00 PM for a nice lobster dinner reward was only a dream. Our next realization was that we were not going to make it down the mountain before sunset. Our final realization was that not everyone in our party of four had a headlamp.

MG Register

Gorgonio Register

As dusk approached we decided to assess our lighting situation. I had my headlamp. One person had a dinky mag-light that could use some fresh batteries, another person had a headlamp… but no batteries, and the last person had nothing at all. So between four people, we had two lights. When the sun set completely, it was DARK. Not to mention the last mile to the bottom was the steepest and narrowest part of the trail.

We knew that our hike up Mount Whitney would begin at 3:00 AM, but we had not planned for this hike to have us train for hiking in the dark. So this misadventure might have been a blessing in disguise… maybe.

With just two lamps between our group, we positioned ourselves by having me in the back with my headlamp, the slowest in front with her little mag-light, and the two Speedy Gonzales in between us. When we reached the final mile, I remembered how tough it was coming up, and going down the steep mile in the dark was just plain terrifying.

We were tired and sleepy from the long day, but once we hit the final steep mile in the dark, we were wide awake and probably sweating more than we had when we were hiking under the sun. Going down that trail while surrounded by blackness was an interesting experience. I had looked off to the side of the trail for a second; all I saw was BLACK. I looked down the edge of the trail and saw more BLACK. This last mile felt like an eternity since we had no way of telling how far from the bottom we were. It just felt like an endless amount of steep rocky switchbacks after switchback. Eventually, we reached the creek bed and cheered.

But it wasn’t over yet. We still had another half mile to the car. This should have been an easy hike back to the car, but since I had the brightest headlamp, the moths decided to greet me by invading my face and attempting to go up my nose, mouth, and ears. I was not happy and very relieved when we finally reached the car at around 9:30PM.

The moment we got out of the mountains and into cell phone range, I called my mother to let her know I was still alive. Then she teased me by saying, she almost thought she had to call the rangers to look for us.

So instead of a lobster dinner, we ended up with no dinner since we were exhausted and just wanted to wash the filth off ourselves and sleep for two weeks until the next hike.

Overall, the Vivian Creek trail is a lovely trail, but in the summer time be sure to bring insect repellant because in the daytime, you have biting flies and mosquitoes; at night, you have nose invading giant moths.

Trail View

PC: Dead Island

Dead_island_Covert

Being a huge zombie fan, I was curious to play Dead Island. I had heard some things about the game. I think they were positive, but I didn’t really pay attention to it until I saw that the “Game of the Year” edition was on sale for $5.

I played this game only in co-op. I’m pretty sure if I didn’t play this in co-op; I would have been bored out of my mind. The game started out interestingly enough, but turned repetitive very quickly. After picking your character, you’re immediately thrown into the survival-horror scenario of being on an paradise island resort turned zombieland overnight.

I’m not exactly sure what “Game of the Year” means anymore since after playing Dead Island, I didn’t feel like it was worthy of such a misleading title. The storyline was your basic get off the island plot, but before you could leave, you needed to gather a bunch stuff and do one too many booze runs before you can acquire vital components to get off the island. I think after the third “booze run” side quest was received, I was ready just to leave everyone on the island and swim back to civilization. Since that option wasn’t available, we played on.

As for the characters, I couldn’t even remember the name of my character. I just know her as the Asian ‘screaming’ lady. I only remember Sam B and his bling because Derptholomue was playing him. Basically, all other characters in the game were just plain annoying, and I wanted to kill all of them zombie or not.

The graphics were decent enough, but not enough to distract me enough from the issues. The main combat in the game was melee combat, and you use various items that range from boat paddles to a katanas that needed constant repair. I guess having easily breakable weapons will force the player to try out different weapons, but repair benches appeared often enough around the game levels, so much so, it kind of made you think, “What’s the point?” Eventually, I would mod a weapon and stick to that with one additional backup bashing weapon. So needing to repair your weapon after every five minutes or so becomes more of an annoyance than anything else.

Another issue was the characters’ stamina. So not only do you have to worry about your weapon deteriorating, but you have to worry about your character not having enough stamina to continue bashing zombie brains or run away. The stamina deteriorates even faster when you have a slower character or use a heavier weapon. It drove me crazy when I was trying to kill a zombie and I found my hits were not effective because my character was out of stamina.

Between my cursing and Derptholomue’s Top Gear driving skills, the game was bearable. If you even want to play this game, I definitely recommend playing this game with friends. At least with friends, you can entertain each other by making fun of the voice acting, renaming characters with absurd names, make fun of each other’s lack of in-game driving skills. But there are better co-op games out there for that.

Frustrated Comments by Me:  “Another booze run?!”; “WHO THE FUCK JUST KILLED ME?!” “We have to go back there again?!”; “This game should be renamed Dumb Island”

Comments by Derptholomue: “I found a FACT!”; “DAMN STAMINA!”

Misadventures in Hiking: Mount Wilson (6/22/13)

Mount Wilson plaque

While waiting to get a permit for Mount Gorgonio, we decided to tackle an “easier” (5,710 ft) and “shorter” (14 miles) hike. One of these days those will be my famous last words: “It’s easier and shorter, what could go wrong?!” Also on a clear day, I usually could see all the local radio and television station antennas from the front porch of my house. I figured it would be cool to look towards the mountain every morning and think: I hiked up there.

We were planning to hike the loop up to the top of Mount Wilson via Chantry Flats and make a loop back down. The hike was supposed to be 14 miles, which included a short detour to the Sturtevant Falls.

We reached Chantry Road at 6:00 AM (The gate to the road opens at 6:00 AM.) and reached the Chantry Flats parking lot at 6:15 AM. At this time the small parking lot was already almost full. If you park in the Chantry Flats parking lot you will need an Adventure Pass ($5 daily pass; $30 Annual pass). If you come too late, you can park at the Chantry Flats Pack Station for $10 on the weekends ($5 weekday). This is a very popular location to hike, so coming early is a definite must.

Mount Wilson Warning Board

Warning! Wildlife!

We started the trail towards the waterfall hoping we would not have any more misadventures. Little did we know…  First fork on the road had a sign with all the warnings which included fires, bears, and mountain lions. Fortunately, no animals were encountered this time around. We reached the waterfall on schedule and the trail was beautiful and nicely shaded. It was also nice to hear the sound of running water while hiking through the wooded areas. Sturtevant Fall was a nice little detour since the water flow at the falls was decent.

Sturtevant Falls

Sturtevant Falls

Sign we missed againIt was only supposed to be a quarter of a mile of doubling back to find the Gabrielino Trail up towards Mount Wilson, but somehow we had managed to missed the signs again. This time we didn’t have the excuse of a small sign. Though I blame the signs blending too well into the background. Also we missed the signs because we thought they were signs that led to cabins that were along the trail.

Although we managed to catch our mistake a bit early on, it still added about a mile to our 14 miles, which isn’t too bad when compared to our 3-mile addition for Mount Baldy. When we were finally on the right trail, we hiked the steep narrow trail that went right over the waterfall and towards the top of the mountain for supposedly 5.5 miles. (Note: There was a lot of poison oak along the trail. I highly recommend long sleeves and long pants when hiking this trail.)

Observatory buildings      150 ft telescope

Around noon, we reached the Observatory and shuffled past several huge telescopes, including a 150-foot telescope. We also shuffled by the tiny Astronomical Museum, which consisted mostly of beautiful picturesAstronomical Museum taken by the telescopes. We continued trudging across area looking for the Cosmic Cafe, that was open only during the weekends from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM for Observatory visitors, bikers, and hikers. Check the site for more information since it doesn’t open year round.

Cosmic Cafe

Reaching Cosmic Cafe was probably the best part of the hike. I sat down and ordered myself a nice jumbo chili cheese dog, since a hot dog or a bowl of chili were the only hot foods they had. They had a small selection of cold sandwiches, if you prefer, and plenty of liquids, including Gatorade, to drink, and no, there were no alcohol, hamburgers, or fries.

mount wilson shoe picAfter resting for awhile, we decided to hunt for the USGS benchmark at the southwest corner and have our “shoe pic”. By this time it was starting to get pretty hot and we decided to continue down what felt like the longest trail back to the car.

Local LA TV and Radio Station Antenna

Local LA TV and Radio Station Antennae

There was something about this trail that made it feel a lot longer. It might have been the steep descent in addition to the hot weather. It might also have been the fact that I was carrying 20 pounds of water on my back to “train” myself for Whitney with a heavier pack. Though after this little hike, I realized that if I want to survive Whitney, I am going to have to carry as light of a pack as possible and get a water filter.

Every time we reached a sign junction, it would so and so miles to Chantry flats, but it felt like we had walked at least 2 miles, but nope, we only walked half a mile. We would then walk down a lot more switchbacks only to find we still had 4 miles to go. By the last 2 miles, I was ready to cry, at least my knees were. After 10 hours of hiking, we finally made it back to the car.

The Mount Wilson trail was beautiful going up, but going down just felt like we were in the woods from a Grimm Fairytale and the trail would never ever end. So much for a “short” and “easy” hike.

Hazy view from the top of Mount Wilson.

Hazy view from the top of Mount Wilson.

Up next another misadventure at Mount Gorgonio. Seriously, I don’t want to have misadventures while hiking… they just happen.

Misadventures in Hiking: Mount San Antonio (Mount Baldy) 06/08/13

Baldy summit

To continue training for Mount Whitney, on 6/8/13, we decided to hike Mount San Antonio (Mount Baldy) since it’s one of the closest 10,000+ ft peaks to Los Angeles. Also the loop we were planning to do was supposed to be shorter (<20 miles). Going up Mount Baldy Trail and down Devil’s Backbone would be about 11.3 miles. We figured the higher altitude and the 90 degree Fahrenheit weather would be challenging enough.  Little did we know we’d make it slightly more challenging for ourselves.

San Antonio Waterfall

San Antonio Waterfall

We had planned to start the hike at 6:00AM, but we parked our car at the wrong lot. Instead of Manker Flats we ended up at Icehouse Canyon Flats. So after 15 minutes of wandering around and putting on sunscreen, we realized we were at the wrong lot. I blame only getting 3 hours of sleep. When we reached the correct lot, we talked to a group of people who were rescuers and asked them a bit about the trail since we were planning to do the loop. They mentioned there wasn’t a sign before to the Mount Baldy Trail but there was one now. However, it was small and it was very easy to miss, and it was about 10 minutes after you pass the San Antonio Waterfall. The rescuer also mentioned that people tend to miss the sign because they are chatting or something. So we made note to ourselves to watch for the sign.

When we finally got our group together, we started to head up the trail. The first landmark was the San Antonio Waterfall. The waterfall was not very impressive since there was hardly any rainfall this year. We continued walking and chatting as we tend to do when hiking. It was probably about over an hour later were reaching the location of the ski lift and I could see the Top of the Notch restaurant and realized we had missed the Mount Baldy Trail sign. *facepalm* I looked at my GPS and at the map; it confirmed we had missed the trail. We even asked a passing hiker to see how far we’d have to go back. We had to go back about 1.5 miles… So our planned 11.5 miles added over 3 miles since we decided to doubled back and find the correct trail this time.

Can the sign be any smaller?!

Can the sign be any smaller?!

While we were heading back down the mountain, we started to see more people starting their hike up since there are several trails that lead up to the top. I also spotted a snake.

Trail sign we missed.

Trail sign we missed.

I hadn’t realized it was a snake since my brain only registered the colors red, black, and white. When it moved then my brain registered “it’s a snake”. I gave it a wide berth even though my friend started reciting “red and black, nice to jack; red and yellow, kill a fellow” and said we were safe. I wish I had my camera out since my co-worker said the California Mountain Kingsnake is not one you see often, but I didn’t have my camera handy until later into the hike and reptiles generally make me uneasy

When we found the trail we saw the sign that we missed and it was very clear how it

could be missed. It’s quite small and I think I could be a bit bigger or at least a color that didn’t blend in so well with the mountain.

Ski Hut

Ski Hut Outhouse

Ski Hut Outhouse

The Mount Baldy Trail does not play around. It is a steep uphill climb the whole way up the mountain for the next 3.5 miles. About halfway up we took a food and bathroom break at the Ski Hut before continuing the ascent. I have to admit this hike was hard. At this point our group started to split up; the faster people were way ahead and the slower people (me) trailed behind. Since this was a pretty busy trail, I wasn’t too worried about being alone on the trail since you’re never really alone for a long period. Maybe in about 15 to 20 minute intervals someone would either be coming up or down the mountain.

Baldy summit panorama1

It was pretty hot, and I started to play “reach the next shady area” to speed up my progress. When I finally reach the top it was “crowded”. I was ready to sit down, but I was also afraid that if I sat down, I wouldn’t want to stand up again. So I decided to wander around at the top taking pictures. Eventually, I did just sit down and ate some food, drank more water, and when we were ready we took the Devil’s Backbone down the mountain. Compared to the Mount Baldy Trail, Devil’s Backbone is “easier” on the knees, and I’m glad we decided to take the steeper route up and take the backbone down. The Backbone is a longer trail, but it is still steep especially at the last leg of the hike to the very top.

Devils backbone

Devil’s Backbone Trail

Going down the mountain was much easier for me and having hiking poles throughout the hike made going up and down the mountain a lot easier on my body. Although when we reach the Notch at the Top Restaurant for a much needed restroom and water break we were ready to call it quits. We were also tempted to shell out the $20 and take the ski lift down, but stubbornness prevailed and we prepared ourselves for the last 3 miles down the mountain. It was about another mile before we reached the part of the trail we were had turned back from earlier.

We made it down in one limping piece. Even my mother teased us and asked if we needed to call the rangers since we got down the mountain so much later than our “half day” plan.

Up next Mount Wilson.

Misadventures in Hiking: Monrovia Peak (05/2613)

2013 Monrovia Peak Plaque

Three years ago a group of friends and I had tried to hike Monrovia Peak. In our first attempt, we got about halfway up and couldn’t find the trail. There was too much brush and it was just too dangerous so we turned back. In our second attempt, we managed to make it near the top, but we took the wrong turn instead of going left we went right and ended up on a “peak” but it wasn’t the correct peak.

Three years later my friend sent an email saying he got a permit to hike Mount Whitney in July. Thinking it would be fun to hike to a mountain top, I said I’d celebrate his birthday on one of the tallest mountain tops in the country.  After agreeing to go, it hit me. I didn’t know how long this hike would be. Google told me that the hike was about 22 miles and Mt. Whitney is around 14,000 ft in height. What had I gotten myself into?

In order to begin “training” for this hike in July. I started to take up hiking again. I had not hiked in about 2 years. So during the the long Memorial Day weekend. My insane friends and I decided to tackle Monrovia Peak again as a good beginning trainer.

Geared up with my 16 lb backpack, filled with lots of water, hiking boots, a jaunty cap, map, and GPS, we tackled the long 20.5 mile hike. I was determined to find the right peak this time around.

The hike to Monrovia peak is really quite boring since you spend the first 2 miles just walking up the road. We decided to make our hike more challenging to take the Ben Overturff trail which is pretty strenuous for a short 2 miles trip up, but Ben Overturff is a fun and beautifully shady trail to hike if you want a something more challenging than the hike to the waterfall.  We reached the last bathroom stop on the trail and continued up the truck trail towards White Saddle and further up to Red Box-Rincon Road for another boring 5 miles.

After about 6 hours and 10 miles into the hike, we reached the “junction” where we took the wrong turn and hiked up to the wrong peak three years ago. This time the “wrong peak” was blocked with a bunch of construction vehicles. I wish those were there 3 years ago. Although when we finally found the “trail head” to the peak, it might have been a good thing we didn’t find it the last time. The final 0.5 miles to the peak was steep and took about an hour to just climb up.

At first we couldn’t find the trail head. We were standing on a hill in the midst of some sort of construction happening on the mountain. Determined by pure stubbornness to reach the peak, I read over the instruction from Dan’s hiking page and consulted the GPS. Dan mentioned that the trail head was not clear and covered by an “adolescent fir tree” we didn’t see any fir trees. However, this post was made 8 years ago and a lot could have changed since then. Additionally, the weather was very nice and cloudy, but because of the clouds we only saw a patch of trees that could lead somewhere, but we couldn’t see any peaks. The GPS wasn’t exactly very helpful either. I was telling us to go West and West was right into those trees.

2013 Trail head to MP

Then as if to mock us the clouds suddenly moved away and revealed to us a clear trail that lead up to a peak. Mixed feelings of relief and disappointment that the hike wasn’t over confused my brain as we braved through the trees and brush and made towards the final half mile to the top. From a distance, the trail didn’t look too bad, the picture I took of it does not do it justice. If I wasn’t terrified of slipping while I climbed the trail I would have taken another picture, but alas I didn’t. And I’m NEVER going to do this hike again.  The trail was very steep and the ground was terribly slippery with loose rocks. In addition, there was brush and dried branches to avoid. At one point my friend spotted a snake and another thought she heard rattling.

I think halfway up the “hill” I wanted to just turn back and go home, but my stubbornness prevailed. I’d already hiked 10 miles to get up here, and I was almost to the top of the first hill. Might as well suck it up and make it to the peak. I decided to let worrying about how to get down of the mountain for later. This trail was very deceiving because the pictured hill is the first of three more steep climbs, but almost an hour later we made it.

2013 MP Shoe Pic

2013 Monrovia Peak Register edit

Monrovia Peak Register notepad.

We finally made it up to the top and this is what we found a tiny little marker on the highest “peak”. All I could say was a disappointed, “That’s it?!” For some reason, I thought the marker would be at least a foot in diameter or something. I blame all the close up pictures of the plaque I found on the internet. So after some joyful cheers of finally making it to Monrovia Peak, we congratulated ourselves for finally finding the right peak. After resting for a few more minutes to drink some water, sign the tiny notepad register, and reapply sunscreen. We swatted some bugs; cursed the mountain; and started the knee killing, calf cramping, and shin scraping descent down the mountain. This was when I wished I had trekking poles. They might have prevented the couple slips I had, but the only injury I had was a few scratches from brush and a nice whopping bruise on my calf from a branch that got caught between my legs. When we got back out of the brush and down to the fire road, we decided it was time for lunch and give a gesture to show the mountain how we felt about the peak before making the long trek back down the road.

Clamshell and Rankin Peak

Clamshell and Rankin Peak

Eleven hours and 20 painful  miles later, we reached the ranger station at the entrance, but we still had another 0.5 miles to get to our car which was parked outside of the park. As we waited for the last of our group to make it down the mountain, I caught sight of a deer snacking on something while the other rangers watched on. Another ranger asked if we had parked our car inside the park since the park was closed. I told him we had parked outside since we were hiking up to the peak, and he asked, “How did you guys find it?” His comment alone confirmed why the trail was so unmaintained. In fact the last person to sign the register was back in March a full 3 months before us. The ranger congratulated us on reaching the peak and also did confirm that there were some rattlesnakes up there, but he said if you make enough noise they would leave us alone.

So we did it. Third time is a charm! We FINALLY reached Monrovia Peak, and if you clicked on the “gesture” picture, you’ll understand why I NEVER want to go to this peak ever again.

Up next Mount Baldy!

PS3: Portal 2

*Language of an uncouth nature maybe present below*

portal2

I loved the first Portal game. So when Portal 2 came out I was pretty excited, but I never got around to playing it until now.

The moment the game started, I knew I would love Portal 2 more than Portal 1 because of the addition of Wheatley. It’s hard not to love a mechanical eyeball voiced by Stephen Merchant. GLaDOS and the turrets were great in Portal 1, and they are still awesome in this second installment.

The portal puzzles were fun as always and the addition of a small storyline made escaping more fun. I loved the addition of different gels you need to utilize to figure out the new puzzles. I also liked that you get a bit more background information about Aperture Science and GLaDOS. The single-player campaign portion of Portal 2 is twice the length of the first game which the first time took me about 5 hours since I got stuck a few times. But after trying to get all the single player Steam achievements and playing through the co-op campaign I logged about 30 hours of game play. Not bad for a game I got as a birthday gift.

The main difference of Portal 2 is addition of a co-op campaign. I’m not someone who does a lot of co-op campaigns because I don’t have many friends who wait years later to play games, and Zippy doesn’t really do much. He only plays Plant vs. Zombies. Even then, all he does is just watch the the zombies lumber towards the house and gets miffed when the peashooter causes a zombie’s heads to pop off.

Anyhow I managed to find a “Derpy” co-op buddy to play the co-op campaign with me via Steam. The first time we met up I was on the PS3, while my friend was on Steam. It was a bit interesting since I could hear him speak on the mic, but I was stuck having to put my controller down and responding to him on the PC. I don’t think my sharp wit came across very well when there was a typing delay.

Everyone who played the co-op campaign said it was very fun. They were right. It was especially fun when we trolled each other and got each other killed while GLaDOS continued insulting our “testing” skills. When they said co-op was required for this game, they meant it. There are several times when the puzzle requires both players to do something simultaneously in order to solve a puzzle. So it made for “fun” gaming when someone (me) zoned out and realized we needed to do something together to move on.

Some of the puzzles were pretty confusing, but I think that was mostly due to the fact that we were over thinking some of the simpler puzzles. Most of the puzzles of the main co-op were not too difficult, it took some brain work and some good timing. I found the harder puzzles to be part of the DLC, which we accidentally did as our “second” course. We were a bit baffled to why the skill level of the puzzles increase so dramatically from the 10 minute puzzles we played the first time around.

There isn’t really much to say about Portal 2 other than that it’s fun! And more fun with a friend! If you liked Portal 1, you’ll love Portal 2. With that said, I am going to hug my companion cube since it only had a cameo appearance in Portal 2 and GLaDOS wouldn’t let me take it with me. She so mean sometimes.

I also want to make a comment about Steam Support. The PS3 copy of Portal 2 included a Steam copy. When I tried to activate my Steam copy, I ran into a problem where it stated that the code had already been activated in another account, which was impossible. I received the game in a sealed box as a gift. So I made an account at Steam Support and told Steam about the problem. When I told them that I did not have the purchase receipt because it was a gift, I was told to take a picture of the activation code with the ticket number handwritten on the stub and to send it to them. The process took about 3 days since I always had to reply after I got home from work. But the Steam support rep I had always replied to me within 24 hours. It might be a bit frustrating to get a separate Steam support account just to ask a question, but they helped me out pretty quickly. By my next co-op play date, I had a Steam copy so we could actually talk to each other during game play. Also when I replied with a thanks to Steam, they replied to say “your welcome!” This interaction I had with Steam support made me love Steam a little bit more. So when is the next Steam sale because I want you take more of my money!

Frustrated Comments: “Fucking Hell! I forgot how to jump!” (This was to the amusement of my co-op buddy.) “Goddammit!” “Do’h!” “NOOOO IT WASN’T SUPPOSE TO END THIS WAY!” “OW OW OW OW OW OW” (Turrets shooting at Chell hurts me too.)

New Month, New Site!

 

MovedIt’s May Day and to keep to my self-imposed deadlines, here is the official “I’ve moved!” post.

New address. New title. Sort of new design.

Anyone who was following me over at athenaktt.wordpress.com should be transferred over to this site’s mailing list.

And it looks like all link redirects are working properly.

Now that this is all set… I have no excuse to not start posting new content.

Upcoming posts include, but not limited to…

Portal 2

Dead Island

The Walking Dead Season 3

And everything else in my long backlog of posts…

Shiver Me Tumblr Tweets!

So much for posting more than once a month. This is what happens when I don’t give myself self-imposed deadlines.

However, I’ve mostly been delaying posting new content because I’ve finally been working on moving this wordpress blog over to a self-hosted site. You guessed it, it’s http://athenaktt.com/. The site isn’t quite done yet, but you can start following me there if you like. I still need to work with the WordPress Staff to get my present followers transferred over. Hopefully, that will be easy and painless. WordPress managed to transfer all my followers in less then 10 minutes. That was easy!

The site is mostly done, but I’m still making tweaks to the layout and plug-ins and reorganizing the pages. It will basically have the same look as this blog, but with a bit more bells and whistles since I’ve recently discovered the world of Tumblr.

I’m not abandoning WordPress for the world of “micro-blogging”, but I have found tumblr a good way to organize certain subject matters a bit better. With a self-hosted blog I can integrate both mediums easily.

Zippy now has is own little photo blog.

http://zippytzombie.tumblr.com/

I also started “Four-Eyed Flaws” a blog dedicated to those of us with sub-par vision and the problems we encounter being “four-eyed”.

http://foureyedflaws.tumblr.com/

I’ve also been contributing posts to Novel Travelist a blog that mashes up traveling and writing!

http://noveltravelist.com/

This brings my number of blog writing to four. How did this happen?! It’s all right, there is nothing that not sleeping won’t fix!

I’m also on Twitter now. Follow me there for any inanities you want to hear from me.

 https://twitter.com/AthenaKTT

Last but not least, my Misadventures in Counterfeit Shopping got featured at the Counterfeit Report:

https://thecounterfeitreport.com/product/340/Juicy-Couture-EDP.html

Since I’m terrible at getting things done, I’m going to say May 1, 2013 is when I will make the move from this blog to http://athenaktt.com/.

I promise to make an official. “I’m moving” post. So stay tuned!

PS3: L.A. Noire

**Disclaimer: Rated R language below**

Note: Sorry for the lack of postings lately. The last flu virus got me for a good couple months, but I’m back and trying to post more regularly than, you know, once a month.

LA Noire cover

After playing two fast-paced adrenaline pumping games, I decided to try out L.A. Noire. It was a nice change of pace, but it felt a bit weird to be walking down a street and not have to worry about a zombie or an alien trying to rip my head off.

I think everyone has said it, but the attention to detail in this game is AMAZING, especially when it comes to the actors’ facial expressions. They did such an excellent job in capturing the facial renderings of each actor that the moment I started playing the game, I started having Mad Men flashbacks. Naturally, I hopped onto Wikipedia and I found out why. Half of the cast of Mad Men was in this game. Main character, Cole Phelps, is played by Aaron Staton, but in my head I kept calling him Ken Cosgrove. Playing this game is like watching a movie and when a new character shows up the first thing you say is “Hey, it’s that guy from [insert movie/show]”. A lot of people compare L.A. Noire to L.A. Confidential. I’ve never seen the film, so I can’t make any comparisons.

Since they spent all the attention on the facial expressions, the bodies were very obviously neglected. After a while you can pretty much predict what robotic hand and arm gestures the characters were going to make during evidence inspections and interviews.

When it came to the interviews, you have three choices: truth, lie, or doubt. If you suspect a character of lying, you need to have some sort of evidence to back up your accusation. This is pretty straightforward, but I did find that sometimes when I picked the “doubt” selection, it felt as if Cole thought I was accusing the person of lying anyway. Because he would basically fly off the handle and accuse the suspect of lying when all I wanted was to subtly imply my doubt. So every time Cole went berserk I would go “WTF?! That’s not what I wanted to do!” Of course, then the suspect would clam up, and I’d have to either start again or continue the investigation with less evidence. There were times I felt the “doubt but not really doubt, but flat out lie” option was just a way to tell you that you need to stop being a wuss and either pick “truth” or “lie”. It got annoying when you didn’t really know how Cole would respond even though you supposedly have control of his decisions.

Clue hunting was pretty easy since every time I walked by a possible clue I would feel my PS3 controller rumble and hear a piano music cue as I passed something. Though Cole has a habit of wanting to inspect inane times like bottles and cigarette butts.

I generally enjoyed L.A. Noire. I mostly enjoyed the “Street Crimes” side quests.  I had fun when there were shootouts, but I didn’t like it when there were foot chases especially when Cole needed to climb up or down something. I especially hated it when there were car chases. I despise driving in real life. This might be due to the fact I live in present day Los Angeles where road rage is the norm. But when I had to drive in 1947 Los Angeles in a clunky car, it was even more annoying. I found that there was too much driving in the game, and that it also induced road rage because the old cars were clunky and impossible to maneuver. Also the A.I. cars would stop for no reason, wait forever to make a turn, and pretty much drive like drivers in modern day Los Angeles. My only consolation was that I could hit everyone and everything with no consequences. Half the time I would hit someone because they stopped in the middle of the road for no reason, and trying to break in this game was ridiculous since I would hold the “reverse” button to stop, but before I knew it, I was moving in reverse and hitting the car behind me. The game warns you about damaging people and property, but I never saw any consequences appear in my ranking or experience points. With no consequences, I drove at the highest speed I could get away with and put the siren on so most of the cars would get outta my way while I sped down Hollywood Blvd. It’s quite funny watching pedestrians reach the curb, hear the siren, and start bolting away from my approaching car.

I understood the reasoning for having all the in-game driving. The scenery and the map of 1947 LA was amazing. You could drive down alleyways, go into parking lots, and loiter to your heart’s content. In fact, there were side quests to discover 30 L.A. landmarks to increase ranking experience points quicker, but I didn’t bother with it. I guess when you’re a local, you take things like the Mann Chinese or Pantages theater for granted. But since I was sort of familiar with downtown L.A.’s present day map (I avoid driving in downtown LA at all costs.), I would pick routes to crime scenes that would get me to pass by the landmarks. Just by doing this passive searching, I managed to find 25 of the 30 landmarks. However, I did find it interesting to see how much space there used to be around the La Brea Tar Pits. Nowadays you can see the trapped elephant just driving down the Wilshire Blvd. Also seeing some landmarks that didn’t exist anymore was also cool.

After doing all the side quests and the main quests, it took me about 25 hours. I might have finished faster if I had realized that I could get my partner do to most of the driving as long as I had a destination selected on the map, but I realized this little “cheat” near the end of the game. So I wasted a lot of time trying to driving all over the map to get to my destinations.

L.A. Noire was a nice change of pace from all the shooters I’ve been playing. I thought the storyline was a bit flimsy. but the storyline wasn’t really the focus, but the individual cases.  I only continued playing because the various cases given were interesting. My favorite was when they incorporated the Black Dahlia murder into the game. It was also nice that they tried to incorporate some L.A. landmarks into some of the cases.

Frustrated Comments: (A lot of these comments are the same ones I make when I am actually driving. Minus actually crashing into other cars, of course.)  “WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU STOPPING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD?!” “Where the fuck are you going, Cole?!” “Run down the damn stairs not up!” “GET OUTTA MY WAY, PEDESTRIAN!” “I have the fucking siren on! Why are you in the middle of the road?!” “Duck, Cole! Duck! I said fucking cover!” “Shoot, dammit! Shoot, why are you taking cover?! SHOOT!” (This happened a lot because I had gotten used to controls from other games and tried to apply those controls to this game where shoot became cover and cover became shoot.)”STFU, [insert AI Partner]. Why don’t you drive then?!” (I am fully aware that yelling at an AI partner does not sound sane, but it made me feel better.)

PS3: Resident Evil 6

*Disclaimer: Zombie rage induced language at the end*

Resident Evil 6 box art

I am going to start out by saying, I love the Resident Evil franchise. I love everything about the franchise from its flawed steroided out characters to its ridiculously convoluted storylines. So when I heard that Resident Evil 6 would have Leon S. Kennedy and Chris Redfield finally meeting. I was really excited. Also since RE6 had Leon, it was guaranteed there would be Ada Wong. My favorite female character of all time.

In Resident Evil 6, instead of one long campaign, there are 4 short campaign each consisting of 5 chapters. Total game play for me was about 25 hours since I got stuck for some boss fights and didn’t know what the heck I was supposed to do. When the game was first released, the 4th campaign was unlockable after the first three were completed. Recently, there was a patch added and Ada’s campaign did not need to be unlocked anymore, which was great for me since I couldn’t wait to play Ada again.

The four campaigns follow Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield, Jake Muller, and Ada Wong. For the three “main” campaigns you have a companion Helena Harper (Leon), Piers Nivans (Chris), and Sherry Birkin (Jake). If you play on co-op, Ada gets a mystery agent companion, but on single player, Ada doesn’t need an AI companion, she is just that much of a badass.

Resident Evil 6 is more of an third person action shooter again than horror survival like the first couple games, but I’m okay with it. Sometimes I do miss the survival horror element, but the beginning of Leon’s campaign was probably the closest of the 4 campaigns that was reminiscent to the survival horror especially when you’re wandering through the zombie infested campus. Chris and Jake’s’ campaign deals with J’avo, a new type of mutated baddie. While Ada gets to play with everything.

I don’t know how they do it, but it seems that with each Resident Evil game, the mutated bad guys look more and more ridiculous each time, especially for the main boss for Leon’s campaign. This boss went from one mutated animal to the next. At one point in time, he morphed into a T-Rex! I’m starting to think that the Resident Evil developers have an animal chart dartboard and wherever the darts land they “mutate” the animal Resident Evil style and make it into a boss… A boss that apparently keeps coming back.

My main issues with this game is that the bosses don’t die. You spend each campaign fighting one particular boss throughout each chapter. You think he’s dead, but surprise! He’s back! Only this time, he’s stronger and uglier. This gets tiresome pretty quickly, especially when you run out of bullets. There have been instances during a boss fight, I was running around with only a dinky knife. Obviously, I didn’t get very far. At least the melee is ridiculously powerful, especially for Chris. So I spent a fair amount of time melee-ing a lot of the enemies, but that isn’t really possible when it comes to boss battles, and your AI companion isn’t really helpful at all.

However, there have been some improvements since the last game. The AI’s inventory doesn’t affect yours anymore. Also the AI is pretty much invincible, so I don’t really have to worry about keeping them alive since most of the time I find it hard enough keeping myself alive. It took some getting used to, but health is now restored one block at a time with pills. I didn’t like it at first because I was used to taking a red/green herb combination and getting full health immediately. With the tablet system, you can restore restore your half bar of health with 3 tablets instead of using a all all 6. Though it does get dicey when you’re low on health and you have to press the button 6 times to fill up your health bar during a fight.

I was a bit disappointed that opening up your inventory doesn’t pause the game anymore. I know it makes it more “real”, but it was always nice to be able to pause, take a mini-break, go through my inventory, mix some herbs, reload my gun, then kick some mutant zombie ass. But no more, you better go through your inventory fast or you’re going to get a hurtin’.

I was also disappointed that there were no longer treasure to find and sell to buy weapon upgrades. I found the skill points harder to earn and accumulate for upgrades. Because of this I basically played through the whole game with very basic skills. Maybe having all the upgraded skills may have broken the game, but I really miss The Merchant from RE4.

I like that fact that all of these campaigns have each character’s storyline intersect with each others. I guess that’s how the creators wanted to have the two leading male characters meet but still have their own storylines since both characters always have different mission objectives. Jake Muller is the new kid on the block, and so far I like him. I wouldn’t mind if they decide to add him into the Resident Evil family. I guess it would only make sense for a series like this to evolve by adding more characters since a lot of the main characters are pushing 40. Eventually, they are going to have to retire, unless they find the anti-aging virus and live forever.

If I ranked the campaigns it would be: Leon, Ada, Jake, and Chris. Chris being the worse because it was the one campaign that I had the most frustrations with especially at the end with the final boss and running across platforms. Though the second chapter of Jake’s campaign was giving me motion sickness because of all the “whiteout” from snow storm.

Like the previous two games the Mercenaries mini-game is also included. Depending on your ranking in each stage you get to unlock new characters and costumes for the game. I haven’t gotten around to unlocking anything yet, but the mini-game is always fun when you just want to go around shooting things under a short amount of time.

Generally, I liked RE6 a lot more than RE5. Having an AI companion has its perks, but it also had its disadvantages. The perk is that I end up depending on the AI to revive me when I get swamped. Although this “perk” takes the difficulty down a notch. Because when I played Ada’s campaign in single player, I realized that I couldn’t just melee my way out of everything. I actually had to think things through since I didn’t have a “partner” to save me from my stupidity.

Many people have complained about RE6 being the “worse” of the Resident Evil games, but I had fun playing it and like it. I definitely had a lot more fun with RE6 than RE5 that’s for sure.

Frustrated comments: “Fuckwad!”;”You Fucktard”; “You bitch!’; “GET OUT OF MY FUCKING WAY!” (Yelled at the AI constantly, namely Piers Nivans); “WHAT THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!” (Yelled after running around shooting everything under the sun.)

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