Some Switch Comments

You can hold it in your hand very tightly (very tightly)

I’ve had a Switch for more than 24 hours now, so it’s time to talk about it. In a stream of consciousness list form, and mainly concentrating on the negative aspects, because that’s how the internet reports on things now, isn’t it. Hot takes! Coming through!

It’s so much faster than the Wii U
I don’t mean performance-wise, as I’ve seen nothing to suggest that’s the case. No, I mean the UI, starting up, poking around the settings and stuff.

switch home screen

It’s all so very sparse
“Clean” is one way of describing it. The 3DS and Wii U came with all sorts of trinkets and oddities preinstalled, like the AR stuff and other tech demos. Nothing here like that. The eShop too is bare bones, and not simply because there aren’t any games yet. It’s three pages of big “metro” style panels. That’s it.

The home screen is going to fill up quick
I’ve only got five game icons on it and have to scroll through them already. Make the panels smaller, or have folders, or something, sooner rather than later!

The Pro controller is excellent
Comfortable, weighty and with great button press feedback.

The joycons are… odd
Separately, one in each hand, they’re OK. The right stick is a little hard to use like this, but they’re OK. Using a single one as a controller on its own, is less good. They don’t fit in your hand properly and they’re tiny. Even with the rail things on the SL and SR buttons aren’t well positioned and seem pretty unresponsive.

I’ve not had the left joycon disconnect issue
Not yet, anyway, but it seems it’s only Zelda that it has been affecting and I’ve not played that in the way that the problem manifests.

As a handheld, it isn’t great
Two and a half hours on Zelda and the Switch battery was begging for electrons. The whole unit is too heavy, and too thin, to be held comfortably for a long period. The controls on either side seem too far apart as well.

The screen is nice
It is, actually. Incredibly responsive when typing on the on-screen keyboard too.

Sharing screenshots
Needs to be quicker. Too many steps, far too slow. At least let me copy them to a USB drive or something.

The Switch game cards do taste disgusting
Yep.

It’s region free!
Which is excellent news. Even the Switch eShop is effectively region free too! I set up a Japanese account and downloaded demos of Puyo Puyo Tetris and Dragon Quest Heroes I&II. They’re not in the UK eShop, but Just Work from the Japanese one. And speaking of games…

Games!

Snipperclips
Is frustrating. Fantastic, but with three players so damn frustrating. Why won’t you just do what I say, idiot family members?! Note: if family members are reading, I love you very much.

fast rmx

Fast RMX
Is fast. It feels like F-Zero GX did, which I suppose is the point. The looks great, and I can see other people really enjoying it. Just not me so much as I’m not a fan of the genre. Why did I buy it? I panicked.

dragon quest heroes

Dragon Quest Heroes I&II
Might well be in Japanese, and just a demo, but it feels a lot like Hyrule Warriors. Which means that if this is confirmed to be multiplayer, I’m contractually obliged to buy it.

puyo puyo tetris

Puyo Puyo Tetris
Seems to be the same as the 3DS version, but that isn’t a bad thing. I certainly won’t be paying full price for a UK release, but am more than interested in a cheap copy.

And that Zelda game?
It’s… a 3D Zelda game. And I think you all know by now what my thoughts on those are. If you don’t then, briefly: They all seem wonderful but after a while I just get bored with them. This feels a lot like those, only on a bigger scale with everything more spaced out. Except it isn’t quite, as it actually Assassin’s Creed III in Hyrule. And we all know how great Assassin’s Creed III was. And there are Borgia Towers. Sort of. And a million places to visit. It’s Link in Ubisoftland.

Switchmas Eve

The night before Switchmas
And all through the house
Fingernails were bitten
And downed Famous Grouse

I remember the panic of the Wii U launch. Would it get dispatched? Would it arrive at work before home time? Just who the hell were Zavvi anyway? It seems like just a few days ago.

Today, I had confirmation my Switch was safely with the courier. There was some concern that it was going to be dispatched to where I wasn’t going to be, but that was changed this morning. Now, there’s the wait.

Last time round I could entertain myself hammering F5 (or CMD-R, for a change) constantly whilst crying into a bucket. With the Switch, though, it all seems to have gone well. Too well. There’s nothing to refresh, I know – or at least, I am told – it will be with me before noon tomorrow. It’s unnerving.

Just think. In 24 hours I should have a new Nintendo console connected to my TV, with the foul-tasting Zelda game card jammed in and I’ll be playing it. Playing it!

But what other games am I planning on getting? Well, it’s still not 100% on what’s going to be available right away. Almost certainly I’ll download Snipperclips from the eShop, and it’s likely Fast RMX will be purchased too. I really want to get Super Bomberman R, but that’s a lot of money for a game fuelled by in-app purchases, so I might wait a bit.

Further away, the indie reveal the other day showed a lot of great looking titles coming up in the next couple of months.

Shakedown Hawaii will be bought, and the very Advance Warsy game WarGroove is a certainty too. Pocket Rumble should be awesome if it’s close to the Neo Geo Pocket Colour fighters it is trying hard to be, and Yooka Laylee and SteamWorld Dig 2 are definites as well.

And Stardew Valley. And Blaster Master Zero. In fact, that’s plenty for a while, isn’t it? I’m not even thinking about other retail games yet!

Play Want Bin Expense: 2017-02-27

Is it out yet? Is it out yet?

This time next week, my weekly roundup post should hopefully include some Nintendo Switch! Until then, I have to make do with some old stuff.

Play

doshin the giantDoshin the Giant (GC)
The best of games. I really hope Nintendo make a sequel for the Switch. They won’t, of course, but it’d be nice. Even if it was just a slightly tarted up version of this. Some people would tell you that spending several hours moving trees from one place to another is tedious busywork. Those people are Wrong people.

Ribbit King (GC)
Only a little though. It’s great, but I’m playing this (and Doshin) emulated with a 360 controller and I’d not configured the deadzone on the sticks. Done that now, so next time the targeting reticle won’t move by itself and prevent me from taking shots. I did manage two games against my daughter, despite the Frog Drift, though.

Monster Loves You! (PC)
Something I picked up in a Humble Bundle. I completed it, but it was a bit weird.

Lumo (PS4)
I enjoyed this. And I wrote a review of it. Go and read that review.

Blimey. Is that all this week? Surely not?

Want

SWIIIIIITCH. My extra power cables have arrived. Just need something to plug them into.

Bin

Having to wait for a Switch to arrive.

Expense

Bioshock Infinite Season Pass (Mac/PC) £7.68

Milly-Molly-Mandy

Nothing ever happens. Nothing happens at all.

The thing about Milly-Molly-Mandy stories is that nothing actually happens.

Imagine Enid Blyton only without any peril, no fairies and magic folk, and nothing exciting ever happens. That’s the stories about Milly-Molly-Mandy. Written in the 1920s to 1940s by Joyce Lankester Brisley, a woman to whom the very peak of excitement was discovering the world doesn’t vanish when the curtains are closed, The Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories and subsequent followups are a trial in staying awake for even the most caffeinated parent.

Her name, which is actually Millicent Margaret Amanda, is perhaps the most interesting thing of any of the “adventures” she finds herself in. Adventures like the time her Great Aunt came to stay (and that was literally all that happened). Or the time – oh no! – the village had a party and Milly-Molly-Mandy went. No, it want exciting at all. Or how about when she and Little-Friend-Susan (that’s her name, apparently) went blackberry picking but the field was out of bounds. So they found some somewhere else. Good grief.

She calls her parents “Farver” and “Muvver”. Every story contains the phrase “Father and Mother and Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle and Aunty” at least once. The girl called Jilly, is aparently only to be referenced as “Miss Muggin’s niece Jilly”, as her parents are whoknowswhere. There is a child called “Bunchy” like that’s a thing. Billy Blunt can run. Who knew?

In one story, 3M’s teacher comes to stay with Father and Mother and Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle and Aunty in the nice white cottage with the thatched roof (also referenced as such in every tale), and it’s a bit creepy with her wanting kisses goodnight from 3M.

How did this series ever become popular? And why did I read the whole lot to my daughter over a period of nearly two months?

Making audio work on a Steam Link and a Mac

I could just turn the volume up really high and listen through the ceiling.

Yes, it’s another Steam Link post. You see, having had some success with streaming Windows to the Steam Link, I thought I’d have a proper go and making Mac streaming work. And I’ve managed it! Eventually. Apple: “It just works!”. Pff.

Firstly, and not related to the audio issue mentioned in title of this post, I found a small utility to stop my iMac from deciding to go to sleep while playing. As it did. And that was annoying. It’s called Owly, and is free. It sits in the menu bar, and you can click it to disable all sleeping, and click again to enable sleeping. There’s options to prevent sleeping for a certain number of hours or minutes too, in case you’re likely to forget to turn it back on.

Anyway, that was an aside. To the matter at hand!

After setting the Steam Link up to talk to my Mac, and configured for my controller, TV, and so on, I discovered that sound wasn’t being streamed. It’d play in the Steam Link menus and startup screen, but not in Steam itself. Only it was – on the Mac.

I trawled the Steam forums, where the issue comes up a lot, but the solution is always the same: use the Steam Beta and it’ll force some drivers to install on the Mac. Thing is, that was the issue back in 2015 and I’ve done that already.

Turns out, after much fiddling, very easy to fix. If the Steam Link itself is set to use 5.1 audio, or “auto detect”, then sound plays through the Mac. Set it to stereo, and it works. OK, in stereo, but at least that’s something. Mini Metro doesn’t need surround sound anyway.

Still, it means I don’t need to boot into Windows quite so much to play Steam games now.

Play Want Bin Expense: 2017-02-20

War! What is it good for? About £8.97, it seems.

Did you know? The Nintendo Switch is out soon! All these games will be completely defunct then!

Play

Bioshock Infinite (PC)
Well that was a thing, wasn’t it? I completed it, and wrote a reasonably big thing about it, and you can find that here. With spoilers. In essence, though: “Bioshock Infinite is a great story punctuated with pointless, annoying combat sections.”.

Grow Up (PS4)
I completed this too. It was fun, and definitely a break from Bioshock. It’s more of the same game that Grow Home was, only slightly less good.

Pokémon Go (iOS)
They put new pokeymen in it! Well, new old pokeymen. I caught a lot of them.

Pokémon Sun (3DS)
I tried to play this, but the PokéPelego stepped in every time and defeated me. It takes so long harvesting your berries and swapping your pokeys about in the training isle, and collecting all of the pokébeans, that “a quick go” means busywork and no actual game. Sigh.

total war: warhammerTotal War: Warhammer (PC)
It’s my first Total War game, and I am not a fan of Warhammer. However, I am a fan of unit management and real-time strategy, and this is just great. I can just ignore the Warhammeryness of it anyway. Only about five battles in so far, and I’m playing as the humans (Empire? I think?). There’s a lot to take in, but it seems to be doing a good job of telling me how to play without lecturing.

Want

A Nintendo Switch. It’s out soon, I hear.

Bin

Nothing!

Expense

Ruh roh…

I bought a single month’s Humble Monthly in order to get Total War: Warhammer stupidly cheap. It’ll be a few days before I find out what else I got in the bundle. That was £8.97.

I also got, thanks to Sega’s Make War Not Love giveaways, Steam copies of Shining Force, Alien Storm and Golden Axe II. Free!

And finally, £24.99 went on the incredible Humble Freedom Bundle. Worth it just for The Witness, which I already had. So gave it away. Um.

Steam Link, or how I learned to play PC games again

No, I’m out of East 17 lyrics.

If you’ve been following me at all over the last ten years or so, you’ll know that I generally don’t play PC (or Mac) computer games. I haven’t done for quite some time. The constant upgrade cycle. The fiddling to get things running as well as possible. Console gaming on the sofa in front of a TV just being better. These all combined to put me off.

On occasion, I’d make an exception. Short games. Games, like Civilisation, that you just can’t play on a console. Indie game oddities I’d picked up cheap on Steam. Over time, through various bargains, the Humble Bundle, and free giveaways, my Steam library has expanded with hundreds (literally) of unplayed games. Many of which I know very little about.

Then, two things happened. I bought a new iMac, and I became aware of – and bought one when it was on offer – Valve’s Steam Link.

Are you not aware of what one is? Then let me explain. The Steam Link is a low powered device that plugs into your TV. It’s not unlike a PlayStation Vita TV, an Apple TV, or a Chromecast. It connects, over your home network, to another computer running Steam, and then using technomancy, displays your Steam games on your TV. You can use a standard controller, such as an Xbox 360 pad, to control your games.

Roundabout
Roundabout: It’s on the PS4, but the Steam version was essentially free. So I’m playing that one.

This means you can have a powerful and huge PC in one room, but play the games in another. It’s black magic, and when it works, it works fantastically. When it doesn’t, though

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve made a concerted effort to make my Steam Link work as well as I possibly can 1. Since I had to reinstall Windows 10 anyway, I set it up to try to negate as many issues as I could when playing games remotely. An unobtrusive virus killer, making sure Windows updates are installed well before I start to play, updated graphics drivers, and so on. A cheap unofficial Xbox 360 wireless receiver (which surprisingly works out of the box on a Steam Link) was purchased so my Steam Link box isn’t strewn across the lounge carpet so my wired 360 pad cable can reach.

A New Console

What I essentially have now, is a brand new games console under my TV. A massive library of mostly untouched games ready to go. Not only that, but the graphics card in my iMac is surprisingly capable. I’m not as up on my GPUs as I used to be, but it’s an AMD R9 M395. I can max out Bioshock Infinite and Total War: Warhammer on it, so it should be good for most things for a good few years yet. Especially since my TV is only 720p.

Oh, and I have a wireless keyboard and mouse for those games that need them, in case you’re wondering. It’s rare I’ll play those, however.

Now, it hasn’t been plain sailing getting to this point, and although I’ve been using it mostly without issue for a few weeks now, there are still problems. Last night, for example:

The issue could have been anything. I had to reconnect to my computer (and put in the authorisation code again as if I’d never done it before). Then reinstall Bioshock Infinite. Luckily this didn’t take long – I expect it found most of the files locally in the end. And then be completed baffled as to how, and why, the screenshot button had moved from Home+RB to Home+RT.

I now accept some odd issues, and work round others. This means I can just get on with pretending I have a new console and just play the games previously locked away. When it works, performance is great! I don’t notice any lag, and I don’t have a noisy computer warming the lounge. Hopefully this will continue!

Notes:

  1. I’ve not mentioned this yet, but it’s part of a drive to spend less on gaming this year.

Play Want Bin Expense: 2017-02-13

You know your stripper from your paint.

I got my Steam Link working properly! With a wireless controller and everything! That means it’s almost a new console! Woo!

Play

Lego Dimensions (PS4)
Specifically, the Portal 2 expansion level for it, and the associated hub world that goes with it. It’s pretty good, although very easy to skip large bits of it. Funny though. And I completed it.

roundaboutRoundabout (PC)
It’s Kuru Kuru Kururin, that Game Boy Advance game with a spinning stick in it, only with a rotating limousine driving round a city instead. And FMW video sections at the start and end of each “mission”. And it’s set in 1977. It’s very odd, and the acting is mostly terrible, but somehow it’s also excellent.

Pokémon Sun (3DS)
I completed this just after posting about it last week! I was really that close to the end. The final “boss”, such that it is, almost beat me, but I managed to narrowly defeat them. Since then, I’ve not really played it very much, although I really should.

SteamWorld Heist (3DS)
What I did play some more of, is this. Finished a couple of optional missions, and redid a handful of missions I’d not got all the stars on previously. Still have a few to go from early on in the game, but not many.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair (PS4)
I completed this in the week too. It is fantastic. Terrible production values, as expected, and completely over the top, but EDF is always like this. The final level was nuts.

Grow UpGrow Up (PS4)
This is excellent. It’s basically just the first game, Grow Home, only with a bit less going up into the sky and a bit more horizontality. Yes, that’s a word now. Not sure how far into it I am, as I’m mainly just enjoying climbing and exploring and sometimes stumbling across things to collect, unlock, or play with.

Bioshock Infinite (PC)
The main thing I’m playing via Steam Link right now. It looks incredible – especially since I bumped the graphics up to “ultra”, who knew my iMac could manage that? – but isn’t especially interesting besides that. Yet, anyway. Dishonoured is a better Bioshock Infinite than Bioshock Infinite is so far.

Want

A NINTENDO SWITCH ARE YOU DEAF? Having second thoughts about Zelda though – it’s a 3D Zelda. I don’t like them.

Bin

Nothing! Doing well at this positivity lark.

Expense

Also nothing! Well, £3.50 on an Xbox 360 controller wireless adaptor thing. Does that count? Probably.

£3.50 then.