Exed Exes (PSP): COMPLETED!

OK, so technically it’s on the Vita, and really it’s an arcade game (it’s on Capcom Classics Reloaded), but since it’s a download for the PSP I’m classing it as a PSP game. I think that’s in line with my usual logic for the likes of the Wii U Virtual Console. Not that it really matters. As an aside, the game looks pretty poor on the Vita screen, regardless of screen size option. I don’t think PSP games look very good on the Vita generally, but a game that’s resized to fit one screen then that is resized to fit on another? Horrible. The text on the menus and options are barely readable.

The reason I bought Capcom Classics Reloaded is because it’s cheap, and the reason I chose Exed Exes to play is because I’ve not played it before (although I think I have the Famicom version), it looks like Xevious, and Retro Gamer did a feature on shoot-em ups this months and I fancied a go on one.

Oh my god should I have not bothered.

Exed Exes is TERRIBLE. I know it’s about 30 years old and I know I’m not a massive fan of the genre, but still. It’s tedious. It’s repetitive. There’s no variation in the enemies or the landscape. The music is an awful dirge. The enemies are uninspired and take far too many hits to destroy. The bosses are all virtually identical, just progressively larger, and are basically simple symmetrical shapes with gun turrets on top. It’s really hard. It’s sooooo slooooow. The power-ups don’t affect your weapon in any real way (you shoot three bullets instead of two, but the power doesn’t increase so it makes no difference) and the smart bombs only damage enemy bullets, not enemies.

And it’s so, so boring. After four stages I wanted to claw my own skin off, but I stuck with it for all 16 and after the final fanfare and a load of bonus points, stage 17 started – which was just stage 1 again. No. I’ve had enough.

Then I started Vulgus and it’s the same damn game only with crap metal baddies instead of crap insect baddies. OFF!

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U): COMPLETED!

PullbloxFirst up, here’s a massive spoiler I don’t mind giving away: Captain Toad is actually the prequel to Super Mario 3D World. I mean, everyone knows it’s a spinoff based on the Captain Toad levels from 3D World, but the end sequence of Captain Toad actually shows how it’s a prequel, what with Toad returning from his adventure then setting off to the Sprixie Kingdom after green stars. Who knew?

Donkey_KongCaptain Toad is pretty much just more levels like those Toad levels in 3D World. They’re more complex, there’s a hell of a lot more of them, they’re more varied and more clever, but you can see where they come from quite clearly. Toad sets out to collect a star on each level, solving puzzles to get there and optionally collecting three (sometimes hidden) gems in each. Well, I say optionally – you need some, but not all of them, to unlock some of the levels. You don’t appear to get anything for collecting all of them in the entire game though, which was a bit odd.

ROARToad is useless in a fight, and can’t jump, so most of the enemies need to be avoided or beaten in other ways. You can throw things at them, or drop onto them from a platform, or use other baddies to take them out for you, which totally changes how you play compared to Mario games. It looks like a Mario game, sounds like a Mario game, but really doesn’t play much like one. Even some of the levels look like those Mario plays through in 3D World (in fact, some even ARE from 3D World), but with a  different set of skills, the route to the end is not the same.

Woo_woo__All_aboard_Like 3D World (and Mario 64, Mario Galaxy, and so on), there are fresh game ideas galore, and many are used just once. If only other game designers had half the skill in coming up with ideas. Even those Mario clichés seen before are used differently here.

It’s pretty easy, although each level has an additional target (such as don’t get hit, find a hidden mushroom, collect a number of coins) most of which I’ve missed so far. Part of the reason for missing them is that you don’t know what they are until after you’ve completed the level, so unless you obtain them accidentally, you have to replay the level. Not that replaying levels is a chore – you don’t need to re-collect gems, so you can avoid some of the puzzles, and each level is pretty short.

Yay_In addition to all three “episodes”, I’ve also completed everything currently unlocked in the bonus section – levels from 3D World, the Toad Brigade levels (repeated levels where you have to find the rest of your troop and take them all to the star), and the Mummy Me chase levels – although the bonus level “book” is still far from full, so I expect there are more bonus levels if I complete all the level targets.

Captain Toad is quite short, quite easy, and very, very lovely.

The Unfinished Swan (PS3): COMPLETED!

That was both different to, and shorter than, I was expecting. I’ll admit, I’d not read much about The Unfinished Swan, so knew very little outside of “you throw paint on walls”. Turns out that’s just the first ten minutes of the game and the entirely white walls/floor/everything premise is mostly ditched afterwards.

Instead, you get water to spray around, vines to grow, dark areas to brighten, blocks to build, and so on. It’s surprisingly varied with each particular skill lasting only ten or fifteen minutes before you move onto the next one. Yeah, I was done in 90 minutes. I was expecting at least another hour.

Not that there was anything wrong with that length of game, of course. It’s full of more cleverness than most 20+ hour games, and the story, which is fairytale in nature, is good. The reveal at the end was quite unexpected too.

Hohokum (PS3): COMPLETED!

tumblr_no2q32unk11svmpf2o1_1280I suppose, technically, this is a half Vita, half PS3 completion as I played it a bit on each platform (it’s cross save, you see), but since I reached the end of the game on the PS3, it gets the attention. Sorry Vita.

tumblr_no2q0ytz1v1svmpf2o1_1280How to describe Hohokum, then. You are a snake who has lost all his snake friends (all with incredible names) across various bizarre and surreal areas, each filled with things to trigger and puzzles to solve, and all with a strange fascination with eyes. Sometimes you have to bump past things in order, or carry creatures to something, or find all the… things… or make everything dance, sing, fly away, disappear, combine or burst. Do all these things, and you might (you often can’t tell) find a snake. Or open a new door. Or something funny, strange or baffling happens which doesn’t actually further the game.

There’s rarely any way of knowing what to do until you’ve experimented, driven your flying snake past, round or into everything. I’m certain several “levels” (they’re just locations really, rather than levels) were only completed or past entirely by accident and a few of them just triggered the “win” without me realising I’d actually done anything.

tumblr_no2q2qmyjs1svmpf2o1_1280The vagueness doesn’t matter, though. Every event is like some clever or cute little story, a comic strip of events. There’s no communication or exposition, past the odd cave drawing or carefully arranged pile of rocks, but some of the creatures you encounter are full of character, and their actions and noises tell a brief tale. For example, in an area full of white circles, you find that flying over them makes then burst into colour. On a sort of island in the middle of this is a sort of man stood next to what appear to be four slots. You can pick the man up, and the slots change colour, prompting you to ferry the man around so he can scoop up the smaller circles of the colours shown. Take him home with his collected ingredients, and he feeds each disc into a slot, which causes his machine to create a colourful and ridiculous hat for another man. All nonsense.

tumblr_no2q2adukd1svmpf2o1_1280It’s an odd game of whimsy and art, with situations that can only come from the head of a person with kangaroos in the top paddock. Mostly it works, but sometimes you are totally lost, not knowing if you’re actually making any difference or working towards a goal. Even the odd “Saving” icon that appears doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something – often you’ve merely accidentally triggered one of the 150-odd hidden eyes in the game that don’t appear to serve a purpose. On one screen there is a massive circle made up of hundreds of smaller circles. If you fly over them, they vanish. Was I supposed to get rid of all of them? Surely not. That would take ages! Twenty minutes, in fact. But yes – you had to get rid of them all.

Despite that, and the fact you often can’t tell if there’s even anything in a particular area you need to do, let alone must do because there’s a hidden snake, it’s a fun, relaxing and incredibly pretty game. It’s just very weird and abstract, but in a much better way than, say, Proteus, or the Mega CD game Panic! (which for some reason this reminds me of) is. You can’t die, you can’t run out of time, and even when you make a mistake you’re not penalised. It’s just a bit baffling that someone came up with it at all, really.

 

Mega Man 7 (Wii U): COMPLETED!

BraaaaaaaaaainsUnlike the NES Mega Mans (Mega Men?), Mega Man 7 has two sets of four robot masters rather than one set of eight. After beating the first four, a second set is added. I’m not sure why they felt doing this was necessary, as all it does is reduce the choices at the start of the game. It would seem that the first four levels have hidden letters on them (I picked up R and H), but whether the second set have, I don’t know – I never actually looked for any.

Wait_-_there_s_a_shopThe second subscreen (which contains how many E tanks you have, amongst other things) remained pretty blank for the entirety of the game, so I’d obviously missed something. Something huge, as it turned out. Once I’d beaten the first Wily level (yes, no changes there), I tried to get back to the level select screen as I wanted to redo an earlier level and get a replacement E tank. I pressed Select twice by mistake, and ended up in a shop! I assumed there must have been one somewhere – after all, I’d collected about 600 bolts – but assumed I’d missed it or not unlocked it. I’d no idea you could enter it at will. And E tanks were just 60 bolts? Bargain!

Cut_scene_from_Jingle_All_The_WayWith that knowledge, I was less frugal with the tanks for the last few levels, and had a nice surprise when I found the W tanks (I’d bought a few of them too) refilled ALL your weapons, not just one. That made the end of the game easier! Which is just as well, because the final boss was nails.

Once again, Mega Man saved the world etc. and Dr Wily begged forgiveness and mercy, but this time Mega Man actually threatened to end him… but of course, robots can’t harm humans, so he didn’t. And Wily escaped once more. Sigh.

And then I started Mega Man X2.

Yakuza 4 (PS3): COMPLETED!

Wow. Somehow, the plot just got better and better. So many twists, turns, betrayals, reverse-betrayals, reveals, surprises and revelations. Most of them in the last two hours. Two hours of mainly cutscenes, I noticed.

In the lead up to the finale, Kiryu joins up with Tanimura, Akiyama and Saejima as they all realise they have a common enemy and goal. Of course, they’re not entirely sure who the enemy is, so they set a trap to lure him out. Or them. Spoilers!

The final chapter was all exposition, bar the obligatory boss fight(s), but I didn’t find them too hard. What was helpful, was that I’d stumbled across Naomi’s Place (again – Tanimura goes there in his part of the game), and some weird buy in a clown suit, called Bob, gave me loads of really useful items – weapons, armour, healing drinks, and so on. I went into the endgame well prepared, and soon beat those I needed to, leaving a lengthy set of videos, credits, and more videos.

In all, it took about 22 hours. I’ve obviously not done much in the way of sidequests or activities though, as my stats show my completion rate at just 12.78%. That’s barely started!

Hopefully Yakuza 5 will be out here sooner rather than later now, although that said it took me over three years to get round to Yakuza 4 after Yakuza 3, despite saying I wanted to play 4 right after 3. Maybe when it’s cheap then…

Shantae (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nnqhyi80ui1svmpf2o1_400It’s been a long time. The “time played” in the 3DS stats shows I’ve spent just under twelve hours on this, but that’s spread over several months, since I started back in February.

tumblr_nnqhxtkml91svmpf2o1_400It isn’t because it’s a bad game, far from it, it’s just that every so often I’d realise I’d travelled all the way to the wrong end of the map (it loops round, but only when you’ve almost finished the game!), and couldn’t face travelling all the way back again, so gave it a break. Then, each time I picked it up again I’d forgotten where I was or what I was doing, so going back always seemed a chore.

tumblr_nnqhulodzd1svmpf2o1_400Soon I’d get back into it though, and each dungeon was well worth the slightly annoying overworld traversal, being less backtracky and more puzzley. Strangely, the bosses all got increasingly easier, with the final two being complete walkovers and the first one was almost impossible. That’s just as well, I suppose, as I never sought out the extra heart containers hidden around the map. I stumbled across one, but exploring every nook and cranny of the world is so dangerous that I avoided doing so, taking the quickest, easiest route at all times.

tumblr_nnqhy1qy5o1svmpf2o1_400Similarly, the warp squid you collect in dungeons would have reduced the backtracking, but they were too hard to find. I did manage to get enough to unlock the warps in two towns, so at least I reduce it a bit.

Having said all that, it is still a great game. It’s fun, it’s quite clever and it looks amazing. I’m hoping that the few niggles I have with it are ironed out in the later games in the series, because I want to make a start on them soon!

Things I’ve been playing recently

Roundup!

Mega Man 7 (Wii U)

Precious_memoriesIt’s been a few months since I started Mega Man 7. I think, after ploughing through Mega Mans 1-6 I may have had a bit of Mega Man burnout, and I was a bit disappointed with 7 anyway as it didn’t feel right. Anyway, I’m back on it now and have taken down the first lot of four Robot Masters. I’m enjoying it, and it does feel more like the NES games than it did a few months ago. Perhaps I just needed to give it some time?

StreetPass Zombies (3DS)

Nintendo released two more StreetPass games! In this one, your passes equate to weapons that you use to see off the (cute, Nintendofied, egg-headed) zombie hordes. It’s a lot of fun, and actually quite difficult.

StreetPass Fishing (3DS)

And this is the other game. Passes translate as different bait types which you use to catch different fish. There’s a sort of RPG element as you can level up and improve your rod (and get other rods), and a lot of “gotta catch ’em all” with the fish. Really enjoyable.

Pokémon Rumble World (3DS)

tumblr_nmxy9tydoi1svmpf2o1_400Another Free-to-Play Pokeymuns game from Nintendo, this time based on (read: almost exactly the same as) the Pokémon Rumble series, which despite being repetitive, I’ve had fun with in the past. This one has a real money mechanic where you can only attempt so many levels before your hot air balloon mode of transport deflates, and you have to wait or use jewels to re-inflate it. And jewels cost money. I’m open minded though – Pokémon Shuffle had jewels too and gave away so many for free it was unnecessary to buy any.

Yakuza 4 (PS3)

I’ve progressed a little further, moving onto Kiryu’s part of the story. Another incredibly unlikely coincidence occurs (another character washes up on Kiryu’s doorstep) and then another (Kiryu goes to the police station and happens to bump into “Lily”), and then some fighting. I’ll just say this: that head prison officer bloke from Saejima’s prison is pretty much immortal, isn’t he? No mere man can be smashed to pieces that many times and not only survive, but actually come back stronger!

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! (Wii U)

Food_is_where_the_hearts_are_A few more levels finished on this in co-op. It’s a bit shallow, but is essentially Gauntlet, so I’ll let it go. The only real annoyance that I have, is that you can only quit the dungeon and save the game every five levels, meaning you really don’t want to die in that time or you have to do it all again.

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

WarioooooooooooooThe new tracks that were available this week are fantastic. Ribbon Road, in particular, goes way above a simple reimagining of the original GBA track by being probably the best looking part of any game ever made ever. Ever. I’ve not unlocked the new 200cc mode yet, so had to put in a bit of work to do that by improving my scores on some of single player mode. Never a chore, mind.

Bernband (Mac)

Screen_Shot_2015-04-12_at_14.51.37Technically, I’ve completed this. I’m not recording it as completed though, as there’s no real goal – you just explore a purposefully low-res alien city, see the sights and hear the sounds, and that’s it. There’s not even all that much to see, and I took the lot in in well under an hour. There’s no interaction, nothing to collect, no items to collect or anything like that. Still, it was funny and absolutely well worth a wander around. Download it for free here.

Titan Souls (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nnffwcxd0a1svmpf2o1_1280What a difficult game. Rewarding, complete with air punches, each time a Titan is finally felled, but oh so very difficult.

Almost every Titan I came across seemed impossible to defeat. At first it was because I couldn’t see how you were supposed to take them down, and then it was simply because I couldn’t. Perseverance paid off, and eventually each and every one was beaten. Eventually being the operative word there – so, so many attempts.

C_est_impossible___titansouls__t_httpt.coT5Z8N9HESoMost impossible of all the impossible Titans was the stone head with two maces. I think about a third of all my deaths were attributed to his spiky balls. There was a genuine sense of achievement and relief once I (literally) shot him in the back.

In comparison, the final two bosses were a walkover. As in, I “only” died around 20 times on each. In fact, the actual final boss himself took a mere handful of lives, although I think that may have been luck. Having dealt with him, it was Game Over and the credits rolled… but then I remembered: two Titans I’d attempted previously, I’d never gone back to finish off. How, then, did I get the end of game sequence?

tumblr_nnffu5nmcp1svmpf2o1_1280As it turned out, some of the Titans are optional. I’d beaten the game taking out just 15 of them, but there are 18 to off. Mark Foster (who wrote the game) sent me a message on Twitter to say there was a “true” final boss after you’ve beaten every Titan, so my next mission is to find those I’d missed and mop the floor with them too. I did start this, and found (but lost many times to) the Knight With A Big Arrow Titan. I shall return.

Titan Souls (Vita)

2015-04-18-135131What seems like a long time ago, I heard about Titan Souls on the Pig Ignorant Indie Gamers podcast. Back then, it was a web based game written in about ten minutes for the Ludum Dare game jam. I played it, liked it a lot, and completed it.

Then it spent over a year being developed into a proper full game, and I eagerly awaited its release. And now it’s here!

2015-04-18-150704It is, basically, the same as before. Only bigger. Instead of four titans (all of which appear to be in this) there are, er, lots. How many, I’m not sure. I’ve beaten twelve, and am able to access but not beat another two or three, and I’m guessing once I’ve beaten them and opened a massive door there’ll be at least another as a final boss. The game world is still quite small, but bigger than before with a few minor puzzles in it. There’s a jungle, some ruins, a snowy area, and a volcano to provide scenery variety too.

2015-04-18-145952As before, the game is all about killing big bosses and very little else. You have just one weapon – a single arrow that, once fired, you have to pick back up. Alternatively, it can be magically summoned and levitated back to you, but this is slow and so mid-fight needs to be done carefully. Each boss makes use of this limitation, so you have to not only find the (generally) one-hit-kill weakspot, but figure out how to hit it.

For example, one titan is a giant mask who shoots energy balls at you. He flies round the room, always facing you, but his weakspot is his back. You can never directly shoot his back, but you can “pull” your arrow into it having shot it past him.

Show_me_your_teeth__t__titansouls_httpt.co3wDCTsqRplMost titans are as much a puzzle as a fight, so the first ten or so deaths (you’ll die a lot, sorry) are just figuring out where to hit them, and the rest figuring our how and then actually pulling it off. It’s hard. So very, very hard. And incredibly rewarding.

As I said, I’ve downed twelve of these bosses, and it’s taken me about three hours and I’ve died over 180 times. Has that put me off? Not at all.

Yakuza 4 (PS3)

I’d not touched Yakuza 4 for a month or so, because various other games happened, but I’ve been playing it quite a bit in the last week or so and have been making a lot of progress.

Unlike Yakuza 3, you have more than one protagonist. So far, I’ve played as Akiyama – the ethical loan-shark who owns a hostess club – and kicked a lot of people in the face. Akiyama doesn’t go in for punches that much, it seems. Most of his story centres around protecting “Lily”, who he loans a massive sum of money to, and for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense, training her up as a hostess. All while trying to track down a guy who murdered another guy outside his office, and collecting locker keys.

After him, I played as Saejima – a prisoner on death row who escapes and tries to find out why his partner didn’t turn up for the murder spree 25 years ago that he got sent down for. As he escapes (plunging into the sea, injured), he’s told to find Kiryu, and in the most ridiculous turn of events ever, somehow literally washes up on Kiryu’s actual doorstep. He heads to Kamurocho to find ex-brother Majima, and along the way he helps two poorly cats, takes part in a  fight to the death (in which neither combatant dies), spends far too much time at a massage parlour, and hangs around with homeless people in the sewers a lot. And goes bowling. And collects locker keys.

Currently, I’m playing a slightly bent cop Tanimura who is also trying to protect “Lily” (who turns out to be Saejima’s sister) because she knows something about why his dad, a detective, was murdered in relation to Saejima’s crimes, while both protecting illegal immigrants and taking “look the other way” money from their employers. While doing his police duties and additional vigilante work. And fighting random people, carrying “Lily”‘s money about in a steel briefcase and smacking a lot of Yakuza in the face with it. And collecting locker keys.

And that’s where I’m up to. I’ve just saved Tanimura’s Asian chums in Homeland from Katsuragi’s goons, and some police chief has turned up and wants a chat.

Basically, it’s quite complicated.

Azure Striker Gunvolt (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nmcm5xjrxh1svmpf2o1_400Aside from a couple of bosses, and the “water chasing you up the tower” level (which I realised I was doing wrong – you can wall jump and fall slowly when you’re sparking), I managed to get to the penultimate level of the game without too much trouble. Then I hit a wall.

A SuckySuck Bit(TM) wall. That’s right folks: a boss rush.

tumblr_nmcm79mhfa1svmpf2o1_400I suppose I was expecting it. After all, Gunvolt isa follow-up of sorts to Mega Man, and Boss Rushes are a Mega Man cliché. And it was hard, too. After scraping past the first boss, there was a second one. I was praying it was just the two, or at least that there’d be a restart point after the first, but no – straight into the second boss without so much as a heal or recovery of your skill points. So I died.

tumblr_nmcm6jps3e1svmpf2o1_400And I died a lot. Over and over. Mostly on the second boss (the green one with the spikes that turn into drills or lasers). I decided to go back and complete a few earlier levels again, to level up (I went from about 24 to 35 in the end) but also to get material to generate better gear for Gunvolt – such as faster EP recovery or better shielding. After that, I returned to the boss rush and seemed to be faring little better.

Then, on one attempt, I beat the second boss with a tiny sliver of health left, no skill points, and no chance at all of defeating a third boss. Please don’t be a third boss. Oh. There’s a third boss.

tumblr_nmcm734zmi1svmpf2o1_400Thankfully, somehow, I wiped him out in double-quick time. One skill point regenerated soon after the fight began and I used it to replenish some health. Luckily the boss was the one who creates columns of fire on either side of the screen, and he was really easy. Phew! But… a fourth boss?

No. Well, yes, but not before a restart point. And other boss after that, again with a restart point that went unused as they were easy. Onto the final level!

tumblr_nmcm7drrpd1svmpf2o1_400After a short corridor and a room with loads of simply to defeat minions, it was the final boss. Who was really difficult. It took many, many attempts to see him off (then of course, I realised all I needed to do was use my EV shield to negate his shield, making him much easier) and he changed form into a huge robot thing. Sigh – another Irritating and Unnecessary Gaming Cliché. More so in that he appeared to be impossible to beat, and one attack (which blows you off the platform seemingly with no way to avoid it prevent it) was incredibly frustrating.

tumblr_nmp3lshaaj1svmpf2o1_400Many attempts, requiring the previous form to be beaten again first, were had, and then I realised the “trick” – target the left and right sides of the robot, then use your EV shield to negate his shield in the middle, then target that, then spark all three targets at once. Knowing that, he went down quickly. The end!

Except the end wasn’t a happy end at all. Spoilers, obviously, so I won’t say what happens, but I think you need to do something before the final boss. Probably involving collecting gems, of which I think there are six, and I stumbled across one. More to do then!

Azure Striker Gunvolt is a fantastic game, and I’m pleased they’ve announced a sequel already as I do really want to play more of this sort of thing!

Super Mario 64 (Wii U): COMPLETED!

WHOMP_there_it_isLook, there’s not lots to write about this that I’ve not written before. Super Mario 64 is one of the best games ever made, on any system, ever. That’s just a fact, and playing it through again did nothing to dissuade me. Of course, I’m still not sure if Super Mario 64 is better than New Super Mario Bros U, or if it’s the other way round, but I can be sure the two of them are at positions 2 and 3 in The Best Games Ever.

MY_WIFE_NOW_DAAAVEThe Wii U Virtual Console version is barely different to the Wii Virtual Console and the N64 original, but the graphics seem a little sharper (probably only because it’s now HDMI rather than any changes Nintendo have made) and of course the buttons have moved on the Wii U Gamepad. I moved A and B to B and Y though, so it’s more like an N64 pad, and didn’t have any issues – it feels just the same as it did before.

Trapped__like_ratsOne addition is the availability of save states, which was useful as I didn’t need to pause the game for hours if I needed to do something else.  Oh, and you can take screenshots now, obviously.

Is it just me, or is the game now significantly easier, though? In particular, on previous playthroughs, I’m sure I struggled on at least one of the Bowser levels and getting 100 coins on Rainbow Ride in the past, but no such issues this time. In fact, I’ve had very few deaths at all, all things considered. Maybe I’m just a lot better than I thought. Yes. That’s bound to be it.

Troma_BowserEven after nigh on 20 years, Mario 64 is still gorgeous to look at, listen to (the tunes are probably more memorable that pretty much any Mario game since – or any game since, perhaps) and play.  The controls are slick, Mario leaps and flips and dives in a fluid way no other game, not even later Marios, has ever managed. It’s an utter joy from start to finish.

Box Boy! (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nm73jrhl0p1svmpf2o1_400A black and white puzzle platform game for under a fiver on the eShop by the people that made Pokemans? That can’t be good, surely?

Until I saw a video of it, and there was something about the simple style that piqued my interest. The way you solved the puzzles, by making boxes that link together, seemed unique. On paper, it sounds like Sokoban (Irritating and Unnecessary Gaming Cliché #2), but it’s really totally different.

tumblr_nmcm4x4cqn1svmpf2o1_400Your little box, Box Boy, can produce a number of boxes that are joined together. How many he makes varies by level, but he can create stairs, bridges, hooks and so on from them. He uses these boxes to get across gaps, up ledges, over hazards, push switches, hold back danger, and so on, in many, many different ways.

tumblr_nmcm55d4hh1svmpf2o1_400What’s really clever about the game is that every world (with about 7 levels in each, with each level containing a few separate puzzles) a new element is introduced, and then binned until the final worlds. For example, “sticky” pads on walls that you or your boxes hang from, or platforms that vanish when you stand on them, or conveyor belts. They’re all added to the game, used a few times, then thrown away and replaced with something else. It keeps the game fresh and varied from start to finish.

tumblr_nme2w3ajby1svmpf2o1_400Of course, the final few worlds (and some of the bonus worlds you unlock after completing the game) mix them up and put several of these mechanics together, some in new ways.

I’ve completed all of the normal levels, and all of the first batch of bonus levels (three worlds worth), and unlocked another two bonus worlds. There’s also a challenge mode and a time attack mode, which I’ve briefly looked at but not really dipped into yet, so there’s still a lot to be done.

Mighty Gunvolt (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nm78trnfvm1svmpf2o1_400Since I’ve recently become a fan of Mega Man games, I have been looking forward to the release of the 3DS game Azure Striker Gunvolt. It’s supposedly a spiritual successor to Mega Man. What’s even more interesting is that an 8-bit style version of it, Mighty Gunvolt, came free. I was looking forward to that even more.

And here it is, and 40 minutes later, there it was. Completed.

tumblr_nm78tx47cb1svmpf2o1_400OK, so it’s short and pretty easy. But so much fun! There’s more left to do, such as replay it with the other two characters, each with their own moves. There’s also some DLC in the form of more stages. It’s not expensive, but locking away some of the game that was given away for free, behind a paywall stinks a bit.

tumblr_nme2v51lrt1svmpf2o1_400Still, what’s there for free was enjoyable and the bosses were great and it certainly feels a bit like Mega Man. Without the crouch slide or Mega Buster charge attack. Clearly I’m missing some sort of move like the slide, as there are a load of things I’ve been unable to reach. Maybe you can with the other characters?

Anyway, onto Azure Striker Gunvolt now!

Castlevania: Spectral Interlude (Spectrum): COMPLETED!

cvsi-1That’s right, folks – I’ve completed a Spectrum game. But not a Spectrum game from 30 years ago – one from last year. Or this year. It’s new, anyway.

And it’s also really good. A new Castlevania game (a fan one, not a Konami one) that manages to fit into the Castlevania canon, with astounding graphics and sound considering the hardware it’s on. And it’s a full adventure experience too, like Castlevania II was on the NES, which abilities you gain from bosses giving you access to new areas of the map.

cvsi-2I’d forgotten how responsive the controls on Speccy games could be. All too often there was some vagueness and input lag, but here it’s perfect – and it needs to be for some of the later sections where you have to be pixel perfect and make use of your double-jump or warp abilities. Or both.

Like all good Castlevania games, Spectral Interlude is a bit of a challenge. OK, it’s a lot of a challenge. Nigh on impossible, in fact. Thankfully, I was playing on an emulator, so I could make use of save states. This was probably just as well as it’s a big game too, and took me several hours to finish.

Screen_Shot_2015-03-31_at_18.37.39An utterly superb game. Please don’t ignore it because it’s for such an old system, as it stands up really well today despite the limitations. Not that you’ll even see any limitations, really, aside from the usual colour clash. Go and download a copy here.

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Gold_toiletYou know pretty much what to expect with a Lego game. You know there’s a series of levels with fixed characters and loads of secrets you can’t get see or access, some sort of hub world with more secrets you can’t see or access, a lot of silliness, and approximately two thirds of the game locked off until you’ve finished the story.

Then it’s back to the earlier levels with new characters and abilities you didn’t have previously to attempt Free Play mode in order to find some of those secrets and unlock even more characters and abilities, mopping up minikits and red and gold bricks along the way. Usually a third run of the game is then necessary too.

Check_out_Daft_Punk_s_new_single_if_you_get_the_chance._Sound_of_the_summer.Lego Batman 3 doesn’t deviate from these blueprints set out in so many previous Lego titles. It refines them, modifies them, expands on them, but the structure is ultimately the same. You’d think, after playing what must be almost a thousand Lego games, I’d be bored of the formula and seen everything Travellers Tales have to offer, but no – they keep coming up with more addictive and playable titles.

Green_Loontern_The main improvement over Lego Batman 2 is the massively increased roster of characters. Even in Story Mode, you get to play as most of the Justice League (but not Hawkman – there’s a running joke about him being trapped under the Hall of Justice), a pile of villains, several Lanterns of assorted colours, and more. Once you start unlocking more characters, you realise there are hundreds of them, including Daffy Duck as the Green Loontern, 60s Batman TV series characters, and even Kevin Smith. Travellers Tales have also fixed one of the main complaints with previous Lego Batman titles – cycling through all the various suits for the characters. Now, most of the time, standing where the suit is needed and pressing A will swap you to the correct costume automatically – very useful!

Gold_toiletSadly, the open world of Gotham City is absent, replaced with several small hubs: the Batcave, the Hall of Justice, the Watchtower, some Lantern homeworlds, the Moon, and so on. Although there’s a lot to do, probably as much as in Gotham overall, it’s not as impressive. I realise they couldn’t just stick Gotham in there again, but why not Metropolis or Coast City? The latter especially makes sense given the Green Lantern-focussed story.

Oh yes! The story! At the end of Batman 2, Brainiac was en-route to Earth, and in Batman 3 he nears it and starts turning cities into bottle cities and then shrinks the entire planet. Several of the early levels are then set in these cities which as well as being shrunk, are entirely constructed from Lego (which is borrowed from The Lego Movie The Game of The Lego Movie: Lego The Movie Lego Game). Brainiac has used the combined power of all seven coloured Power Batteries to do this, and it’s up to The Justice League, who, teaming up with DCs Most Wanted Villains (And Cheetah), have to reverse the damage and defeat Brainiac.

Lego_Batman_60s_TV_series_set_As always, the game is filled with humour. The dialogue is funny, and a lot of the “background action” with other characters doing stuff while you’re supposed to be paying attention to the foreground action is not to be missed. There are loads of nice touches that make you chuckle too, for example the character select screen. Hover over Batman and you can hear him singing “Nanananananananana Batman!”, but do the same over other characters and…  “Nanananananananana Plastic Man!” and “Nanananananananana Cheetah!”. Every level also has an Adam West minifigure that needs rescuing, with plenty of cheesy puns and one-liners from him (the actual Adam West providing the voice too) as he awaits your assistance.

Some_days_you_just_can_t_get_rid_of_a_bomb_The best bit is a bonus level accessed from the trophy room in the Batcave. There’s a Lego set of Bruce Wayne’s manor office from the 60s TV show, complete with bust you punch to reveal batpoles behind – just like in the series. Pop down the poles and you’re suddenly in a Lego episode of Batman from that era, complete with comic book cut scenes and biffs and zonks as you fight. Adam West narrates the short plot, and most of the TV series baddies make an appearance. Even The Joker has badly applied white make-up over the top of a barely hidden moustache – just like Cesar Romaro did, famously because he refused to shave it off for the part. Batman and run around carrying a bomb, as a callback to the film of the series, and naturally, the level ends in a dance number. Of course.

The_RiddlerThere’s a lot to like in the game, and although it has the usual Lego game bugs (I broke one scripted sequence, and I managed to get stuck behind scenery twice), it’s definitely one of the best of the series. I’ve completed about 30% of it so far, but have barely touched Free Play mode, so I’ll be a while yet!

Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious (360): COMPLETED!

Just trips off the tongue, that title, doesn’t it? It does exactly what it says on the tin, though – a Fast & Furious (tenuously) themed Forza Horizon game. Oh, and it’s free.

Yes, actually free. Presumably to tie in with the next The Fast and the Furious film, but aside from “the man in your ear” being Taj from the films, and a short montage of clips from the series, there’s not a lot of The Fast and the Furious here. Instead, loading screens encourage you to buy Forza Horizon and Forza Horizon 2, menu screens have links to buy them, and the end of game screen is literally “BUY THESE GAMES!!!!111!”, so it’s more a free advert for those than the films.

I’ve not played either Horizon game, aside from demos of one or the other (or possibly both), but FH2PF&F (or as some of the cool kids are calling it, fuhtwopuffandff) feels like I’d expect. It’s a little bit Forza Motorsport, and a little bit Need For Speed Most Wanted. In the three or so hours the game takes to complete, you have to round up ten cars buy beating the owners of them in the usual win-it-to-win-it races, with a few other events thrown in, such as drifting and having to reach a point unscathed.

It’s not especially hard, as very few events required more than one attempt, and I’ve nailed all bar one of the achievements (I can’t get a high enough combo for the last one) simply by playing the game. It looks great, and the cars are fun enough to drive. The map is pretty small when compared to the likes of Burnout Paradise and Need For Speed Most Wanted, but then this is pretty much just a stand-alone DLC pack for Horizon 2.

Will I return to play it some more? Yeah, I think so. I’ve a few more boards to find and smash, one road to drive (out of 134) which is eluding me, and I need to sort that last achievement out. After that, I can’t imagine picking it up again, but for several hours of free fun, I can’t recommend it enough.

Apparently, it’s only free for a few more days, so best nab it now.

Touch My Katamari (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nlxkxrslyp1svmpf2o1_1280In a sale a few months ago, Touch My Katamari dropped to about £18. I was very tempted to buy it but the only thing stopping me was a full Vita memory card. By the time my 64GB card arrived, it wasn’t on sale any more and I’d a billion other things to play anyway.

This week, I spotted it for £3.29 on PSN, and, with my credit I’d bought for 20% discount, nabbed it for around £2.60. Bargain!

Or so it seemed. As it happens, there’s not much more than £2.60’s worth of content there. Only 8 levels, including the tutorial, and none of them are as large or as long as those in previous Katamari titles. Sure, there’s free DLC (8 more levels, each a separate download, although numbered 1 to 9 with number 5 missing), but it isn’t really free. You can download it for free, of course, but can you play it? No. You can’t unless you then pay 10 “fan damacy” (one of the in-game currencies) to do so. Fan damacy can be obtaining in the game, appearing as a character to roll up, but after completing the game and then replaying the entire game then playing some more, I’d found three. Leaving another SEVENTY SEVEN to find.

tumblr_nlxsueovib1svmpf2o1_1280Lets just assume, that somehow, I managed to find 20 of them in total. That will take forever at the current rate, but pretend I hit my head or something and I play the entire game through another 12 to 15 times, in order to do this. That still leaves 60 fan damacy needed to play what I’ve already downloaded. Luckily for Bandai Namco, you can buy fan damacy with real money. Unfortunately for the player, 60 fan damacy will cost more than £16. So much for free DLC. It’s crap like this that made me stop playing the iOS version.

tumblr_nlxsvfrfbh1svmpf2o1_1280What about the actual game then. Is it any cop? You’ll be glad to hear that, despite the above and the shortness, yes – it is. It’s not as good as Katamari Forever or Beautiful Katamari, and it suffers from lower powered hardware as levels are smaller and prone to slowdown. The touchscreen (or back panel, if you prefer) gimmick to flatten or stretch your katamari is completely useless, and outside of the tutorial isn’t required at all. In fact, it’s sometimes a hinderance as wandering fingers on the back of the Vita sometimes reshape the ball when you don’t want it to. The Vita itself doesn’t really work well controlling it in general, as I kept finding myself tilting the console back all the time due to the way you have to hold it, to facilitate pushing up on both sticks 99% of the time, and to prevent accidental ball squashage.

The music isn’t as good as previous titles either, consisting of very quiet tracks, some of which appear to be easy listening slowjams of earlier tracks. None are catchy and some are barely audible.

There’s a lot of criticism for so many parts of the game, but ultimately it’s Katamari, and for £2.60 I can’t really complain too strongly. Short, not as good as previous games in the series, but still fun.

Mighty Switch Force 2 (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nl845qv0p01svmpf2o1_400It’s been a long time since I played the 3DS original, but I did always intend to buy the sequel. At £1.25 instead of the usual £5 in this week’s sale, there was no excuse. The only difficulty was choosing whether to get the 3DS version or the Wii U one. I went 3DS for the 3D effect, which really does make a useful difference.

tumblr_nl9nx5jhab1svmpf2o1_400I’m glad I did, as well. It’s even better than the first game. The water hose replaces the gun, and makes for more varied platforming (you now have to douse fires and clean mud blocks to progress) and some better puzzles (using tubes to direct water, and three coloured “locking” blocks), and there’s now a baby on each level you have to rescue. Well, I say rescue – you kick it off the screen.

tumblr_nl9nxdbqov1svmpf2o1_400Other than that, it’s the same as before – same controls, same ideas, seemingly same speech samples, mostly the same baddies. It is, however, a lot easier than before. I never got stuck, and only dies three times in the entire game – and not at all on the final level or the end of game boss. I had found the final level on the first game overly difficult and frustrating, but the last level on the sequel is one of the easiest in the game. It still has the “rhythmic auto depth switch” the previous Mighty Switch Force had late in the game, but it’s far, far easier.

tumblr_nl9nxlqybm1svmpf2o1_400I’ve a couple of babies to go back and collect, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to replay the game to beat the par times for each level. That would be nuts as even on levels where I feel I’ve been pretty quick, I’ve taken three times as long as I could have done.

3D Shinobi III (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nl845d8iko1svmpf2o1_400What a great game. It’s hard, but not as hard as Revenge of Shinobi, it has some satisfying platforming sections, and the music is fantastic. The 3D adds very little, but that’s not really important.

I only had a few minor complaints. One was that doing the double-jump somersault should have been easier to pull off, especially since some of the later parts of the game rely on it so much. Second was the level where you go through doors and some of them take you back to earlier in the level, meaning you have to traverse the same bits again taking pot luck as to whether you’ll progress or go backwards.

tumblr_nl8459g9xu1svmpf2o1_400Finally, there’s the end boss. Oh my was he hard. I thought I’d nailed it when I started flying-kicking him, but then he countered with some sort of rage move which hits me, or a few dragon punches. He took so many attempts, and when I did manage to kill him, I was down to one bar of health and he was about to hit me!

Well worth a purchase, especially as it’s half price at the moment.

Things I’ve been playing recently

Roundup time!

Yakuza 4 (PS3)

It’s been a while since I played Yakuza 3. I did really enjoy it, but never got round to picking up Yakuza 4, probably because it was a PS3 game and I don’t really like playing PS3 games, however good they are. However, for reasons I won’t explain, I got a PS+ subscription and with it came Yakuza 4.

I’m a few hours in, and have spent most of the game so far watching cut scenes, playing with UFO Catchers, opening lockers, and buying clothes for girls. And a few fights, but not many. It’s good, but so far it seems to just be Yakuza 3 with a new story and no mobile phone camera. The asset reuse is high with this one.

tumblr_nl4ekp2aky1svmpf2o1_4003D Shinobi III (3DS)

When 3D Outrun was released this week, a few older 3D ports were reduced in price. I picked up Altered Beast (I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry) and Shinobi III. I was pretty sure I’d played Shinobi III before, but it appears not. I don’t recognise any of the levels so far, aside from seeing screenshots in magazines. It’s great, and not as hard as I was expecting (Revenge of Shinobi was virtually impossible, I seem to recall). The levels disjointedly follow on from each other with no obvious link, but that’s par for the course for games of this age, I suppose. I’m only a few levels in, but really enjoying it so far.

Pokémon Shuffle (3DS)

Still playing this off and on. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve completed the game, but I do return to have a few goes at the special stages or to try and capture a few missed pokeymens.

tumblr_nkwzzkxtr71svmpf2o1_1280The Swapper (Vita)

I’m not sure if I’m enjoying this. I sort of like the setting, but the way you generate clones and can transfer into them feels slightly too vague to control. Also, some of the puzzles are such that completing them feels like you’ve kludged it or brute forced it rather than actually found a solution. I also don’t like how you have to turn your man around by using the on-screen pointer rather than just pressing the opposite direction like in almost every other game ever. Still, it’s a free PS+ rental so I’m not too bothered if I don’t play it again, although I suspect I will.

How_do_I_get_up_to_the_chains__t_httpt.cobVSTh02HMeCastlevania: Spectral Interlude (Spectrum)

Someone made a Castlevania game for the Spectrum. Oh my. And not only that, but it’s polished to within an inch of its life, it plays flawlessly, looks fantastic, and even – somehow – fits into the normal Castlevania timeline. At least, until Konami rebooted it with Lords of Shadow, anyway. I’ve beaten two bosses, collected the double-jump artifact, and am generally loving it.

Various Crap Games (Spectrum)

Somehow I have become involved in the comp.sys.sinclair Crap Games Competition again. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, as I’m having to play some terrible, terrible games. Intentionally terrible games too. I think they’re driving me a little bit mad. Take a look here.

3D Altered Beast (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nl49srv4lv1svmpf2o1_400WISE FWOM YOUR GWAVE!

Or, even better, stay dead and buried. Why on earth did Sega think that porting the Megadrive version (not even the arcade version!) of this infamously terrible game to the 3DS? Or even to any other console? Nobody, absolutely nobody at all, wanted it, liked it originally, or is ever going to buy it.

Er, except that I did, of course. Um.

tumblr_nl49svrqe81svmpf2o1_400In my defence, I did only get it because it was half price. And because… er, nope. That’s the only reason. I’ve bought worse for more money, I’m sure. No, I know that’s not helping.

So, the game then. It’s the same as it ever was with some minor 3D parallax layering. It’s still rubbish, it’s still easy, and it’s still possible to complete in under 15 minutes. Which I did. And, since I did, you don’t need to. Hurrah!

3D Outrun (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nl49s9vtv31svmpf2o1_400Long awaited by many, 3D Outrun finally found its way onto the European eShop today, and I had to buy it instantly. It’s a superb conversion, actually improving on the original arcade game by making it widescreen and 60fps (not that I can tell it’s not 30fps any more – I’m fps-blind) and most importantly, 3D.

tumblr_nl49sdkvqy1svmpf2o1_400It’s hard to express just how fantastic the 3D effect is. It was great in 3D Afterburner II and 3D Space Harrier, but in 3D Outrun it is truly astounding, especially on stages with road furniture on both sides and bridging over the road. You really feel like you’re in a tunnel. It’s incredible, and adds to the feeling of speed too.

This version also adds two extra music tracks. Neither are as good as Magical Sound Shower, but then, that’s a near impossible task. They’re at least as good as Splash Wave and Passing Breeze though, and it’s hard to think they were not originally in the arcade version they sound so well suited.

tumblr_nl49sklhph1svmpf2o1_400As the title of the post suggests, yes, I’ve completed it already. It isn’t a long game, and it’s a bit easier than I recall the arcade version being, but it is still so much fun to play. I ran through it five times (plus a few more where I ran out of time) reaching each of the five goals. Each one unlocks a “car tune-up”, such as better cornering or a higher top speed, and using these changes the colour of your car. It does feel a little odd to be driving a yellow or purple not-Ferarri (actually, the car seems to be an Armani now – no, really, look at the logo), it has to be said.

Excellent game and impossible to play without a massive grin. Especially if you pick Magical Sound Shower on the radio.

Proteus (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nkyra17ykb1svmpf2o1_1280Through various deals and sales, I managed to pick this up for just £1.44 today. I’ll buy any old crap at that sort of price, but a few people warned me against it, saying it wasn’t even worth it for free.

Pff to them, I thought. I can decide myself. But what the hell did I just buy? A walking around a pixelated island in some sort of dream simulator? I don’t know.

I started off in the see just off the coast of an island, in lovely sunshine. I slowly walked (swam?) towards the shore, and found some trees dropping big pixelly blossom all over the place. Some flowers from an Atari 2600 game gently swished in the breeze, and large monoliths formed a line which I proceeded to follow.

tumblr_nkyraca9ns1svmpf2o1_1280Some bouncing things caught my eye, but they ran away as I neared. I was close to a mountain so I climbed it, finding six… things in a circle on top. One of them looked a bit like a silhouette of a cowboy. Nothing happened.

I proceeded over the mountain, and on my way down I disturbed a group of what were possibly chickens, so again I chased them. One went into the sea and presumably drowned. The others escaped.

tumblr_nkyrb4ox6o1svmpf2o1_1280By now it was getting dark, and fireflies, or pixels representing fireflies, floated around the trees. I noticed some flickering lights in the distance, and headed towards them. As I neared, I realised they were inside a stone circle, and were collecting and swirling. As I watched, they sped up, becoming a small ring, which I stepped inside. Time suddenly sped up, with the sun and the moon flying across the sky and days passing quickly. It reminded me of the film of The Time Machine.

Everything faded to white, then came back. Were the trees now greener? It seemed that way.

tumblr_nkyrbuklma1svmpf2o1_1280I found a path, so followed it. A dead end. I retraced back to a fork in the road and found another road. After walking along it for a while, more pixels which may or may not have been dragonflies flew around, and possibly-grasshoppers hopped. In the grass. Like they do. Somehow, once night again fell, I found myself back at the stone circle with the lights, and again I entered it.

Now I’d realised the circle advances the seasons, as the trees were red and brown, with pixel-leaves strewn around and mushrooms (some of which sang and vanished as I drew near) grew in clumps here and there. Autumn.

tumblr_nkyrbi3mmo1svmpf2o1_1280I came back to the beach, and followed it until I’d completed a lap of the island. A large rectangular hollowed out tree served as my start and end point marker, and an achievement trophy popped as I passed the finish line.

The rectangular tree was peculiar, in that walking up to it caused the sky to become patterned like it was part of a castle wall, and by accident I walked into and through the tree, which popped another trophy and teleported me to another part of the island.

tumblr_nkyrclfzzz1svmpf2o1_1280Once more night fell, and, again attracted to lights in the distance I came across the stone circle for the final time. Autumn became Winter, and the island was covered with snow.

Walking became even slower, and the clouds seemed to draw closer, until somehow I’d walked not only through them, but up into the sky. The mountains below were gradually covered in cloud until everywhere was white…

…and then the game ended. What.

Tracking my gaming. For great victoly!