Things I’ve been playing recently

All games. All the time. GAMES.

Well, where “recently” is “any time in the last couple of months” and “things” is “games I’ve not completed as I’ve already posted about those”. In no particular order:

Spec Ops: The Line (Mac)

This was free, but only if I played it enough to get £1 credit back from Green Man Gaming. At first, I really struggled as it misdetected my PS4 controller and everything literally spiralled out of control – see this video, in particular from the 7 minute point:

With that fixed (I used a mouse and keyboard instead), I then worked through the first level, or mission, or whatever. It’s OK, but nothing special. It’s also difficult to play with an Apple mouse, because you can’t click the left and right buttons at the same time. I don’t know if I’ll play it more.

Paper Mario Sticker Star (3DS)

A lot of people seemed to be quite negative about this, but I’m really enjoying it. It removes almost all of the RPG elements (perhaps this is why it has the reputation it does), but the story and the combat are great and it looks lovely. Also, that Wii U one is out now and I thought I’d do this while waiting for that to magically appear in my possession.

Letter Quest Remastered (PS4)

Incredible Boggle/RPG hybrid. You’re given a bank of 15 random letters, some worth more than others (sort of Scrabble-like) and you make words out of them. The more powerful your word, the harder your attack is on your foes. You can level up abilities, making 6 letter words worth more, or double letters more powerful, etc. and it’s very addictive.

Assault Android Cactus (PC)

I set my Steam Link up again and this is one of the titles I played, having heard good things and getting it for virtually free in a recent Humble Bundle. It’s not bad, but I don’t think – so far at least – it deserves all the praise. It’s just a quite bland twin stick shooter with average graphics but with some great characters. I’m enjoying it, but not as much as I expected to.

Lego Dimensions (PS4)

I actually bought this a while back, but still had Lego Marvel Avengers on the go. With that finished (although not 100%ed) my daughter and I broke it out and yes – it is excellent. Jumping from world to world (we’ve had The Simpsons, The Wizard of Oz, Ninjago and Doctor Who so far) is great, and the references to other Lego games (such as the Joker Titanbot rematch) are awesome too. Playing shuffle-the-characters on the portal is less fun, though, but we’ve negated that a little by moving the portal to the sofa between us.

Pokémon Y (3DS)

With over 70 hours on the clock now, and still about 30% of my Pokédex unfilled, there’s a lot of game here. Not least when you consider I “completed” it at around the 35 hour mark.

Sonic Triple Trouble (3DS): COMPLETED!

Something’s come along and it’s burst our bubble.

When I started playing this (it was cheap on the eShop, in case you’re wondering), I was convinced I’d never played this before. I mean, why would I? It’s got Tails in.

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But then after a while it seemed awfully familiar. Especially the bit with the bouncy apple things. If only I kept a record of all the games I’d played somewhere. OH WAIT I DO. Yeah, nine years ago I played it on my PlayPal Game Gear clone emulation handheld device thing. Blimey. Nine years.

You’ll not be surprised to hear it hasn’t really improved since then. It’s not awful, but the cramped viewport makes the jumps hard and reaching some of the special stage TVs is a pain. On the plus side, unless you choose Tails as your character (and if you do, you need to be taken out and shot), he’s hardly in it.

Anyway, I completed it somewhat easily, with all the emeralds, and now I’m going to play Sonic Blast. Self-loathing as I am, see. Still, at least it isn’t Sonic Unleashed or something.

SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millennium (NGPC): COMPLETED!

There’s a party tonight
Everybody was drinking
The house was screaming
And the bass was shaking

While I was in Neo Geo Pocket Colour Mode, I busted out SNK vs Capcom. The NGPC had a lot of fighting games, but perhaps the best was this crossover title featuring characters from both SNK and Capcom series.

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I punch you.

I picked Ken, because Ken is Best, and quickly made it through as far as what I thought was the final boss battle – a team-up between M Bison from Street Fighter and Geese Howard from Fatal Fury. It was easy going until then, as I lost just one round (and that was close) before meeting that pair, then it all went wrong.

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Fwends.

Several million attempts later, most of which ended before I’d even defeated one of the two fighters – and a few before I even got a single hit in – I finally beat them. Naturally, they were not the final bosses after all – Iori in full on Zombie mode was.

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That’s a whole lot of nothing you’re saying there, boy.

Thankfully, he was a much easier than Bison and Geese, although he still took a fair few attempts, and I’d completed it!

Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure (NGPC): COMPLETED!

Over Eggmanning it.

It has been a long time since I played a Neo Geo Pocket game, but having figured out why they hadn’t been working on Retropie (games have to be .ngc files, if you’re interested) I got stuck into Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.

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Hammer! Hammer! I am! Hammer! They put me in the mix!

I remember being slightly disappointed when I bought it for my Neo Geo Pocket Colour back in the day. There I was expecting a new 2D Sonic platformer, perhaps a 2D version of the excellent Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast. After all, it shares the same art style as that title, on the menus and box and stuff. Instead, what I got was a rehash of the Mega Drive version of Sonic 2.

As it turned out, that was awesome.

And it still is. Certainly, each level looks like a level from Sonic 2 – there’s your Emerald Hill zone, and your Aquatic Ruin zone, and your Metropolis Zone, but for the most part the levels have different layouts. They also all have new bosses, and Knuckles makes an appearance too.

"Knuckles you eediot!"
“Knuckles you eediot!”

There are reworked versions of the music from several different Sonic games, not just the second one, and the final stage more like the end of Sonic 3 and Knuckles than Sonic 2. Add to all this the hidden puzzle pieces hidden round the levels which you can collect and complete, and you can see why I loved it so much all them years ago. I think, bar remakes of Sonic 3 and Knuckles, Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure might be my favourite handheld Sonic title too.

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Oh, and yes – I got all the Chaos Emeralds. I totally forgot the final one though, and had to redo the end boss to get it! That unlocked the final, final stage, which I also finished. Phew.

Super Fantasy Zone (MD): COMPLETED!

Run out of straplines for Fantasy Zone games, sorry.

More Fantasy Zone! Only this time, Super Fantasy Zone! Yes, it’s more of the same, but that is no bad thing at all. It is most similar to the arcade version of Fantasy Zone II, sharing a handful of baddies and of course a similar level of graphical fanciness.

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Paint the whole world with a Rainbow!

Oddly, there are no permanent “gun” power-ups, unlike all the other games, and since the temporary ones run out so quickly they’re mostly useless: You’d benefit most from being able to use them on bosses, but of course they expire well before you make it that far.

super fantasy zone
Shop ’til you drop.

One of the permanent “bomb” upgrades effectively makes the entire game a walkover too – the four-shot homing missiles. Constantly firing it invariably wipes out all the stray enemies, leaving you just the bases to destroy. These missiles also work on most of the bosses, allowing you to concentrate on avoiding their attacks while it automatically kills them for you.

In the dark, dark night
In the dark, dark night…

So yes, it’s probably the easiest of all the Fantasy Zone games (I didn’t mention, but money is no object in this one either), but it is still a lot of fun. I particularly liked both the nods to Space Harrier in the final boss rush, and lots of bosses from previous games in the background. Easter eggs!

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PS4): COMPLETED!

Bang bang club AK 47 hour

Like many Narrative Discovery games, it’s hard to talk about Ethan Carter without spoiling the only real thing it contains – the story. Unlike most, though, it does have a few puzzles. Sort of. I can’t really say any more about what actually happens.

You’re a psychic detective summoned to a sleepy village by a little boy – Ethan Carter – who wants you to figure out what’s going on. A creature of some sort, The Sleeper, has been awakened and strange doings have being happening. That’s spooky enough, but soon after you arrive you realise things aren’t quite what they seem. And then, you find that the second thing you thought was the truth isn’t quite what it seems either.

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It’s a beautiful looking game, slightly scary in parts, and just plain bizarre in others. Part murder mystery, part psychological thriller, part puzzle game, Ethan Carter is pretty unique, even amongst titles of its genre. Well worth playing.

Apartment 666 (Mac): COMPLETED!

Nope.

It seems that I lied in this post where I said I wouldn’t play Apartment 666. Because I did play it. And I completed it. Go me!

I struggled a bit though. Not in the “it’s too scary” way that I was expecting, despite it making me jump a few times. No, it was the fact the game was waaaay too dark for it’s own good that I had problems with. Three times I reached a point where it was too dark to see, and I had no idea which way I was facing or which way I needed to go. All I could do was quit and restart from the last checkpoint.

apartment 666

Hiding items you interact with in this impenetrable darkness didn’t help either, and nor did the jerkiness. As for the game itself, it was short, badly voice acted, and the sound mix was all over the place. Since atmosphere is the only thing Apartment 666 was aiming for, when all these things fought against it the game is ruined.

Not fun. Not interesting. Not even that scary. I can’t tell you the plot (because of spoilers), bar that you effectively repeat, with slight differences, the same short walk through your apartment over and over. I’d avoid it, if I were you.

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Retro City Rampage DX (3DS): COMPLETED!

More references than Wikipedia

Do you remember a while back, when they did that Nintendo Humble Bundle? That was great, wasn’t it? One of the games in that pack was Retro City Rampage DX for the 3DS. I’d already completed the game on the Xbox 360 a couple of years back, but was ready to do it again – this time with a decent d-pad.

retro city rampage
Snigger

The DX version is supposedly improved. In what ways I’m not completely sure, although it seems that some missions have additional midway restart points. I might be wrong, but I’m sure I found some of them (like the Smash TV section, and the Buttnick fight in the castle) must easier this time.

Aside from imperceptible after all this time changes, it’s the same game as before. It’s still funny, it’s still varied, and it’s still bonkers. The lovely retro pixelness of it all seems to fit a lot better on the 3DS screen though, and being able to touch the bottom screen to select weapons, or use the map, is a nice addition too.

retro city rampage

I haven’t done many side missions, as I was mainly focusing on the main story, but Retro City Rampage is definitely going to get brought out again whenever I need to mow down some pedestrians. Which happens rather a lot. Some of the mini-games need some more play too, so it’s nice to have it installed on my 3DS for whenever.

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Lego Marvel Avengers (PS4): COMPLETED!

Earth’s Plasticiest Heroes

This has been some time in the making! I bought Lego Marvel Avengers months ago, played about half of it, then got sidetracked with Pokémon Y. As with other recent games (and Pokémon), I’ve been playing it with my daughter, and although it didn’t start out as well as Lego Marvel Super Heroes, the “endgame” content is just as good. Well, it should be – it’s almost the same.

lego marvel avengers

Completing it came as a bit of a surprise, actually. I thought we had at least another “film” to go, but it turns out that Avengers: Age of Ultron is the final bit of the game. As for the gameplay, it’s pretty standard Lego stuff, and – as I’ve said before – that’s just fine.

It’s a shame there are no (or at least, appear to be no) X-Men in Lego Marvel Avengers, and I suspect some other characters are missing too, but that doesn’t really matter. Will I complete it 100%? Perhaps not this time round. I want to move onto Lego Dimensions, and pottering round Manhattan and the helicarrier again isn’t that appealing, even if the tasks are different.

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My daughter and I did spend a good while in Hobbiton–sorry, Barton’s Farm which absolutely isn’t a clone of Hobbiton in any way, playing a game where she summons a vehicle and I steal it from under her nose. It was hilarious.

Also hilarious: Squirrel Girl in Squirrel Hulk-Buster Armour. Oh my.

lego marvel avengers

3D Sonic the Hedgehog (3DS): COMPLETED!

Mr Needlemouse

You may be aware that I have completed the very first Sonic the Hedgehog game a number of times in the past, but the 3D version, on the Sega 3D Classics Collection? Nope.

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OK, I lie. I have. Sort of. You see, I already own 3D Sonic the Hedgehog – buying it when it appeared on the 3DS eShop as a single title. That was about three years ago though, despite me thinking it was actually earlier this year. I completed it back then, and today I completed it again via the 3D collection.

There’s little more to say. It is still an excellent game. It’s still very easy, and I obtained all the Chaos Emeralds. I did choose the “bulbous CRT” 3D effect to play through with which was pretty cool, if pretty pointless. Um, that’s it.

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3D Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa (3DS): COMPLETED!

Fanta Sea.

To the untrained eye, it would appear that I’ve already completed this game already, just a week or so ago. But you would be wrong, as this 3D Fantasy Zone II is actually the Master System version, whereas the other one was the (later) arcade version. They are both on the Sega 3D Classics Collection though.

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I actually tried to completed this before the other one, but I made a terrible mistake buying a load of smart bombs with all my money going into the final boss fight, and when I died lost all my power-ups and didn’t have any money to buy anything else. Not even Big Wings, which made one of the end bosses (there’s a SuckySuck Bit(TM)) impossible. Rather than start all over again at that point, I went on to the other version of the game, returning to this now.

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Although the game is effectively the same, there are some differences. Each level is seemingly larger, with up to 5 areas joined by warps (rather than two versions of each level, swapped between via warps). The bosses are mostly similar with a few variations, and you have an energy bar (which can be refilled and extended with power-ups) rather than a single hit kill.

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It’s obviously on less powerful hardware, but some slowdown and less impressive (but still excellent) graphics aside, it’s at least as much fun. It’s odd, that back in the day the Fantasy Zone series never appealed much, whereas now I love them. I feel I’m going to have to dig out the Mega Drive version soon now…

3D Maze Walker (3DS): COMPLETED!

More like 3D Maze Dawdler, right?

I’m still ticking off the games on the Sega 3D Classics Collection. Only three to go now, I think. With 3D Maze Walker, I’ve been plugging away a couple of levels at a time, and finally completed it today.

Why did it take so long? It wasn’t exactly hard, nor were there many levels. No, the main reason for taking so long was that it’s utter crap and I simply could not bear to play more than two or three tedious, boring levels in one go.

3d maze walker

You know how I wasn’t exactly complementary about 3D Altered Beast? This is worse. Far worse. The idea is to find a key in a maze, then reach the exit. You can smack roaming baddies with a stick. You move like you’re wading through treacle. Going the wrong way is a trial because you have to play the game for longer by backtracking. It has just one redeeming feature: Excellent 3D. That’s it.

I hated every minute of Maze Walker and I’m glad it’s finished. I will never, ever, ever, play this fetid pile of dung ever again. And neither should you.

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Virginia (PS4): COMPLETED!

Virginia on the ridiculous.

The odd thing about Virginia is that it was recommended to me the day before it was in a sale on PSN. And it has toilets in it. It must have been fate.

As a narrative discovery game, it’s hard to tell you much without spoiling the plot, but I’ll try. You play as a newly qualified FBI agent, who is assigned the task of investigating a long serving FBI agent because, well, they have unusual ideas and methods. As your “cover”, you’re assigned as her partner, and so together have to investigate the disappearance of a Virginian teen son of a vicar.

virginia

Interaction in Virginia, as is the norm for games of this genre, is minimal. You can activate objects like door handles and so on, and walk around limited areas, but it’s about furthering the story, not solving puzzles.

And what a story. A confusing one, where it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s a dream, what happened and what is hallucination, and sometimes even what order everything occurs. You find out more about your partner’s past, your own past and possible futures, but even after completing it I had questions and remain somewhat confused.

virginia

Imagine something like Firewatch, mixed with the setting of The X-Files, and you’re mostly there. The art style is close to the former, but the FBI partnership and events are right out of the latter. There are also parts that feel a lot like The Stanley Parable, although without the humour. Or the narration. In fact, there’s no dialogue in the game at all, which you’d think would hamper its efforts to put across a story over everything, but no: It’s expertly “acted” and directed, and even without conversation (and not a great deal of explanatory text) everything comes across. It’s still hard to piece together some, but I don’t think talking characters would help there. It feels like a film or TV show too, with hard cuts from location to location, which was jarring at first but felt natural when you experience it like a film rather than a game.

virginia

I can certainly recommend it, and will probably pore over my recorded playthrough (which I did in a single sitting – it’s not very long) a bit to see if I missed anything. I obviously did as I have a fair few achievements missing! If you want to see my run through Virginia, you can below but be warned: It is full of spoilers.

PaRappa the Rapper 2 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Circle gets the square.

I had two issues with the original PaRappa the Rapper game. The first being I didn’t own it (until much later, and that was on the PSP), and the second being that I couldn’t play it because of the issue I have being PlayStation Controller Blind 1.

parappa the rapper 2
VR was a thing in 2001, it seems.

When I saw the PS4 port of PS2 game PaRappa the Rapper 2 for just £2.99, I thought I’d try. And try. And try. Oh my did I try. Thankfully, the game is pretty easy and very forgiving, but some button combinations (mainly those that use the circle and square buttons) I simply can’t cope with. Getting through a few stages was little more than luck as I hoped I’d pressed the ones in order, trying not to actually think about it and run on autopilot.

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Like the first game, the sequel is a pile of glorious nonsense. PaRappa wants to be a real man for his girlfriend, and luckily the impending conversion of everything into noodles gives him the opportunity to step up and become one. Which mainly involves a lot of rapping, as you’d probably expect.

Control issues aside, it’s great, although a lot shorter than I was expecting. Only eight stages? I thought the first game was a lot longer. Or am I mixing it up with Gitaroo Man? Hmm.

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Notes:

  1. I mention this a lot, but it’s basically that because the PlayStation controller doesn’t have a standard or memorable button layout, games that rely on quickly knowing their location – like rhythm games and games with QTEs – are a struggle

3D Galaxy Force II (3DS): COMPLETED!

We come in peace, shoot to kill.

Now you see, you look at Thunder Blade and see how it’s technically quite clever, but gameplay-wise it’s awful, and then look at Galaxy Force II and see the correct way to use the technology. It’s fast, looks incredible, has very varied levels, and there actually seems to be a point to shooting down the enemy rather than just flying past them.

galaxy force ii

You’ve an energy reading which constantly counts down, dropping in big chunks if you get hit or fly into a wall or something. You can refill it by destroying enemies, with the total “collected” added to your counter after every section of a level.

Galaxy Force II is a tricky game, too. You have to accelerate through it as much as possible so your counter doesn’t drop before the end of the game, but have to weigh up the danger that causes – especially in enclosed areas. Pelt to the end, or slow down and try to wipe out as many spaceships as you can in order to “refuel”?

The 3D adds a huge amount to the game too. With it off, the game actually looks wrong, as if it was supposed to be 3D all along. Fantastic.

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Only a handful of games left to complete on this 3D Classics collection now!