3D Gunstar Heroes (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_ntjmu71mq41svmpf2o1_400The second game of the day, with Heroes in the title!

I never completed Gunstar Heroes back in the day. In fact, I don’t think I ever played it much (I didn’t buy it until many years after release anyway). Or even enjoyed it. Yeah, I’m a heretic.

tumblr_ntjmsfgaqs1svmpf2o1_400But there’s something about these 3D ports on the 3DS that make you want to play them anyway, isn’t there? Otherwise why did I buy Altered Beast again? Hmm.

tumblr_ntjms41ps41svmpf2o1_400My main issue with Gunstar Heroes previously is it’s too hard. Or so I thought. One I’d picked up the “chaser/shot” combo it all suddenly became a lot easier to progress. Sure, I struggled a bit with some (most!) of the bosses, but the actual levels themselves were a walkover in comparison to previous attempts to play the game.

And it was fun! A lot of mostly mindless fun! Aside from Golden Silver at the end. He can do one. So many attempts.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Woverine_does_whatever_a_wolverine_does._Has_sharp_claws__is_mostly_harmlessI think this may actually be the first Lego game I’ve completed entirely in co-op. Lego Batman 2 and 3 were both mostly co-op, but Lego Marvel Super Heroes I’ve played only in co-op with my daughter. Which is nice.

There’s a lot of mopping up bricks to do, as usual. We’ve done some, after finishing the story, but we’re still only at around 52/250. Finding the rest is going to be a pain, as although most of them are on the New York City map, it’s often not clear what you need to do when you get to them. Of course, a fair few are going to come from redoing the levels again in Free Play. Having said that, in recent games I’ve not bothered going for 100%. I think Lego Harry Potter 2 was the first where I didn’t, and although I had a pretty good stab at it for Lego Batman 2, I haven’t tried at all for Lego Batman 3. I really should. It’s a lot of fun.

Anyway! This is telling you nothing about this game. Which there isn’t a great deal to talk about, actually. It’s more Lego super heroing, only with Marvel characters instead of DC ones like Batman 2 and 3. Like Batman 2 there’s a massive open hub world (New York City), which seems more dense and full of life than Gotham. The split up mini-hubs of Batman 3 were a step back, I thought. There’s also a handful of things to do on the SHIELD helicarrier, up int he sky above the city.

Galactus__Tiny_devourer_of_worlds__Or_small_objects__at_least.The story revolves around Galactus heading for Earth, and Doctor Doom, Loki and Magneto (as well as a few other less important baddies) seem to be taking advantage of this for a project of their own. As, variously, several Avengers, the Fantastic 4, Spider-Man and a few X-Men, you progress through the levels trying to beat these baddies and take back the Cosmic Bricks they’re stealing. The levels are all pretty standard Lego fare – different characters can activate different things, access different areas, or destroy or build certain types of blocks. They’re pretty varied, with settings underwater, in the Statue of Liberty and on a space station, and the characters you use are swapped frequently so you don’t get bored with the same ones.

The star of the show is Deadpool. He shows up for some of the bonus levels, and has his own room on the helicarrier where you buy found red bricks and watch the in-game movies and so on. In one of of the main levels, Doctor Octopus smashes through the Daily Bugle offices, and then in a bonus level later Deadpool narrates (with silly voices) as you, as Agent Coulson and Doc Ock, have to tidy up the mess. It’s very funny, and a memorable moment.

There aren’t any real surprises in the gameplay, and it’s a shame that two player “screen each” play sometimes makes the framerate nosedive (more so than in Batman 3, in fact, and that was bad at times), but it’s a solid Lego title and probably one of the best too. Although they’re all pretty great, truth be told.

Now I just need to find copies of Lego Lord of the Rings, Lego the Hobbit, and Lego Jurassic World and I’ll be up to date. Apart from Lego Dimensions (so called because your wallet needs a 4th dimension to hold all the money needed for it) which is out soon. Sigh.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PS4): COMPLETED!

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150811211404I find the term “walking around simulator”, which games like this have often been categorised as, somewhat derogatory.  It’s as if there’s nothing to the game at all, bar walking around, and it should be derided because of this. Which is missing the point.  The aim of these games is not to “win”, not to solve puzzles and leap gaps and shoot Nazis, but to discover the story. Yes, you do this by walking around, but there’s more to it than that.

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150811214804In Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, erm, everybody’s gone to the rapture. You start off as an unknown person on the outskirts of a Shropshire village in 1984, near an observatory. You can’t enter the observatory as the gates are locked, so you need to travel a massive loop of the village to try and get in the back way. As soon as you set off you hear a radio message which alerts you to “an event”, and as you explore the village radios and telephones start to fill in some of the story behind what happened.

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150812212352

Along the way, orbs of light direct you to places of interest, where you see some conversations and actions leading up to The Event played out. Technically, you can just walk past everything and head for the end of the game, but then you really do have just a walking around simulator on your hands, and you’re missing both the point and the game.

When you reach the end, there’s no decisive conclusion and no full exposition of exactly what happened. It’s up to you to formulate in your head what you think occurred based on what you’ve seen and heard, and how you interpret what the “glowing light” actually is.

Almost as much fun as putting this together yourself, is reading what other people thought and how their theories compare to your own. With that in mind, here’s a big spoiler:

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150813222415

Obviously, there’s more to it than all this, but I’m not intending to write a dissertation! There are a lot of side stories as well, like the love triangle between Stephen, Lizzie and Kate, or Frank’s difficult relationship with his sister, all of which are explored literally by exploring. It’s intriguing and compelling finding out everything you can from the clues left behind, and the English village setting is beautiful to wander round.

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150811212930The only minor negatives I have are that sometimes the walking pace, even with the “jog” button, is much too slow (especially when you realise you’ve missed something and have to backtrack for miles), and that there is a huge amount of asset reuse. The same shed, greenhouse, plastic garden table, white sheets on the washing line, Raleigh Burner-alike BMX bike and books are everywhere, repeated over and over again. Houses all have the same kitchen. Even the two pubs in the village have exactly the same “special offers board” and virtually the same layout inside. The worst copy and paste job is the large number of cars that are around the village – of which there are only about 5 or 6 types. This wouldn’t be a problem but they’re not just the same type of car, they’re exactly the same car with the same colour and same number plate.

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150812223056Sometimes you can see that it’s intentional, with, for example, a car appearing in one location with a Peter Pan hat and swords inside, then appearing later at the holiday camp where the kids were performing Peter Pan, but most of the time it’s just jarring. In one case there’s a carpark with two instances of the exact same van in it! There’s no reason why they couldn’t have replaced the number plates and colour-swapped the cars to mix it up a bit, surely? Or had a red-and-yellow Burner instead of a blue-and-yellow one occasionally? I realise it was a small team making the game, but this would surely have been a tiny job compared to the rest?

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150812221952Another thing which was unimportant in the end but seemed necessary to record along the way was all the numbers broadcast on the radios (identical radios…). I started to get a little paranoid that I might miss one. Then I wondered if the names of the books were important. Or the times on the clocks (which were all stopped at the same time, as it turned out). Or the car number plates. I ended up documenting everything and – of course – none of it was needed. In fact, there was nothing you could even do with this information anyway.  This wasn’t the game’s fault of course, more mine for not having any idea what to expect and not wanting to miss anything that may be required later on. For new players: read and listen, but don’t bother making notes.

Should you play Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture? Absolutely. Will you understand what you’ve just played when you come to the end? Possibly. Will it matter if you don’t? No, I don’t think so.

3D Streets of Rage 2 (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nstif2bq8c1svmpf2o1_400Streets of Rage 2 was always so much better than Streets of Rage 1 in so many ways. Better graphics, more moves, none of those stupid Blaze clones who are impossible to beat, and so on. It was also easier, but sadly the music isn’t quite as good. Ah well, you can’t have everything.

tumblr_nstieix7hm1svmpf2o1_400I played through it today on the 3DS (in lovely 3D), as Blaze (because Blaze is best and not because you can see her knickers oh who am I kidding of course it’s because you can see her knickers) and completed it faster than I was expecting to. I was certain it was at least two stages longer, but perhaps I was misremembering some levels from the other Streets of Rage games. It has been a while, I suppose.

tumblr_nstiesg0gl1svmpf2o1_400Once completed, the game unlocked “Fists of Death” mode, which I’ve started a playthrough of, as Skate (because Skate is worst). In this mode every enemy takes a single hit. Even bosses. It’s hilarious. I managed to do the first three stages without getting hit myself (I suspected I’d die in a single hit too, but luckily that wasn’t the case).

 

Princess Nom Nom (PC): COMPLETED!

nomnom-2015-8-5-12-56-53A really quick one this. You know Cookie Clicker? Well, imagine something like that without the frantic clicking. With a fat… blob that appears to be a princess. And you have to feed her. Feed her enough, and she produces minions from her bellybutton, and these minions can gather food and so produce more minions.

nomnom-2015-8-5-12-58-35Unlock new places to get better food from, produce more minions to collect it all faster and in greater quantity, and make the princess even fatter.

Eventually, she’s satiated and you win. And I won. Yay! If you want to play, it’s free from this site here.

Never Alone (PS4): COMPLETED!

Skinner_s_kitchen__t_httpt.coW04WLtjnbtWell that was short. Apparently Never Alone is about three hours long, but I appear to have completed it in little over half that time.

Probably just as well, actually, as after the first 45 minutes of “ooh” and “ahh” over the graphics and the setting and how unusual it all appeared to be, Never Alone quickly became a tedious platformer with bugs and glitches and some rubbish jumps. Relying on the wind to carry you further frustrates as there’s no way of telling exactly how far it’ll take you, often carrying you past the platform you want to land one and into the sea/hole/baddie instead.

Restarts are quick, thankfully, but it’s seemingly random how far you go back. Sometimes it’s a mere couple of steps, other times (like during on of the chase sequences) it’s back 20 or more screens.

5752__52GameChallenge__t_Never_Alone__PS4__httpt.cof0eRI46dRiOften I found it difficult to tell where to go next, either because I’d not “activated” an invisible spirit with my fox chum, or not panned the camera round in a completely different direction to where I’d expect to go, or simply not realised what was solid ground to walk on and what wasn’t. Things were complicated later on when your fox becomes a boy (spoilers, sorry) and the whole way you play changes – for the worse, in my opinion.

Your bolas attack too is overly complicated. You have to hold back in the opposite direction to where you want to hit (which is fine), but then flick it in the direction you want to fling it. I now realise the PS4 stick isn’t ideal for this, and especially during the frantic sections of the game where you’re not given time for a second shot, I feel that just letting go of the stick, or pressing a face button, would have been a better idea.

I sound harsh and it isn’t really a terrible game, it’s just yet another one of those arty games which has a lovely story and fantastic graphical style, but forgets to do something a bit more interesting (and controllable) with the gameplay. As it is, it’s just another slightly annoying platformer.

Anyway, here’s the last hour or so. Spoilers, of course.

Injustice: Gods Among Us (PS4): COMPLETED!

Cyborg_is_just_Mega_Man__innit.__t__PS4share_httpt.coxYawU3SQbuWell this was a surprise. The Mortal Kombat series left me cold after UMK3, and although this isn’t technically a Mortal Kombat title, it clearly is a Mortal Kombat game. It’s the same team, it’s a fighting game, it’s a followup to Mortal Kombat vs DC, and it’s even got Scorpion in it. And I enjoyed it.

Man_or_Aquaman.__t__PS4share_httpt.co6XyPVpBgTTThere’s little depth to the fighting, and in many ways the fights just seemed like the gaps between the story in single player mode, but something made me want to keep playing to the end. I liked how you’d flit from character to character as the story progressed too. Perhaps this is how more recent MK games have done things anyway, but it’s way better than the standard “tower of fighters” of old. It forces you to play as roughly half the roster as well, including some I’d never have picked through choice (Aquaman? LOLZ) who turned out better than expected in many cases.

I don’t think I’ll bother with multiplayer (I did try to play online, but I was alone), but the free PS+ rental was well worth  a story mode playthrough.

Life is Strange: Episode 4 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Don_t_you_open_that_trap_door__Oh_wait__you_did._Globbits.__lifeisstrange_EP4_SPOILERS__t_httpt.covACqH5WEZLWell that was pretty hard to come to terms with. Four major incidents in this episode, in fact – none of which I can mention without the spoiler below:

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

I did say Nathan wasn’t quite what he seemed.

One thing I really did love about this episode was the detective bit, where you piece together all the clues you’d amassed – emails, texts, letters, photos, documents – and find links between them to trace where people have been, who they’ve seen, and when. Fantastic bit of game there.

Now, with the final episode an unknown number of weeks – or even months – away, I’m struggling to deal with no plot to follow. I need to know what happens next.

More spoilers in the form of some gameplay (which gives away the episode end):

And also, as previously, my chapter choices (which also contains big hairy spoilers):

_LifeIsStrange_end_of_Ep4_choices

Street Fighter II Champion Edition (PSP): COMPLETED!

Yeah__but_you_re_wearing_cauliflowers_in_your_hair.__t_httpt.coP1EYxoWhEuAnother game from that Capcom Classics compilation I bought a while ago, although infinitely better than the terrible Exed Exes. But then, most things are.

Usually, when I play Street Fighter games, I pick Kenneth. He’s the best, of course, and his blond locks are far more enticing and suggest he’s far more fun than boring Ryu. I mean, Kenneth drives fast cars and loves the odd drink, but Ryu spends his evenings meditating on the floor of his bedroom while his parents wonder what’s wrong with their special little boy. Kenneth, man.

But this time, I chose Boring Ryu. I’m not sure why.

What a struggle. Sure, I’ve never been the best Street Fighter player. I’ve only clocked it a couple of times in the arcade, and tend to only beat those players who haven’t really played fighting games before, but this… this was hard. I must point out that the Vita’s analogue stick (yes, I was playing the arcade game included in a PSP game pack on a Vita) is useless for Street Fighter. And the d-pad is terrible for dragon punches. In effect, I was playing with one hand behind my back.

Which is why Chun Li beat me 18 times straight.

And Zangief gave me Zangrief 12 times.

And Bison double perfected me 5 times before I even got a single hit in.

But! Eventually, I prevailed, and Boring Ryu walked off into the sunset, heading home for a glass of milk and a digestive biscuit, while Kenneth and his bevy of ladies partied at Spearmint Rhino for the entire weekend. Oh Ryu.

Rain (PS3): COMPLETED!

I started this just before my PS4 arrived, but went back to it today to finish it off. It’s reasonably short, and plays a lot like Ico or Papo & Yo, with some puzzles and a bit of platforming.

The “thing” is that the boy you control is invisible, and can only be seen when the never ending rain is landing on him. Under shelter, he’s hidden from both baddies and you (as in the player) – step out into the rain and his water soaked outline appears. The same is true of most of the baddies as well, and splashing through muddy puddles can reveal you even when hidden – until you take a bath or a swim to wash the mud off.

It’s quite a clever idea, modifying a standard hide-and-seek mechanic seen so many times before, but making the character you’re controlling so difficult to see (even when technically visible) can make things frustrating. Even more so when you’re finally joined by an equally invisible girl – frequently I forgot which one I was controlling and ran the wrong way. Not great when you’re being pursued by The Unknown, a bizarre giant creature who seems intent on killing both of your for reasons, well, unknown.

I sort of enjoyed Rain, but I was glad it came to an end when it did. It looks great, with all the apparently 1950s French streets you roam, and the classical music soundtrack is fantastically haunting, but I think it exhausted its ideas just before the game finished. Well worth the free rental, though!

Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! (PS4): COMPLETED!

Temple_of_Doom__t__PS4share_httpt.coHUDJExPrIlBack in the day, I did play Abe’s Oddysee quite a bit, but it was so difficult and so frustrating. I don’t think I ever even got out of the factory – I certainly never completed it.

With a free PS+ rental, and promises it was now easier to control, easier to play, and had quicksaves, I thought I’d give it another try. And I completed it this time!

Second_temple_challenges_done.__t__PS4share_httpt.cojigwgzSn2CSadly, I got the bad ending due to not rescuing enough Mudokons. I don’t think I’d let all that many die, and I don’t recall leaving many behind, so I can only assume I missed a load of rooms somewhere. Of the 299 available to rescue, I think I managed 83. Not enough to survive the mincer at the end of the game. Bah.

Good as the game was, I really don’t think I can be bothered playing it again to try for the good ending. I’ve too many other things to play!

Life is Strange: Episode 3 (PS4): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nrvs2nmkmt1svmpf2o1_1280Now this was a mistake. On the one hand I really, really wanted to get on and play Episode 3 as the story of Life is Strange is so compelling, but on the other hand, Episode 4 could still be weeks away from release and Episode 5 is a distance future event at this point. I was going to leave it for a few weeks, to try and space it out, and make it a bit easier to bear, but no – “just a quick go, a teaser if you will” and it was all over. Bah.

As the plot progresses, it’s even harder to describe the events without spoiling things for my readers, but I’ll try. There’s a bit near the start where you have to somehow sneak past the principal which I was stuck on for ages. It turns out I’d not seen what he was doing early enough, so didn’t know there was a window of opportunity to get past him.

_PS4share_drugs_are_bad_mmmkay__t_httpt.coxVj4Kp6vXzThere’s a fantastic puzzle about how to get through a locked door, which starts off as what seems like a dull wander-round-and-find-four-things quest, but the payoff – amazing. After that Max and Chloe go for a midnight swim and there seems to be some sexual tension between the two, which is further suggested the following morning.

Anyway, the big (HUGE) event is in the second half of the game where it goes full Butterfly Effect and EVERYTHING changes. And I can’t wait to play Episode 4 as a result. Which, of course, I can’t do. Because it isn’t out yet. So frustrating!

As before, here’s me playing the second half of the episode (spoilers!):

And here are my chapter choices (also spoilers!):

Episode 3 Chapter Choices

Life is Strange: Episode 2 (PS4): COMPLETED!

_toiletsinvideogames__t__PS4share_httpt.coxCbUyHuWh9Oh my. That escalated quickly. Chloe nearly getting killed by a bullet, by a train and then the Kate breakdown… some really incredible scenes. Most of which I can’t really mention because of spoilers, and some of which might not even exist for you if you’re playing, because your choices may have differed.

One part that isn’t a spoiler, really, is the diner scene with Chloe. Max proves to her she can rewind time by correctly guessing what Chloe has in her pockets and then by predicting the future. Chloe’s reaction was awesome, and Max really felt like a superhero. Then, in the next scene Max is already feeling the strain of having powers – both physically and mentally.

Anyway, here’s my (full of spoilers) playthrough of the second half of this episode:

And, also spoilerly but in case you’re following my decisions:

More_inline_with_the_majority_for_episode_2___LifeIsStrange__t__PS4share_httpt.covtKZ86gce9

Life is Strange: Episode 1 (PS4): COMPLETED!

You heard right. That there PS4 isn’t a typo. I now have an actual Playstation 4. I blame Fallout 4. Anyway, with new consoles come new powers to play different games, and so the first game I bought and played (and completed) is Episode 1 of Life is Strange, a game I could have bought and played on at least two other consoles I already owned. Um.

Life is Strange is, so far, superb. It’s a great story and an excellent premise – college student suddenly gains power to rewind time and predict the future, but still has to deal with everyday life and a variety of nice and not so nice characters. All while other bizarre happenings and conspiracies and shadiness and stuff happen around her. And she needs to pass her photography class.

With many conversations and actions having lasting repercussions, and the ability to rewind and change what you say and do in light of new information or just to see a different reaction, it plays out unlike any other game I’ve played for a long time. Sometimes what seems like the best option provides the worst immediate response, but who knows if that’ll work out for the best in the end?

Life is Strange is definitely strange, but it’s sucked me in already and I’m really looking forward to the outcome of all these choices. These choices, in fact (which may be a spoiler, so be careful):

tumblr_nrpddqllhn1svmpf2o1_1280In my defence, I did at least try to hide in Chloe’s room. I just couldn’t find anywhere to do so!

 

StreetPass Zombies (3DS): COMPLETED!

4952__52gamechallenge_StreetPass_Zombies__t_httpt.co49lGFcSNlHThere’s not a great deal to say about this, aside from that a couple of the final levels were pretty tricky, and even though the end boss appeared both indestructible and virtually impossible to dodge I still managed to off him on my first attempt.

The Wii remote is the best weapon by far, incidentally, except on the final boss where I found the pillow invaluable with it’s rapid fire.

Fun, and I’ll probably play it a bit longer, but time needs to be spent on StreetPass Fishing now!

Geometry Wars 3 (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nr6uffdgpu1svmpf2o1_1280Like the awesome but mostly ignored Wii version of Geometry Wars, Geometry Wars 3 (which was a free PS+ rental this month) has a great single player “adventure” mode. Each level takes one of the main score attack modes and requires you to beat a certain score or clear a level in under a certain time with the rules of that mode, or perhaps with no smart bomb or extra lives.

In addition, every so many levels, there’s a boss (which is a new thing in the series, I think?). All the bosses are superficially the same, consisting of a large gemstone type enemy who periodically drops its shield while spawning standard Geometry Wars enemies and occasionally rushing you.

tumblr_nr8p4yjb0x1svmpf2o1_1280It all feels a bit like a “best of” Geometry Wars, really. It has the stuff from the first two games, and from the Wii game, and then nicks a chunk from the also excellent  Nano Assault Neo by setting many of the levels on the surface of a 3D shape rather than on a flat plane. As you progress through Adventure mode, the score multiplier Geom items also act as currency with which to buy or upgrade special weapons and drones.

Frankly, it’s superb and my only issue with the Adventure mode is that the final boss is a massive, massive difficulty spike. I easily spent as long attempting that single level than I did on the previous 49 levels combined! A single life and multiple “phases” and attack patterns, along with insta-death walls did not make it simple.

Child of Light (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Tenuous_Poetry_Game__If there’s one negative thing to say about Child of Light, it’s the diabolical dialogue. All of the conversations and narration take the form of terrible rhyming couplets. Rhyming couplets that are forced, contrived, often don’t rhyme, and very rarely even scan. At first it feels clever and cute, but after a few minutes you’d rather everyone just spoke properly and it grates for the next twelve or so hours until it’s complete.

Which, yes, it is complete.

Shadow_of_the_CollosusThankfully, there’s only really the one negative thing to say about Child of Light. The rest is all good. I could say it’s a bit easy (none of my characters ever died and I used just three health potions – and no other potions at all – in the entire game), I could mention most of the characters in your party are superfluous (I rarely used more than Finn and the mouse), and I could say that for an RPG it was a bit short, but it doesn’t really matter. What is important is how much fun it was, how there was never any need to grind, how much I enjoyed the story (despite the “poetry”), and how unusual it was to play.

As well as using the same game engine as Rayman Legends, some of the Murfy sections have sort of translated to a mechanic here, too, where you move your little firefly chum around the screen with either the touchscreen or (more usually) the right stick, using him to activate and collect things. During time-turn based battles he can heal you and your allies or slow down enemies, which adds more than you’d expect.

MAXIMUM_SPIDERThe battles themselves, which make up the majority of the gameplay, appear like standard JRPG turn based fights. However, there’s a timeline on the bottom of the screen which all the characters (on both sides) move across. When your characters get to the final 1/5th of the bar, you can choose their action – such as attack or defend – and when they reach the end of the bar that action is carried out. If you’re attacked in that final section, your action is interrupted and you’re chucked back down the timeline again. Similarly, your foes do the same. This adds a lot of strategy to the fights, since different actions activate at different speeds you have to decide if your chosen one is fast enough to get in before it’s interrupted or countered. I’m pretty sure I’ve played a game with a similar system before, Eternal Sonata maybe? Whatever it was, it works great here.

Child of Light is definitely worth playing, and even better if you manage to pick it up in a sale (like I did!).

Tearaway (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nqq12x7yw11svmpf2o1_1280When Little Big Planet was announced, there was a lot of excitement over how innovative and clever and creative it was. And it was all those things, and it looked fantastic and everything. Then we all realised that it was just a platformer with horrible physics and a rubbish, game breaking and unnecessary third dimension. The fact that virtually all of the user made levels don’t bother with any level depth speaks volumes. Despite the lovely narration by Stephen Fry, it was ultimately disappointing as a game. A game creation tool, flawed and awkward as it was, great, but an actual game? Pretty but broken.

As a result, my hopes were not high for Tearaway, the Little Big Planet team’s followup. It’s all arty and stuff, this time going for a papercraft theme rather than fabric, but the creation side of things is heavily toned down. To the point where there is no level creation at all, and you’re restricted to little more than putting stickers on things. What I’m saying, is they removed the good bit of Little Big Planet to focus on the bad bit.

Perhaps this focus will pay off?

Well… no. Not really.

2015-06-29-195713In Tearaway, the levels are all properly 3D now, like a standard platformer. You can move your cute little personified envelope, Atoi (or Iota if you choose a boy) around freely, jump (although not initially), roll to attack (again, not initially) and so on like you’d expect in any other similar game. These standard controls are augmented by horrific additional controls throughout the levels, in increasingly complicated and finger-twisting ways. Stand on a “Playstation shapes” pad on the floor, and you can tap the back panel of the Vita to jump. Yes, there’s already a jump button, but this is a different jump, made slightly more difficult because it uses the back panel.

Except that some of the “Playstation shapes” pads are for pushing your fingers “through” from behind, not for jumping. This feels fun when you use it early on, ejecting the “Scraps” baddies off the screen, but when you have to move Atoi at the same time, holding the Vita starts to become a little harder and accuracy on the back panel suffers. Other times you poke your fingers through to move blocks or activate mechanisms, again not an issue unless you need Atoi to navigate at the same time – and worse if you have to jump or roll as well.

2015-06-29-191856As you wander through the great looking paper worlds, your own face gurns down at you from the sun in the sky. Much like an episode of Tellytubbies. At various points in the story you (as in, You) pop up, always slightly looking off to the side as the Vita’s camera isn’t central. Sometimes you’re asked to take pictures of things in real life to use as textures on things in the game, which seems like a great idea but – like many mechanisms – is underutilised. Other times, you have to take pictures of objects with your in-game camera, to colour them in (which unlocks a real-world papercraft version for you to print and make, which is quite sweet), add difficult to draw features to, or record a bit of your journey. It’s never really clear why you need to take so many pictures, although some are occasionally used as mainly background graphics later in the game.

2015-06-29-193127To expand on the drawing aspect, which is the one creation tool brought over from Little Big Planet: It’s rubbish. For the most part, it is triggered whenever you need to put eyes or hats or badges on characters you have met (or yourself), and there are a lot of pre-made options to choose from for the cost of a few confetti (the overly abundant collectable in Tearaway). If you want to make your own, though, be prepared to be annoyed and disappointed. The primary issue is having to use your finger as a stylus. Accuracy is out of the window immediately, hampering your ability to complete a “loop”, for example joining all sides of a square up correctly. If the loop is incomplete, you can’t “cut” the shape out. Additionally, the way you have to choose, cut and stack other pieces of paper is fiddly beyond belief, and two fingered rotating and resizing once you actually start placing your creations on a model is frustrating beyond belief. Eventually I avoided creating anything where possible, and did the bare minimum when forced.

2015-06-29-190222As Atoi and the story progress, you’ll meet lots of fun characters and have some humourous one-sided conversations. There are loads of great graphical effects with bits of paper flapping in the breeze and the landscape folding and unfolding like a pop-up book. There’s a lovely section where you make a pig friend and then take him for a ride, with a reprise late in the game which adds some twists. There’s a scarecrow with a pumpkin head who you give a recording of you roaring to, and he uses it to scare, uh, crows away. A section where you’re chased into the screen by huge monsters who increase in number, only to find out later on they’re quite harmless and actually help you. A little frogmonkey creature who becomes your companion for a while, eating his way through paper balls that block your path. A plethora of memorable moments, sadly tainted by so many other moments that are memorable for the wrong reasons.

2015-07-01-215811Like the time you have to walk along a wall (on some glue or something) but as you walk the camera moves so you have to adjust your heading. Which would be fine, only you also have to stroke the screen with your finger in a vague way to make extra bits of your pathway unfurl, struggling with unresponsiveness and often accidentally triggering previously unfurled rolls to furl up again. Or the entire section where you have to use the Vita like one of those labyrinth ball maze things to roll a messenger around while at the same time navigating Atoi on a different path while also prodding both the front and rear of the Vita to activate buttons and switches all while not being able to see properly where either you or the messenger is.

Or one of the numerous platforming sections where falling off the small ledges makes you plummet to your death. In other games, the 3D spacial depth perception is assisted by your character having a shadow to show where you’re going to land. No such thing here, not that you’d have time to spot it as you’re busy poking the damn screen again to reveal the jump pads on later platforms and fingering the rear panel to bounce you off your current one. While using the left stick at the same time, while the camera moves of its own accord.

Here_s_a_photo_I_took_in__tearawaygame_httpst.coiX6DcbsSKL__tearawayphoto__t__species_femaleThen, after the first two main “stories” of the game, you’re given a new, personal story. “It’s experimental,” says Daddy Pig (who cannot be heard as anyone but Daddy Pig, which actually detracts from the immersion in the game). “Expect it to be weird”. By which, they mean, rubbish. They ditch loads of excellent bits they’ve already hardly used (the accordion and combat, in particular), add loads of tilty-Vita bits, more hard-to-judge platforming, and a whole pile of rolling along paths. There are hardly any characters to interact with either. It feels like Team A had finished with the game and passed it on to the work experience kid to add another half an hour’s content but without letting them have access to 50% of what they’d already created. Perhaps if they had finished it properly it wouldn’t have been so damn short either.

2015-07-01-184605It is a shame, but it seems Media Molecule had a lot of great ideas. Where they went wrong was putting them all in the same game. With, for example, Super Mario Galaxy, there is a massive well of creative gameplay ideas that somehow it keeps drawing from for the whole game, reusing what’s great but never letting anything outstay its welcome, and always cohesively bonding the lot together. Nothing is out of place. In Tearaway, what works great is never exploited enough and some editing should have removed what didn’t work. Nintendo weave ideas together, Media Molecule have missed how this is done and just thrown everything into a big pot hoping it’ll mix well, and it hasn’t. The game changes too much as you play, becoming so many different types of game as you progress, and not in a pleasant form of evolution. Shoehorning motion and touch controls into games is something Nintendo is often accused of, but with this game Media Molecule take that to an unnecessary extreme, removing the fun along the way.

Ian Malcolm has a relevant quote that fits well here.

HuniePop (Mac): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nqkikei12z1svmpf2o1_1280We shall not talk about the content of the game. We shall only talk about how it plays. And how does it play? Very well, actually. Thanks for asking.

Basically, you chat to girls to find out about them, which give you “Hunie” points. You then go on dates with the girls which consists of a match-3 puzzle game. The dates give you “Munie”. You spend this money on gifts for the girls which generates more Hunie, and you spend the Hunie on stat improvements for yourself which makes your match-3 abilities more powerful in various ways. And round and round it goes. It works surprisingly well, and even without the very naughty girls in it the mechanics are much better than in many other similar games.

After you’ve successfully dated each girl four times, you get to take her home. Take all the girls home, and you win the game (and at life, presumably). So I did that. Apparently there are two more secret girls to find somewhere, but I’ve no idea where.

Things I’ve been playing recently (Part 2 – PS+ Stuff)

Lots of PS+ stuff has been building up over the last few weeks. I’ve played most of them (except the PS4 games, obviously), so here are some thoughts.

tumblr_noo3xkiczm1svmpf2o1_1280Race the Sun (Vita)

It’s a bit dull, really. It’s sort of like Deathchase but with upgrades and nothing to shoot. I’ve played it for an hour or so but it’s not grabbing me.

Tower of Guns (PS3)

A nonsensical FPS where you progress through randomly generated levels containing lots, and lots of guns. Looks a bit rough but is surprisingly good fun. The way the abilities and weapons unlock are a bit of a pain though.

tumblr_noo3yawnnb1svmpf2o1_1280Murasaki Baby (Vita)

Impossible to control. You can’t realistically use the front and back touch panels of the Vita at the same time (in fact, I’d argue you can’t use the back at all even by itself), so I’m not going to get anywhere with this. It sort of looks nice, but it’s unplayable.

tumblr_noo4116vri1svmpf2o1_1280MonsterBag (Vita)

It feels a bit like a point and click adventure game, but it’s too random and vague how you progress. Not really enjoying this either, so that’s in the bin now.

tumblr_npl64hy0wp1svmpf2o1_1280Futuridium EP Deluxe (Vita)

Like a cross between Race the Sun and Uridium (which it “borrows” for its name), but not as much fun as either. Like Race the Sun you fly into the screen, like Uridium you fly over (and under, and through) various, er, spaceships? and shoot things. The things you shoot are often hidden. You have to find them all in time or you die. It isn’t good at all.

tumblr_npl7gqesmg1svmpf2o1_1280Super Exploding Zoo (Vita)

A puzzle game with a great premise, but flawed execution. Rescue exploding animals from aliens, using them to blow up walls and sacrifice themselves to defeat the aliens. Thing is, different animals have different skills and there’s no way to tell, say, the penguins to kill themselves for the cause without also telling the monkeys – who you may need later to climb a wall. Far too many times did I die due to not having enough control. Ah well.

Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nqpenibnaj1svmpf2o1_1280Way back when, I played the Xbox 360 version of this and really rather enjoyed it. It was really shoddy, the console couldn’t cope with the number of baddies, the graphics were terrible, the animation and audio was awful, and by rights it should never have made it out of Japan at all. But there was something about it, despite all that, which made it enjoyable and addictive.

Last week, the portable version, on the Vita (a console even less capable of running it than the 360) was on sale on the PSN store for just £3.75, and with the price I paid for my PSN credit, that came down even lower to just £3. Rude not to, right?

tumblr_nqpermqgxt1svmpf2o1_1280What I hadn’t realised is that this version is actually a beefed up version of the 360 original. It’s the same game, but with a few new levels, some new weapons, a new (well, borrowed from a different EDF game) character to play as, and I’m pretty sure some new enemy variants too. Excellent.

And in 12 short game hours, I’d completed it. Hooked from start to finish.

tumblr_nqpes0rnv61svmpf2o1_1280Like before, I don’t think I ever found a perfect pair of weapons for any of the levels. It made it a bit of pain when you’d realised that a short range homing “shrapnel” missile and an assault rifle worked best, only to have a different enemy spawn in later in the level and I’d then find I’d nothing to take it down. I also found, constantly, that weapons for “mechanical” enemies do not make good weapons for “insect” enemies, so balancing what to take into a fight with both types was a challenge. Still, I managed it.

And with the mothership destroyed and the whole of humanity in ruins, that was that. EDF! EDF!

Dishonoured (PS3): COMPLETED!

That was brilliant. Like, properly good and everything.

After last time, I had to rescue Piero and Sokolov, who had become best of chums and created a massive arc pylon between them. I had to get them some bits for it, but once active I wiped out (well, put to sleep) everyone in the area. That was pretty good.

Then it was off to some island to rescue Emily. On the way, I had a nice friendly chat with Samuel, as usual, but just before I arrived he turned on me, told me I was a terrible person, I’d killed too many people and he never wanted to see me again. Which was a pretty quick turnaround on his thoughts about me, since he’d only just been back-slapping me as the second coming or something. Bizarre.

More bizarre was how, as we pulled up at the jetty, there was a fish flapping in mid-air, which Samuel’s boat pushed along out to sea as he left. Um.

So the final level was where my previous actions played out. I’ve since read that if I’d been more careless, and less murderous, throughout the game, I’d reach the island in “low chaos” circumstances – daylight, low security, that sort of thing. Instead, due to my early game stabbings (I stopped doing that so much nearer the end) it was night time and, supposedly although I saw very few, dripping with guards.

Without spoiling the end, I mostly Blinked or Ratmurdered everyone en-route to the lighthouse where Emily was being held, and easily took down her captor quietly from behind. The end!

You know, I’m really looking forward to Dishonoured 2 now. And you know what? I might just have a PS4 by then to play it on. No wait. I’ve said too much.

Things I’ve been playing recently (Part 1 – Wii U demos)

Time for a roundup. Seeing as I’ve played a lot but not posted about anything. In several parts too, as there’s so much. Firstly, some demos:

Over E3, Nintendo put nine new Wii U game demos on the eShop under the horrifically named “Nindies@Home” banner. So I played them.

Runbow

Not as good as I was hoping for. It plays a bit like Guacamelee only rubbish. Sort of. Platformer with an annoying colour changing mechanic where platforms disappear when the colour changes to match. Didn’t play it multiplayer, which is the main draw, so it’s probably better there.

Mutant Mudds Super Challenge

More Mutant Mudds. Which is great, as the original was great, but on the Wii U you lose the 3D and it makes the jumping in and out of the screen seem pointless, somehow. And it’s hard. And I never finished the original 100% so not sure how I feel about more hardness.

Forma.8

Pleasant floating around game. It’s a bit like Knytt Underground and Abyss in style, has a fun drop a bomb and “kick” it attack, and some simple puzzles. Seems OK, might be interested in the full game.

Extreme Exorcism

Platformer where you kill ghosts. It’s a bit like Super Crate Box, only when you kill the ghost, the next level has a new ghost who duplicates all your moves from the previous level. And then the next level has all the previous yous and ghosts. Or that’s what it seemed. Fun, if a bit confusing.

Rive

Lovely twin stick shooter with really, really meaty bangs and explosions. Sections split between gravityless side scrolling and gravity based platforming, with the odd swimming section (where you can’t shoot). Very nice.

Soul Axiom

It’s Not Portal(TM). It’s also really shonky, with stuttering and framerate issues all over the place. It also looks a bit like it’s been made with some Unity level designer or something. And terrible, terrible voice acting. Oh god.

Freedom Planet

What looks like Sonic and sounds like Sonic but is terrible (like Sonic is now, I suppose)? Freedom Planet! Awful animation, screen juddering everywhere and all hopes and dreams of a possibly good Sonic game (even though it isn’t Sonic) up in smoke. Boo.

Lovely Planet

If Noby Noby Boy was a first person shooter, it would look like this. Is the style intentional, or the result of not being able to draw? Who knows. Hiding behind the cute sparseness, is a brutal one-hit-death FPS, which is sort of OK, but I’m not sure I like it enough to play it again.

Typoman

The best of the bunch. Limbo-esque platforming with puzzles solved by creating words with letters that litter the area. So RAIN is a rain cloud filling a pit, but add a D and it DRAINs out. Clever, lovely, and definitely on my want list.

Dishonoured (PS3)

Several years ago, I played a demo of this at the Eurogamer Expo. It reminded me a lot of Bioshock, which I loved, and gameplay wise sat halfway between that and Assassin’s Creed, which I also love. I knew I was going to have to buy it.

For various reasons, I never got round to it. Then, a little while back, it got added to PS+ and I thought I’d finally give it a go.

And it’s been fantastic. I love the slightly steampunk, slightly Fallout apocalypse setting. The powers are great, especially Blink and the rat summon. The story is interesting and the characters are well above average. I’m really enjoying it.

At first, I struggled with trying to stay stealthy. I’m not a fan of hide and seek games, despite my love for Assassin’s Creed, so staying in the shadows and taking out enemies in a non-violent manner was difficult. I’d heard if you kill too many people, you end up with the bad ending, so I didn’t want to aim for that. Once I’d been told that really, the bad ending isn’t really bad and the good ending isn’t really good (they’re both just different viewpoints or something – I’m not that close to know for sure yet), I stopped worrying when I got spotted and just took out the bad (or good?) guys whichever way. Sure, I tried stealth and hiding, but if it went wrong? Who cares.

With that little revelation, I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Game.

Apart from the TallBoys. I don’t seem to be able to hurt them at all, even when shooting their oil tanks, supposedly a weak spot. Ah well, I can just skip past most of them with Blink instead, which is actually more fun.

Another thing I’ve been enjoying is the variety in missions. In particular, the one where you have to get up Dunwall Tower and take down the Lord Regent (I chose to upend him via propaganda, rather than slitting his throat) – lots of great areas in that level. Also, the mission at the house party. That was fantastic – eavesdropping and exploring to find out which of the three Lady Boyles was the one you needed to off, then tailing her to the bathroom and knifing her behind closed doors. And then running away. Awesome.

I’m closing in on the end now, having just returned to the Hounds Pit after some… unpleasantness.

Mega Man X2 (Wii U): COMPLETED!

ShootmansIt’s taken a while to finish this off, but not because it was especially difficult or long – more because I’ve been playing it sporadically and in short one or two level bursts.

Unsurprisingly, it’s a lot like Mega Man X. And better than Mega Man 7. I was a bit frustrated that there’s a certain point in the game that you reach (the final robot master before the Sigma levels) where, if you haven’t managed to retrieve all the parts for Zero, you can never return and get them. Of course, I didn’t even know they existed until it was too late. As it turns out, collecting them makes a fight with Zero later on a lot easier, but I beat him first time anyway.

That_s_what_they_said_about_syntholStill, I could return to earlier levels and get all of X’s upgrades, which was good.

The final Sigma levels were pretty easy, and the bosses – which like usual seemed impossible at first – ended up far easier to beat than most other Mega Man games, especially the final Sigma boss itself.

Was it better than X, though? I don’t think so. Better than 7? Yes, certainly. In fact, lets wheel out the order and extend it.

X>X2>6>4>7>5>3>2>1. There. Fact.

Tracking my gaming. For great victoly!