I’m going to keep this short, because not only is the game itself pretty short, but it’s something you have to experience and play yourself, rather than read what I have to say about it.
The Beginner’s Guide involves a walk through a number games written by the (presumably made up) Coda. The narrator tells you about them, Coda’s likely state of mind at the time, and various other facts about the simple games as you progress through them. There aren’t really any puzzles, there’s very little shooting, and each “game” is very short and mostly simple.
But, as usual in games of this type, that’s not the whole story. The narrator has more than just a history lesson to talk about.
I enjoyed it, although not as much as either The Stanley Parable or Dr Langstrom, with both of which The Beginner’s Guide shares DNA, but it’s worth the 90 minutes or so I spent on it. It’s just a shame it crashes so much on the Mac!
Firewatch has been on my wanted list for quite a while, but I felt I should both clear a few other games out first, and wait for a sale before picking it up (plus, it had horrible framerate issues to begin with – these have mostly been patched out now). This week, thanks to it both being on sale and me picking up some very cheap PSN credit, I nabbed it from the Playstation Store for just £8.92. And then I completed it.
The plot, which I’ll be vague about because spoilers, involves you, as Henry, taking a summer job as a fire warden in a remote part of the Wyoming wilderness. Your marriage has run into… complications… and you’ve decided to escape for a while, so this seemed perfect. You’re stationed up a watch tower, alone but with another nearby warden called Delilah for company via a radio link. You’re tasked with chasing off some teens for starting a campfire, keeping an eye on things, and generally hiking around a bit mainly just to pass the time.
Delilah chats with you, and you get to know a bit about each other (how much is up to you via dialogue choices) as the days pass. Soon, however, it becomes clear that something is going on. Somebody is listening in on your conversations. Someone is watching. Something is happening.
It could be some sort of conspiracy. Is Delilah who you think she is? Are the teens? Who keeps starting fires? What is the fence for? At times, it’s a mystery, at others, it’s almost paranormal. From the moment things get a bit weird, though, it’s utterly compelling.
Firewatch is a Narrative Discovery Game. Some people call games like this, Gone Home, The Stanley Parable, and so on “walking simulators”, but I take offence to this as there’s more to it than that. Yes, they’re very light on actual gameplay elements – Firewatch has no real puzzles and very little interaction bar opening stuff and chatting – but the exploration is how you progress the story, so I prefer to the term “narrative discovery”. I’ve said many times that a good story in a game can overcome most other limitations, so even though most of your time is spent walking around (although having to navigate by map and compass is fun) you’re following an excellent tale.
Henry doesn’t see much in the way of other people (or animals) in and around his watch tower, although I did adopt a turtle and call him Turt Reynolds, so you really feel how isolated he is. Even Delilah, who can see you from her tower feels a hundred miles away. When you enter a cave system and can no longer contact her by radio, you immediately feel vulnerable as your only lifeline is cut off – this is amplified when you make certain discoveries too.
In all, it’s a wonderfully told story, with some beautiful scenery and is pretty short so the long hikes never get a chance to become tedious as they surely would if the game was twice as long. The ending is perhaps a double twist, the discovery of may come as a disappointment to some, but I actually felt it was a relief: Again, spoilers so I won’t elucidate. If you liked Dear Esther, Gone Home or even Life Is Strange, then I can’t recommend Firewatch enough.
Here’s part of my playthrough, roughly the middle third of the game. It contains lots of spoilers, so beware:
It was never explained why it was called The Witness, mind.
So things carried on much as before. Puzzles that were impossible were suddenly solvable if I went away somewhere else for a bit and came back. I found more lasers – seven of them, in fact – and triggered the puzzle at the top of the mountain. A puzzle that took over an hour to solve by itself, I should point out. This (spoilers!) opened the inside of the mountain, and here there were even more puzzles. Because of course there were.
A lot of the puzzles here were corrupted in some way. The screens were broken, flashed, scrolled or had incorrect colours. One of them even span round, faster and faster as I got closer to completing it. Frankly, the whole area was a bit hard on the eyes as well as the brain, but I persevered and eventually made it to the base of the mountain and even here – right at the end of the game – they devs found yet another way to reuse the same grid puzzles in a different way by wrapping them around pillars.
With those completed, I was treated to the end of game island flyby, and then was plonked back at the very start of the game again – only I noticed a secret environmental “circle and tail” which involved the sun, and activating that allowed me to enter the most bizarre end of game credit sequence since… well, The Stanley Parable, I suppose. And after that, there was a FMV sequence which I won’t describe as it really is a spoiler. It was all very odd.
Now, I’d finished seven lasers but I’d been told there were eleven. I knew where the missing four were, and most were very close to being activated so I reloaded a save from just before completing the game, and didn’t take long to get three of them. The area in the desert, however, I’d not even started so it took a little while to work through there. With all eleven lasers pointing at the mountain (one needed tweaking with a mirror in the town, I noticed), I found The Great Glass Elevator again and triggered it only to be given the same ending. I thought I’d missed something, but it appears not. Aside from Challenge Mode, which I found and opened up. Oh god.
Challenge Mode then, is a set of puzzles you trigger by playing In The Hall of the Mountain King on a record player. Each puzzle is random, and you have until the song finishes to do them all. None are especially taxing, but you’re under pressure. Many hours passed. So many attempts. Then, finally, everything clicks and I make no mistakes (that require you to redo puzzled) and I make it to the final secret – a box! And in it, the solution for a puzzle in the theatre! And that’s it. Apparently the video it unlocks is an hour long. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I went back and solved a few missed puzzles, found a handful more environmental puzzles, and wandered through the caves a bit solving all the puzzles there, but I think I’m now done with The Witness. It was beautiful, it made me feel very clever, and even though there were over 400 puzzles – all of which are essentially the same basic premise – somehow it never got too frustrating, too repetitive, or too boring. I don’t think I want to find every hidden puzzle in the game, but what I’ve done has been throughly enjoyable.
Never has a game made me feel so damn clever. But on the other hand, it frequently made me feel incredibly stupid. “But of course!” I’d facepalm myself “It’s so obvious now I’ve spent twenty minutes staring at it”.
The Witness is not the game I thought it was going to be. When I heard it was about walking round a beautiful island finding puzzles to solve, I expected a variety of puzzles. I didn’t read much about the game because I wanted to discover everything myself, which I frequently do (currently on media blackout: Firewatch and No Man’s Sky) but I wish I had done in this case. Why? Because all the puzzles are the same.
Apparently there are 650-odd of them, and they’re all grid based puzzles like some sort of cerebral Painter game. As you work through them, different rules occur, like you have to collect all the dots on the lines, or make certain shapes in the grid. Later, more complex rules occur like you have to separate some grid boxes into pairs based on colour, or the route you take through the grid is based on something abstract in the world around the grid itself (like a pattern in the trees, or shadows falling on a surface). Ultimately though, every single puzzle is a grid where you have to get from the start to the finish in one single, non-overlapping line paying attention to the rules the various shapes and symbols on the grid dictate.
Solve puzzles to open doors, activate switches, enable more puzzles (this is the most frequent outcome) or ultimately, I think, fire lasers at the peak of the island’s mountain. There are 7 or 8 lasers to be found, if the locked panels each opens are to be believed, with one laser in each area of the island. I currently have three activated. These areas are home to mainly a single set of rules for the puzzles found there, with different rules in each area, with some overlap.
How you find the rules is quite clever. You’re given some very simple puzzles to begin with that are almost impossible to do incorrectly. A succession of these, with slightly increasing difficulty, teaches you what the rule is actually enforcing, without ever explicitly telling you. Sort of like how The Rosetta Stone language course works.
Some of the more abstract puzzles are incredibly clever, using the landscape and structures to make up areas you have to “pretend” are a grid. There’s one puzzle I’m especially proud of myself for solving in a sort of Japanese temple where you have to open and close shutters. It was genius, and it made me feel like a genius for getting it.
Despite my disappointment it isn’t the game I was expecting (although I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting), I’m enjoying it a great deal. I’ve found some proper head-scratchers which have caused me to leave an area and tackle a different one, and I’ve spent a large amount of time looking for “circle and a line” shapes in the shadows, rocks and even sky of the island as these are particularly pleasing to spot and activate, so even the single premise hasn’t been too repetitive. I just hope I’m not going to get stuck on a puzzle forever preventing me from finishing the game. It’s a constant worry.
He doesn’t seem like a psycho to me. Look at his ikkle furry ears! Awww.
I’d completely forgotten how easy the bosses were in Psycho Fox. In fact, I’d completely forgotten anything about the bosses at all, and I wasn’t even 100% sure there were any! Admittedly, much of the rest of the game is quite difficult (mainly because of so many leaps of faith or baddies that appear too quickly to react to), but the bosses? Complete walkovers.
That said, because I’m awesome and somehow managed to remember the locations of two warps despite not having played the game in probably 20 years or more, I actually skipped all bar two of them – the tigery one and the end of game boss.
I’d also forgotten just how many lives there are to collect, finishing the game with more than twenty – and I didn’t even get any in the after level bonus game! One part of the final level actually has three lives in eggs right next to each other. It probably helped that I managed to take the highest routes in most of the levels as that’s where most of them lurk.
It surprised me how good the game still is after all this time. The jumping takes a while to get used to (you jump very high, but not very far at all unless you take a run-up) and you’re a bit skiddy, but apart from that and the very old school rule of the game not scrolling left, it was still excellent and holds up well.
I think I’d like to give Kid Kool on the NES a go next. It’s a very similar game by the same team, and I’ve never played it.
Gasp. No that really is the name of the game. It’s an eShop download that is available for free if you pick up enough Platinum points in Nintendo’s new “My Nintendo” service. If you jumped on Miitomo right away you should have enough by now so you’ve no reason not to get it.
From the verbose game title, you should know what to expect. A Picross e game (it’s by Jupiter) only themed around Twilight Princess. There are 45 puzzles (repeated as Mega Picross puzzles, which is cheating a bit I suppose) and a pretty large Micross to solve in this package, which is roughly half the size of most Picross e titles in terms of content. Indeed, it took me just shy of 8 hours to complete everything.
Sure, it’s smaller, but it’s also free. And properly free as well, not like that Pokémon Picross nonsense from a while back – no game ruining IAPs here, thankfully – just lots of lovely Picross puzzles.
I made an incredible discovery. After Cia’s story in Legend Mode (which was just the same as in the Wii U version), there’s an extension to the original main story! I suppose if I’d paid more attention to the game when it was announced I’d have realised this, but since I was going to buy it anyway I didn’t think to.
What is important about this new set of story levels, is not that there are new characters (Tetra and King Boaty McBoatface) as I knew about those, but that there are TWO new maps! Two! I didn’t even realise there was one! On top of that, they come with a new secondary weapon – the hammer – and several new enemies. And Phantom Ganon as the end boss, who you need to fight by batting back the energy balls he throws at you. It’s excellent.
So I finished all that off, and then did some more Adventure Mode.
The aesthetic of Broforce really appealed to me, with all its pixelly loveliness and explosions and stuff. Apart from having lots of things to shoot and almost completely destructible levels, and of course having a pile of action hero parody characters, that was about as much as I knew. I was going to happily pay money for it on PSN and then they made it a free PS+ rental. Bargain.
The first few levels were more or less what I was expecting. Overly patriotic soldiers dropped into various levels full of terrorists, rescuing other patriot soldiers as you shoot your way through to the end. And this was great. Then, it slowly became less about shooting and started requiring some thought. Traps meant you couldn’t just rush in. Some enemies needed taking out in specific ways. If you blow up some areas it causes the roof to collapse in, and so on. Sure, there was still a lot of shooting, but it was changing.
After a while, other enemies started appearing which changed things again. Not least the aliens later on in the game, which – like in the film – bleed acid which eats away at the levels (and you). Later still, the undead start attacking and eventually demons and all sorts are added to the mix. I think what I’m saying, is that the game is constantly changing and you have to adapt your methods a bit as you progress.
That said, it always remains mostly a platform shooter, and a very good one at that, but the main game mechanic causes problems. You see, every time you die, or rescue a Bro, your character changes to a randomly unlocked Bro. They all have similar running and jumping abilities (with a few differences), but they have wildly different weapon sets. Some have long range guns, some short. Some fire rapidly, some have a blast range, others have kickback. MacBrover only has TNT and no actual gun, making him tricky to use for much of the game (but incredibly useful in some circumstances), and Mr Anderbro has no weapons but his (very powerful) fists. What this means is that two Bros in the same situation won’t be usable in the same way, and some of the bosses in particular are virtual impossible with certain Bros. Which would be fine, but you can never choose which Bro you’re going to be!
Thankfully, levels are short and many have a mid-way restart point in case you does completely. If one Bro fails you, next time you might get someone more suitable. You rarely end up frustrated as a result.
At least not with regards to Bro selection, anyway. Bugs, on the other hand, were almost game killers. Before a recent patch, there was a particularly nasty one where about a second into each level, your Bro stopped responding to inputs for around another second. This made at least two levels virtually impossible, as you needed to react immediately – and couldn’t. After two or three patches this bug was eventually removed, instead being replaced with a new one where between levels and sometimes between restarts (which used to be instant) the game appears to hang on a black screen, sometimes for over a minute. This new bug isn’t game-breaking like the previous one, but it does annoy, especially if you have to wait ages between restarts on a difficult mission.
There are also performance issues, in particular when the screen is busy with lots of enemies and explosions, meaning some levels play out almost entirely in slow motion, the final boss in particular. It didn’t bother me too much, but you’d think a PS4 would be able to handle a 2D platformer a little better.
The final few levels provided another annoyance. All of the other missions are made up of about 5 levels each, after which you get a boss, and then return to the map screen. The last mission, however, seemed to have three times as many with no way to save the game. As a result, the last 90 minutes of the game needed to be played in one single sitting. If I’d have known, I’d have done it another time rather than have to stay up late just so I didn’t have to play it all again. The final boss also suffered from Irritating and Unnecessary Gaming Cliché #3 – having to kill him over and over in various forms until he was finally dead.
From what I’ve written you may think I’m being largely negative about Broforce, but in fact I really enjoyed it. It has faults and isn’t perfect, but I still love the style and the gameplay and with hindsight I certainly would have bought it. I certainly suggest you do.
I’ve said before that I’m a big fan of Lego games. I buy all of them, and for the last few years have enjoyed them even more as I’ve played them in co-op with my daughter. For some reason, I’d never got round to picking up Lego Lord of the Rings (even though it’s pretty old now) until around New Year, when it was on sale on the 360 shop for about £3. I’d have preferred a Wii U or PS4 version, but neither exist. I’d also have preferred an actual physical version, but for £3 I can cope.
Coming to this after Lego The Hobbit, I can see it’s very similar. The overworld is almost the same, and some of the locations are – at least without a side by side comparison – identical. It’s fun, as all Lego games are, but it’s pretty far down the list when it comes to which is best. Although not unusual for a Lego title to be bug-ridden, Lego Lord of the Rings crashed completely several times, and on at least four occasions one of the characters got trapped in scenery and we had to restart the level. Twice, blocks that had to be pushed off cliffs froze in mid air, so we had to restart the level, and once we were unable to even start a level as it wouldn’t trigger. Pretty disappointing.
The quality of the levels themselves were not of a great standard either. Some were great, of course, but a few were truly terrible. The swamp level, with Gollum setting fire to things and you having to navigate through safe paths and put the fires out was an exercise in extreme patience as it just went on forever. The hiding from black riders and dragons (again this happened in the swamp, but also elsewhere) caused tedious stop-start gameplay, not conducive to enjoying the levels. In fact, we had to do the swamp level twice due to a bug mentioned above.
There were also too many fights of the form “Kill three of these” then “Kill five more” then “Kill seven more”. Repetitive and dull. Sorry, Traveller’s Tales. At least you’ve not done a Lego game as bad as this since!
All that said, it was still – on balance – actually pretty good. As always, it shines in two player and the source material and gags add to the enjoyment. We’re not going to 100% it this time though. Too many bugs and annoying sections have put paid to that.
With Puggsy completed, I was reminded of The Legend of Galahad on the Mega Drive. The main character actually appears as a statue in Puggsy, and I think both games, and Wiz ‘n’ Liz, were developed around the same time by pretty much the same team. Oddly, the game is only known as The Legend of Galahad on the box, bearing the shorter title of “Galahad” in-game. It’s also the same game, bar some minor differences, as the Amiga title Leander.
It’s also an annoying platformer filled with too many unexpected deaths. You can’t look up or down, so many leaps are into the unknown. Some pits are spike-filled, but others are not. Baddies respawn, some after a few minutes and some almost instantly. Some spikes that spring up from the ground can be destroyed, some cannot. And there’s know way of knowing any of these things without trial and error!
Thankfully, it’s actually quite enjoyable despite the frequent deaths, and lives and energy are plentiful so although it’s a challenge, it’s not too difficult. Money, to improve your armour and weapons, is incredibly easy to come by and once I’d found the first shop in the game I’d more than enough for the best sword already – making most of the baddies simple one hit kills. With the rest of my money spent on bombs (which make you immune for a few seconds in addition to causing massive damage) even bosses were a walkover.
Except the final boss, where your ability to use bombs is removed! I had 40+ bombs to use up on him and couldn’t activate any! In the end it didn’t matter as although I died five times to him, the damage you’ve inflicted carries over when you die, so it was a simple case of just having enough lives to sustain myself while I chipped away at his energy, which didn’t take long.
The Legend of Galahad was never a “top tier” title at the time, and it’s not surprising it has probably been forgotten by most people now. It has problems, but it’s not a bad game. Has it aged? A little, yes. More so than Puggsy, certainly.
It’s a Saturday morning cartoon you can control! Only it isn’t.
First up, let me say this: I completed Time Gal in Easy mode. I’m not proud, but any other mode is completely impossible. You simply have no way of reacting correctly to the action, and it’s unplayable in the same way Dragon’s Lair is.
With that confession out of the way, I’d also have to say it wasn’t worth it. Like Dragon’s Lair (and other FMV games of this kind), it doesn’t work. You see, it’s two things: A reaction (and/or memory) tester game, and a film. As a game, remembering every button press, in order, for 30 minutes of gameplay is not fun in any way, shape or form. As a film, it’s not possible to enjoy it because you have to concentrate on the button presses. As a result, it’s best to experience via watching someone else – who has memorised the entire sequence so they don’t fail too often – play it instead.
Time Gal is a stupid relic of an age where video was impressive and what seemed to be an interactive cartoon wowed everyone, but it’s boring, shallow and annoying. And the MegaCD version has terrible grainy FMV anyway. What a waste of everyone’s time.
Puggsy was probably my most played, and certainly one of my most enjoyed, MegaCD games. It was huge, and had even more levels and bosses than the plain Mega Drive version, some of which made use of the MegaCD’s hardware with sprite manipulation and FMV.
I’ve been picking away at it over the last couple of weeks, finding it generally easier than it ever was back then, but struggling to find the secret or alternative exits in some of the levels so progress was less quick than you’d expect. Some I could remember, some I could remember but not how to do it, and some I had no recollection of at all – the final boss for instance was not the final boss and I’d totally forgotten about the real final boss. Even though I remembered the really annoying level with the spiky ball you can’t pick up, which comes after what I thought was the final boss.
Anyway! It was a lot of fun to play again after such a long time, and I’ve completed about 45 of the 51 levels so may return to finish off the final few. There are some more secrets I’d like to re-see, like some of the bonus levels (I got the Jetpac one, but know I’m missing the Arkanoid one and at least one more) and the Wiz ‘n’ Liz reference. I found Galahad (aka Leander) in one level so that’s prompted me to add that game to the list of must-plays too.
But you know this isn’t the end of Hyrule Warriors Legends, don’t you? Of course not. All I’ve done is complete Legend Mode, and even that still has Cia’s prologue yet to do – let alone track down all the hearts and skulltulas and stuff in levels I’ve already completed. Then there’s Adventure Mode, which I have given merely the briefest of touches, just to capture a fairy. I’m only 15 hours in, which is already much, much longer than many games but here I know there’s a good 100 more or so – at least – waiting.
As well as the main Legend Mode story, I’ve also played and completed all of Linkle’s missions which sort of intertwine with the main story. Not especially well, it has to be said, but the plot is totally irrelevant elsewhere in the game so it doesn’t matter. The bulk of the game is Adventure Mode anyway and there’s no plot there at all.
I mentioned it before, but it’s worth saying again: Linkle is superb. Her slightly ranged weapons, her speed, her aerial gunplay (crossbowplay?) all make her so much fun to play as. It felt a shame every time I had to play a level as another character after each of her missions, as although most of the other characters are great too, Linkle is best. Better than Link even. Hopefully unlocking her most powerful weapons isn’t too much of a task in Adventure Mode, as I want them as soon as possible!
Linkle, she come to town. Come to save, the Prince(ss?) Zelda…
The best game in all creation is HYRULE WARRIORS for the Wii U. Probably. It came out of nowhere, wasn’t my sort of game in either respect – not a musou fan, and not a 3D Zelda game fan – and I bought it mainly because I had a funny five minutes when I saw it on the eShop. Somehow, it was fantastic, I’ve spent over 130 hours on it, and it just kept giving with the content.
And now there’s a 3DS version, with all the content of the Wii U version (at least, it seems so) and then some more. Squeezed into a 3DS? Impossible. Or perhaps not so impossible when you hear about those poor folk with a normal Not-New 3DS who have stunted framerates and no 3D. Thankfully, mine isn’t one of them and so the game is astounding. A couple of slight control and camera niggles, but nothing terrible, and it’s just as much fun as it ever was. Only more so, because it has MORE! More characters (Linkle is incredible), weapons and modes. A new fairy raising feature. And the 3D shouldn’t be underestimated either – it looks and feels great.
I’m but a toe in so far, with just 3 or 4 hours on the clock, but I can see this running and running, just like the Wii U one.
I’ve not looked at demos on my 3DS for a while, and there have been a few recently, so I thought I’d give a few a go.
Hyrule Warriors Legends
I’m a huge fan of the Wii U version, and the 3DS version is just as incredible – if the demo is to be believed. I’m playing it on a New 3DS, so I know the performance is better than on an “old” 3DS, but it’s just the same as on the Wii U. Maybe not as perfect graphically, and no multiplayer, but I can see that I’m going to need this now. Not least because it unlocks stuff in the Wii U version…
It’s Pokémon, only by the Professor Layton people and with some bizarre method of doing attacks. And… I quite enjoyed it actually. This surprised me, as I wasn’t expecting it to be my sort of thing at all. Will I get the full game? Maybe?
At first look, this seemed like it was going to be yet another JRPG. In fact, it’s a SRPG in the style of Final Fantasy Tactics. There’s a lot a chatting, there’s a witch who is virtually naked, and the voice actors seem to be the same ones in every single English dubbed Japanese game made in the last five years, but the battles are great!