Azure Striker Gunvolt (3DS): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Super Mario 64 (Wii U): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

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

Box Boy! (3DS): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mighty Gunvolt (3DS): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

Anyway, onto Azure Striker Gunvolt now!

Castlevania: Spectral Interlude (Spectrum): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Touch My Katamari (Vita): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mighty Switch Force 2 (3DS): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

3D Shinobi III (3DS): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

Things I’ve been playing recently

Roundup time!

Yakuza 4 (PS3)

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

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

tumblr_nl4ekp2aky1svmpf2o1_4003D Shinobi III (3DS)

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

Pokémon Shuffle (3DS)

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

tumblr_nkwzzkxtr71svmpf2o1_1280The Swapper (Vita)

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

How_do_I_get_up_to_the_chains__t_httpt.cobVSTh02HMeCastlevania: Spectral Interlude (Spectrum)

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

Various Crap Games (Spectrum)

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

3D Altered Beast (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nl49srv4lv1svmpf2o1_400WISE FWOM YOUR GWAVE!

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

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

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

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

3D Outrun (3DS): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

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

Proteus (Vita): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and then the game ended. What.

Kick & Fennick (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nkr7tefp1t1svmpf2o1_1280This was a surprise. It looked a bit rubbish, and some of the reviews suggested it was average at best, but it’s actually a really good fun platformer, with a novel jump mechanic.

tumblr_nkw5o4dup71svmpf2o1_1280You have a gun which you can use to both shoot baddies and switches, but also use the recoil to jump and boost. The levels have walls to blast through, electricity beams to avoid (and slip through when they turn off temporarily), bounce plates, portals, conveyors, and all sorts of other gimmicks and hazards. Some of these add puzzles to the levels, others require dexterity or timing. Or both.

tumblr_nkr6sizm7i1svmpf2o1_1280At the end of each chapter there’s a boss battle against a giant robot. You can’t actually harm it directly, so have to use the environment to do that instead – which is also puzzling on a couple of them.

There’s nothing in particular that the game does amazingly well, but it’s solidly put together, the controls and the recoil feel perfectly suited, and although some levels frustrate, it never gets too hard for its own good. It’s a little short, and some good ideas aren’t used enough (like the red “extra powerful” recoil), but I suppose they need to hold something back for a sequel. Maybe.

Papo & Yo (PS3): COMPLETED!

I renewed my PS+ subscription and upgraded my (full) PS3 hard drive, so picked this up for a rental. Thought I’d give it a try as I’d heard good things, but had no idea what it was about or the type of game it was.

As it turned out, it was a sort of platform puzzler where the events of the game are actually some sort of dream (or something) metaphor, where the main character has what appears to be an alcoholic father who has killed someone by running them over. Or something. That’s what it seemed to me, anyway.

It’s set in what appears to be a deserted Rio de Janeiro shanty town, with chalk cogs, keys and other items that you can activate to open areas, move buildings and make other absurd things happen. Your dad is seen as a lazy, but benign monster, who you convince to move around by tempting him with coconuts, and using his fat belly as a trampoline when he falls asleep.

Sometimes, the puzzles will involve giant frogs, which you can pick up and throw against walls to get rid of them. Or let the monster eat them which will cause him to turn into a flaming demon who hunts you down and flings you round like a ragdoll. The frogs are obviously a metaphor for drink, you see.

None of the puzzles were especially difficult, but some were a bit frustrating due to the difficulty of making some of the platforming jumps. Could I not quite make the jump because I was doing it wrong, or was it that I shouldn’t be able to make the jump and I need to find a different route? It wasn’t always clear. Some platforms which appear to be reachable are actually behind an invisible wall, and twice I fell down between two walls and was unable to escape. There was a puzzle early on which stumped me, because somehow not enough coconuts had spawned, so the monster wouldn’t go to sleep. Reloading fixed it though.

Papo & Yo was a short game, clocking in at under three hours, but was interesting and arty. In many ways, it reminded me of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It’s definitely worth a play, but you need to ignore some of the roughness and dodgy collision detection. Thankfully they don’t detract too much from the experience. Might want to bring some tissues with you, though.

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (360): COMPLETED!

Oh 360. It’s been a while. Certainly since I completed anything on you, anyway. How unloved you are these days. But, since Ubisoft failed to release Rogue on the Wii U, I was left with little choice.

And it’s a shame, because much as I hate the recent boating bits in recent Assassin’s Creed games, they’re made much more bearable (especially in the ludicrous “boat stealth” sections) by being able to use the Wii U gamepad’s massive map. In fact, on Black Flag, I would usually steer the boat entirely by looking at the map. It made it much easier and – most importantly – made the boat bits shorter as a result. Anyway.

In the latter half of the game, Shay starts to wonder if his turncoatedness was actually wise, as he started systematically wiping out his former chums (and chumette) in the Brotherhood. As a result, it was pretty obvious how things were going to turn out, but the trip to get there was enjoyable enough.

Although, in terms of the story at least, Rogue was definitely the shortest “main” Assassin’s Creed game. There’s plenty of optional filler, of course, but the end of the plot seemed to come around rather too quickly. I like what Ubi did to tie it in with Unity though, bumping off Arno’s dad (after briefly meeting Arno himself, as a child) in the final epilogue mission.

It has faults, like all Assassin’s Creed games, and it has bugs (again, like all Assassin’s Creed games), but Rogue is the best one since at least Revelations. I do really want to play Unity now. Only I’ve nothing to play it on. Hmm.

Shantae (3DS)

tumblr_nk52gywkz91svmpf2o1_400You know when you stumble into the eShop and you’ve credit in your account and you see a game you’d been intending to get for a while but haven’t because you’ve loads of other games to play and you “accidentally” buy it? That.

tumblr_nk6ibnsbom1svmpf2o1_400Shantae is a gorgeous looking GBC platformer, with some fantastic sprites and animation layered on top of a pretty hard platformer. It’s essentially a Metroidvania, where you enter labyrinths (which have several puzzle elements) to both rescue a genie (each of whom provide you with a new power) and recover a mystical stone (protected by a boss).

tumblr_nkdvafcbm01svmpf2o1_400So far, I’ve completed two such labyrinths, and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve two powers, activated by dancing specific combinations of moves, so can turn into a monkey who can scale walls and an elephant who can smash through blocks.

tumblr_nki1v4sxgu1svmpf2o1_400Less fun is navigating the world between towns – it’s a long way and some of the monster you run in to are very hard to defeat unscathed. It seems you can collect warp squid to allow you to teleport from town to town, but at the moment I can’t, and things are compounded by poor signposting. I’m told where to go, but not how, meaning I can spend half an hour going in one direction only to end up in the wrong place and have to backtrack. A bit annoying.

But Shantae can shake her pixel bottom so it doesn’t really matter.

Pokémon Shuffle (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nkdva7wmvn1svmpf2o1_400A few years ago, I stopped (with rare exceptions) playing games on my iPhone. The App Store had become swamped with F2P games with IAPs and other abbreviations, and even “traditional” games had been drugged with mechanisms designed to only allow play if you keep buying gold, or gems, or whatever for ridiculous prices. “Sonic had run out of jumps! Buy 10 jumps for £2.99?”. No.

And yet here is Nintendo, perhaps the last bastion of proper games, releasing a free to play match-three puzzle game, complete with all the evil in-app purchases you could ever wish for. All filled with Pokémon. Rubbish.

But, because it’s Pokémon, and Nintendo, I thought I’d give it a go. And what do you know? You can complete the game without spending a penny, without being restricted in any way (bar being unable to play for hours at a time), and it’s actually pretty good.

tumblr_nki1v9yv711svmpf2o1_400You know how these games work. You match three (or more) of each Pokémon, and they disappear. The Pokémon twist adds a little more depth. Each level is a fight with another Pokémon, and you get to choose which of your previously captured monsters to put up against it. Each has an affinity, so some are better at dealing damage to different types than others, and this damage is applied when you match them up. Some have Mega transformations which allow special moves that wipe out large areas of the board. You’ve a fixed number of turns for each stage, but if you defeat the monster before the counter hits zero, you get a chance at capturing it.

Sometimes the chance, measured as a percentage, is laughably low, but you can improve your chances by buying a Great Ball with coins. It’s here where the IAPs come in. To buy more moves, or Great Balls, require coins or jewels (the in game currencies). To obtain coins, you spend jewels (or win matches), and to get jewels, you spend Real Actual Money. You’re also limited to playing five stages (or attempts at stages) – you spend a third currency, hearts, each time you want to play. How do you get more hearts? IAPs. Yay.

tumblr_nkdvabcrni1svmpf2o1_400Here’s the thing though. Hearts replenish, up to 5 at a time, by just not playing the game. You get another heart every half an hour, so if you play the game in spurts here and there, you’ll never feel the need to buy more. Every so often, and more frequently if you get lots of streetpasses, the game bungs you a heart or two anyway. Coins can be won in the game, so you never need to buy those either, and jewels? I was given about 20 for free across the course of the game, and I finished the game with 4 left. Basically, the IAPs are totally unnecessary.

The game is pretty addictive, which is clearly required if you’re Nintendo and want to make some money out of this, but if you’re like me and can be patient, you can play the game as a fun diversion a few times a day, completely for free without ever feeling restricted.

The irony is, if Nintendo had ditched IAPs and charged maybe a fiver for Pokémon Shuffle, I’d have happily given them the money and they’d have made some cash out of me. Instead, they’ve tried (and failed) to extract IAP cash from my pocket and ended up with nothing. Here endeth the lesson.

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (360)

While my 360 was on, I thought I might as well make a start on this. I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy it, as I knew there was a lot more boating, like there was in Black Flag, and I’m not keen on the idea of being a Templar who used to be an Assassin either – although I do have a theory about that, which I’ll mention in a minute.

I’m only half way through Sequence 2, but I’ve heard Rogue is substantially shorter than Black Flag so I’m not sure how far that actually is storywise. Shay, the man with the worst Irish accent ever, is still an Assassin, and has killed George Washington’s brother and a fat man called Smith, but has started to question whether he should or not as Washington was sick and Smith was harmless. So far, there has been a lot of tedious boating, not much proper assassining, The actual assassining has, however, been great as always, especially Washington’s garden party.

You can see that the game is stitched together from other games. There’s asset reuse in the boats, the Homestead (straight from Assassin’s Creed III), and the Abstergo offices (from Black Flag). The “modern day” plot involves a virus hitting the Abstergo network, causing glitches and corruption in the Animus. It’s this which I think (and hope) may explain Shay’s Templar conversion. From some of the files I’ve found in the offices, it would appear that things are not as they seem. It wouldn’t be the first time either – in Liberation, Citizen E shows what “really” happened in various bits of the game – and I expect something similar to be happening here. We’ll see.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (360): COMPLETED!

Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve completed an Xbox 360 game. In fact, bar the odd bit of Minecraft, I’ve barely touched it in ages. Today my daughter wanted to play a Turtles game, so I picked this.

It’s the original arcade game from 1989, although I did complete it almost eight years ago. Blimey. Was the 360 even around that long ago?

This time was in co-op, obviously, and I found it easier than I remember. Sure, a billion credits were used (for some reason the game only gives you one life each credit? Pretty sure I must have missed a setting somewhere), but the bosses didn’t seem as indestructible as I recall.

Anywho, done. There was some technical issue aftermath, though. After playing, the game reverted to the trial version, and so to fix it I deleted it and went to redownload it. Of course, it’s not on XBLA any more. Nor was it in my download history. In fact, NOTHING was in my download history aside from Minecraft. Twice. Not on my 360 nor on the Xbox website. All very odd. Sorted it a few hours later when the Xbox Support Twitter account provided me with a link to my download history, which appeared to be the same URL as the one I’d visited previously, but this time it listed everything. Phew.

Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_njzj24qcn11svmpf2o1_400That was quick! I am aware that most of the time you’d spend with a golf game like this would be in multiplayer, or the online tournaments, or (in this case) the extra courses that don’t play a part of the “story mode”, but I didn’t expect to have licked all three course contests in just a few days.

tumblr_njzj1tnbcf1svmpf2o1_400In fact, I won the first and second contests on my first attempts, although the Mountain Course proved trickier and I placed second on my first two tries. I didn’t play especially badly, but it was hard to get birdies and the winners seemed to get -8 very easily. On the attempt when I actually came first on the Mountain Course, I managed -7 with Mario in second place with -4. It all seemed somewhat random as to how well your opponents do.

Completing it has unlocked some more clothes and clubs and Peach’s Garden (whatever that is) so there’s more to do yet.

Rock Boshers DX (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_njxslqbaak1svmpf2o1_1280You know that thing you do where you completely forget you own a Vita? It’s pretty easy to do, as it is somewhat forgettable. Well, I did that. I was sat wracking my brains, trying to remember which games I’d started fairly recently but not finished, and all I could come up with were a few 3DS and Wii U games. I was convinced there were more than that. And of course there were – I’d forgotten about my Vita. Silly me.

tumblr_njxsme8mif1svmpf2o1_1280Having rescued it from the same hole my PSP spends its autumn years rotting in, I charged it up and set about finishing off Rock Boshers DX. Previously, I’d reached a level with two centipede things and a load of larvae, and was unable to get past it. Somehow, that only took two attempts upon returning, and I quickly blasted through a few more levels.

The almost vertically scrolling shoot-em-up level where you’re in a lift full of paratrooper baddies and helicopters and a UFO semi-boss was pretty difficult, and there’s a later level where you have to run laps of the screen (for the second time) which also gave me grief. Managed to get past them eventually, though, and before long it was the final boss.

tumblr_njxsn4wpil1svmpf2o1_1280Or bosses, rather. There are several stages. First, you’re inside a massive bullet much like the one that you went to Mars in at the start of the game. Here you have a giant brain you have to shoot in each of its eyes as they appeared. You can also temporarily destroy baddie dispensers to get rockets, making the fight (probably intentionally) not unlike the Mother Brain one from Metroid. With the brain dead, you escape in a smaller bullet…

tumblr_njxsohvi9s1svmpf2o1_1280But of course the brain isn’t dead. It somehow still follows you and the game turns into a sideways scrolling (scrolling backwards, I might add) shooter, reminiscent of the Super Sonic fight at the end of Sonic 2. With the brain defeated properly, there’s yet another “final” boss, this time against the tall hatted man in a spaceship, who throws everything at you.

None of the bosses were especially difficult, so I’d soon won. Ending sequence and hint at a sequel and everything. Excellent.

3D Fantasy Zone (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_njof3v0tw31svmpf2o1_400You may think that this is a somewhat short game. Eight short levels and it’s over. Right? How long can it possibly take to complete?

Almost EIGHT HOURS. That’s how long.

Oh yes, it was hard. Especially Level 3, for some reason, but even with the difficulty I still managed to reach the final boss at the end of the game in around an hour and a half. In fact, aside from losing a couple of lives, I beat 5/6ths of the final boss in that time too. It just took several hundred more attempts to beat that final part of the final boss.

tumblr_njs2rjktrz1svmpf2o1_400He starts with six blue… things, all lined up and ready to attack one after another. The first five are easy, and with the Wide Beam are all dead in seconds. The problem is, that the sixth moves too fast to shoot. He’s all over you and you’re dead before you can even use enough smart bombs to take him down. You can’t get many hits in either, because you have to run away from him immediately and you can’t shoot behind yourself.

tumblr_njof3soain1svmpf2o1_400Eventually, after all those tries, I finally fluked it and dropped an un-aimable Heavy Bomb on him just as he was about to touch me. Phew!

In the process of building up gold to spend on the final battle, I replayed the earlier levels again, and after a while found I could quite easily make it from the start of the game to the very end boss attack without ever dying. And that’s including the Boss Rush. How I hate Boss Rushes. The point being, that even though some levels were bloody difficult, they became complete walkovers. Obviously my skills had increased. Or something.

Utterly_impossible._Can_complete_the_whole_of_the_game_without_dying__but_final_part_of_final_boss_Nope.__t_httpt.co3AOjMNSF4QComing to 3D Fantasy Zone without being a fan of the original (it looked great, but was too hard and I didn’t like the shop mechanic), I’m amazed that not only did I really enjoy this, but despite the number of times I had to replay bits to tackle the final boss, I never once gave up.

I’ve unlocked all the extras now too, including Upa-Upa Mode. I gave that a go, but I’m not sure I like it. The shop has gone, and now upgraded weapons cost gold either per second, or per bullet. I rattled through all my reserves in mere seconds! Hmm.

Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Show_me_your_teethNo, I hadn’t started this already and no, I didn’t return to another previously started game having finished off Shovel Knight. Just shut up, OK? Shut up.

I was rearranging the icons on my Wii U home screen. Like on my 3DS, I have to have them arranged in an OCD friendly manner, where games I’m currently playing or haven’t completed sit on the first screen, and games I have completed or aren’t likely to play any time soon are shifted off to other screens. Since I have more games on the go than a single page of the home screen can contain, after moving Shovel Knight I’d freed up a spot and noticed Another World unloved and unplayed on the wrong screen. So I had to move it. Then played it.

_pelekophoros_and_then_Can_t_go_down_the_hole.Back in the day, I had Another World for the Amiga. I wanted to like it, but it was far too frustrating. When you died (and I died a lot) you were put back too far, and the single button nature of the Amiga joystick made the controls too fiddly with too many deaths resulting from controller flail. That, and I’d already played Flashback which was better in so many ways.

Still, this updated version promised to do away with two of my issues, with more frequent restart points and two (two!) button controls. It was also technically free, due to free eShop credit, so I bought it. And today I played, and completed it.

No_idea_how_to_beat_this_guy.After doing so, I found a walkthrough video which also completed it. My time was just over two hours. They did it in 23 minutes. Hmm.

If you’ve never heard of the game, then let me sum it up: You’re a man who has a particle accelerator which goes wrong and warps him to an alien world. You take control of him from the moment he arrives, and through running, leaping, shooting (once you get a gun) and generally avoiding nasty traps and alien beings that want to kill you in varied grizzly ways. You’re captured and placed in jail with one of the aliens, who befriends you when you help him escape, and he then assists with your endeavours to get out of the city.

ImpossibleWhat makes it tricky is that all these deaths are instant, and often unexpected. It’s one of those games where you get a little bit further each time – remembering where rocks fall on your head or aliens with guns appear. There are a few puzzles to solve, none of which are especially taxing although a handful are pretty obtuse. Each time I got stuck I posted on Twitter for help, but usually managed to solve it myself by the time I got a reply. Frequently I’d arrive in a room and think it was utterly impossible to progress, but not know if that was because I was doing it wrong, or had missed something earlier on.

Now I’ve finished it, the replay value is close to zero, although if I did attempt it again I’m quite sure I’d be much closer to the 23 minute completion time the Youtube guy managed.

Most_ridiculous_spaceship_ever.In terms of gameplay, it’s not as timeless as I’d have hoped. It’s a bit clunky and rough, with some necessary pixel-perfect jumping and timing being at odds with the imprecise movement, slightly vague three mode shooting (tap to shoot, hold for a shield, hold longer for a shield-breaking blast) and seemingly random collision detection – often enemy laser beams will pass through you, sometimes they will kill you, but there’s no way of knowing which until you’re dead. There’s also the big no-no of several holes you have to fall in on purpose, but with no way of knowing if the fall will kill you until you’ve already committed to the drop. Some of the firefights are literally hit and miss too, and I passed one in particular I’m sure by luck alone.

CDOS_V5.01Still, there is something compelling about it. The urge to finish it was strong, to see your man Lester escape, and when you solve a puzzle or figure out to deal with an alien you can’t help but feel a bit clever. There’s also a bit of a twist at the end when you think you’re about to escape in a spaceship, but, well, I won’t spoil it – let’s just say there’s a bit more game.

Another World is definitely recommended if you can find it cheap, but expect frustrating trial and error gameplay. Thankfully, not as stressful as the 90s version.

Tracking my gaming. For great victoly!