Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 1 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Bland crafted.

Minecraft: Story Mode is another of those games I bought in a PSN sale at some forgotten point in the past. Which I then played for half an hour and then didn’t again. But now I did. Done. Have did.

Unlike most 12 year olds, I have no interest in Minecraft. Certainly, I’ve played it to a tiny degree, but it’s all too blocky and tedious for me to find any real fun it it. Aside from dropping TNT all over the place, of course. As a result, I came to this game solely from enjoying Telltale’s other adventure games, hoping my lack of Minecraft knowledge wouldn’t hinder me.

In this first episode, it hasn’t, really. There’s a lot of “lore”, but it’s mostly irrelevant to how you actually play. You have to craft stuff, but you’re literally told how, and essentially given all the ingredients. Perhaps you have to solve a puzzle to get something, but that’s it. So far, those puzzles haven’t been any more difficult than “flip this switch”, so perhaps “puzzle” isn’t the right word.

Unlike most other Telltale adventures, there’s some combat. This combat is little more than a QTE, however, but then there’s a million other QTEs that appear too. In fact, there are more QTEs that actual puzzle interaction, so the game feels more Dragon’s Lair and less Sam & Max. Not a good thing, in my opinion.

Still, there’s a good story to follow, right? Um. Maybe? It’s that lore issue. Some stuff about a witherstorm and traveling through “the Nether” and honestly? I have no idea. There are choices to be made with the characters but they don’t seem to make a lot of difference to how things play out.

Hopefully things will improve in later episodes. This one did seem to just be the setup – bad guy unleashes really bad thing, historical heroes need to be found, some temple “base” of said heroes is reached, and so on. Thing is, the game has been a combination of too-simple puzzles and too-rubbish QTEs so far, and I can’t really see them changing the mechanics.

Murder Dog IV: Trial of the Murder Dog (PC): COMPLETED!

Murder Dog Day Afternoon

Imagine if Phoenix Wright consisted only of the courtroom bits. And the graphics were all photos of plasticine and paper characters. And Phoenix Wright was a murder dog who had murdered thousands of people. And you can murder the jurors during the trial. That’s Murder Dog IV: Trial of the Murder Dog.

No, I don’t know if there were three previous games.

The aim of the game is to get Murder Dog acquitted of his obvious crimes. He is defending himself, and also appears to be narrating the game at the same time, so it’s a little unusual to follow. He can examine and present evidence, or destroy it. He can question witnesses, go on a killing spree, and lie through his teeth. It also appears that Murder Dog used to be a police dog whose job it was to murder people. Bad people, presumably.

I played through it twice (it’s very short). I was executed the first time, and had my conviction overturned the second time. I didn’t get away scot-free that time though, as I was jailed for 5 years on a lesser charge of tampering with evidence or something.

‘Tis a silly game.

Nekopara Vol. 0 (PC): COMPLETED!

Catatonic.

What. The. Hell.

Nekopara is a barely interactive “story” about a load of cat girls and the mundane things they get up to while their master is out of the house. Such incredible events such as making lunch! And cleaning!

There’s supposed titillation when it’s bath time, but it’s just awkward and creepy. Maybe that’s the point.

I did get all the achievements though, with most of them being for petting the catgirls. That’s pretty much the only interaction this “game” has. Should I bother with Nekopara Vol. 1, which I also have?

Unravel (PS4): COMPLETED!

Red Thread Redemption

Unravel was bought about a year ago, but after playing the first level, I didn’t play it again. I’d enjoyed it, but as is so often the case, something else came along immediately and I forgot all about it, until the other day.

I picked up where I left off, and after just a few hours (not all in one sitting), it was all over.

The story follows, erm, I’m not entirely sure. A little yarn man who revisits the life a man and woman as they gradually age, by entering photos of places they’d been. As he navigates each level, filled with minor platforming and mostly simple puzzles, he slowly unravels himself. Because he’s made of wool, see – and that’s the name of the game. Checkpoints allow you to “refill” your wool, but care needs to be taken you choose the correct route – sometimes untying knots you’ve made to release some slack – or you won’t reach!

Unravel

All of the levels look beautiful. Genuinely photorealistic fore- and backgrounds, coupled with gorgeous woollyman animation and great environmental and lighting effects combine to create one of the best looking games ever. One of the snowy areas (complete with a pine cone you roll into a snowball) being perhaps the pinnacle.

It’s short, clever, gorgeous and – perhaps a spoiler – sad, but I loved it from start to finish.

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (3DS): COMPLETED!

Big Girls Don’t Cry

And that, following its pair – Oracle of Ages – from a few weeks back, means that the two best Zelda games have been completed. Again. Like Ages, I originally completed Oracle of Seasons right near the start of this gaming diary’s life. Back then, I finished Seasons first, but this time reversed them.

It didn’t make a lot of difference. The extra heart carried over from the more puzzley Ages helped a little in the more combatty Seasons, but that’s all. I did make the mistake of not playing Seasons for just over a week, meaning I’d forgotten what I was supposed to be doing. I admit, I resorted to reading a guide but only to remind me. I did’t make that mistake again.

Seasons seemed easier than I recall. Backtracking was more of an issue than my memory suggests, mainly because of the lack of useful warp points (aka the seed trees). Warp points exist of course, but they never seemed to be near where I needed to go. I ended up using the same two or three and then walking the long walk instead. Maybe if I’d figured out the routes across Subrosia it wouldn’t have been such a trek.

After beating Onox, the final boss, I went on to fight Twinrova. You can only do this once you’ve completed both Ages and Seasons, but I’d done that. Finally, the half-developed form of Ganon needed to be defeated. I was sure Twinrova was difficult last time around, but it seems my memory was faulty again and it was Onox I struggled with before.

And that’s that. Definitely still the best Zelda game(s). Fact.

Lego City Undercover (Switch): COMPLETED!

Compuper?

Is it really four years since I completed this last time? It doesn’t seem that long ago at all. Not much is different in the Switch version, apart from two major things:

1) It’s two player! OK, so it’s a bodged two player, in that both people play as Chase McCain even though that makes no sense, but that doesn’t really matter. Having two players lets you, obviously, do two things at once – making going for 100% a much quicker and less daunting task.

2) The loading times! Certainly, they’re still there, but they’re so much shorter and less frequent. On the Wii U version there’d be times when you’d wait over a minute – perhaps even two minutes – for parts of the game to load. Around 30 seconds is the most I’ve come across on the Switch, but it’s usually less than that.

Other than those, though, Lego City Undercover is the same game as before. And that’s just perfect because it’s was, and still is, one of the very best Lego games. Perhaps the best, now it’s improved in those ways mentioned above. A toss-up between this and Lego Marvel Super Heroes, anyway.

Now to get everything I’ve missed. Sorry, we’ve missed. Yeah, I’ve played the whole thing through with my daughter this time round, which wasn’t possible before.

Picross e7 (3DS): COMPLETED!

XOOXXXXXOXOXXXXOXXXO

Maybe I miscalculated, or maybe my picross skills are now honed to the point where I complete puzzles on autopilot, but it turns out Picross e7 was actually shorter than Picross e6. Not much – 27 1/2 hours compared with about 28 hours, but it was still a surprise.

Like before, there’s some “cheating” going on by reusing the same pictures for both the picross and mega picross modes, which is a shame. Also, you don’t get many “bonus” puzzles for owning other games in the series – just 15 in total. It’s the same as before, but there are 6 previous titles now, not 3!

And that’s all there is to say, really. It’s more picross. And there’s an excellent toilet in it.

picross e7

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (PS4): COMPLETED!

Cor blimey guv’nor, there’s bin a murder!

Before I started playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, I was reminded of how many people saw it as superior to Assassin’s Creed Unity. It seems that although in the most part Unity was a return to how the series used to be, it was overly “Ubied” up, with map icons galore and bugs a-plenty. The latter of which is par for the course in Assassin’s Creed, of course, but by the time I got round to playing it most had been patched out. I still had plenty of issues, but it was a better game than the version early adopters had despaired with.

That was Unity, however. At first, I found Syndicate a little hard to enjoy. More grimy, more violent than Unity, and with too much of a focus on trains perhaps. I instantly hated Jacob, one of Syndicate’s twin protagonists, for being too cocksure and brash. Evie, however, was pretty awesome, so I used her wherever possible in his stead.

Initially, the mission structure confused me. I didn’t understand how to do the next “story” memory, as they all seemed jumbled up with side quests and targets and other stuff. Eventually, at some point in Sequence 4 or 5, I realised you have to do the “Evie head”, “Jacob head” or “Skull” icons on the map. Until then, I’d stumbled randomly through the game and it didn’t help me like it.

assassin's creed syndicate

Soon enough, though, it clicked. I really got into it. I started liking Jacob more (he’s brilliantly sarcastic). The conquest events, which seemed tedious and dull when a few hours in became one of my favourite bits of the game. The story was simpler, less convoluted, than Unity (and most of the recent Assassin’s Creed games, actually) and I think was better for it. Evie and Jacob take over London and find a piece of Eden. Done. No treachery, no double/triple/quadruple agents (aside from one character, but you can see that from a mile away), no unexpected twists. Just good, old-fashioned Assassins vs Templars.

And I completed it. At least, I think I did. You see, I finished what was clearly the final mission: kill the main bad guy. That’s not a spoiler – it’s literally the aim of the game. After that, no credits. No end sequence. Nothing. Except for an email, as in, a real email in my real-life inbox, from Ubisoft congratulating me for completing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Now, I’m no fan of Ubi’s end of game credits, which are often longer than the game itself as they list every human being that has ever lived, and their pets. It just seemed odd not to have them. Or anything.

assassin's creed syndicate

I did, however, have a message with some suggestions. I should do some missions for Queen Victoria, and take over the rest of London. So I did those too. Nothing.

There are non-story missions still littering the map. Associate activities, flowers to collect, and so on. Surely I don’t need these to “finish” the game? My usual metric is to declare a game completed when I hit the credits. That hasn’t happened and I’m not sure it will. In any case, I’m taking it as done.

assassin's creed syndicate

By the end, and I mean the end I got to rather than the end which may or may not exist, I realised that I was enjoying Syndicate way more than I’d expected to. I know I declared Unity a return to form when I played that last year, but this is another step closer. A definite refinement. I may even do what I’ve not done since Brotherhood: Try to get all the collectables, because I’m enjoying it that much. Once more, it isn’t perfect. But if Ubi can take this and polish it a bit more, then I have high hopes for Origins. It has taken a long time to recover from the massive misstep that was Assassin’s Creed III. They’re there now – just don’t ruin it!

If you want to see my complete, but lengthy, playthrough, then watch this video playlist:

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (3DS): COMPLETED!

To be this good takes Capcom. Mocpac? Hmm.

Last time I completed Oracle of Ages was almost 12 years ago, not long after I started this gaming diary. You can read my post about that here. Since then, I’ve played a lot more Zelda games, but in my mind the Oracles games have always been the best. Would my memory hold up, in light of Link Between Worlds and Breath of the Wild?

Actually… yes.

Ages is not without faults. Changing weapons is perhaps the biggest issue, especially on boss fights. Swimming controls, in particular once you pick up the mermaid gear, could be much better. Warping between the past and present, once you have the right tune, takes just a little too long. Having to remember where everyone and everything on the map is, for later reference, is difficult.

But most of these don’t really matter. The item swapping is a product of its time: The Game Boy Colour only had two buttons, after all. What is still outstanding is the game itself. In particular, some of the puzzles are genius. I wonder about the brains of those who created them, notably the Mermaid’s Cave dungeon. Not only do you need to contend with some of the more fiendish riddles, but you also have to leave the dungeon, change era, and return. I also must have spent four or more hours in the multidimensional nightmare that is Jabu-Jabu’s Belly. Raising and lowering water and a one-way system broke my brain several times.

From what I recall, Oracle of Ages is the more cerebral of the two Oracles games. Difficult puzzles, but generally easy bosses, with Oracle of Seasons being the opposite. It certainly seems to be the case given what I’ve said, and that all of the bosses – even the final one to a lesser degree – were incredibly easy. The only problems I had were figuring out how to damage some of them, which again bears out the puzzle-based nature.

So is it better than Breath of the Wild? I mean, really? It’s certainly a better Zelda game, yes. It doesn’t have the scope, beauty or freedom of the Switch title, but it is a purer, tighter, more focussed Zelda experience. But then, Breath of the Wild isn’t a true Zelda game in my eyes.

Seasons next!

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap (Switch): COMPLETED!

What is it like to be… hu-man?

Sometimes, I wonder if my game playing skills have deteriorated over the years. A combination of getting older, and games getting easier. It’s likely. It’s with trepidation that I tackled The Dragon’s Trap then, as I always found the original much too hard.

dragon's trap

As far as I can make out, the new version does nothing to make things easier. It’s a reskin, with everything in the same place. Enemies take the same damage. There aren’t any new powers or anything to help. I wasn’t sure I’d manage it.

It’s true that The Dragon’s Trap was indeed difficult. However, when I took my time, actually watched the baddies, anticipated their movements and attacks, I realised it was doable. Just like in the old days. Funny that. Grinding for money to buy better equipment helped too. Sure, I messed up a lot. Died one hell of a lot. But today, I beat the final boss.

Not that I realised it was the final boss. I thought there’d be at least one more after it, but no – up came the end of game sequence. Oddly enough, the final boss was by far the easiest. He was easy to dodge. You could hit him anywhere (not just his head like with the other dragons), and you automatically block all his attacks. Assuming you face him, anyway. No epic final battle, sadly, and although I was sure I’d have to return to the castle afterwards, alas, this was not the case.

It doesn’t really matter. I had my fun and beat a game I’d never beaten before.

Lego Dimensions: Mission: Impossible (PS4): COMPLETED!

Colonocolypse

It’s been a while since I played Lego Dimensions, but I had Zelda, you know? And turning on the PS4 was hard. But, I did have one last level pack to play through – Mission: Impossible.

As with the rest of Lego Dimensions, this was completed in co-op with my daughter. She has no idea what Mission: Impossible is, even less so than she did with any of the other packs. Not that it really mattered.

mission impossible

From what I recall – and it was some time ago – this pack is the first Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible film. There’s the same confusing face-swapping and double/triple/quadruple crossing, and the climax is a fight in the Channel Tunnel. The level itself is pretty standard Lego fare, with nothing too out of the ordinary (unlike, say, Adventure Time or Doctor Who). Ethan Hunt’s drone is nice. His face swapping is good too. It’s a shame there’s not more made of it, though.

The game is pretty big, enjoyable, and has Mr T in it. With that in mind, the list of levels now goes: Sonic the Hedgehog > Adventure Time > Midway Arcade > Portal 2 > Doctor Who > Mission: Impossible > The Simpsons > Ghostbusters > Back to the Future.

 

BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 2 (PC): COMPLETED!

I’m Batman

Who’d have thought that Episode 2 of Burial at Sea would end up, essentially, being Batman in Rapture? Batman as in the Rocksteady series of recent titles. Well, it is. As Elizabeth (spoiler?) you sneak around in the shadows, generally avoiding combat. You use air vents. You get a vigour which essentially gives you detective vision.

burial at sea

Not only that, there are some large rooms where you have to hang from gargoyles, or something. And drop down behind foes and silently dispatch them. Hmm.

That said, it’s the story that’s the main point of the game. What, you were playing it for the mechanics? You’re doing it wrong, in this episode especially. It’s not about the fighting, it’s the sneaking and finding and getting to the end.

Little of which I can talk about because of big spoilers. That, and how I’m not completely sure what actually happened at the end there. I did like the link back to the original BioShock and how this tied in with it though.

And that’s BioShock all done.

Marvel Land (MD): COMPLETED!

Marvel Land is a game I had as a kid, but never completed. A while after the original release, it appeared outside of Japan as “Talmit’s Adventure” or something, but I always preferred the Japanese original. So the Japanese one is what I played through here.

It’s a happy fun blue skies platformer with slightly slippy physics. You know the sort – where floors don’t have quite enough friction when you land. It certainly took some time to get used to. Marvel Land’s “thing” is the bizarre attack you can perform by flinging copies of yourself around yourself. You need a power-up to give you a “chain” of clones, and then by pressing up or down you spin them around you, collecting items and attacking baddies. It’s very odd.

marvel land

Sometimes, you can use these clones to grab a node, which lets you swing around and cross gaps or jump high. The more clones you have (attacking with them depletes them) the higher or further you go.

The other “thing” with Marvel Land is all the warp doors. As is common in many platformers, there are hidden (literally) or hard to reach doors that warp you to other parts of the level or even other levels. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Only in this game, some of the warps take you back to the start of the level. Or back a whole level, or several levels. There’s one particularly evil one in the penultimate level. It takes you right back to the very start of the game. I’ll not deny I reverted to a save state for that one.

marvel land

Boss battles are a bit strange and thoroughly Japanese. One involves playing Janken, another is a bit Whack-a-Mole. Only the final boss actually involves a fight of any sort!

Marvel Land is a fun, happy, difficult, nonsensical platformer. It reminds me a lot of Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure, and that’s a good thing.

marvel land

Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (MD): COMPLETED!

I have never played a Ys game before. I don’t even know how to pronounce it. “Wise”? “Ees”? “Why Ess”? Who knows. Something else I also didn’t know: Ys III is a Castlevania game.

Not an actual Castlevania game from that series of course. No, Ys III just plays a lot like one. There’s a castle, a clocktower, and even a boss that is very much like Dracula. It has the same mechanic for walking up and down stairs. Grinding to level up, just like the Metroidvania CV games, is also a thing here. Even the music sounds like it has comes from a Castlevania game, with a couple of the tracks sounding almost identical to music from that series. It’s also hard as nails. Castlevania, see?

ys iii
Another Castlevania, another Clock Tower.

Before I started playing it, I was expecting a party based RPG. Imagine my surprise then, when it was a side scrolling hack and slash game. And that was before I realised the Castlevania parallels. There’s some Zelda II in there too. Unlike those games, however, Ys III is pretty short. There are only four levels, one of which you do twice, and each is impossible until you’ve levelled up enough. The bosses ranged from laughably simple to nigh-on impossible (I really struggled with the fire lion thing), and in Castlevania II tradition poor translation meant I was clueless how to progress at least twice while playing.

ys iii
Dancing on the sand.

Graphically, the sprites are not exactly the Mega Drive’s best, but the parallax backgrounds – especially the sunset – are incredible. Sound effects are nothing special, in contrast to the epic soundtrack. I found the controls a little unresponsive when it came to jumping. This made climbing up out of a cave more difficult that it really should have been.

ys iii
Gotta gets me some harb.

On the whole though, Ys III is really rather good. If nothing like what I was expecting. There’s a remake available on the PSP and on Steam, the latter of which it seems I own somehow, so I might give that a go.

Pang (Arcade): COMPLETED!

Pop it

It required all of the credits, which, if I’d not been playing it on RetroPie would have meant re-mortgaging the house, but I completed it. Boy are some of those final few levels hard.

Pang is always a go-to game in the arcades for me. That, Pac-Land, Rampage, TMNT, Street Fighter II, Mappy, Out Run. I never got very far on a single credit in the past. Perhaps level 10 if I was very lucky.

But now, I’ve done it. Life goals, and all that eh?