Claire: Extended Cut (Vita)

Claire as mud.

I was given this, kindly, by @IndieGamerChick some time ago but only just got round to playing it. Turns out, I wasn’t really missing much in the interim.

Claire is a narrative discovery game, in 2D (unlike most which are 3D), with some nice pixel art. The story interests me, revolving around some odd happenings in a hospital. Claire is there seemingly because her mum is really not well, but after falling asleep Claire experiences some weirdness.

The hospital becomes empty, run-down, and dark. There’s a dog. Shadows of monsters flicker in the dim candlelight. Stuff moves by itself. Claire has flashbacks, or at least, what seem like them, to when she was a child. I don’t understand anything happening. That doesn’t matter.

Claire
Dark here, innit?

What does matter, is two things. Everything is dark. Really dark. Stupidly dark. Even with the brightness up full, you can’t see a damn thing. You have a torch, which barely helps. The pixel art might be the most incredible pixel art ever created, but you can’t see it because it’s too dark.

The other thing, is the map. Long time readers might recall me complaining about the 3D map for a 2D game problem that Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate has. Basically, you’d sometimes enter a door on the left, and this would put you on a different plane and so left was now down not left. Or something. Well, Claire suffers from the same thing. Navigating from A to B is hard enough anyway (too dark to see the doors, half the doors don’t open) without throwing illogical directions into the mix too.

Especially since where I am currently, I need to find a nurse in Paediatrics. You’d think that’d mean the nurse’s station, right? It’s labelled on the map, and signposted (if you manage to see them) on the wall, so you’d expect that. But no. Instead, I have to wander the entire hospital blindly (both literally and figuratively), not knowing if some of the rooms on the map can’t be accessed or if I just haven’t figured out how, or missed the door in the dark.

Claire
And not really much less dark here.

What I’m saying here, is that Claire – for all of it’s interesting points – is a frustrating chore to play. So I’m not sure if I’ll bother any more. And that’s a shame.

As an aside, and this isn’t the game’s fault at all, but my Vita is a crashy, broken, pile of crap. It’s lucky if I can manage an hour without it crashing. It’s not the memory card, and the error messages are generic and mean nothing. What this means is, that my desire to play Claire is reduced even further as a result – you can’t save at any time, yet my Vita could kick me off whenever it fancies. Sigh.

Actual Sunlight (Vita): COMPLETED!

Go to the roof, and jump off.

I’d never even heard of Actual Sunlight, so I was a little surprised to not only find it sat there on my Vita, but also to find myself playing it. Wait, what? A Vita game? Here? With my reputation?

It turns out it was on PS+ a while back. I dived in. Oh god.

actual sunlight
Get up, you lazy bum.

When a game starts telling you to commit suicide, you know you’ve made a mistake playing it. Sure, it’s telling your character to do it rather than you the player, but the exposition of Evan Winter’s dreary, dead-end life –  with his high tech trinkets that do nothing to make up for his non-existent love life nor his pointless, joyless job – rings a bell for many people, I’m sure.

Go to the roof, and jump off.

Actual Sunlight is a narrative discovery game, following Evan’s mundane activities as he gets up, has a shower, laments his existence, and heads off to work. Or the roof of his apartment building, if you decide to try and end it all. It’s a spoiler to tell you there’s no real choice in the matter, but a one worth spoiling as it’s as much about the journey as it is the destination.

Actual Sunlight
No, no you won’t.

I didn’t enjoy playing it. I don’t think you’re supposed to. Everyone you talk to is miserable, and playing it makes you miserable. Still, it was interesting, I suppose, watching Evan descend seemingly into schizophrenia as he converses with himself, acts out a life he could have had, and ultimately takes himself to the roof after all.

The opening titles warn you that Actual Sunlight deals with difficult and mature issues. I’m not sure it actually deals with them, but they’re certainly represented. Probably best to avoid the game completely if the themes here are likely to cause you distress. An odd choice for Sony to push as a PS+ title, I’d have to say too.

Actual Sunlight
I think many people can identify with this.

Lemmings Touch (Vita)

No.

Lemmings Touch
Stupid.

What, you want me to expand on that? Erm. I’ll try: Lemmings Touch utterly ruins how Lemmings works by reversing the order you command your lemmings. In the proper, unbroken and excellent games, you click on what you want a lemming to do, then click on one or more lemmings to do that task or become that sort of lemming. It’s intuitive and it works. In this game, you tap on a lemming then a circle of options comes up and choose what you want that lemming to do. It means that for every lemming you want to make a climber, you have to tap the lemming then the climber icon. What’s the difference? Try making ten of them climbers.

Then they added evil lemmings to the game, which you have to prevent from getting to the exit.

Lemmings Touch
Or don’t bother, and go and play a different game instead.

Look, it’s just rubbish, OK? And it was a day late on PS+. Burn it.

Hatoful Boyfriend (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_o1tnzmdqoj1svmpf2o1_1280When I looked up how long a game this is, I read it took about 8 hours to finish. So imagine my surprise when I reached the end credits in about 50 minutes.

Afterwards, it became clear that I got just one of many endings. Presumably my choices affect which bird I end up becoming close to, and since I spent all my time choosing the library, I got Nageki’s ending. Nageki who was… a ghost. WoooOOOO! Oh, spoiler. Sorry.

tumblr_o1tnz2bg5k1svmpf2o1_1280Yes, I was “getting close to” birds. Mostly pigeons. In school. And no, I wasn’t a bird as well – I was a human girl who lived in a cave and considered themselves a hunter-gatherer. Look, I didn’t come up with the game’s concept and quite clearly whoever did was dropped on their head as a child because even within the bizarre realm that is Japanese dating sims, Hatoful Boyfriend is elephant grade nuts.

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I expect I will play it again for other endings. Because I happen to like elephant grade nuts.

Thomas Was Alone: Benjamin’s Flight (Vita): COMPLETED!

image It has to be said that there were two things harder than the actual game itself, but related to the game itself. Number one: actually getting the damn game to load. I had to download the Benji DLC again, restart the Vita, and sacrifice several virgin goats just to get as far as the menu screen. Number two: actually figuring out how to play the DLC. Turns out you have to choose to replay a scenario and then pick Episode 10. Which isn’t listed as Benji DLC. Ho hum.

imageOnce in the game, it’s short and sweet with an abrupt ending that made me think I was missing some more levels. Not that it really matters.

Benjamin adds a jetpack ability, making his levels a bit faster and floaty than in the main game. It also seemed to make things a lot easier, and I rattled through the lot in just over half an hour. Not including problems with getting the game loaded and restarting from two crashes. Anyway, it was worth the 60p or whatever it was I paid.

Grim Fandango Remastered (PS4/Vita): COMPLETED!

Interest started to wane the closer to the end I got. Puzzles continued to make less and less sense, and even the interest with following the plot was becoming difficult as it was taking longer and longer to solve the puzzles so the story was frequently put into stasis for long periods.

By the end it had become so drawn out I’d forgotten half the characters and the secretary, Meche and the woman from the hipster club all blurred into one. Then Celso appeared and confused me further. What I’m trying to say, is either have the great, funny story and a simpler or less difficult route to progress it, or stick with convoluted and obtuse puzzles and have an easier or more straightforward storyline. Or something.

Things were hampered further by playing the final year or two of the game on my Vita, where it crashed frequently leaving me stuck in scenery or completely kicking me out of the game. On another occasion I was supposed to pick up a grinder with a hand in it, but it wouldn’t let me until I’d quit the game and reloaded an earlier save. I’d also put down the Vita’s smaller, lower res screen (compared to the PS4, I mean) as cause of much annoyance when searching for a body in a meadow in the final section of the game – you can’t see a thing as everything is too small – but since I’d already had similar problems earlier on the PS4 (the sign in the wood bit) I can’t.

tumblr_o1s0k52wh31svmpf2o1_1280

Items generally were fiddly to deal with. There was no way of accurately “activating” scenery, so often looking for items or clues turned into a Duke Nukem secret room style search, only without the HNGH HNGH WHERE IS IT. It was so easy to miss things, even when I was being helped (I didn’t use a guide, but did have a hint FAQ and Twitter at my disposal) simply because things were virtually invisible or you had to be pixel perfect to use them correctly.  Could I not cut a rope with my scythe because I’m in the wrong place? Or I can but not yet? Or it isn’t time yet? That sort of thing. Even objects you’d managed to pick up were a pain to choose from your inventory as you have to cycle through them all in what appears to be random, and ever changing, order one at a time.

tumblr_o1s0jhbhcz1svmpf2o1_1280I suppose back in the late 90s on original release this interface and 3D graphics style were still in their infancy, and later similar games rectified things a little, but for a game almost universally acclaimed as a classic falls way short simply because of the unnecessarily clunky interface – ironically an interface that seems designed to do away with the unnecessarily clunky interface of earlier titles like Monkey Island with its verb/noun point and click system. It’s a shame they didn’t improve the input method when they improved the graphics for the Remastered version. Oh wait! They barely did that either. Aside from being slightly less jagged and with altered – but not necessarily better  – lighting, the different between old and new is barely perceptible. In fact, at one point I’d been playing it for over an hour after accidentally putting it on “classic” mode before I realised.

Still it was funny, and I did, mostly, enjoy it. I just can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that it’s nowhere near as fantastic as I’d been led to believe. Shame.

Geometry Wars 3 (Vita): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

Tearaway (Vita): COMPLETED!

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

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

Perhaps this focus will pay off?

Well… no. Not really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ian Malcolm has a relevant quote that fits well here.

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

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

tumblr_noo3xkiczm1svmpf2o1_1280Race the Sun (Vita)

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

Tower of Guns (PS3)

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

tumblr_noo3yawnnb1svmpf2o1_1280Murasaki Baby (Vita)

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

tumblr_noo4116vri1svmpf2o1_1280MonsterBag (Vita)

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

tumblr_npl64hy0wp1svmpf2o1_1280Futuridium EP Deluxe (Vita)

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

tumblr_npl7gqesmg1svmpf2o1_1280Super Exploding Zoo (Vita)

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

Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable (Vita): COMPLETED!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exed Exes (PSP): COMPLETED!

OK, so technically it’s on the Vita, and really it’s an arcade game (it’s on Capcom Classics Reloaded), but since it’s a download for the PSP I’m classing it as a PSP game. I think that’s in line with my usual logic for the likes of the Wii U Virtual Console. Not that it really matters. As an aside, the game looks pretty poor on the Vita screen, regardless of screen size option. I don’t think PSP games look very good on the Vita generally, but a game that’s resized to fit one screen then that is resized to fit on another? Horrible. The text on the menus and options are barely readable.

The reason I bought Capcom Classics Reloaded is because it’s cheap, and the reason I chose Exed Exes to play is because I’ve not played it before (although I think I have the Famicom version), it looks like Xevious, and Retro Gamer did a feature on shoot-em ups this months and I fancied a go on one.

Oh my god should I have not bothered.

Exed Exes is TERRIBLE. I know it’s about 30 years old and I know I’m not a massive fan of the genre, but still. It’s tedious. It’s repetitive. There’s no variation in the enemies or the landscape. The music is an awful dirge. The enemies are uninspired and take far too many hits to destroy. The bosses are all virtually identical, just progressively larger, and are basically simple symmetrical shapes with gun turrets on top. It’s really hard. It’s sooooo slooooow. The power-ups don’t affect your weapon in any real way (you shoot three bullets instead of two, but the power doesn’t increase so it makes no difference) and the smart bombs only damage enemy bullets, not enemies.

And it’s so, so boring. After four stages I wanted to claw my own skin off, but I stuck with it for all 16 and after the final fanfare and a load of bonus points, stage 17 started – which was just stage 1 again. No. I’ve had enough.

Then I started Vulgus and it’s the same damn game only with crap metal baddies instead of crap insect baddies. OFF!

Titan Souls (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nnffwcxd0a1svmpf2o1_1280What a difficult game. Rewarding, complete with air punches, each time a Titan is finally felled, but oh so very difficult.

Almost every Titan I came across seemed impossible to defeat. At first it was because I couldn’t see how you were supposed to take them down, and then it was simply because I couldn’t. Perseverance paid off, and eventually each and every one was beaten. Eventually being the operative word there – so, so many attempts.

C_est_impossible___titansouls__t_httpt.coT5Z8N9HESoMost impossible of all the impossible Titans was the stone head with two maces. I think about a third of all my deaths were attributed to his spiky balls. There was a genuine sense of achievement and relief once I (literally) shot him in the back.

In comparison, the final two bosses were a walkover. As in, I “only” died around 20 times on each. In fact, the actual final boss himself took a mere handful of lives, although I think that may have been luck. Having dealt with him, it was Game Over and the credits rolled… but then I remembered: two Titans I’d attempted previously, I’d never gone back to finish off. How, then, did I get the end of game sequence?

tumblr_nnffu5nmcp1svmpf2o1_1280As it turned out, some of the Titans are optional. I’d beaten the game taking out just 15 of them, but there are 18 to off. Mark Foster (who wrote the game) sent me a message on Twitter to say there was a “true” final boss after you’ve beaten every Titan, so my next mission is to find those I’d missed and mop the floor with them too. I did start this, and found (but lost many times to) the Knight With A Big Arrow Titan. I shall return.

Titan Souls (Vita)

2015-04-18-135131What seems like a long time ago, I heard about Titan Souls on the Pig Ignorant Indie Gamers podcast. Back then, it was a web based game written in about ten minutes for the Ludum Dare game jam. I played it, liked it a lot, and completed it.

Then it spent over a year being developed into a proper full game, and I eagerly awaited its release. And now it’s here!

2015-04-18-150704It is, basically, the same as before. Only bigger. Instead of four titans (all of which appear to be in this) there are, er, lots. How many, I’m not sure. I’ve beaten twelve, and am able to access but not beat another two or three, and I’m guessing once I’ve beaten them and opened a massive door there’ll be at least another as a final boss. The game world is still quite small, but bigger than before with a few minor puzzles in it. There’s a jungle, some ruins, a snowy area, and a volcano to provide scenery variety too.

2015-04-18-145952As before, the game is all about killing big bosses and very little else. You have just one weapon – a single arrow that, once fired, you have to pick back up. Alternatively, it can be magically summoned and levitated back to you, but this is slow and so mid-fight needs to be done carefully. Each boss makes use of this limitation, so you have to not only find the (generally) one-hit-kill weakspot, but figure out how to hit it.

For example, one titan is a giant mask who shoots energy balls at you. He flies round the room, always facing you, but his weakspot is his back. You can never directly shoot his back, but you can “pull” your arrow into it having shot it past him.

Show_me_your_teeth__t__titansouls_httpt.co3wDCTsqRplMost titans are as much a puzzle as a fight, so the first ten or so deaths (you’ll die a lot, sorry) are just figuring out where to hit them, and the rest figuring our how and then actually pulling it off. It’s hard. So very, very hard. And incredibly rewarding.

As I said, I’ve downed twelve of these bosses, and it’s taken me about three hours and I’ve died over 180 times. Has that put me off? Not at all.

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.

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.