Mr. Pumpkin Adventure (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Pumpking of the world!

As this was very cheap in a sale before Christmas, and looked very much like Machinarium would do if drawn by the Links Der Isar chaps.

It’s a point and click puzzle adventure game, with some abstract puzzles, some obvious puzzles, and some multi-part what the hell am I supposed to do here puzzles. Mr. Pumpkin Adventure follows Mr. Pumpkin as he wakes up with amnesia, and has to figure out who he is and why he can’t remember anything. The outcome is very much The Matrix, almost literally, and there are sci-fi references all over the place on the way.

mr. pumpkin adventure

And a giant octopus that wants a Wario hat. Erm.

Look, I’m not doing a very good job of explaining the game because there’s no decent way of doing so. I’ll say this instead: if you liked Machinarium or other, similar games, you’ll love this. It took two or three hours to complete, and was definitely worth the quid or so it cost me.

Ultratron (Wii U): COMPLETED

Twin stick ’em up.

A couple of years back, I played and completed a game called Titan Attacks! on the Vita. At first it looked like a crap Space Invaders clone, but by the end I found I’d really enjoyed it.

ultratron

Ultratron, by the same people and seemingly set in the same universe, does for Robotron what Titan Attacks! did for Space Invaders. A neon, chunky twin-stick shooter with purchasable power-ups and upgrades, bosses, and particles everywhere.

And, just like before, what seemed like a poor copy of an arcade game from 30+ years ago turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s a bit mindless, and the amount of pixels flying around in the form of explosions, pickups and bullets can make it a little hard to see some of the time, but I happily completed it and then carried on playing some more.

Year Walk (Wii U): COMPLETED!

WooooOWOOOOOOOoooOOOOO

It seemed appropriate to play Year Walk, given it is nearly Halloween, and the fact it was very cheap on the eShop helped too.

Year Walk is a graphical adventure game, where you play as a man taking part in the dubious Swedish ritual of Årsgång, a sort of spiritual journey where the participant can supposedly learn about their future. It involves exploring a small map, making note of various shapes and markings, and solving a few simple puzzles.

Oh, and it’s scary. And bizarre. I can’t go too much into it as that’ll spoil the surprises, story and jump-scares the game has to offer, but several events are more than a little disturbing.

year walk
What key is scary? A Spoo-key.

Things get even more disturbing after the game has been completed, with secret extras that blur the line between the game and reality. Probably best you don’t play it just before going to bed. Like I did.

I can’t say it was fun, but it was certainly very interesting. And worrying.

what_s_in_the_box

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Performa! Let’s go away!

Oh yes. Now this is a damn fine game. I’ve always liked JRPGs although it’s few that I finish mainly due to their overwhelming length, or in some cases, complexity or difficulty. I thoroughly enjoyed Persona 4 Golden for the 10 or 15 hours I put into it, but something about the complicated Persona system confused me enough to cause me to back away. Having completed Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, I’m dying to get it back in.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Why would Tokyo Mirage make me want to get back to Persona? Because Tokyo Mirage is Persona, only with a light Fire Emblem theme and a more streamlined, easier to understand, weapon and skill system. It’s My First Persona, and that is absolutely in no way putting it down – it’s a way into the world of Persona and is more than awesome enough in its own right too.

I loved the setting, the quirky Japaneseness, the characters and the real world (almost) locations. The acting and singing as a form of “training” for battle and unlocking abilities is crazy but works, with performances of some great JPop tracks. I became obsessed with the Carnage weapons and their upgrade system, unlocking skills and powers as you go. I don’t recall playing a game where as well as levelling up your characters, you can also level up your powers and your weapons, and even your capabilities as a performer allowing even more skills and abilities.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Dungeons don’t feel like dungeons, even though they plainly are, and each isn’t just differently themed, they have their own puzzle mechanic – from finding the correct order of buttons to press, to running errands, to essentially a variant on a slide puzzle. It might have just six or so of these Idolaspheres, once for each chapter, but they’re large and full of surprises, especially when you return to them later and access different areas.

There’s a well paced difficulty curve, but if you find things difficult and decide to push that JRPG staple of grinding, the game helps out by providing not only a specific area – the arena – full of enemies, but also two skills or items you can use to summon random encounters at a higher rate, or even higher level enemies more frequently.

As for my playthrough, I spent 70 excellent hours working my way to the final boss, and another five failing, levelling and then defeating him. Seventy five hours of glorious combat, funny dialogue and twisted Tokyo. Quite possibly my game of the year so far.

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Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U)

Just an illusion

Oh is this proper good. Properly proper good. It’s a very Persona-like JRPG (in fact, it’s a spin off from the same series Persona is, so that’s not surprising), and I’m really enjoying it.

I did get a bit hooked on Persona 4 Golden on the Vita a while back, but I never finished it, or even got that far into the game. Two reasons probably contributed to that – it was on the Vita, and I’d got to a bit where Personas could be merged or something and it all got a bit confusing and complicated. Also with Persona 4 there was always the slight worry I’d not finish the game, or at least complete all the side missions and stories, before the in-game year was up. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (the #FE is important, and is “sharp eff ee”, not “hash eff ee”, apparently) fixes all these issues.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

At it’s core, it’s the same. You wander round some small areas, talk to people, buy stuff, and so on. Then you do dungeons, which in Persona 4 are accessed by entering the TV, but in Tokyo Mirage Sessions you go through gates that appear in various locations. Inside each of these gates is an Idolasphere, a corrupted realm inhabited by Mirages. Most of them are evil, some are not. So far, so the same as Persona.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

However, whereas the Persona system of, erm, Personas (which provide skills and stuff) is a bit complicated, the Performas in this are much simplified. Things you do in the game, items you collect, and foes you defeat provide things you combine with Performas to give you permanent buffs (like higher HP, or ability to withstand one normally fatal hit per battle) called Radiant Unities. Weapons are forged in a similar way, and are called Carnage Unities, and using weapons in battle unlocks new moves and skills. It’s more straightforward than my description suggests, I’m sure.

You_ain_t_anywhere_near_metal_enough

So where does the #FE come in, you may ask. The sharp presumably references the musical element of the game – your characters (or some of them, anyway) aspire to be Japanese idols. You know, models, singers, that sort of thing, and singing is actually a power in this game. The FE references Fire Emblem, as characters from that game series appear in Tokyo Mirage Sessions as good Mirages that team up with your characters to allow them to have these ridiculous skills and abilities. I think originally there was to be more to the Fire Emblem link than that, but so far that’s as far as it goes.

As I’ve already said, the game itself is so, so good. There’s a great sense of progression as your team and powers level up, and the separate idolaspheres have so far been totally different to each other, and are more than just labyrinthine dungeons: They have puzzles, one way routes, secrets and even their own subquests. It’s a joy to play, and I’m currently 21 or so hours in, and have just been beaten for the first time (and surely not the last time) by the boss at the end of chapter 3.

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Things I’ve been playing recently

Play ALL the things.

I’ve not done a roundup post for a while, but I have been playing quite a lot of stuff. Regardez:

BattlefieldBattlefield 4 (PS4)

I’m not a fan of shootmans, but I am a fan of bargains, so Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline together for around a fiver was a steal. Then I did an odd thing: I actually played Battlefield 4. Not only that, but I think I’m quite near the end. It’s been quite good actually, although at this point I’m finding it a little bit repetitive – enter area, snipe everyone, move on. Naturally I could mix up my play style and use some different guns but when I tried that it didn’t go well. Tanks and boats and stuff did add some variety at least. Online? No.

HYRULE WARRIORSHYRULE WARRIORS LEGENDS (3DS)

Which is still amazing. There’s more DLC this week, but in the meantime I’m nowhere near finished. I have beaten the boss on the first Adventure Map (unlocking a second) and unlocked most of the characters. It’s just so much fun – I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.

Unravel Demo (PS4)

I’ve actually bought the full game as a result of being impressed with the demo. That and 1) it was on offer, and 2) my daughter was quite adamant I had to. She’s played the full game but I’ve only done the demo. It feels a lot like Limbo so far, albeit brighter and cuter.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FETokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U)

Ever since seeing this when it was announced I’ve been interested. I wasn’t entirely sure why, as I had no idea how the game mechanics would even work – some sort of cross between Akiba’s Trip, Idolmaster and Fire Emblem? Maybe? Who knows. It didn’t matter. Turns out, having bought it on release, it’s Persona. And it’s very most excellent, even if I’m only a few hours in so far. I really should get back into Persona 4 Golden, actually. Stupid Vita.

Table Top RacingTable Top Racing World Tour (PS4)

This was a free rental on PS+, and it’s not very good. Somehow, though, I’ve been playing it off and on and I’m just over halfway through the game. It makes me pine for Micro Machines and how much better that is than this, which is slow and has boring (and very few) tracks.

Assassin's Creed UnityAssassin’s Creed Unity (PS4)

I’m still playing it! I completed it not so long ago, but I’m still having fun doing side quests and mopping up all the collectables. Been a few Assassin’s Creed games since I last did that, so it’s obviously pushing the right buttons.

ShantaeShantae and the Pirate’s Curse (3DS)

So many boobladies. In eyepopping 3D! But as well as that, Shantae is a fantastic platformer with metroidvania elements. I’d enjoyed the original GBC game on the 3DS Virtual Console so when it was available as part of that frankly ludicrous Nintendo Humble Bundle I was very pleased indeed. I’m quite a way through it too, having been unable to put it down for a whole weekend, and I’ve just one main area left to clear, I think.

Star Fox Zero (Wii U): COMPLETED!

What does the Star Fox say?

Star Fox ZeroA confession: I’ve never really enjoyed Star Fox games before. The SNES original looked very impressive at the time but it didn’t really interest me, the N64 game bored me, the Not Zelda Honest Gamecube mis-step was awful, and so on. But there was something about the videos for Star Fox Zero which interested me. Not when first announced, of course, as it looked rubbish back then, but when Nintendo came back a few months later with more information my interest was piqued.

Star Fox Zero

And when I came to play it, it was a lot of fun! Not too taxing, and although the dual-controls (on screen and on the pad) are initially confusing, it didn’t take too long to get used to them. I think that most of the time I ended up just relying on the GamePad in the end, but that worked out fine for me.

Star Fox ZeroThe levels were surprisingly varied, with standard “on rails” into the screen shooting sections, some bosses where you fly around an area freely, dogfights in space, levels where you have to dodge a load of stuff, some slow paced bits with a robot you deploy and control, and more. In fact, almost every level is different in how you play to those previous.

Now to go back and unlock some of the alternative routes, I think!

Star Fox Zero

Candy, Please! (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Another not exactly seasonal title.

And that’s all four games in the collection done! Candy, Please! involves you needing to create various Halloween costumes so you can con your neighbours out of sweets. There’s a new mechanic where you combine items in your wardrobe to create these costumes, and some are easier than others to find the parts for.

candy, please

It felt a bit longer again than the previous game, but there’s no arcade games this time around, sadly. It’s also a return to the house from the first two games but at least this time you can venture out into the street when off Trick or Treating.

Like the other three games, it’s pretty short, isn’t especially difficult (although a couple of the puzzles had me scratching my head for a while – getting a gun for the cowboy costume for one!).

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Vacation Vexation (Wii U): COMPLETED!

We’re all going on a Summer Holiday

Vacation Vexation, the third game in the Quiet, Please! series, is a departure from the previous two games for several reasons. Firstly, it’s not set in the same house, meaning new locations and characters. Secondly, it’s quite a bit longer than the other games, and thirdly, there are a few arcade games to play!

vacation vexation

The plot this time involves you trying to relax at the beach, but of course things keep interrupting you and actually getting hold of a towel, a parasol and a book to read are proving troublesome.

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Probably the best of the games so far, but there’s still one left!

Quiet Christmas (Wii U): COMPLETED!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Because the end of May is the traditional time to play Christmas games, right? Quiet Christmas is the sequel to Quiet, Please!, and on the Wii U at least is included in the same collection.

Quiet Christmas

The aim this time is to get your house ready for Christmas, which involves helping your dad fix the heating, making cookies for Father Christmas, and getting rid of carollers. The Anti-Asset Reuse Brigade will be up in arms as the vast majority of the graphics are recycled from the first game, but the puzzles are new so I didn’t see it as a problem.

As before, short but sweet.

Quiet, Please! (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Shhh!

Quiet, Please! is a quaint little adventure game where you have to silence all the irritating noises around your house before you’re able to go to bed. There’s a lawnmower to stop, your brother to get to bed, a dog to stop barking, and various other sounds to get rid of.

Quiet, Please

It’s short, not too taxing, but pleasant enough and has nice big chunky pixel graphics. On the Wii U it’s one game in a pack of 4, which at the moment is just £1.79 for the lot, so it’s definitely worth a go.

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Star Fox Guard (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Remember when it was Starwing?

Well Star Fox Guard wasn’t quite the game I was expecting. I had read it was a tower defence game, and it is, but what I didn’t know what that you have to manually activate and control the towers yourself!

Star Fox Guard

In each level there’s a sort of maze, with a tower in the middle. Twelve camera turrets (which you can move about) are stationed around the maze, with all of the “feeds” shown on the TV. On the gamepad is a map of the area showing the current locations of the cameras and a radar of any enemies they’ve picked up. You tap on a camera here to make it the live camera on the TV, which you can then use to aim and shoot the baddies as they appear and head for your tower. If they reach it, it’s game over.

Star Fox Guard

The baddie robots come in two classes – combat and chaos. Combat bots must be prevented from reaching the tower, whereas chaos bot try to disrupt your cameras by disabling, blocking, or even stealing them. It gets a bit frantic at times as you try to juggle all the attacks. Thankfully I had my daughter calling out the numbers of the cameras that bots appeared on!

After every three levels you get a new map, and after every three maps you get a boss level and then move onto another planet.

Star Fox Guard was quite short, but I’ve unlocked a load of extra missions now and there’s a mode where you can create a level for others to challenge (and of course, you can take on other people’s creations too) so there is still plenty to do. It’s a good game, and when I finished it I realised it sets itself up as the prequel to Star Fox Zero… which I also have!

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Affordable Space Adventures (Wii U): COMPLETED!

For just over a quid, it was an Affordable Affordable Space Adventure.

Affordable Space Adventures was, like Freedom Planet, another one of the recent Nintendo Humble Bundle games. It’s a game I’d intended to buy at some point anyway, but I just never got round to it.

Affordable Space AdventuresTaking control of a tiny spaceship lost on a strange planet inhabited by long forgotten machines, you have to pilot around taking care not to get spotted, crushed, frozen or lasered. As your damaged ship starts to self-repair, additional systems come online, and eventually its fully functional with two different drive systems, a scanner, assorted types of landing gear and so on. Each on-board system generates noise, heat and/or electricity, and the machines you come across are variously sensitive to these, so you have to be careful which ones you activate, and how you use them.

Affordable Space AdventuresThis makes the game a bit more of a puzzle game than I was expecting. Tweaking power outputs and turning off unnecessary systems using the “heads-down display” on the Gamepad is genius, watching your outputs to ensure you can safely glide past a sentry or a mine undetected. Sometimes you need to coast along on minimal (or no!) power, other times you have to switch from your fuel engine to electric engine, or make use of your heat shutters to appear cooler to enemies. It’s very clever, really.

Later on, environmental hazards start playing havok with your ship’s computer, changing settings for you or completely disabling certain abilities, so you have to pay attention to your computer at all times.

Affordable Space Adventures

It’s a beautiful looking game, and quite unlike anything else I’ve played. It’s hard to see how it would work properly on any system other than the Wii U (expect, perhaps the 3DS at a push), and it shows just what kind of thing can be done with Nintendo’s unusual hardware. It’s a shame more games don’t. There’s a multiplayer mode too, which is how the game was really designed to play, with up to three players taking over different aspects of the ship – a pilot, and engineer and a science officer – but I played through solo without too much difficulty. Apart from Level 37, the final section of which took over an hour’s worth of attempts. I scraped through eventually. Affordable Space Adventures is an essential game for any Wii U owner.

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Freedom Planet (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live – at least a while.

Almost a year ago, I played the demo of Freedom Planet which was released with a million other Wii U demos as part of Nintendo’s E3 stuff. This is what I had to say about it then:

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

Numerous people have told me since that these animation and juddering issues aren’t in the PC version, and in fact, when the Wii U version came out, finally, I was told they’d gone there too.

They haven’t.

Freedom Planet
This bit is like Zool

The screen still jerks around like the camera isn’t sure where it’s supposed to be. The animation is excellent in cutscenes and set pieces, but when you run round loops and up hills, the animation is really quite terrible – the sprite is rotated instead of redrawn, and it literally just looks like the sprite is being rotated. The physics are all wrong, and you’re able to run up vertical slopes (and upside down) without needing much momentum. The controls are unresponsive, especially the “dash” button which caused me to die numerous times as it didn’t activate. And yes, I did have enough power to do it.

It rips off Sonic so much, even though your main character Lilac is not really much like Sonic at all. Many of the levels are similar – there’s a Lava Reef Clone, an Aquatic Ruin Clone, a Death Egg Clone, a Flying Battery Clone – and there’s even a bit with what are remarkably similar to Chaos Emeralds. You loop like Sonic, there are springs and bumpers like in Sonic games, the music could easily have come from a Sonic game and the power-up “bubbles” are effectively clones of Sonic 3’s. One of them even sucks in rings-er-gems when you go near them. Marble Garden’s spinners are here too, and many of the enemies could well be lifted from various Sonic titles as well. The extra life sound effect is eerily familiar.

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But. And this is a huge but. I really rather enjoyed it. Once you see past the Sonic bits, you realise that it a more than decent game in its own right. The levels are gorgeous and huge, and some aren’t Sonic-like – such as the shopping centre. The bosses too are pretty impressive, with normal character fights and massive several-screens-wide dragons and things. There’s a proper story too, which you have the option of completely skipping (I didn’t, as I thought it might separate it from Sonic a bit more – it does),  with some mixed success voice acting and humour.

Freedom Planet
This bit is like Sonic 2’s final boss

It was a pretty easy game overall, with almost all my lives lost on bosses, most of my deaths coming on the final boss, and most of them lost on the final boss’ final form. I’m pretty sure now I know how to defeat the bosses I’d be able to complete it on a single credit, so it isn’t too difficult.

Freedom Planet
Died a bit.

I can’t completely commend Freedom Planet, as the animation and jerkiness does detract a little and the unresponsive controls are a crime, but I paid just over a pound for it, and it’s definitely worth more than that. I’m glad I gave it a chance as it surprised me, and if I’d just left it at the demo I’d never have realised there was a decent game there. Stupid demo.

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Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Kirby Kirby Kirby’s the One

Kirby and the Rainbow Painbrush

After seeing the MechaKirby 3DS game on this week’s Nintendo Direct, I was reminded that I hadn’t finished Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush yet. I think, as is often the case, something else came along instead. Maybe Super Mario Maker? Or Lego Jurassic World. I can’t remember. Anyway!

In one sitting, with my daughter on Waddle-Dee duty, I completed the rest of the game. Which was all of worlds 3 to 7, as it turned out. Like pretty much all Kirby games, it was easy. A couple of tricky forced scroll levels caused a few deaths, but picking up extra lives was such a frequent occurrence that I had about 40 spare by the time I reached the end.

tumblr_o0agznmr691svmpf2o1_1280Along the way, as is so often the case with Nintendo platformers in particular, there was so much inventiveness to find. In a few stages, Kirby rides a gondola, with your rainbow rope acting as a “track” for it to hang from. In another, you have to escape from a gunship you’ve just triggered the auto-destruct on, and you’re given a map on which to draw your intended exit route. Near the end there’s a section where Kirby is split into two Kirbys, at first separate from each other (so you have to guide both to switches and out of danger), and then together, where you can hit one with the other to cause it to fire off at speed, ricocheting off everything and smashing through blocks. As soon as you’re used to one new mechanic in the game, it throws another at you, or combines two or three earlier ones. It definitely doesn’t let you get bored.

KirbyIt’s odd, then, that the bosses are repeated with only minor differences. There are only eight in total, and three are used twice. They don’t even get harder. It’s only a small negative point, but for such a varied title it’s a bit out of place. Another niggle I have only happens when you’re playing co-op: periodically, a fight with a detatched hand will trigger. Kirby can’t defeat it as it tries to grab him and drag him off-screen (to his death), so Waddle-Dee has to do it. All I could do as Kirby was try to keep him away from the hand, and when invariably snatched, provide rainbow ropes for Waddle-Dee to reach the hand (if necessary) and smack it.

That aside, it’s a fun, gorgeous looking (everything is made from clay!) and inventive platformer. Exactly what you’d expect from Nintendo, really. It’s quite short, although collecting all the hidden treasure chests in each level and completing all the unlockable challenges will provide a great deal of extra length, but Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush clever and varied. And so, so pretty.

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