In my side-quest to play more Metroidvania games (which I didn’t realise was a side-quest but it seems to have become one in recent months), I was looking through lists of well-regarded, eShop-available, games in the genre. Listed frequently was Alwa’s Legacy, so I didn’t buy that as I found it was a sequel to Alwa’s Awakening which was about £2.50 so I bought that instead.
And I’m glad I did because although it does nothing special, it’s a solid and enjoyable game with some unusual ideas for the genre. Firstly, it’s built with a NES aesthetic (in fact, there is a NES version which was developed recently) with limited colours and two button controls. Nothing new there, but it’s a good example of how to do that well.
Any Metroidvania needs to have decent unlockable powers to make things interesting, and Alwa’s Awakening manages to do this without opting for the staple double-jump. In fact, there are only three powers – create a block (which you can push or stand on), create a bubble (which rises and you can hop on briefly), and shoot a lightning bolt. The block is upgraded later so it can be used as a raft in water, and the bubble improved so you can ride it until you bang your head, but that’s it. It does a lot with these though, including some tricky platforming sections which see you switching magic on the fly, puzzles where you have to create blocks and push blocks in specific ways, and unusual methods of defeating difficult bosses.
Importantly, it has the “colouring in the map” mechanic that is so important to these games, and there are hidden and semi-hidden secrets to double the damage you can do and orbs to collect which can knock some HP off bosses before you start.
It’s also a lot longer than I was expecting. I thought I was in for a couple of hours, but it was nearer 8 when beat the final boss and I suspect there’s a different ending once I return and find the remaining handful of orbs I’d missed.
I mean, I’m not really sure what else there is to say. I think it’s the longest of the Jupiter-made games, as it took me over 35 hours to do all the puzzles, and it also introduces colour picross to the series. I didn’t like the slight change in logic at first, but it soon clicked and then I wished there were more of them.
Much as I love picross, I think I might give them a little break now before I pick up Picross S4!
This is one of those games I’ve had my eye on for ages but for whatever reason have never bought. Well, I probably have it on Steam or something but that doesn’t count. Anyway, it was on offer this week and has recently had yet another level added and I’d just finished Scott Pilgrim and wanted another co-op game so it all fell into place and, well, here we are.
Human Fall Flat is one of those purposefully awkward to control physics based games, like Surgeon Simulator or Octodad. The idea is just to reach the end of each level, but to do so requires manipulating (read: flailing around with) objects and switches and the occasional vehicle. Or connecting cables or pipes up, or making difficult jumps with your waddley man who has no climbing skills but can just about pull himself up if you manage to grab the edge of a platform. Imagine a normal 3D platformer only you control your character’s arms directly. with the trigger buttons and right stick. It’s tricky.
In a “normal” game, you’d press a button to turn a wheel, or press a button to use a key. Here, you have to grab the wheel and move the arm, or patiently line the key up exactly in the keyhole then grab and rotate the key. It’s not quite frustrating, but does get close. It gets even closer when your daughter is playing supposedly co-op, but in fact, gets in the way just to annoy. Unplugs the cable I spent ages lining up. Runs off with the axe we need to chop downa. tree. Or, and this is my favourite of all her irritating doings, grabs my leg just as I leap off something, preventing me from making the jump, and plummeting to both our deaths. Again.
Almost 11 years ago, I bought, played, completed and absolutely adored literally everything about the Scott Pilgrim game on XBLA. Last year, a rerelease was announced for current platforms, and to show my support I bought the Switch physical version from Limited Run back in January this year as they were the only place offering it. Well, that turned out to be a horror show in terms of it actually being dispatched and delivered (long story short, it took about 45 days to arrive), but thankfully, the game was worth it.
It’s the same as it was before, although with all the original DLC – mostly extra characters who are essentially just redrawn versions of existing characters – now included. Not that I needed any of the DLC because I played as Scott himself. And, now she’s not A Tiny Baby like she was when the XBLA version came out, I played co-op with my daughter as Kim. And it was excellent from start to finish, and just as I remembered it.
My only issue now is that I need to figure out if it’s as good as River City Girls or not. That game is slicker, and has even better animation and probably better music, but it’s still a tough call. Thankfully, they’re both on the Switch so I don’t have to choose!
And so, the Kazuma Kiryu saga is over. That’s it. Done. Well, until they decide to make another one which I’m 100% certain they will at some point.
Yakuza 6 isn’t a radical departure from the series, nor is it the pinnacle, but it is more melancholy, more complicated, and more based in seeming realism than previously. The story is very important, what with it being the last episode, so I dare not spoil it for you, but it involves Kiryu going to prison (again) for his part in the events of Yakuza 5, during which time Haruka vanishes only to reappear just as Kiryu finishes his sentence and is then coincidentally (or not) hit by a car and hospitalised. Oh yeah, and she has a baby, which The Dragon of Dojima decides to look after while Haruka lies comatose – meaning for several hours of play you have a baby to carry round everywhere too.
The first half of the game is mostly about Kiryu trying to track down both where Haruka has been for the last three years, and who – and then where – the father of the child is. With some of that resolved, Yakuza 6 returns to more Yakuza’y traditions, with gangsters and rival clans and Triads and the Korean Mafia and some off-track vigilantes all getting involved in the story, and it transpires that Haruka’s accident was much more central to the all out war in Kamurocho than it seemed at first.
As usual, there are twists that would make a Chubby Checker sweat: allegiance swapping, surprise reveals, backstabbing, spying, double-crossing and lots of fake respect. As agendas are revealed the plot gets more complicated, not less, and it isn’t until the final chapter than things finally start making sense. If there’s anything Ryu Ga Gotoku can do, it’s tell a gripping yarn.
And, interwoven is the regular series nonsense – arcades, side quests, bizarre events and even more bizarre characters. In the more rural Onomichi region of Hiroshima, where Kiryu spends half of the game, you come across references to a number of Studio Ghibli films – a boy and a girl swapping bodies when they fall down some stairs, and a girl who claims to have leapt through time, for example. Onomichi reminded me a bit of Okinawa from Yakuza 3, and combined with the local Yakuza family – who are key to the story – it feels a little like a re-tread of that game. Even one of the voice actors appears as characters in both.
Visually, it’s the most stunning Yakuza game to date. It’s running the same engine as Kiwami 2 and that looked incredible too, but having new locations helps even more here, I think. Playing it on a PS5 meant loading times hardly existed, which was much appreciated.
There isn’t much else I can say which doesn’t also apply to the other games in the series too, or that would ruin the excellent story here. As I said, it’s not my favourite Yakuza game (I think that might be Zero?), but it’s still absolutely fantastic. The surprises and the wait for the end reveal kept me hooked all the way through, and the gameplay is solid, the fighting meaty and enjoyable, and the nonsense turned up just enough. The characters in Yakuza games are some of the most well written, fleshed out and acted in the media, and that’s no different here. I particularly liked the unexpected appearance of Beat Takeshi, and his character arc.
Most importantly, if you’ve any affinity for Yakuza games, you absolutely must play this game. Or you could watch my playthough below, although that won’t tell you everything as Sega like to block the recording of the final chapters of Yakuza games…
If you’re a long time reader of this diary, or you follow me online generally, you probably know I don’t play games online very often, and I never play MMORPGs at all. Well, not since a brief dabble into Anarchy Online some 17 years ago, anyway. Why, you might ask, am I playing Star Trek Online then? And I would answer you with, I Really Don’t Know.
As a free to play game, I did a bit of research first. Mainly to find out how free “free” was: Are later bits impossible without spending money? Are you limited to just a few areas/missions/etc. unless you subscribe? That sort of thing. It turns out that Star Trek Online is surpisingly generous – there are something like 15 main “stories” (at least if you play as a Federation character – I think they’re different if you choose Klingon or Romulan) which are fully playable without paying for anything, and you can reach Level 60 with your character before you hit the “endgame” content which may require some outlay. In all, it looks like you get a good 100-odd hours out of it for nowt. Not bad.
But why would I play an MMO? Again, research suggested it’s all playable single player. And, having reached Level 30 and the rank of Captain, I can confirm I’m yet to see anyone else in the game at all. Apart from a strange impromptu party which happened on the space dock at Earth, but that hardly counts:
What I’m saying is, I’m playing a big ol’ Star Trek RPG, on my own, for free. So it’s not really an MMO at all, is it?
Not that you get the best things ever for free, of course. There are compromises, and it’s hardly Mass Effect levels of slick or Fallout New Vegas in Space in terms of combat or plot. It’s clunky, it’s jerky, it’s wonky and it’s fiddly. There are so many menus and items and options that it’s overwhelming. There are bugs galore, which seem to break quests for people frequently enough that they give you a “skip quest” option. It screws with Star Trek lore, although it does try to reference everything Star Trek has ever done, and some of the voice cast are actually straight from the various Trek series. There’s LCARS everywhere and all the ambient Trek noises you’d hope for – ship hum, door swish, computer bleeps, etc., so it’s trying very hard at least. It’s also set some time after TNG/DS9/Voyager.
As a single player RPG it’s a Numbers Go Up game. A boggling array of weapons, shields, upgrades and technologies for you, your crew and your ship ensure that at least 10 minutes of every hour’s play is poking around in the inventory checking to see if the DPS of your latest gun pickup is 0.1% better than the one you’re currently carrying, or if the 414 DPS antiproton phaser bank with a 250 degree firing arc and a 2s cooldown is better or worse than the 382 DPS plasma bank with a 360 firing arc but a 3s cooldown, or if you should ditch one of your quantum torpedo launchers so you can have both the antiproton bank and the plasma bank together instead. It’s like a complicated optician’s appointment.
In terms of gameplay, missions are split between space and ground events. Those in space usually involve dogfights or scanning stuff, and those on the ground are typical Star Trek away mission fare, albeit without dead redshirts. You explore planets and caves and derilict space ships and board the odd vessel to assault it from inside. As I said, there are about 15 stories in total available, each with around 10 missions. The stories link together too, with the overall plots involving Romulan rebels, the resurgance of the Klingon Empire, and Iconian gateways. It’s interesting having new Trek stories, if nothing else, and it’s certainly better than the nonsense Discovery came up with.
I’ve completed six or so of these stories, with my randomly generated Bajoran officer who looks just like Major Kira from Deep Space 9. I have a ship which looks a bit like Voyager only is black and translucent and has 4 nacells, and it’s called the USS Shootyboi. I think I’m having fun, but I’m not entirely sure why. The Numbers Go Up draw, perhaps. There’s always a new ability or target to reach. It’s how they getcha.
Returning to the clunkiness though, it’s hard to ignore. From the terrible animation and collision detection, to the PS2 graphics and environments, to the overly complicated systems (especially the seemingly superflous crafting and duty staff management), let alone stuff like the video below, it’s not a well game. The camera is wild, the controls unresponsive, and your away team frequently get in the way or get stuck in or under things. One mission I had to complete five times because the final “trigger” to send a report back to Star Fleet never appeared. If I’d paid money for this, I’d be somewhat miffed. As I understand it though, “clunk” is pretty synonymous with MMOs, and this one is now over a decade old (and free, I think I mentioned), so I shouldn’t be too harsh. Plus, being on my PS5 rather than PS4, the loading times are virtually removed, so that’s something.
Anyway, I could just walk away, right? Right. After the next mission.
There was no way I was ever going to not buy a game called Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion. It was even more likely I’d buy it when I saw the graphics, in their Zelda sort of way. And I’m glad I did get it because it was lovely.
Bad things first though. It’s short. Very short. I was expecting a Zelda length epic, but got maybe two hours tops out of it. Swapping items requires pressing Y and then choosing from a list of things, many of which you can’t actually use as they’re passive or to pass on to other characters. Since you swap between your sword and your watering can very frequently, it’s annoying you can’t assign each to a different button, or have a button to swap between the two. And speaking of buttons, the game uses B to “accept” and A to “cancel” and it’s very very annoying because that’s just wrong.
But the good outweighs the bad. It’s a funny game (as you’d expect from the title) where you play as a naughty turnip who has been evicted from his greenhouse by Mayor Onion because he hasn’t paid his taxes. To make up for this, Mayor Onion gives you a number of tasks to perform, most of which have several diversions en-route. The other fruit and vegetables you meet are are quirky, from the gherkin mafia boss locked in a jar, to the baby acorn who gives you his leaf as a downpayment on some real estate. Gameplay is in the Zelda mould, with overworld wandering (and killing snails and worms) and buiildings and forests that act as short dungeons.
You come across a few bosses, there are puzzles involving watering watermelons and portals, bombfruit to kick, babies to return to parents, books (and flyers, and bills, and anything else made of paper) to rip up, and lots of side missions which are all stupid as you uncover stuff about both your past and why all the vegetation is sentient. A compact little game with some laughs and and a few niggles, but definitely worth a play. Perhaps not at full price (about £13 I think) given the ease and length, but certainly in a sale.
The problem with Metroidvania games, like Kunai which I are completed just last week, is they’re somewhat moreish. Thankfully, Timespinner – which I’ve had my eye on for a while and was on sale recently – was there to feed my habit. And it is excellent.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s no Hollow Knight or Axiom Verge, but it is a really well put together action platformer with some time travel elements and nice pixel graphics, as well as some great music and a confusing but engrossing story. A story about you, a Time Messenger who has been trained to give up their history in case of attack so you can go back in time and warn your clan in advance. In a way, it’s a bit like that short-lived sci-fi series Seven Days. Only very different.
You end up a thousand years in the past, rather than a few days because of $storyreason, and flick between then and a few weeks after The Event trying to put right what once went wrong as another time-based sci-fi series would put it. Mostly this involves the usual genre thing of unlocking abilities that allow you to reach new areas, although time travel plays a role in opening a few areas too. Not many, though – and it’s a bit of a missed opportunity for the whole time element of the game to be more frequently used for puzzles and such as it’s disappointingly rare that anything you do in one period has a major effect in the other meaning they act rather more like two different worlds that happen to have very similar maps.
The gameplay is excellent though, so it doesn’t really matter much. There’s a lot of variety in the weapons you can equip (although I was happy with a big swingy sword for most of the game) and you also have additional passive powers and larger special attacks to choose too. And you can pause time, which is rarely needed to the point where I forgot it even existed for most of the game.
Overall, it’s a great example of its genre, but falls a little short when it comes to making use of the main things that differentiate it from other similar titles. After completing it, you really should do what I did and go back to complete one of the optional quests in order to unlock the good, and whaaaaaaat-invoking, ending where you break time itself, No, really.
My new Evercade cartridges arrived! I have no idea why this is the game I played first, but I did, and because it’s very easy, I’d soon completed it too.
I’d never heard of Racing Fever before, but it’s clearly an attempt to bring a game like the Neo Geo titles Over Top and Drift Out to the Game Boy Advance (where this first appeared). I think this also marks the first Game Boy Advance title to appear on the Evercade too, actually.
There are 12 tracks, many of which feel the same despite the changes in scenery. Some of this is probably because you never actually drive down the screen, despite the fact you have several laps of each track! That is to say, you only go left, right and up (and diagonally up) on the screen and yet still somehow end up back where you started.
It’s a bit low rent, and as I said, very easy, but it was fun enough until I finished it.
The name change from Gods and Monsters to Fenyx Rising was enough to put me off ever buying this, and the quick price drop on release and middling reviews did nothing to convince me otherwise. What did convince me, however, was actual Real People saying it was alright actually but more than that was the dearth of things to actually play on my PS5. yes, Spider-Man, I know, but this was £21.
Also a negative was just how much like Zelda: Breath of the Wild it appeared to be. It’s all just in the graphics though, right? It’s actually more like Assassin’s Creed, right? Well, no. It’s actually much more like Breath of the Wild than I’d imagined.
That’s not to say there’s no Assassin’s Creed here – it still feels a bit like it, albeit in a fantasy rather than realistic setting, and the voice cast is made up seemingly entirely from the same people as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but yeah, it’s Zelda. You climb things and have a stamina bar, just like Zelda. You can glide from high places, just like Zelda. Ride horses? Zelda. Shrines with puzzles or feats in? Zelda. Crafting buffing potions? Zelda. Four main “bosses” then a final “dungeon”? Zelda. Magnesis powers? Zelda. Bow and arrow? Zelda. Baddies that explode when you kill them? Zelda. Trees to chop down? Heart and stamina upgrades? Switch puzzles? Zelda. It’s very Zelda.
But that’s OK. Breath of the Wild was A Very Good Game, so anything which manages to be half as good – especially in the absence of Breath of the Wild 2 – is fine, really. And it’s not all Zelda!
Fenyx’s quest is to restore some of the Greek Gods back to their former selves, and defeat Typhon who has beaten all the Gods and turned almost everyone to stone. So you set off to find and return the Gods’ essences which restore them back the way they were – Ares has become a cowardly chicken (literally), Aphrodite has lost her vanity, and so on. Doing this mostly this involves climbing tall places, fighting big monsters, and solving block-on-switch puzzles and shooting arrows through a series of axe handles. Because, you know, that’s what I’d lock progression behind if I were a Big Nasty.
Besides the main quest, there are the usual Ubisoft plethora of side quests, things to collect, skill trees, upgrades, chests to open, and so on. I did quite a few of these, but some of the vaults (the Immortals version of BotW’s Shrines) were too fiddly, difficult, or dull for me to bother with. Turns out you don’t need to upgrade yourself anywhere near as much as I spent time doing anyway, as the final boss is a walkover and I didn’t need more than a couple of my potions or special moves I’d taken in with me.
Difficultly being all over the place aside, it’s a really enjoyable game. The mostly blue skies and great traversal and combat mechanics more than make up for the repetition and lack of variety in the enemies (there are only really about six types in the game!) and it’s much better than I was expecting.
This is a strange little thing. It’s a 4th wall breaking point and click game where you interact with things like the status bars and icons as if they’re normal objects. So, for example, there’s a bit where you need to dig a hole, but you’ve nothing to dig with. You keep getting pop-up adverts for cereal, and you can grab the spoon in the advert and use that to dig the hole. There’s a section where you come across a TV and playing on the TV – once you get it working – is a Lucasarts style adventure game about Sherlock Holmes. Only you’re able to turn the TV around and operate the game from behind the scenes, changing the set, and even making the look, talk and search icons drop off the screen so you can use them elsewhere.
It means it’s very different to any other point and click game I’ve ever played, and some of the out of the box thinking needed for some of the puzzles makes you feel very clever.
It’s varied, with several different subverted game genres to play through, is packed with game references and comments on the gaming industry (there’s a particularly long rant about free to play games, for example), and there’s even a hint system if you get stuck (although I didn’t need it – it isn’t that difficult).
My only real issue with it is that you converse with the game itself, who constantly tells you whats going on, is baffled by how your logic works, and sadly, often gives the puzzle solution away with not so subtle hints before you’ve had a chance to work it out yourself.
Sold to me as Stardew Valley Only Cats, Cattails isn’t really that. There are a lot of visual similarities, and there are shared features like a day/night cycle, improving your home, getting married, foraging and mining, but it’s much more simplistic than Stardew Valley and much shorter too. And there are more cats.
Starting the game as a pet dumped by the side of the road for reasons not explained (one minute you’re in a happy home, then literally a second later the mum of the family kicks you out), you join one of three wild cat tribes and set about surviving in nature. Which mostly involves hunting for small animals and picking berries and flowers.
You can improve your skills so you’re able to catch prey more easily or swim further before downing, and there’s some turf warfare going on, but it’s pretty light on RPG elements really. The main storyline, such that it is, mostly requires you to collect certain dead creatures and flowers for some standing stones, as well as solve some generally simple puzzles, in order to make The Guardian return. So I did that.
Cattails could not be described as a challenging game, nor is it deep or complex, and the story is… somewhat missing. But it is a simplistic and relaxing game, and did only cost me about a quid, so I can hardly complain.
I was in the mood for a nice little pixelly Metroidvania, and then this appeared and was on sale. Also, Kendrick off of the ugvm podcast said it was good but of course it turns out he’s barely played it. Thankfully, he was right despite this.
The plot is silly nonsense about computers at war rebel computers and you’re a sentient iPad with legs who can save the world or something. Ignore that though, and instead enjoy the excellent traversal mechanics which are given to you piecemeal as per any other Metroidvania game. There’s a double jump, but then you get the kunai of the title which are actually more like ninja ropes – shoot them at a wall or ceiling and use them to pull yourself up or swing across gaps. You also get submachine guns that act as a sort of hover if you shoot downwards, and everything combined makes for a very nimble iPad indeed.
There’s lots of different baddies to swipe with your sword or shoot with your guns, and a few bosses (which are all surprisingly easy), which are fun too but getting around the areas is the main draw here for me, although I had to frequently refer to the map as some areas were confusing. It’s a shame there wasn’t a Metroid style mini-map on screen all the time as I think that would have helped somewhat.
I collected quite a few of the hidden items, but the game was easy enough to not need more health upgrades than I acquired, and I didn’t ever need more money than I found from just playing normally. Most of the rest of the chests that I missed I expect were useless hats – there being a lot of them in the game and aside from a bit of ridiculousness on your iPad’s head, they serve no purpose whatsoever, which was a bit disappointing. If they gave you, I dunno, higher jumps, or slower falling, or a money vacuum or something, that’d have been nice.
That aside, Kunai is a perfectly good game in the genre, that doesn’t do anything particularly special but is a lot of fun.
I discovered that, since they added an Apple app to my TV, I could actually Airplay my iPhone screen on there, and with a PS4 controller connected via Bluetooth, I basically have another console. And then, Apple gave me another free month of Apple Arcade. And then, I spotted Nuts on there, when I was about to buy it for the Switch. So here we are.
Nuts follows you, as a squirrel researcher, setting up cameras with which to watch what the squirrels get up to. You then wind through the recorded footage, print off screengrabs of important sightings, and fax them to your boss who frequently contacts you in your caravan via phone.
At first, you simply put a camera where you’re told, watch a squirrel appear, and then move the camera to where it runs off to. As it takes the same route each night, you can effectively follow it to its den. Later levels are more complicated, with multiple squirrels, no known starting point, or having to track them backwards.
It’s a fun little game, uncomplicated and clever, and there’s a whole overarching story as to why you’re doing this research too, which adds to it. It’s only a few hours long, but it doesn’t outstay its welcome and changes things up enough to keep things interesting for that time. Also, squirrels!
Another PS4 game played on the PS5. I’ve not given this a go on an actual PS4 so I don’t know how much of this is the PS5, but having no loading is excellent, and it’s all in 4K and Kamurocho looks incredible.
Kiwami 2 is a remake of the original PS2 Yakuza 2 game, which I’ve never played. I knew some of the story from flashbacks in later games in the series, but none of the detail. Like the other Yakuza titles, the plot is all over the place – in a good way. People aren’t who you think they are, quite literally in several cases, and your allies have a tendency to swap sides. The story is mainly about the Korean mafia returning to Japan – having seemingly been wiped out 26 years ago – to take revenge on the Tojo Clan who killed them all on behalf of the police. More or less. Obviously, it’s not as simple as that.
As in the other Yakuzas, gameplay is a mixture of punching people in the face, and wandering round the city (well, cities – you return to Sotenbori too) finding people, places or avoiding things. There’s also the usual array of side missions, from the sensible to the nonsensical. In one, you might have to hunt down a kidnapper, but in another you’re a voice actor for a Boys Love video game. In the arcades there’s a fully working Virtua Fighter 2 machine next to the UFO Catchers, and you can play a golfing minigame, darts, or even run a hostess club should you not have enough to do in the main story. Oh! And best of all, a toilet arcade game called Toylets:
It’s Another Yakuza. It’s a very, very pretty Yakuza, and as always the voice acting and the characters are both fantastic. And, although I enjoyed it very much, if Yakuza isn’t for you then this isn’t going to change your mind.
If you want to watch my entire playthrough (bar the final chapter which Sega doesn’t let you broadcast), then you can here: