The Lego Ninjago Movie Video Game (Switch): COMPLETED!

They keep saying “ninjas” which is annoying because it should just be “ninja”.

I have to say, I’m a little bit disappointed with this. The Lego Ninjago Movie Video Game (yeah, that’s the name) isn’t bad at all, but there are a number of niggles that actually cause gameplay issues. Sure, there are the “usual” Lego game problems – crashes and bugs, mainly – but two things in particular are really game breaking.

The first is the strange darkness of the game. In the open, sunlit levels (like the beach) it’s fine, but as soon as it’s a bit dark or even just shadows, it’s impossible to see. A gamma slider would sort it, but there isn’t one. And when you play as Garmadon or Cole, who are both wearing black, it’s even worse.

The other problem relates to Lloyd’s “green build power”. Like the “master builder” power from the Lego Movie game, you have to stand in a certain spot, hold down a button, then move the cursor over three glowing items. The thing is, when you’re playing in split screen two player mode, sometimes you can’t physically “tag” all three items – the screen just won’t scroll to reach them. We had to have one of the two players drop out so the remaining player had use of the full screen. A bizarre bug that would absolutely come up if two player mode was actually tested – which it clearly wasn’t!

That said, these are pretty minor things and it’s generally business as usual for Lego games. There are a few changes to the formula, notably no red bricks and no “True Hero/Adventurer/Whatever”, but surprisingly these don’t change the game as much as I expected. The plot follows the film, although expands it somewhat with a load of extra sequences. For some reason all the characters get their elemental powers well before they do in the film – making the whole purpose of their journey a bit pointless – but that doesn’t really affect the game.

My daughter and I played the whole game in co-op (bar the above mentioned necessary drop-out), but as usual we’re only actually about 40% done. No doubt we’ll do some more.

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (PS4): COMPLETED!

There was literally some old blood in it. In a toilet. Ew.

In most ways, it’s more of the same. Of course, The Old Blood is a prequel to The New Order, so being set completely in 1946 means the more technologically advanced weapons and gadgets don’t make an appearance. There’s no laser cutter, for example.

The scope is a lot smaller too, with no space missions, giant tripods, or lightning powered mechs, but that’s not to say it’s dull. The big robot dogs make an appearance, and one of the game’s bosses does appear in a very Wolf 3D Mecha-Hitler way (it’s not Hitler though, I should say). Then of course there’s the zombie outbreak that covers most of the second half of the game…

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The main gameplay differences manifest in a new weapon: A two part pipe which BJ uses variously to climb walls, stab necks, use zipwires, crowbar things open, and wedge doors. Combat remains similar to The New Order, but I found the “kill the commander(s) otherwise the grunts keep spawning” sequences seemed to happen all the time. Especially in the first half of the game, in and around the actual Castle Wolfenstein itself. I’d started to tire of it well before I completed the game.

Another difference was that areas seemed to be much more open and larger than in the New Order (like the docks, or the town), or much more claustrophobic and narrow (like the caves and some areas of the castle).

The Old Blood is also quite a bit shorter than The New Order, but although I enjoyed it I wasn’t feeling it as much as the other game so I’m quite happy with it ending when it did. It’s still a great game, but not up there with The New Order.

As before, a complete playthrough:

Uncanny Valley (Vita)

Wait what

I think I’m missing something here, because this is how it went down:

My guy ran away from some ghostie zombie things, they caught him, then he woke up. Then he was on a train, and upon arriving was driven by a fat security guard to a sort of factory. He told me about my new job, and my new apartment.

I went to my apartment, got changed into my uniform, and returned to the factory. Wandered round there for a bit, read some people’s emails, then fell asleep in the woods on the way home.

Woke up in my apartment, and tried opening some of the other apartment doors. One opened, and I found some keys. It turned out they were for the security guy’s car, so I got in and drove back to the train station and boarded a train.

Then the credits came up as if I’d completed the game. What.

So why no “completed” tag? Because there’s no way that’s it, right? Fifteen minutes of “game”, where nothing happens, and done? Surely not.

Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4): COMPLETED!

Shoot All The Nazis

I have said before that I’m not a big fan of first person shooters. I’m not totally against them, and there are many I have enjoyed over the years, but they’re largely ignored. Wolfenstein: The New Order, however, has a plot that interested me, got praise from a lot of people (some of whom also wouldn’t normally play FPS games), and is a followup to the original Wolfenstein 3D from way back when – which I really liked.

Then, thanks to cheap credit and offers, I picked it up for less than two quid on PSN. Definitely worth a go, right? And oh god yes. It’s brilliant.

Like the original (and probably the sequels and reboots since that have passed me by), you play as virtually indestructible soldier BJ Blazkowicz. A man who shrugs off gunshot wounds and being stabbed, and is capable of carrying round several tonnes of heavy weaponry at all times. The game opens in 1946 as you and your allies attempt to storm Deathshead’s castle, but things don’t go well and BJ ends up with shrapnel in his brain following an explosion. He’s treated in a Polish mental asylum for 14 years, drifting in and out of conciousness, until the Nazis come and shut the place down (and kill nearly everyone) where he “awakens” and escapes.

So begins the game properly, with BJ in 1960 trying to find the last remnants of the allied resistance, and then helping them strike back at the Nazis – and ultimately Deathshead himself. It might have an alternate history premise, but the plot is utterly insane. The resistance are hidden under a fountain in Berlin itself. There’s a guy tainting the Nazi “super concrete” (that they built all their cities with after the war), who is some sort of Jewish sage with the key to an ancient store of advanced technology (some of which the Nazis have already made use of – hence winning the war). The store? Under the sea, of course. So BJ has to steal a U-Boat, by hiding in a torpedo.

And then he goes into space.

Look, it all makes sense in the game, but the important thing is that as mad as the story gets, the gameplay is just perfect. It’s not all shooting Nazis with increasingly bigger guns, although that’s obviously a big part. There’s stealthy bits, fences to laser through, items to find, and completely over the top set pieces. Car chases, mechs, bits where you’re stripped of all your weapons. It never gets dull.

My only complaints would be that ammo seems to run out far too quickly, and there are a couple of sections (one on the bridge in particular) which are inordinately harder than the rest of the game. But that said, it’s still fantastic and I’ve the prequel – The Old Blood – lined up in preparation already.

Oh yes, and here’s my complete playthrough. If that’s the sort of thing you want to watch. See me die 412653451 times!

Golf Story (Switch): COMPLETED!

Insensible golf

I was very much hyped for Golf Story, when it was first announced, and I leapt on it the moment it hit the eShop. Unfortunately, Stardew Valley came out just a week later so I only managed to get halfway through it. Until now.

The mantra of Golf Story seems to be that everything is golf. It’s not a full-on golfing game despite being entirely golf based, instead being a story driven adventure game. With golf. It has chatting and fetch quests (some of which involve golf). Slaying the undead (using golf), feeding birds (golf), melting frozen people (golf) and collecting ore (guess what? Golf). Golf. There’s even a mini-game which is almost a remake of the old NES Golf game, only that’s called Galf.

Then there’s the actual golf. Several varied 9 hole courses, each with gimmicks like ice, or turtles in the water you can bounce the ball off. Different clubs provide extra “powers”, such as super-high chipping, the ability to skip the ball across the water, or better control wedging out of a puddle. Despite these unorthodox abilities, Golf Story’s golf is surprisingly standard video game golf. It feels like Sensible Golf, or the old 16-bit PGA Tours, with the controls, spin and swing bars all intact. You always feel in control but a slightly mistimed button press, or a miscalculated wind adjustment and it can all go horribly wrong very quickly.

As you progress through the game, gaining access to each course, you play other NPCs in stroke and matchplay competitions. Despite each opponent being awful at golf (even the pros) mainly because of the style of play they focus on (Max Yards has no short game, the old folks from Tidy Park always play safe and have no range, etc.) somehow they remain challenging enough. Not least when your up until now foe had been hitting bunkers and trees without pause then suddenly gets a slam-dunk albatross hole-in-one due to a bizarre sequence of awry bounces and rebounds. Thankfully, they’re not unbeatable. Although the final tournament at Blue Moon Dunes was almost enough to end me.

Golf Story’s humour, unlike this upcoming pun, is above par too. Sometimes games can be a bit tryhard at making the funnies (see Undertale, to a degree), but Sidebar Games didn’t go overboard. There are pop culture references, sure, but they’re reigned in and it’s the quirky characters and their dialogue that makes it work. Coach’s constant putdowns, the TV guys interviews and inane drivel from the interviewees, and the totally out of place rap battle between the yoof thugs and the Tidy Park elderly gentlemen being some of the highlights.

It’s hard to find fault with Golf Story. There’s the odd bug (including a repeatable one where running between rooms sometimes causes you to get stuck in the “void”), some of the “find x of these things” quests are a bit tiresome as invariably one of them is impossibly well hidden or in a different area entirely, and there are the odd graphical glitches, but there’s nothing to ruin it. Or even put a visible dent in it.

Even if you’re not into golf, you can’t fore go playing Golf Story. And that was the worst pun ever, badly shoehorned in at the last minute. Sorry.

Fire Emblem Warriors (Switch): COMPLETED!

Petition to have Roy in the game incoming.

You may have seen me enthuse about a game called HYRULE WARRIORS in the past. Indeed, it’s so good that it usually needs to be written in capitals. It’s one of the best games ever made, and between the Wii U and 3DS versions, I’ve devoted over 300, probably nearer 500 hours to the cause.

Imagine that game then, only swapping out the Zeldaverse for Fire Emblem.

Ta-da! It’s Fire Emblem Warriors. And boy is it the same as HYRULE WARRIORS. You hammer the buttons. You take over forts. You get weapon drops, unlock better defence and faster gauge replenishment. You control several different heroes, swapping between them as necessary. It’s all very familiar. In fact, even some of the levels seem to have borrowed liberally from the Zelda title. I mean, the World Tree bears no resemblance to the Deku Tree and is an entirely different prospect, y’honour.

But of course there are differences. Firstly, there are a whole suite of characters I’ve never heard of. Marth, sure, but then that’s from Super Smash Bros. Chrom I recognise. Tiki, but from Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Yes, I have played Fire Emblem games before but the only guy I remember is Roy and he’s not even in this. I was a little concerned getting into the game that I’d not know anyone, but it doesn’t actually matter.

Also different is the lack of Giant Monsters. Dealing with those was a core part of HYRULE WARRIORS, and – final boss aside – Fire Emblem Warriors ain’t got any. It’s a shame, but again, doesn’t really matter.

Characters can now team up, allowing you to use one as a support attacker or (if they’re controllable) can be “carried” around in case their weapon is stronger against a particular foe than your main character. You see, this game follows the Sword/Axe/Lance strength triangle of the main Fire Emblem series, so if you have a sword, bringing an axe-wielder with you can help. In fact, I generally paired Lianna (my “main”) with Lissa where possible for this purpose.

There’s more in the way of tactics here too, although it’s mainly limited to telling your allies where to go on the map and what to do. You could do this to an extent on HYRULE WARRIORS LEGENDS on the 3DS, but it’s more important here as your AI chums have no I, A or otherwise. They wander off into danger, then cry they’ve made a terrible mistake, so I have to save them and guide them away. Only to have them return. Idiots. One of the bosses is invulnerable until you’ve taken over several forts, and yet all my allies kept running over to him only to get slaughtered. Babysitting wasn’t on the box blurb.

Other than those, it’s the same game as before. It’s not quite as good, but then very little is. I’ve completed the Story mode, which was about 14 hours long, but naturally there’s a massive History (like HW’s Adventure) mode that is where the bulk of the game actually is. I expect I’ll be playing this for a long time.

At least until the Switch version of HYRULE WARRIORS comes out, anyway.

 

Undertale (Vita)

That’s Best Ending done then. Not much fighting (well, acting to allow mercy) went on, just a lot of wandering and then so much chat and finally an end boss who can’t actually kill you.

It was alright, I suppose?

Undertale (Vita): COMPLETED!

Undertale, Overtale, grumbling me.

When I first became aware of Undertale, with its Earthbound type quirkiness and spare any foe mechanic, I immediately wanted it. The problem was, like many indie games, it wasn’t available outside of PC and Mac platforms. As I rarely play games on those, especially not long games, I had to wait for a console version.

Which somehow, I missed. In fact, it was only when absentmindedly scrolling through the PSN January sale I noticed it existed for the PS4 and Vita, and at a bargain price too. Yoink!

And it’s a bit disappointing, sadly. The humour and quirk is fine, and the intentionally terrible monster designs is alright. The way you have to dodge attacks is quite clever (if often near impossible), and although I wasn’t a fan to start with it’s probably better than “stand and get hit” like most other RPGs and I warmed to it in the end.

No, the disappointment is that it just isn’t that good a game. The areas are boring, there’s not much depth to it, and it’s very short. Of course, I’ve gone for the pacifist route which means very little combat, so that might be part of the reason. There’s also the lore, which is sort of interesting but not really compelling. For a game pretty light on gameplay, there needs to be a story you want revealing to push you to keep playing, and Undertale doesn’t have it. Sure, after completion there’s some more to mop up to get the True Ending (which I’m heading for now), but to get there involves some funny but pointless filler about dating NPCs.

At five hours in now, I’m looking forward to getting this true ending, when I should be wishing the game was longer, so something isn’t working for me here. Shame.

What Remains of Edith Finch (PS4): COMPLETED!

The clue is in the title.

Spoiler free bit:

Firstly, there are some great toilets in the game. I feel that needs to be said because although there was an inevitability I’d buy the game anyway, I was tipped off about them and it just made me want it more. One of them even features in a most unusual way. More of this sort of thing.

What Remains of Edith Finch tells the story of Edith Finch, returning to a really quirky house where she used to live, after the death of her mother prompts her to discover “family secrets”. The main one being the open secret that the entire Finch clan seems to be cursed and everyone died in unusual circumstances, leaving Edith the last of the line.

It plays out as a narrative discovery experience, and feels a lot like Gone Home and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. There’s no actual paranormal stuff, like in Ethan Carter, but there’s more mystery than the story and house in Gone Home, so it fits somewhere between the two.

As you explore the house that you’d lived in for years but was never able to freely roam (as relatives died, their rooms were sealed off), how each person died is revealed and some of the mystery surrounding them explained. Edith discovers the conflict between Edie (her great-grandmother, Finch matriarch and oldest surviving member of the family) wishing to embrace the family “curse”, and her mother wanting to hide it from Edith and leave the house which she believed would save them.

Gameplay is sparse as you’d expect from this genre of game, with little more than operating handles and latches. As you read messages left by your relatives before they died, or letters, poems or even comics written about them, parts of their stories play out. It’s here where more control is given, such as chasing a bird, swimming in a bath, or flying a kite.

It’s only a couple of hours long, but Edith Finch is interesting. I didn’t get answers to every question (and seem to have missed how Sanjay died completely), but perhaps that’s not the point.

Spoilery bit:

Continue reading “What Remains of Edith Finch (PS4): COMPLETED!”

Passpartout: The Starving Artist (Mac): COMPLETED!

Caterpillar of the Painting Community

Ah, the life of a French artist, living off his art, being French. Literally being some sort of frog like a racist stereotype. In Passpartout, you are this frog painter, and it’s your actual art that you sell.

Well, I say art. With tools even Microsoft Paint would sneer at, it’s not easy creating a masterpiece. Thankfully, as it turns out, whatever algorithm the game employs to determine the value and demand for your painting seems unconcerned with skill and it’s more about colour and complexity, depending on your customers.

Take George, for example. He’s easily pleased. My simplistic pictures of legless caterpillars with giant eyes always sold to him. Mary, however, would sarcastically comment on their lack of complexity and Don simply couldn’t abide the colours I used.

After experimenting with colour schemes and shapes, it seems the more realistic the picture the less chance I’d had of selling it. Generally more abstract shapes (big blocks of cheese went down well for a while), cartoony characters (a number of pictures staring a muscular crab sold for a high price) and those ever loved caterpillars allowed me to progress.

By the third act, it was clear that my clients just wanted grey pillys with big eyes, so I plied them with many variations on the same theme. Eventually I created one that was grey and red, and the massive bid I received for it basically completed the game for me. Which is just as well, as after five hours of creating things that either didn’t sell or were virtually the same as previous paintings, I’d started to flag. There’s probably a message in the end sequence where Passpartout is said to have become very rich, but I suspect he was just a caterpillar sellout and drank himself into oblivion to save the agony of 50 years of repeating himself.

Here’s a load of my “arts”, for your perusal:

Blaster Master Zero (Switch): COMPLETED!

Master of Blasting

You know my post from a couple of days ago where I said I was going to concentrate on a couple of games from the Christmas Game Pile? Well, I ignored that and started – and completed – Blaster Master Zero instead.

I’d previously played the demo and quite enjoyed it, but not enough to actually buy it. However, I later learned two important things about it:

  1. It was made by the same people as Mighty Gunvolt Burst
  2. It’s a Metroidvania

So that was me sold, and as it was cheap recently, it was purchased. And it’s excellent.

You navigate your surprisingly nimble jumping tank around various areas, which in true Metroidvania style have sections you can’t reach until upgrades are found. Sometimes, you have to hop out and proceed on foot, often entering rooms where the action becomes more overhead. You can run around the main levels without your tank too, but you’re hopelessly underpowered and even a pretty short drop kills you instantly.

There are loads of bosses to contend with, most of them in these on foot areas, although they’re all very easy. Even more so once I noticed you could change your weapon style in a Mega Man sort of way. Ice baddies are no match for your flamethrower, and bosses that consist of many parts (or waves of smaller baddies) can be damaged all together with a spark attack.

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Poorly tying it all together is a crazy plot involving an android, a frog and a load of mutants, but that’s not really important. What is important, is how much fun it is upgrading your tank, reaching new parts of old levels, playing Colour In The Map, and simply exploring. I’ve beaten the end boss, but I suspect there’s more to do here since there are bits of the map as yet unvisited, a number of caves that were too dark to see in (so I left them), and the ending wasn’t as positive as perhaps it could have been.

Currently Playing, January 2017

Not Your Usual Lazy Catchup Post

As an alternative to a catchup post, here’s a catchup post. Only it’s more to declutter my game playing mind after a flurry of new games obtained over the Jesus Birthday Period. Got that? Right.

So for Christmas I got four Switch games – Splatoon 2 (which I’ve covered already), Super Bomberman R, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 and Fire Emblem Warriors. Because my wife is the most excellent of wives. I also got a free copy of The Lego Ninjago Movie Video Game (also for the Switch) just before Christmas thanks to some supermarket loyalty points.

In addition, I got quite a bit of eShop credit, and spent a bit of that on Gorogoa (also covered) and a game I’ve had my eye on a lot, Blaster Master Zero. I also accidentally bought the Ghostbusters and Lego Batman story packs for Lego Dimensions.

Oh, and because I had some Steam credit and because Cool Ghosts made me want them, I’ve picked up Passpartout: The Starving Artist and The Norwood Suite. Like most games they may sit unplayed until I buy the Switch version in the future instead. Ho ho.

Mainly, I’ve played Splatoon 2. I completed single player, and have reached Level 4 online.

With my daughter I’ve played quite a few matches of Super Bomberman R and I’m pleased to reveal that whatever was “wrong” with it at launch has now been fixed. Aside from the graphical style (which has never been good since they stopped using pixels), it’s Bomberman. And Bomberman is great.

I’m not actually sure I remember what the issues everyone had with the  game back when it came out now, but I’m not seeing anything now. It’s fun!

Once I finished Splatoon, I moved onto (again with my daughter) The Lego Ninjago Movie Video Game which as well as having the most ridiculous game name ever, is actually a little different to other Lego games. You have lots of fighting moves at your disposal, and instead of red bricks you have XP to obtain that levels you up giving you “powers” to unlock in a sort of skill tree. It’s early days yet (we’ve only done the first few levels), but I’m liking it a lot so far.

And finally, I’ve played a bit of Passpartout: The Starving Artist. Yes, I know I said it’d probably sit unplayed – and it might yet – but it’s quirky and silly and I love making crap art and selling it for peanuts. I mean look:

And of course, I played some more Stardew Valley, but as I posted the other day, I consider that “completed”.

Other than that, I got given a few games by @IndieGamerChick as part of #indiexmas. First up, was a game called Gunmetal Arcadia Zero. It’s by the same team as You Have to Win the Game, which I coincidentally, played, enjoyed and completed recently. This game is a lot like Zelda II and Castlevania II, and has a familiar NES feeling to it. It’s pretty good so far.

Also from her was Kid Tripp for the Switch. Yep, she (and the devs, Four Horses) gave away a Switch game! It’s a simple “forced runner”, but with lovely blown-up pixel graphics. There’s a nice rhythm to each level, albeit not a “musical” rhythm like, say, Bit Trip Runner, and it plays well. It’s just so very, very hard.

Finally, another game (also from Four Horses) is Digger Dan DX for the 3DS, a homage to Boulderdash. Judging from the number of levels, it’s huge! I’m enjoying it so far.

And that… is everything. I think! Phew, eh? For now, I’m going to try and slim this lot down to a couple of titles just to make it manageable. Ninjago will be one, and for the moment at least, Passpartout will be the other. Find out soon if I actually do this or not!

Stardew Valley (Switch): COMPLETED!

It grows on you.

In theory, Stardew Valley could go on forever. However, it gets to a stage where there’s very little left to achieve and so, fun aside, no point in carrying on. I’m not quite where I would want to stop playing just yet, but I do feel that after 120 hours (count ’em) it’s finished.

I’ve achieved most of the achievements, unlocked Qi’s casino, shipped every item, got married (to Emily), finished the Community Centre, broken into the witch’s house for the wizard, unlocked the sewer, reached the bottom of the mine, made (in total) over 4 million gold, reached level 10 in all the stats, and maximised my relationship with almost everyone 1.

So yeah, it’s completed.

Until they release the two player mode update, and then I’m back in, I expect.

Notes:

  1. bar Elliot and Sebastian – Elliot won’t talk to me, Sebastian is a misery

Splatoon 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

Why Am I Ink

I am fully aware that the main point of Splatoon 2 is the online component. In fact, I’m sure – like I was with the first game – that the single player mode exists simply because Nintendo has a “Single Player Mode” box that needs ticking somewhere.

But – again, like the first game – the single player mode is excellent and sorely overlooked by so many. In Splatoon 2 it also acts as a fantastic tutorial for the different weapons in the main, er, online game.

It plays out across five themed worlds, with each containing 6 or so levels. They’re inventive platforming, shooting, or puzzle based challenges – up there with 3D Mario games in many respects. A number of types of enemies, giant rolling balls, car wash rollers of ink, invisible platforms, hidden items – it has it all. At the end of each world there’s a big boss battle.

Generally, I found the levels themselves more difficult than those in the original Splatoon, but the bosses were far, far easier. Which is good, actually – some were too hard before.

So it’s short, it’s fun, and it could quite easily exist as a game in its own right. But now, I think I should play online a bit.

 

Gorogoa (Switch): COMPLETED!

How d’you like them apples?

It’s pretty hard to describe Gorogoa. When I originally read a review, it sounded like a cross between The Witness and Yellow, both games I liked so it prompted me to buy it.

But it isn’t like those. Or it sort of is. Like The Witness, there are environments to manipulate to solve depth-busting puzzles. Shapes to match up, find, or merge. Sometimes you can remove a layer of a vista to create a second scene to work with, and it’s here it very much diverges from The Witness.

Like Yellow, it’s not clear how you achieve your goal, but there’s a puzzle to each chapter solved with slightly guided tapping. Beyond that, it’s not Yellow any more either.

The screenshots don’t explain or do it justice, and it’s not about when everything is in motion either. Perhaps an early example will help? OK, so there’s a bit where you have two doors, one diagonal from the other. They’re shut, and a boy needs to go in the lower one to reach the upper one.

In another scene, there’s a pair of doors in a similar layout with open doors and steps joining them. If you overlay these doors over the first set of doors, the scenes “flatten”, like layers in Photoshop, creating a way forward.

But that’s just the start. There are puzzles within puzzles within puzzles. Sometimes two vistas have separate puzzles that when solved create a solution to a joint puzzle. Which is part of another puzzle. It’s puzzles all the way down.

And it made me feel very clever. And there’s a lot to be said for games that do that.