PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids (Switch): COMPLETED!

It’s another picross game! But this one is different! And isn’t by Jupiter!

Sure, it’s still picross. PictoQuest adds light RPG elements to the formula though, with items and powerups and baddies to “fight” by completing rows and columns in the grids.

Which all sounds perfect, until I completed it and realised I’d totally ignored absolutely everything to do with the RPG stuff as it’s entirely unnecessary and does nothing. Sure, perhaps if you’re very, very, very slow completing the levels there’s a slim chance you might die, but other than that this is almost exactly like a Jupiter picross game. I didn’t use a single item, die, or even pay attention to what the baddies were doing. I did buy the extra hearts from the shop mainly as something to spend my accrued money on, but I didn’t need them as I was rarely damaged.

As a picross game, though, it’s great. It’s just everything else that’s pointless.

The Lego Movie 2 Videogame (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yes, it’s another Lego game. Which means that it’s the same as all the other Lego games, right? Well, no actually. In several important ways.

Of course, the basic gameplay is mostly unchanged. You go around a level, solve little puzzles and generally smash everything you come across, but this game (and it’s possible the Lego Incredibles and Lego DC Super Villains do the same – I’ve yet to play them) is more open world and far less linear than previous Lego titles. Rather than levels, as such, you have a number of planets. Each has a pretty large unrestricted area to explore, with a number of “missions” in each – find items, do fetch quests, kill X number of baddies, and so on.

Instead of gold bricks, there are now purple sparkly bricks to collect. On each world you need a number of these to progress to the next, and they can be obtained from missions as well as found hidden – and not so hidden – around the map. Red bricks are gone, replaced with special items you can collect that do similar things to the red bricks (2x multiplier, shield, “super” weapons, etc.) but you can’t use them all at the same time.

Also new to the series is the ability to build things. You’d think, being Lego, that would have been there all along – but in fact previously you could only build pre-determined items in pre-determined places. Here, once you have the blueprint, you can build what you want pretty much anywhere. Most things are small and provide specific functions – a generator, a water sprinkler, a trampoline, various vehicles – but there are huge structures that are of use on one almost-empty world that you need to populate.

Perhaps the biggest change, however, is you don’t need different characters to do certain tasks. Before, you’d need a character with a gun to shoot targets, or a character with super-strength to break certain objects. Part of the game would be unlocking all these characters, but in The Lego Movie 2 Videogame, it seems every character can do everything – one you’ve unlocked the skills through the story anyway. It streamlines things but loses a bit of what makes a Lego game a Lego game, I think.

Speaking of the story, it vaguely follows the plot of the film although almost as a sort of side story, spending lots of time on bits that barely got screen time, or entire sections I don’t remember from the film at all. Maybe it was based on an early draft of the screenplay, or perhaps they added bits to flesh it out? It’s also not as funny as either the film or other Lego games. There are no jokes, no silliness, and a lack of random pigs, sausages and toilets. And I’m serious in that this takes a lot away from the game, especially since the source material is supposed to be funny. You could forgive Lego Jurassic World or something not having jokes (but it did), but you can’t here.

Finally, it’s short. Very short. Way back when, the likes of Lego Star Wars III or Lego Marvel Super Heroes would take 30+ hours just to finish the story (albeit with a good 30 more to 100% it). More recently, 10-12 hours (with about 10-12 more) seemed to be the length. This game, however, I completed in co-op in under 5 hours. That’s really, really short for a Lego game. Almost one sitting, in fact. Yes, we’re only 40% complete, but even then that implies 12-13 hours total for 100%. Perhaps the open-world nature of it, when played in two player so both are achieving different goals at the same time, might be some of the reason.

All that said, it still plays really well. I like some of the new stuff, I don’t really like the changes to how characters work or the lack of humour, but it’s still a good game. Just not one of the better Lego games. Also: it’s “video game” not “videogame”, TT Games/Lego/Warner/whoever.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World (Switch): COMPLETED!

As I got closer to the end of this game, I realised that I’d almost certainly never completed it. I recognised every level up until the 7th one (in the cave), and then have vague memories of a castle, but I think the castle memory may even have come from the Mega Drive Alex Kidd game.

Hardest. Screen. Ever.

I also realised why I don’t think I’ve completed it. There are a few tricky sections (the one near the end with the spikes in the water can do one, for example), but the main reason was that winning relies entirely on luck! The janken matches are seemingly random, and you’ve no way of telling what your opponent is going to choose. At least in Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle there’s a power up that lets you see what they’re thinking, but in the Master System version? It’s all guesswork.

Helicycle levels are so easy – as long as you don’t crash.

Other than that, it’s a pretty decent game. Alex slides all over the place as he has weird physics and friction, and the collision detection is a bit rubbish (the octopus and the samurai bosses in particular). The question mark blocks are also almost always worth ignoring too, meaning they’re pointless – most of the time they have that baddie that just homes in on you, so it’s not worth the risk.

Not the best Sega Ages re-release on the Switch, but I got it in a sale so I’m not disappointed.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Switch): COMPLETED!

A lot has been said about how terrible the Switch version of Bloodstained is compared to the other platforms it’s available for. Low quality graphics, 30fps not 60, longer loading times, and so on. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I don’t actually care. It’s the version I wanted, and short of being broken (and it’s not) it doesn’t matter to me about the rest. And I was right, as it’s pretty much a perfect Castlevania game and I enjoyed it very much.

Not sure female rock guitarists have been a baddie in Castlevania before.

We all know it’s by Iga, so is going to be the most Castlevania game ever, but I wasn’t expecting it to be almost literally Castlevania in every way possible. Every baddie is a reskin of a classic CV foe, every character is analogous to someone from a CV game. There’s a castle, there’s a vampire, and although it’s named differently, Soma’s (from Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow) soul mechanics are here too. All it’s missing is an end boss called Dracula and Castlevania in the name.

Some sort of lab with creatures in tubes round here.

As a Castlevania game, after completing it, I felt I needed to get 100% of the map (or 100.4% or whatever it is here), but unfortunately I’ve reached 99.8% and I’m stuck as to where I haven’t opened up. I’ve resorted to checking completely unlocked maps online and comparing them with mine, and I’ve found every single hidden room shown. I’ve no idea where the remaining ones are.

Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

“How do you complete a game where you make your own levels?”, you may ask. Well, because there’s a pretty sizeable single player mode where Nintendo show you loads of ways you might want to make levels, by giving you a hundred or so levels to work through.

I’m always astounded at the creativity Nintendo have with Mario games. You’d have thought that every possible idea in platforming has been done now, but nope – most of these levels have a new gimmick, or at the very least, a twist on a previous one. As you complete them you gain coins, and you use these coins to rebuild Peach’s castle (for unimportant story reasons).

New items for use in your home made courses are unlocked as you go along, so there’s another reason for playing Story Mode too.

As well as completing that, I’ve also played 30 or so user-made levels, which, like the first game, vary enormously. Some are huge and complicated with puzzles or skill sections, and some are little more than items placed at random on the screen. I’ve also made a terrible, short level of my own with a toilet in it, because of course I have. The ID, if you want to play it, is 3P7-5JL-CTG.

Sly Spy (Arcade): COMPLETED!

This week I’ve been playing games on the retro game streaming service Antstream. I have a lot to say about the platform, but not here. One of the games I played was Sly Spy, and it’s the first one on there I’ve completed.

It’s not a great game. Much of it plays a bit like Rolling Thunder, but without the hiding and dodging abilities that make that game so much fun. Getting through each level without being shot constantly is difficult, and so isn’t really that enjoyable. The way it’s so much of a rip-off of James Bond doesn’t work as a parody as it’s too close to the source material and not humourous with it either.

It is what it is, though – a coin chewing arcade game that hasn’t translated well to playing at home, and isn’t as good as similar titles from the same era anyway.

Yes, the sound really did break half way through. Something to do with Antstream probably.

My Friend Pedro (Switch): COMPLETED!

This Shoot Is Bananas

If, like me, you were very much interested in My Friend Pedro off the back of its surprise showing at E3 last year, you may be a little disappointed to discover that it isn’t quite the dual-wielding slow motion ballet that presentation would have you to believe. But, you’ll realise that’s probably most likely for the best.

You see, all that is there. Jumping and spinning to avoid gunfire, and returning bullets in two directions at once is still a large part (and it is always impressive and makes you feel like a Big Man) of the game, but it isn’t as relentless as shown. There are platforming sections. Lasers to avoid. A bizarre level where you have a propellor hat so can effectively fly. A section on a motorbike. Door and trapdoor opening puzzles. Lots of things, in fact.

Also perhaps a surprise is how the game is actually geared towards score combo and high score arcade type play. On Normal mode, the game isn’t very difficult, checkpoints are frequent, and it’s very forgiving with plenty of aim assist and reminders to dodge bullets if you’d forgotten. It’s running through quickly, cleanly, and seeking out every baddie that nets you the big points, so the three or four hours length is mostly irrelevant. Now, I’m not a score chaser generally so that doesn’t really interest me, but the game is still great anyway.

Many people wondered how the dual aiming would work, worrying the game would be on-rails if the two analogue sticks were busy, but in fact it’s pretty simple – you lock on to one foe first, then you are free to target a second and can shoot both together. It works well, but it turns out that it isn’t used as frequently as you maybe thought. Indeed, later weapons aren’t even dual-wieldable.

So it might not be quite what I was expecting, or perhaps I’d say hoping for, but in fact it seems the game knew what I really actually wanted more than I did because the deviations from the original reveal videos are welcome and I suspect too much of the same thing would have made it a bit of a chore. It’s definitely recommended if you want what could be described as Olli Olli only Bulletstorm, but even if you’re not after a score attack game it’s funny and stylish and unusual enough to warrant a purchase anyway.

Golf Peaks (Switch): COMPLETED!

Golf Peaks is a little puzzle game where you have to get the golf ball in the hole. However, unlike actual golf, you use card with distances on for your “shots”, and various surfaces act upon your ball – stop it dead, kick it in the air, make it slide, etc.

Each “world” has it’s own new gimmick across its 12 levels, and when you’ve completed at least 9 of them you move on to the next level.

It’s quite simple, both to play and in presentation, and although a handful of the levels had me thinking for some time I’ve not really struggled. It’s no Baba is You as far as the difficulty level is concerned. With 109 levels, many of which take only a few seconds, it’s not exactly long either, but it’s certainly interesting and as it’s really cheap on the eShop at the moment it’s definitely worth a purchase.

Q.U.B.E.: Director’s Cut (PS4): COMPLETED!

I’d read in a lot of places, and the screenshots didn’t help, that Q.U.B.E. was a poor man’s Portal. Aside from the first person view and the clinical environments, it really isn’t. Mainly because there aren’t any portals, and so the puzzles rely on other quirks instead. Mainly, making use of coloured shapes that do various things – extend, act as a trampoline, create blocks, and so on. You do this to hit switches, move cables, or direct balls, and after each section of the game (of which there are seven) new elements are added, such as being able to rotate parts of the room or direct lasers.

OK, so it’s still a little bit like Portal.

Apparently for the Director’s Cut, they added a story. I’m assuming this is the one sided conversations you listen to on your radio in the game, and if so, before they added them it would have been a very quiet, rather pointless affair. The plot is that you are on some sort of spacecraft made of cubes, and by simply solving puzzles which exist for some reason, you’re destroying the spacecraft. Which is on a collision course with Earth or something. A woman tells you who you are (you’re conveniently suffering from amnesia) and praises you, but then you start getting messages from someone else who says this woman is a liar and you’re going to die. Who do you trust?! (Spoiler: you have no say in the matter).

Anyway, it’s not too difficult (although I did accidentally pass a few of the puzzles without realising), and certainly I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it’s a classic or anything.

Golden Axe III (Switch): COMPLETED!

Is Golden Axe III going to be a good game, given the previous two were not? Go on, have a guess.

At least it tried. Instead of being almost exactly the same as the other games, the graphics are all new, the animation is new, and most of the baddies are new. Reminiscent of those before, but new. There’s a different art style too, but actually, it’s worse. And there are two new characters but they’ve relegated the best one – Gillius Thunderhead – to a little less than a narrator role. You can’t play as him. I chose Tyris Flare instead, who now has ridiculous beefcake muscles.

They’ve improved the “AI” so the enemies no longer blindly walk off ledges, and for the most part the old running attack left and right “trick” isn’t possible any more. But sadly, this doesn’t really improve things. Golden Axe III is actually worse, somehow, than its predecessors.

Assassin’s Creed Origins (PS4): COMPLETED!

My understanding of this game was that it wasn’t anything like previous Assassin’s Creed games. It was written from scratch, didn’t reuse any engine or assets, and had completely new gameplay. The title also suggests it’s the start of the Assassins. It turns out nothing is true, everything is permitted.

Maybe Ubisoft did scrap everything from the series and built it all up again, but it doesn’t show. In fact, aside from the new control scheme (attacks are on the shoulder buttons now), and the biggest map so far, this is just more of the same. But that’s actually fine.

Yes, you have an eagle.

Yes, so there’s a literal eagle vision now (with an actual eagle), and yes, it tells the story of the start of the Brotherhood, but it’s still parkour and stabbin’ just like before. This time it’s set in the achingly beautiful setting of Egypt, which is far more varied than the sand and pyramids you’d expect, but the core missions are still scoping out the enemy, picking them off, and assassinating a series of important historical figures. And it’s so much fun.

Your guy this time is Bayek, a medjay (a sort of trouble fixer) from the region of Siwa, who, along with his wife Aya, is out to get revenge for the death of his son. Bayek, despite the “by ‘eck” link that can’t be unheard, is a great protagonist. He’s well voiced, has real empathy and morals, and is hard as nails. He’s probably one of the best the series has ever had, actually. At points in the game you also get to play as Aya, who is also great but her sections are generally boating (straight out of Black Flag, and so the worst thing about the game) or combat-lite. She also doesn’t have an eagle, which makes the final mission a bit tricky.

I’ve since found out that the next game, Odyssey, is actually set hundreds of years before Origins, not immediately afterwards as the story of Origins might suggest. This does make a bit of a mockery of the name of this game, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter. I hope they do bring Bayek back for another game though, perhaps round Greece?

Pikuniku (Switch): COMPLETED!

Pikuniku is a… game best discovered for yourself. Partly because that’s genuinely true, but also because it’s a little hard to describe. Sure, I can tell you it’s a sort of platformer with puzzles and bosses, and there’s a lot of kicking things, but that’s not really describing the game.

No, the game is unusual. Both in style and content. There’s a plot about a guy who gives out free money, there’s a leaf-based underground resistance, and there’s a section where you have a beat a robot in a dance-off. Oh, and you’re a monster (except you’re not), and later on you get a hat with a hose on it so you can water things.

It doesn’t make sense when I write about it, and frankly doesn’t make much more sense when you play it, but it’s quirky and jolly and fun and if that isn’t enough to make you want to play it then you’re all sorts of wrong inside.

Day of the Tentacle Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

Actually it’s about at least four days.

I was 100% certain I’d played the original game before. I can clearly remember some parts of the game, some of the puzzles and characters, some of the events from when I originally had it on my Amiga. So imagine my surprise that I actually recognised very little of the game at all, and it turns out there never was an Amiga version. So why did I have the bowl, Bart?

Even more confusing, is how now that I’ve established I haven’t played it before, I remembered the solutions to some of the puzzles and part of the ended. Which is even more baffling as I know I’ve definitely never completed it.

Anyway. In a sort of reverse comparison, I’m going to mention The Secret of Woolley Mountain here as I’d compared that to Day of the Tentacle erroneously so it only seems fair to do the reverse now. In it’s favour, DOTT has much higher production values, but then you’d expect that as it also had way more staff and money. The graphics in particular have moved away from the functional style of the original Maniac Mansion to some really very good cartoon characters and backdrops. Sure, some of this is down to it all being HD and not pixelated like the non-remastered DOTT, but it’s still a world away. The voice acting is pretty good too.

However, as I mentioned in my Woolley Mountain post, the puzzles in these older point and click games are often a bit obscure. They’re not as bad in Day of the Tentacle as they are in Maniac Mansion or something like Grim Fandango, but some are obtuse. Take the use of “Booboo B Gone”, which is suggested by the name it’s some sort of cream or ointment for cuts and bruises rather than actually being Tippex. How you use it on a cat is then also a bit of a reach even knowing that.

That said, it’s well put together, hasn’t aged at all, and was a lot of fun. And very funny, of course.

Sparkle 2 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Sparkle 2, or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Zuma” was a free PS+ rental that I’ve been playing off and on for a few months. It’s not taxing, it’s not hard, but it is fun in the same way Zuma was. It’s just 91 levels of shooting balls at other balls, but it does it well enough and I enjoyed it. Not sure what else there is to say about it, really.

The Way Remastered (Switch): COMPLETED!

No Ugandan Knuckles jokes

I’m not sure what exactly is “remastered” about this game, having no experience of the original. An original which is only a few years old itself, actually. I’m also not sure what sort of game it’s trying to be.

To look at the screenshots, it’s probably trying to channel Flashback or Blackthorne, or both. When you play it, however, it isn’t. There’s a bit of the Mega Drive Alien 3 game in there. Sure, there’s some Flashback. Some Gunpoint. Some Another World. As you move from Earth to another planet, then explore that planet, not only do the locations change graphically, byt the gameplay does too. You’re no longer a sneaky hacker – you’re a man with a gun. Only then you don’t have a gun, but you can teleport and move things with your mind instead. And then! To end it all, it’s a bullet hell shooter only you can’t shoot.

You have to stop each piston in turn so they move in a particular pattern. What is this pattern? Well, that’s why this bit was hard.

There’s platforming and puzzles. Reaction tests and timing tests. Infuriating “remember the sequence or fry” sections. Buttons to push, spikes to avoid, hoverbikes to pilot, monsters to run from, and lots more. It’s varied for sure, but that also causes a problem – it masters none of these.

Some of the puzzles are just too obscure with no clues. Some of the platforming is hit and miss as to whether you’ll grab a ledge or drop on some spikes (or sometimes, grab a ledge then drop off onto the spikes anyway because bugs). I found your shield power that you have use of for some of the game regularly failed to “initialise” so didn’t reflect enemy fire as it should, killing me. Collision detection isn’t great, so combined with wonky jumping inertia also led to many avoidable deaths. Thankfully, checkpoints are frequent so little progress is lost when you do die.

Sometimes Tincan (your tigerdog) responds to and follows you. Sometimes, he does not. Twice, he vanished completely when I needed him to progress.

The plot of the game is mostly fine – guy’s wife dies, so he goes off to find the Pyramid of Eternal Life or something to revive her, which fortuitously happens to be on the very planet his job sent him to to research. The stuff that happens along the way (aha!) is nonsense though. Magically from nowhere a bounty hunter stumbles across you? A tribe who tried to kill you start worshipping your dead wife because… well, I’m not really sure why. They also welcome your new “pet” – a massive tigerdogbeast whose parent previously terrorised them.

Issues aside, there’s an important point to make in this game’s favour: it was 89p. And for 89p there’s a lot of game here. A lot of good ideas, if a bit poorly executed. It’s definitely worth 89p. Knowing what I do now, however (and I’d gone in pretty blind), I’m glad I didn’t pay full price and I can’t recommend you do either.

Pretty sure that’s LeChuck, and it’s SUPPOSED to be LeChuck. There’s a Day of the Tentacle tentacle in this bit too. Who knows why this is.

One final question: Why is The Way Remastered rated a PEGI 16? There was nothing in there I’d consider more than a PEGI 7, so even a PEGI 12 would be overkill. Did I miss something?