Luck Be A Landlord (Mac): COMPLETED!

This game is a bit like a cross between a clicker and a fruit machine. You spin the reels, and get items appear, and then get money depending on what items and how many of each. But you also unlock more items that could appear, and there are buffs to certain items which increase their worth or a multiplier or both.

So, for example, if you get a Witch, then you get more for each Cat it is next to. Or if you get a Monkey, you get more for Banana. After so many rounds, you have to pay rent and then the rent increases for the next set of rounds. Can’t pay? Game over! So yeah, it’s partly luck based, but then it says that there in the title!

There’s an endless mode, which is obviously impossible to complete, but there’s also a mode with an actual ending, and it’s that I completed.

Zelda (Game & Watch): COMPLETED!

I was lucky enough to be given (an original!) one of these, as well a Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong II, this weekend. It’s the best Game & Watch game and although I have a keyring mini replica I haven’t played the G&W classic since it was a Hot Product in the school playground.

And it still stands up really well today. Although it was much, much easier than I recall because I managed to complete it on my first go. Actually completing G&W games is unusual because most are high score chaser games, but Zelda has an endpoint – get all the bits of triforce by killing all the dragons – and that’s what I did. It was Excellent.

Game Dev Story+ (iPhone): COMPLETED!

Many, many moons ago, I bought the original version of this on my iPhone. It was great. In fact, I still have it and my development company (Ubisocks) is still going and is on year 300 or something.

Recently, a modified version was released on Apple Arcade as Game Dev Story+. I’m not sure what is actually modified, aside from a different coloured icon, but it doesn’t matter because it meant I could restart the game without losing my more-than-a-decade-long save file.

It’s easier than I remember. Certainly, the early stages anyway. Once you have All The Money and can get a game that scores 40/40 regardless of how hard you actually try during development or which genre combo you choose then it’s a walkover, but I had no issues in the beginning at all – never ran out of money, constantly made a profit, and quickly grew Fire Sausage (my new development house) to the point of unstoppable sales. My Animal Crossing clone in particular was a massive seller and award winner!

After 20 in-game years you reach “the end”, in that no new stuff happens, but by that point I’d won all the awards and created a best-selling console so I’d done everything there is to do.

One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 (PS5): COMPLETED!

Not that long ago I picked up One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 on the Switch because it was cheap and I was after a fun musou game. Turned out that, despite not knowing anything about One Piece, it was really rather good. So, when the sequel was cheap on PSN and I’d just bought a second PS5 controller, I thought I’d pick it up.

It’s more of the same, really. There’s a few different story arcs, characters who were not in the previous game, and a new skill upgrade tree method which is easier to make use of this time round, but ultimately it’s a prettier looking (thanks PS4), faster loading (thanks PS5) expansion to Pirate Warriors 3.

As before, I played it from start to finish with my daughter in co-op. Well, aside from the few levels which are bafflingly single player only despite there being a second AI character that could be player 2 in each of them. We also completed all 120+ of the “treasure mode” scenarios, which are vaguely analogous to the Adventure Mode in HYRULE WARRIORS, and I even unlocked every single trophy, which is pretty unheard of.

It’s mindless and mashy and repetitive, sure, but it’s also a lot of fun.

New Super Lucky’s Tale (Switch): COMPLETED!

New Super Lucky’s Tale is no Mario 64 or Yooka-Laylee. It’s a nice little (mostly) 3D platformer in that style, however, but without the acrobatics and inventiveness of the former and with none of the fancy moves and humour of that latter. It’s a very pared down experience in many ways, especially compared to those, but actually, it was a pleasant surprise.

It doesn’t do a lot – you collect things and jump around and there are odd characters to talk to and levels within themed worlds, but it’s still fun and it looks nice in its own cartoony art style. Sometimes jumping is tricky in 3D, and there seem to be more 2D levels than I’d prefer, but I enjoyed it from start to finish. I understand this a remake of a game called Super Lucky’s Tale which came out a few years earlier and had a number of issues which this fixed, although I’ve not played that to compare.

Wuppo (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’d seen Wuppo on the eShop a few times and it looked like the sort of game I’d want to play – silly, nonsensical stuff. It reminded me a bit of Pikuniku, although is obviously very different, and then it was incredibly cheap so I folded and here we are.

The story is (and apologies for getting lost in advance) that you are a Wum – a sort of blob creature – who lives in a hotel called The Wumhouse. In the world are are two other sentient native species, and another who were warlike and wiped out ages ago (or were they?). And now there are some space aliens who look like lions. Because you’re very messy with ice cream, you’re kicked out of the Wumhouse and so begins an adventure where you meet characters from these species, fight them, visit an underground city, come across massive bosses like a giant eel and a huge ice cream, and discover more about what you have to do through old filmstrips you play on projectors.

And play volleyball, deliver newspapers by shooting them into peoples’ faces, visit a theme park, paint a picture, and discover a face in the sky who likes to eat mud. It’s all woven together, sort of, into something mostly coherent but utterly absurd, where you end up having to save the world.

It plays out mostly as a platformer, with your bouncy little blob able to jump, and double jump, and with the right item shoot gel in the direction of the right stick in order to kill things. Quickly, you realise that the game itself isn’t the only weird thing here, as the controls are too. For example, to get into the inventory you press a direction on the d-pad rather than press +. To jump, you’d expect a face button but as this may conflict with the right stick aiming, a shoulder button is used instead – only it’s on the left, not the right like in other games where this is an issue. Both these things felt wrong for the entire duration of the game and I never got used to them. Giving items is also needlessly fiddly, as is buying things and selecting items from the inventory.

In order to progress you’re not really given enough information as to what to do, which when coupled with being given “quests” which seem to have no use or bearing on the plot (but you don’t know this at the time), it can be tricky figuring out what to do or where to go next. Also, there’s the problem of “is that platform just out of reach and I need an item or different route, or am I just mistiming my jump, or is it even a platform at all”, which is frustrating.

So while I did love the world, and the art style, and how quirky and ridiculous it all is, too many small problems in Wuppo stop me from fully recommending it. For cheaps though? You can do a lot worse.

Alwa’s Legacy (Switch): COMPLETED!

After enjoying Alwa’s Awakening so much, and it was actually Alwa’s Legacy I’d originally intended to play until I realised Awakening came first and, well, existed, of course I was going to jump right into Legacy afterwards.

It is, basically, more of the same. You’re still Zoe, you still have a magic staff, and you can still use your three powers – shoot a lightning bolt, create a block and create a bubble. This time, however, the graphics are all 16-bit in style rather than 8, and you get additional abilities too.

Once obtained, you can air-dash (a bit like how you do in Celeste), warp through some walls, breath longer underwater, and upgrade the number of health segments you have. The way you upgrade your original powers is different too – previously you just found items to do that, but now you spend the orbs you collect on improvements – most of which are new to this game. You can also remove the upgrades too, allowing you to re-spend the orbs on different upgrades, meaning if you don’t need one for a bit you can make use of another. There are also a few tweaks to the controls to accommodate more skills and to make use of the fact 16-bit machines had more buttons!

The plot isn’t much different to before – beat four bosses then take down Vicar. Each boss has its own area with different gimmicks: Two of the cleverer ones include one where you can raise and lower the water level to open up paths or solve puzzles, and the other lets you swap between past and future versions of the “dungeon”, making vines grow or lasers disappear.

I found Legacy’s enemies, especially the bosses, much much easier than those in Awakening, but found the puzzles and “how do I get to X” issues much less obvious than before. Completing it 100% was a bit harder too as hidden areas were much more hidden and there’s no controller rumble to alert you to them – although there is an item late on that warns you there’s a secret in a room, but not where in the room! Overall, though, the improvements and other changes made this more enjoyable than the original game, which I’d already thought was great. Alwa’s Legacy is not in the same league as Super Metroid or Hollow Knight, but it’s still a great Metroidvania and definitely worth picking up.

Star Trek Online (PS5): COMPLETED!

As it turns out, it is possible to complete Star Trek Online, and it’s possible to do it without paying any money at all. Because that’s what I did.

I know that for many people, the game here is all the endgame content, playing with others, doing the same missions over and over and collecting all the ships and stuff. That’s not for me. I reached the cap of level 65, then finished all the single play missions remaining, and that’s it. And it was mostly OK?

I’m still baffled how buggy it is, especially since some of the bugs I came across were there and reported on the official forums three or four years ago, and how clunky it all is. The menus are unwieldy and the menu navigation controls clearly suffer from controller rather than mouse use. The animations are PS2 level woodeness, characters randomly stand on chairs and tables (or sometimes, inside walls, doors or furniture), and getting stuck inside asteroids or rocky outcrops in caves is such a frequent issue that rather than fix it, they included a “warp somewhere nearby” option in the menu called “I am stuck”.

It’s repetitive. It’s broken. It’s ugly. And, although this isn’t the game’s fault, it doesn’t even fit into the Star Trek universe any more. But I enjoyed it enough to spend what is probably 125+ hours on it so I suppose it must have done something right?

Alwa’s Awakening (Switch): COMPLETED!

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.

Picross S3 (Switch): COMPLETED!

More Picross, innit.

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!

Human Fall Flat (Switch): COMPLETED!

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.

switchI remember this scene from Jaws.

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.

But it’s very good, silly fun.

I came in like a wrecking ball.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game (Switch): COMPLETED!

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!

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (PS4): COMPLETED!

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.

Kiryu and Akiyama fight some Triads in the sewers. Pretty standard.

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.

In Hiroshima, Kiryu doesn’t wear his jacket. Big news!

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…

Star Trek Online (PS5)

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:

I think the party was for me?

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.

Just icons and bars and number and words everywhere.

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.

USS Shootyboi is the pride of Star Fleet.

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.

This is the first game I’ve ever seen objects pop OUT instead of IN as you get closer.

Anyway, I could just walk away, right? Right. After the next mission.