Dark Arms (Switch): COMPLETED!

This game is one I have for the NeoGeo Pocket and I remember I enjoyed it at the time, but don’t remember much about it. Aside from you shoot baddies to get souls which upgrade your guns. Seems, now I’ve completed it on the NeoGeo Pocket Colour Selection on the Switch, that really that’s all there is to it.

OK, so not quite. There’s a story which is badly translated and makes little sense, and you don’t just have a gun, you have some other weapons which you can swap between like “a big alien arm thing” and “some sort of shield I think”. But you do just go round various areas like a graveyard and a cave and a haunted house shooting (or “big alien arming”) ghosts, demons, witches, zombies, and other evil and/or undead creatures.

There’s a day and night cycle, with different characters and foes appearing at one or the other, and because of the terrible text in the game it’s a bit tricky to understand what you need to do so you basically have to wander the whole of each area several times over both day and night to make sure you’ve done everything. This may sound tedious, and it is a little, but you have to grind to improve your weapons anyway so it’s actually not too bad.

Then, when you’ve defeated the final boss it turns out that’s not the end of the game as you have to find a load of (harmless but hidden) witches to combine them together to resurrect something which isn’t really explained. So I did that and got the One True Ending.

Dark Arms was, overall, less fun than I remember but I still enjoyed it.

Aggelos (Switch): COMPLETED!

Or, “I can’t believe it’s not Wonder Boy”. Since it is, in almost every way, a Wonder Boy game. You’re a boy, with a sword, and you collect money and buy better armour and unlock abilities and it looks like a 16 bit Wonder Boy game and it plays like one and sounds like one.

But, it’s a bit slicker. It has a few improvements (like warps). It isn’t as impossible as Wonder Boy in Monster Land. But, it’s still good. Really good.

The plot is generic “find X items and banish the dark”, but it plays out in an explore the overworld, beat four “dungeons” sort of way (so is actually a little more like Zelda II in that respect, I suppose). There are massive bosses, silly side characters, and a pig who runs a pub who says you’re too young to drink there.

There’s no outstanding features, but it’s all well put together and enjoyable in a Metroidvania type way, and I do like games that are in the Metroidvania way,

Big Tournament Golf (Switch): COMPLETED!

Although I don’t like golf at all, I’ve always enjoyed a good golf game. From PGA European Tour on the Amiga, which I don’t even remember buying, through Mario Gold, NES Golf, Golf Story, and so on. One of my favourites is Neo Turf Masters for the NeoGeo Pocket, which is the Other Region name for this – Big Tournament Golf.

To be enjoyable, golf games need to be simple. Choose a club, aim, press a button to swing, set power, then set accuracy. That’s it. And Big Tournament Golf does exactly this with no fuss. There are three courses, with increasing difficulty, although actually none of them are really very hard. I completed them all over a couple of weeks, coming first in the tournaments for each.

Blaster Master Zero 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

It’s been a few years since I completed the first Blaster Master Zero, because for some reason I forgot to buy the sequel. I have now rectified that and so here is my post. Like the original, it was great. Unlike the original, it was more fragmented, in that it was made up of lots of small levels (mostly separate planets) rather than a handful of large maps. It was still Metroidvania-y though, and a lot of fun with some great bosses.

The levels had plenty of variety, with one of them actually existing as two separate levels that had maps that intermingled. Each was in a different “phase”, so that was interesting and unusual.

After completing it, it was clear I got some sort of bad ending, so had to look up how to get the good ending – turns out you have to finish a handful of side missions, which then unlocks the real final boss.

Now to wait for Blaster Master Zero 3 to come down in price!

Guardians of the Galaxy (PS5): COMPLETED!

After the reports of how terrible the Avengers game was, and how in this game you only get to play (directly) as Star-Lord, Guardians of the Galaxy went right off my radar. Then I saw some positive reviews, and a lot of people were saying that actually, it was great. And they were right.

But first, some downers. You can only play as Star-Lord, with the rest of the team effectively acting as special attacks. Every level is a linear corridor with obviously sign-posted areas where you’re attacked. The combat isn’t great, especially when it comes to the camera and lock-on. There are plenty of “get stuck in objects” bugs, and sometimes the “activate object” trigger requires far too much character repositioning before it works.

However, it’s really, really good. Mainly because of the banter between the Guardians, partly because of the ridiculous plot, somewhat because of the fantastic mostly 80s soundtrack, and a little because it, in places, looks so damn good. It’s genuinely hilarious, from Mantis calling Rocket “little fuzzy” to the Space Llama eating the ship to the ship’s fridge door constantly needing to be shut, to Drax’s reading glasses. It’s not the GotG you know from the film, or the cartoon, or even the comic, but it’s close enough to some of those things without needing to be the same. There’s recognisable ancillary characters (like Cosmo), enemies (like Fin Fang Foom) and back story, but not so similar that you know exactly where the story is going.

It’s a mid-tier third person shooter, but with so much atmosphere and such fantastic dialogue that you can forgive where it doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yes, I finally caved and bought Mario Kart 8 again. I have it for the Wii U so didn’t really need it on the Switch, but then they went and announced a load of new tracks will be coming to it and it was 33% off so here we are.

It’s the same as on the Wii U. Only you don’t get a screen each in two player and all the cups, tracks and characters are unlocked from the start. I’ve been through and come first in all the cups in 50, 100 and 150cc (so that’s more than enough to consider it “completed”), but haven’t played much of Mirror or 200cc yet.

Best character is Tanooki Mario with all his default kart options.

Touhou Luna Nights (Switch): COMPLETED!

Apparently this is an authorised fan-game based on the Touhou shooter series, but none of that means anything to me. I was just keeping an eye on it because it looked like an interesting Metroidvania game, and as it turns out, it is.

Plot is something something fake castle world something baddie something, but what that means is Castlevania without a Dracula. It’s very similar to Castlevania, even having some similar areas (like a clock tower) and enemies (like Frankenstein’s monster and skeletons), and of course it has blocked areas you need items or upgrades to access.

What’s different is in the abilities of your character. She can slow and stop time, for one thing. And “graze” enemies and projectiles in which to replenish energy. Or, graze them when time is stopped to replenish magic points. And you’ll need to replenish magic a lot, because all your attacks use it. The time stop power is also used in environmental “puzzles” too, as some objects and enemies aren’t frozen, some are frozen, and some only move (or move backwards) when time is stopped. There’s a lot of hidden room finding too, and of course a map to fill in 100%.

I completed it, and then discovered that there’s a whole extra area afterwards which I think was DLC in the original PC version of the game, so of course I had to finish that too. The end boss was especially tricky (in her second form, anyway), but I managed it. And then I went and found the few remaining areas and items to get 100%.

Overall, I really enjoyed it and it’s certainly different to play compared to how it looks – not a “standard” Metroidvania by any means.

Deiland (Switch): COMPLETED!

Set in the same universe as Summer in Mara, Deiland starts out as superficially similar – chop down trees, smash rocks, grow crops – but set on a tiny planet instead of a big sea. There’s no exploration, and you only have a couple of small areas of other planets you can travel to as the story progresses, and also unlike Summer in Mara, there’s combat.

Every so often, baddies will spawn on your little planet and you have to defeat them. If you don’t, they knock you out and nick some of your resources. They’re not hard to deal with, however, and healing is easy – just stand next to a fire for a bit.

You’ll get visitors in space ships, including a few characters who were also in Summer on Mara, who act as both quest givers and shops. Quest are almost always of the form “collect X” or “create Y”, but because you don’t need to travel far, they’re less drawn out as in Mara.

It’s a simpler game than Mara, but it’s different. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much, but it’s still worth playing.

Millie and Molly (Switch): COMPLETED!

This is a simple little platform puzzle game with 100 levels. It’s similar to Fire ‘N Ice, Solomon’s Key, and Catrap in terms of gameplay, although in this game you can’t step up blocks and you can’t jump. Also, many of the levels let you use two characters (Millie and Molly, of course) with one frozen, so can be used as a “block”, while you control the other.

The aim is to defeat all the enemies (simply by touching them) on each single screen level, with some of them floating in the air and others “dropping” when you kick away blocks underneath them. The puzzle element is how you accomplish this, as you need to decide the order in which to touch them as once they’re gone you can’t stand on them, and when to kick kickable blocks or dig dig-able blocks. Some of the levels are very clever in that you think you’ve done it, only you realise at the end you made a mistake right at the start! Thankfully, there are infinite lives and infinite rewind to save on the frustration normally associated with these games.

Although the developer suggested the game is hard, I only struggled on three or four levels, with level 99 being hair-tearingly difficult. That’s not to say I found it easy, but it certainly wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting. I did, however, very much enjoy it and hope there’s either a sequel or some extra levels as DLC in the works.

Summer in Mara (Switch): COMPLETED!

At first glance, Summer in Mara would appear to be a Wind Waker clone, but in fact it’s only really similar in terms of graphics and there’s a load of islands you travel between via a little boat. Actually, it’s much closer to something like Harvest Moon, with a bit of farming, some crafting, and a lot of fetch quests.

There’s no peril, danger, time limits or any chance of death – just a nice little story about an orphan exploring the world and meeting a colourful array of characters and doing various chores for them. The ultimate aim is to prevent a race of aliens from sucking the life energy of the planet, but really it’s 95% going to places and making stuff. There’s not even any combat.

Summer in Mara is a fun, relaxing, blue skies game that has a bit too much to-ing and fro-ing (which I found at the end of the game can be reduced with fast travel!) but plenty of character and charm.

Hades (Switch): COMPLETED!

I thought I’d actually completed this about a month ago, except it seems that just reaching the end isn’t enough. You have to reach the end ten times. Anyway, I’ve done that now.

Hades is a roguelite action game, where you, as Zagreus, Hades’ son, must escape from hell and find your mother on the surface. You die a lot along the way, which takes you back to the start, but slowly your skills improve both by getting permanent buffs and by just getting better at the game, so gradually you get closer and closer to the end.

Each “room” is a short fight, after which you get an item. These range from a choice of Boons, provided by Olympians, which offer skills such as elemental attacks or additional dashes, to money (which can only be spent that “run” on temporary upgrades) and gems (which can be spent in your bedroom between runs for permanent upgrades). Success on a run is largely down to your choices as well as a little luck as to which you’re offered, since some upgrades stack really well and others are mostly useless – your fighting style dependant, of course.

You also get a choice of different weapons to take with you – a sword, a bow, enchanted gauntlets, what is essentially a gun, etc. – but I mostly stuck to the sword as I found it easiest. Some Boons are better suited to different weapons too.

It’s an addictive game, and even though each run can easily be half and hour or more long the urge for “one more run” is strong. If you fail, it’s rarely a waste because of what you gain, but also you feel that you’d get a bit further if you just had better luck. There’s a lot of interesting and humorous dialogue between Zagreus and the other residents of the various levels of hell, with much reference to Greek mythology, and almost every run provides new chat with very little repetition.

I “beat” my first run on about the 18th attempt, but it was nearly 50 tries before I’d beaten it the requisite ten times, with something like 40 hours play in total. I regret sleeping on buying this earlier, which I’d done because although I’d loved Bastion (by the same devs), Transistor which followed it left me cold and I was put off this being a “difficult roguelite”. Thankfully, it’s nothing like Transistor and also isn’t that difficult, or at least, not difficult indefinitely. It’s truly a fantastic game.

SNK Gals’ Fighters (Switch): COMPLETED!

The Neo Geo Pocket fighting games are such good fun. They might all be the same, more or less, but they’re fun. Even in single player.

I completed this a few years ago, but I recently bought the Neo Geo Pocket collection for the Switch so I’ve been playing the games on there a bit. This is the first one of them I’ve completed, and I did it as Yuri for a change.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS5): COMPLETED!

New Spider-Man, same game. Well, that’s a little unfair. Miles is a bit different to Peter in a few ways. Notably, he has a “venom” power which lets him do smash attacks, and he also has far fewer gadgets, but actually the only bit difference is the plot.

Set soon after Spider-Man, it opens with a fight with Rhino (with the help of Peter), before you take over New York patrols while Peter leaves the country for reasons related to the previous game. Miles’ story involves the personal aftermath of the death of his father, his mum running for office, and the twin reveals about his uncle and his best friend from high school, but the plot of the game is about a company developing a clean near-unlimited power source which isn’t as safe as they say – and Miles needs to stop it going live.

Ultimately, it’s played out in the same way as before, on the same map of Manhattan (albeit now in winter), with similar fighting, challenges, crimes, and so on. That isn’t really a bad thing, as it’s great, but from the continuation of the last game’s events to the asset reuse and the much, much shorter playtime (it’s about 1/4 the length), it’s very clear that this is intended DLC repackaged as a standalone game. Thankfully, it’s thoroughly enjoyable for the same reasons as before, and Miles Morales has a much more interesting personal story and characterisation that Peter Parker ever did.

And yes, I 100%ed this one too. And now I’m out of Spider-Men to play.