deKay's Lofi Gaming

Gaming Diary

Tumblepop (Evercade): COMPLETED!

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I’d never played this before, but it’s a nice little arcade game in a similar style to Parasol Stars or Super Snow Bros – a single screen two player game where you clear out baddies by sucking them up into your hoover and then spitting them out before they escape.

It’s not very hard, nor is it very long, but it was fun and had some nice big bosses. It was probably made easier as I played it in co-op with my daughter, and of course being an arcade game you can just keep sticking virtual ten pees in until the end.

Castlevania: Bloodlines (Switch): COMPLETED!

Just in case I was misremembering that this was one of the good linear Castlevania games, and my thoughts on Vampire’s Kiss were based on warped memories, I decided to give this a go. It’s on the Switch Online Mega Drive collection too so it wasn’t difficult figuring out a way of running it.

And, I was completely right. It is so much better than Vampire’s Kiss it makes that game look like a dodgy c-tier “Dracula’s Castle” knock-off and not a legitimate title in the series at all. Bloodlines (or “The New Generation”, if you prefer) is faster, slicker, more varied, longer, less frustrating, and much more fun. The bosses are excellent, there are all sorts of nifty graphical effects that the Mega Drive can’t do except it can – tilting towers, sprite scaling, splitting the screen up and shunting bits of it around, and so on.

I played through as Eric Lecarde – the one with the trident – as I think I played as Mr Whippy last time, and the reach of his tool (careful now) makes certain sections much more doable – he can stab baddies on platforms above him, for a start.

I’d probably go as far to say that this is the best linear (rather than SOTN style) Castlevania game. Yes, even better than Super Castlevania IV.

Puyo Puyo (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yes, it’s essentially the same game as Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, which I completed a couple of days ago. But this one has cute Japanese character voices and cuter graphics and no stupid fake Sonic enemies.

Other than that, though, it was no different to play. I didn’t find the end boss as difficult, but that’s probably luck and/or practice rather than it being easier than the Sonic reskin.

M.U.S.H.A. (Switch): COMPLETED!

Until this appeared on the Switch Online Mega Drive collection thing, I’d never realised that “MUSHA”, “Aleste”, and “Musha Aleste” are the same game. I’d never played any of them before, either.

It’s a vertically scrolling shooter with big robots and great music and impressive graphics. And it’s hard. And I completed it, eventually.

The bosses were, mostly, much easier than some bits of the actually levels, it turned out. Aside from the “final”[ref]Spoiler: it’s not final.[/ref] one with the almost unavoidable things that stick out of the wall, with the walls already having become really narrow!

Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (Switch): COMPLETED!

Just in case I didn’t have enough games to play already, and I have a copy of this already on my Switch in the Sega Mega Drive Collection thing, I decided to play the one in the new Sega Nintendo Online collection. No, I don’t know either.

I’ve played it before. And completed it before. But not for a while.

Mean Bean Machine is just a reskin of Puyo Puyo, and I have to say, I prefer Puyo Puyo. This Sonic themed version is full of the stupid badniks from (presumably) Sonic the Comic and/or one of the cartoon series and I don’t like them. That makes no difference to to the gameplay of course, but still.

The game was really easy until the final three opponents, where the speed is just too fast. Robotnik himself, especially, seemed to fill my well (careful now) before I had a chance to even drop a few beans, so it was only by blind luck I managed to nail him in the end, I’m sure.

Quest Arrest (Evercade): COMPLETED!

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OK, the bad points out of the way with this first. The graphics are poor (yes, it’s a Game Boy Colour game, but still), the writing is awful and it is full of bugs. There’s no end of swearing which doesn’t even work in context, and the JRPG style fighting system is random and broken (not least because your health bar doesn’t physically change half the time, even though the value of it does). What you have to do is vague and often doesn’t make sense. Every time you change location it pauses the game and pops up to tell you where you are. There are spelling mistakes galore.

It very much feels like a “my first game” project by someone younger than the material they’re producing would be aimed at. It’s all f-this and kill that and murder the other without any of the dialogue to surround it.

It’s not big and it’s not clever, sorry.

But, if that is indeed the situation with its creation, then the output is laudable. There’s a lot going on here and although much of it is unsuccessful there’s a good base behind it. In fact, if the text was just edited well, perhaps made adult in context rather than adult in content, that would fix most of the issues I had with it.

Aside from that, the main aim of the game is to deal with (either kill or arrest) all of the members of some gang causing problems in the local area. Once you’ve done that, you can take down Athena, their boss, who is a badly signposted twist in the story. It’s a short game, and apart from the randomness and occasional inability to see what is a door and what isn’t, not especially hard. I just with it was a bit more toned down and polished.

Deadeus (Evercade): COMPLETED!

For something that looks like Pokémon on the Game Boy, boy did this take a turn. It’s a Game Boy game, set in a little village, with a nice beach and a church and a school and a library, but there’s a dark and sinister secret that the locals don’t want to talk about. And you and your friends have just started having nightmares about it.

With just three days until An Event, you have to get the truth out of people. Or, you can just leave town. In fact, it seems there are a number of different endings available to you, of which I found four. Two of which involve you dying,

It’s an unusual little game, and some bits don’t quite work (like the school only offers three classes and you just turn up to lessons when you fancy it), but the story is compelling and some of the shocking events on the third day are genuinely pretty shocking.

And you can dig up a dead cat. What’s not to enjoy?

Foxyland (Evercade): COMPLETED!

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This isn’t quite what I was expecting. You see, I’ve seen Foxyland (and several sequels) on the Switch eShop and PSN, and this isn’t quite that. It’s actually a Mega Drive version of the game, which had different levels.

It’s a basic platformer, where you have to collect a number of gems on each short level as well as optionally collect cherries (get enough and you get an extra life). Foxy can only jump and double-jump, and there’s various baddies, spikes, traps and falling blocks that kill him. Every few levels you get a boss fight, of sorts, and later levels get a bit bloody tricky both because of the difficulty but also some have puzzles involving switches.

It’s probably not a game I’d have bought otherwise, but it was nice enough.

Cosmic Spacehead (Evercade): COMPLETED!

Although I own this on the Mega Drive, I don’t think I’ve ever played it. But with it being on the Evercade, as with many other titles, I’m rectifying that. And. completed it, of course.

The game is split between a Lucasarts-style point and click adventure game (there’s even a reference to Lucasarts in the form of a cave painting) and a platformer, with simple platforming sections wedged between each location.

With simple puzzles and no difficult platforming, it didn’t take me long to reach the end. As you’d expect, using a joypad to point-and-click isn’t ideal, but you can cycle through actions with the buttons to save manually selecting them with the pointer which helps. I like the art style, and although the backtracking was a bit of a pain I enjoyed it overall.

Castlevania: Vampire’s Kiss (Switch): COMPLETED!

Vampire’s Kiss is A Bad Game. I’ve no idea why Konami decided to dump this poor Super Castlevania IV followup on the Castlevania Advance Collection because it’s neither a GBA game nor is it a “metroidvania” style game. And it’s rubbish.

I’m trying not to represent it badly because it isn’t the same genre as the other three games on the collection, and it’s several years older, but no – it’s just no fun to play. It’s short, it has about three near impossible sections but the rest is pretty easy, and it plays really, really slowly. It does, however, look incredible, especially early on in the game, and the fact it’s a Super NES game makes that all the more impressive. It’s just a shame it’s way too clunky to go with it.

I mentioned Super Castlevania IV partly because that game is so much better than this, although it doesn’t look as good. It’s also linear, and also slow, but it’s much more fun to play. Vampire’s Kiss is just bobbins,

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Switch): COMPLETED!

And that’s it. The Unholy Trinity of Game Boy Advance Castlevania Games, all completed.

Once again, I found this easier than I remembered. Something else I had obviously remembered wrongly was that I’d thought this was the best of the three games, but in fact, this time around I think I enjoyed Harmony of Dissonance more. A combination of the dash moves, the double castle and the lack of the silly “broken up map” of Aria of Sorrow, perhaps.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this, though, as I did. Very much. It’s still better than 99% of other games and even better than most other Castlevania games. It’s so slick, so well put together, and just so playable it can’t be anything but – but – but, I liked Harmony more. Tch, eh? Yes, this one has even better graphics and Soma doesn’t have Juste’s Ready Brek glow, but still.

Nudity? On a Nintendo platform? Won’t someone think of the children?

100%ed this one too. But now I’m sad that there’s very little chance the three Nintendo DS Castlevania games aren’t likely to appear on the Switch (unless they edit all the second screen stuff out somehow), and of course the series has been dead for years. Boo.

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (Switch): COMPLETED!

No sooner had I completed Circle of the Moon I made a start on Harmony of Dissonance. Two things are immediately apparent: 1) the background and enemy graphics are much, much more impressive than the previous game, and 2) your main character, Juste Belmont, looks incredibly garish with a clashing outline. The reason for the latter is probably because Circle of the Moon got a lot of stick for being too dark to see on the original GBA. Back then, handheld consoles didn’t have lit screens and relied on you sitting in the sun (but not too much sun as that made it worse) or under a reading light in order to actually see what was going on, so making Juste stick out like a clown at a funeral was the solution.

Anyway. The DSS card system is gone, but Juste has become much nippier with forward- and back-dashes and actually, I didn’t miss the cards at all. Certainly not grinding for them, anyway.

The game also has some pretty impressive bosses, but I discovered it was much easier than I recall from my last playthrough. I had the same thing with Circle of the Moon too, and it’s not really a problem, just in my mind these games were hard as nails and it seems I’ve been remembering wrong all these years,

I liked the dual castle system, where the map was the same but the items, graphics and enemies differed between the two. I even hunted round everywhere to get the 200% complete stat, and also saw all three endings. Well, actually four but two are almost identical so probably don’t count?

Aria of Sorrow next!

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (Switch): COMPLETED!

More than 14 years after last completing this, it was re-released on modern consoles as part of the Castlevania Advance Collection along with some of the other GBA Castlevania games (it’s missing the NES Classic original on there) and Castlevania X for some reason. Since it really needs to be played on a handheld, I bought the Switch version and then played it almost entirely on the TV. Tch.

The general consensus is that of the three GBA IGA-vania games, Circle of the Moon is the weakest. I’ve seen a lot of people say so over the years and it’s my recollection from playing through them all that time ago, but I found this playthrough fantastic so even if it is weakest, it’s still a top tier Castlevania.

Reading back over my previous diary posts on the game, I’m surprised how many of the boss fights I struggled with. This time through, I was marvelling at how easy they were, and it can’t be because I remember how to defeat them because I didn’t remember any of the game at all. Maybe I’m just awesome now? I still struggled with a few “normal” baddies in various areas, especially when you have a few gang up on you, but nothing insanely tricky like my memory suggested. I also used hardly any of the magic card powers, tending to stick to just the “flames that swirl round you” one.

Really good, and great to play through again. Harmony of Dissonance awaits!

Metroid Dread (Switch): COMPLETED!

It’s been a long time coming, but I have filled this last year or two with many, many Metroidvania games in preparation. Even though I didn’t know it was coming. Of course I ordered it instantly.

And, it was really good. I didn’t expect otherwise, but people were very down on Metroid: Other M and I never really got into that myself either. It was lacking the Metroid lonely atmosphere, I think. Too many other people. Lots of chat. Not quite 2D. It was just a bit off in so many ways. But not here.

There’s a story which attempts to tie into the lore of previous games and references events in them, but ultimately it doesn’t matter as the outcome is the same as it ever was – Samus lands on a planet, some reason for her losing all her powers is concocted, and you then spend the rest of the game reacquiring them, which each opening up new areas of the map. It’s a good job they were all hidden in the exact order and locations they were otherwise you’d have no chance!

Samus is very quick, and has many different moves. These combine to form a slight issue in that the controls are a bit complicated, with often having to use the triggers as kind of shift modifiers, and this results in some moves and combos requiring use of the stick and three or even four buttons at the same time. My old brain can’t cope with that so often I’d be pressing the wrong things, thankfully rarely causing major problems or death. Still frustrating, though!

While I’m mentioning problems with the game, I should mention how easy it was. Previous Metroid games have been (for me) really difficult, especially the bosses, but Dread was was very, very easy. Only the end boss caused me headaches and even then, after a few attempts, I’d managed to see the attacks coming and knew how to best deal with them, so beat him virtually unscathed – eventually.

The EMMI sections, where you had to run and hide from evil robots, were also a problem. They were not fun, and often it would be random if you managed to make it through their designated area as they seemed to spawn in different places. They were like an unwanted gear-change, and didn’t really fit into the game.

Thankfully, none of these negatives really stopped me really enjoying Metroid Dread. Samus slowly becoming an unstoppable beast is, like most games in the genre, the big draw, and the exploration and puzzles are both great. It’s not a perfect game, but it is a fantastic one.

Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition (Switch): COMPLETED!

I used to play Echo Bazaar, an online web-based story RPG thing from Failbetter games, ages ago. Before it was renamed as Fallen London, which is also the setting of the game. It was good, although you really needed to pay for extra moves and features to get the most out of it. I’m against IAPs as a rule so kind of fell off it. I did love the Lovecraft/Pratchett crossover vibe of the world though, and so Sunless Sea – a fleshed out, naval focussed spinoff with no IAPs – piqued my interested. And then, when it was about £4 bundled in with Slain and Snakeybus on the Switch, of course I was going to buy it.

Sunless Sea takes the same story-RPG base of Echo Bazaar, but adds to it an action boating game, where you sail the seas of the Neath – the world below the world – exploring strange islands and trying not to 1) run out of fuel, 2) run out of food, 3) get smashed to pieces, or 4) go utterly insane with terror. It’s also a roguelike in that you, as captain of a barely sea-worthy vessel, are prone to becoming A Bit Dead (due to the reasons above, and more) and when you die, it’s game over. Well, except your heir takes over but can’t carry much of your skills, belongings, money, or even sea charts over.

Much of the game is sailing as far away from London as you dare, interacting with the strange characters and creatures found on outposts and far-away cities, and carting items and dodgy passengers around the map for varying amounts of reward and bonuses. Generally, the further you go, the riskier your trip, as enemy ships and giant sea creatures attempt to kill you but also because your supplies and fuel may not last the trip – and you can’t always restock en-route.

One of the problems of the game therefore is glaringly apparent. Sailing, which is 90% of the game, is slow. Sure, you can upgrade your engines and later, if you have enough money, buy better ships, but even then it takes ages to get from A to B and back. Even the non-boaty bits are also slow, in that there’s a lot to read and digest, and even (I found, anyway) planning to do. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, but it does make the game a bizarre dichotomy of laidback ocean trundling and heavy stress panic as your fuel counts down your impending death.

After my first “run” ended abruptly after less than an hour, and the next two or three were little longer, I managed to get around 5 hours into a game only to make a stupid mistake (I bought something which left me without enough money for food, so had to eat my crew, and then I died). Five hours is a long time for a roguelike game, so I was a little deterred. However, I gave it another go and this time managed more than 60 hours before I realised I was close to my goal (“become the greatest explorer” or something was my chosen win condition) and from then on the stress was almost unbearable. Sixty hours of “work”, when I was so close to a win, which could all just vanish at any moment through idiocy or randomness. The trip back to London was torture. But finally, I did it. A win! The end! Phew, eh?