What I first thought was a more simplistic Solomon’s Key type game, Fire ‘N Ice actually turned out to be a prequel to Solomon’s Key and was released as Solomon’s Key 2 in some countries. It loses the moving (and respawning) enemies from the original, as well as the attacks, jumping, and time limits, leaving just the ability to create or destroy ice blocks immediately down-left and down-right of you. And it’s all the better for it.
With no time limit and very few parts where timing is critical, the game is properly in puzzle territory and this suits it well. Solomon’s Key was too stressful for me! You only have to concern yourself with how to squash all the static (for the most part) enemies by dropping or pushing ice blocks onto or into them. That doesn’t mean it’s easier, it just means it’s lest chaotic.
With 100 levels to get through, some of which used your limited options really cleverly (like, how do you climb higher up the level, if you’re only able to create blocks below you?), it’s a long game despite each being just one single screen. I easily spent 5-6 hours on it. I’m not even sure why I started playing in the first place – but I’m glad I did as it’s a wonderful hidden gem of a game.
I’m sure this will cause complaints, same as previously when I’ve “completed” Animal Crossing games, but I have a system and I’m sticking to it. Yes, on one end of the scale people would say the game is complete when you’ve achieved all the in-game stamps from Tom Nook, or when you’ve made every item in the DIY list, or filled the museum, or any number of other things perhaps in combination. On the other end of the scale, you’ve people saying when they’ve seen the credits, which for me happened about 8 weeks in when KK Slider did his first Saturday gig. My criteria, is play every day for a whole year, and so, on day 365, that’s it. I’ve seen a whole year’s worth of events, never missed a day, and the game is completed.
Finished though? Of course not.
But how was the game? Well, it was Animal Crossing. It’s probably the most different from the rest Animal Crossing, though, in a number of ways. The main two are the DIY crafting, and the island construction additions, where you create furniture and special items with the former and restructure your entire island, knocking down cliffs, making new lakes and rivers and so on, with the latter. There’s also a fair bit missing, though – no coffee shop with Brewster, no parade of shops, no second hand shop, no Lyle, Kapp’n, Tortimer or many other regulars.
Ultimately, though, it is more of the same. You plant trees, harvest fruit, collect things for your house, chat with animals, pay off your mortgage, and visit other people in their islands. And actually, that’s fine.
Some people wonder what I found to do for all this time, and I’ve not really any idea. Each day has the same routine: Smack rocks, find the buried money, plant more money, “harvest” the grown money tree, collect the bottle on one of the beaches, dig up, identify then sell all the fossils, and that sort of thing. I’ve also had a vague medium term goal in mind which I’d then spend some time working towards: Early on, this was to grow an orchard with rows of trees for each fruit, later it was to hit various Bell targets (having long since paid off Nook’s mortgage), and more recently it has been to grow every type of flower – blue roses still elude me, sadly.
Mostly, though, it’s just relaxing to wander round and do menial tasks for no real actual gain. And sure, I’ve done a year but I’m still going to play it until I get fed up, which probably won’t be for a while yet. Especially if Nintendo are still chucking new stuff in every now and again!
Bought simply because I saw it for £9 and thought, even if it’s HYRULE WARRIORS’ rubbish cousin, it’d be a fun musou game for a bit in two player, and you know what? It was! Fun, I mean. Not rubbish.
OK, so I have no idea what One Piece is about, have no affinity for the characters and stories shown in the game, and it isn’t as slick or clever as either Hyrule game or Fire Emblem Warriors (even though it’s the same team that developed it), but it’s still great, mindless, button mashy smacky fun. It doesn’t actually matter that neither myself or my daughter recognised anyone in the game, because it’s simple to play and actually, who they are have no relevance to the gameplay anyway.
We’ve done the story, and there’s a lot more to unlock, but for £9 it was a bloody bargain,
I’ve mentioned before, but side and vertical shooters are not one my favourite genres. Sure, I play them, but it takes a special one for me to really enjoy it and buy it multiple times. Like Fantasy Zone.
It was only recently (checks… SIX YEARS AGO?!) that I completed this on the 3DS, and now I’ve done it again. It didn’t take anywhere neat as long this time, thankfully, but it was still pretty difficult. Again, Level 3 proved the hardest part (except perhaps the boss rush at the end).
At first, Maneater is a great fish-chomping game with slightly annoying combat (with crocodiles and barracuda) and a funny faux Deadliest Catch style narration, but it soon starts to become tedious and repetitive. And then, even though the game doesn’t change, it becomes fun again. I’m not sure why.
You’re a baby shark, who eats to get bigger and evolve, ultimately to take down Scaly Pete, the fisherman who killed your mother. The waters you swim in are broken down into areas, with you starting in a swamp and moving through an industrial area, a nightlife filled city, the open sea, and so on. Each is opened up by completing tasks, such as munching a number of humans on a beach or destroying a fishing boat or culling some seals. Bigger water creatures attack you, and if you cause enough damage or eat enough people, the humans start to hunt you down.
There are RPG elements, as each thing you consume gives you certain “nutrients” which are spendable on upgrades such as gnashier teeth or a whippier tail. You also get different types of body part, such as bone or electric, for progressing. As well as this, you’ve 10 increasingly difficult hunters to coax out and eat as a sort of side story, and a number of Tony Hawk style floating objects to collect or Assassin’s Creedy hidden chests to smash open.
As for why I tired of the repetition before getting back into it and having a whale (a sperm whale, actually – I ate a few) of a time – perhaps I just switched off a bit of my brain and embraced the simplicity? There’s not much depth (except in the open sea, ho ho), and it’s not very hard (although I had a couple of hurdles that required levelling up a bit), nor is it very long, but don’t go in expecting Skyrim with Sharks and you’ll probably enjoy it too.
I was immediately impressed with Xeno Crisis. It’s a Mega Drive game (tailored here to fit the Evercade’s controls) with great sound and graphics, and really slick and lots of sprites on screen at once.
It’s a Smash TV sort of shooter, with screen after screen of baddies to shoot (and the odd soldier to rescue), with each level ending with a boss – some of which are bloody huge.
The only issue with the game is it’s so hard. So very, very hard. And then, when I completed it, I got a bad ending with no suggestion as to how I’d managed it. Mr Internet explained that because I’d used some serum which revives you, ultimately that caused my death at the end, and the trick is to Not Ever Die.
So, armed with the button combination to open up a hidden menu where you can make yourself invulnerable and start on the final level, I completed it again. And still got the bad ending despite not using any serum. Tch.
Or, in some parts of the game, “Return of Double Dragon”.
The thing is, I picked my Evercade up and the Technōs cartridge was still in it from when I played River City Ransom recently and the shelf with all my Evercade games on was easily six feet away and therefore too far to bother with, so I picked something from the cart already inserted and that was Super Double Dragon, which I’d never played before.
It’s very much What if Double Dragon was Final Fight, but it’s not as good as Final Fight. It’s not a bad game, but it was pretty easy and much less impressive both visually and sonically than Final Fight. Or Streets of Rage.
Maquette is a very clever idea married with a nice story but neither has much to do with the other. It’s basic premise is that you’re in a world and in that world is a miniature representation of the same world, and at the same time the world you’re in is a small version of a larger world. It’s turtles all the way down.
But they’re not just models – items that exist in one sized world also exist in the other sizes, and you can pick them up and move them from, say, the smaller world to the “normal” world, and then they become tiny in the small world. Or vice-versa to make them big. Puzzles revolve around this, with you needing to make keys for doors bigger or smaller, or place items on the other side of the small walls so they’re there in the larger world where the wall is too big to jump over.
It’s very clever, but flawed. A number of times the physics thwarted me by bouncing an item out of reach. Or I fell through a floor that had no solidity. A later puzzle involves slotting Tetris-like shapes into a partly populated grid, but the controls and “snapping” of items made dropping them in exactly the right place incredibly frustrating.
The final chapter involves the you being able to move the domed structure you’re in (the maquette of the title, presumably) by moving a smaller version of it already inside it. While the brainknots this causes are impressive, it all seems a bit too much for the, uh, feeble PS5 as it carrying the dome around makes the game chug along with sometimes more than one frame per second. And it crashed twice, once taking a saved game with it – thankfully I had a “spare”. Not what I expected from The Most Powerful PlayStation.
The story, which has no real bearing on the game bar the basic tone and the odd object that’s referenced, is actually about the chance meeting of two people, them getting together, moving in together, and the relationship stagnating. It’s not twee, nor is it sad, but it doesn’t fit with the game.
So, Maquette is a clever puzzle game ruined a little by technical issues, while you listen to a podcast about a young couple who met in a cafe.
I didn’t know as much about this game, aside from people saying it’s a bit like Fallout only in space. That in itself was enough to buy it, but I didn’t realise it wasn’t just a bit like Fallout in space, it was Fallout in space.
OK, so the main story is shorter, and areas are smaller, and you have to use a spaceship to get between them, but everything Fallout (New Vegas, mainly) is here. Factions. Companions. Weapon deterioration. Scavenging and stealing from containers. A form of VATS. Consoles to hack and doorlocks to pick. Skills and perks. A similar run-down retro-futuristic aesthetic. Your character waking up from a long time in suspended animation. Power armour. In fact, if it had a radio station with 50s songs to listen to, it’d be indistinguishable.
And you know what? It’s really bloody good. The plot starts with you, having been awoken decades late on a space ship heading to a new human colony, trying to obtain the things necessary to rescue (or not) the rest of your frozen friends. The colony you were supposed to be setting up is already well up and running by another ship that wasn’t left floating in space, and everywhere is run by a group of corporations, each with their own agendas.
What this comes down to is standard Fallout stuff. Go to a factory or abandoned library to clear them of creatures or bandits in order to get a vial of something or a reference book for someone. Help one faction defeat another faction. Find lost people, avenge dead people, help injured people, upset powerful people, and kill evil people. If you’ve played Fallout 3, New Vegas or 4 then this will be very familiar,
But that’s OK, because I like those games. And I very much liked this one too. For the record, I was a Very Good Girl, helped as many people as I could, and saved all my ice lolly chums. And I only did stealing when nobody could see me, so that doesn’t count, right? Oh, and I played it on my PS5 which no doubt made it look a bit nicer and mostly obliterated load times, which probably added to the enjoyment a bit too.
Oh yeah, and there are loads of toilets, but sadly they’re almost all the same as each other.
Included with the Switch port of Super Mario 3D World, Bowser’s Fury reuses all the power-ups, enemies and gimmicks from that game but adds cat ears to literally everything and gives you a fully controllable camera. It’s also one complete open world, a bit like an extra large Super Mario Odyssey level.
Bowser has gone out of control, and you need to collect Cat Shines to keep him in check. Every so often he rises from the black goo that covers the world, tried to kill you, and you send him back with the shines. As you collect more shines, you reveal more areas by getting rid of the goo.
Working in two player mode, with my daughter as Bowser Jr (who is concerned his dad is a bit too evil now), we collected all 100 Cat Shines in a few hours. It’s not a massive game, but it is excellent and something new in the Mario world.
There was no way I was going to buy a copy of Super Mario 3D World for the Switch when I already owned it on the Wii U which is still connected to the TV the Switch is. So of course that’s what I did anyway. With my remaining Nintendo Online game voucher thing, so it only cost £21.50 and I’d bought the vouchers before HYRULE WARRIORS: Age of Calamity come out so that’s basically forgotten money now, right?
Anyway, it’s still really good. Because it’s the same game as before, and it was really good then. Touch controls (for prodding switches and baddies and things) are translated into gyro controls like they were in Super Mario Galaxy and don’t work as well as on the Wii U, but they’re barely used in the game so it doesn’t really matter.
Played through the story with my daughter as the whole game is co-op. That actually works both as a positive (when you die you don’t restart – you respawn providing the other player doesn’t die) and a negative (you get in each others’ way and push the camera on too fast). We’ve not got all the green stars yet (far from it), but have beaten the final boss. Before we go back and mop up, however, Bowser’s Fury awaits!
I’m sure I own this on about five different platforms now, but for some reason, the Evercade version is the only one i’ve actually put the time in to complete. Previously, I’d found it very, very, hard, but in fact, it’s not. Once you reach the first shopping centre – only a few screens in – you can buy a power-up which makes you capable of wiping out a lot of foes more easily, so can start grinding to get money, to get food and books to boost your stats.
Since dying only puts you back to the last shopping centre, and you lose half you money, the trick is to build up some cash, spend it all on upgrades, then repeat the process. It sounds tedious, but it really isn’t, and after an hour or so you’re massively overpowered and can kill almost everyone (including some of the bosses) in seconds.
Really enjoyed it, got a bit addicted to the upgrade cycle, and hope there’s a sequel on something I own to work through now. Well, aside from River City Girls of course – I’ve done that one!
Capcom Arcade Stadium, yet another collection of Capcom arcade titles, was released on the Switch this week. You get 1943 for free, so I played it. And then completed it.
I mean, you get infinite continues so doing so isn’t really hard. Although the game is. Not least because you seem to have a combined fuel and energy bar which constantly dwindles, and there are a number of waves of baddies where avoiding them or their fire is completely impossible. Plus some of the bosses don’t give you enough time to take them down before they’re gone – meaning you fail the mission have have to try again, hoping you’ve enough smart bombs this time.
I thought this game was going to be about painting murals on walls, which then come to life. And, for a while, it is. You paint genies who can help you move objects, activate power or open doors, and you can paint random stuff on most vertical surfaces. However, it’s a lot darker than that and the first third of the game involves a lot of hiding from some not very nice bullies.
There’s quite a bit of Assassin’s Creed style traversal, which I wasn’t expecting. Not sure how Ash, the boy you control, has the skills needed to use the underside of a crane arm as monkey bars without freaking out he’s going to die. There’s a lot of collecting scrapbook pages that float around the rooftops, again giving the feel of Assassin’s Creed III.
But it isn’t Assassin’s Creed of course – it’s a painting game as I said. Until it isn’t. The final part of the game introduces attacks, a skating mechanic, and a health bar, as you suddenly have enemies to fight. It also introduced a bug where one of the enemies wouldn’t move and was invincible. These bits of the game, and the final boss, aren’t really what I signed up for and don’t really fit. It doesn’t help that the “lock on” button very rarely actually locks on to the baddies, and when it does it doesn’t stay locked on for long. I don’t know if that’s a bug or by design, but either way it hampers beating them and just adds annoyance to the end of the game.
Concrete Genie is a very pretty game (perhaps more so as I played it on the PS5), with some clever bits and a nice world and story, and the painting bits are enjoyable, but the world traversal is clunky and the game style switch was a bad idea.