Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PS4): COMPLETED!

It was quite some time ago that I bought this, but as I’m trapped on the sofa recovering from an operation, I decided to start it this week. Which was a slight mistake to start with since I’d just had my stomach effectively torn open and the first ten minutes of Wolfenstein II has BJ also recovering from having his stomach torn open. In a much more horrific way, but still.

Anyway. I’d enjoyed the previous two games in the series, and this was almost as good. Or better. Hmm.

It’s somewhat different, in that you’re in America for most of the game, where Manhattan has been nuked. And, since it’s set in an alternative 1960s, it’s very hard not to draw parallels with Fallout for these reasons. The bombed out buildings and constant radiation, along with green-screen computers and the aesthetics on board your stolen Nazi submarine feel about as Fallout as you can get. There are other locations, which are less nuclear holocausty, though, such as New Orleans.

It’s also different in there aren’t as many giant dogrobots as in previous games, and there’s no weird Nazi experiments or messing with the occult. You do, however, end up on Venus for a while because the plot is utterly ridiculous.

But despite the differences, and the changes in personality for both Fergus and Engel, neither of which seem to fit with their previous characters, it’s an excellent game. It has fun weaponry, fast combat (I think it has taken a few pointers from Doom here, actually), and some great new characters. Apparently Youngblood, the followup to this, is a bit of a stinker, which is a shame as there aren’t many first person shooters I enjoy these days and another Wolfenstein would be appreciated. Maybe when it’s cheap I’ll try it anyway.

Astral Chain (Switch): COMPLETED!

I always like the idea of Platinum games, with their amazing combat and bonkers stories, but I rarely hold them in the high regard a lot of other people seem to. Bayonetta is a great game, but is it worth the heaps of praise it gets? I’m not sure. The Wonderful 101 was, well, Wonderful, but it was a way from perfect despite the reviews.

Astral Chain, though, is really something special. I think, being half “adventure” and half combat has helped, with the story and setting being allowed to shine via the slower paced police work. The combat is complicated and rewarding, and reminds me a lot of the way you control your heroes in The Wonderful 101, as they’re in a chain of sorts, as your Legion here is chained to you. You’re almost as acrobatic as Bayonetta, and there’s also a couple of motorbike sections like that game, but they’re thankfully much better executed (and looking) in Astral Chain.

The adventure sections provide a fair bit of humour, with silly police missions like cat and balloon rescue interspersed with more serious stuff. In the early levels, the combat (especially against larger enemies) tends to take place in the sparsely rendered astral plane and sometimes your police investigations drag you there. It’s a neat way of both providing a large open area to fight in, rather than the enclosed streets of The Ark, and to reduce the number of scenery polygons needed to be pushed around so the big foes can look incredible. It’s a very, very good looking game, especially for a Switch game.

I wasn’t going to buy Astral Chain, but I saw it really cheap and picked it up on a whim, and I’m glad I did. I hope too that the world teasing in the epilogue, coupled with how well this sold, will mean we get a sequel.

Tint (iOS): COMPLETED!

Tint is a relaxed puzzle game, where you use watercolour paints to colour in objects on each level. Mixing colours produces different colours, as you’d expect, and the trick is to make sure you don’t cut off routes from paint sources to objects as you paint.

There are a lot of these sorts of games around at the moment, such as Lines on the Switch, but this one isn’t grid based and gives you much more freedom in working out a solution. On the other hand, it can be a little fiddly weaving your paint line through narrow gaps without touching other colours already down.

It isn’t very hard, nor very long, but is an enjoyable little game while it lasts.

Mini Motorways (iOS): COMPLETED!

Let me just address your question of “Alright deKay, how are you going to claim you’ve completed this?” right off the bat. Each level has an achievement for getting a certain number of cars on the map, and I hit this target and got all the achievements. Happy?

Mini Motorways is very similar in style to Mini Metro, which I have on many different devices and enjoy very much. It’s not surprising it’s similar as it’s the same developers, of course, but there’s something not quite right with it and I’m not sure it’s entirely down to me not being very good at it.

The aim is to join up houses with a matching colour building, by drawing roads, so people can get to and from work. If you can’t supply enough people in cars fast enough, then it’s game over. And here is the problem: sometimes you can’t through no fault of your own.

Of course, you can fail by causing too much traffic congestion, or having routes that are too long, or not making use of motorways, bridges or traffic lights most efficiently, but I was failing even when I’d the shortest possible route with no delays or junctions. The game simply wasn’t proving me with enough people to service the buildings, or was but randomly putting them far too far away from each other.

As a result, success was much more down to luck than planning, of which there was an element in Mini Metro but here it’s more obvious and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The Get Out Kids (iOS): COMPLETED!

Another Apple Arcade title, and one that looked really nice but turned out to be pretty weak. There are lovely little dioramas for each location, with what starts out as simple point and click puzzles in each. Unfortunately, the puzzles are all far too simple throughout the game instead of getting harder or more complicated.

The story also seems to start out interesting, a couple of kids in the 80s sneaking out at night to watch a film, but then it veers into uninteresting vampire nonsense. Props for being inclusive with the characters, but they’re poorly written with shoehorned 80s references cluttering the dialogue and, well, just too much dialogue.

It’s not puzzley enough to be a puzzle or adventure game, and not clever or exciting enough to be a narrative discovery game, so ends up as a bad one or the other or in limbo between the two.

Some pretty unfortunate dialogue, not least the offensive “spazzing” here, spoil things somewhat.

Vice: Project Doom (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’d never heard of this game before, and I only gave it a go as I noticed it on the NES Online service thing on the Switch today. Surprisingly, it was actually pretty good.

I say surprisingly, because it very much reminded me of two terrible games I’ve played recently: ESWAT and Ninja Gaiden. Somehow, though, it’s much, much better than either of those. It has the same sort of platforming, bosses, and even a plot not too dissimilar to Ninja Gaiden, as well as interstitial dialogue like both other games. It plays much better, though, with tighter collision detection and baddies that don’t constantly respawn if you move one pixel back and forth.

As well as the platforming, there are a couple of Spy Hunter-like driving sections. These aren’t great, and actually play out more like a vertical shooter than a driving game, but they’re easy and quickly over. There are also a few Operation Wolf style shooting levels, which are OK but obviously suffer a bit as you can’t use a lightgun.

So yeah, it was surprising. Not the best NES game by any means, but above average and I’m amazed I’d never seen it until today.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch): COMPLETED!

It can’t be that long ago when I last played the original (well, DX) version of Link’s Awakening, I thought to myself. After all, I remember most of what I’m supposed to be doing. It turns out it was more than eight years ago. It also turns out I’d not remembered quite as much as I’d thought.

This Switch version is a shot-for-shot remake of Link’s Awakening DX. All the same enemies, all the same weapons, all the same characters, and the exact same map. What has changed only modifies things. Most obviously, there are the new tilt-shift rendered toy-like graphics, with everyone looking like little plastic dolls. It works really well. Then there’s the continually scrolling world, rather than being flip-screen (apart from in dungeons – some rooms still switch) which actually makes the game map appear somewhat smaller than I remember.

Of course sound in massively improved too, but the other big change is the controls. On the Game Boy, you only had two buttons – A and B – to use weapons. You kept having to go into the menu and swap them out. This was pretty tedious, especially if you needed three weapons at once, and out of sheer laziness meant that the shield rarely got used. In the Switch version, some weapons are permanently tied to buttons, which means you can always use your sword, shield and pegasus boots without swapping them in, and you still have two action buttons for other things. I generally found keeping Roc’s feather on Y and then just changing the use of X when needed worked best for me. Having a shield at all times makes the game one hell of a lot easier.

In fact, I found the whole game very, very easy, only dying twice. Of course, some is down to the shield and easier controls, but no doubt much is because I remembered a lot of where I needed to go and what to do. Although I did lose Marin for a while which made me think there was a bug. There wasn’t – I had just lost her.

As much as I really enjoyed the game, and I must stress that it is really good, I can’t help think how good Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons would be using this engine, as they’re even better than Link’s Awakening. I’m hoping they do those before Breath of the Wild 2!

What the Golf? (iOS): COMPLETED!

I didn’t think Apple Arcade was ever going to be for me, and to be honest I still don’t, but that hasn’t stopped me getting the month’s free trial and giving a few things a go. What the Golf is one game that stands out as “working on a touch screen”, to the point where I’ve managed to complete it. And, more importantly, enjoy completing it!

The game starts off as a golf game. Pull back your finger to aim and control power, and get the ball to the flag. Very quickly, however, things change. The flag moves, or you “hit” the club instead. Or the golfer. Or the hole. Or cars, bottles, footballs, bicycles, houses, saw blades, and many other increasingly ridiculous things.

As you move around the map, you reach areas with levels last pay homages to other games – Flappy Bird, Super Meat Boy, Portal, Superhot, Mario, Katamari Damacy and Metal Gear Solid. The rules of the game frequently change, with many ideas used just once then discarded. Instant restarts and for the most part unlimited “swings” reduce the frustration, so the game remains constantly fun. The only level I didn’t enjoy was the final one, and that was because it’s very long with many sections – and I encountered a bug in the final section which meant I had to keep restarting. That aside, What the Golf is excellent.

I do wish it was on the Switch instead, though.

I Love You Colonel Sanders (PC): COMPLETED!

Yes, absolutely taking the Japanese dating visual novel genre and tying it up with KFC was a sensible idea. Especially when the aim is to romance the big man Sanders himself. Only what’s this? He’s a young man with a fashionable goatee, and doesn’t look like a bad guy from Dukes of Hazzard?

As a game, being a visual novel, it’s pretty limited. There are a few choices you get to make, most of which don’t seem to have much of an effect but some basically cause insta-death without warning. It’s a short game too, about half an hour in length unless you’re a slow reader, so you barely get to know the cast of bizarre and ridiculous characters who make up the staff and students at the cooking academy the game is set in. The teacher is a dog and a classmate is some sort of pressure cooker, for instance.

It’s silly, a bit creepy, and implying KFC is the height of excellent cuisine throughout grates a bit, but for short free nonsense it was worth a play. I think.

Adventures of Bertram Fiddle Episode 1: A Dreadly Business (Switch): COMPLETED!

I started this about a month ago, but totally forgot I was playing it. Then I realised that Untitled Goose Game and Link’s Awakening were out tomorrow and I remembered I had some unfinished stuff to do first. Turns out I was very near the end anyway.

Bertram Fiddle is a point and click adventure game set in Victorian London, complete with mutton chops and Sherlock Holmes and a murder with a severed head as a clue. Bertram himself is a mostly incompetent detective slash adventurer, and he takes it upon himself to solve the murder.

Since it’s a point and click game, I couldn’t help comparing it to The Secret of Woolley Mountain, which I played recently. That game had more puzzles in it, and felt a bit longer, but suffered a little graphically and with variably successful voice acting. The art in Bertram Fiddle is much better and the spoken dialogue is much, much better. The humour and gameplay of both games is great though.

Anyway, I’ll be getting Episode 2 from the eShop next time it’s on offer (which, given Astral Chain, Untitled Goose Game and Link’s Awakening are all being played is hopefully not too soon) and if you’re a fan of this genre then Bertram Fiddle is definitely worth your time.

River City Girls (Switch): COMPLETED!

Probably my favourite side scrolling beat ’em up of all time is the Scott Pilgrim Vs The World game on the Xbox 360. Although I still have it on my console, it has now been delisted, so can’t be bought any more. What I liked about it, aside from bloody everything, is the upgrades and food items you could buy – just like in the NES River City Ransom game it is clearly a Scott Pilgrim themed homage to.

So when they announced River City Girls, which is literally a followup to River City Ransom, which also has modern pixel graphics like – or actually, surpassing – Scott Pilgrim, AND it was being developed by Wayforward, one of my favourite devs, I couldn’t not get it, could I. So I did. Immediately it was released.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem you can play the arcade games. Or can you?

And today, after playing through it completely in co-op with my daughter, we completed it. And it was incredible.

Even more incredible than I was expecting or hoping for. From the fantastic graphics and animation, to the perfect voice acting, the humour, the cut scenes, the manga comic flashbacks, and such a brilliant sound track – plus of course the punching people in the face which is so well executed and with so many unlockable moves it never ceases to be enjoyable.

The floor is la–uh, lots of toys you shouldn’t stand on.

There are boss fights that seem impossible, but which then aren’t after you’ve nailed the tells and routines, bonus missions for the creepy Godai, and – and! – toilets. The game literally has all the things I want from a game. And now we have unlocked… spoilers… and there are still some hidden statues to smash and a new game mode to start, there’s still more to do.

Shenmue II (PS4): COMPLETED!

When I bought the Shenmue I&II pack, my intention was to play them just before Shenmue III came out. Only, I didn’t start II right after I because III had been delayed. Fast forward a bit and the actual release of Shenmue III is suddenly almost here, and I hadn’t started II! So I did that.

Yuan is an effeminate man in the original Japanese version and this remaster, but a woman in the original western release. Sega were never confused.

As I mentioned when I played Shenmue I around this time last year, I didn’t remember Shenmue II as well as the first game, and when I came to play it, I was right. I recalled the bit where you get off the boat, some of the Hong Kong harbour, having to find the Four Wude (but none of the detail in doing so), being chased by Dou Niu at some point in Kowloon, and a very, very long walk with Shenhua. I didn’t remember Wong, Ren or Xiuying, all of whom play massive parts in the game. I didn’t remember the street fights and the scout in Kowloon. I had totally forgotten about how you meet Shenhua and that you end up at her house, and – somehow – I forgot the hilarious tape you listen to from the wiretapper. I’d also forgotten, spoilers, about Shenhua’s powers.

It’s the Shenmue Tree, which despite having dreams about (and about Shenhua), Ryo neglects to mention either of these things to her. Or even react that much to actually finding them for real.

Compared to the first game, there are a lot of improvements. Maps for each area are portable and overlaid, you can wait until the right time (most of the time), and the graphics are much improved. The latter point may be because this is a port of the Xbox version rather than the Dreamcast, however. The audio sounds less muffled too, perhaps for the same reason. It’s a bigger game as well, both in terms of scope (with three main, very different, locations) and length (it’s nearly twice as long). There appears to be a lot more in the way of QTEs, however, and some of them, such as the plank walking one, are pretty brutal. Having a sequence of complicated ones after the long slog to fight Dou Niu, only have to fight him again if you miss any one of them, is especially cruel.

These planks can bloody do one. How run down are these buildings, anyway?

But, it’s a great game. For all the repeating floors in the Kowloon buildings, and the never ending “Shenhua?”/”Nani?” conversation, and the worse-than-forklifts book airing section, it’s a gripping tale and I can’t wait to get into Shenmue III now. Please don’t let me and my £270 pledge down, Suzuki-san.

Wonder Boy in Monster Land (Switch): COMPLETED!

I thought I’d completed the Master System version of this a few months ago, but it turns out it was actually May last year. How time flies! This version is the Sega Ages remaster of the original arcade version, which I’d expected to be virtually the same as the Master System on (albeit with better graphics), and although it was very similar the differences still threw me.

For a start, it’s a lot harder. Like, several difficulty levels harder. This is for a number of reasons, not least that the timer runs down much more quickly and unless you’re legging it through the levels at full pelt (which you can’t do) you will definitely lose a lot of health – you lose a heart every time the egg timer runs out. The bosses also seem to require many, many more hits. Even with the best sword in the game, they’re just sponges. Then there seem to be more, and trickier, levels too.

This is probably the hardest boss in the game. He chucks out smaller clones who then chuck ice at you.

But it has some features the Master System didn’t. You can continue when you die, which is more than useful (until the final level where they don’t let you any more), and if you decide to restart the game from scratch, this Sega Ages version allows you to start with the equipment you had previously. This means you can get hold of the best armour, boots, shield and sword much more easily. As I said though, the bosses are so hard that doesn’t help with them so much.

When I finally reached the final level I had the choice of getting the bell (to find my way through the maze) and the ruby (to make the final boss a lot easier). I went with the ruby and hoped I could remember the route. Thankfully, I could! The dragon wasn’t too hard (way easier than bouncing mushroom guy or Snow Cong & Chums, for sure), and then the game was over.

He does that thing where when he’s dead he just changes form and you have to fight him again. Sigh.

Burnout Paradise Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

I have always maintained that the best Burnout, is Burnout Paradise. And I was slightly concerned going into this that perhaps my memory is faulty and maybe the eleven years that have passed since I played the original version on the Xbox 360 have not been kind. I needn’t have worried – it’s still excellent.

However, the passage of time has still had an effect. The main thing being that the massive open world map doesn’t feel massive any more. Or even big. In fact, since you can drive from one side to the other in about two minutes, it actually feels small. Perhaps other games I’ve played since, like the spiritual sequel Need for Speed Underground, or Forza Horizon, just raised the bar. It’s also not quite as much fun as I remember, but only because of niggles like no instant restart and having to go back to the junk yard every time you want to change car. I’d bet these would be fixed in a new game these days.

I went into the game in a lot more detail on episode 26 of the ugvm Podcast if you want to hear more, but overall it was a lovely £5 trip back to a great driving game and I enjoyed playing it all again. DJ Atomika or no.

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.