Yakuza 0 (PS4): COMPLETED!

There’s a hell of a lot of content in Yakuza 0. So many side missions, attractions, events and time wasting opportunities. Most of these are introduced as the story plays out, such as the slot car racing, the arcades and the underground female wrestling. Or Kiryu’s real estate empire building or Majima’s Cabaret Club improvements. Or what about blackjack or pachinko? Karaoke? Shogi? So many different things to do.

I barely touched any of them.

Sure, I played a bit of Outrun, bought a few upgrades for my toy car, and even collected a fair few telephone cards. But 95% of my time was spent progressing the story and oh my what a story.

Kiryu takes down a helicopter with a pistol because of course he does.

Like other Yakuza games, there’s more turns than a slalom skier. The bad guy is the good guy and the good guy is the bad guy and sometimes they’re both and neither and that other guy? Well, he’s that guy. Backstabbing and oneupmanship are the order of the day here. There are rarely friends, more enemies with aligned goals or people with shared respect. Every chapter brings a new “what the?” moment, where often everything you knew is wrong.

As the name suggests, Yakuza 0 is set before all the other main series titles. Back before Kiryu became the Dragon of Dojima, before he met Haruka, before Daigo and while Kazama, Kiryu’s mentor was still alive. Kiryu is, as he always is, dragged into a yakuza power struggle. This time, it’s over a seemingly worthless patch of land in Kamurocho – The Empty Lot.

Kiryu, a fresh faced yakuza newbie in the Dojima Family, is framed for a murder on it, and while trying to clear his name discovers the significance of this tiny piece of land and how owning it could give a huge amount of power and influence to any one of the players vying for a higher spot in the Tojo Clan. Or even in other rival groups.

Every chapter brings a new “what the?” moment, where often everything you knew is wrong.

Yakuza 0

Meanwhile, a seemingly unconnected story involves Majima running a lavish and elite hostess club in Sotenbori, Osaka. Turns out he’s essentially being held prisoner until he manages to raise enough money from his endeavours to pay off his “captor”. Until he’s offered the chance to cancel his debt with just one simple murder…

Every couple of chapters the game switches between Kiryu and Majima and soon you realise there might be something linking the two events, until it’s made conclusive around two thirds of the way in. But are the two protagonists fighting for the same outcome, or at odds?

If you’ve played any other game in the series, or even – to a lesser extent – the similar precursor to the series (Shenmue), you’ll recognise the Deadly Serious Main Game coupled with the Utter Nonsense that goes alongside it. For every attempted mugging on the street (and there’s a lot of it – Kiryu must just have that sort of face), there’s a side story about a girl who wants you to use the crane games to win her toys or a man who can’t walk across a bridge because of the jacket he’s wearing. For every solemn chat about being an orphan or the stress of leadership, there’s a pretend punk rocker who needs help being macho or an almost naked man called Mr Libido who wants to teach you how to get the girls.

You’d think one would totally grate against the other, but somehow, it all works. Even the cringe-worthy bits, like visiting a “Telephone Club” (spoiler: it’s a sexy chatline) or Hardened Gangsters Kiryu and Nishikiyama singing J-Pop, somehow fit in this world.

Just some Chinese Men.

If you’re new to the Yakuza, 0 is the perfect place to jump in. Not least because it’s on a modern console, but also because it’s both chronologically first and also easier to get in to. There are excellent “in-story” tutorials for all the fighting moves and styles, the character upgrade system is now based on money earned rather than XP gained, and the loading times (I’ve recently come from Yakuza 5 on the PS3, remember) are much less obtrusive. Having only two characters to play as – and no forced Idol Mode – helps too.

Some of the minor complaints from the series are still here, such as the slightly annoying camera (especially during fights), NPCs just appearing and disappearing in the streets, and too many muggings (is Japan really like that?), but the good – the fun, the weight of the story and the realised setting – far offset these. And, if you’re someone who wants to do everything there is to do, then there’s even more everything here. It’s the best Yakuza game I’ve played, and although I’ve still Kiwami 1 and 2, and then 6 to do, I’m finding it hard to think how they could improve in this.

Pokémon Quest (Switch): COMPLETED!

Aha! Take that Nintendo! I completed your IAP’d up game without paying a single penny!

Although I should temper that with two things: 1) I never saw the need to pay any money, and 2) where do you even pay money anyway? It was, however, a bit of a grind for the last two worlds due to me not having any decent psychic or electric pokémon.

I think I probably spent around two-thirds of the entire time I played just trying the final few levels on worlds 9 and 10 over and over, slowly levelling up and gaining slightly better power stones, whilst making meals to coax more pokémon into my garden just to use them up in training.

After finally beating those levels, the final boss was actually a walkover taking just three attempts, and then that was it.

Now I’ve some sort of NG+ unlocked, but I don’t think I can be bothered with it. Pokémon Quest started out fun but if it wasn’t for the fact I could stick it on Auto and let it pretty much play itself I’d have given up on it quite some time ago. Even with that, I’ve had enough now.

Pool Panic (Switch): COMPLETED!

Pot as many balls as you can.

A lot of people say a lot of things about the Nintendo Switch, but I bet not many of them say this: it’s the console with my highest bought:completed ratio ever. Almost every game I buy for it, I complete. So that’s something.

Pool Panic is now added to that list, obviously, hence this post.

Imagine the balls from Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker. You know how they sort of come to life when you leave the controls alone? Well, now imagine each colour has a different personality, with some scared of the cue ball, and others chasing it, or jumping over it. Then, imagine that each level is a further deviation from a standard snooker or pool table. That’s Pool Panic.

The first couple of levels resemble standard pool. A green rectangular table with pockets, and you pot all the coloured balls before going for the black. But then, things get stranger. Some of the balls are dogs. Or spiders. Or zombies. The table becomes a scout camp-out or the line for ice cream. Pool is ditched almost entirely for crazy golf. Giant fish eat the balls. There are pirates and monsters and knights and aside from the basic premise – pot the colours, then the black – the game becomes very little like pool at all.

And it’s great. It’s funny, varied and nonsensical, and unlike pretty much any other game you’ve ever played.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

And yet another Lego game beaten. This one was pretty good fun, focussing mainly on Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy and a lot of less well known heroes (and foes). The plot is stupid and has Kang taking various different Marvel locations, universes and time zones and creating Chronopolis by smashing them all together.

What that means is there’s a lot of variety in the levels, with some really geeky references to the comics. Other than that, there’s the whole of Chronopolis to wander round just as you could Manhattan in the original game, with a daunting number of gold bricks to find.

Not sure what else there is to say. There’s little new in the game, but that has never mattered before. The graphics have that same odd light sourcing that Lego Ninjago The Movie also did making some levels very dark and others look a bit strange, but it’s not as bad here as it was there. I wonder if it’s only the way the engine runs on the Switch? Or that I’m only playing in 720p? Who knows.

Anyway, done.

The Count Lucanor (Switch): COMPLETED!

One stealth section too many – ah ha ha! Two stealth sections too many – ah ha ha! etc.

I’d been eying this up for a while and it being on sale right now twisted my arm. And, well. it’s not as good as I hoped.

To be fair, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. It looked like a more puzzle based Zelda type game, when in fact there are very few puzzles and instead it’s a talk-to-people game with some annoying stealth sections.

Now, I dislike stealth sections at the best of times, but these are made worst by the random nature of the creatures you have to hide from and get past. Sometimes they see you. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they wander aimlessly, in circles or into corners where they seem to get stuck. It’s like there’s no pathfinding AI at all.

That aside, the rest of the game is fine. It’s a Grimm style fairytale of a 10 year old boy who leaves home to find his fortune, ends up in a cursed castle, and has to find the name of a weird kobold by solving rooms to obtain the letters and then put them in the right order.

There’s a wonderfully bizarre collection of characters, like a man who is a pig and a goatherder who is decapitated by his own bloodthirsty goats, but the main gameplay is hide and seek and far too simple item manipulation so the quality isn’t consistent.

It’s a shame. It looks great, and the whispering of the “servants” who try to grab you is superbly creepy, but half the game wasn’t really for me. There are multiple endings, of which I think I’ve seen the best two, but I won’t be returning for the others.

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash (3DS): COMPLETED!

Bite his shiny metal IAPs

Although I went into this knowing it wasn’t a true Chibi-Robo game, I had to buy it because it was cheap and came with a Chibi-Robo Amiibo and actually, it was pretty good when I played the demo. That was a while back though. Not sure why I picked it up, finally, this week.

A brief overview would be this: it’s a better than average platformer with a decent gimmick (the “zip lash” of the title) and a few utterly baffling but thankfully not game-ruining design choices. And it’s cute and twee and stuff.

The zip lash, and the similar whip lash, are moves where Chibi-Robo flings out his cable, to attack baddies, grab items, smash blocks, or anchor on ledges and use them to climb up. He can also swing from marked ceilings, and after extending the length of his cable, use the zip lash to bounce the plug off walls and reach items and other hidden areas.

Six worlds, with six levels in each, and there’s the usual platforming array of themes – grass, sand, ice, fire, and so on. They’re fun though, and varied in that Nintendo way of having hundreds of great ideas that are infrequently used. A couple of levels have you on a skateboard, some more hanging from a bunch of balloons, and some that take the form of a jetski obstacle course. A traditional boss at the end of each world, plus a final end boss, and that’s your game. Pretty short, mostly very easy, but enjoyable nonetheless.

However! There are two completely out of place parts to the game, both of which feel like this was supposed to be a free-to-play game with IAPs to fund it.

The first one is how you move on from each level. Normally, you’d expect after level 1-1 you’d go to 1-2, right? Here, at the end of a level you have to hit a copper, silver or gold UFO that are floating around. Hitting them get you 1, 2 or 3 (respectively) spins of a six segment wheel. Each segment has a number on it, and the number you land on is how many levels ahead you move – looping round from level 6 to level 1 if necessary. At first, this feels like a level skip bonus, but you have to complete all the levels in a world to move on, so why would you want a number other than 1? All it does it make it more likely you’ll need to repeat levels later. And here’s the first clue to ditched IAPs: You can buy, with in-game coins, segments for the wheel. You can pay to cover up all the 2s and 3s with 1s, guaranteeing you don’t need to replay completed levels.

Of course, repeating a level has its own worth – more coins, higher scores, find the rest of the missing big coins/sweets/mini Chibi-bots/baby aliens (all of which are optional), but being forced to do them because you span the wrong number? Why not pay to bypass that?

The second one is the coins themselves. They let you buy batteries (which refill your power bar if it runs out), a jetpack (to save you once if you fall off the bottom of the screen) and these wheel segments, but they’re incredibly cheap and mostly unnecessary. You can also feed coins into a gatcha machine which dispenses random figurines for you to collect. They serve no purpose, but gotta catch em all, I guess. So you rack up a few thousand coins, spend them on baubles because there’s nothing else, and then – just before the final boss – in order to save the world you have to buy “giant parts” for Chibi-Robo and these cost about 20,000 coins in total. Unless you’ve been saving them up for the whole of the rest of the game, you hit the end and then have to grind earlier levels for more.

Or… in app purchases? Well, it certainly looks like that was the purpose originally anyway. And what kind of world makes their hero pay for the upgrades necessary to save them from oblivion? Tch.

But those two things aside, I enjoyed the game and it’s well above your usual character platformer. I’d probably have enjoyed it even more if I’d not “wasted” my coins before then end. If you don’t do that, you’ll probably enjoy it too.

OPUS: The Day We Found Earth (Switch): COMPLETED!

This is a game with a nice little story wrapped up with a “find the right dot in a load of dots” mechanic. You’re a robot, and your creator has tasked you with finding Earth, which involves a lot of looking at the galaxy through a telescope and zooming in on specific star systems.

To find these systems you’re sometimes given coordinates, or a direction to look in, or a particular region of space. Later on, the location descriptions become even more vague. Find the system specified, and you’re told how close to a match for Earth the planets there are, and then you move on. It felt a bit like a cut down No Man’s Sky in point-and-click adventure form.

It’s a basic premise, and very short. That’s probably for the best, though, as it’d become boring rather quickly otherwise. Thankfully, the scanning is punctuated with story exposition and really that’s what the purpose of the game’s existence is – explaining why they’re looking for Earth and finding out what happened to, well, I won’t ruin it.

OPUS: The Day We Found Earth is unusual, short, very easy and somewhat charming. Not an essential purchase at all, but it’s cheap (under £5, although I paid about £2.70 from the Japanese eShop) and certainly worth a play through.

Scribblenauts Showdown (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’d heard that this was a party game based diversion from the main Scribblenauts series, so wasn’t going to get it. But it was £10 and I thought, how bad can it be? Luckily, not as bad as I was expecting.

The party game mode is the main purpose it exists (and is actually pretty good, considering), but there’s also a “Sandbox” mode which is a simplistic approximation of the previous Scribblenauts games. A number of levels with ten tasks in each to do – make a helicopter fly, give the Buddha an offering, put the right animals in the zoo exhibits, etc. It’s this mode that I completed.

So it’s not as good as the earlier titles, but it’s OK. I suspect 5th Cell, the original developers, had very little to do with this and it shows. Shame.

Metropolis: Lux Obscura (Switch): COMPLETED!

It’s the age old story: Man released from prison, man tries to find the reason he was framed, man gets caught up with the mafia, man visits strippers, man fights everyone and everything via the medium of a Match 3 puzzle game. We’ve seen it so many times before.

And that’s exactly what this is. There’s a branching story, with four endings (three of which I’ve seen so far), a lot of violence and somewhat graphic sex. Also, swearing. So much swearing. This is a game on a Nintendo console, lest ye forget.

The art style and animation is great, sort of like Sin City in the way it’s low on colour and high on gritty comicbook bleakness. The story is bobbins, however, and the game is incredibly short so even though you meet many characters your interactions are minimal and after maybe six or seven “fights”, it’s the end.

After each fight you can choose one from a random selection of stat boosts (more health, more damage dealt, better healing, etc.) but since you’ll come to the end of the game before any of them are really necessary what you choose is pretty pointless.

It’s a shame. Similar games, like HuniePop, Puzzle & Dragons and Puzzle Quest are all much, much longer even though their stories need not be. Here, after three hours I’ve seen all bar one ending and the plot could really have done with more meat. Make it three times as long, and Metropolis Lux Obscura could be a 4/5 title, but sadly it’s so lacking content it sorely needs (and feels like it should have done but the devs cut it short) it’s a 2/5 at most. The gameplay is there. The style is there. The game just isn’t.

Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion (Switch): COMPLETED!

All inklusive.

A totally new single player story mode for Splatoon 2? Well why not. The single player was, in my opinion, the best bit of the game, and this new expansion doesn’t disappoint.

Taking the form of a Tube-like underground railway, with each station a level, your Octoling character needs to find the Four Things so they can escape back to the surface. Each level is different, testing your skills in varied ways. In one, you might have to navigate platforms with only a limited amount of ink. In another, you might have to push or shoot a giant 8-ball to the exit, avoiding baddies and traps.

Another level plays out almost like Space Invaders, and another has you riding on the top of cars trying to take out foes without them seeing you. Some levels have bosses from the main game, only modified and made significantly harder – that toaster guy? What if he had snipers on his head and ink sprinkers on the sides?

Yet more variations include levels that are timed – shoot all the targets, collect all the items, or splat all the enemies before the clock hits zero. These have very little margin for error too, I found.

It’s incredible that Nintendo have managed to find so many more ideas to put into this mode, having used so many already on both Splatoon games. But then, this is Nintendo, and when Mario Galaxy and 3D World are literally overflowing with ideas, I suppose it’s not that unexpected. It’s worth mentioning how awesome the music is too, with this mode taking on a slightly 80s vibe which also styles some of the graphics.

Octo Expansion is harder than the original Splatoon 2 single player too, although finishing every level isn’t necessary like it is there. I’ve done about two thirds of them, and will probably go back to do the rest at some point. I know some people think I’m nuts for enjoying single player Splatoon more than online, but I implore you to spend some time on both Octo Expansion and the normal single player mode (if you haven’t already) because some of Nintendo’s best game ideas are here and it’d be a massive shame if people missed them.

Rime (PS4): COMPLETED!

It’s tricky to rock.

It’s hard not to compare Rime to Journey. The art style is similar, your character is basically – bar vague noises – mute, and you wear a red scarf. Unlike Journey, however, there’s a lot more game to Rime, with puzzles and platforming much beyond Journey. In fact, I felt it closer in terms of gameplay to something like Papo & Yo or possibly even Rain.

Rime is also not similar to Rive, a shooter which it doesn’t even slightly resemble but for a year or more I’ve been mixing the two up.

Anyway. There’s not a lot to say in case of plot spoilers, but your boy has woken up on the beach of an island, and has get to a giant keyhole shaped thing at the top of a large white tower. You progress through four main areas filled with beautiful scenery and puzzles, of which there are three main sorts: “how do I get this ball thing from here to there”, “how do I manipulate these shadows to do this thing”, and “how do I make these things line up so when I look through that thing they look like the shape over there”. You can shout to activate certain things like switches to help, and sometimes blocks need to be shunted round in order for stuff to work.

None of the puzzles are especially taxing. I did get stuck on one for ages because I hadn’t noticed there was a handhold to climb up and take me somewhere else! Looking around a lot is key to some of the puzzles and finding routes to places.

Hidden around the world are a number of optional things to find. Pots to be shouted at so they break, keyholes to look through, wooden toys to discovery. Naturally, you don’t even find out these exist until you stumble across one by accident so there’s no way I’d get them all in my first playthrough. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be finding them at all because that’s not incentive enough to play through it again. As much as I enjoyed it – jerky framerate and the odd bug aside – I don’t think it’s the sort of game that needs repeating. Certainly not for a while.

If you’re a fan of spoilers, here’s my playthrough in video form:

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Switch): COMPLETED!

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Castlevania

Bought, played, completed. In under two hours. But this definitely not Castlevania is supposed to be short, and there’s supposedly more to be had from replays, so I’m not going to complain.

Not that there’s much to complain about anyway – it’s a decent platformer with some great bosses and a character swapping mechanic which (as each one has different skills) allows different ways of tackling rooms and reaching hidden areas and power-ups.

But it’s hard not to see this as a Castlevania game. As well as having the same graphical style as the original NES titles, one of the characters is basically a Belmont, as she wields a whip in just the same way. Another is clearly Alucard. The main character you start off as has a sword like Soma, but looks like Simon Belmont, and there’s a monk who admittedly isn’t much like anyone from that series. Then there’s the levels which try to distance themselves from Castlevania levels but there’s still the castle and although the baddies are different most behave just like Castlevania baddies.

The bosses, however, are very much new. And also very much easier than anything in a Castlevania game, although that’s not negative point – Castlevania bosses can be past the fun side of difficult.

If I’ve heard correctly, Curse of the Moon is a prequel to the full Bloodstained game which is still due to come out. If that is anything like this, then I’m all over it. Hopefully on the Switch!

SteamWorld Dig 2 (3DS): COMPLETED!

A while back I was lucky enough to win a copy of this from Nintendolife. I already had (and had completed) it on the Switch, but it’s a great game so playing it through a game was certainly no chore.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the same game. But also unsurprisingly, it was awesome again.

I don’t know if I’ll mop up all the collectibles like I did with the Switch version, but you never know!

Detective Pikachu (3DS): COMPLETED!

Just a brief post about this because I said a lot more on the ugvm Podcast, but since recording that I’ve completed it.

The main thing to mention is that in the intro to the game, I thought I’d figured out what had happened to Tim’s dad. However, you never actually find out as the game ends with a sequel setup. It’s slightly disappointing, but only because I was expecting closure.

The rest of the game was enjoyable, in a narrative discovery sort of way. There were puzzles and stuff but unless you fail to see things you can never actually go wrong.

Definitely hoping for a sequel soon!

Fairune Blast (Switch): COMPLETED!

Well this was a bit different. As a reward for completing the three other Fairune games in the collection, this little shoot em up is unlocked.

Taking its cue from the bosses at the end of the first two games, this is a full-on Pop’n TwinBee style vertical shooter, featuring enemies from the main series in formations, and miniature versions of the bosses as, er, bosses.

It’s fun, but very short and easy. I mean, sure, it is only a bonus game but when I started playing I was hoping for more levels and stuff.