Q.U.B.E.: Director’s Cut (PS4): COMPLETED!

I’d read in a lot of places, and the screenshots didn’t help, that Q.U.B.E. was a poor man’s Portal. Aside from the first person view and the clinical environments, it really isn’t. Mainly because there aren’t any portals, and so the puzzles rely on other quirks instead. Mainly, making use of coloured shapes that do various things – extend, act as a trampoline, create blocks, and so on. You do this to hit switches, move cables, or direct balls, and after each section of the game (of which there are seven) new elements are added, such as being able to rotate parts of the room or direct lasers.

OK, so it’s still a little bit like Portal.

Apparently for the Director’s Cut, they added a story. I’m assuming this is the one sided conversations you listen to on your radio in the game, and if so, before they added them it would have been a very quiet, rather pointless affair. The plot is that you are on some sort of spacecraft made of cubes, and by simply solving puzzles which exist for some reason, you’re destroying the spacecraft. Which is on a collision course with Earth or something. A woman tells you who you are (you’re conveniently suffering from amnesia) and praises you, but then you start getting messages from someone else who says this woman is a liar and you’re going to die. Who do you trust?! (Spoiler: you have no say in the matter).

Anyway, it’s not too difficult (although I did accidentally pass a few of the puzzles without realising), and certainly I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it’s a classic or anything.

Golden Axe III (Switch): COMPLETED!

Is Golden Axe III going to be a good game, given the previous two were not? Go on, have a guess.

At least it tried. Instead of being almost exactly the same as the other games, the graphics are all new, the animation is new, and most of the baddies are new. Reminiscent of those before, but new. There’s a different art style too, but actually, it’s worse. And there are two new characters but they’ve relegated the best one – Gillius Thunderhead – to a little less than a narrator role. You can’t play as him. I chose Tyris Flare instead, who now has ridiculous beefcake muscles.

They’ve improved the “AI” so the enemies no longer blindly walk off ledges, and for the most part the old running attack left and right “trick” isn’t possible any more. But sadly, this doesn’t really improve things. Golden Axe III is actually worse, somehow, than its predecessors.

Assassin’s Creed Origins (PS4): COMPLETED!

My understanding of this game was that it wasn’t anything like previous Assassin’s Creed games. It was written from scratch, didn’t reuse any engine or assets, and had completely new gameplay. The title also suggests it’s the start of the Assassins. It turns out nothing is true, everything is permitted.

Maybe Ubisoft did scrap everything from the series and built it all up again, but it doesn’t show. In fact, aside from the new control scheme (attacks are on the shoulder buttons now), and the biggest map so far, this is just more of the same. But that’s actually fine.

Yes, you have an eagle.

Yes, so there’s a literal eagle vision now (with an actual eagle), and yes, it tells the story of the start of the Brotherhood, but it’s still parkour and stabbin’ just like before. This time it’s set in the achingly beautiful setting of Egypt, which is far more varied than the sand and pyramids you’d expect, but the core missions are still scoping out the enemy, picking them off, and assassinating a series of important historical figures. And it’s so much fun.

Your guy this time is Bayek, a medjay (a sort of trouble fixer) from the region of Siwa, who, along with his wife Aya, is out to get revenge for the death of his son. Bayek, despite the “by ‘eck” link that can’t be unheard, is a great protagonist. He’s well voiced, has real empathy and morals, and is hard as nails. He’s probably one of the best the series has ever had, actually. At points in the game you also get to play as Aya, who is also great but her sections are generally boating (straight out of Black Flag, and so the worst thing about the game) or combat-lite. She also doesn’t have an eagle, which makes the final mission a bit tricky.

I’ve since found out that the next game, Odyssey, is actually set hundreds of years before Origins, not immediately afterwards as the story of Origins might suggest. This does make a bit of a mockery of the name of this game, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter. I hope they do bring Bayek back for another game though, perhaps round Greece?

Pikuniku (Switch): COMPLETED!

Pikuniku is a… game best discovered for yourself. Partly because that’s genuinely true, but also because it’s a little hard to describe. Sure, I can tell you it’s a sort of platformer with puzzles and bosses, and there’s a lot of kicking things, but that’s not really describing the game.

No, the game is unusual. Both in style and content. There’s a plot about a guy who gives out free money, there’s a leaf-based underground resistance, and there’s a section where you have a beat a robot in a dance-off. Oh, and you’re a monster (except you’re not), and later on you get a hat with a hose on it so you can water things.

It doesn’t make sense when I write about it, and frankly doesn’t make much more sense when you play it, but it’s quirky and jolly and fun and if that isn’t enough to make you want to play it then you’re all sorts of wrong inside.

Day of the Tentacle Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

Actually it’s about at least four days.

I was 100% certain I’d played the original game before. I can clearly remember some parts of the game, some of the puzzles and characters, some of the events from when I originally had it on my Amiga. So imagine my surprise that I actually recognised very little of the game at all, and it turns out there never was an Amiga version. So why did I have the bowl, Bart?

Even more confusing, is how now that I’ve established I haven’t played it before, I remembered the solutions to some of the puzzles and part of the ended. Which is even more baffling as I know I’ve definitely never completed it.

Anyway. In a sort of reverse comparison, I’m going to mention The Secret of Woolley Mountain here as I’d compared that to Day of the Tentacle erroneously so it only seems fair to do the reverse now. In it’s favour, DOTT has much higher production values, but then you’d expect that as it also had way more staff and money. The graphics in particular have moved away from the functional style of the original Maniac Mansion to some really very good cartoon characters and backdrops. Sure, some of this is down to it all being HD and not pixelated like the non-remastered DOTT, but it’s still a world away. The voice acting is pretty good too.

However, as I mentioned in my Woolley Mountain post, the puzzles in these older point and click games are often a bit obscure. They’re not as bad in Day of the Tentacle as they are in Maniac Mansion or something like Grim Fandango, but some are obtuse. Take the use of “Booboo B Gone”, which is suggested by the name it’s some sort of cream or ointment for cuts and bruises rather than actually being Tippex. How you use it on a cat is then also a bit of a reach even knowing that.

That said, it’s well put together, hasn’t aged at all, and was a lot of fun. And very funny, of course.

Sparkle 2 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Sparkle 2, or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Zuma” was a free PS+ rental that I’ve been playing off and on for a few months. It’s not taxing, it’s not hard, but it is fun in the same way Zuma was. It’s just 91 levels of shooting balls at other balls, but it does it well enough and I enjoyed it. Not sure what else there is to say about it, really.

The Way Remastered (Switch): COMPLETED!

No Ugandan Knuckles jokes

I’m not sure what exactly is “remastered” about this game, having no experience of the original. An original which is only a few years old itself, actually. I’m also not sure what sort of game it’s trying to be.

To look at the screenshots, it’s probably trying to channel Flashback or Blackthorne, or both. When you play it, however, it isn’t. There’s a bit of the Mega Drive Alien 3 game in there. Sure, there’s some Flashback. Some Gunpoint. Some Another World. As you move from Earth to another planet, then explore that planet, not only do the locations change graphically, byt the gameplay does too. You’re no longer a sneaky hacker – you’re a man with a gun. Only then you don’t have a gun, but you can teleport and move things with your mind instead. And then! To end it all, it’s a bullet hell shooter only you can’t shoot.

You have to stop each piston in turn so they move in a particular pattern. What is this pattern? Well, that’s why this bit was hard.

There’s platforming and puzzles. Reaction tests and timing tests. Infuriating “remember the sequence or fry” sections. Buttons to push, spikes to avoid, hoverbikes to pilot, monsters to run from, and lots more. It’s varied for sure, but that also causes a problem – it masters none of these.

Some of the puzzles are just too obscure with no clues. Some of the platforming is hit and miss as to whether you’ll grab a ledge or drop on some spikes (or sometimes, grab a ledge then drop off onto the spikes anyway because bugs). I found your shield power that you have use of for some of the game regularly failed to “initialise” so didn’t reflect enemy fire as it should, killing me. Collision detection isn’t great, so combined with wonky jumping inertia also led to many avoidable deaths. Thankfully, checkpoints are frequent so little progress is lost when you do die.

Sometimes Tincan (your tigerdog) responds to and follows you. Sometimes, he does not. Twice, he vanished completely when I needed him to progress.

The plot of the game is mostly fine – guy’s wife dies, so he goes off to find the Pyramid of Eternal Life or something to revive her, which fortuitously happens to be on the very planet his job sent him to to research. The stuff that happens along the way (aha!) is nonsense though. Magically from nowhere a bounty hunter stumbles across you? A tribe who tried to kill you start worshipping your dead wife because… well, I’m not really sure why. They also welcome your new “pet” – a massive tigerdogbeast whose parent previously terrorised them.

Issues aside, there’s an important point to make in this game’s favour: it was 89p. And for 89p there’s a lot of game here. A lot of good ideas, if a bit poorly executed. It’s definitely worth 89p. Knowing what I do now, however (and I’d gone in pretty blind), I’m glad I didn’t pay full price and I can’t recommend you do either.

Pretty sure that’s LeChuck, and it’s SUPPOSED to be LeChuck. There’s a Day of the Tentacle tentacle in this bit too. Who knows why this is.

One final question: Why is The Way Remastered rated a PEGI 16? There was nothing in there I’d consider more than a PEGI 7, so even a PEGI 12 would be overkill. Did I miss something?

Gato Roboto (Switch): COMPLETED!

Imagine if Downwell’s graphics were applied to Super Metroid, only you were a cat? That’s Gato Roboto. How could I not buy it then complete it in one afternoon given that description?

Turns out it’s really very good too. There’s absolutely more than a few nods to Metroid (there’s one area which even has a similar layout to part of that game), but it’s a lot shorter, a lot easier, a lot weirder (cats in mech suits are just the start), and it’s all in black and white.

It also turns out that being all in black and white isn’t the limitation you might think it would be. Even in the lava filled area, the lava looks hot and dangerous even though its, well, not lava coloured.

Yes, this furnace thing is a boss.

There’s a nice array of bosses, some great Metroid-y ability upgrades (like a double jump) and a map with lots of squares to fill in as you find them. OK, so they don’t get filled in blue but that’s not really an issue. Jumping around feels perfect, and there’s a few areas where you have to chain moves together and it all feels just right, as it should.

It took me just shy of three hours to finish, but the end screen says I’ve only found 66% of stuff so there’s still more to go. Wonder if there’s a different ending for the full 100%?

Your cat can get out of the mech (and has to for some bits), but sometimes there are alternative vehicles to use.

Yono and the Celestial Elephants (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’ve had my eye on this for a while what with the cute elephant and the lovely looking world. Got round to it yesterday and completed it today, and it’s very nice indeed.

I won’t go into it too much, but it’s short and sweet, with some mostly simple puzzles and very simple combat, but sometimes you just want something low impact like that with really nice graphics and an unusual world to run round in for a bit.

Awww, lookit deh cute widdle heggogs

Yooka-Laylee (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yooka-Laylee, or Yooka hyphen hyphen Laylee if we are to take the logo as canon, is – in case you’re not aware – the most Banjo-Kazooie game since Banjo-Kazooie. This is, of course, completely intentional and the entire point of the game’s Kickstarter campaign. It’s also the reason I (eventually) bought it.

Many people have slated Yooka-Laylee for a number of reasons. It’s a relic of a past age of collect-em-up 3D platformers. It’s rather too close to the source material. It suffers from weird glitches and framerate issues. It’s just not very good. To all of these I mostly agree, except the last one. Because it’s very good.

This puzzle room took me ages to figure out. Hint: look at the floor tiles.

OK, so it isn’t as good as Banjo-Kazooie. But it is almost as much fun and certainly much more accessible. It looks and sounds how you remember that game did rather than actually how that game did. All the characters have Rare-Eyes. Everyone speaks in that grating nonsensetalk way. The music! Oh my, the glorious music. The casino level in particular is incredible, but more than just the compositions, it’s the way – like the older games – as you move around the levels the music changes with you. It becomes more sinister, more happy, more… dirty, depending where you go. It’s The Best Music.

But we don’t usually play games for the music (OutRun excepted). Thankfully, Yooka-Laylee is great other than that. Big worlds (that can be made bigger), funny characters and dialogue, and tough but fair challenges to get Pagies – the main collectable. I say main because this is Rare^H^H^H^HPlaytonic we’re talking about – there’s Pagies, quills, coins, tokens, ghosts, and all sorts to pick up.

It’s-a-me! Pachinki-o!

The freedom to the levels is clever too. You don’t have to 100% each to move on, and you can expand each in any order providing you have enough Pagies to do so. I was a little worried it was possible to do stuff out of order in such a way you were locked out of Pagies for progression, but it seems not. With 140 of these things in total (and 100, how many I got) needed to complete the game, it isn’t a short task either.

So, if you were a fan of Banjo-Kazooie, you need to get this. Don’t expect everything to have been 100% updated for the modern gamer, but be pleasantly surprised that it isn’t as old-hat as you were expecting.

He B dead

Yoshi’s Crafted World (Switch): COMPLETED!

One of the (few) complaints I’ve seen people level at Yoshi’s Crafted World is that it is too easy. That none of the levels are a challenge. That the bosses are all a breeze to take down. Indeed, I’ve reached the end and beaten the final boss and I’ve barely a scratch. But that’s not the point.

Like previous Yoshi games, it’s easy for anyone to “complete”. To get all the secrets – all the flowers, red coins, hidden souvenirs, finish each level with full health, find all the Poochies on the flip side, finish the extra levels unlocked after the final boss – to get all of that, requires a heroic effort.

I’ve not given this game such an effort yet. But I did enjoy my path to the end. I tried to 100% it on the way but after a couple of levels where I didn’t on my first try I thought I’d leave it and come back. It’s a beautiful looking game, and it does that great Nintendo thing of being crammed with a million different brilliant ideas (in most graphics and gameplay), rarely to ever re-use them. You can imagine an entire game based around the Rhinono level or the creepy teddies with axes level or the duelling boats level or the solar powered racers level, but here Nintendo throw it at you then discard it immediately. How do they come up with so many ideas?

Judging from some of the requirements to get 100% I’m not sure I’ll ever make it, but I’ll certainly try for a higher percentage than I’m currently at!

Golden Axe II (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’ll axe you again.

I was pretty sure that Golden Axe II was a better game than Golden Axe I. And I’d remembered correctly – as it is. But it’s still almost exactly the same game only with more pink and purple, a better (for Gilius at least – I only ever play as him) special attack.

Both “tricks” from the previous game still happen here, and for this one Sega Mega Drive Classics actually has an achievement for doing it enough times:

A hole new world

The other trick is the “running headbutt” one, and that’s still alive and well here too. Some of the baddies have evolved to make it a little harder – the giant dog things with maces, for example, now try to Tiger Knee you mid-dash. I also found a new trick which I don’t think worked before:

Mmm, pink

The bosses were also quite a bit easier than the original game, especially the final boss who rarely actually hits you. The big headless knights can’t be beaten like their headed counterparts (headbutt or jump-slash), but if you walk diagonally into them you can axe them before they attack so they’re actually easier to dispatch.

Graphically, the game seems better looking but the giant turtle and eagle based levels are replaced with just normal paths and caves, and the previously mentioned pink and purple enemies are a bit garish. The music, as ever, is great though.

Golden Axe (Switch): COMPLETED!

Golden Axe is not a good game. It’s a clunky, short, repetitive arcade game with some stupid AI and just isn’t fun.

Take this “trick” for example, where you beat baddies by them jumping to their doom:

Or this easy way to fight one or two baddies:

Stupid. But I completed it anyway.

The Mystery Of Woolley Mountain (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’d never heard of this point-and-click adventure game but it seems it was a Kickstarter project a while back. Looking at the credits, now I’ve finished it, there are a number of high profile backers and a fair few people I know or follow on Twitter, so I’m surprised I’d not seen it mentioned before now. Anyway, the lovely @IndieGamerChick gave me a copy via her IndieSelect initiative earlier in the week so here’s my Contactually Obliged Comments. I mean, I would have talked about it anyway because that’s the point of this blog but there you go.

First off, before I even get into the game properly, I want to get some negative stuff out of the way. I’ve already had most of these comments picked up on by the devs and there’s a patch coming soon (and a workaround available now) to fix the main one, so I’m not going to dwell on most of them. The main problem is a game-breaking bug where you’re unable to move. I’m assuming it’s intermittent, or caused only by a specific but unnecessary sequence of events because otherwise there’s no way this would have passed testing.

A second issue isn’t so serious but jarred. All the dialogue is spoken, but the quality of the voice acting isn’t… well, it’s not great for some of the time. I can see from the credits it’s probably because they’re not voice actors, but the main issue is that lines of dialogue that follow each other were clearly not always recorded together, so the flow from sentence to sentence feels off. That said, well done for the range of accents from the prim to the silly. Also on the voices – there’s a lot of chat. Sometimes, too much. It doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem nearer the end of the game but I don’t know if that’s because it was cut back or I just got used to it.

Yes, this game has wolf poo.

Finally, the graphics and animation. There’s something a bit “Flash game” about the sprites and how they move and scale, and it just doesn’t work for me.

Problems over, what is good about The Mystery of Woolley Mountain will partly depend on whether or not you were a geeky kid in the UK in the 1980s. There are references to films, TV and – of course – games from that era coming out of your ears. Some feel a little forced (Roland Ropeman listing all his collectables, for example) but many are incidental (like the Jamie and his Magic Torch poster, or The Adventure Game area). You don’t need to “get” these references to complete, or even enjoy, the game, but if you do it adds a lot to the experience.

As a point-and-click game the quality of the puzzles make or break it. Some games suffer from having too many obscure solutions where items are used in such an abstract way you wonder how you were supposed to figure it out at all, and descend into “use everything on everything” just to progress. That, thankfully, doesn’t happen much here, with plenty of hints or nudges in the right direction. The few times it does come up, it’s helped by being able to press a button to highlight which items on the screen are interact-able – it’s harder to miss items that you might consider just part of the scenery that way. The puzzles themselves are pretty varied, with some requiring you to combine items, some requiring you to work out letter or colour combinations, and others where you have to find specific items for characters.

If you ignore the incorrect aspect ratio and palette, this is a Spectrum.

I would go into the plot but it’s not really necessary to tell you more than it’s about a bunch of odd chaps on a submarine who have to rescue one of their own, and a load of kids, from a witch. There’s a robot, time travel, monsters, a pub and a horde of strange characters with puzzle-exploitable foibles to interact with along the way.

The Mystery of Woolley Mountain is not the best game in the genre you will play, and it’s very rough edged and quirky – and not always in the good way. But it’s funny, it’s not too difficult, and it’s well worth a few quid especially if you’re a fan of this sort of game. Especially if you too were a Spectrum owning 80s geek.

ToeJam & Earl: Panic on Funkotron (Switch): COMPLETED!

I never got on with this previously. I think the main issue was that it didn’t feel like a proper sequel to the original ToeJam and Earl, which was one of my favourite Mega Drive games. It had the same funk, but it was a totally different experience.

Ditching the roguelike trappings of the first game, which was set on Earth (sort of), Panic on Funkotron instead became a platformer set on ToeJam & Earl’s home planet. The Mega Drive was swamped with platformers, so that didn’t help it stand out. Many times over the years I’ve tried to play through this and given up before the end of the first level because it just wasn’t what I wanted to play. But this time, something clicked.

One of the new baddies is a ghost cow who possesses you. Because of course it is.

The main gameplay is to explore levels finding earthlings to throw jars at. Jar them enough and you can capture them. Capture them all, and you can move on to the next level. Often these earthlings are hidden in trees and bushes, as are presents and traps. Presents don’t work like they used to, giving you random points, coins (for parking meters that trigger secrets), funk (for special moves) and a few powerups and special attacks (like one-hit jar captures).

This bonus game pops up frequently. It’s pretty hard and mostly pointless.

So it’s different. Some things are the same, like the characters, general graphical style and of course the music, but it plays out totally different. In the original, combat was rare and earthlings were generally just avoided. Here, you need to take the fight to them, and there’s some skill involved for taking out each type. It’s also quite a lot easier, so long as you take your time and don’t rush into areas in case of hidden baddies. Panic on Funkotron is also much, much longer – so it’s a good job there’s a password system in place. Of course, on the Switch version you can just use save states, but it took me six or seven hours to complete the game. Some of the levels are huge and the earthlings well hidden!

Alright old man.

It’s a shame I never got on with this originally. Maybe if I’d never played the first game I wouldn’t have had the problem with this being different. It’s still not as good as the first game (but to be fair, very few games are), but it’s much better than I ever previously gave it credit for.