Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yes, I finally caved and bought Mario Kart 8 again. I have it for the Wii U so didn’t really need it on the Switch, but then they went and announced a load of new tracks will be coming to it and it was 33% off so here we are.

It’s the same as on the Wii U. Only you don’t get a screen each in two player and all the cups, tracks and characters are unlocked from the start. I’ve been through and come first in all the cups in 50, 100 and 150cc (so that’s more than enough to consider it “completed”), but haven’t played much of Mirror or 200cc yet.

Best character is Tanooki Mario with all his default kart options.

Touhou Luna Nights (Switch): COMPLETED!

Apparently this is an authorised fan-game based on the Touhou shooter series, but none of that means anything to me. I was just keeping an eye on it because it looked like an interesting Metroidvania game, and as it turns out, it is.

Plot is something something fake castle world something baddie something, but what that means is Castlevania without a Dracula. It’s very similar to Castlevania, even having some similar areas (like a clock tower) and enemies (like Frankenstein’s monster and skeletons), and of course it has blocked areas you need items or upgrades to access.

What’s different is in the abilities of your character. She can slow and stop time, for one thing. And “graze” enemies and projectiles in which to replenish energy. Or, graze them when time is stopped to replenish magic points. And you’ll need to replenish magic a lot, because all your attacks use it. The time stop power is also used in environmental “puzzles” too, as some objects and enemies aren’t frozen, some are frozen, and some only move (or move backwards) when time is stopped. There’s a lot of hidden room finding too, and of course a map to fill in 100%.

I completed it, and then discovered that there’s a whole extra area afterwards which I think was DLC in the original PC version of the game, so of course I had to finish that too. The end boss was especially tricky (in her second form, anyway), but I managed it. And then I went and found the few remaining areas and items to get 100%.

Overall, I really enjoyed it and it’s certainly different to play compared to how it looks – not a “standard” Metroidvania by any means.

Deiland (Switch): COMPLETED!

Set in the same universe as Summer in Mara, Deiland starts out as superficially similar – chop down trees, smash rocks, grow crops – but set on a tiny planet instead of a big sea. There’s no exploration, and you only have a couple of small areas of other planets you can travel to as the story progresses, and also unlike Summer in Mara, there’s combat.

Every so often, baddies will spawn on your little planet and you have to defeat them. If you don’t, they knock you out and nick some of your resources. They’re not hard to deal with, however, and healing is easy – just stand next to a fire for a bit.

You’ll get visitors in space ships, including a few characters who were also in Summer on Mara, who act as both quest givers and shops. Quest are almost always of the form “collect X” or “create Y”, but because you don’t need to travel far, they’re less drawn out as in Mara.

It’s a simpler game than Mara, but it’s different. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much, but it’s still worth playing.

Millie and Molly (Switch): COMPLETED!

This is a simple little platform puzzle game with 100 levels. It’s similar to Fire ‘N Ice, Solomon’s Key, and Catrap in terms of gameplay, although in this game you can’t step up blocks and you can’t jump. Also, many of the levels let you use two characters (Millie and Molly, of course) with one frozen, so can be used as a “block”, while you control the other.

The aim is to defeat all the enemies (simply by touching them) on each single screen level, with some of them floating in the air and others “dropping” when you kick away blocks underneath them. The puzzle element is how you accomplish this, as you need to decide the order in which to touch them as once they’re gone you can’t stand on them, and when to kick kickable blocks or dig dig-able blocks. Some of the levels are very clever in that you think you’ve done it, only you realise at the end you made a mistake right at the start! Thankfully, there are infinite lives and infinite rewind to save on the frustration normally associated with these games.

Although the developer suggested the game is hard, I only struggled on three or four levels, with level 99 being hair-tearingly difficult. That’s not to say I found it easy, but it certainly wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting. I did, however, very much enjoy it and hope there’s either a sequel or some extra levels as DLC in the works.

Summer in Mara (Switch): COMPLETED!

At first glance, Summer in Mara would appear to be a Wind Waker clone, but in fact it’s only really similar in terms of graphics and there’s a load of islands you travel between via a little boat. Actually, it’s much closer to something like Harvest Moon, with a bit of farming, some crafting, and a lot of fetch quests.

There’s no peril, danger, time limits or any chance of death – just a nice little story about an orphan exploring the world and meeting a colourful array of characters and doing various chores for them. The ultimate aim is to prevent a race of aliens from sucking the life energy of the planet, but really it’s 95% going to places and making stuff. There’s not even any combat.

Summer in Mara is a fun, relaxing, blue skies game that has a bit too much to-ing and fro-ing (which I found at the end of the game can be reduced with fast travel!) but plenty of character and charm.

Hades (Switch): COMPLETED!

I thought I’d actually completed this about a month ago, except it seems that just reaching the end isn’t enough. You have to reach the end ten times. Anyway, I’ve done that now.

Hades is a roguelite action game, where you, as Zagreus, Hades’ son, must escape from hell and find your mother on the surface. You die a lot along the way, which takes you back to the start, but slowly your skills improve both by getting permanent buffs and by just getting better at the game, so gradually you get closer and closer to the end.

Each “room” is a short fight, after which you get an item. These range from a choice of Boons, provided by Olympians, which offer skills such as elemental attacks or additional dashes, to money (which can only be spent that “run” on temporary upgrades) and gems (which can be spent in your bedroom between runs for permanent upgrades). Success on a run is largely down to your choices as well as a little luck as to which you’re offered, since some upgrades stack really well and others are mostly useless – your fighting style dependant, of course.

You also get a choice of different weapons to take with you – a sword, a bow, enchanted gauntlets, what is essentially a gun, etc. – but I mostly stuck to the sword as I found it easiest. Some Boons are better suited to different weapons too.

It’s an addictive game, and even though each run can easily be half and hour or more long the urge for “one more run” is strong. If you fail, it’s rarely a waste because of what you gain, but also you feel that you’d get a bit further if you just had better luck. There’s a lot of interesting and humorous dialogue between Zagreus and the other residents of the various levels of hell, with much reference to Greek mythology, and almost every run provides new chat with very little repetition.

I “beat” my first run on about the 18th attempt, but it was nearly 50 tries before I’d beaten it the requisite ten times, with something like 40 hours play in total. I regret sleeping on buying this earlier, which I’d done because although I’d loved Bastion (by the same devs), Transistor which followed it left me cold and I was put off this being a “difficult roguelite”. Thankfully, it’s nothing like Transistor and also isn’t that difficult, or at least, not difficult indefinitely. It’s truly a fantastic game.

SNK Gals’ Fighters (Switch): COMPLETED!

The Neo Geo Pocket fighting games are such good fun. They might all be the same, more or less, but they’re fun. Even in single player.

I completed this a few years ago, but I recently bought the Neo Geo Pocket collection for the Switch so I’ve been playing the games on there a bit. This is the first one of them I’ve completed, and I did it as Yuri for a change.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS5): COMPLETED!

New Spider-Man, same game. Well, that’s a little unfair. Miles is a bit different to Peter in a few ways. Notably, he has a “venom” power which lets him do smash attacks, and he also has far fewer gadgets, but actually the only bit difference is the plot.

Set soon after Spider-Man, it opens with a fight with Rhino (with the help of Peter), before you take over New York patrols while Peter leaves the country for reasons related to the previous game. Miles’ story involves the personal aftermath of the death of his father, his mum running for office, and the twin reveals about his uncle and his best friend from high school, but the plot of the game is about a company developing a clean near-unlimited power source which isn’t as safe as they say – and Miles needs to stop it going live.

Ultimately, it’s played out in the same way as before, on the same map of Manhattan (albeit now in winter), with similar fighting, challenges, crimes, and so on. That isn’t really a bad thing, as it’s great, but from the continuation of the last game’s events to the asset reuse and the much, much shorter playtime (it’s about 1/4 the length), it’s very clear that this is intended DLC repackaged as a standalone game. Thankfully, it’s thoroughly enjoyable for the same reasons as before, and Miles Morales has a much more interesting personal story and characterisation that Peter Parker ever did.

And yes, I 100%ed this one too. And now I’m out of Spider-Men to play.

Haven Park (Switch): COMPLETED!

Haven Park is a twee little game (and I mean that in a good way) about a bird who takes over the running of a set of run down campsites out in the countryside. It’s very similar in feel to A Short Hike, but with more interaction and a different emphasis.

It involves collecting resources, like wood, to build appealing camping areas, which are then populated with visitors. Some of these have additional requests, and there are a few areas that are blocked off until you’ve made certain people happy. It’s pretty, and quaint, and cosy, with a play at your own pace progression. A few of the “clues” to “solving” problems are a bit obscure, and navigating around can be a little frustrating with the camera angle and narrow cliff ledges combining to cause long detours when you inevitably drop off, but they’re minor setbacks.

Short, friendly and fun.

Spider-Man: Remastered: The City that Never Sleeps: The Heist (PS5): COMPLETED!

That’s more colons than a tin of cheap dog food.

I won’t go into the mechanics of this DLC chapter as they’re the same as in the main game, but the story is much more low-key than what went before. It follows the return of Black Cat and how the Maggia (definitely not the Mafia) are resurging into Manhattan to fill the void left by Kingpin’s incarceration and how one of the Maggia family dons, Hammerhead, is trying to seize power from all the other families.

It’s more of the same, but there are some additional mission types (including side missions involving Screwball which are… unusual), and any more Spider-Man is good news so that’s just fine. Oh, and I unlocked Spider-Pants.

Spider-Man: Remastered (PS5): COMPLETED!

The most important thing in any Spider-Man game is the web swinging. What’s the point of being Spider-Man without it? Sure, he could swing in some of the 2D 8 and 16-bit platformers, but when the Gamecube-era Spider-Man 2 game came out the freedom of 3D traversal round New York was a massive wow. The rest of that game… not so much.

Well, much time has passed since then and this, the PS5-improved version of the PS4 exclusive, is very much the same game as that Spider-Man 2 of yore only even more impressive and gets almost everything right.

In the same way that Arkham Asylum made you feel like you really were The Goddamn Batman, in this game you feel like you really are the, uh, Goddamn Spider-Man, in a way none of the previous games quite managed. Peter Parker is light and agile, he’s quick and flexible both physically and in his fighting style. You have a lot of control over ground, air and distance attacked, both with kicks and punches and with his webs, which can be used to both slow down enemies and grab nearby items to chuck at them. You can attack from walls and ceilings, slide between legs to attack from behind, and have a number of gadgets with which to web up, electrify or otherwise incapacitate foes, and you can even jump in the air then grab a baddie via a web shot and drag them up into the air with you. It’s so fluid and easy to mix up your attacks and dodges. Plus, of course, there’s all the swinging between buildings in Manhattan.

It does borrow more than a bit from those Batman games, however. Frequently you’re dropped in a room with patrolling guards or thugs, and you have to take out as many as you can without being seen before all hell breaks loose, and these sections are ripped straight from Rocksteady’s games. You can even grab baddies and leave them hanging from gargoyles, if that’s how you want to play it. Of course, being Spider-Man, you can do the same from walls and ceilings too, which Batman couldn’t. Also borrowed from Batman is the “detective mode” type scanner, where you can highlight objects and enemies that are behind walls, or discover clues to follow.

The plot OK but it’s played out in an uninteresting way, as it’s basically “these guys are bad”, followed by “now you’ve got rid of those guys, these guys have come in instead and they’re worse” followed by “the guys we sent in to deal with those guys are actually worse still and you’ve now got to deal with them”. All the while there’s the Kingpin in prison trying to run his empire from his cell, a load of escaped super criminals like Vulture and Rhino to take down, and the gradual change in Otto from Peter’s mate and employer to Doc Ock. There’s also the Not-Green-Goblin Norman Osborn who has sent his son (and Peter’s friend) Harry “away” because he is “sick” who starts off as mayor and becomes increasingly evil as the game progresses, but never actually embodies it completely. Sequel, perhaps?

The voice acting and characterisation is excellent, with J Jonah Jameson being especially good with his radio show rantings that you frequently listen to. Although this instance of Spider-Man and his Assorted Friends and Foes is in a separate universe to both the comics and the MCU, there’s obviously similarities but it still manages to remain its own thing. And luckily it’s not yet another retelling of his origin story. Graphically the game is impressive, especially the draw distance, but it didn’t feel as PS5 as I felt it probably could. Perhaps I was expecting something a bit more realistic? Or more lighting effects? It doesn’t subtract from the experience, and is probably down to being a touched up PS4 game, but still – I was hoping for a bit more for the eyes.

Something which came as a surprise is that you get to play a few missions as people other than Spider-Man himself. There are a few as MJ, sneaking into (or out of) buildings while trying to find evidence. She gets the ability to incapacitate and distract guards, but can’t actually fight so it’s all stealth. You also get a couple as pre-bite Mile Morales, which are similar but he can hack devices remotely to cause distractions. To be honest, none of these missions are very good but they’re all pretty short.

There are also loads of side-missions for Spidey himself, with various challenges and a wide variety of things to do, from using spiderbots to defuse bombs to chasing pigeons. All of which I completed, as I very much enjoyed the game and so merely finishing the story wasn’t enough – I went back and did every optional mission and challenge too. And then? Well, there’s the DLC!

Little Big Planet 3 (PS4): COMPLETED!

I don’t know where I got this. PS+, perhaps? I certainly would never have bought it what with not really liking the first game. Oh sure, it was clever and it looked pretty and you could make your own levels, but they forgot to make it controllable and fun and the physics are all over the place and the moving in and out of the screen is hit and miss. But they’ll have fixed that two sequels later, right?

Right?

Sadly, no. They have not. Everything is still too floaty. Sackboy still jumps like he’s on the moon. In-and-out of the screen is still fiddly and often broken. Only now there’s more to complain about! I was playing co-op, which adds a whole new set of issues, such as prioritising who the camera should follow when you’re separated (most of the time it’s the one who isn’t in the middle of pixel-perfect jumping). And grabbing hold of each other instead of objects.

I don’t remember if I had problems with checkpoints previously but in Stupid Sackboy Game 3 they’re badly spaced out. It’s also too hard to see how many “lives” you have left, as the checkpoint shows you but is frequently obscured by stuff or – in several cased – seemingly invisible.

On top of all that, the game is much too easy. You could say that the difficulty is finding all the secrets, or all the items, or whatever and that may be true, but aside from one phase of the end of game boss, the game is a complete walkover. In fact, the only difficulty was caused by the two-player mode and the aforementioned camera nonsense.

Luckily, it was short and I didn’t have to endure it for long. My daughter, however, loved it. Kids these days know nothing.

Ichidant-R (Switch): COMPLETED!

When this came out, I played and completed it almost immediately. But, as I was looking for a two player game to play with my daughter – and that was a while back – I thought it’d be good to play again. And it was!

It’s a very different game when you’re playing it with someone, as it’s both competitive and co-op at the same time. You have to complete each mini-game to progress, but only one of you actually needs to do that so you compete to see who can do it first/best/whatever. This also has the knock-on effect of making the game even easier than it already was as you have effectively have twice as many chances to beat each game!