Mega-lo-Mania (Evercade): COMPLETED!

Yes. I played Mega-lo-Mania again, and yes, I completed it again. This time, however, it was the recently released Evercade version! Which is just the Mega Drive version again only on an Evercade cart of course.

I chose to play as Scarlet this time through, and for the second time ever, one of the other players managed to stick some people in suspended animation for the Mother of All Battles. Of course, they only had about 10 of them whereas I had a couple of hundred or something, so they didn’t last long. Still, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Wonder Boy – Asha in Monster World (Switch): COMPLETED!

A long, long time ago, I played about 15 minutes of the original Mega Drive version of this game in a local game shop. It was all in Japanese but I liked the look of it. Not quite as long ago, but still over a decade ago, Sega released the first English translated version of it as part of a Wonder Boy pack on Xbox Live Arcade. I bought it, but never played it.

Then this came along. A remake of Monster World IV, with new graphics and save system, on the Switch. And, if you bought the special edition physical game card you got the original game (translated) included on the card for free. Bargain, right? Sure, it looked a bit like a 2000s Flash game, but after the fantastic remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, and the excellent Monster Boy, it’ll be great anyway, yeah?

Well, not really. It hasn’t aged well.

Firstly, I should say that once you’re actually playing it, the graphics aren’t nearly as bad as they look in screenshots. They’re not quite right, but they’re fine. What is more of a problem is that the levels (it’s not open world like the other related games I mentioned) are just… boring. Each is themed as per every 1990s platformer, but they’re sparse. You walk along, fight one simple enemy, then walk along and fight another. Sometimes you might have to fight two. A couple of times, there were three. But there’s a lot of walking around doing very little.

Some parts of the levels are like mazes that have loads of near-identical areas, loop round themselves if you take a wrong turn (or have to backtrack), and these artificially lengthen the game. Especially the bits you have to retread as the baddies are all gone, so you get long, empty walks.

Another issue is the “2.5D” layering the levels, and the hub town especially, employ. At various points, you can step into or out of the screen into a different horizontal plane. It’s been used a lot in other games, but here it seems mostly pointless as it’s underused and forced as part of your route rather than a way to find secrets. It makes the mazes needlessly more confusing, especially on the mountain level.

You get a companion who is a flying ball/dragon/bird thing part way into the game which acts as a double-jump and glide replacement, which makes you seem much more nimble and the platforming becomes more fun, only (spoilers) the game then nerfs him before taking him away completely later on.

Good points include the music, which is excellent, and Asha’s animation (especially the ridiculous bum-wiggle she does when opening a chest), which is much better than most of the rest of the characters and baddies. The “Persian” theme, however, just serves to prompt comparison with the Shantae games, and most games don’t have a hope in hell competing with their animation. You can also save your progress wherever you like, rather than at the badly spaced, often missable, and far too infrequent Save Sages of the Mega Drive version. They’re still here, but are now pointless.

In all, I’m pretty disappointed with Asha in Monster World. I did have some fun, and I did enjoy it enough to finish it without it being a slog, but it is a game that despite the new paint and trousers, is still stuck in the past. It was an also-ran compared to the others in the series even back then though, so I can’t complain too much.

Minecraft Dungeons (Switch): COMPLETED!

When you pay for the Switch Online service, every so often they give you the full, complete versions of retail games for free – for a few days. Then they stop working. This week, they let you download and play Minecraft Dungeons, and my daughter and I completed it before our free trial was up.

That’s not to say it’s short, although it’s nowhere near as long as I expected (partly because two large additional areas are walled off behind DLC payments), it’s just we played it a lot in a short amount of time.

Although it looks like Minecraft, and has a lot of the same creatures and sound effects, Minecraft Dungeons is actually more like Diablo. You take on a series of isometric levels, killing loads of baddies, getting better loot, and making Numbers Go Up. It’s much more simplistic than Diablo, and it doesn’t have anywhere near as much content, variety, or items to collect as Diablo III, but it’s also more suitable for kids and there’s literally no learning curve just to figure out the character and weapon upgrade system.

It’s also a lot easier. The only time we had any problems is when we started a level that was waaaaay above our current player level. Sure, when you complete it there’s a much harder New Game+, and yes, for most levels you can pick a higher recommended player level than your current one, but that seems to make it impossible rather than “harder”.

We did enjoy it a lot though, and if I’d have known it was as good as it was beforehand, I’d probably have ended up buying it. However, if you’re going to, I’d recommend the PlayStation or Xbox versions instead of the Switch if jerky, stuttering framerates are likely to offend – the Switch version is full of it. Not enough to put me off, but that’s mainly because I wasn’t paying for it.

Earth Defense Force 5 (PS5): COMPLETED!

I realised for the first time while playing EDF 5, having played all (I think) of the previous titles in the series, that I think the reason I enjoy them so much is that they’re basically musou games only with guns and aliens. Sure, there’s less base defence and area capture, but the gameplay is surprisingly similar.

After I’d played a few levels, my daughter noticed it was two player and so asked to join in, which made it even more like musou games like Pirate Warriors and Hyrule Warriors that we’d played together.

If you’ve played an EDF game you’ll know exactly what to expect from Earth Defense Force 5. Millions of giant insects, cities that get levelled, hundreds of weapons and the best worst voice acting ever. Only this time round, it’s all with a rock solid framerate rather than sometimes dropping to seconds-per-frame, even in split screen. I suspect running this PS4 game on my PS5 counts for some of that though.

The game also adds new enemies to the series. The “Hector” robots are gone, replaced with giant frog soldiers (that your teammates refer to as ”just like us” – are they blind?”) and armoured giant alien soldiers. There are also a few more varieties of ants and spiders and stuff. Otherwise, it’s basically more of the same. Which is no bad thing of course, and exactly why I bought it!

Luck Be A Landlord (Mac): COMPLETED!

This game is a bit like a cross between a clicker and a fruit machine. You spin the reels, and get items appear, and then get money depending on what items and how many of each. But you also unlock more items that could appear, and there are buffs to certain items which increase their worth or a multiplier or both.

So, for example, if you get a Witch, then you get more for each Cat it is next to. Or if you get a Monkey, you get more for Banana. After so many rounds, you have to pay rent and then the rent increases for the next set of rounds. Can’t pay? Game over! So yeah, it’s partly luck based, but then it says that there in the title!

There’s an endless mode, which is obviously impossible to complete, but there’s also a mode with an actual ending, and it’s that I completed.

Zelda (Game & Watch): COMPLETED!

I was lucky enough to be given (an original!) one of these, as well a Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong II, this weekend. It’s the best Game & Watch game and although I have a keyring mini replica I haven’t played the G&W classic since it was a Hot Product in the school playground.

And it still stands up really well today. Although it was much, much easier than I recall because I managed to complete it on my first go. Actually completing G&W games is unusual because most are high score chaser games, but Zelda has an endpoint – get all the bits of triforce by killing all the dragons – and that’s what I did. It was Excellent.

Game Dev Story+ (iPhone): COMPLETED!

Many, many moons ago, I bought the original version of this on my iPhone. It was great. In fact, I still have it and my development company (Ubisocks) is still going and is on year 300 or something.

Recently, a modified version was released on Apple Arcade as Game Dev Story+. I’m not sure what is actually modified, aside from a different coloured icon, but it doesn’t matter because it meant I could restart the game without losing my more-than-a-decade-long save file.

It’s easier than I remember. Certainly, the early stages anyway. Once you have All The Money and can get a game that scores 40/40 regardless of how hard you actually try during development or which genre combo you choose then it’s a walkover, but I had no issues in the beginning at all – never ran out of money, constantly made a profit, and quickly grew Fire Sausage (my new development house) to the point of unstoppable sales. My Animal Crossing clone in particular was a massive seller and award winner!

After 20 in-game years you reach “the end”, in that no new stuff happens, but by that point I’d won all the awards and created a best-selling console so I’d done everything there is to do.

One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 (PS5): COMPLETED!

Not that long ago I picked up One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 on the Switch because it was cheap and I was after a fun musou game. Turned out that, despite not knowing anything about One Piece, it was really rather good. So, when the sequel was cheap on PSN and I’d just bought a second PS5 controller, I thought I’d pick it up.

It’s more of the same, really. There’s a few different story arcs, characters who were not in the previous game, and a new skill upgrade tree method which is easier to make use of this time round, but ultimately it’s a prettier looking (thanks PS4), faster loading (thanks PS5) expansion to Pirate Warriors 3.

As before, I played it from start to finish with my daughter in co-op. Well, aside from the few levels which are bafflingly single player only despite there being a second AI character that could be player 2 in each of them. We also completed all 120+ of the “treasure mode” scenarios, which are vaguely analogous to the Adventure Mode in HYRULE WARRIORS, and I even unlocked every single trophy, which is pretty unheard of.

It’s mindless and mashy and repetitive, sure, but it’s also a lot of fun.

New Super Lucky’s Tale (Switch): COMPLETED!

New Super Lucky’s Tale is no Mario 64 or Yooka-Laylee. It’s a nice little (mostly) 3D platformer in that style, however, but without the acrobatics and inventiveness of the former and with none of the fancy moves and humour of that latter. It’s a very pared down experience in many ways, especially compared to those, but actually, it was a pleasant surprise.

It doesn’t do a lot – you collect things and jump around and there are odd characters to talk to and levels within themed worlds, but it’s still fun and it looks nice in its own cartoony art style. Sometimes jumping is tricky in 3D, and there seem to be more 2D levels than I’d prefer, but I enjoyed it from start to finish. I understand this a remake of a game called Super Lucky’s Tale which came out a few years earlier and had a number of issues which this fixed, although I’ve not played that to compare.

Wuppo (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’d seen Wuppo on the eShop a few times and it looked like the sort of game I’d want to play – silly, nonsensical stuff. It reminded me a bit of Pikuniku, although is obviously very different, and then it was incredibly cheap so I folded and here we are.

The story is (and apologies for getting lost in advance) that you are a Wum – a sort of blob creature – who lives in a hotel called The Wumhouse. In the world are are two other sentient native species, and another who were warlike and wiped out ages ago (or were they?). And now there are some space aliens who look like lions. Because you’re very messy with ice cream, you’re kicked out of the Wumhouse and so begins an adventure where you meet characters from these species, fight them, visit an underground city, come across massive bosses like a giant eel and a huge ice cream, and discover more about what you have to do through old filmstrips you play on projectors.

And play volleyball, deliver newspapers by shooting them into peoples’ faces, visit a theme park, paint a picture, and discover a face in the sky who likes to eat mud. It’s all woven together, sort of, into something mostly coherent but utterly absurd, where you end up having to save the world.

It plays out mostly as a platformer, with your bouncy little blob able to jump, and double jump, and with the right item shoot gel in the direction of the right stick in order to kill things. Quickly, you realise that the game itself isn’t the only weird thing here, as the controls are too. For example, to get into the inventory you press a direction on the d-pad rather than press +. To jump, you’d expect a face button but as this may conflict with the right stick aiming, a shoulder button is used instead – only it’s on the left, not the right like in other games where this is an issue. Both these things felt wrong for the entire duration of the game and I never got used to them. Giving items is also needlessly fiddly, as is buying things and selecting items from the inventory.

In order to progress you’re not really given enough information as to what to do, which when coupled with being given “quests” which seem to have no use or bearing on the plot (but you don’t know this at the time), it can be tricky figuring out what to do or where to go next. Also, there’s the problem of “is that platform just out of reach and I need an item or different route, or am I just mistiming my jump, or is it even a platform at all”, which is frustrating.

So while I did love the world, and the art style, and how quirky and ridiculous it all is, too many small problems in Wuppo stop me from fully recommending it. For cheaps though? You can do a lot worse.

Alwa’s Legacy (Switch): COMPLETED!

After enjoying Alwa’s Awakening so much, and it was actually Alwa’s Legacy I’d originally intended to play until I realised Awakening came first and, well, existed, of course I was going to jump right into Legacy afterwards.

It is, basically, more of the same. You’re still Zoe, you still have a magic staff, and you can still use your three powers – shoot a lightning bolt, create a block and create a bubble. This time, however, the graphics are all 16-bit in style rather than 8, and you get additional abilities too.

Once obtained, you can air-dash (a bit like how you do in Celeste), warp through some walls, breath longer underwater, and upgrade the number of health segments you have. The way you upgrade your original powers is different too – previously you just found items to do that, but now you spend the orbs you collect on improvements – most of which are new to this game. You can also remove the upgrades too, allowing you to re-spend the orbs on different upgrades, meaning if you don’t need one for a bit you can make use of another. There are also a few tweaks to the controls to accommodate more skills and to make use of the fact 16-bit machines had more buttons!

The plot isn’t much different to before – beat four bosses then take down Vicar. Each boss has its own area with different gimmicks: Two of the cleverer ones include one where you can raise and lower the water level to open up paths or solve puzzles, and the other lets you swap between past and future versions of the “dungeon”, making vines grow or lasers disappear.

I found Legacy’s enemies, especially the bosses, much much easier than those in Awakening, but found the puzzles and “how do I get to X” issues much less obvious than before. Completing it 100% was a bit harder too as hidden areas were much more hidden and there’s no controller rumble to alert you to them – although there is an item late on that warns you there’s a secret in a room, but not where in the room! Overall, though, the improvements and other changes made this more enjoyable than the original game, which I’d already thought was great. Alwa’s Legacy is not in the same league as Super Metroid or Hollow Knight, but it’s still a great Metroidvania and definitely worth picking up.

Star Trek Online (PS5): COMPLETED!

As it turns out, it is possible to complete Star Trek Online, and it’s possible to do it without paying any money at all. Because that’s what I did.

I know that for many people, the game here is all the endgame content, playing with others, doing the same missions over and over and collecting all the ships and stuff. That’s not for me. I reached the cap of level 65, then finished all the single play missions remaining, and that’s it. And it was mostly OK?

I’m still baffled how buggy it is, especially since some of the bugs I came across were there and reported on the official forums three or four years ago, and how clunky it all is. The menus are unwieldy and the menu navigation controls clearly suffer from controller rather than mouse use. The animations are PS2 level woodeness, characters randomly stand on chairs and tables (or sometimes, inside walls, doors or furniture), and getting stuck inside asteroids or rocky outcrops in caves is such a frequent issue that rather than fix it, they included a “warp somewhere nearby” option in the menu called “I am stuck”.

It’s repetitive. It’s broken. It’s ugly. And, although this isn’t the game’s fault, it doesn’t even fit into the Star Trek universe any more. But I enjoyed it enough to spend what is probably 125+ hours on it so I suppose it must have done something right?

Alwa’s Awakening (Switch): COMPLETED!

In my side-quest to play more Metroidvania games (which I didn’t realise was a side-quest but it seems to have become one in recent months), I was looking through lists of well-regarded, eShop-available, games in the genre. Listed frequently was Alwa’s Legacy, so I didn’t buy that as I found it was a sequel to Alwa’s Awakening which was about £2.50 so I bought that instead.

And I’m glad I did because although it does nothing special, it’s a solid and enjoyable game with some unusual ideas for the genre. Firstly, it’s built with a NES aesthetic (in fact, there is a NES version which was developed recently) with limited colours and two button controls. Nothing new there, but it’s a good example of how to do that well.

Any Metroidvania needs to have decent unlockable powers to make things interesting, and Alwa’s Awakening manages to do this without opting for the staple double-jump. In fact, there are only three powers – create a block (which you can push or stand on), create a bubble (which rises and you can hop on briefly), and shoot a lightning bolt. The block is upgraded later so it can be used as a raft in water, and the bubble improved so you can ride it until you bang your head, but that’s it. It does a lot with these though, including some tricky platforming sections which see you switching magic on the fly, puzzles where you have to create blocks and push blocks in specific ways, and unusual methods of defeating difficult bosses.

Importantly, it has the “colouring in the map” mechanic that is so important to these games, and there are hidden and semi-hidden secrets to double the damage you can do and orbs to collect which can knock some HP off bosses before you start.

It’s also a lot longer than I was expecting. I thought I was in for a couple of hours, but it was nearer 8 when beat the final boss and I suspect there’s a different ending once I return and find the remaining handful of orbs I’d missed.

Picross S3 (Switch): COMPLETED!

More Picross, innit.

I mean, I’m not really sure what else there is to say. I think it’s the longest of the Jupiter-made games, as it took me over 35 hours to do all the puzzles, and it also introduces colour picross to the series. I didn’t like the slight change in logic at first, but it soon clicked and then I wished there were more of them.

Much as I love picross, I think I might give them a little break now before I pick up Picross S4!