Things I’ve been playing recently

Well, where “recently” is “any time in the last couple of months” and “things” is “games I’ve not completed as I’ve already posted about those”. In no particular order:

Spec Ops: The Line (Mac)

This was free, but only if I played it enough to get £1 credit back from Green Man Gaming. At first, I really struggled as it misdetected my PS4 controller and everything literally spiralled out of control – see this video, in particular from the 7 minute point:

With that fixed (I used a mouse and keyboard instead), I then worked through the first level, or mission, or whatever. It’s OK, but nothing special. It’s also difficult to play with an Apple mouse, because you can’t click the left and right buttons at the same time. I don’t know if I’ll play it more.

Paper Mario Sticker Star (3DS)

A lot of people seemed to be quite negative about this, but I’m really enjoying it. It removes almost all of the RPG elements (perhaps this is why it has the reputation it does), but the story and the combat are great and it looks lovely. Also, that Wii U one is out now and I thought I’d do this while waiting for that to magically appear in my possession.

Letter Quest Remastered (PS4)

Incredible Boggle/RPG hybrid. You’re given a bank of 15 random letters, some worth more than others (sort of Scrabble-like) and you make words out of them. The more powerful your word, the harder your attack is on your foes. You can level up abilities, making 6 letter words worth more, or double letters more powerful, etc. and it’s very addictive.

Assault Android Cactus (PC)

I set my Steam Link up again and this is one of the titles I played, having heard good things and getting it for virtually free in a recent Humble Bundle. It’s not bad, but I don’t think – so far at least – it deserves all the praise. It’s just a quite bland twin stick shooter with average graphics but with some great characters. I’m enjoying it, but not as much as I expected to.

Lego Dimensions (PS4)

I actually bought this a while back, but still had Lego Marvel Avengers on the go. With that finished (although not 100%ed) my daughter and I broke it out and yes – it is excellent. Jumping from world to world (we’ve had The Simpsons, The Wizard of Oz, Ninjago and Doctor Who so far) is great, and the references to other Lego games (such as the Joker Titanbot rematch) are awesome too. Playing shuffle-the-characters on the portal is less fun, though, but we’ve negated that a little by moving the portal to the sofa between us.

Pokémon Y (3DS)

With over 70 hours on the clock now, and still about 30% of my Pokédex unfilled, there’s a lot of game here. Not least when you consider I “completed” it at around the 35 hour mark.

Super Mario Maker (Wii U)

Impossible (1)I got Super Mario Maker for Christmas, and soon set about creating some utterly fantastic levels with it. Sadly, they were all lost in the New Year’s Eve Mario Level Fire, so you’ll have to make do with the other creations instead. I’ve some listed in this blog post over here.

Mostly, though, I’ve been playing other peoples’ levels, which is frankly the only other thing you can do with the game. There’s no “story mode” or anything, so it’s user generated content or create user generated content. There is a set of levels collected together to become a sort of “new” Mario game, but it’s actually just user levels randomly picked that you play one after another.

Ice_ClimbersEach level has a difficulty rating, seemingly applied based on the number of people who managed to complete it, and there are three levels of difficulty you can play through in this random level story mode thing, with a set number of lives with which to try and make it to the end. It’s fun, but invariably due to the random nature of it, you’ll get some terrible levels thrown in. Thankfully, you can skip them and they’re swapped out for another level instead.

You can also just pick and choose other players’ levels, either by using a code to look them up, or following some of your friends or favourite creators. It’s this second option that I’ve mainly been doing when playing rather than creating.

tumblr_nzzmy80qj81svmpf2o1_400The actual creation side of things is as simple as you’d expect from Nintendo. Drag items from the toolbox onto the play area, and that’s it. Shake items to modify them (e.g. green koopas become red) or feed items mushrooms to make them larger. Add wings to things to make them fly, put them in pipes to make the pipes spit them out, and combine or stack items, blocks or baddies for other, sometimes unexpected, stuff. You can change the theme of the level, swapping between Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros U tilesets, and configure it to be a grassy level, underground, an airship level, and so on just by clicking a button. It’s very easy.

Sadly, to actually get to do all these things, you have to unlock all the modes and items, and doing that is a combination of using everything already available and placing lots of items. You have to spend a couple of hours just placing objects in order for the game to allow you the full freedom it can. I understand Nintendo trying to ease you in, but why there’s no “OK, I’ve played Mario games before – skip to the end?” option, I don’t know.

This_is_stupid.A minor complaint, but understandable when you consider how easy it is to flip between game types, is the physics. Mario jumps around like he does in New Super Mario Bros U, which is great. Only his physics are the same in a Super Mario Bros level too, and a Mario 3 level, and in the original games they didn’t all handle the same at all. I realise why this is done – you’d probably have to redesign a level to accommodate different jump heights or run-up distances every time you swap theme – but it’s a shame you can’t have “original physics” as a choice. After all, each Mario in each theme has other differences anyway, as Mario U call wall jump, and Mario 3 can pick up feathers to fly.

Worst_episode_of_Fort_Boyard_everThat aside, it’s a great little package. Something “create your own levels” games often become is tiresome as your imagination fades, but when you upload levels for others to play – and get feedback from – this adds something, and coupled with the breadth of ideas from other creators (you’d think by now Mario ideas had been exhausted: It would appear not) you’re constantly exposed to new gimmicks, set pieces and ideas to add, modify or combine for your own levels.

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nvx9cbduni1svmpf2o1_400I got this with some of my Club Nintendo stars. RIP Club Nintendo, by the way. I struggled with what to spend them on before they expired, and of the number I had left Wario Land 3 was the only one I didn’t already have on either my 3DS or Wii U that I hadn’t already completed. I do have it on the Game Boy Colour, but never finished it.

tumblr_nwc2xug4dg1svmpf2o1_400About three levels in, I realised something was amiss. Not only did I not recognise any of the game, but it also wasn’t in colour. And it was possible to die. Hang on, I thought, this isn’t right. Have you spotted the mistake yet, readers? That’s right – I’ve got hold of Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, not Wario Land 3. I was actually quite pleased, as I’ve never played it.

tumblr_nwc2yl6qfs1svmpf2o1_400Now I have, and I’ve completed it. It was fun, but nowhere near as much fun as Mario Land 2 or Wario Land 3. The extra hats Wario picks up are mostly unnecessary, the levels are linear, the game feels quite short, and although it’s better than 95% of other Game Boy platformers, it isn’t anything special. Of course, I only picked up enough treasure to get Wario a tree to live in (rather than a gold castle or whatever it is he wants), so I could return to find the hidden treasures, but I’m not sure I can be bothered.

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Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U): COMPLETED!

PullbloxFirst up, here’s a massive spoiler I don’t mind giving away: Captain Toad is actually the prequel to Super Mario 3D World. I mean, everyone knows it’s a spinoff based on the Captain Toad levels from 3D World, but the end sequence of Captain Toad actually shows how it’s a prequel, what with Toad returning from his adventure then setting off to the Sprixie Kingdom after green stars. Who knew?

Donkey_KongCaptain Toad is pretty much just more levels like those Toad levels in 3D World. They’re more complex, there’s a hell of a lot more of them, they’re more varied and more clever, but you can see where they come from quite clearly. Toad sets out to collect a star on each level, solving puzzles to get there and optionally collecting three (sometimes hidden) gems in each. Well, I say optionally – you need some, but not all of them, to unlock some of the levels. You don’t appear to get anything for collecting all of them in the entire game though, which was a bit odd.

ROARToad is useless in a fight, and can’t jump, so most of the enemies need to be avoided or beaten in other ways. You can throw things at them, or drop onto them from a platform, or use other baddies to take them out for you, which totally changes how you play compared to Mario games. It looks like a Mario game, sounds like a Mario game, but really doesn’t play much like one. Even some of the levels look like those Mario plays through in 3D World (in fact, some even ARE from 3D World), but with a  different set of skills, the route to the end is not the same.

Woo_woo__All_aboard_Like 3D World (and Mario 64, Mario Galaxy, and so on), there are fresh game ideas galore, and many are used just once. If only other game designers had half the skill in coming up with ideas. Even those Mario clichés seen before are used differently here.

It’s pretty easy, although each level has an additional target (such as don’t get hit, find a hidden mushroom, collect a number of coins) most of which I’ve missed so far. Part of the reason for missing them is that you don’t know what they are until after you’ve completed the level, so unless you obtain them accidentally, you have to replay the level. Not that replaying levels is a chore – you don’t need to re-collect gems, so you can avoid some of the puzzles, and each level is pretty short.

Yay_In addition to all three “episodes”, I’ve also completed everything currently unlocked in the bonus section – levels from 3D World, the Toad Brigade levels (repeated levels where you have to find the rest of your troop and take them all to the star), and the Mummy Me chase levels – although the bonus level “book” is still far from full, so I expect there are more bonus levels if I complete all the level targets.

Captain Toad is quite short, quite easy, and very, very lovely.

Super Mario 64 (Wii U): COMPLETED!

WHOMP_there_it_isLook, there’s not lots to write about this that I’ve not written before. Super Mario 64 is one of the best games ever made, on any system, ever. That’s just a fact, and playing it through again did nothing to dissuade me. Of course, I’m still not sure if Super Mario 64 is better than New Super Mario Bros U, or if it’s the other way round, but I can be sure the two of them are at positions 2 and 3 in The Best Games Ever.

MY_WIFE_NOW_DAAAVEThe Wii U Virtual Console version is barely different to the Wii Virtual Console and the N64 original, but the graphics seem a little sharper (probably only because it’s now HDMI rather than any changes Nintendo have made) and of course the buttons have moved on the Wii U Gamepad. I moved A and B to B and Y though, so it’s more like an N64 pad, and didn’t have any issues – it feels just the same as it did before.

Trapped__like_ratsOne addition is the availability of save states, which was useful as I didn’t need to pause the game for hours if I needed to do something else.  Oh, and you can take screenshots now, obviously.

Is it just me, or is the game now significantly easier, though? In particular, on previous playthroughs, I’m sure I struggled on at least one of the Bowser levels and getting 100 coins on Rainbow Ride in the past, but no such issues this time. In fact, I’ve had very few deaths at all, all things considered. Maybe I’m just a lot better than I thought. Yes. That’s bound to be it.

Troma_BowserEven after nigh on 20 years, Mario 64 is still gorgeous to look at, listen to (the tunes are probably more memorable that pretty much any Mario game since – or any game since, perhaps) and play.  The controls are slick, Mario leaps and flips and dives in a fluid way no other game, not even later Marios, has ever managed. It’s an utter joy from start to finish.

Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS): COMPLETED!

tumblr_njzj24qcn11svmpf2o1_400That was quick! I am aware that most of the time you’d spend with a golf game like this would be in multiplayer, or the online tournaments, or (in this case) the extra courses that don’t play a part of the “story mode”, but I didn’t expect to have licked all three course contests in just a few days.

tumblr_njzj1tnbcf1svmpf2o1_400In fact, I won the first and second contests on my first attempts, although the Mountain Course proved trickier and I placed second on my first two tries. I didn’t play especially badly, but it was hard to get birdies and the winners seemed to get -8 very easily. On the attempt when I actually came first on the Mountain Course, I managed -7 with Mario in second place with -4. It all seemed somewhat random as to how well your opponents do.

Completing it has unlocked some more clothes and clubs and Peach’s Garden (whatever that is) so there’s more to do yet.

Things I’ve been playing recently

A few things that might not warrant a full post each. Or I’m lazy. Or both! Or neither.

Super Mario 64 (Wii U)

Technically, I’ve been playing this on the Wii U, but it’s actually the N64 game on the Wii Virtual Console via the Wii U.  Erm, but anyway.

I’ve not got very far in, and playing it was mainly to entertain my daughter, but I’ve picked up about 15 stars. It’s still one of the best games ever made, and as good as Super Mario 3D World is, this still bests it by a considerable margin. Not bad for a game that’s 18 years old!

tumblr_n5lyespnhy1svmpf2o1_400Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)

It was my birthday, and the animals threw me a party! And some sent me (terrible) presents. But the thought was there.

I’m now just 4 weeks away from having played this for an entire year. I’ve still got so much to do – I’m nowhere near filling either the museum or my catalogue, and I still don’t have a police station. Still, I did manage to get a new tree stump pattern I’d not managed before. Looks like I might be playing this even after my 365 day stint is up…

tumblr_n5qgrqjqab1svmpf2o1_400Nintendo Pocket Football Club (3DS)

I’ve been promoted to the third league (the one with the football as the logo), and spent the summer training, playing Italy a lot (which gives you loads of cards), buying some new players (some of mine have aged already, and are dropping stats!) and preparing for the new season.

Which started badly as I lost my first game. Thankfully, it was only to the team that had just dropped down from the next league up, so I should still be able to beat everyone else. In fact, I have beaten two other teams already, so things are looking up!

I wish my striker, Jaimie, could manage more than two matches without getting injured though. Useless.

Super Mario Bros 2 (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Dinner_time___spoilers_for__qazimod_Super Mario Bros 2 appeared on the Wii U Virtual Console months ago. I think it may have been one of the 30p games from a year ago. Either way, I’ve not played it since it came out, although I had reached level 5.

Spurred on by playing NES Remix 2 recently, of which Super Mario Bros 2 is a part, I thought I’d best finish up the full game properly, and so did.

Look_behind_you__A_three_headed_mon_uh__snake_It was much easier than I recall from the last time I completed it, which was on the NES soon after release, actually. This is probably because all the hard bits (in particular, the bosses) were part of NES Remix 2 and in some cases were trickier there due to additional rules or being unable to use my character of choice (Mario, obviously).

As a result, I cleared the remaining few levels in about half an hour and saw Wart off without any problems.

Super Mario Bros Deluxe (3DS): COMPLETED!

Thank_you_Mario__now_why_not_do_it_all_againNintendo lovingly gave lots of 3DS owners a free copy of this GBC game (on the 3DS Virtual Console) for Valentine’s Day. Ah, bless them.

Seems that all that play on NES Remix recently has really paid off, as a I stormed through SMB Deluxe without losing a single life. OK, yes – I used the 1-2 to 4-1 and 4-2 to 8-1 warps, but I’ve never managed to do World 8 this easily. And that’s with the GBC version’s cramped level design as the screen resolution is too low…

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Hahaha__No.After a mammoth effort this weekend, I get all the stars, stamps and flags from the rest of the remaining levels. It wasn’t hard, it just took a fair while as most of the levels had at least something left to collect.

My reward? World Crown. I was slightly disappointed to find there were just three levels on this world, but as you can see – one of them is pretty much a monster. Look at all them stars!

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Worlds_1-8_done__All_stampsflagsstars._Special_worlds_left_to_mop_up_now_That picture there is all the flags, stars and stamps for all of the worlds from 1-8. Or 1-Bowser, if you’re using Nintendo’s eclectic numbering system. Surprisingly, although the hardest level up until then when playing normally and for the first run through, was Grumblump Inferno (the one with the blocks you have to stand on as they roll over lava), and I’d failed to get anything but a finish on it, this time I found it incredibly easy and breezed through getting everything. Time is such a healer.

Or, in the case of Mario games, time is a great provider of awesome Mario skills. With much play comes great power. Or something.

Dah_dah_dah_daaaaaaaah_After that, it was onto the special worlds to clean up the remaining collectables there. I’m not far in yet, but no real difficulties yet. Aside from on Rainbow Run, where although I didn’t die, getting to the second star with a Fire Flower intact was a challenge. After several attempts (restarting if I lost it), I realised there was a Fire Flower just to the left of the area you need one for. Gah.


Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

The post-game mop-up continues apace. I’ve played through all of Star, Mushroom and Flower worlds (although not collected everything in each level), finishing at Boss Blitz.

It’s not that the level is especially hard, because it isn’t. In fact, most of the bosses in this – which technically classifies as a SuckySuck(TM) Bit – are the same as earlier in the game. The main issue is beating them in the time allowed. Actually, the main issues is beating the Hisstocrats in a short enough time to fit everything else in, as all the other bosses are really easy.

It took about 30 attempts, but not 30 lives as I quit if the Hisstrocrats (the bosses I attempted first) fight was taking too long, but finally:


Then nothing. That was it. Surely not! Of course not. I “simply” hadn’t collected all the stars, stamps and gold flags in the rest of the game. Ooops.

So off I set to correct that. I’ve now 100%ed all of worlds 1-5, and almost done all of world 6. This is where the challenge is, I suspect!


Things I’ve Played Recently

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)


Oh, you want more? Erm, really glorious? It’s the best Zelda game since Minish Cap. Mainly because it’s the only Zelda games since Minish Cap, sure, but still.

Yes, yes, I know there was Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass and those Wii ones and stuff, but they’re not proper Zelda games. Don’t argue.

Nintendo have taken the essence of a proper Zelda game, reused the game world from A Link To The Past, and streamlined a new alternative story. By streamlined, I mean you’re essentially handed all Link’s weapons and very quickly obtain most of his abilities and just left to do the job of winning and exploring. Which might sound awful, but it really works. It’s a lot of fun as a result.

I’ve just finished the first dungeon (which didn’t even feel like a dungeon, and it’s only the first in that it’s the first I attempted – you can do them in any order) in Lorule, so there’s a fair way to go yet.

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

tumblr_myu6u3HPvt1svmpf2o1_1280With the game complete (as in, Bowser beaten) it’s mop-up time. I’ve been back to earlier levels and nabbed more stars, stamps and, er, sflags, and played through the post-game unlocked Star World, and some of the post-Star-World Mushroom World. I’m still yet to find any actually really difficult levels though.

Sure, some of the stars have been hard, and there have been a few moderately difficult levels, but there’s been NOTHING as hard as the hard stuff in New Super Mario Bros U yet. Still, there’s more to come so it might happen eventually…

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)

Hippo_new_year__Or_would_be_if_the_stupid_hippo_had_turned_up.Still playing. Still not missed a day. Still finding things to do. Still getting the same damn statue from Crazy Redd EVERY SINGLE TIME. Seriously – I’ve had the guy with the disc one six times running.

It was New Year in the game too, and there were fireworks and a big countdown clock and stuff. Which was nice.

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Spoilers_By completed, I of course mean I have beaten Bowser. Like New Super Mario Bros U, from around this time last year, that’s only the first half of the game. The post-game mop-up of stars, flags and stamps will continue for a long time, I’m sure.

Apparently, it took me just under 5 hours to get this far. That’s shorter than NSMBU by some way. It certainly felt shorter, and was certainly easier. Yes, I found a warp (by accident) which skipped most of World 4 (this is why there’s a fairy missing in that screenshot), and no, I’ve not done every single level, but then I didn’t do all of NSMBU before Bowser either.

Being easier was a surprise. NSMBU had some tricky levels, and a few really hard ones, but the vast majority of those were in the special post-game worlds. NSMBU was a very easy game, but getting to Bowser in 3D World was a complete walkover. There is just one slightly hard level en-route – Grumblump Inferno, near the end of the game – and that was much easier once I realised you’re supposed to walk on the blocks as they rotate (as the mice do) rather than jump.

I know that 100%ing the game will be much harder, but I’m still amazed as how easy this has been so far. It’s the easiest Mario game I’ve ever played, by a considerable margin.

But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because the game is fantastic. It oozes charm, quality and variety. Every level has something new, or a twist on something that came before. The graphics and the music are some of the best in any game ever, and the gameplay is nigh-on platforming perfection. But only nigh-on. Somewhere in the transition to 3D, the platforming precision of NSMBU has slightly veered away from perfect. The controls are not as tight. The into and out of screen jumping is a little vague in places (and some of the swimming levels are a little broken with this extra plane to deal with). These are very minor complaints, however, and it’s only because NSMBU was so recent that the comparison has to be made. 3D World is still a masterpiece, it’s just there’s another Wii U Mario game that stands a little taller.

New Super Luigi U (Wii U): COMPLETED!

weegiucompleteWell, that was easier than I expected. I thought some of the later levels would be hard as nails, but due to being pretty short, they weren’t. Even Bowser wasn’t too difficult, despite the lack of restart points (meaning if you die on the boss, you have to restart the level completely!), taking only two attempts.

Disappointingly, he was the same boss as with Mario, although his attack pattern was slightly different.

With him defeated, I set about completing some of the other levels I’d skipped, missed, or hadn’t unlocked yet. I’ve not done them all, and perhaps won’t – too many other games to play – but I’ll certainly do some more at least.