King Oddball (Vita): COMPLETED

Imagine a cross between Peggle and Angry Birds. You can’t? Well just play King Oddball instead.

The aim (ha!) is to chuck rocks at tanks and helicopters, so as to destroy them all. Of course, there are more things to blow up than you have rocks, so you need to rebound them or make use of other objects to drop on them instead. If you manage to bounce a rock back at your head, or hit one than three baddies in one throw, you get a bonus rock.

That’s pretty much all there is to it. There’s some variety in levels, with different layouts, and sometimes tanks need two hits rather than one, but very few are taxing and those that are can mostly be fluked. Still, it was enjoyable in a Peggle-y sort of way.

Knights of the Round (Vita): COMPLETED

Or technically, PSP, as it’s part of the PSP Capcom Classics compilation. Although technically technically it’s an arcade game. And one I thought I’d played before, but it seems not.

It’s basically Golden Axe only set in Arthurian legend times. And your character (I was Arthur) levels up, giving you supposedly more powerful attacks (negated by more powerful colour swapped foes) but ever more impressive looking armour.

It was fun, although I missed being able to dash left and right like you can in Golden Axe.

Burly Men At Sea (Vita): COMPLETED!

I was going to buy this for the Switch on a number of occasions, but never got round to it. And then it appeared on PS+. My Vita came out of retirement, and after twice as long updating it as it took to play the game, I’d completed it.

And then completed it again. And again. And again.

You see, this story about four bearded sailor brothers is somewhat short, but that’s only part of the point. At various points in the story you can make a choice (although it isn’t always obvious there is a choice!) and the story takes a new direction. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll end up back at the start ready to begin a slightly different adventure.

I really love the art style, and the text is humourous. There isn’t much in the way of puzzling or gameplay of any kind, really, but it’s an enjoyable set of sea tales nonetheless.

Uncanny Valley (Vita)

Wait what

I think I’m missing something here, because this is how it went down:

My guy ran away from some ghostie zombie things, they caught him, then he woke up. Then he was on a train, and upon arriving was driven by a fat security guard to a sort of factory. He told me about my new job, and my new apartment.

I went to my apartment, got changed into my uniform, and returned to the factory. Wandered round there for a bit, read some people’s emails, then fell asleep in the woods on the way home.

Woke up in my apartment, and tried opening some of the other apartment doors. One opened, and I found some keys. It turned out they were for the security guy’s car, so I got in and drove back to the train station and boarded a train.

Then the credits came up as if I’d completed the game. What.

So why no “completed” tag? Because there’s no way that’s it, right? Fifteen minutes of “game”, where nothing happens, and done? Surely not.

Undertale (Vita)

That’s Best Ending done then. Not much fighting (well, acting to allow mercy) went on, just a lot of wandering and then so much chat and finally an end boss who can’t actually kill you.

It was alright, I suppose?

Undertale (Vita): COMPLETED!

Undertale, Overtale, grumbling me.

When I first became aware of Undertale, with its Earthbound type quirkiness and spare any foe mechanic, I immediately wanted it. The problem was, like many indie games, it wasn’t available outside of PC and Mac platforms. As I rarely play games on those, especially not long games, I had to wait for a console version.

Which somehow, I missed. In fact, it was only when absentmindedly scrolling through the PSN January sale I noticed it existed for the PS4 and Vita, and at a bargain price too. Yoink!

And it’s a bit disappointing, sadly. The humour and quirk is fine, and the intentionally terrible monster designs is alright. The way you have to dodge attacks is quite clever (if often near impossible), and although I wasn’t a fan to start with it’s probably better than “stand and get hit” like most other RPGs and I warmed to it in the end.

No, the disappointment is that it just isn’t that good a game. The areas are boring, there’s not much depth to it, and it’s very short. Of course, I’ve gone for the pacifist route which means very little combat, so that might be part of the reason. There’s also the lore, which is sort of interesting but not really compelling. For a game pretty light on gameplay, there needs to be a story you want revealing to push you to keep playing, and Undertale doesn’t have it. Sure, after completion there’s some more to mop up to get the True Ending (which I’m heading for now), but to get there involves some funny but pointless filler about dating NPCs.

At five hours in now, I’m looking forward to getting this true ending, when I should be wishing the game was longer, so something isn’t working for me here. Shame.

Persona 4 Golden (Vita): COMPLETED!

Someone finish it off!

I did wonder, three years ago when I bought Persona 4 Golden, whether I’d ever end up completing it. It was on the Vita, which I didn’t play. Supposedly it was a hundred hours long. It felt, some 15 hours in, like I was still in the tutorial. There were so many other games.

It fell by the wayside, despite me enjoying it. Then, around four months ago, I went back. I could have started from the beginning again, and perhaps, with hindsight, maybe I should have done, but after one hundred hours I’d completed it. Persona 4 Golden was great.

Persona 4 Golden

When I’d paused on it way back when, I was struggling to comprehend the Persona system. I wasn’t really enjoying the pressure to save people from the fog before the days ran out. Building social links seemed unimportant and there were better things I should be spending my time doing. How wrong I was.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Wii U game Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE gave me a better understanding. It’s the same sort of game (in fact, it’s a spin off of the same core series Persona is), but with everything simplified. Not easier, just less complicated. This worked in my favour – easing me into the Persona way of doing things. Going back to Persona 4 Golden with this knowledge let me concentrate on the differences, and I took to the Social Links properly, soon reaping the benefits.

The core game is pretty standard JRPG faire. Wander dungeons, fight baddies in turn based and element-sensitive combat. Level up. Fight harder baddies. And so on. If this was all of the game, it’d be pretty uninteresting, but the the interactions between dungeons add several layers to it. Not just story, but interest, secrets and humour. The characters are wonderful and full of depth, especially those who open up as you advance your relationship with them.

Speaking of relationships, it seems that most of the girls in the game can become romantically linked to you. Quite early on your mate Yosuke quizzes you on whether you prefer quiet and clever Yokiko or tomboyish but shy Chie. I picked Chie, and although you don’t actively pursue anyone, some time later my dialogue choices netted me her as a girlfriend. Which was great, until I decided to hug Rise because she was crying (the alternative was literally to stand there and watch) and suddenly I was a two-timing tart. Oops.

Over the course of a year (in the game), your team expands as you rescue more people from the fog. Teddie, Kanji and Naoto are added to your dungeoning party, although I never really bothered to enlist them. As time progresses you close in on who is responsible for the kidnappings and deaths although naturally, the obvious culprit isn’t to blame. In fact, nor are several other people, including three who actually confess. There are a number of endings, presumably bad if you miss the real villain.

I avoided some because I’d already realised that the obvious ending wasn’t the true ending, and then stumbled past another false accusation: There are a number of dialogue options you need to choose and luckily I picked the right ones to progress. I’d also been tipped off that I’d need to max out Marie’s Social Link, so having managed all that the final dungeon was revealed and upon completion, the true ending.

Or so I thought. Until I was corrected on Twitter and it seems I’d missed a further revelation. A reload, a careful conversation with everyone and an exploration of everywhere, and finally, the final final dungeon. And the Real True Ending Honest This Time No Really.

Persona 4 Golden feels like a teen drama mixed with A Nightmare on Elm Street, Love Hina, and Eerie Indiana. It’s emotional, surprising, with tonnes of firepower. Funzo, in game form. At times, it’s confusing. Or it’s addictive, stressful, funny and disappointing. Not being able to complete your planned dates, book reads, shopping or cinema trips because you’re panicking you have to kill some demons in time can annoy you, because who wants time management and a diary in a game? Eventually I realised that there’s time for most things, and getting The Important Stuff Done isn’t too hard. It’s an incredible game.

Now I don’t know what to do. Four solid months of Persona is a lot to give up. There’s New Game+ of course, but that’s not really more Persona. There’s Persona 5, but that’s not on a portable console so wouldn’t get half the attention this did. I’m tempted to go back to Tokyo Mirage, but then I look at the backlog of titles 100 hours of Persona caused, so who knows.

Persona 4 Golden (Vita)

Every day’s great at your Junes!

A little history on this first. Over two years ago, I bought Persona 4 Golden cheap. I’d wanted it anyway – despite not really understanding much about the game besides “JRPG in a modern day setting” – because everyone seemed to rate it. At the time I wrote:

The fantastic yellow submarine/katamari hybrid opening sequence segued into Shenmue before becoming something somewhere between Phoenix Wright and Eternal Sonata, via a Japanese dating sim and The Ring.

Perfectly my sort of nonsense then. I started playing it, got about ten hours in, then just stopped. There were a few reasons. I bought Akiba’s Trip at the same time, and that was vaguely similar but much more accessible. I was also struggling to understand the whole Persona system (I’d never played a game in the series), and I was panicking I’d run out of time to rescue people from the TV which put an unhappy stress into the game.

The longer I didn’t play it, the harder it felt going back to it. I’d pretty much binned the Vita after a few months and so Persona 4 Golden was, sadly, abandoned.

Then, last year, I bought, played, completed and absolutely loved Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE on the Wii U. It was the Akiba’s Trip aesthetic that drew me in, but it was the Persona-like gameplay that kept me hooked. I quickly realised it was a Persona game in all but name – and not surprising since it’s a spinoff from the same source Persona 4 Golden is. It has some simplified mechanics compared to Persona 4 Golden, with the Performa “soul” system being similar to but much more streamlined than Persona’s, er, Personas. Dungeons were much the same. Items and magic even have the same names and effects. Tokyo Mirage is My First Persona, and having beaten it, I felt like I could return to P4G with a better understanding of how it worked.

It was still a while before I fired it up again, but I was absolutely right.

A couple of weeks ago, I loaded my 30 month old save (just after saving Yukiko), and I’ve put almost 20 hours into it since then. It’s incredible.

My two main fears – time running out, and not being able to grind dungeons (something you can do in Tokyo Mirage) – were unfounded. Certainly, you can run out of time, but you’ve loads of it and with a tiny bit of planning and some goal setting, it’s not a problem. And while I found you can’t realistically grind a dungeon forever, you can for a very long time once you’ve met the fox and he provides a way to restore SP (the main barrier to indefinite grinding) in the TV without having to leave. It comes at a hefty price, but doing quests for him reduces the cost, and you gain plenty of money bashing baddies anyway. Phew. Sorted.

With my worries out of the way, I could enjoy the game. Build up my social links without being concerned that I’m “wasting” an afternoon wooing Chie (of course) instead of levelling up in the TV. I’m seeing the benefits of some of these links already too, as my party are gaining follow-up and team attacks and stuff.

I’ve taken on some part-time jobs, mainly because I was finding I needed Courage for far too many of my conversations and the scary janitorial work at the hospital seemed a good way to raise it. It’s a creepy night shift, cleaning empty wards, but more worrying is the nurse who likes to “teach me about anatomy”. She’s wholly inappropriate, what with my character being 15 or something?

Other parts of the game keep opening up. I’ve recently started to be able to fish, catch bugs, and plant stuff in the garden, for instance. Even 30 hours in I’m still feeling like a beginner and this is still part of the tutorial.

As for story progress, I’ve rescued the person after Yukiko (I won’t say who because spoilers, but that sauna dungeon was something else), and the next victim has just been kidnapped. From the Midnight Channel, it’s a woman in a bikini threatening to take it off.

Japanese games, eh?

Oh yeah, and that “Your Affection, Your Affection” (always misheard as “You’re Special” song is constantly in my head now.

Virtua Fighter 2 (PSP): COMPLETED!

Polygone.

Sort of prompted by the Virtua Fighter article in the current issue of Retro Gamer, when I opened up Mega Drive Collection for the PSP – on my Vita – I decided to play this.

It’s crap.

No, it’s really pretty awful. The animation is terrible, the controls are unresponsive, and the implementation of the game on the Vita/PSP is woeful, with horrendous slowdown and sound syncing issues.

It looks nice. But then everything moves and you wonder what the hell Sega were thinking when they thought the Mega Drive was a good fit for a Virtua Fighter 2 port. It didn’t have the oomph to push enough polygons, so they rendered the animation frames with sprites instead. Leaving a poorly animated version of the game and awful sprites that are laughable beside Street Fighter II or even Eternal Champions.

I completed it as Jacky, by the way.

Claire: Extended Cut (Vita)

Claire as mud.

I was given this, kindly, by @IndieGamerChick some time ago but only just got round to playing it. Turns out, I wasn’t really missing much in the interim.

Claire is a narrative discovery game, in 2D (unlike most which are 3D), with some nice pixel art. The story interests me, revolving around some odd happenings in a hospital. Claire is there seemingly because her mum is really not well, but after falling asleep Claire experiences some weirdness.

The hospital becomes empty, run-down, and dark. There’s a dog. Shadows of monsters flicker in the dim candlelight. Stuff moves by itself. Claire has flashbacks, or at least, what seem like them, to when she was a child. I don’t understand anything happening. That doesn’t matter.

Claire
Dark here, innit?

What does matter, is two things. Everything is dark. Really dark. Stupidly dark. Even with the brightness up full, you can’t see a damn thing. You have a torch, which barely helps. The pixel art might be the most incredible pixel art ever created, but you can’t see it because it’s too dark.

The other thing, is the map. Long time readers might recall me complaining about the 3D map for a 2D game problem that Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate has. Basically, you’d sometimes enter a door on the left, and this would put you on a different plane and so left was now down not left. Or something. Well, Claire suffers from the same thing. Navigating from A to B is hard enough anyway (too dark to see the doors, half the doors don’t open) without throwing illogical directions into the mix too.

Especially since where I am currently, I need to find a nurse in Paediatrics. You’d think that’d mean the nurse’s station, right? It’s labelled on the map, and signposted (if you manage to see them) on the wall, so you’d expect that. But no. Instead, I have to wander the entire hospital blindly (both literally and figuratively), not knowing if some of the rooms on the map can’t be accessed or if I just haven’t figured out how, or missed the door in the dark.

Claire
And not really much less dark here.

What I’m saying here, is that Claire – for all of it’s interesting points – is a frustrating chore to play. So I’m not sure if I’ll bother any more. And that’s a shame.

As an aside, and this isn’t the game’s fault at all, but my Vita is a crashy, broken, pile of crap. It’s lucky if I can manage an hour without it crashing. It’s not the memory card, and the error messages are generic and mean nothing. What this means is, that my desire to play Claire is reduced even further as a result – you can’t save at any time, yet my Vita could kick me off whenever it fancies. Sigh.

Actual Sunlight (Vita): COMPLETED!

Go to the roof, and jump off.

I’d never even heard of Actual Sunlight, so I was a little surprised to not only find it sat there on my Vita, but also to find myself playing it. Wait, what? A Vita game? Here? With my reputation?

It turns out it was on PS+ a while back. I dived in. Oh god.

actual sunlight
Get up, you lazy bum.

When a game starts telling you to commit suicide, you know you’ve made a mistake playing it. Sure, it’s telling your character to do it rather than you the player, but the exposition of Evan Winter’s dreary, dead-end life –  with his high tech trinkets that do nothing to make up for his non-existent love life nor his pointless, joyless job – rings a bell for many people, I’m sure.

Go to the roof, and jump off.

Actual Sunlight is a narrative discovery game, following Evan’s mundane activities as he gets up, has a shower, laments his existence, and heads off to work. Or the roof of his apartment building, if you decide to try and end it all. It’s a spoiler to tell you there’s no real choice in the matter, but a one worth spoiling as it’s as much about the journey as it is the destination.

Actual Sunlight
No, no you won’t.

I didn’t enjoy playing it. I don’t think you’re supposed to. Everyone you talk to is miserable, and playing it makes you miserable. Still, it was interesting, I suppose, watching Evan descend seemingly into schizophrenia as he converses with himself, acts out a life he could have had, and ultimately takes himself to the roof after all.

The opening titles warn you that Actual Sunlight deals with difficult and mature issues. I’m not sure it actually deals with them, but they’re certainly represented. Probably best to avoid the game completely if the themes here are likely to cause you distress. An odd choice for Sony to push as a PS+ title, I’d have to say too.

Actual Sunlight
I think many people can identify with this.

Lemmings Touch (Vita)

No.

Lemmings Touch
Stupid.

What, you want me to expand on that? Erm. I’ll try: Lemmings Touch utterly ruins how Lemmings works by reversing the order you command your lemmings. In the proper, unbroken and excellent games, you click on what you want a lemming to do, then click on one or more lemmings to do that task or become that sort of lemming. It’s intuitive and it works. In this game, you tap on a lemming then a circle of options comes up and choose what you want that lemming to do. It means that for every lemming you want to make a climber, you have to tap the lemming then the climber icon. What’s the difference? Try making ten of them climbers.

Then they added evil lemmings to the game, which you have to prevent from getting to the exit.

Lemmings Touch
Or don’t bother, and go and play a different game instead.

Look, it’s just rubbish, OK? And it was a day late on PS+. Burn it.

Hatoful Boyfriend (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_o1tnzmdqoj1svmpf2o1_1280When I looked up how long a game this is, I read it took about 8 hours to finish. So imagine my surprise when I reached the end credits in about 50 minutes.

Afterwards, it became clear that I got just one of many endings. Presumably my choices affect which bird I end up becoming close to, and since I spent all my time choosing the library, I got Nageki’s ending. Nageki who was… a ghost. WoooOOOO! Oh, spoiler. Sorry.

tumblr_o1tnz2bg5k1svmpf2o1_1280Yes, I was “getting close to” birds. Mostly pigeons. In school. And no, I wasn’t a bird as well – I was a human girl who lived in a cave and considered themselves a hunter-gatherer. Look, I didn’t come up with the game’s concept and quite clearly whoever did was dropped on their head as a child because even within the bizarre realm that is Japanese dating sims, Hatoful Boyfriend is elephant grade nuts.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I expect I will play it again for other endings. Because I happen to like elephant grade nuts.

Thomas Was Alone: Benjamin’s Flight (Vita): COMPLETED!

image It has to be said that there were two things harder than the actual game itself, but related to the game itself. Number one: actually getting the damn game to load. I had to download the Benji DLC again, restart the Vita, and sacrifice several virgin goats just to get as far as the menu screen. Number two: actually figuring out how to play the DLC. Turns out you have to choose to replay a scenario and then pick Episode 10. Which isn’t listed as Benji DLC. Ho hum.

imageOnce in the game, it’s short and sweet with an abrupt ending that made me think I was missing some more levels. Not that it really matters.

Benjamin adds a jetpack ability, making his levels a bit faster and floaty than in the main game. It also seemed to make things a lot easier, and I rattled through the lot in just over half an hour. Not including problems with getting the game loaded and restarting from two crashes. Anyway, it was worth the 60p or whatever it was I paid.

Grim Fandango Remastered (PS4/Vita): COMPLETED!

Interest started to wane the closer to the end I got. Puzzles continued to make less and less sense, and even the interest with following the plot was becoming difficult as it was taking longer and longer to solve the puzzles so the story was frequently put into stasis for long periods.

By the end it had become so drawn out I’d forgotten half the characters and the secretary, Meche and the woman from the hipster club all blurred into one. Then Celso appeared and confused me further. What I’m trying to say, is either have the great, funny story and a simpler or less difficult route to progress it, or stick with convoluted and obtuse puzzles and have an easier or more straightforward storyline. Or something.

Things were hampered further by playing the final year or two of the game on my Vita, where it crashed frequently leaving me stuck in scenery or completely kicking me out of the game. On another occasion I was supposed to pick up a grinder with a hand in it, but it wouldn’t let me until I’d quit the game and reloaded an earlier save. I’d also put down the Vita’s smaller, lower res screen (compared to the PS4, I mean) as cause of much annoyance when searching for a body in a meadow in the final section of the game – you can’t see a thing as everything is too small – but since I’d already had similar problems earlier on the PS4 (the sign in the wood bit) I can’t.

tumblr_o1s0k52wh31svmpf2o1_1280

Items generally were fiddly to deal with. There was no way of accurately “activating” scenery, so often looking for items or clues turned into a Duke Nukem secret room style search, only without the HNGH HNGH WHERE IS IT. It was so easy to miss things, even when I was being helped (I didn’t use a guide, but did have a hint FAQ and Twitter at my disposal) simply because things were virtually invisible or you had to be pixel perfect to use them correctly.  Could I not cut a rope with my scythe because I’m in the wrong place? Or I can but not yet? Or it isn’t time yet? That sort of thing. Even objects you’d managed to pick up were a pain to choose from your inventory as you have to cycle through them all in what appears to be random, and ever changing, order one at a time.

tumblr_o1s0jhbhcz1svmpf2o1_1280I suppose back in the late 90s on original release this interface and 3D graphics style were still in their infancy, and later similar games rectified things a little, but for a game almost universally acclaimed as a classic falls way short simply because of the unnecessarily clunky interface – ironically an interface that seems designed to do away with the unnecessarily clunky interface of earlier titles like Monkey Island with its verb/noun point and click system. It’s a shame they didn’t improve the input method when they improved the graphics for the Remastered version. Oh wait! They barely did that either. Aside from being slightly less jagged and with altered – but not necessarily better  – lighting, the different between old and new is barely perceptible. In fact, at one point I’d been playing it for over an hour after accidentally putting it on “classic” mode before I realised.

Still it was funny, and I did, mostly, enjoy it. I just can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that it’s nowhere near as fantastic as I’d been led to believe. Shame.