Monday, September 15, 2014

Borderlands: back to the start

I never did complete Borderlands with the UGVM crew.  We were doing quite well, having travelled through the Arid Badlands and the Dahl Headlands.  But then Nicholas arrived and I couldn't commit to a regular time to play, and it all fell apart.  We kept a spreadsheet to keep note of who had passed which mission, and this informed us who should host each time - since the host defines the story progression.

I've started again with John and Kieron.  It's not the ideal game to play with our group.  The potential for Kieron to wander off and get lost is huge, and there are often times when a specific action is needed which doesn't get done because nobody is actually paying any attention.  After six hours play, Kieron still hasn't bothered to understand how you pick up and turn in missions, and John doesn't know what his special skill does.

But it's great fun.  There are frequent breaks in action while the two newbies faff around in the shop trying to work out how to buy new weapons, but once we're on the road it's very amusing watching Kieron pummel enemies into the ground as a berserker.  At the end of our first play session we had levelled up to 8, and had been repeatedly killed by Bone Head who seemed to be able to one-hit kill us.  Our constant individual running into the same arena didn't help.  In our second session, we completed a couple more side-missions, levelled up a bit more, then actually hatched a plan before taking him on.  I threw a turret and shield down and helped to regenerate health; John had a weapon which set Bone Head on fire; we set up at opposite ends of the arena so he couldn't shoot us all at the same time.  Despite this, it was still a bit tense, and it was almost a disaster as after he died a couple of his henchmen were still running around to kill us.

But now we have vehicles.  The first vehicle mission was to jump the creek and open the gate so that we could access the rest of the Arid Badlands.  Somehow Kieron and I glitched through the gate, meaning that the game told us we'd passed the mission when we hadn't.  John didn't actually open the gate, and we were left in limbo for a while until we did it all properly.

We've got a fair few missions on the go at the moment, but we finished with the Circle of Death arena round 2 - a hard fight, but made easier with incendiary weapons.  We may need to level up a bit before going further though ...

Friday, September 05, 2014

Populous: the Beginning: a love affair with balloons

Level 13, Aerial Bombardment, saw the introduction of balloons.  There were two enemies - the greens, who were building up on the other end of my island, and the yellows, who were on a separate island which was much smaller.  The yellows knew of building balloons; the greens knew earthquake.

It wasn't long before the yellows started to attack one end of my island, coming over a large cliff with their balloons filled with fire warriors and spies.  My village was severely damaged, and I had to quickly rebuild my firewarrior and priest training huts.

The greens were leaving me alone, which I ensured by raising a tall cliff across the island.  No boats meant no access.  After a few more raids by the yellows, I was able to train us a decent number of firewarriors, and I placed then across the cliffs which the yellows were travelling over.  This was a remarkably successful tactic, and it meant that I was able to collect a fair few of the enemy balloons myself after dispatching the occupants.  This meant that my defences became ever more strong, as firewarriors' reach increased.

It also meant I could take my shaman, along with a lone firewarrior, in a balloon to start to terrorise the greens.  I first concentrated on killing all the firewarriors and destroying their training hut, which meant that nothing could touch me as I hovered above the sea - other than the shaman, of course, who kept coming over and getting hit by lightning for her trouble.  Much use of tornadoes, lightning, erode and hypnotise later, and the greens fell.

I prayed at the nearby vault, and gained the earthquake spell.  Back to the cliff, and I find that several yellow balloon parties have been foiled, meaning that I can grab loads of balloons and fill them with firewarriors for a bodyguard party.

I pray at the second vault, learn how to make balloons, then build a land bridge across to the yellow's island so I can get a huge army of warriors and priests over , to join my firewarriors.  The limited size of the yellow island had ensured that their army wasn't too large - even though they were mostly firewarriors - and the level was completed.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Mario Kart 8: edging to the end

I've written very little of late, but that's mostly because I've been on holiday and haven't played a lot.  In fact, my only gaming has been to continue working through the daily puzzles on Layton's Azran Babe, and the odd grand prix on Mario kart 8.  We did have a tournament on MK8 while away, which I won.  Of course.

I am slowly three-starring the 150cc grands prix, which are really tricky.  I've tried the mirror-mode levels, which seem to have easier opponents but are tricky if only due to the fact I now know the courses off by heart.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Gaming Moments: J

Jaguar XJ220 (Mega CD)

It wasn't as good as Lotus Turbo Challenge on the Mega Drive.  Sure, it looked better, but I still remember the first time I tried to control it.  I couldn't.

Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast)
Jet Set Radio HD (Xbox 360)

I spent hours just trying to get off the tutorial, doing an endless grind around the central bus station.  Made all the worse since I did it twice, once on each console - but there was an achievement for the 360 version so I felt I had to do it again.

Journey (PS3)

A game filled with moments, but I think my pick comes early in the game, at the bridge.  The structures tower above you, and it took me (and my companion) a while to work out that our path wasn't just across the base but we had to somehow get up there.  Learning the floating mechanic in that way together was amazing.

Then there's the snow, but I can't put the words together to describe that.

Jungle Strike (Mega Drive)

Mainly played via the PSP, to be honest, since that added save states.  The last level is set at the White House.  Just as you think you've completed the game, tanks roll in and you have to protect the president's helicopter as he escapes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gaming moments: I

Ico (PS2, PS3)

I even remember writing about this on my blog.  I'll paste some text from the previous post:

Ico starts off slowly, with a long cutscene. You get thrown into a murky world and have to work out the controls. The world's not actually murky, but playing it on my HD TV certainly made it look so. I worked my way through the castle, until I found the girl in white. I knocked the cage down the tower, and rescued her from the shadow monsters. I then couldn't find a way out of the room. Huh.

Never mind, I thought, I'll come back to that later. I'd been playing for 40 minutes or so. I turned the console off, and then thought ... hmm, I wonder if the game does save at checkpoints?

Evidently not.

Ikaruga (GameCube)
I have only ever played this for five minutes, and it made my head hurt. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Populous: the Beginning: juggling armies

Level 10 was another timed one, with an established village being sunk at the start by the enemy.  I was able to get two boats built quickly, and ferried nine followers and my shaman over to a stone head, which raised a partially-built village from the depths.  Converting all the wild men on that island to my cause, I rebuilt the houses and trained up some firewarriors, then took my meagre army over to the other island to quickly worship at the stone head there before the timer ran out.  I only succeeded because I made the worshipping party invisible, and they were therefore able to pray while my other warriors and preachers acted as bait for the attacking hoard.

The next level was more time consuming than difficult; there were two enemies, and the game hinted that the yellows were the weaker of the two.  I spent a while building my village and placing towers with firewarriors around the edge closest to the green base, while amassing an army of preachers, warriors and firewarriors around a campfire on a causeway I had built towards a stone head.  I was attacked several times by both greens and yellows, but managed to fend these off with relatively little loss - although once the green shaman did manage to place a swamp right in the middle of my settlement, leading to a few dead followers.

Once my army was a hundred-strong, I went off to the yellows, hoping the greens would not attack my relatively undefended village.  As it turns out, they were in the middle of attacking the yellows as well.  I was able to kill both enemy shamans, giving myself a load of mana for more destruction, and unlock the swamp spell before destroying the yellow village.  My army had been halved in size, but so had my enemy.

I went back to the village and started expanding.  The greens came by a few times on boats, but I was able to hit them with lightning quickly each time.  I rebuilt my army, this time to 120, and then went walking along the side of the land which the greens hadn't touched.  Halfway to the green settlement I was alerted that there was an invasion of my village - looking back I could see some invisible warriors had been infiltrating buildings, but they were, along with a couple of preachers, being killed by firewarrior towers.

Standing across from the greens, separated by a channel, I could see a vault of knowledge, containing hypnotise.  This was going to be key.  I raised a bridge and quickly crossed, then crowded my army around the vault while I worshipped it.  The enemy shaman came near and I killed her with lightning, then I gained the power meaning that I could just get the greens to fight themselves.  It didn't last long after that.

I'm getting closer to Bloodlust.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gaming moments: H

Half-Life (PC)

The very first time I played this, I remember sitting watching the opening sequence and being amazed by the detail in the surroundings.  I accidentally nudged my desk and the view changed - and suddenly I realised that I could control my character already.

Headhunter (Dreamcast)

Travelling by motorbike, I somehow managed to get myself lodged in some scenery, and span on the spot.  Funny until I realised that I'd lose progress since the last save. The accelerator controls on the game were really sensitive, and it was tricky to steer.

Hexic HD (Xbox 360)

I shouted with joy when I finally got a black pearl. It's so tense working up to it, as one mistaken move can lead to everything collapsing. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Going Around: completed!

An amusing little game in which you have to get Ann Scantlebury out of the house in the morning, having found her Oyster card, keys and mobile, and with news for the One Life Left radio show all typed and ready to go.  You need to do this within an hour (which is probably about 6 minutes of real time).

The only issue was drying out the mobile, which didn't seem to respond properly when I clicked on the correct item.  I spent ages wondering around the rest of the house before it actually let me use the item properly.


Ico: sit on top of the world

I had left the game at the start of a trolley system, which I negotiated first thing to leave me high up on a ledge with Yorda - sofas are left in the oddest places.  I used a crane to move us both down to the top of another tower, then explored a room with a few high walkways and handy window ledges which I was able to use to clamber up and knock down the chandelier ... after half an hour of trying to work out what to do, that is.  A handy cutscene showed me the remaining support for the bridge, and when I rand down to it I happened to pass by some bombs.

It takes me a long time to progress in this game, not just because there are extended periods between play sessions but also because there is very little signposted.  The combination of the two means that I forget that I can call Yorda to jump over large gaps, for example, and then spend ages trying to work out how to move the crate over to the start of the ledge.  I spent ages fighting the shadows on the ramp before accidentally getting Yorda to the bottom and her killing them all using the shining door.  The same thing happened outside - I'm sure that previously I've had to kill all the shadows before progressing.

Anyway, I made my way to the main gate, only to see it shutting in front of me and Yorda's mum telling me to leave her daughter alone.  She seemed a bit evil.

I'm going to try to play thing more often than once every two months.  It's a fantastic game and I really want to complete it ...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy: completed!

How remiss of me; I don't seem to have posted about this as yet ...

This has been lodged in my 3DS for a couple of months now, and I've been working my way through it bit by bit.  In a way I'm glad this is the last of the traditional Layton games, since towards the end I was getting rather bored, finding the shoehorning of puzzles to random conversations a little too tenuous, and dreading having to backtrack over everything just to collect the puzzles.  In fact, I went to explore the world a bit before going to the final location, and then as I set off there I was told that more puzzles had arrived and I had to do it all over again.  Annoying.

Another case of doing things all over again arose a few times from the battery running out on my 3DS.  I wasn't saving the game that often, instead just closing the lid on the 3DS at the end of my commute and opening it the next time I got on a train.  Battery death meant I had to repeat a large part of the jungle section, and also a number of the mini games.

So, anyway.  The story was fantastical, as always, which sits at odds from the pretend real-world setting.  Once the game opened up options of where to go, and I left London, I was concerned that it may be just a little too big - though that wasn't an issue in the end, with most of the other places having a limited number of scenes.  Flying around in an airship certainly makes a change from trudging through endless screens of red dots.

Towards the end of the story, however, I found myself getting much more engaged.  Uncovering the phoenix was possibly the turning point, but discovering the true identities of Hershal and Descole cemented this as a clever tale.  The enemy from the last few games became someone I cared about.

And after this twist, I was gripped until I finished the story.

It still dragged on, though.  I wanted to solve the puzzles that would get me to the end, but at the same time I had a compulsion to go and examine everything in the world to see if there was anything hidden.  I got to the point of no return a few times and each time I was unsure whether to proceed.

Once I did, there was a fair bit of the story to complete, including a classic game where i had to take the last coin.  Always go second.

None of the final puzzles caused me problems, and after I completed the game I had five puzzles missing from the index, which I looked up on a guide to see where they were located.  Completion Stage 1.

The mini games in this were a bit hit and miss.  The dressing up one was largely pointless until you finished the game, since you needed to collect items of clothing throughout.  The squirrel one was OK but a bit dull.  The blooming gardens one was tricky and unrewarding - I felt like I was getting to the end either by luck or brute force.

Still those were done to reach Completion Stage 2.  They opened up the challenges - fifteen harder puzzles.  I finished those, leading to Completion Stage 3.  And now all I have left are the daily puzzles, which are still being released bit by bit.  I've done about 150 of those, I think - again, I'd have done more if my battery hadn't died more than once.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gaming moments: G

Gauntlet (CPC)

Andrew and I realised that as long as we could keep one of us alive at any one time, we could have effectively infinite lives, moving through levels forever.  We played for about five hours until Death attacked us both at the same time and we both died.  We both stared at the screen for a good minute then shouted "bastard!" together.

Geometry Wars Galaxies (DS)

One of the later levels had a stupidly high score for the silver medal, and enemies spawned all around my ship constantly. I seem to recall the level was shaped like a star. I finally beat it, sitting on the train, hiding in one of the points of the star and setting the drone to be a turret rather than my usual bait type.  I almost missed my stop.

Grand Theft Auto (PS)

I vividly remember completing the Liberty City missions, not knowing that there were two more worlds to unlock.  I also remember the soundtrack with the lyric "Grand Theft Auto" in one of the songs, which I thought was incredibly clever the first time I heard it.