Monday, January 26, 2015

Assassins Creed Brotherhood: there's too much to do!

I've no idea why I started playing this, other than just fancying some climbing and sneaking action.  For someone who hasn't played previous games in the series, it must have been horrible, with hundreds of game mechanics introduced in the first ten minutes.  For me, who's completed the previous two games and rounded up most of the collectibles, it was bad enough - I could ignore the movement instructions but had to learn the new building upgrading mechanisms, Borgia towers, tunnel system, and then over the next hour or so learn about recruiting assassins and sending them to do jobs around Europe, opening up buildings for the thieves, mercenaries or courtesans, and finding bits of aqueduct that had fallen down.

All of which seems pretty superfluous to the main story, and means I make little progress.  I've just finished sequence 5, after many hours of playing, and the lack of urgency isn't doing the game any favours.  I am more interested in finding the viewpoints and liberating the city from Borgia influence than I am following the plot - all I know is that the people I didn't kill at the end of ACII still aren't dead and people still want them to kick the bucket.  Oh, and the glowing ball has been stolen again.

It's a quality production, and the city of Rome has been well modelled (although it feels a little small compared to the multiple locations of previous games).  I think soon I will run out of stuff to do in the areas that have been unlocked, and I'll be forced to continue with the story to open these out.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Another World: trial and error

As a game, it's aged.  The controls are a little rigid, with fixed jump lengths and the same button used for shooting and running.  The updated graphics, in cut scenes especially, look a bit flat and lifeless.  The difficulty level means that you are never far from a death, often from something you couldn't see coming.  I've no idea if the original game had chapter saves, but if it didn't it would have been almost impossible.

But it's a fantastic experience.  the story has really pulled me in, despite the lack of words and signposts.  Transported to a new world, captured and thrown in jail, then after escaping and making a friend, constantly hunted down.  I want to make it to the end to see whether I can escape, but some sections are proving pretty difficult.

It took me ages to work out that I had to shoot this rock to give myself a path back up.  It took me even longer to realise that I had to make it through the screens to the right of this one, past the falling rocks, in order to  shoot out a wall which then stopped the level flooding in the wrong place.  There was nothing indicating what you have to do, more an immediate death if you did it wrong.

Actually, there was one thing indicating the correct direction.  The game has hidden checkpoints you trigger if you do something in the wrong order.  If you die and start in a different place to the last 300 attempts, you know you've made progress.

There are some minor visual clues as well.  After fighting past a couple of guards I found this room.

 I'd previously been killed multiple times by a guard in a room with these lights hanging from the ceiling.  The shadow at the bottom of these balls moves across and stops directly under the big one, which you can shoot.  Do it right, and you hear something cry out ... and then later you find this.

I have no idea how far I am through the game now.  I've been swimming in an area I think I flooded earlier, and have helped my alien friend get through a corridor - but he's disappeared again.  There was a room at the end of a corridor which was instant death every time I entered it, but when swimming I found a power line and I hope that's done something about that.  We shall see.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Virtua Tennis 4 World Tour: completed!

Long time no see.  How have you been?

I've played lots of games.  I'm some way into Assassin's Creed Brotherhood now, and I'll write more about that soon.  But what I've been playing most has been Virtua Tennis on the Vita.  I've been through the world tour mode two and a half times now, winning major tournaments, and have unlocked all the skill games and playing styles.  I've completed the arcade mode multiple times.  I've played the game not just to completion, but almost to boredom.

It's a really great game, which has surprised me since I've never found the previous VT games that involving.  But, you know, it's a tennis game.  There's not much more to say.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Virtua Tennis 4 World Tour: almost famous

Actually, very famous indeed. I've been playing this on my commute for quite some time, and am almost at the end of my second trip through the World Tour mode.

After an initial run of multiple losses in the arcade mode, I decided to try some of the practice modes and start World Tour on the 'casual' difficulty.  I was having no fun losing 15-40 0-40, after all.  World Tour is represented by a map where you must travel through countries stopping at practice sessions, publicity events, single matches, side tournaments and larger tournaments, building up your fame, condition, skills and money.  Each turn you get given a new move ticket to your collection of three, meaning that you can choose how many spaces to progress (and hopefully missing out on injury spaces).  At various points you can choose which path to take.

I quickly got into the swing (hah!) of the game, and won matches as a matter of course.  I got through the tournaments and won with few points against me.  I completed the whole World Tour mode after a couple of weeks, and started again immediately.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Borderlands: accidentally defeating Marley and Moe

Quite a lot of progress through this on Friday night, mainly because of the extended length of time we had to play.  The first five minutes or so were spent trying to work out which missions we'd completed, and this finally managed to introduce Kieron to the mission log.  He still doesn't know how to turn a mission in, though.

Then we had a look at the missions we had queued up, and compared them to our progress.  We are all still relatively low level, around 13 or 14, and so our choices of what to achieve were slightly limited.  There were a few scavenging missions which seemed appropriate, and finding the safe house with Sledge, so we set off to do those, killing lots of things on our way in an effort to build up our experience levels.

While running down a path we heard Kieron shouting that he was being attacked.  We ran to him, and started to fire at the skags that were responsible.  They were pretty tough; even after setting them on fire multiple times they weren't dead.  It was only when we were all crowded around my turret regaining health that we realised that these were Marley and Moe, who we had to kill for a mission that was recommended for characters several levels above us.

We still managed to kill them, after a long draw-out battle.  We're becoming a little better at team work.

We've nearly finished the missions in the Arid Badlands now.  Maybe one more session and we can finally move on.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ico: completed!

No more opportunities for Dido lyrics.  There are big plot spoilers here, so don't click onto the post if you're the one person who's not completed this but intends to do so - I wouldn't normally worry for a twelve-year-old game, but the end of the story is pretty affecting so shouldn't be spoilt.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Ico: I'll always be alone

I cleared the watertower a few days ago, and saved just after entering the West Tower.  Given the difficulty I had with the East Tower - well, less the difficulty, more the length of time it took to get through it - I was expecting the West Tower to take an absolute age to complete.  In fact, it was pretty simple and disappointingly similar to the East Tower (though the route through was significantly shorter).

After opening the main gate, massive plot things occurred.  I am guessing that I won't be able to save the game after this point, so I'll have to complete it in one go.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Duel - Test Drive II: falling off cliffs

There are some genres of game that have progressed beyond all recognition.  With driving games, very early examples retain some of their charm, particularly those that use the template of a relatively static road and moving car such as Chase HQ or Outrun - have you noticed how when you steer in Outrun, you are steering to avoid your car drifting to the side of the screen?

When developers tried to progress beyond this, the games have aged less well.  Test Drive II is technically quite impressive for the Mega Drive, with a seemingly polygonal road winding around in front of your car.  This is made all the more impressive when you get to sections with one side of the road bordered by a cliff, which moves and rotates correctly.

But it is horrible to play today.  The framerate is low enough to cause headaches and the controls are floaty and imprecise, making it very difficult to avoid traffic or falling off a cliff.  The other cars approach in discrete steps, making it difficult to judge when to pull out and when to brake.

Despite this, I completed the first section of the game, before running out of petrol just past the end point (since I didn't realise you had to stop).

That represented only two penalties - one cliff dive and one headlong crash into a stupid van that appeared from nowhere.  I was feeling quite pleased with myself.  That didn't last long.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Metrico: completed!

I did indeed decide to finish this off one evening, only to find that the coloured light sections lasted for about five minutes.  Once I realised that the rest of the game was commute-compatible, I left it until I was next on a train.

The final levels were tricky, but not impossible.  The most difficult one was right near the end, where you had to jump over a platform rather than landing on it in order to ensure victory - and then shoot towards a wall then jump onto a platform that would rise once your shots reached the creature you generated by landing.

And then the ending, where you are again presented with two doors, and I just couldn't work out what to do to get either to open.  The pie chart didn't help, either.

I spent ages on the train trying to get the doors to settle down - but everything I did seemed to reset the world to the initial state.  I tried standing still, and the world got more fuzzy, but every now and again it reset.  I jumped, I shot, I tilted the console, I tried to reset the level, and nothing worked.

Of course, nothing was going to work.  I imagine you've seen where I'm going with this.  In order for the yellow door to appear, you are meant to not do anything for a couple of minutes.  Sitting on a train which was moving meant that I couldn't get that to happen.

So, once again, played at home and completed.  I am getting a bit annoyed at Vita games being unplayable on a commute.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ico: give your trust to me

More than once every two months?  Oops.

So, a recap.  I have managed to lead Yorda to the main gate, from where we should be able to escape.  However, her mother - or at least someone pretending to be - has appeared, and closed the gate in front of us.  I have battled many shadow beasts, and worked out that the most effective way of doing this is to go and stand by the portal they drag Yorda off to whenever they capture her.  In fact, the combat, which previously annoyed me and I felt wasn't needed in the game, isn't much of an issue any more, although its presence still worried me and stops me spending too long when exploring.  If you leave Yorda for too long, the shadows come back, and then it's a race back to save her.

After the gate shut, I traversed through a number of stunning locations - including one with a huge windmill which I had to climb - until I was able to run along the castle walls to the East Tower.  In this tower were a number of large circular windows, and I quickly worked out that the aim was to open each of these by lighting torches underneath them.  Working out what I had to do was the easy part; working out how to do it took a lot longer.  I had to pull Yorda through the doorways and around the walkways, finally finding myself out the back of the tower with some stunning views across the chasm to freedom.  I managed to finally open all the windows, sending a beam of light across to the main gate, causing half of it to light up.  A pretty big indication that I need to do the same on the other side.

Getting to the other side was pretty difficult though.  Much of the effort was spent around a huge waterfall area, where I had to jump on and off a turning waterwheel in order to close the sluice gate.  Yorda was no use at all during this part, with her slow running and refusal to jump up to ledges even with me extending my hand down to her - the game couldn't position her correctly.

I managed to get through this section, playing basketball on the way, and am now at 'the watertower', which appears to be named after a very small ornamental part of the level.  I think once I'm cleared of this, I'll be able to go to the West Tower and make the main gate open up again ... but that may take a while.