Thursday, November 30, 2006

Loco Roco downloadable demo: completed!

20 flowers found, 3 muimui found, and all but one berry eaten. This was easier than the other demo level I had, but more enjoyable. And the music is amazing.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: the forest temple

One week and one day until the Wii launches, and I've still not completed Ocarina of Time. I've got to make some decisions ... do I want to complete Ocarina before I start playing Twilight Princess? Will I have the willpower to not start the Wii game straight away? Do I remember the story of Ocarina, and where I'm at?

Well, for the latter question, the answer is yes, or 'absolutely' as Reggie would have it. Yesterday I looked up the most recent entry for Ocarina on this here Gaming Diary, and it told me that I was in the forest dungeon, searching for four fire-stealing ghosts. And indeed I was. I searched the dungeon extensively, and found a room I didn't recognise. I managed to progress through it and was rewarded with finding the bow and arrows. These let me shoot the ghosts in the paintings and reclaim two of the fires.

I then spent around half an hour wandering around until I realised that there were little eye things above some of the doors, which when shot turned twisty corridors into straight corridors and rotated some rooms. So I collected the boss key, found the other two ghosts, and travelled down to meet Phantom Ganon.

An excellent boss fight. To start with, he rides into the 6 paintings around the room and you have to shoot him with the bow as he gallops out of one. It's made more tricky by the fact that sometimes he'll approach down the path in two of the paintings, and if you're aiming at the wrong one you'll have to drop the bow and get out of the way pretty quickly.

After a few hits he then hovers around the room, and fires magic at you. It took me ages to work out what to do - I was firing arrows at him, and the hookshot, and trying to use my shield to bounce the magic back at him. Which is all really stupid, because I've fought Phantom Ganon in Four Swords and The Wind Waker, and I've fought Agahnim in Link's Awakening, and they all use the same trick.

Phantom Ganon dead, I then met Saria who told me loads of story stuff (I need to rescue some more sages ...), and I was back in Kokiri Forest with the Deku Tree Sprout who also told me more stuff. I went across Hyrule Field to Kakarico Village, and did some exploring there, being rewarded with a bigger wallet for my trouble. This is good - I could only hold 99 rupees before, and now I can hold up to 200. Nothing else seemed to have changed there, so I went into Hyrule Castle town and to the Temple of Time, where I met Sheik. He (ho ho ho) told me about travelling through time, and how I could become young Link again. So I did.

I'm back into the game now. I'll play more this weekend, and try to get further.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 29/11/2006

I've not put any of these on here for a while. I've just been playing Field Commander most of the time, so it would have been a bit dull.

Get to 80% completion of Field Commander's campaign mode.

Complete both Loco Roco demos with full locorocos and muimuis.

Complete the advanced solo levels of TrackMania Nations with silver or above.

Play Meteos in order to set a proper challenge next week.

Loco Roco: two new demos

I connected up my PSP to the PC and went to the PlayStation Store, and there were a few demos and so on that I could download for free. So I did.

I'm really impressed with the PlayStation Store, actually. The site used an applet to recognise my PSP and automatically install the demos and other downloadable stuff onto my machine. At the moment it's all free but given the ease of use I wouldn't mind paying a nominal amount for full games or so on from there.

Two of the demos I got were of Loco Roco, and both are different to the demo I've previously played. One appears to be pretty similar, while the other is themed around Hallowe'en and is much harder.

For the first time ever I plugged headphones into my PSP and listened to the music while playing. It's really great music, and the way it builds up as you collect more locorocos is really clever. The Hallowe'en music isn't as good, but for a free extra level I'm not complaining.

I'll have to buy this soon, actually. I really enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rally 3D

What? It's a free game that came on my mobile, and it's a pretty good indication of the phone's 3D capabilities. It also, unfortunately, demonstrates the poor controls for gaming that most phones have (another reason why Doom RPG was and is so good).

Anyway, the car accelerates automatically, meaning you just control turning left and right and braking. But it's an arcade game at heart, and braking isn't necessary. What is necessary is keeping up your speed in order to win medals. There seems to be a massive difference between, say, 108km/h and 109 km/h, with the latter winning you the gold medal and the former seeing you half a second behind.

So, keep up your speed at all costs. The only problem is that if your wheels touch the grass either side of the track, you slow down massively. And it's virtually impossible to not touch the grass in some cases, especially when you jump over a hill and the road immediately curves. Of course, you could brake, but that loses you speed anyway.

Of course, the track isn't always surrounded by grass; sometimes there's a big drop and sometimes there's a cliff face rising up. If there's the latter, this is great news, since it appears that you can scrape along the cliff and not lose any speed at all.

It's quite compelling all told, though. I've collected all the silver medals, and am now trying for the golds having unlocked the catchily named "Fast Racer". Well, I say medals, but although the text says 'medal' you actually win a cup. Of course.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mr Driller Drill Spirits: 1000m completed

I was sure I'd completed the 1000m level of this before, but it didn't have a 'clear' stamp so evidently not.

Last night I was really good at this game. I completed the 1000m level on my second go, and got to 1350m of the 1500m level as well. I wasn't quite so successful at the Dristone mode though.

This morning I was rubbish.

I'd forgotten how great Mr Driller was.

Friday, November 24, 2006

TrackMania Nations

In an attempt to bolster our online gaming capabilities, I got John and Kieron to download TrackMania Nations for the PC - it's free, available from here. I've had TrackMania Sunrise for ages, and while the online game is a little disjointed (while you do race at the same time, you're racing against ghosts of the other players) it's good, solid fun.

TrackMania Nations is more of the same. Some of the courses available online are pure madness, but the core set - the set that's available for practice in solo player - are really well designed. I've managed to complete the beginner 30 tracks with silver medals or above, and have started on the advanced levels. I've also played a fair bit online, which has also given me some medals on these tracks already.

I think it's easier on a keyboard rather than my joypad, oddly ...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Online multiplayer 'fun'

Last night, because I had the TV to myself, I arranged to meet John and Kieron online for some multiplayer games. At around 8:10 I saw Kieron was online in Halo 2, so I saved Amped 2 and went to Halo 2 instead. I logged in and had a party invite waiting for me.

This is how online gaming should be, Nintendo and Sony.

Well, the previous paragraph, at least. On trying to join Kieron, I got a network error; the same error occured when he tried to join me. We could both see online games and see each other online, but couldn't join the other's party.

So we thought Live was playing up ... until John came online and joined my party straight away.

Much annoyance followed, with Kieron rebooting his router, reconnecting and still being unable to join. In the end we decided to drop Halo 2 and try something else.

This is where it got worse. Kieron tried to load Conflict: Global Storm, and his Xbox wouldn't recognise the disc. And then it wouldn't recognise the Halo 2 disc. And then it wouldn't recognise a CD lens cleaning disc. John and I were kept updated through the voice chat in the Xbox dashboard. This would have been OK, but Kieron's connection was still playing up so while he could invite us to join him in a room, he couldn't join us. So rather than simply having a room for Kieron to drop in and out of, every time he wanted to try something else we all had to leave the chat room, John and I had to join each other in a new room, and then we had to rejoin Kieron when he sent us an invite.

In the end, we decided that Kieron's Xbox DVD drive was probably broken, so we wouldn't be able to continue. If anyone knows how to fix a DVD drive, please let us know here! The connection issue is more worrying, but still ...

Since we were able at least to talk to each other, we tried a game of Mario Kart DS while sitting with our headphones on. Well; John and I talked; Kieron tried turning his Xbox off for a while to see if that fixed it (it didn't). This led to some amusement when John and I colluded to pick all the tracks that Kieron hated. For the first time in a while, I was the overall winner. That was good.

Since we were having no luck with the Xbox, we decided to try a bit of PC gaming. We arranged to meet in MSN and iSketch. The former worked; the latter was running like treacle and was unplayable.

Oh, joy!

I then remembered that TrackMania Nations is free and has online multiplayer. I sent John and Kieron off to download it. I installed it, then ran it, and it told me I needed to upgrade my videocard drivers. I went to the ATI site; after 15 minutes I found the drivers and installed them. TrackMania Nations ran. I set up a profile and created a private server, to work out how we'd meet. I logged off, went back to MSN ... and the other two were just leaving to go to bed.

I suppose I can't begrudge them that; it was 11pm after all.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Amped 2: tutor me!

You can get tired of American teenagers after a while, so an hour of Halo 2 was enough for me. I bought Amped 2 ages ago for £3, and had never played it. So I ran through the tutorial. The fake radness in the voice was dire, but it was a well structured tutorial which more games should copy - it introduced new concepts in each lesson then gave you a task to practice them on.

I did have a slight problem, though. To grind on rails, you have to press the B button. In Tony Hawk's American Sk8land on the DS you press the X button. To save you from looking, Xbox B is the right-side button; DS X is the left-side button. Most confusing. I played through the first level and achieved the first score targets, but I kept on missing the rails. I was about the see if I could reconfigure the controls, but then something else came up ... but more about that later.

Halo 2: ranked up twice

My wife's out, so I've set up my Xbox. I'm still paying for Xbox Live (well, in a way - my last 'starter pack' subscription lasts until next July) so I want to get some use out of it!

Given that the point was to play online, the obvious starting point was Halo 2. The servers are still full of players, and I had a few games of team skirmish and rumble pit. Amazingly, despite my rank not increasing at all for the last few months when I was playing, tonight it went up twice.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Naked War: I won against Kieron!

An amazing victory, where I had him running away constantly for the last four turns, and I promoted my soldiers up so that they were virtually imprevious to his attacks. Since they were all on the same section of walkway, it was difficult to make sure they didn't run into each other, but I managed it and I won.

I won't mention the other game where I was winning decisively and then the final killer blow didn't actually kill, and Kieron then killed both my doofer-hosting units on his next turn.

Field Commander: diverse difficulty levels

The last two missions have been, well, interesting. The first had me running to a downed plane to rescue its passengers. It was really easy; I don't think it would be possible to lose at it. All the enemy units presented themselves one at a time to be destroyed, and only a tank presented difficulties - but my rocket launcher, gunship and tank destroyed it in one go.

But the next mission is the first one to have caused me to lose. I have very few units, and they're all aircraft or infantry. Both of which are hopeless against anti-air guns, of which my opponent has loads.

The objective is to capture the HQ, and then get off of the central island before the 24th day. I think I may have to do a run in and block off the HQ while someone captures it. But he's got loads of rocket launchers too, meaning a blockade just wouldn't work.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Field Commander: diverse objectives

I've played a few more levels now, and they've stopped relying on the standard 'destroy all units' objective. As such, the game itself is more varied and enjoyable.

One mission ("Sink or Swim") involved sinking enemy transporters before they reached a certain point on the map. This was a proper naval battle, with submarines and battleships and ... they're not called cruisers, but they do the same thing. Corvettes, that's it. I was able to lay a huge sea of mines with my corvettes to show the enemy transporters down, and take out the battleship with submerged subs. The fuel seems to run out much quicker than in Advance Wars, though ...

Another mission required me to stay alive for 30 turns. It started off badly, with tank buster planes destroying loads of units, but once I'd built some anti-air I took control, to the point where I was capturing his factories and airport. This was all very well until three enemy tanks suddenly appeared. Hardly fair. I still managed to win by destroying all enemy units, though.

So far there's not been too much challenge - but then I have been trained by my constant losses to Kieron at Advance Wars. I think I've now completed 20% of the campaign.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Field Commander: dire design decisions

The introductory bits to each mission have the text scrolling at a fixed speed, and can't be sped up at all. I'm assuming that's because there's a voiceover, but I play handheld games almost exclusively with the sound muted, so I've no idea.

The graphical style is quite swish, with the view swooping down to view a battle, but the framerate drops quite horrendously sometimes, and the disc is accessed loads whenever you move over a different type of unit. When you actually tell a unit to move, it shudders for a second before moving, then moves really slowly to where you've said. While it's doing this you can't choose any other units or move around the map.

The intricate graphical style means it's really hard to tell which units are which, without either moving the cursor over them, or pressing and holding the right shoulder button, which shows a stylised overview of the combat field, à la Advance Wars.

When you kill an enemy infantry unit, you see them slumping down to their knees before dying. It makes it feel brutal and unnecessary.

When you finish a mission, you're told how many turns it took, how many units were destroyed, and so on, but you're given no indication how good your performance was. In one level I did a superb job of shepherding all the enemy units to one side and destroying them while capturing their HQ, but there's no recognition for that.

But all that said, this is still a great game, because it's based on a brilliant game. I'm still learning what all the units can do, and the idea of destroying cover is pretty clever. I've not quite seen the tactical advantage of being able to attack buildings to make them easier to capture, but I'm sure I will.

I've just completed the level in which the heaviest ground units - tanks - are introduced. The balance between infantry, tanks and medium tanks in Advance Wars has been captured almost identically. However, the spec ops units - the replacements for mechs - can do a lot more damage for two reasons: they can launch attacks from afar, and they can lay mines over which the tanks can be lured.

The only issue I have is that the game seems pretty short. I've completed 11% already. I hope it gets harder ... but not too hard.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 08/11/2006

Complete at least 10% of Field Commander's campaign mode.

Complete another level in Battalion Wars.

Phantasy Star: completed!

Finally! I spent a little time roaming the final dungeon to build up experience points, and levelled everyone up to level 26. I mainly did this because during my previous fights normal attacks weren't touching Dark Falz, and with all other monsters changing level was the cause of such misses.

No such luck here. Normal attacks still didn't affect him, and I was reduced to using magic and Odin's laser gun, which does 20 points of damage no matter what. Noah's wind and Alis's fire were doing some damage (although I don't know how much, since annoyingly the HP indicator was removed for this battle) but they soon ran out of magic power. I was reduced to healing with Alis, curing with Myau and attacking with Odin. With 26 HP left, Odin fired the killer shot, and I breathed out.

Phantasy Star: completed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Phantasy Star: completed ... nearly

Ooh, lots to report on. I found a prism, which someone told me will make something appear. I found an eclipse torch, which seemed pointless. I found a frozen laerma tree, which I used the torch on, and then I could get a laerma nut from it. Villagers all over the place kept on mentioning laerma nuts, so it's obviously important.

I explored Dezoris for ages, and couldn't find anything more. So I went back to Palma. Just north of Scion there's a wall and a gate whcih I couldn't get through. I tried everything, until I realised that Noah had an "open" spell. Dur. Fought through there, walked through a lava field, arrived at a tower, fought through there, found a man who gave me a crystal and also found a miracle key. Healed and fought all the way to the top of the tower, and had a lovely view ... but nothing else. Experimented with everything and found that the laerma nut makes Myau grow wings. Flew up to castle, found Lassic, realised description was "Shadow", beat him, found Lassic for real and beat him. He's dead. Huzzah.

Game didn't end; instead told to see the governor. Which governor? Quick investigation shows it's the governor of Moltavia - headed back to Paseo and went into the governor's mansion - he wasn't there. Instead, fell down hole. Went through dungeon, found door in wall after much searching; went through and found Dark Falz. I already killed you in Phantasy Star Online! Started battle and realised that nobody's attacks were doing any harm. Oh dear. Died.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Field Commander: past the tutorials

I did a very silly thing this morning: I left my Game Boy Micro at home. Combined with a very busy weekend, I've got my work cut out to finish it before Wednesday.

But anyway. Since my train took ages to get into Waterloo this morning, I explored what I did have with me - and found my PSP and Field Commander. I tried it out and ... well, it's Advance Wars. It's Advance Wars with the charm and cuteness removed, with ugly polygonal models and unlikeable characters. It's Advance Wars with fewer units, the ability to attack terrain and cities, and odd downdraft areas over which you cannot fly.

But its similarities to Advance Wars are unnerving. Only infanty can capture a city - and each city has 20 hitpoints to reduce. Each commander has a special move and a super move. Each unit has 10 points of health. Antiair units are good against helicopters and infantry but not tanks. You've got landers, transport copters ...

I'll try the campaign on the way home, then again after Phantasy Star's finished. It seems good, but not great.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Phantasy Star: getting tooled up

Going by a comment from a villager back on Palma, I'm going to have to get a Laconian sword, shield, axe and armour before I face Lassic. So far (at the end of the adventures I describe below) I've got the sword, armour and axe.

The game's a little frustrating now, with no signposts as to where to head next. After defeating Medusa, I knew that the sword was on the island in the middle of the sea, so went over there and got that. I then went exploring a bit and didn't find anything new, so I flew to Uzo and went exploring around there instead. East of Uzo there's a maze of mountain ranges, and I found a new dungeon. At the end of that dungeon was Noah's mentor, who was a bit rubbish and died in a one-on-one fight with Noah without causing any damage at all. I've no idea what a "frad mantle" is meant to be, but it increases Noah's defence.

I went a bit further East, over a lake and found myself back at Paseo, the spaceport that I originally arrived at. I'd forgotten, but in the armory there they had diamond armour for sale at 15,000 mesata. I had 17,000. I bought it. Well, it's got to be good, yes? And it did seem to bump up Alis's defense quite a lot.

I couldn't find anything else, so went to Skure and starter wandering around there. The planet's quite restrictive, with massive mountain ranges all over the place. I did find a cave, however, which I went through, only to find another cave, and another ... I ended up in Twintown, which is populated by some ugly aliens with a French accent. These use the same sprites as the evilheads, but with a different colour palette, and they haven't attacked me yet. I presume they're friendly.

Half the town are pathological liars, it seems ... but you can tell the ones that are, because they say "indeed", "really" and "oh yes" all the time.

I went into the shop in Twintown and found an ice digger for sale. For 12,000 mesata. Great - by this time I had built up my money store to just under 4,000 ... I decided to come back after exploring more.

I found myself in a morgue, full of zombies. It was a real pain, because there were countless dead ends which were full of enemies, and traps, and I even got caught in an area I couldn't get out of - I had to use the flute to go out of the morgue and back in. In the end I found a chest (I had to use Myau to disarm a trap to get past it) which had the Laconian armour in it. Huzzah!

By this time I had 8,000 mesata, so headed back to Twintown. Around Twintown is evildead city, and evildeads give you 136 mesata each when they die. Being attacked by 3 of them is very profitable. I quickly raised the money I needed for the ice digger.

This thing is great. It can plow straight through some mountains. Not others, though. And there's no way of knowing which is which. I'll have to explore more to find where to go next.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 01/11/2006

OK, I've now got Tales of Eternia and Field Commander on the PSP due to a cheap price and a cockup at Gameplay. So, this week's challenge is simple, yet hard:

Complete Phantasy Star.