Sunday, December 23, 2007

Portal: completed!

Before you start trying to find where I played this before, well, I didn't. I've played it from start to finish today. It's a short game, but every minute of it has been great. The idea of using gaps in space to not only get around but also defeat enemies is great, and the puzzles are so varied across the 19 test chambers - and afterwards.

The whole story and way it's played out works so well, moving from test subject to rebellion and eventual escape. Some of the dialogue in the game is hilarious, both from the controlling computer and the gun turrets. The way the controller coaxes you on with the promise of cake, the discovery of backstage rooms with "the cake is a lie" scrawled on the wall, the line "I figured out what that thing you just incinerated did. It was a morality core they installed after I flooded the enrichment center with a deadly neurotoxin to make me stop flooding the enrichment center with a deadly neurotoxin" ... I could quote more, but it's best experienced within the game.

The game took me around four hours to play through the first time, and I'm going to play it through again with the commentary turned on very soon.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Animal Crossing: Wild World: weeeeeeeeeed

I bought my sister a copy of this, after setting up her wireless network. Since a lot of the game's charm comes out when you visit others, I've gone back to Bangaio - to find the town covered in weeds, with all my flowers long gone. The residents seemed surprised to see me, but my house was fine (if full of cockroaches) and I had 99,000 bells interest in my postbox from the bank.

I've done quite a lot of weeding now, and moved flowers back into grouped beds. And I've dug up around 20 gyroids and sold them to Nook. Ah, Nook, how I've missed your "thanks much".

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: completed!

OK, so it's a standard Zelda idea. Collect three things in dungeons, then collect three more things in other dungeons. Fight a big boss each time. It's just that this was all done so well.

I finally managed to collect the three pure metals (or should that be pure metals?), and after a
last visit to the spirit island I went to fight Bellum. A great boss fight, using the DS superbly, with its vertical aspect and accurate aiming. The new instrument was great as well, being able to stop time in order to get hits in without dying.

I don't want to spoil it, so let's just say that the rest of the game after that boss fight was also great. As was the whole game. Great.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: rolling out of the way

I found an actual hard bit of the game last night. So far it's been quite easy, though some of the puzzles in the temples have been quite clever, especially in the way they reuse rooms with different switches. One nice touch was the dual control of Link and a Goron, where you had to move them separately to trigger switches and assist the other. It reminded me of Mario and Luigi on the Game Boy Advance.

At the end of the Goron's temple was a monster, a big dinosaur thing, which was on the other side of a quicksand pit to Link. However, the Goron appeared on the same side as the dinosaur. To kill him, I had to roll around the pit as the Goron, avoiding the dinosaur's fire, until he charged me. I had to roll out of the way and then hit his side several times until he fell over. Then I had to switch to Link and send a bombchu across to hit the dinosaur in his mouth. Three times. It would have been easier if there weren't snakes attacking Link and the Goron all the time so you had to keep an eye on them too.

I'm actually very impressed with the thought that's gone into this. The general set of Zelda items has been nicely adapted, with things like the boomerang and bombchu using the touchscreen excellently to trace out their path. I've now got the grappling hook which'll let me access some other areas that I was barred from on previous islands, and I'm torn between completing the ice temple or just going exploring.

Oh, but before I went into the ice temple I had to solve a lovely little puzzle. It was a twist on the standard "find the liar" conundrum, with six people, two of which gave details of two others and the remaining four talking about one other each. I had to scrawl details down onto the map in order to solve it. Being able to make notes is very useful indeed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: running out of sand

Super Mario Galaxy has a contender for game of 2007.

Everything about this game shines. The graphical style, borrowing heavily from The Wind Waker, is clean and joyous. The story's really hooked me in, with its tasks broken down nicely so they're easily achievable while travelling places. It's a great example of a traditional videogame being slightly adapted for portable play - helped of course by the DS's sleep mode, which means the usual Zelda quirk of being put to the start of a dungeon whenever you save and quit doesn't matter.

I've rescued the three spirits, and have just been to the Temple of the Ocean King for the fourth time, in order to retrieve the south-eastern map. This was the first difficulty I had with the game - descending nine floors in fifteen minutes (before the sands in the hourglass ran out) was a bit of a rush, even with the ability to stand in safe zones where the timer didn't move.

I always loved the sailing in The Wind Waker, and the steamboat in this game is nearly as good - the only issue is that it's a bit of a faff to change course on the fly, since you have to switch to the map and redraw your course. Tapping to fire the cannon is great though.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Super Mario Galaxy: thirty stars in

I've collected stars from the terrace, from the fountain, and now I'm collecting stars in the kitchen. It may be just a sign of obsession, but I'm not moving onto the next area until I've collected all the stars I can from the existing one. I've even been travelling between the older areas just to see if I can make a comet appear.

There's so much imagination in the game. You're shown a new skill, and use it to get the star. In most games you'd have to then use that same skill for the next couple of levels. Here you're given something else new straight away. There's so much to discover, and the urge to collect just one more star has been the cause of a few late nights now ...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Super Mario Galaxy: three stars in

It's just amazing. To start with, it felt a little odd controlling it with separated hands, and for some reason, although it controls in the same way as Mario 64, I couldn't run in a straight line. But then it clicked, and all was good again.

And then I got to the first planet. I was running around, and accidentally jumped off the edge. Instead of falling to my death, I landed on the underneath of the planet, and ran around upside down. Running on the ceiling, walls, floor, being catapulted through space, jumping on and spin-stunning goombas ... it's all just so much fun.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Halo 2: Completed!

I was nearer the end than I thought. A stupid brute set off the halo, so I ran around as the Arbiter and killed him, eventually. Captain Keyes grabbed the index, but it was too late - the halo set all the others to be on standby, ready for remote activation. They can be activated from Earth, where the last remaining prophet is.

Cut to Master Chief descending towards Earth, and as I get ready to take control of him, the credits roll. A rather sudden ending to the game ...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crackdown: pulsing noise

I hear the hum of agility orbs everywhere I go. My mind is playing tricks on me.

485 of 500 agility orbs collected, and 185 of 300 hidden orbs. Every skill's maxed out other than driving, which is on 31/100 on the last level.

I love this game.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Halo 2: Petey Piranha's really let himself go

I've got hold of another copy of this - my fourth in total - and carried on from where I left off, even seeing the cutscene.

Back to controlling the Arbiter, I was instructed to go and retrieve the 'index', which is basically the ignition key for the halo system. This was, of course, hidden within the halo, protected by loads of automatic sentries and big enforcer things. These were both a blessing and a curse, since they destroyed the flood (or the flood destroyed them), and if I waited around I'd only have one set of enemies to contest with. But the enforcers were a pain, covered by a massive shield in front and lots of firepower. In the end I generally destroyed them by activating invisibility, running behind them and throwing sticky grenades at them - though in a couple of cases there were handy rocket launchers laying around.

I was a bit worried with the constant references to "the library" in the in-game dialogue, but luckily there were no long repetitive corridors to fight along ... there were lots of big open areas, with the flood controlling vehicles, and some big firefights with allies. Great fun. At one point I got on a big lift thing, and had to run around killing the flood who jumped onto it - mainly by making myself invisible, running up to the group and throwing a grenade into their midst.

In the end, I got to the sacred icon - the index - only to find that Captain Keyes was there first. A cutscene showed her and Sergeant Johnson being captured along with the index, and then a brute came and took them off the Arbiter. It seems that the elites have been demoted - and have been ordered killed. The arbiter falls to his death ...

... or not. Previously, I'd seen Master Chief falling through the water after Regret's temple was destroyed. he was grabbed by a big tentacle thing. The same catches the Arbiter, and reveals how halo will destroy everything in the galaxy - he's the parasite, the father of the flood. He looks like a big toxic version of Petey Piranha. We need to get hold of the index.

Master Chief is warped into the middle of the prophets' meeting. Oops. Somehow almost everyone disappears and I ended up having to fight just a few brutes and jackals. The elites are now a third party ... as I found out when I got outside and found them in combat with the brutes. Whichever party is left then tries to kill me. Charming.

I went and rescued some captured marines, and then worked through fights between elites and brutes, and even fought two hunters with very little ammo. I'm now on a floating platform with hovering elites killing me constantly. I think I need a break ...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All: completed!

I played this a bit in Egypt, but finished off the last case over the weekend. The third case was a bit tricky in places, but the last case was just a bit pants. It went from being very linear and obvious to the infuriating problem of having a clear solution but having a stupid circuitous route to get there. I want to present the spy camera now, not after going to the police station to have it explained what it is.

Anyway, finished now, and I even waded through the very long endstory. How was I supposed to know that I should have given Edgeworth the whip? I gave him the figurine. It seemed more apt.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Halo 3: you lucky bugger

I won an online game! Really convincingly!

Halo 3 has a section in its matchmaking aimed specifically at beginners, to help you learn the maps and the rules and the changes to controls. I'm still adjusting to look-on-right, and particularly weapon collect being on a shoulder button, so I feel justified in playing there. For the first couple of games, I came second or third - and then came the rampage.

I got nine kills in a row. I threw a grenade around a corner as both opponents approached it (prompting the exclamation in the title). I killed with the battle rifle, needler (so much more powerful than in Halo 2), grenades, pistol and spiker. And my fists. I won the game 25-14-11 - yes, I got as many kills as my opponents put together. Monumental. It won't happen again.

One of the funniest bits was when I turned a corner to find a firefight between Mucky Bandit and Spitmonkey. Mucky Bandit had just dropped a bubble shield, so he was protected. He evidently wasn't watching his radar very well, since I could just walk up and ...

Straight after that, Spitmonkey jumped through the shield and I punched him - and he fell over the side of the level to his death.

I almost wanted to never play it again, to bask in glory. But that would be daft, so I played a few proper matchmaking games and was back to my rubbish self.

Halo 2: possible salvation

Rather than continuing from my last save, I looked at the chapter list - and the chapter following "Regret" is listed ... meaning I can carry on from that point (although I'll probably miss the cutscene). Well, theoretically I can - my disc won't load it. How frustrating!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All: clowning around

While the game is mostly great, the some of the characters are starting to ... well, grate. Moe the Clown, for example, with his constant laughing at himself and failure to get to the point. Von Karma with her constant whipping - it's just too far-fetched.

I'm around halfway through the third case, and I think I can see where it's going - Max had a life-size bust, Moe saw the silhouette of his face, someone else could wear his cloak - but I'm enjoying getting there.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Halo 2: a wasted hour

Last night, I continued the single-player game. I fought my way to a lake, and across to a temple, where the prophet sat. After a number of attempts I finally managed to kill him, and saw the cutscene. And then my Xbox 360 told me that the disc was dirty or damaged, and put me back to the dashboard.

I was sure that I'd gone past a number of big checkpoints, but on restarting and electing to play from my last save, it put me back to the sniper valley. Over an hour down the drain.

Good job it's fun to play.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Halo 2: Kieron is the juggernaut

Both Kieron and John were free this afternoon, so we arranged to play online. Whereas normally we'd have formed a party and gone onto matchmaking, the release of Halo 3 has meant that the number of players has dropped off quite a lot - and John said that he'd had to wait five minutes for a rumble pit game. Team skirmishes weren't going to happen.

So we played custom games between ourselves all afternoon; something we've never really done before. We played three-way capture the flag with rockets. We played oddball with swords. We played 2-on-1 juggernaut, which was great - although Kieron did spend a couple of minutes as the juggernaut just hiding, which lead John and I to wonder if he realised that the point of the game was to kill the others ...

Before John turned up, Kieron and I had a couple of games of Halo 3 as well. They've changed the reloading controls, and how you pick up guns. I kept on missing out on stuff because of this. Well, that's my excuse.

Halo 2: landing on the second halo

Lots of progress today - I destroyed the scarab, and the covenant fleet flew, warping away from Earth (causing much destruction as it went). I was on a ship that got carried along with them.

And then the game switched to follow the fortunes of the army commander who the covenant held responsible for the destruction of the first halo. At the start of the game you see him being shamed and humiliated, but he was then offered a way out of eternal damnation - become the suicidal arbiter and be sent to kill heretics. And then you get given control of him.

It plays pretty much the same as when playing the Master Chief, though your allies are more numerous to start with and are normal covenant forces. And you have the energy sword (which, unlike in multiplayer, has a limited number of uses). And you have an invisibility cloak. This last piece really changes the game - you can be much more exploratory, making sure you know how a room's structured before revealing yourself. The cloak only lasts for a short time, and disappears if you shoot or attack, but it does mean you can be much more strategic.

After fighting my way through the facility - I'm not entirely sure what it was meant to be - flying around the top in a banshee and destroying many guns, and coming across the flood (oh, great), the leader of the heretics locked himself in a room. I was instructed to go and cut the cables - and the facility started to fall. To start with, there was much shaking and I felt that I could jump higher than normal ... but then it all seemed to settle down and it was if the facility wasn't moving at all. Very odd. I went and found the leader, chased him outside, and jumped on a banshee to follow him. He flew off somewhere else, and I started to follow him, but then there was a checkpoint so I went there instead - and somehow I'd caught up with him. He then created two holographic clones of himself and they started to fire at me - but I kept an eye on the real him, grabbed a sword and killed him.

Back to Master Chief, and the covenant ship appears next to another halo. So far I've landed on it, had some great firefights, and have just crawled through a cave to find a very leafy valley filled with snipers. Luckily, there was one sniper in the cave itself, and I've stolen his beam rifle. This should be fun.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Halo 2: big beetle thing

Last night, on the day before Halo 3 was released, I remembered that I've never completed Halo 2's singleplayer mode. In fact, as it turns out, I've hardly started it. Having to start afresh on my Xbox 360, it was pretty engaging and I played for an hour and a half, passing where I'd previously reached - landing on Earth, and working my way around the coast to a bridge. I think I'd reached the bridge before, but had never crossed it in the tank, nor chased the scarab down. I keep on finding myself running out of ammunition, which is a pain, but just before I saved and quit I found a massive bunch of guns. I'm expecting a bit of a rampage now ...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All: an easy opening

Well, it would have been if I weren't being thick. I managed to completely overlook the second page of the court record.

Well into the second case now, and Mia's back. Hello.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Project Gotham Racing 3: powersliding by St Stephen's Tower

It's fast cars only, which is a disappointment after the superb levelling structure of PGR2. It also starts quite a lot harder, with the cars being a bit twitchy and prone to spin.

But I've got the hang of it now, and am working my way through the levels, getting silver medals. Despite the fact that it looks amazing, and it's got London in it, it's all a bit muted. Maybe I've been spoilt by Burnout Revenge, and Forza 2, and Outrun 2. But I played PGR2 the other night, and that's still great fun, even though I had to start again what with there being no way to transfer saves from my old Xbox.

I've only raced around Westminster so far; I hope there are St James's Park stages as well. They were my favourite from Metropolis Street Racer.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pokémon Pearl: where's the department store?

I've just got my sixth badge, after quite a tricky trainer battle. Gyrados is now up to level 29, and the gym leader had three pokémon, the last of which was at level 39. Gyrados's moves were still the most effective I had though - surf and dragon rage hit him hard.

After the battle I met Rowan and there was a big explosion - I was sent off to Lake Valor where I found Team Galactic having drained the lake and magikarp flopping around everywhere. After a few battles against the team members, I decided to go and buy some healing things because I used a few in the gym battle. The best healing things are, of course, the lemonade cans from the department store roof, in terms of healing power per cost.

I couldn't remember where the department store was.

I flew to every city on the map, other than Veilstone because that was really distinctive in the way it was built on levels out of the rock, and I was sure the department store wasn't there. I searched everywhere.

And eventually tried Veilstone out of desperation, and found the department store.

Sigh.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Crackdown: the Kaiser Chiefs are correct

I'm still playing this, having now completed it twice. The cooperative mode is amazing, and I've spent ages with Kieron providing cover for him killing the deputies and collecting orbs. It's very funny being able to jump four times higher than him, and having to work out elaborate routes for him to scale buildings while I can just jump up them.

I've recently found out about the way that you can just plug in an iPod via USB, and then stream music from that as background music in games. It's great. I had just killed Garcia, and all the remaining Los Muertos members were congregating by the funfair ... and I Predict a Riot started to play.

Amazing.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

RLLMUK's top 100: 10 - 1

10Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 2)
9Ico (PlayStation 2)
8Super Mario Kart (SNES)
7The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
6Super Mario World (SNES)
5Goldeneye (Nintendo 64)
4The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64)
3Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
2Halo (Xbox)
1Resident Evil 4 (GameCube)

Comments on the games I've played:

Ico (PlayStation 2)

No, I've not played Shadow of the Colossus, despite owning it for ages.  What's more, I've never progressed very far in Ico.  I don't know why, I enjoyed the half hour or so that I did play, but I never went back.  That will have to be rectified.

Super Mario Kart (SNES)

It's just not as good as later games in the series.

Super Mario World (SNES)

Another game that I've played but never completed.  I bought it on the Wii Virtual Console earlier this year and played through quite a few stages, but I can't remember how far I got and why I stopped.  I'll resume some day, I'm sure - save states are very handy.

Goldeneye (Nintendo 64)

I played this lots, even though I came to it very late when I bought an N64 with Super Mario 64 and Goldeneye at a car boot fair.  The game is certainly more clunky than those that followed it, and even Quake III Arena on the Dreamcast shows it up to have aged.  But the story and variety in the levels is astounding, it's still fun to play, and while the graphics are a bit rough it moves at a fair old pace.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64)

I completed this earlier this year, and cannot deny that it is an amazing game.  It suffers a bit from the early-3D-world syndrome, where low polygon counts make games age very quickly, but it's certainly aged better than most other games.  It also started off quite slowly, to the extent that it took me two years to play through it.  I'm glad I did though.

Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)

I played this to the credits and beyond, although I didn't collect every star.  I collected some stars multiple times, just because they were so fun to get.  An absolute masterpiece in game design.

Halo (Xbox)

The really sad thing is that of the original Halo, the part I remember most is the Library - which is the poor bit.  I remember trudging through countless corridors killing the same enemies again and again.  Sure, the rest of the game has you killing the same enemies, but their reactions and positioning and personalities are new each time.  Not the flood.  The thing is, I remember loving the game as I played through it, and it's a shame that the Library has ruined the good memories I could have had.

Friday, August 24, 2007

RLLMUK's top 100: 20 - 11

20Shenmue (Dreamcast)
19Advance Wars (Game Boy Advance)
18Street Fighter 2 (All Variants) (Arcade)
17Tetris (Game Boy)
16Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PlayStation 2)
15Metal Gear Solid (PlayStation)
14Half-Life 2 (PC/PlayStation 2/Xbox 360)
13Rez (Dreamcast)
12Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation)
11Deus Ex (PC)

Comments on the games I've played:

Shenmue (Dreamcast)

Generally, when games don't have a sense of urgency, I find it difficult to motivate myself to play them.  The Grand Theft Auto games are a good example of this - there is no time limit, no overarching need to get to the end quickly.  While Shenmue doesn't have a strict time limit, there is so much to do and so much to see that I never found myself unwilling to load it up from the time I first saw the black car and that incident, to the time I got on the boat and sailed away.  An amazing experience, which I suspect has aged terribly - but I don't think I'll ever go and check.

Advance Wars (Game Boy Advance)

I think I prefer the first DS game, but only just.  Advance Wars is an amazing achievement of simplicity and depth rolled together.  The strengths and weaknesses of every unit are clearly designed to mean there's no one unbeatable strategy, although it sometimes feels that there is when playing against Kieron.  The only downside to the game is the effectiveness of a mech flood - creating hundreds of mech units and marching slowly across the map.

Street Fighter 2: Special Championship Edition (Mega Drive)

I've played a number of versions of SF2, but this was the one I played the most, along with the 6-button controller.  It remains my favourite, partially because of the controller (I've never been able to pull off dragon punches as effectively with anything else) and partially because of the purity of the game.  No super meters, no charging specials, no EX-TJ-PO balancing with finishing moves.  I loved this game - even though I wasn't that good when playing against real life opponents.

Tetris DX (Game Boy Color)

I got this on launch day, ahead of a coach journey from Bristol to London - I turned up to WH Smith as they opened and had them dig it out of the store room for me.  The journey seemed to take about five minutes.

Metal Gear Solid (PlayStation)

I've never got very far in this, despite trying a few times.  I have a copy of the GameCube remake; maybe I'll try that some time.

Half-Life 2 (PC)

I played a bit of this, but not much because Portal was a much more interesting game in the Orange Box.  I do fancy playing some more, but it may need to wait until I replay Half-Life.

Rez (Dreamcast)

I think this would work really well with Wii controllers - it's a game where I felt the controls were the only thing that frustrated me in the whole experience.  A lovely game though, even with the complete change of direction in the fifth level.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

RLLMUK's top 100: 30 - 21

30Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES)
29World of Warcraft (PC)
28The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GameCube)
27Metroid Prime (GameCube)
26The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Nintendo 64)
25Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
24Shenmue 2 (Dreamcast/Xbox)
23Halo 2 (Xbox)
22The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Game Boy)
21Half-Life (PC)

Comments on the games I've played:

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (Game Boy Advance)

I enjoyed this, though not as much as Yoshi's Story on the N64.  I felt that the inclusion of Baby Mario was a little unneeded at times, only in place to let the player make a mistake without dying, but the levels were made harder to make up for this.  The game as a result felt a bit disjointed and overly frustrating at times.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GameCube)

Possibly my favourite Zelda game, but that might be because it's the first I completed.  It's a stunning-looking game, with a clever story and great characters.  I loved sailing across the world, exploring the sea, and just getting lost for hours on end on an outlying island.  People criticise many things about the game - the triforce fetching quest, the lack of voice acting, the fact that it's not gritty and realistic - but I think that it will be a timeless game for years to come.  I'm not sure if I'll ever replay it, but that's not a comment on it's quality; it's a comment on how final the finishing blow felt.

Metroid Prime (GameCube)

Stunning to look at, a good difficulty curve and amazing update of a series from 2D to 3D.  I never got that far through it, because it was set inside cramped caves and I felt horribly constrained.  Maybe I'll get back to it one day.

Super Mario Bros 3 (NES)

I've never played this beyond the first few levels.  Maybe one for Virtual Console in the future.

Shenmue 2 (Dreamcast)

I loved the first game, completing it over a good few months, taking in the entire experience with collections from the vending machines and a very happy cat.  I felt sad when I got on the boat, leaving my old life behind.  On starting the second game, I was horrified when my savings were stolen as I arrived in Hong Kong, and I never quite got the enthusiasm to continue playing beyond an hour or so.  My VMU still has the game save on it - and maybe I'll go back to it, if they announce that they'll be completing the story.

Halo 2 (Xbox)

The single player game was good, if a bit similar to the first game, and I enjoyed controlling a different character which meant a different style of play.  It's in multiplayer that this game really shines though, and it is probably one of my favourite online games ever - only Phantasy Star Online holds better memories for me.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (Game Boy Color)

Actually, this might be the first Zelda I completed, but it's relatively far from a traditional Zelda template so might not count.  Zelda's not in it, for a start.  It's a masterpiece on how to design a game for a different platform; recognising that people play handheld games in a different way to console games, Nintendo designed a shorter adventure which did not feel limited by the hardware in any way.

Half-Life (PC)

I've never completed this.  I loved the way the story was delivered, and the clever way that the marines were introduced firstly as friends and then as enemies.  It wasn't wholly revolutionary - the building up of weapons, and the use of health and armour were well established in games already - and I got to a point where it was just a bit too difficult (I believe, from looking at a walkthrough, that it was in the chapter 'Questionable Ethics').  Of course, my save from then is lost in the mists of time.  Maybe one day I'll turn god mode on.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

RLLMUK's top 100: 40 - 31

40Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox)
39Grim Fandango (PC)
38Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (Amiga/PC/Archimedes)
37The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC/Xbox 360)
36Civilization II (PC)
35Elite (BBC/CPC/Commodore 64/Spectrum/Atari ST/Amiga)
34Phantasy Star Online (including v2) (Dreamcast)
33Grand Theft Auto 3 (PS2)
32Perfect Dark (N64)
31Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (DS)

Comments on the games I've played:

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox)

I never got very far in this. It was just a bit boring, and took ages for the game's story to kick in. By the time I found out what was going to happen, I could tell that I'd never get anywhere near the end of the game without devoting weeks to it, and I had many more enjoyable things to do instead.

Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (Amiga)

Another game where I never quite got what everyone raved about. It all seemed a bit clunky, with the ball lacking momentum and the playing area being just the wrong size for the number of goals. I used to play this at friends' houses, on the Amiga and on the Mega Drive, and despite winning a large proportion of the time, I was never convinced I was entirely in control. The team management bits seemed pretty pointless as well.

Elite (BBC, CPC), Elite: The New Kind (PC)

I have played this game for hundreds of hours. It's aged pretty badly, really, in that modern games do everything it does but better, but they add other games over the top. Maybe that's why I still like Elite - it's pure, clean, and easy to play. I've learnt profitable trade routes, I've earnt the title of Elite, I've jumped into witchspace and survived.

Phantasy Star Online (including v2) (Dreamcast, GameCube, Xbox)

One of the best gaming experiences of my life - although not necessarily the best game ever.  This was the first time I played anything online with friends, and I spent many hours building up my character by running through the forests, caves, mines and ruins.  I can still remember the first time I battled Dark Falz with online assistance, drawing attention away from others, healing, whittling down his health.  The final blow leading to a poignant animation of a red ring, showing the fate of the hunter who had left us messages through the world.  I've killed Dark Falz many times since.

Grand Theft Auto 3 (PS2, Xbox)

I completed this, which is saying something given the difficulty of the final mission - chasing a helicopter to a dam, not getting killed while running to the control room, shooting someone who seemed to be wearing a full kevlar bodysuit.  Is this the best of the 3D iterations?  Vice City had less interesting missions but possibly a better world; GTA IV got boring very quickly due to hassles from characters calling your mobiles; the PSP games were great but a bit limited in terms of out-of-mission havoc.  I've not played San Andreas or the latest DLC yet, but will one day.  GTA3 remains great fun to mess around in, and I can still recognise landmarks in the city when I watch videos today.

Perfect Dark (N64)

I played very little of this, as I came to it late and the FPS genre had evolved considerably.  It's dated far more than Goldeneye.

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (DS)

Great fun, but I prefer Elite Beat Agents.

Pokémon Pearl: a hotel village

Four badges down, and I'm on my way up the East coast, where I've chased a member of Team Galactic. There's an odd hotel complex here.

Someone online swapped my spare misdreavus for Murkrow. That's rather handy. And Kieron gave me a few of his spare pokémon in return for a spare pikachu and a couple of other spares. I've never done trading before. It's all rather exciting.

Monday, August 20, 2007

RLLMUK's top 100: 50 - 41

50Pro Evolution Soccer 6 (PlayStation 2/Xbox 360/PC)
49Soul Calibur (Arcade/Dreamcast)
48Silent Hill 2 (PlayStation/Dreamcast)
47Guitar Hero 2 (PlayStation 2/Xbox 360)
46NiGHTS into Dreams (Saturn)
45Sensible World of Soccer (Amiga/PC)
44Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Mega Drive)
43Sega Rally (Arcade/Saturn)
42The Secret of Monkey Island (Amiga/PC)
41Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PlayStation 2/Xbox/GameCube/PC)

Comments on the games I've played:

Soul Calibur (Dreamcast)

Other than Street Fighter 2, I'm not a huge fan of fighters because I can't be bothered to learn the huge move lists that are required to be good at them. There are a few exceptions. The Dead or Alive series is based around a select few generic moves, really, adaptable between characters. The first couple of Virtua Fighters were relatively simple in execution, with limited moves for each character. And Soul Calibur ... it's just really rewarding, and the weapon-based combat makes it distinct enough to keep me playing even though I'm really, really rubbish at it.

Guitar Hero 2 (PlayStation 2)

It's alright. I don't seem to like it as much as some people, but that's probably because I've never really had the aspiration to play the guitar and most of the songs in the game don't really appeal to me. What it sets out to do it does very well, but I prefer Samba de Amigo and its Latin basis.

NiGHTS into Dreams (Saturn)

An evolution of Sonic's platforming, really, keeping the style and speed and taking to the skies. When I first played this game I didn't really get it, just trying to rush through the levels to the end. Unlike Sonic, this is all about how you get to the end, rather than just reaching there. Some of the later levels do require speed as well, getting to the end of the course before the time runs out, but by then you're expert at pulling of stunts with a minimum of delay, even speeding you up. So elegant. I even loved the ground-based bits, the panic to get back to the temple. I've completed this game so many times, but it really is about the playing and not finishing. I hope the Wii game works as well, and more to the point, includes the original as an extra.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Mega Drive)

The pinnacle of the series? Probably. When we went to Kieron's at the weekend, eight of us played through the two-player game, taking turns, on the Wii (which comes complete with the slowdown whenever there are too many sprites on the screen). It's hardly dated at all, and I knew my way around the levels - even the Mystic Cave - with no effort at all. When this is released on Live Arcade, so it's not squashed and slow, I'll be buying it in a shot.

Sega Rally (Saturn)

It's a very different game to Daytona and Outrun 2, but all Sega racers share a general philosophy. It's my favourite theory of rhythm again, and Sega Rally exhibits this to a huge extent, with long sweeping corners and narrowing straights keeping the speed up throughout the stages. As you progress it gets harder very quickly, but I much prefer just playing the first stage over and over again - it's thrilling and relaxing at the same time.

The Secret of Monkey Island (PC)

I played it to completion, so it must have done something right, but I found the whole game to be a little too tenuous for my tastes. It didn't hang together that well - the sword fighting with jokes seemed tacked-on, and you couldn't really explore a lot of the island. Having said that, there were a few laugh-out-loud moments, and I felt sufficiently engaged to start the sequel ...

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (GameCube)

The new evolution of the 3D platformer. Following on from Tomb Raider, the Sands of Time often presented you with a room, and challenged you to get to the top of it. Ledges were cunningly placed, the wall runs and swings helped you cross huge gaps. It was a great mix between action and puzzle. The whole game was let down a little by its combat, but even that had some good aspects - in particular, the way that you had to finish enemies off properly rather than hitting them until they fell over. All the sequels were rather disappointing, and some of the exploratory aspects were done better, I think, in Tomb Raider Legend. This game is still well worth playing, though.

Friday, August 17, 2007

RLLMUK's top 100: 60 - 51

60Wii Sports (Wii)
59Dungeon Master (Atari ST/Amiga)
58Resident Evil 2 (PlayStation/Dreamcast/GameCube/PC)
57Doom (PC/SNES/Jaguar/32X/etc ...)
56Outrun 2 (all variants including 2006) (Arcade/Xbox/PlayStation 2/PSP/PC)
55Wario Ware Inc. (Game Boy Advance)
54Super Monkey Ball (GameCube)
53Streets of Rage 2 (Mega Drive)
52Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PlayStation 2/Xbox/PC)
51Okami (PlayStation 2)

Comments on the games I've played:

Wii Sports (Wii)

Quite possibly the best, and the most important, launch title ever. Wii Sports still sees regular play in my house, both in single-player (with the fitness, training, and of course the main game modes in the quest for pro status) and in multiplayer whenever anyone - literally anyone - visits. Someone asked if we'll still see this as a classic in three years' time - I believe that unless Wii Sports 2 turns out to be an amazingly massive improvement, then yes, we will.

Some have criticised it for being shallow, for being simple, and so on. No, there aren't 20 courses on the golf game. You don't have a tournament structure on tennis. But none of that matters. The games all have huge amounts of depth, and it'll be a long time before anyone can master them – the backspin on tennis, the chip on golf. The whole package is a joy to play.

Doom (32X)

I first played Doom on the 32X, because my only exposure to PC gaming until that point was Lemmings on a desktop my dad had borrowed from work. The CPC fulfilled all of our other computing needs. But anyway. On the 32X it was lovely, smooth and bright and brown. But when the enemies got close, the panic was induced more by the ugly mess of squares appearing on the screen than anything else. Other games have improved on Doom's formula since, and I think I even prefer Doom RPG to the original.

Outrun 2 (Xbox)

If Daytona introduced the idea of powersliding to achieve great times, Outrun 2 perfected it. In no game before or since has it been so much fun to travel around five corners consecutively travelling sideways, weaving between cars and buses and your rivals, while talking rubbish to your friends over Xbox Live. In reality, it has very little in common with the original Outrun, of course, but that doesn't matter.

Wario Ware Inc. (Game Boy Advance)

None of the sequels have matched the brilliance of the first game, although Twisted comes close. Combining hundreds of not-very-good games into one big, fast, brilliant roller-coaster ride is a stroke of genius, and it's the very essence of high score gaming.

Super Monkey Ball (GameCube)

Probably my personal favourite launch game ever. The franchise has gone downhill since, maybe due to overfamiliarity, but mainly because the levels haven’t been as well designed as they were in the first game (although people who say that Launchers in SMB2 is purely down to luck are just wrong). The whole game package was excellent, with the superb Monkey Target and other party games just adding to the game's appeal.

Streets of Rage 2 (Mega Drive)

Was this the pinnacle of the scrolling fighter? Better than its sequel, certainly, and better than Final Fight and ... well, anything else. It was just an immense game, and the fact that it had a great two-player co-operative mode (with a nice twist at the end) meant it got a lot of play between my brother and I.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Xbox)

Vice City was always my favourite locale in the original GTA, but I must admit that the city lost quite a bit of charm when it was redeveloped in 3D. It certainly wasn’t as interesting as Liberty City, with less terrain to mess around on. The missions didn’t help either, with most showing a lack of imagination compared to the first 3D game. But it’s still a great game, and the soundtrack and general 80s ambience rescues it.

Pokémon Pearl: here pichu pichu

Finally caught a pichu this morning, after wandering around the garden of the Pokémon Mansion for ages and ages. I'd seen one when I first went in, but Kricketune, not knowing its own strength, knocked it out with one hit. After that I saw loads of starlies, staravias, kricketunes, and even pikachus, but it was only this morning that I finally got a pichu. So I'm on the way again, and I'm a bit concerned that my team is a little too levelled up for capturing wild pokémon ...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Resident Evil 4: panic!

I wish I hadn't been quite so jumpy. I'd almost got to the end of the village on stilts, and then heard a groaning noise. I span around, and was impaled immediately by a pitchfork. Ouch. Five groaning Spaniards stood there, waiting for their turn to kill me. So I flailed wildly with my knife, bringing two down ... but as I continued to flail I was still locked on to those two, meaning the other three had an easy job of killing me.

So back to the start.

I hate limited save structures.

RLLMUK's top 100: 70 - 61

70Project Gotham Racing 2 (Xbox)
69Tony Hawks' Pro Skater 2 (PlayStation/Dreamcast/Xbox)
68Pokémon Green/Blue/Red/Yellow (Game Boy) and LeafGreen/FireRed (Game Boy Advance)
67Daytona (all variants) (Arcade)
66Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast)
65Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (PC)
64Metal Gear Solid 3 (PlayStation 2)
63Banjo-Kazooie (Nintendo 64)
62System Shock 2 (PC)
61Super Metroid (SNES)

Comments on the games I've played:

Project Gotham Racing 2 (Xbox)

PGR2 was the first game I ever played on Live, and it was a revelation. I mean, it was only the third game I'd ever played online (after Quake 3 and PSO on the Dreamcast), and even compared to the sublime PSO everything was so well organised. The online side of the game was so well integrated - seeing all your friends' times when you went into a time trial event, for example, gave you a real benchmark to aim for, making even the single-player game a community event. And even without that, the game was great fun - loads of different game types, with the kudos system refined from MSR and PGR making it much more fun to replay stages over and over.

Tony Hawks' Pro Skater 2 (Dreamcast)

My brother had a copy of the first Tony Hawks game when it came out on the PlayStation, and initially I dismissed it, thinking it was only for the sk8rbois (or whatever the trendy word is). I was so wrong. The Tony Hawks games are an evolution of the 3D platformer, containing elements of Tomb Raider (particularly when trying to work out how to get to high-up ramps and the hidden tapes) and the Sonic 3D games, in terms of speed and accurate landing of jumps. But there's so much more, in the trick system. I believe it's THPS2 that introduced the manuals, which link together countless tricks and enable stupidly high scores.

I'm not sure I'd say that 2 was the best Tony Hawks game, though. American Sk8land on the DS is probably my favourite.

Pokémon Yellow (Game Boy), Pokémon LeafGreen (Game Boy Advance)

Pokémon games are just immense. There's so much to do, with a relatively strong storyline to follow initially, guiding the trainer to the elite four, and apparently loads to do after that. I say apparently, because I've never actually beaten them, despite playing through Yellow, LeafGreen and Sapphire and getting to Victory Road each time. There's just such a huge difficulty leap from the previous gyms to the elite four, and by the time I get there I'm starting to get a bit bored of grinding my team to get them to a high-enough level. Hopefully Pearl's different.

Daytona USA (Arcade and Saturn), Daytona 2001 (Dreamcast)

Let's roll away! Daytona is a pure fun arcade racer, with over-the-top physics and car control. Each of the three tracks is almost a different game - the easy oval track with forty opponents, the curvy mountain track ... this is really the game that invented powersliding. No home conversion has matched the arcade, though the Dreamcast version comes close once you've turned down the sensitivity of the controls.

Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast)

I never got very far with this, mainly because of the time limits running alongside the police chases and the rivals making it just too frantic. I got so frustrated when I was close to finishing an area and then got chased off by the police and ran out of time. Apart from those annoyances, though, the game's lovely - stylish, in both playing style and visuals, and it has that all-important rhythm running through it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

RLLMUK's top 100: 80 - 71

80Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Nintendo DS)
79Bubble Bobble (Arcade)
78Wipeout 2097 (PlayStation/Saturn/PC)
77Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation/Xbox 360)
76Killer 7 (GameCube/PlayStation 2)
75Metal Gear Solid 2 (PlayStation 2/Xbox)
74Super Smash Bros Melee (GameCube)
73Resident Evil (PlayStation/Saturn/PC/GameCube)
72 Lylat Wars (Nintendo 64)
71Burnout 2: Point of Impact (PlayStation 2/Xbox/GameCube)

Comments on the games I've played:

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Nintendo DS)

While I didn't find it as pant-wettingly hilarious as some, the dialogue and characterisation in this game are superb. One thing I especially liked was the way that, while each case is indeed separate, some themes flow between the cases, and in the fourth case there are references to the first, and so on. The story was frustratingly linear, though, and there were times when I knew what I wanted to show and present but wasn't allowed to at that point, until I'd finished another track of argument. I've just bought the sequel, so we'll see how that pans out.

Bubble Bobble (Arcade)

Until a few years ago, I'd only ever played the CPC version of this, and now I can make the comparison I'm amazed how close they got it to the arcade. Having said that, I've never really enjoyed the game too much, feeling it takes an overly simple concept and over-complicates it with powerups and letter collection and so on.

Wipeout 2097 (PlayStation)

Not as good as Wipeout 3: SE, I feel, mainly because of the analogue control that sequel offered. 2097 is certainly an evolution from the first game in the series, with better tracks, better handling, and better weapons balance. But the best tracks from 2097 were carried forward into 3SE, and the game was further refined by then. I hope 3SE appears higher up.

Metal Gear Solid 2 (Xbox)

Metal Gear SNORElid, more like. The MGS games frustrate me a lot, to the point that I just find them really boring doing the same thing over and over again until I pass a section, then doing something new over and over again. I'm no good at them, obviously. Despite not enjoying the original, I bought the second on the Xbox expecting a different game - and found it was even more frustrating. So, no.

Super Smash Bros Melee (GameCube)

It's an accessible fighting game, so I like it. It's a spiritual sibling to Powerstone, really, but with a lot more depth to the fighting mechanic. As with all fighters, it's best played with other people, and you will progressively evolve your game this way. Your opponent learns Pikachu's thundershock move, you have to learn ways of countering it. You have to learn ways of staying out of the way while attacking, using the items, and the value of a low-power hit when your opponent is close to the edge. Yes, the single-player game is decent, with hundreds of trophies to obtain and the adventure mode to complete, but this game's all about beating your friend and seeing him sliding down the glass of the TV screen.

Resident Evil (GameCube)

Something I wrote a few days ago, which I'll reprint here: I've never really got on with Resident Evil games before - I've played the first on the PlayStation and the remake on the GameCube, and Code: Veronica on the Dreamcast, but never played them for more than a few hours. The main reason for this is the control scheme - it's always seemed too clunky and inhibits me from enjoying the games.

The artificially slow pace, the annoying item management system, the painful save process ... I don't like it.

Lylat Wars (Wii)

I've only played this on the Wii, but have played it quite a few times because it's just huge amounts of fun. And it's arcadey, in that you can get to the end quickly, with multiple routes and goals ... it's the Outrun of the shooter world. I'm still having some difficulties with the controls in that they're not as intuitive as I expect, but at the same time I've never felt it's the game's fault when I die, rather my ineptitude.

Burnout 2: Point of Impact (GameCube)

Amazing, amazing game. I do actually like the sequels, including Revenge with its traffic checking, but Burnout 2 is the high point of the series to me, with a well-designed difficulty curve, the right number of event types and some really well-designed levels. Playing it with the GameCube force feedback wheel is just great as well.

Pokémon Pearl: one-hit wonders

The third gym turned out to be not the gym I thought it was. That gym leader's still missing. Instead, it was run by a young girl who specialises in fighting pokémon, which would normally involve some vicious battles except for my level-30 Kadabra, who killed every opponent in one hit using psywave. For once I earnt the ability to use an HM before I had the HM itself, but that was soon rectified with a trip to the Team Galactic warehouse, where I got hold of Fly.

And then realised I had no pokémon capable of learning it. So I've now added Staravia to my lineup, replacing Happiny who had grown to level 20 and still not evolved. I suspect she'll need a moonstone or something like that.

I've flown back to visit my mum, then went to Jubilife City to go to the global trading place. I've put on offer my Misdreavus, because I know I can go and get another one of those but Diamond players can't. We'll see what turns up.

Then on this morning's train, on my brand new DS Lite, I've found the big Pokémon Mansion, and am trying to get inside while being thwarted by rich boys and ladies. Not very ladylike if you ask me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

RLLMUK's top 100: 90 - 81

90Tomb Raider (Saturn/PlayStation)
89Katamari Damacy (PlayStation 2)
88Guitar Hero (PlayStation 2)
86Ninja Gaiden (including Black) (Xbox)
86Super Mario Bros. (NES)
85Street Fighter 3 (all variants) (Arcade)
84Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast)
83Counterstrike (PC)
82Sensible Soccer (Amiga)
81Chrono Trigger (SNES)

Comments on the games I've played:

Tomb Raider (PlayStation)

I won't win any friends by saying this, but I actually preferred Tomb Raider 2. Admittedly, TR2 was the first game I played on my new PlayStation, and as such it was the first game to usher in proper 3D worlds and exploration, which may colour my judgement. But I preferred the action-based gameplay slightly more. That's not to say that Tomb Raider was bad - far from it. It's a really well designed game, at times really claustrophobic, at times really open. The level design still holds up today, as can be seen from Tomb Raider Anniversary. I'll be interested to see if Tomb Raider Legend appears in the list, as I feel that's the one TR game that's surpassed the original.

Guitar Hero (PlayStation 2)

It's clever and all, but it's not as much fun as Samba de Amigo, or even Dancing Stage.

Super Mario Bros (Game Boy Colour)

As a Sega boy when I was younger (there was none of this "owning all the consoles" back in my day), I never got to experience SMB the first time around. Indeed, it wasn't until the release of the Game Boy Colour and Super Mario Bros Deluxe that I actually played the game. And you know, it's not bad at all. Some of the level design is pure genius, and while I still prefer Sonic's speed, the difficulty of the later levels in Mario show that there's a lot to be said for taking things slowly. Until the time starts to run out.

Street Fighter 3 (Arcade)

I had difficulty enough with Super Street Fighter 2. It just got too complicated and too daunting and I couldn't be bothered.

Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast)

Skies of Arcadia's biggest crime was being available on the Dreamcast when HMV were selling all the games off for £3. I bought it, played it for around three hours, and then never went back because I had 20 other games to play. And that's a shame, because what I did play I really liked. The characters are great, the story (that what I experienced) is great ... I'll have to set my Dreamcast up again soon and play this properly.

Counterstrike (PC)

I enjoyed playing this for a while, when I had a group of friends and we all played together. The community in general was just a little too serious, and we never really liked playing with randoms because ... well, we were crap and often got kicked out of games for being crap.

Sensible Soccer (Amiga)

I preferred the Mega Drive version, in fact - it was so much easier when the ball stuck to your feet a bit more - but whichever way you look at it, this is a great game, chiefly because it recognises itself to be a videogame and doesn't try to replicate real life too accurately. I played this so much during one school holiday, creating countless teams on the MD cartridge ... and the last time I looked they were still there.

Monday, August 13, 2007

RLLMUK's top 100: 100 - 91

100Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn)
99Frequency (PlayStation 2)
97Championship Manager 01/02 (PC)
97Wave Race 64 (Nintendo 64)
96Animal Crossing: Wild World (Nintendo DS)
95Day of the Tentacle (PC)
93Crazy Taxi (Dreamcast)
93Broken Sword: Shadow of The Templars (PC)
92Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64)
91F-Zero X (Nintendo 64)

Comments on the games I've played:

Championship Manager 01/02 (PC)

I really can't quite understand why football management games are so addictive to me, and I'm not even all that interested in football! I only played this iteration for a short time, though, it was around then that it started to get all just a little too complicated and over-the-top. I'm actually happier now with Football Manager Handheld, because of the limitations on what you have to concentrate on.

Wave Race 64 (Nintendo 64)

Although I didn't play this until just after the GameCube came out, it was still quite amazing with its physics engine reacting to waves on the water. I think Blue Storm was better though.

Animal Crossing: Wild World (Nintendo DS)

I dread to think how many hours I put into this. The fact that it's portable, and you can simply close the DS and carry it off with you, makes it far more accessible than the N64 or GameCube originals. Interestingly, while watching The Simpsons on TV yesterday I saw that they continue to advertise this, more than a year after it was released. Everyone has their own stories about villagers and events, and the online aspect is just amazing.

Crazy Taxi (Dreamcast)

The arcade game wasn't as good, really – much harder to pull off the special moves that made the game fun. Barrelling down that first hill was always great fun, stopping by sliding at 50mph into a wall ... pure joy.

Broken Sword: Shadow of The Templars (PC)

I almost gave up on this before it had really started, thanks to that really annoying bit where you had to identify that the four red pixels in the sewer were actually an item. Once I'd found that, though, the story really captivated me, and while the game was fairly linear you never really wanted to deviate outside the path anyway.

Oh, and avoid the PlayStation version. Once you've got to the desert market, it slows down to unbearable levels, and you'll never want to play it again.

Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64)

My second-favourite Mario Kart, after DS. Again, I got this late, but multiplayer's a genius, particularly with the catchup and item levelling which means that every race is a close one.

F Zero X (Nintendo 64)

I've never really got on with F-Zero, in any of its incarnations.

Pokémon Pearl: it's raining

This is bad news for Monferno.

However, my egg finally hatched into Happiny, and I've been levelling her up by including her as the starter in battles. After the first battle she increased from level 1 to level 4; she's now at level 11. Of course, I'll probably regret it once my proper team is underpowered ...

Still looking for the third gym leader. Quite frustrating, really.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Resident Evil 4: into the village

Since this seems almost sure to come top of rllmuk's top 100 games, I thought I ought to see what I've missed out on. I've never really got on with Resident Evil games before - I've played the first on the PlayStation and the remake on the GameCube, and Code: Veronica on the Dreamcast, but never played them for more than a few hours. The main reason for this is the control scheme - it's always seemed too clunky and inhibits me from enjoying the games.

RE4 keeps the same sort of control scheme, in terms of moving forwards and backwards and rotating, but it's done from behind the character which means it makes a lot more sense. Having said that, it still feels really clunky, and there's no way of, say, leaning around corners to see what's there, or even sidestepping. I came across a hut earlier at the side of the path, and could see there was an enemy inside. I had to run forward level with the door, then turn round to face the enemy before he could attack me. Clunky. It just keeps you detached from the game, which is a shame.

The Wii version uses the remote to aim and fire, which is probably a lot easier than the GameCube and PlayStation 2 versions, and this part works really well.

I'm about one and a half hours in now, having got through the first half of the village. I've met a non-infected Spaniard, and then we were captured and injected with something which appears to have had no effect. Very odd. I've found out that the president's daughter may well be inside a church, which I've already seen but for some reason I've got to go around the long way to get there. The next part of the village seems to be built over a valley on stilts, which is a bit annoying because the enemies keep falling over the edge when they die, meaning I can't pick up the bonuses they leave behind.

It's a videogame that tries to be nothing else, but that's no bad thing.

Crackdown: completed!

Completed to an extent, anyway. I'm now rid of all three gangs, and the city is quiet. I've maxed out three of the skill types, and I've seen the end cinematic, which includes a completely obvious twist. Of course, now that I've cleared all the gangs it's not going to be that easy to gain extra points - you get loads of driving points for running over gang members compared to doing stunts, for example - but I believe there's a way of turning the gang members back on so I can fill the driving and explosives meters. I'll get around to that soon.

The last boss was great fun. He was off on an oil rig, which I swam out to rather than going through the obvious path. I then climbed up on the outside, as much as possible, avoiding other enemies, and found him on his own at the very top of the platform. I beat him up, maxing out my strenght meter in the process, and that was it.

Really great game.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pokémon Pearl: up the Lost Tower

I've found the third gym, but not the third gym leader. The man in the gym is no help - he just says I need to go other places first. So I am doing so. I've put a keystone in a well-type thing, and found the lost tower, inside which I caught a ghastly. I've found some ruins and caught two unowns - they're different shapes but I don't know if that's important or not. Inside the ruins are odd stones which look like they do something but I have no idea what; there's also odd writing on the wall, so I'm now looking for somthing to translate it.

I got distracted, though, by two things. Firstly, the local newspaper needed me to find a kricketune, before the end of the day. I assumed they wanted one to keep, so I went off into the wild to find one (rather than given them mine), and after a few fights one turned up. I reduced his energy to virtually nothing, put him to sleep, and threw ball after ball - and he kept on escaping. I ran out of balls in the end. Over the course of my train journey I encountered five kricketunes, and must have used at least 30 balls of varying kinds trying to catch one, before I finally managed it. I went to the pokémon centre and carefully stored my kricketune away, so I was left only with the newly captured one (which I'd named Paininarse). I then went to the newspaper and they just looked at Paininarse and didn't take it off of me. They just gave me three great balls instead.

Argh.

The other thing that distracted me was that I was running in a patch of grass and a wild chansey appeared. I failed to capture him, though, because Luxio chose that time to have a critical hit with fury swipes. So I've been running around in the same piece of grass, encountering ponyta and kricketune over and over again, in the hope that a chancey will appear again.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Crackdown: bye bye Shei Gen

Another evening, another gang falls. The last mission this time was quite a lot harder, since the bossman was at the top of a massive skyscraper, and there wasn't really a way of getting to him save going up inside. And then I got to the roof garden, was hit by a rocket launcher, and thrown over the edge to plummet to my death. On the fourth attempt I just ran to the other side of the garden to be safe, and killed loads of people before using a rocket launcher and knocking the boss off the edge of the building, in an amusing about-face.

I don't really want to go to bed, but I've got work in the morning ...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Crackdown: bye bye Los Muertos

This is amazingly fantastic.

Crackdown is a sandboxy game, Grand Theft Auto alike but played theoretically from the side of the law. You can still kill many innocent people, but it's much easier to kill the criminals since you can lock onto them from great distances. Superb accuracy is only one of the powers you have - throughout the game I've been developing my agility (meaning that I can now jump absurdly high), strength (I can now pick up small cars and throw them at gang members) and explosives, as well as the aforementioned firing accuracy. The last of these is what I've made the most progress on, and I can now stand at the top of a twenty-story building, take aim, and kill a gang member with a headshot.

The one skill I've not developed so much is driving, and that's mainly because running and jumping around is just so much fun. So much is hidden on the rooftops, such as the orbs that increase your agility and the resupply points, that it almost seems a waste pootling around on the streets below.

There is so much that this game gets right. One thing that's always been criticised regarding the 3D GTAs is the combat system. This game uses a clever lock-on system which gives you absolute control over who you're shooting and when. The only time that you feel slightly panicked is when you're ambushed and you have to resort to hand-to-hand combat, at which point you have to try very hard just to stay facing an enemy unless you can get a lock-on.

On the default level, the game's quite easy. I've now 'completed' one of the three islands - firstly unlocking all the resupply points, and then killing all the gang's generals so that I could then go and kill the big bossman more easily. While the game does offer you obvious ways to get to all of the generals, you're not limited to following those. I found that skirting around the outskirts of the compunds usually found a good high position from which you could kill most of the guards, and then you could run through just killing the silly respawning enemies until you got to the boss.

The easiness isn't really a problem, though. It makes the game just really fun to play. I have died a fair few times, especially when I first got hold of the rocket launcher, but you can simply regenerate at a nearby resupply point and go back to try again. Not all the enemies will have been replaced, but enough will to continue giving you a challenge.

This is the first game in ages that has made me play so compulsively for hours. It's great fun, it looks great, and it maks you feel great. Great.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Pokémon Pearl: going the long way around

I put some honey on a tree, then went into Eterna City. The bicycle shop owner had been taken into the Team Galactic building, but the entrance was blocked by trees - so I went down to the gym instead. All plant/grass pokémon, which crumbled before the might of Monferno. I then learnt to use cut outside of battles, went to the Team Galactic building, rescued the bike shop owner, then went and got a bike.

Then I wanted to go back and check my tree, but someone kept on blocking me from going back along the path. I had to instead go all the way down cycling road, to Mount Coronet, then West and North to go back up to the Valley Windworks. I didn't mean to go there, actually, but I got lost ...

Lucky I did, in fact, because outside the windworks was Drifloon, who appears once a week according to someone just down the path. Huzzah!

Seen 45, caught 26.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Bomberman LIVE: cheats online

Microsoft say that cheaters aren't able to play online.

I was playing this tonight when Andy invited me to a game. I did appallingly, although the final score of 4-3 to him is overly generous to my performance. I'm sure he must have been cheating, making me blow myself up over and over again somehow.

Great fun, though.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Pokémon Pearl: I want to ride my bicycle

Yet I can't. I've been told the location of the next gym; I've looked at my map and worked out where I need to go. But in order to get there, I've got to go through a cave and jump over some rocks on my bike. I don't have a bike. Now I'm going the long way around, and have been distracted by Team Galactic taking over the wind farm. I've beaten them, and they've disappeared, so the path's clear to continue.

There are a lot of distractions along the way though. I met a man in a field of flowers who gave me some honey and told me to smear it on a tree, which I did. I returned later to find the tree shaking - approaching it led me into battle with an odd Christmas-tree-shaped pokémon. I whittled down his health, as always, and threw a pokéball. He escaped from it, used the move 'struggle', and knocked himself out. I need to find some more honey now.

Another distraction is the day/night cycle. On the way to work I go through long grass to catch new pokémon. On the way home I go through the same patches of grass and there are different pokémon to catch. My brother tells me that there are further changes in the afternoon and night. I'm going to have to play at weekends for the afternoon ones ...

So, I'm not making rapid progress along the story, but you know what? I don't care.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pokémon Pearl: down t'pit

I'm getting tired of encountering geodudes now. I chose Chimchar as my starter, which means I have a very cool pokémon other then the fact that he's a bit rubbish against rock-types. Luckily, I've levelled him up to the point now that he's learnt Mach Punch, so he's at least partially effective, and Shinx and Machop can help him out. So I've got the coal badge, after hassling the gym leader in the mine, and am now trying to battle my way through a big cave thing to get to the next city. I hate caves; finding your way around a maze is OK but when you're being interrupted every now and then for a random battle, it's a little tiring.

Anyway, Pokémon Pearl is great, really. The game mechanics are pretty similar to the previous games, of course, but it's so much prettier and the touch screen is generally well used for the copious menus, particularly in battles. Outside, though, the traditional controls seem to be the focus, which is a bit odd, particularly given the depth of some of the items menus. I'm sure it'll make sense in time ...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Essential Sudoku DS: a brick wall

And it's not my fault.

There's a puzzle (around #585) which requires guesswork, I'm sure of it. I've tried three possible methods and they've all failed. I can't be bothered any more.

Plus I bought Pokémon Pearl at lunchtime. Yes, I know, I've not completed Sapphire yet. Whatever.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bomberman LIVE: red bomber, one more!

I tried out the demo last week, and last night I bought the full game. And played it a lot.

It has two main drawbacks. Firstly, the Xbox 360's d-pad is a bit spongy and inaccurate, so it can be tricky to control your character. This isn't helped by the faux 3D perspective which means your character's head overlaps with the row of the playing field above where you're standing - making it a bit tricky to work out when you're in the path of a bomb and when you're not.

The second drawback is common with almost all games on Live. American teenagers who disconnect when they lose. Last night I played in six tournaments, and finished two. And two of them didn't get past the first game, when the host lost.

I wasn't too down though. I won a tournament, 5-3-1-1, which was very pleasing indeed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Essential Sudoku DS: 500!

It's about all I play on the train now. I'm well beyond puzzle 500 now, and progressing faster and faster.

I bought Me and My Katamari for the PSP when I was in Bahrain, and haven't even opened it yet.

Burnout Revenge: checking traffic

I'm in two minds about this.

In Burnout Revenge (and, I believe, its predecessor, though I've not played that) you're able to hit most traffic going the same way as you without it triggering a crash. In previous games, any contact would lead to the game resetting you on the road and you losing time. You had to choose between driving on the correct side of the road and being able to more easily avoid cars while missing out on building up your boost bar, and driving on the wrong side of the road, getting bonuses to build up boost but at the same time having traffic madly dashing towards you. In this game there's no choice to be made. Hitting other cars up the backside gives you just as much boost bonus, and hardly slows you down at all - certainly not enough to offset one or two crashes.

This makes the game a lot easier. I've already unlocked up to level seven of ten (although I'm trying to complete each level, so I've only raced a little beyond level four). But it's a lot more fun, in a mindless immediate rush way.

And it's fantastic in high-definition. Really, really fantastic.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter: fighting in Mexico

It's a bit tricky.

Having said that, I've made some good progress, and haven't killed off my entire team too many times. The future setting gives you some fun gadgets to play with, including a head-up display which identifies friends and foes. But there are still some limits ... how come I can heal my team, or can instruct them to heal each other, but if I get shot they can't heal me? Why can't I swap guns with others? And why are they happy to run through a hail of bullets just because I told them so?

I've rescued the Mexican president now, though we're not out of the danger area completely. I suspect something else is about to happen given my team's apprehension ...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Forza Motorsport 2: like Gran Turismo, but fun

Although I got this along with my Xbox 360, I've been rather daunted about starting it. It's a huge game, with countles cars and tracks, and the career mode just seemed to require a lot of commitment. Even online is just full of people taking the game too seriously, as evidenced by the posts on Internet message boards.

But, you know, I'm glad I at least started to play the game. It's another racing game on the 360, yes, but it's probably even better looking than Test Drive Unlimited, and it's got a far better driving model. The structure of the game's not as innovative, granted, but this is a serious driving simulator, and it plays like one.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Paper Mario: the whole castle's been kidnapped

What a surprise. Peach has been kidnapped. Again. Mario must rescue her. Again.

The roots of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga are evident here, from the action-based turn-based battles to the item system. It's probably about as funny, possibly more clever, and the paper-thin characters are really quite clever.

I'm worried this'll get lost among all my other games and other stuff that's happening. I might have to put it on the front page of my Wii Channels to encourage me to play it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Test Drive Unlimited: silver shame

A whole bunch of surprises here, indeed.

Yes, I have an Xbox 360. I bought it last Friday, before I went to the Dome for an evening out, and before our games day on Saturday. I'd just been paid for the first time in my new job - indeed, the same new job that's left me rather busy and with a lack of games diary updating time - so I took the leaving present from my old job (HMV gift vouchers), plus the pay I got for the day of holiday I didn't take before I left, and got the premium version of the console, along with Forza 2 and Spiderman 3 plus a remote control thingie, for £280. I traded Spiderman 3 in straight away in the Gamestation in Orpington for Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and Burnout Revenge.

All of these games are great - although Forza may be just a little too realistic for me to get good at. And Burnout has just too much locked at the start, which was very frustrating when we tried to play it multiplayer on Saturday.

But the star of the show so far for me is Test Drive Unlimited. Playing through an HDTV, it looks stunning, and the whole game's really well structured. I've now got two cars - an Audi TT and an E-Type - and have been driving around the island competing in races and speed tests. Last night for the first time I got a silver instead of a gold in one of the latter - I'll have to retry it later with a car with better acceleration. I've already found where you can buy a Caterham.

The way it's tied in with Xbox Live is marvellous. Driving around to get to events, you see other player just driving their own way. You can challenge them at any time - but given my current slow transport I've not done so. But you can knock them off the road. Of course, I only do so when provoked ...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Loco Roco: oh my god, the racism

I found this for £15, and bought it on the spot. Why is Gamestation still charging £35 for it?

It's got so much charm. It's one of the few games I'll bother using my headphones for, because the music is sublime, with the locorocos singing along in a gibberish voice.

I've just about finished world four now, and have met a number of different locoroco types - different colours, and they sing differently. The black ones are a bit gollywog-like, and sing rappy music. Stereotypical!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Jungle Strike: completed!

The penultimate level was rather hard, but I managed to get through it with only a few restarts. Possibly the most frustrating aspect was the limited fuel supplies, and a few missions which didn't tell you where they were located. For those I had to fly around for ages until I found them, then restart from the end of the previous mission to fly directly there. Not in the spirit of the game, maybe, but I don't care.

So I captured the drug lord, and the madman, and all was well. I went to Washington and met the president, and then it all went wrong ... despite the US's amazingly paranoid immigration policies, somehow someone had managed to sneak 40-odd tanks into the country in their suitcase, and the two enemies had escaped custody.

So I had to protect Air Force One ... well, that's what it was called, but it was a helicopter ... as it fled the city, then go around and clean all the enemies up. And it wasn't actually that hard. The hardest part was not crashing into buildings. Destroyed the armoured transports, then the coach stolen by the drug lord, and the oil tanker stolen by the madman. How daft. Knowing that there's a big helicopter with big guns searching for you, surely the last thing you'll steal is a large, slow moving lorry with a big barrel of oil on the back.

It's a shame that EA Replay doesn't include Urban Strike. I've been led to believe that the third game in the trilogy was set in 2001 and involved terrorists crashing planes into buildings in US cities. I suppose its lack of rerelease is sort of understandable ...

Essential Sudoku: 200%!

I've finished the second batch of puzzles now, all of which were to do with scientific or medical equipment. Generally they were all a bit easier, apart from a few which were generally blank with a diagonally-orientated picture, like a chromosome. I just couldn't work out where to start there ...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Essential Sudoku: 100%!

100%, that is, on the first set of 100. I'm now 12.6% through the entire game. I have so far come across one puzzle which I think was a bit ambiguous in one area - I think there could have been two solutions depending on how you solved a block of six - it could have looked like a S or a Z and would have still been correct. I could be wrong, though.

It's a bit boring to read about, though.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Canis Canem Edit: greasy burgers

40% through, and I've just started chapter four. If anything the game's a little easier now, since most of the groups around the school have 100% respect for me, and so don't try to beat me up all the time. It's only the athletes that cause me hassle.

I've also finished photography classes, and have only one workshop class still to go. I've tried it a few times and filed, and unfortunately it feels like it was the game's fault for not picking up my inputs correctly which makes it more frustrating.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Essential Sudoku: not essential

Travelling home on Saturday night after Matt's Eurovision party (at which, unlike the rest of the world, Serbia didn't win - because their song was rubbish), I opened up the DS to carry on with my picross games. I completed the one I was on, number 93, and then decided to try a sudoku puzzle instead - so I quit out of the picture puzzle section.

"The data is unreadable or corrupted. All save data will be deleted."




Luckily I enjoy these puzzles, and have now redone the first 40-odd (quite quickly, since I've worked out a few new techniques to use) and done around 20 in the second set of 100. But still.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Essential Sudoku: a bigger challenge

Rather worryingly, I've now read that there are not just 200 picross puzzles, but 1000 of them.

I've done 69.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Essential Sudoku: not sudoku

The game's called Essential Sudoku, but the first item on the menu isn't the number puzzle, but the picture puzzle. This is the first time I've played picross, and I don't know why it's taken me so long, because this is brilliant.

The idea behind picross is that you have to work out which spaces are coloured and which are not, having been told the pattern that occurs in each row and column. For example, you'll be told that in a row there's a line of five blacks, then a red, then two blues. There may, however, be gaps between these blocks - and that's what you've got to work out.

Over the weekend I've played loads of this, which is rather surprising given that I've not really had that much free time. I'm hoping that the game itself wears the battery of the DS down quickly, since I've had the DS die on me twice - both times at around 3am. It's horribly addictive. There appear to be 200 puzzles, and I've done around 45 so far - and they're getting harder - so it should last me a few weeks at least. Luckily, there's another picross game coming out for the DS on Friday ...

Oh, and I've completed two of the sudoku puzzles. Two.

Games by the coast

Over the back holiday, I went down to the coast with Matt, Gaby and Andrew, for a break away from London. We walked along the beach; we visited a vineyard; but most importantly, we played games.

We would have played Wii Sports, but when I opened the box I realised that it was still in my parents' Wii. Horror. We had plenty to get on with, though.

We played Buzz!: the BIG Quiz and Buzz!: the Sports Quiz. I did better on the former, due in no small part to my lack of sports knowledge. Quite a fun game, though the presentation started to grate after a bit. Mr Buzz sounded very little like Jason Donovan.

We played Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz. I pointed out the three or four minigames worth playing. We were in hysterics at the hurdles.

We played Wii Play. Andrew beat Matt quite comprehensively at pool.

We played Singstar. Oh, did we play Singstar. Waking up on Monday morning, I could barely manage a whisper. We did get Matt singing. We got Andrew singing to pop songs that he claimed he'd never heard. He claimed to have never heard "I Think We're Alone Now". That was the point that we knew he was fibbing. Gaby and I did some fabulous duets. I think we were both out of key to the same extent. We drank wine and whisky - not together, obviously.

We played Guitar Hero the next morning. I really am quite rubbish.