Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mario Kart 7: 150cc starred

I was dreading the rainbow road courses on the higher difficulties, since I struggled in the earlier grands prix, but in the end I was able to finish top of the leaderboard in both final groups, winning every race.  I've now unlocked all characters, but there are still a number of vehicle parts to unlock and mirror mode has just appeared.  Not completed yet, then.

For now, though, I'm racing some time trials against opponents who have appeared through SpotPass or StreetPass.  I have no idea if they will ever know how much I've thrashed them by, but I hope that if I ever StreetPass them again they will receive a big "loser" badge on their Mii.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Zen Pinball: what's going on?

I am hopeless at pinball videogames.  The tables all seem immensely difficult, I can't judge when to fire in order to hit specific targets, and I can never tell what those targets are meant to do either. There are things all over the tables which look amazing and exciting, but I have no clue what I need to do in order to activate or access them.  The only exception to this was Sonic Spinball, which isn't really a pinball game at all.

Zen is pretty much standard in this way.  I have no idea what I'm meant to do; I frequently find the ball moving to other parts of the table which I'm sure is good but I have no idea what I've done to achieve it.  At least the 3D helps me keep the ball on the table.  I'm still hopeless though.

I like the way the friends list is integrated though, letting you know the next person's score, compelling you to beat it.  I never do.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mario Kart 7: 100cc starred

I'm not sure that I will ever completely three-star the 100cc grands prix, since I'm not entirely sure what it is that influences the number of stars you get.  I have three stars on some, two stars on others, and a single star on two.  You gain nothing for completing everything with three stars in any case.

I'm now half-way through 150cc - well, slightly over, with gold trophies on the first three 3DS grands prix and the first three legacy grands prix.  The last of each eludes me, largely because of Rainbow Road, but if I could get a large enough lead prior to the last track that wouldn't matter.  I shall continue to try.

Online is superb fun, although I'm disappointed that the time trial ghosts aren't populated from my friends list.  From the look of the worldwide distribution graphs, I'm pretty average.  Boo.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Daytona USA: completed!

Daytona is looking a little rough around the edges nowadays, but it's not how it looks, it's how it plays.  This plays exactly like the arcade, which is a relief after the two Saturn versions and the Dreamcast games - all good games in their own right, but they failed to capture the handling and blue skies of the arcade.

Daytona, of course, isn't a game that you will ever "complete".  But I've now placed first on each of the tracks (at normal difficulty) and have won all the achievements.  They were particularly easy.  Even so, I'll be back for another ROLLING START soon, I have no doubt.

Beyond Good & Evil HD: joining IRIS

As BG&E was cheap in a recent sale, and remembering how amazing I felt the game was at the time, I downloaded this.  And, well, it's OK.

It doesn't help that the controls are all wrong; you can either have the up-down camera correct, or the left-right camera correct.  It's such an amazingly simple thing that I just can't understand how they didn't think to add more customisation options.  It's made all the worse since the Xbox 360 contains a default setting which they could have picked up.

But other than that complaint - which is a pretty big one, since it means I'm constantly looking at the floor or the sky - this is still the charming game with the lovely world I remember.  It feels a bit more like a collectathon now than when I first played it, and some of the animation on the characters is rather off-putting, but Jade remains one of the best videogame characters ever and her story - of taking photos to expose conspiracies - is still pretty unique.

But will I play this through to completion again?  Achievements give me an incentive to do so, but the controls are just a major obstacle.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Mario Kart 7: 50cc three-starred

Mario Kart won.  Mario Kart always wins.

I've played a lot of this over the last few days.  I've played through the 50cc grands prix, coming first in every race.  It's really easy, as ever.  I've played a couple of the 100cc races, and have come first in those as well, but at least my opponents were visible on the map screen.  I've played one of the 150cc grands prix, and came second overall after finishing 1st, 1st, 3rd and 4th in the four races.  Unlike the Wii game, I'm going to complete those.

I've also played this online.  It's great, although it's very similar to the Wii version.  I never came last in a race, though I did come fourth out of six once.

The new items are great, and feel like proper additions to the series rather than one-off experiments.  I love the hang gliding sections - starting to use updrafts to my advantage now - but the underwater bits seem a little tacked-on, particularly because on some courses (like the Wuhu Island ones) you just 'die' if you fall in the water.

It's compelling and great and exciting and fun.  Layton may not get a look in for a little while.  I'm running out of gaming time, though; in addition to Mario Kart, I've got my daily 1000 Heroz level to complete, and also Angry Birds Seasons has just been updated with a new advent calendar.  I've beaten Niaz on both days so far.  In fact, I've come top of the leaderboard, but beating Niaz is all that matters.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mario Kart 7: oh wow this is so amazing

It's really great.  It leaves me with a great dilemma.  Do I continue playing Layton, or do I play more of this?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Professor Layton and the Last Specter: Luke here

The absence of Luke was temporary, and so now I have two assistants following me around and being annoying.  I have to find out about something that was sold on the black market, and rather than understand that as a figure of speech, Layton is off trying to find a physical black market.

For an intelligent person, he can be a bit of an idiot.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: going swimmingly

The zora's temple took quite a while, but was full of some very clever puzzles, with blockages needing to be released to let water flow and drive wheels.  On a couple of the corridors there was a waterwheel which blocked my way - no amount of pushing it would do anything - but as soon as there was a trickle of water going past it started turning.  Ho-hum.

The last boss was very clever,  I thought I had it sorted by wearing iron boots and using the hookshot from a distance, but then the monster started swimming around and I was forced to swim myself to ride on its back.  It went down pretty easily in the end, the room drained of water, and then I warped out ...

Only to see Mr Evil turning everything to twilight again, and making me a wolf.  Apparently I have to go and find Zelda to get my decent controls back.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: saving the prince

I found the light tears, having to repeat the flying section when I didn't realise I had to turn my senses on the first time around in order to catch the bugs.  I killed the big bug, and was all ready to collect the last part of my fuse shadow thing, but the odd crocodile god told me it was at the bottom of the ocean instead. Great.  There was a very odd cutscene with multiple Ilyas floating downwards upside-down.  But finally twilight was banished, and Hyrule Field looks lovely again.  The lake is vibrant, the zora kingdom is clean and blue, and the castle town is full of characters.

I went to see the zora prince, and had to accompany him back to Kakariko village - which was pretty difficult, since it took me a while to realise I had to take out the birds in order to stop them diverting the coach.  Once back there, the dead zora queen gave me an ugly set of clothes that let me swim underwater.  Ilya seems to have lost her memory, and there was nothing further to do, so I took the opportunity to explore the village, blowing up blocks and so on.  I found a couple more pieces of heart.

So, next is the zora temple at the bottom of Lake Hylia.  Water Temple, by any other name.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Professor Layton and the Last Specter: no Luke?

Instead, there's an attractive female assistant who doesn't have such a whiney voice.  The puzzles so far seem slightly more difficult than normal, but maybe that's because I'm used to May's Mysteries.  Only around 15 puzzles in so far, so plenty of time for that to change.

Oh, and yes, it's spelt "specter" because I've got the US version, since the UK version is missing a rather large bit of content.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: hot then cold then hot again

I went North, and found another twilit area.  I find that these actually give me a headache - the colours and music and Midna's annoying voice just feel very oppressive.  The lake had dried up, and travelling upstream - via a natty flying section - showed me why; everything was frozen.  Midna told me I had to try to find some way of thawing it out.  I was last in a very hot place; hmm, I wonder.

So I warped there, picked up a big hot rock, and warped back.  Everything melted and the zora sat around the edge of the pool.  They couldn't see me, of course.  As I left, the recently-killed queen of the zora asked me to find her son.  He's in Hyrule - I saw him being looked after by the girl from my home village - but Link doesn't say a lot.  I'd better get back to say hello to him.

But that means getting rid of the twilight.  I went and found the spirit of the spring, who told me to get some of the tears of light.  I've got four of them.  I'll get the rest sometime soon.

Oh, and I must go back to Kakariko Village when I'm human again.  I completely forgot to explore before shipping out.

Rabbids 3D: completed!

I was expecting to have to battle on for many more levels, given that I'd only reached the middle ages.  But no; there are four worlds of around fifteen levels each, and I've now completed them all.  The last level was an auto-scrolling pain in the backside, and halfway through I noticed that it wasn't just set in the middle ages but also had elements of all the other time periods I'd been through.

I've a total of around 50,000 bonuses across all the levels, which is enough to have unlocked all the extra levels, but isn't quite enough to unlock the final figurine.  I'm not sure I can be bothered to do that, though - not when Layton's waiting.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Angry Birds Seasons: the orange bird

Rovio continues to update both the original Angry Birds and its sequel, Angry Birds Seasons, with new levels.  As such, I no longer have three stars on all levels of either game; I'm missing:
  • eight stars from "Ham 'em High" in AB
  • nineteen stars from "Mine and Dine" in AB
  • six stars from "Hogs and Kisses" in ABS
But that'll have to wait, since I've just discovered that there's a new set of levels in Seasons, and with them comes a new bird - the orange bird, who inflates like an airbag when you touch the screen, pushing everything out of the way. It's a welcome addition to a game that otherwise was in danger of getting just a bit stale.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Imitation: not a game

I have no idea how I've never seen this before, but I'm flattered.  I'm sure mine's not the original gaming diary - I'm pretty sure Owen and Andy got there first - but it's obviously the best.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: out of the frying pan

The fire dungeon, as it would be called in earlier Zelda games, was pretty easy overall.  I had to use the boots and the bow and arrow to complete it, with walking on the ceiling and the walls being a particularly clever touch. Standing upside down and shooting a crystal to open the door below was very nifty.

I actually found the mid-dungeon boss more tricky than the end-of-dungeon one.  It was immediately obvious what I had to do for the latter, at least, while I spent ages slashing at the big armoured goron without scratching him.

So I now have two bits of metal shadow fuse thingies, and the ever-helpful spring water has told me to go North.  North.  Luckily I popped into the village shops before I went, since I got across the bridge to find my way blocked by some rocks, which I was able to blow up using my handy new bombs.  On the way out of the village, I was accosted by the postman, who is an absolutely superb character.  Not very efficient, though; he was delivering a letter about the bomb shop and how to make bomb arrows, which I'd already been experimenting with.

I need to get a new wallet soon - 300 rupees is just daft.

Daytona USA: a time machine on four wheels

I've been waiting forever for a good conversion of Daytona.  The Saturn game was disappointing.  The second Saturn game fixed all that was bad about the first, and ruined all that was good.  The Dreamcast game was great, but it was too tricky and involved.

The Xbox 360 game is amazing.

Yes, there are a few added modes on top of the pure arcade game, with challenges and time trials and endurance races, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this is Daytona, down to the octagonal wheels and fuzzy roads.  The only thing that's different from the arcade game - other than the wheel of course - is that this is playing on a better quality TV and is in higher definition than I ever saw before.

I'm inspired to get out the old copies just to see if they are as disappointing as I remember.  Particularly the first Saturn game, with digital steering and all.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: getting hot in here

Some progress tonight, but as ever with Twilight Princess it feels as if I'm still running against the escalator.  There's so much to do, so much to see, it's all pretty overwhelming.  It was only as I was packing up tonight that I realised I've not been fishing for ages; while I was playing I found a bug (insect, not glitch) which opened up a new collect-a-thon quest; I noticed a piece of heart in a tree and realised I've not been looking everywhere I've been for them.

But I've done a lot.  I've found the children, for a start.  Initially I found them when I was in the twilight realm, so they couldn't see me, and I had to search the village for insects carrying the light tears so I could awaken the spring again.  I did so.

I find the parts where you play as a wolf to be quite awkward - as I said before, there's a bit of a turning circle problem, with the camera often not showing you enemies, and attacking is often just a case of waggling at random. This isn't helped by the darkened palette, and it feels that you can't see as far because you're closer to the ground.  And Midna keeps on grunting and laughing, which gets annoying after a while.

Luckily it didn't last for long, and I was reunited with my horse, Sparks, after exploring the daylight-filled village.  That meant I could escape over the walls and explore Hyrule Field again, which is where I found the heart piece.

After a bit there was a thrilling set-piece where one of the children - Colin - was captured and I had to ride alongside the boar-riding enemy and hit him with my sword.  He rode off to the castle, we jousted, and I rescued Colin.  Now I'm off to Death Mountain, and have sumo wrestled against a Goron in order to get inside.  It took a while for me to work out how to get past one of the air vents which was blowing me off a ledge over and over again, but I got there in the end.  It's all fiery and hot in there.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rabbids 3D: too large

I am still working my way through this, and am coming to the end of the third time period.  There are around fifteen levels in each period, though, and I'm only up to Ancient Greece and Rome so far, which makes me wonder how many levels there will be in the whole game.  It's not that hard - there are only a couple of places where I've lost lives more than once - and I'm up to a stash of 79 lives already, meaning that I'm not in any danger of seeing the 'game over' screen soon.

It's still enjoyable, but there are relatively few new ideas in the game, and I do feel that I've seen it before in the various platformers I've played over the past twenty-five years.  Not just in other games either; Rabbids 3D has an annoying habit of repeating bits of levels, as if the designed was particularly pleased with one set of platforms so just copied-and-pasted them in again.  The unskippable cut-scene every time you pick up the invincibility power-up is starting to grate as well.

And I've certainly no great desire to replay all the levels multiple times to collect trophies for speedruns and collecting all the coins and ducks.  Whether I'll complete this is up the air, particularly given that the new Layton game is sitting at home in its shrinkwrap.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: barking mad

I went West.  Well, I went North first, and found Hyrule Field, which was surprisingly empty, and I ran around a bit and killed some enemies to get used to the controls again.  Then I went West, and entered the Twilight realm and turned into a wolf.  It's a very dark game at times, with the shadows being very threatening.

I ran forward and found one of the kids' swords.  Oh, yes, I'm meant to be rescuing some children, aren't I?  I picked up the scent from that, and followed it to a clearing with three monsters.  When I killed two of them, the remaining one would revive them.  I died many times, trying to time my last blow on two of them to be simultaneous.  And then when playing with the controls I worked out that the B button creates an energy field around me which does that job for me.  I really ought to catch up with where I am before playing further ...

I restored the bridge, at least.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

007 Blood Stone: completed!

I've played this a lot over the last few days, often longer than I had planned to since it's really compelling with a real page-turner feel to the storyline.  The next checkpoint seems easily reachable, and you know at all times what you're trying to achieve - the game throws twists at you in a very clever way, meaning that you always feel that you've been successful in what you were trying to do even if it has resulted in ultimate failure.

The game, like any Bond film, takes place in multiple locations around the world.  Each of them felt distinct, with enemies having their own personalities and conversations.  Though they do all speak English, and they all have a tendancy to run out around cover so that Bond can sneak out and take them down.  As I said previously, the cover mechanic works very well here, and there are a few instances when you're forced to play in a different way to how you're accustomed - when chasing an assassin across the rooftops, for example, if he gets too far away due to you hiding in cover too long, you fail the level.

So, yes, I've played this a lot, and have now completed it.  I failed relatively few times, though this may be due to me playing it on the second difficulty of four.  It was a really enjoyable game - thoroughly recommended, and the ending scene was pretty spectacular.  I'm not sure I'll be back that soon to get the remaining achievements, though ...

Friday, November 04, 2011

Rabbids 3D: surprisingly competent

Rabbids 3D is, as I understand it, a simple 3DS conversion of Rabbids Travel in Time, a Wii game.  It's not a simple conversion in any way, though, since it's built in 3D and the added depth gives a lovely sense of focus to the foreground.  There's nothing spectacular about the game mechanics, but that's not to say it's not worth playing - it's actually a very solid, playable side-on platformer, which clever level design and a move set which is large enough to be liberating but small enough to not be confusing.

It's charming.  And seems to be pretty big as well; I've played up to level 13 and I'm still in the prehistoric world.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

007 Blood Stone: peek-a-boo

I was inspired to get this (well, put it on my Amazon wish list, from which it was purchased by my mother-in-law) after hearing one of the music tracks at the Video Game Heroes concert by the London Philharmonic.  I quickly got past that track, but all the music in the game so far has been superb.  It's very, very James Bond.

As, in fact, is the game.  Unlike other "modern" Bond games, this isn't an all-guns-blazing affair, it's using the cover-and-sneak mechanics that made Beyond Good and Evil so good, combined with a clever shooter which rewards silent kills.  Third-person over-the-shoulder shooting is interspersed with driving sections, and I've travelled to Athens and Istandul so far.  Worldwide locations, sneaking around with random explosions and shooting, and a stylish theme tune and title sequence, all makes this feel like a proper full entry in the Bond series.  Which at one point it was.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tiny Tower: tiny trousers

One of the more frustrating things in tiny Tower is the search for someone.  You'll be tasked with finding someone in particular, with a picture of them so that you don't have to remember, for example, that Doug Fergus wears a red jumper and has orange hair.

The problem is that when you have seventy-odd floors to check, it can be difficult to work out where people are.  And that's not helped by the relatively limited number of shirt colours.

Edgar Little is not on floor 60.  It looks like it, but you can see from the one row of pixels assigned to his shorts and the one row for his legs, that this is actually an entirely different person.

Edgar was, in fact, on floor 3.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Peggle: chasing aces

When PopCap updated Peggle a while ago, to enable the in-app purchase of Peggle Nights, they also set an "ace" score for each level in the original Peggle.  This means that for every level, there are two rosettes available - one for clearing all pegs (the "100%" rosette) and one for scoring more than the defined score (the "ACE" rosette).

I've got a fair few of these already.  Of course, getting 100% on a level can give you a huge bonus, which often takes you over the ace score anyway.  It being a year since Owen's death, and with Peggle being one of his favourite games (and appearing on his 100 best games list), I decided to try to fully complete a few more levels.

I managed three.  I no longer want to play Peggle, ever again.  I want to shout and scream at whoever designed the level with the two wavy lines down the side, at which it is impossible to get 100% because the ball just bounces all over the place and you can never control it enough to hit the correct pegs.

Next year I'll play Mr Driller.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Legend of Zelda: limited life

I've only played the original Legend of Zelda game once before, playing it on an emulator on the PC, and quickly dropped it when something else came along.  By modern standards it's pretty limited with no clear direction on where to go, lots of enemies in the way without a great reward for killing them, and it's pretty difficult.

I received it as part of the 3DS freebies programme, and thought I'd give it a shot over the weekend.  It's still hard and directionless, but it's good to see the origins of some of the classic Zelda enemies.  Given the ease with which it can be picked up and put down, I may try to persevere a little more this time ...

Friday, October 07, 2011

Dream Trigger 3D: ouch, my hands

Dream Trigger 3D caught my attention due it being touted as a imagining of Rez. It's not an imagining of Rez, unless it's in the imagination of someone who's a little hard of understanding and thinks that you can fundamentally change something and it still stays the same.

The basic premise is the same - you target things, avoid bullets, shoot them. It's set to music, and it's even the same kind of trippy dance music which manages to not be entirely unpleasant. That's where similarities end, however, and where Dream Trigger 3D starts to lose out.

The targeting system in Rez was simple - you moved your target over enemies, and released it with the music, hoping to destroy several at once. On the top screen here, you also have to target enemies, but it's not that simple. Enemies don't show on the top screen until you've revealed then on the lower screen. You do that by laying sonar pings with the stylus, which are activated as the beat line sweeps across them. If there is an enemy by the solar ping as it goes off, it shows up on the top screen and you can destroy it.

Simple enough. But the enemies move, so you need to anticipate where they'll be when the beat line hits, and all the time avoid their shots - yes, they can shoot at you even when not revealed - and collect powerups and try not to get distracted by the pretty 3D backgrounds behind your target/butterfly/ship/whatever icon they've given you this time. There's a lot going on in the game. And tied to this, you have to control the stylus with your right hand, while holding the 3DS with your left hand, while using the circle pad and the L trigger. The stylus sets sonar pings on the bottom screen, the circle pad moves the target on the top screen, and the left trigger shoots the enemies under the target. You can't just keep firing constantly since you have a limited shot gauge, which is refilled by shooting things or the beat sweeping across.

It's this multitude of controls that leads to the title for this blog post.  I've completed five stages of the story mode now, and I'm starting to get used to looking at the top screen and feeling my way around the bottom. The console is just a little too awkward to hold, particularly since the headphone socket is where I'd naturally put my left little finger. I'd like to play more - it's actually a really good game - but I dread to think what sort of claw hands I'd end up with. Maybe tomorrow.

Grand Prix Story: phut phut

When I look back at it, Game Dev Story was a pretty complex game, with you having to manage the team make up, finances, game creation process, marketing, and staff training.  It didn't seem it at the time, since it let you in gently, slowly unlocking parts of the game as you get further through.

Grand Prix Story is similar, but it's more complex and drops you in the deep end much quicker. It takes much longer to work out what you need to develop and concentrate on, and in the back of my mind there's the thought that, as with Game Dev Story, there's going to be a time limit after which the game won't count any more.  So there's a sense of urgency leadig to an unknown deadline which means that it's all a bit panicked, with lots going on at once.

After the first couple of in-game years I won my first race, and had two car types available - a roadster, and a buggy.  The latter is useful off-road, so I thought it was a good idea to get it ready.  Little did I know I wouldn't have an opportunity to race off-road for another five years, and the car sat there gathering dust and taking up a space in the garage until I decided to scrap it.  I also developed a 'wing car', which is awful and has never come better than last.  On my next game I'll not be repeating those mistakes.

So, it's complex, but it's still got the charm that Game Dev Story had in spades.  And it's very addictive indeed.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tiny Tower: relaxation

Now that I've admitted I'm never going to catch up with John and Kieron, the game is much more fun, and even relaxing, watching my bitizens going about their business.  The food floors run out of stock far too quickly, while the Apple Shop never seems to sell out of anything, but in general the tower runs well with me visiting once a day to top up stock levels.  I've spent a lot (of virtual money) upgrading floors to hold more stock.

The downside to having a large tower is that you're pretty reliant on paying for people to move into new residential floors, or an estate agent coming by to move them in.  My policy of evicting anyone without a '9' capability means this gets expensive quickly.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rockstar Table Tennis: Jesper

I played Rockstar Table Tennis a while ago, and won a couple of exhibition matches, but it got abandoned at the bottom of the games pile - which is a shame, since it's a well-executed game and works really well.  In my current convalescing state, I dug it out and tried a tournament.

The first two matches were great; after I got back to the controls, I won them with a few points to spare.  Then I came across Jesper.

Jesper hits the ball hard, seems to have a really long reach, and can accurately return almost anything you hit at him.  And he was in the semi-finals.  I lost three matches to Jesper, and luckily you can opt to replay a match if you lose it otherwise I'd have given up.  Time after time I'd just lose to his powerful shots.

In the end, I worked out that if you hit the ball with right-spin to the right side of the table, forcing Jesper to hit a backhand shot, then it'll be weaker, and he'll not have as much control. The only way I could beat him was by hitting right-spin after right-spin until he was far enough to the right, and then hitting a left-spin to the left.  And even that didn't work.

I finally beat Jesper, and got through to the final, which I won on my first attempt.  The problem is that I now know I'd have to face Jesper if I play another tournament, and I'm not sure I can be bothered.  The fact that I had to resort to cheap repetitive tactics to beat him rather turns me off of the game.  That's a bit of a shame.

Burnout Revenge: continuously elite

Back in January 2009, I said that I aimed to get at least a medal on every event for Burnout Revenge.  Since then, I've not played the game.

Destruction Derby 2 left me with a desire for more car wrecking, so I tried some of this.  It's still great, although coming back at such a high level is rather difficult.  I was greeted with a flurry of unlocked cars, which I presume have been unlocked online over time, though I can't see where I can choose those cars.  Having said that, I didn't really deviate from the Elite Racer and EA Racer at the top of my list.

I've now completed the level 8 events, albeit with a couple of bronze medals along the way.  I managed gold on the final grand prix by the skin of my teeth, after coming fourth on the first race.  I've also redone a couple of the lower stages in order to get an achievement for a perfect level 2.  Level 9 races are relatively difficult, but persistence should pay off.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Destruction Derby 2: watching the paintwork

I have no recollection of playing this before; my brother had the original game, and the main thing I remember from that was limping around huge arenas in reverse, hoping to hit the one remaining opponent before they hit me. I'd blocked out the racing part, and the points systems, and everything else.  Wikipedia reliably informs me that the original game had all of those.

So the sequel seems to add very little to the overall formula.  I don't recall being able to roll a car onto its roof before, and the tracks in the second game seem much larger and more three-dimensional.  There's also a pit stop, which means there's a little added strategy to the race events.

It's not aged amazingly well.  There's no real weight behind collisions, and it's difficult to control your car to hit others in the right place.  Collisions see cars emit huge triangles of debris, but these don't seem to do anything to a car that hits them.  The driving model itself is very slippy, reminiscent of Sega Rally at times - or even the original Ridge Racer.  Compare Ridge Racer Revolution on the PlayStation to Ridge Racer 3D, and you can see how controls have tightened up in the fifteen years since this game was released.  All too often I'd be involved in an accident, or slide off the track, and think it wasn't my fault.  This could really do with an update, along the lines of a Burnout game - certainly something to make the graphics clearer.  Despite what Gamespot say, it's nowhere near photorealistic.

Despite that, I had fun.  In the main game series, coming first in the race means nothing if you don't hit other cars along the way.  I've progressed into league 3 (from the bottom of league 4), and have been getting better over time.  I may start using a faster car.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

1000 Heroz: breaking the run

Annoyingly, I couldn't come first on the UGVM leaderboard today, meaning that I've managed a run of only six top spots.  Only six.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Starfox 64 3D: all-range mode

Luckily, I'm able to play this on the tube fine, so it must have been a combination of dodgy taxi driver and lack of sleep that caused my prior queasiness.  Since I can play this on the tube (and the DLR), I've made a lot of progress, playing a stage at a time.  I've managed to travel down a central route, not being good enough to start with to follow the top route, but managing to qualify for the sun stage half-way through.

The 3D effect works really well in this game, helping me to make sure my aim is true.  That's not to say that I'm proving to be expert in aiming, mind; it just means that I can tell when my aim's off from the fact I can see when my blasters are going to miss.  I'm hopeless at using the bomb, and can't get the hang of charging my blaster.  And when it switches into all-range mode - that is, when you can fly around an arena and aren't limited to a straight-line flight - I often get hopelessly lost.

And the less said about the tank level the better.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tiny Tower: diminishing allure

The fun is starting to disappear from the game, as I've run out of new things to discover.  I've got a finely balanced tower at the moment, with fifty-nine floors (sixty including the lobby) meaning I have space for 110 bitizens and jobs for 111.  But nobody moves in with the required skills, and I can't be bothered to wait for people to turn up over and over again.  The game's also given me some very annoying floors of late, including a pub and a video rental shop which get stocked up and then sold out very very quickly indeed.

Oh, and both John and Kieron are miles ahead and I'm never going to catch up, so I've lot that sense of urgency as well.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Starfox 64 3D: blurgh

It seems I can't play this in the back of a taxi; it makes me feel motion sick.  I hope this doesn't apply to all forms of transportation.

Friday, September 16, 2011

May's Mysteries: the Secret of Dragonville: completed!

I was very near the end the last time I played, it seems, since I turned it on, completed two puzzles, and that was that.  The ending was perhaps the least satisfying I've ever seen; I was expecting to meet Uter, and have to solve some particularly difficult puzzles in order to complete the game.  Instead, after solving the last puzzle (a particularly easy sudoko-type add-up-to-100 thing), we went into Uter's room and after a five-minute video and some dialogue, the game just ended.  I was left with May and Tery sitting on a log in the sunshine, and an opportunity to retry any puzzle or complete any I'd missed.  But I'd finished them all by that point.

So that's that.  Well worth the £15 I paid for it, but it's not as good as a Layton game.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back to the Future the Game: Part 1: completed!

I love Back to the Future.  The fact that this game isn't based directly on the films but is a whole new storyline is amazing.  They've taken liberties with the whole backstory as well, transporting me back to meet Marty's grandfather and Doc when he was a boy.  And, most shocking of all, I went to years which didn't end in a '5'!

What wasn't amazing was how the game stuttered and glitched all over the place, and I'm running it on an iPad 2.  I dread to think what it was like on the original.  It was also awkward having to control Marty with a virtual joystick, and invisible walls just made it frustrating all too often.

I got the first part free, and I'm in two minds whether to buy the rest.  I want to know what happens in the story, but I found playing it rather frustrating.  Maybe I'll buy it on the Mac during a Steam sale instead.

Friday, September 09, 2011

1000 Heroz: running

1000 Heroz is an iPhone game where a level lasts for 20 seconds, on average.  Every day, you get a new level.  For a 24-hour period, any time you register on that level gets entered to the leaderboard, and once that period is up, then your time is enshrined for ever.  You can replay the level, try to get a better star rating, but you'll never be able to share it.  You're too late.

As such, it's pretty compulsive, and the fact that you can register for individual leaderboards means that competition can get quite intense.  I've been doing relatively well on the UGVM leaderboard, with a few top spots to my name; the same can't be said of the RLLMUK leaderboard, but then there are frequently people there who are in the top ten for the world.  My best world ranking was number 50.

Today I'm just outside the top 100, but am still pleased.  There's quite a gulf on the UGVM leaderboard.

Here you can see me registering a time just behind my best, but still a long way ahead of Sessile's.  There's still three hours for someone to beat me though ...

Thursday, September 08, 2011

May's Mysteries: the Secret of Dragonville: picross disaster

I'm still trying to finish off the bonus puzzles before progressing.  I've completed them all other than the hidden pictures - the picross puzzles.  There are loads of them, more than every other puzzle type (other than the sliding puzzles) put together.  They're all 10x10 puzzles, and I'm getting increasingly annoyed.

Why?  Because in quite a few, you have to guess in order to complete the puzzle.  Not only for  one or two spaces, but in Hidden Puzzle 37 I had to guess where eight of the pieces were. This is because there were diagonal lines in the pattern, with relatively few black squares.  Hidden Puzzle 35 was even worse - it was actually impossible to start the puzzle without guessing.

This really annoys me.  The project manager probably heard that these picross puzzles are quite popular, and they're easy enough to program.  So he told the development team to add in forty more.  Nobody on the development team understood the need for the puzzles to be solvable though - the importance of a lack of symmetry, the proportion of coloured squares, and the lack of diagonal lines, just wasn't understood.

So we're left with a slog through picross puzzles which can, at times, require you to use up a number of the hints you've been working to earn.  Really disappointing.

Half-Life 2: meeting up with friendly faces

I had played Half-Life 2 a bit before, despite what my gaming diary says.  First on my old PC, then on the original Xbox, then on the Xbox 360.  I even started it on the Mac, but never got that far.

Last night I decided to work through a bit further.  I'd previously, it seems, got through to a section where I was driving a hovercraft around, and I spent a good twenty minutes driving around trying to work out where to go - and being killed by rocket launchers.  After a while I, by accident, found that if you shot one end of one of the containers lying in the water, it fell off, meaning you could drive through that and out into safety.  So I did, and then carried on through the waterways.  This game was designed for a quick save option.

In fact, this game was designed to be played several years ago.  Some of the mechanics feel very clunky now - a lack of recharging health, expansive armoury, empty corridors and long loading pauses.  When a helicopter appeared, I felt as if I was fighting the controls rather than the enemy.  I eventually dispatched it, and have driven over the side of a dam, found some friendly faces and am now in a tunnel on the way to Ravenholm.  Apparently, people don't go there.  I am.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

May's Mysteries: the Secret of Dragonville: at the foot of the tower

After setting fire to the zoo and setting all the animals free, with no illustrations of fire or video of fleeing animals, I've crossed the lake and found Uter's tower.  The script hints quite strongly that once I've gone in, there's no return, so I'm going through a lot of the bonus puzzles before I do.

One of the things I don't like about this game is that each puzzle has the same reward - 30 points.  Some really difficult puzzles feel that you should get more; some simple ones (like the matchstick puzzles) should get fewer.  With the Layton games, the size of reward gives you a hint as to how difficult a puzzle should be, so you can go in with the correct expectation.  With this, you go in blind.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Tiny Tower: grinding upwards

I now have 47 floors in my tiny tower, and each is becoming more expensive to build.  Following advice from Kieron, I've been ruthless and evicted anyone from my tower who doesn't have a competency rated 9 - and then I've gone through and got a load of new people in to replace them.  There's still a bit of an imbalance though; I've five jobs open on service floors, and four bitizens with 9s in other areas.

The biggest disaster, though, is that Kieron has overtaken me (with 50 floors) and John isn't far behind (with 46).  My excuse is that I neither have a job where I work at home, nor have been off work awaiting a baby.  Such things help with tiny tower building.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

May's Mysteries: the Secret of Dragonville: unsolvable puzzle

I've come across a puzzle which I think is impossible to solve without a huge amount of luck and randomness. It's puzzle 48 in the main story, and I've had to skip it.

In the puzzle, you have to put the words of ice cream flavours into the grid. The flavours you have are BANANA, CHOCOLATE, CARAMEL, COCONUT, LEMON, MOCHA and PISTACHIO. Words are placed like in Boggle, moving only horizontally or vertically. Spaces can be used more than once for the same letter. The first letters of words are placed outside the grid, and then you have to fit the rest inside.

The grid looks like this:




For the words starting with letters other than C, you can at least start off with the first letter. For LEMON, you can see that the word has to continue along the bottom, since you can't have a word starting "CM". But after that I get stuck.




I've had a load of goes at solving this, and nothing. I've tried terminating the PISTACHIO on the MOCHA's O, but that hems in the whole of the right side of the board. The hints suggest concentrating on the words starting with letters other than C (gee, thanks), and then the second hints says that the positioning of CHOCOLATE is key. That really doesn't help.

So, any ideas, anyone?

Update!  Tom from Croatia (see comments) has solved it!




I have no idea how we were supposed to solve that except by brute force.  How does working out where CHOCOLATE can go help?

Friday, August 19, 2011

May's Mysteries: the Secret of Dragonville: a crime against humanity

Some of the bonus puzzles are picross puzzles. Amazing!

Unfortunately, some of them could have multiple solutions and the only way you can solve them is by guessing. If you put a mark in the wrong box, you lose a 'life' - and you get five lives per puzzle. Guessing in picross games is evil, and it upsets me.

Other than that, the game continues to be charming and unnervingly similar to Layton. I've now found an underground tunnel under a grave, and Mayor Doyle didn't follow me down the rope. Was he kidnapped, or is he the bad guy after all? I suspect the latter.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

May's Mysteries: the Secret of Dragonville: go here, here, here, here ...

The similarities to Layton are blatant, to be frank, including the static shots of the character when you pass or fail a puzzle. The music sounds similar, the dialogue is similar, the way that you're told to look for different things and search in certain places is very similar. The only difference is the quality of the puzzles and the fact that there's no annoying little sidekick piping up at inappropriate moments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

May's Mysteries: the Secret of Dragonville: very laytonesque

I read a review that said that May's Mysteries was reminiscent of a Layton game. It's not just reminiscent, it's virtually identical, down to the art style, the idea of the fantasy world, the story and the interaction. Controlling May, you move between locations, tapping on characters to solve puzzles, build the story, and get points. The puzzles aren't quite the same as in Layton - there are a few limited types, including text-entry and rearrangement - but the feel is identical.

One thing that I can see being annoying is that I've got one puzzle wrong so far, and after failing it I wasn't given an option to retry it. This goes against my OCD tendancies somewhat.

But it's charming from what I've seen so far, and it's very likely that I'll see this through to completion.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Goldeneye 007: all over the place

I've not played a FPS on the Wii before, save for a few games of Red Steel on launch, so I found it pretty hard to adapt to the controls of this. To start with I was weaving all over the place, unable to aim or even get through a door. By the time I got to the end of the level, jumping off the dam, I was still finding aiming a bit tricky, but could at least walk down stairs without falling off the side to my death.

I was expecting a remake, but it's very different, with the levels being designed to be more complex. This is both a good and bad thing. Bad, because I was hoping to recognise everything. Good, because they're actually very well done indeed.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Tiny Tower: not restarting

I may have been a little overkeen on my last post about Tiny Tower. There is no synchronisation between different devices as such, only the first time that you play. When I started it on my iPhone, it asked me if I wanted to resume my game; however, after that point my iPad and iPhone have led completely different tower lives. I'm not playing it on both, so I've deleted it from my iPad.

I'm now up to 21 floors, and have some really rubbish people in residence. I'm slowly evicting them and trying to get people with better skills in.

Friday, August 05, 2011

3D Classics Xevious: not an arcade machine

The 3D effects on Xevious are possibly the best I've seen on the 3DS, and they are game-changing in a way I've not experienced before. The two layers of game are separated to such an extent that you can focus only on one plane of action at a time, and you have to constantly move between the two to avoid bullets and enemy ships. It makes it a lot harder, having to watch for bullets int eh top plane while lining up bombs in the bottom - to the extent that I've not managed to complete the first level yet.

Its arcade origins cause some issues though. When you use a life, you're put back at the start of the stage you're at, but the enemies are as tough as the part you'd got to. So you can be put back at the start of the first stage, but suddenly the enemies are shooting at you rather than passively moving out of the way. As a result, if you lose a life it's actually better to quit and restart. Obviously, in the arcase this is designed to make sure that you only stay on for a limited time, but here it just feels annoying.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tiny Tower: you can't please all the people ...

... any of the time, it seems. Tiny Tower is a sim game, where you build extra floors, juggling between residential and commercial types, so as to maximise returns from all the shops who employ the bitizens who live in the tower.

Each bitizen has an ideal job. None of my bitizens have an ideal job which matches to the business types I have in my tower. They are all moderately happy - I'm doing my best to make sure they're doing something they're good at, after all - but I do wonder why they're moving in to a tower where they can never be completely happy.

I like the way it sychronises my game between my iPad and iPhone. It means it gets played a lot more.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Burnout Paradise: online shenannigans

Having been turned off only by the size of the single player game, I was more than happy to join the UGVM gang online. It's a completely different game when you're playing with people you know, driving around the same city and randomly crashing into them. The races from point-to-point were great fun (even if the game did glitch and give me an old banger, when everyone else was in an F1 car), and marked man events - where everyone tries to takedown one nominated player - led to hilarious carnage.

A few days later, I went online by myself, and it was still fun - just not as much. But it helped me to get a few more achievements, and I'm now over 10,000G. I may need to play more Wii games to compensate.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

World of Goo HD: factories and virtual worlds

I played World of Goo on my Mac some time last year, but found it a little too tricky to control, with my mouse skills not up to the fast speeds needed. On the iPad, it's a different story. I've been making my way through the story, and have completed the first three chapters now, moving onto a strange virtual world where it's seemingly less about creating structures as it is about flicking goo balls between parts of the level. I'm not sure I approve.

However, the other game within the game, of building a tower of goo, is very addictive indeed. It's made all the more so since you can constantly see a cloud just overhead representing someone else's tower - and you want to build just a little further to beat it. I've got 200 goo balls in my playground now, so am starting to reach a fair height.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Game of Life

I've not posted for a while. And I won't be posting for a while either.

I'm getting married tomorrow, and then I'm going on honeymoon. I have a feeling there may not be many videogames played.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pilotwings Resort: completed!

I've completed the free flight mode, in any case. The last info point was in the middle of the ocean; the last stunt ring was hidden around the back of the golf island.

I've not perfected all the missions, but I will one day. It's such a relaxing game to play - and the 3D adds to it hugely.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Halo 3 ODST: completed!

My home console game of choice for the past couple of weeks has been ODST, the fourth in the Halo series despite the fact it has a 3 in the name. I believe it's considered part of Halo 3, but I can't quite see why since the story as far as I remember doesn't really fit alongside Halo 3's. I could be wrong.

I remember this having a relatively muted reception when it was first released, with people not liking a lack of variety in levels, thinking it was too short, and having a story where you don't play as Master Chief. It does seem shorter than most Halo games, but that's no bad thing since it's actually of a length where I'd consider replaying it. This is helped by the fact that the story is really well told, with an initial scene explaining the game - splitting up the troop - and the rest of the narrative told by an interpolation between Rookie finding clues as to what happened, and flashbacks during which you take control of other members of the team. With you all meeting up in the end, and fleeing a burning Earth.

While the setting was all similar - all around New Mombasa - there was plenty of variety in the types of game, with various levels demanding sniping, explosives, getting past hunters or just a load of grunts and elites. The original Halo required a bit of puzzle solving to work out how to get past different levels, and this is no different - though with the Rookie parts, there's further need for exploration and it's all a bit more eerie. There's a good range of weapons on each level as well - meaning you can often find a beam rifle when you need one.

And as for not playing as Master Chief - so? The only part that grated was when controlling Buck, who kept on shouting idiotic gung-ho phrases which were far too American, which I'd never do. Other than that, the only difference was the need to pick up health kits occasionally, and the fact you can't jump as high. Not a huge problem for a game not designed around jumping.

I've got Reach to play now - but I'll not start that for a while, I think. Halo is good in smaller doses.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Space Channel 5: chu chu chu!

I'm still not sure if they say "chu" or "shoot".

Back in 2006, Owen posted about Space Channel 5. He wanted to try again five years later, to see if he could get past the first level. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to.

In his memory, today a number of people from ugvm and RLLMUK have played Space Channel 5 - the idea being to at least finish the first level. Owen said he got kicked out because his view rating wasn't high enough, so I presume that's after the robot battle. I ended the level on 21%, well above the 15% cut-off.

The graphics have aged quite badly in places - walking on the spaceport roof, for example, the pre-rendered background looks like it's at a different angle to the characters. And background characters seem to have rectangular heads. The rhythm of the music is difficult sometimes, but after calibrating the TV to 'game mode' it worked OK.

I played the first section a few times, though, since my Dreamcast kept coming up with disc read errors to start with. I hope it's not on the way out. I would normally just get a new one but I recall PSO characters are tied to the console.

Anyway. Space Channel 5. Sorry Owen, it's not that hard to get past the first level. But I did it for you, so you can say you've done it now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pilotwings Resort: a strange sense of déjà vu

I wasn't overly impressed with Pilotwings on the SNES, so was pleased to see that the 3DS game bears very little resemblance, with even a different structure to the missions.

It's also a lot easier; I've completed (but not perfected) most of the main levels now, and have found the majority of information points and stunt rings, balloons and rings in the free flight mode. I can understand the complaints about it being light on content, but it's such fun to play that I'm happily going back through missions trying to improve my score.

My main disappointment is that the location is the same as that used in Wii Sprots Resort. I've flown over that island so much now that there's not much left to explore. We'll need somewhere new for the next game.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ridge Racer 3D: someone's in my slipstream

I can see the commentary getting tiring very quickly.

But not the game. I've never really been into Ridge Racer before - Ridge Racers for the PSP was pretty good, and Ridge Racer Type 4 was fun for a month or so - but this gives a much better, more controllable race. And it's in 3D as well. Proper 3D. Unfortunately, because of the way the polygons break up at a distance, it makes the horizon go a bit funny, but there's no doubting that this is really quite amazing stuff.

I've been playing around with the various games and utilities for a few hours now. The 3D effect works really well, though some applications have quite a narrow effective viewing range. You just have to hold it still.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Game memories: E

Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future (Dreamcast)
The original Mega Drive games were pretty, and at the time were examples of great pacing and exploration. They’ve aged badly, though, and are far too difficult and imprecise to be fun. The same with this, in fact, with the momentum behind Ecco making any fight a random punching at buttons and hoping to flee. And while the Mega Drive games still look great, in a sprite-based way, this is starting to look a little ropey. Especially when you compare it to ...

Endless Ocean (Wii)
A lovely, relaxing, dive game with little to panic or scare you. Exploring the intricate environments is great.

Evil Twin (Dreamcast)
Mediocre action adventure type game which was far better on the Dreamcast than the PS2, but sold only 12 copies.

Exit (PSP)
I really enjoyed this for a while – working out how to save everyone and get to the exit in time was a good logistical puzzle. But it all moved so slowly, and the animation playing out over and over again made it an exercise in frustration in the end.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (Gamecube)
I’ve only even played half an hour of this, because I’m a wuss.

Essential Sudoku DS (DS)
Not for the Sudoku, but for the 1000 colour picross puzzles included. The interface used to complete the puzzles was superb, and while the front-end looks like it was put together by a five-year old with a set of crayons, you can look past that to the excellent implementation. I completed this. All one thousand puzzles.

Elite Beat Agents (DS)
It’s fun, but not amazing. Maybe just because I’m not very good at it.

Excite Truck (Wii)
It’s a racing game, but completely different to every other racing game I own. I love it, but it’s quite a light experience with me feeling very often that progress is down to luck more than anything else.

Earth Defence Force 2017 (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Game memories: D

Doom (32X)
I played the PC game a fair bit, yes, but the 32X game is where I really learnt to love Doom (and the GBA conversion kept the affair running). It played brilliantly on the console, particularly with the MD's sublime six-button controllers.

Doom RPG (N95)
A really clever adaptation of the game, set to a turn-based first-person RPG with all the enemies and weapons of the original. I'm not sure if there's any way to play it now, short of buying an old phone.

Dr Kawashima's Brain Training (DS)
I played this religiously every day for ages. I'm not sure it improved my mental capacity at all, but I had fun. I have the brain of a 20-year old, apparently. Maybe that explains why I still like S Club.

Drawn to Life (DS)
A surprisingly good platformer, in which you draw the characters (to an extent, within animation boundaries). Each time you find a new thing, you colour it in and it stays like that for the rest of the game. The only issue is that the game is a little too hard for its intended audience.

Disaster: Day of Crisis (Wii)
A great experience, but I don't think it's got a huge amount of replayable value to it. Having said that, I never did finish it, and I last played it ages ago, so I may well start from the beginning again.

Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball (Xbox)
Or "look at our boobs". The volleyball game wasn't as good as Beach Spikers (which I forgot, oops), and the 'gifts' section was awful. I paid £5 for it, and that was £10 too much.

Donkey Konga (Gamecube)
I was so excited about this. I bought the game and bongos in an HMV in Kingston because they were selling it the day before release day, and carried everything home across London during rush hour. The game didn't disappoint; the highlight to me being Don't Stop Me Now, which, whenever it comes on in a club or disco nowadays, causes Kieron, Matt and myself to exchange knowing glances.

Dancing Stage (PS)
I had a load of these. I wish I could play them on the PS3, but there's nowhere to plug the dance mat into.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wii Sports Resort: bettering Pilotwings

I spent some lovely relaxing time flying around Wuhu Island, collecting the information points (of which I now have 50 of the 80) and sightseeing. I can now fly at night or in the evening, and shoot balloons which everyone seems to hold. But there's no pressure to do so, and it's lovely to just fly around and investigate. I just wish you could do so for more than five minutes at a time.

After this, I wanted something more energetic, so I played a bit of swordfighting, and then the 100-pin bowling game. My high score sits around 2000, I think, which is pretty good given the need to knock down all pins twice in a row.

One thing Wii Sports Resort doesn't do too well is the stamps. These are similar to achievements on the Xbox 360, but are less imaginative and seem to be bolted on at the last minute. It's almost worth ignoring them completely.

And Yet It Moves: twisty

As one of the few WiiWare games with a demo, I thought I'd give this a try. I'm glad I did, since it's a really clever idea, if a little rough around the edges in places. At any time, you can pause the game and rotate the wiimote to rotate the entire level. With this, part of the level move, or you can fall through small gaps, or you can walk up walls, and so on. It gets quite tricky after a while, particularly because as you fall you build momentum and so you can't just rotate the stage to fall to the exit otherwise you get squashed.

I'm tempted to buy the full game, but I don't have enough points on my account at the moment. If I could pay with cash, I would.

Blur: not winning any fans

I've heard from many that the single-player mode of Blur is easy. I beg to differ.

I'm now stuck on the fan races. I've completed all the races with a bronze or above, but I need to get some sort of "X5 multiplier" on one of the races in particular, and I don't recall being told how to do that. I may need to look at an FAQ, for shame.

Pilotwings: jumpy handling

In preparation for the 3DS version, I realised that I've never played the original Pilotwings - I've played a bit of Pilotwings 64, but not that much of that either. The original is available on the Virtual Console, so I downloaded it to try it out.

It's OK. The controls are a bit crap, really jerky and unresponsive. It's difficult to judge distances, particularly trying to work out how to land the hang-glider. No doubt it would improve with practice, but since I'm now stuck on the third level, the difficulty curve is almost too steep for me to bother with again.

Maybe I'll go back to it in a couple of years, like with most Virtual Console games.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Slitherlink: awful music

Slitherlink is another DS puzzle game, based on real-world counterparts but made much easier by the fact you can easily erase mistakes and you don't have to carry around a huge book of puzzles. The idea is to make a single loop of string fit around a grid, such that numbers on the grid have the correct number of sides filled. So, for example, a '3' on the grid must have string on three sides. Eurogamer has a very good review which describes the concept without giving away too much in terms of hints. It also mentions the awful music, which was muted after around 15 seconds.

As a Japanese import, this is difficult to get on with, and I still don't know what half of the menu options do. As far as I can work out, you can have two named profiles (and the naming of the profiles was my first stumbling block, given that I was just presented with a page of kanji with no indication what it was), and the first item on the menu starts the game. That's all that's needed, really. It's rewarding to work out logic that lets you fit lines onto the grid, and even though there's a fairly comprehensive cheat sheet built in - which I found when randomly pressing some menu buttons - this doesn't cover every eventuality. Occasionally you have to be able to see how a line must fit around four squares in a line, which means a certain amount of planning.

There are four difficulty levels, although the first only has twenty puzzles and lasted a day. I'm working on the second set now, but am worried this could take quite a while ...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Game memories: C

Crackdown (Xbox 360)
A sublime game, where the only fault is a limit on 2-player cooperative play. After years, I recently managed to find my last agility orb, and I'm pretending that the hidden ones don't exist any more. The achievements in the game were great as well, with an appropriate balance of progress, difficulty, and silliness. Harpooning 5 people onto a car was good fun.

Crackdown 2 (Xbox 360)
Not as good as the first, but still great, with the bonus that both John and Kieron can join me to shoot people from rooftops. The radar ability means that orbs are a more realistic prospect as well.

Castle of Illusion (Mega Drive)
Possibly the first 16-bit game that made me go 'wow'. I'd been playing on the CPC for a few years beforehand, and everything about Castle of Illusion was a step up from what I was used to. Not only the graphics, but the tightness of control, scale of the world, and variety of gaming. It's the game that sold me the Mega Drive.

Castle of Illusion (Master System)
A few weeks after I saw Colin's Mega Drive for the first time, I went to visit a friend of the family, who I was told had Castle of Illusion. I was looking forward to playing it. Unfortunately it was the Master System game, which was slow and far too difficult to control accurately.

Card Fighter's Clash (NGPC)
I have played this only once, many years ago. I can't remember anything about it.

Colour Cross (DS)
Bargainous colour picross game, which, despite its awful presentation and the need to guess on two of the puzzles, kept me going for four months of playtime.

Cooking Mama (DS)
I don't see the appeal. It's like a minigame collection with a theme, but minigames are done so much better elsewhere.

Chu Chu Rocket (Dreamcast)
Giving away a free game was typical of the Sega of the early noughties. Not just any free game, but an excellent puzzler which caused many fights amongst my friends. The online mode was amazing, although the second-long lag they introduced to compensate for the Dreamcast's 33.6k modem was tricky to deal with.

Civilization Revolution (DS, iPhone)
Civilization is possibly a bit too complex for me. I like my strategy simple - Populous: the Beginning, say - and this does it really well. For a few games. After that you start to try the higher difficulty levels, and there's just a huge wall to overcome.

Contact (DS)
I found this dull and insipid. I was enticed by the prospect of videogame humour and self-referencing, but gave up after I realised that the script was barely English.

Carnival: Funfair Games (Wii)
Actually pretty good. It's well structured, with a decent system of unlocking new games and items. Possibly the best thing is the coin-pushing machine, which I can play for hours (but not as long as my mum, who has racked up 60 hours on the game, of which 40 is on the coin-pushing machine, and 15 is on the horse racing game earning money for the coin-pushing machine).

Cel Damage (Gamecube)
It's only been played twice, both at multiplayer meets, but it's fun.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: completed!

The end was in sight indeed. I collected the four keys after defeating the knights, and got the big key. After recharging health, again, and filling two bottles with fairies, I went through the big door, to hear Vaati taunting me that I had three chimes of the bell before his plan would be complete. Well, Vaati, sucks to be you, since I had the sound turned off and so bell chimes wouldn't happen.

Sadly, the console didn't accept this as an argument, and hurried me through a few rooms of enemies. The hardest part was after I got to a room with three knights, and my usual tactic of decamping to a corner and waiting for them to swing their swords didn't work since the whole fight was timed. Apparently the third chime sounded.

So, next time through I just tried the whirly blade of doom approach, and though I lost a few hearts of health, it was fine and let me through relatively easily. Which was luck as I had to do it a few more times following deaths on the final bosses.

The first two forms of the final boss were pretty tough, and it took me one death to work out that in the first form you had to use the gust jar to suck up the dark clouds around Vaati's circling eyes. The second form was much harder, having to hit him with arrows from all sides while avoiding spiky balls of death, electric balls of death, and just general death. Once I had turned four of his eight eyes red, I had to split Link into the four on the correct side (not easy when Vaati kept running over the splitting panels) and thwack him. A lot.

But after a couple of attempts, he died, and I went to rescue Zelda. And there was no cutscene; instead the castle started to collapse. So I ran out, Zelda in tow, picking up some more health on the way. The game obviously hadn't ended, so I wanted to stock up on fairies and hearts, just in case.

And it's a good job I did. Vaati claimed to be a god, and appeared once again as a big round enemy with claws for arms. It took me ages to work out that you had to use the cane to flip his arms upside down, and that when you'd done so you could shrink down and run inside them. And then once inside you had to thwack the correct eye monster. And then once both arms had been dispatched, I had to split Link into four again and hit Vaati's electric balls back at him. Lots to do, very little health left at the end.

But there was an end. Ezlo got his human form back, then ran off through the picori portal after saying goodbye. He gave Link a proper cap before he went. Zelda magically made everything better. The stained glass endings reminded me of the opening to The Wind Waker. And that was that.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: collecting keys

I found the other swordmasters, so now my collection of tiger scrolls is complete. By button mashing I can send Link spining all over the screen; a whirly blade of doom.

This doesn't help when your opponents are big knights with seemingly magic shields that stop anything getting through.

After getting stuck on the ground floor of the castle for ages (1F, but the one you enter on, stupid American numbering), I finally worked out that I had to bomb the bottom half of a wall on the other side from a weak point I could see from a different room. Which goes against every bit of logic so far, where walls only disintegrate if they look broken on the side you bomb to start with.

Up on the higher floors, and there are loads of knights who've just appeared, each one guarding a key. Lots of fighting ahead, and each fight lasts far too long since you have to wait for them to swing at you before their guard is down. After each fight, I'm warping outside the castle, sneaking past guards, and going to the fairy fountain for a recharge of health. It's a little tedious, but there's an end in sight, at least.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Game memories: B

Blur (Xbox 360)
Possibly my favourite racing game avec weapons, but opinion on that will flip-flop depending on whether I've played this, Mario Kart Wii, or Wipeout HD most recently. Blur is magnificent though, really well balanced in both single-player and online multi-player. The weapons and their strength have been honed to perfection, and every race is thrilling from start to finish no matter where you end up.

Burnout (Playstation 2)
One of the first racers that showed that it doesn't need to just be a race to the finish line. It seems quite tame now, compared to its sequels, but the seeds were sown.

Burnout 2 (Gamecube)
Not just an evolution but a revolution. Adding so much more content, including the crash junctions and other event types, and the handling was refined so your car felt lighter and more manoeuvrable. Some say it was the highlight of the series. I'd argue they can't have played ...

Burnout Revenge (Xbox 360)
Everything that made Burnout 2 great is here, but with a more defined structure, more cars, content, and with takedowns fully implemented. It's a constant source of fun and mirth.

Burnout Paradise (Xbox 360)
A departure for the series, with multiple routes and hidden events. I've not really explored it much so far, but it's a good game - just not as great as what preceded it.

Bombjack (CPC)
I have fond memories of playing this with my sister. I perfected the lit-bomb runs on the first five screens, and we used to be amazed how colourful and fast it was. We never played the arcade game; I have a feeling that may have spoilt the magic.

Bomberman (DS)
In my eyes, the ultimate version. You will never have ten people and ten Saturn controllers in order to play the full version of Saturn Bomberman, but eight DSs in one room? Easy!

Bonanza Bros (Mega Drive)
Slow, dull, awkward jumps, boring. I always hoped this would be similar to Spy vs Spy, but after finally getting to play it, it wasn't.

Battletoads (Game Boy)
Difficult, smeary, frustrating, dull.

Brick Breaker (Blackberry)
Awful. Really quite awful, in that that ball bounces off your bat at random angles, the icons you collect are difficult to distinguish, it often stutters or slows down when your email downloads, and the levels are badly laid out. But have a colleague challenge your high score, and this can take weeks of your time.

Bust-a-Groove (PS)
One of the first dancing games I ever saw. It's not great nowadays, but back then it was futuristic.

Bust-a-Move (PS)
I never got on with Puzzle Bobble. It always seemed a little random as to when the balls would stick to the side of other balls, or just pass them by.

Bayonetta (Xbox 360)
I want to love this more than I do, because it's good fun, well designed, and is full of amusing touches like the car stereo playing Splash Wave. But I've never got very far into it and then it gets left for months until I can no longer remember the controls and have to start again.

Black (Xbox)
I really enjoyed Black - it had a good story, good range of gameplay, good balance to weapons and enemies. All the way up to the final boss bit, when it got stupidly hard with infinitely respawning enemies. I never completed it.

Beyond Good & Evil (Gamecube)
When this first came out, people were desperately searching for a comparison. It's sort of like Zelda, because you upgrade your craft to give you access to other areas. It's sort of like Pokémon Snap, because you take photos. It's actually a unique game which is perfectly short and sweet, with the best ever text-input system and a cast of amazing characters.

Braid (Xbox 360)
I completed it, thought the puzzles were clever, but the story was trying to be intelligent just a bit too hard. It was fantastic for students desperately trying to prove the worth of games, though.

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: a point of no return?

Running headlong into the sparkly tree seemed to make all the leaves drop, and I could shrink down. So I got the book, went to the Temple of Droplets, and have got the last two elements via a place in the clouds. I fused the sword with the two elements, and headed through the new exit - to be confronted with information on the light force and Vaati, who knocked me out. He didn't steal the sword, though, which was a bit stupid of him.

Oh, it's now the Four Sword. I like the way that different elements crop up over and over in Zelda games.

Hyrule Castle is now all dark and foreboding, and even after rescuing the king it remains so. I can exit the castle, but in the town all the people and animals have disappeared into their houses. So it looks like I can no longer move the cats to make way for a new house, or finish off the kinstone collecting (not that I would do so anyway). I'm going to try to remember where all the other swords masters were, so I can learn different fighting techniques, and I hope they're still around.

But it looks like the endgame now. Vaati, I'm coming for you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Game memories: A

Afterburner Complete (32X)
For years I'd wanted an arcade-perfect version of Afterburner. The CPC version wasn't too bad, but rather slow. The monochrome Spectrum version was awful. The Master System and Mega Drive games were getting there, but they just didn't feel frantic enough. This did. I got a 32X a couple of years after the Saturn came out in Pink Planet in Bristol for, I think, £20, and with it came Afterburner, Virtua Racing Deluxe and Star Wars Arcade. Afterburner was an amazing port, just what I'd wanted since first playing the arcade game years before, but given the competition it was quickly at the bottom of the pile.

Ace Combat 6 (Xbox 360)
Previous Ace Combats (plus Air Combat on the PS) have been OK, but this is great. HD really does add to this game, searching the skies for opponents and with loads of screen set aside to just see how pretty it is.

Animal Crossing Wild World (DS)
I remember once hearing that someone had an 800+ price on turnips on a Thursday, when I had thousands of bells invested. I went and stood outside the pub opposite work, in the rain, so I could use their Cloud wifi and trade my turnips in.

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: a book on a bookcase

I got the mole gloves so I can now dig through dirt - and finally worked out what those filled-in cave entrances were about. I've also found power bracelets which let me move objects like bookcases when small but don't appear to let me move little boulders when big. I'm now on a mission to return overdue library books. Don't ask.

I've returned two, and have found the third, but it's on top of a bookcase. There's a note on the table nearby which hints that if there's a problem I should just run headlong into it - but using the pegasus boots and running into the bookcase doesn't do anything. There's another one of the sparkly trees out the back of the house, but other than that nothing. I can't work out what to do.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Burnout Paradise: building up my car collection

But very slowly. I've just got my B licence, which indicates I'm halfway up the progression (since I'm sure it won't stop at A), and I've only found and unlocked 12 cars out of the 57 it claims. The game just feels almost too big - I've not touched on bikes yet, or the Surf Island extra bits. I found the same with Burnout Revenge in the end, that it just seemed a bit never-ending, and at least that had a more rigid progression structure.

Still, this works well as a game, and I'm enjoying the racing aspect. I feel I'm missing out a little from not learning the map in full, but that's just a bit too much of an ask. I do miss the aftertouch takedowns though, and I've heard that every road has a crash junction event but haven't seen how to trigger these as yet ...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: big plant down

Finally finished the forest temple, killed the big plant. Now I've been told I've got to go west. It was in red, so it must be important.

I'm getting very confused though, between what's happening in Twilight Princess and what's happening in The Minish Cap. I may need to put one on hold for now!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: not being able to dig

I'm in the Fortress of Winds, and am stuck. I know what I need - something to suck up or dig through or otherwise destroy the big foamy blocks that are strewn across the level - but I've been everywhere I can get to in the dungeon, many times, and there remain a couple of rooms that I just can't access. This is most frustrating.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Phantasy Star Portable: excitement

There's a lot of story I'm wading through. A lot of buttons to learn. A lot of menus and options and items.

But there's a lot in common with Phantasy Star Online. Monomates, sabres, and swords mean that the game has, for me, a shallow learning curve, and the first few missions have reminded me of my exploits back in 2001 on the Dreamcast. Unlike Phantasy Star Zero, the controls work well, and the addition of other members of your party mean that it's an easier game at this early stage. Which is a good thing.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: collecting elements

While Twilight Princess has slightly stalled, I've been playing The Minish Cap on my commute to and from work, and it's been captivating. The storyline is semi-standard, with Zelda being frozen in stone, but it's Vaati who's the enemy rather than Ganandorf, and the world is inhabited by the Picori. Link has a magic hat who used to be a sorcerer, and he can shrink and grow at select portals. Half the trick is working your way around the world as a dot, where you can't mount steps or traverse puddles.

I've made quite a lot of progress; I've mended the Picori sword, and fused it with two elements. Some of the objects collected are pretty innovative - the gust jar which hoovers up dust and grass, the cane which flips objects over - though there are as ever the stables of the boomerang and bow and arrow. The Game Boy Advance suffers from only having two buttons to which you can map objects, so there's frequent breaks to reassign actions.

It's very different from The Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess, and indeed very different from Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. It reminds me most of Oracle of Ages, which of course is because it's by the same team - but I never finished that so I'm hoping this has a little more staying power ...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lego Rock Band: hidden orb ... oh, hang on

Lego David Bowie is amazing. What is not amazing is the cramp I'm now suffering in my left-hand little finger.

I was playing a set on the roof of Leg City Skyscraper, and half way through I noticed, at the side of the screen, a pigeon. Except since I was concentrating on the centre of the screen, I didn't. I saw a bright blue, glowing, round thing, and my immediate thought was to go and collect the hidden orb. Which led me to mess up huge sections of the song, and only get three stars.

Damn you Crackdown.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Afterburner Climax: pew pew pew

Or more like BANG BOOM KASPLOOM. Much as Outrun 2 updated a classic arcade game to a modern audience, Afterburner Climax takes the basic gameplay of Afterburner and ramps up the graphics, enemies, movement, and pace. And it's generally a success, although at times it's just a bit too frantic, with smoke from missiles and explosions obstructing the view.

On my first go, I got to the fifth stage. The game then gave me extra continues. On my second go, I got to the thirteenth stage, and the game gave me some extra perks. The more you play, the more options it gives you to fiddle with, ranging from more powerful guns, non-respawning missiles, larger targets and better armour. As you play more, the easier you can make the game. I played through the whole thing five times in the end, but didn't manage to complete all of the emergency instructions in one go, meaning that so far I've only been able to get the 'bad' ending. But that doesn't matter - I'll be playing this again many times over.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Mirror's Edge: completed!

Not the Xbox 360 game, which is still residing on the last level (maybe I'll get around to completing that after Twilight Princess), but the side-scrolling iPhone game. As I said back in October, UGVM bought this en masse in tribute to Owen, and I played a fair few levels at the time. I've now completed it - in that I've completed every level, but will no doubt return to collect more bags and to try speed runs. I'm more likely to do that in this game than in the console version, in fact, due to portability and the fact it's a bit easier.

Mirror's Edge on the iPhone owes a lot to run-and-jump games such as Canabalt, but it's a lot more involved than that, with intricate level designs, enemies to be avoided or attacked, and several instances where you have to reverse direction. One of the later levels sees you running backwards through a former level, which only goes to emphasise how well the jumps and platforms are designed. It's a shame there are only twelve levels (excluding the tutorial) - though the end-of-game message implies more may well be incoming in the future.

What I admire most is the way that the game is designed directly for the interface, and they've made a game that fits in with the main console story, retaining the graphical style and feel, but is almost a different genre. It's fabulous.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: freeing monkeys

Still no ability to swap between realms at will - and the story seems to indicate this won't happen, which is a bit of a relief given the thought needed to do so - but last night's game progressed quite a bit. As a wolf, I restored light to the local spring, and met someone who told me I was the chosen one. That's lucky, really, given that it'd be quite a dull game if I wasn't. I've been restored to human form, and have made my way to the Forest Temple, where I've been helped and hindered by a monkey, giving me a pointer to rescue all of her friends. Each time you rescue a new monkey, you're able to cross ever-longer rope bridges, swinging from simian to simian. I've an entourage of four now.

The movement's improved slightly, but it's still not perfect. It's frustrating, because other games show how precise the remote and nunchuk combination can be, but this was obviously designed for a Gamecube pad, with pointer controls added on afterwards. If I wasn't now five hours in, I may have restarted it on the Gamecube.

The old Zelda problem of not being able to save a particular position in a dungeon rears its head again, by the way. I'm half-way through the Forest Temple, but will need to start from the beginning when I resume (although this is partially mitigated by the design of the temple, with a hub room being close to the entrance).