Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tales of Eternia: the great craymel

When I set my challenges this week, I forgot that I only had one day of work remaining before Christmas. Oops.

Luckily, though, I managed to reach the great craymel on the train this morning, after long protracted fights through a forest. What a stuck-up bitch she is, as well. After looking down her nose at us, she decides that she'll only talk to us if we fight her.

A very hard fight, in fact, which I lost. I'll have to try again, but fear it may need a slew of levelling-up first.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Bongo Bongo


I finally managed to reach the boss at the end of the Shadow Temple, with very little health remaining. He is really annoying - he's a big invisible eye and two disembodied hands, and the whole battle takes place on a drum which means that Link keeps getting thrown up in the air and uncontrollable. I was hoping that using the iron boots would stop this, but it doesn't.

I've worked out that I've got to use the lens of truth to see the eye, and hit the hands with arrows to disable them temporarily. But the thing is that I've only got three hearts, and one hit kills me.

I've died quite a few times and every time there's a long journey to get back to the boss - involving going on a River-Stix-like boat and fighting skeletons. Along the way there are hearts up on ledges but I can't work out how to get them. There are no other things that help me regain health. So every time, one hit inside the boss room and I die.

I hope I can beat him soon or I feel I might just not be bothered.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 20/12/2006

I set myself five challenges last week and completed them all. Very pleasing.

I'm a bit stuck now, though, because my new commuting game is Tales of Eternia, and that doesn't really lend itself to setting challenges, since I have no idea how far anything is off ...

Find the great craymel in Tales of Eternia.

Complete the shadow dungeon in Ocarina of Time.

Get another three medals in Wii Sports training mode.

Complete the fourth world in Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tales of Eternia: setting off

I've not been grabbed by this yet, and I've played it a fair bit. Little things are annoying me:
  • A lot of the game works in an isometric style, but it's really difficult to use the diagonals on a PSP d-pad
  • Random enemy encounters are far too frequent
  • The characters aren't overly likable and the translation's a bit poor
  • The story's really confusing, with far too much to take in at once
  • The combat system seems really complex but just pressing X lots of times seems to work almost as well
Having said all that, I am interested to know what happens. So far I've found a girl who fell from the sky and speaks a strange language; gone to the local university to meet an old friend who might be able to speak to her; found out he had to use a dictionary to do so; and gone through a tunnel to a whole new continent.

The graphical style's a bit odd - the backgrounds of specific areas are lovely, but the character sprites and overworld are ropey. I don't really like the characters' looks either. The girl, Farah, looks really frumpy.

Wii Sports: tennis training

No time for Zelda last night, but I did get the opportunity to play Wii Sports for quarter of an hour. My fitness age seems to have settled at 33, which is 4 years older than me. I think I'm let down by my baseball hitting.

I also played the tennis training a bit, including the last of the three games. In this game, you have to hit a target painted on the wall, which is pretty tricky once the targets are anything like off-centre since you end up running from one side of the court to the other. My highest score is seven. Pathetic!

Field Commander: online doesn't work

That is to say, it works technically, just not as a game type.

I played two games last night while watching TV. Well, I played a bit of two games. It's just too slow and isn't engaging enough for an online game. When you play Advance Wars against a human, they're right next to you, and you can see them working away at their turn. With Field Commander online you're left wondering if they're thinking about their move, or whether they're actually still there.

A play-by-email game like Naked War would work fine for Advance Wars online, but the real-time model is just too soulless. I doubt I'll be playing it again.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: the shadow temple

Hmm, what to label this as? It's an N64 game, on a GameCube disc, being played on the Wii. How confusing.

I spent ages trying to work out where to go next. Navi kept on telling me to go and talk to someone who knew about the sages. I guessed this was Sheik, but had no idea where to find her. I ran around the whole world, and finally went into Kakariko Village where Sheik told me that something was hidden at the bottom of the well. Very cool cutscene, actually - the village was on fire, and sheik was grabbed by a shadow and thrown around. Anyway, I went down the well and there was nothing there.

After a bit more exploration, I went into the windmill, and the man in there told me he was all cross because of what happened seven years previously, when a young boy with an ocarina caused something to happen. I took out my ocarina and he taught me a stormy song. I then went back in time, went to the windmill again, and played the song. A storm started and all the water drained out of the well. Ah-ha!

Down in the well I found myself in a room with no exit other than the way I came in. Navi kept on highlighting a skeleton at the end of the room, and said that the spirits were telling me to get an eye of truth. All very well, but getting out of the room would help first. Purely by chance (I was trying to attach the skeleton) I found out that the wall at the end of the room wasn't actually real, and I could just walk through it.

This then led me to a mini-dungeon, where I got a magnifying glass thing which shows me the truth - with disappearing walls and floors and chests which are there but aren't visible. I actually really enjoyed this cavern, because it offered quite a lot of exploration to find all its secrets, but was a nice small manageable size.

The shadow temple, my next port of call, is much larger, however. I've got the map and have explored around three quarters of the dungeon, it seems, and while there's no particularly taxing puzzles other than the use of the lens of truth, it's just going on for a long time. Hopefully I'll complete it tonight.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wii Sports: training mode

The bowling mode which adds a new row of pins each time is superb. I can't get that many strikes, but enough pins fall each time to make me think it's possible.

I'm also starting to learn how to place my shots in tennis. There's a training game in which you must hit the ball into a gate which shrinks and moves over time. I did quite well at that.

I didn't do well at baseball - I just can't hit home runs consistently. I'm getting better at pitching, though.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz: crowning glory

For the first world, I've got a crown above the world number. I've completed worlds two and three but I have no such crown. I wonder why.

The game works so well with the remote. It's starting to get a little more tricky now, but thankfully there's been no sign of the switch gimmicks from Super Monkey Ball 2.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Field Commander: completed!

The last mission turned out to be not so hard after all. It helps that the computer is such a wuss, running away as soon as any of its units get damaged, meaning I could just steamroller my way across the map and destroy the weather machine with no hassle.

The ending sequence was dire, though. A few bits of congratulatory text but it all seemed to be a reluctant "well done". Then the boss of ATLUS appeared, and I couldn't see his face, and he told me about all the other things that needed sorting. But I wasn't going to be involved, even though I'd just been promoted.


Still, overall it was quite an enjoyable game, but nowhere near as good as Advance Wars.

Rayman Raving Rabbids: the first four days

I'm into uncharted territory now. I'd played most of the first four days of Rayman Raving Rabbids during the Wiikend, but that was on John's machine and we hadn't copied the save. So, I've had to go through the first four days again, this time completing it all myself.

Strangely, I've had no problems yet at all, with only two games requiring me to replay them. When Kieron and I were playing in turns, some games had us stumped - particularly the worm-pulling, the bunny minecart launching, and the guiding a bunny around a maze without touching the sides. I did the last of these on my second go at it (with 4 seconds to spare!) and the first two on my first go.

I've now unlocked three of the on-rails 'lightgun' sections. The last one, set on a train, is excellent.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 13/12/2006

I did get a couple of soul meteos, by the way, but I've not spent them yet.

Get a high score in the 100 meteos time attack mode.

Get four medals (at least bronze) in the training mode of Wii Sports.

Complete the first four days of Rayman Raving Rabbids.

Complete the first three worlds of Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz.

Complete Field Commander.

Field Commander: they got away, again

I'm growing increasingly tired of the storyline of this game. At the end of every mission, you're told that you did really well, but, oh dear, they got away, we'll have to follow them. Yawn indeed.

The mission I finished this morning was great, though. It was another mission in which I had to destroy two transports before they escaped the map. I started with very few units, a long way from any factories ports or airports, and the enemy had a huge number of units. Corvettes, gunships, submarines, you name it.

Hilariously, however, with me positioning my units just out of reach of the enemy, they didn't bother to attack and instead just sent their two transports forward alone, within striking distance of my units. Two turns later, they both sank after a barrage of guns.

I think I'm now onto the final mission. It looks hard.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Meteos: soul meteos

I've been trying to work out how you get soul meteos, and I think now that you only get an opportunity to get them when you're battling the planet Meteo at the end of a story mode game. So that's what I'll be doing on the train tonight. It's pretty simple to complete the first variation of the story mode, although I almost always lose one life on the way.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A great wiikend part 2: using the console

(this article has been posted at a later date)

The Wii is just amazing. It took literally no time at all to work out how to use this new controller, with the pointing and selecting just coming completely naturally. True, to start with the pointer's a bit jerky, but after a few seconds you stop fighting it and it becomes just an extension of your hand, pointing. Creating Miis was fun in itself, but once we were playing Wii Bowling, with John's girlfriend watching both from the sofa and from the back of the lanes, it became something more. More intimate, more personalised? Something like that.

Wii Sports really is the best launch game ever. It shows exactly how the controller can be used, and while each of the games is limited, it paves the way for more extravagant and elaborate simulations at a later date. We had huge amounts of fun playing the five games, even if we ached afterwards.

Wii Play is also pretty good. It effectively costs £5, but gives a great overview of how the controls work, taking you through from pointing to motion sensing to moving in three dimensions. Again, the Miis work really well within the game.

What else did we play? Rayman Raving Rabbids performs the heinous crime of requiring you to unlock the multiplayer games in single player mode first. We therefore only played a few of these games, but they are generally really good. The characterisation is wonderful, too - really funny and well thought-out.

Super Monkey Ball works really well, with tilting the remote tilting the stage. It's a bit more difficult than the original, since you don't have a forward lock (from the octagonal gate on the GameCube controller) or automatic centering. The minigames are a bit hit and miss, but one had us in absolute hysterics - 'red light, green light'. You must wave the remotes up and down in order to make you monkey run to the end of the stage. However, if the monkey at the end turns around, you must hold your remotes absolutely still until they hide again. I mean absolutely still. Not easy when Kieron nudges you, and then you can't stop laughing which means you can' hold the controller still at all. It took us 15 minutes to clear one stage. Priceless.

Finally, Red Steel is surprisingly good in multiplayer. It took a few games to get used to the controls, but after they clicked then it became really good fun. Graham beat us all, repeatedly.

This really is great.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A great wiikend part 1: buying the console

(this article has been posted at a later date)

John, Kieron and I joined a queue outside HMV's back entrance at around half eight on Thursday evening. We played some Mario Kart, including a random Dan we were standing next to in the queue. Needless to say, I won. I think.

At around half nine, they started to issue people in the queue with wristbands. The majority of the queue was formed of people who hadn't preordered, and in fact we were the first ones there who already had a guaranteed Wii. We got special silver wristbands (those given to non-preorders were white) - in fact, John got wristband number 1. After getting a wristband, we were free to go and come back by half ten - but sod that, we went straight around to the front and got into the proper queue. We were in a pretty good position - around 50 from the front.

We were supposed to be in this queue until eleven, when they would let us all into the store for a party and Wii celebration. The queue was filmed and photographed quite a bit, but mainly focussing on a group of 20-somethings a little bit ahead of us who couldn't string four coherent words together. At least it meant we didn't have to answer any of the journalists' idiotic questions. Apparently, London is a long way from London.

Eleven came and went.

At half eleven, a white bus arrived and the celebrities - Pat Cash, Ian Wright, Nell McAndrew and Ricky Hatten - got off and went inside, after being photographed lots. In fact, Nell wasn't due to be there and it was actually meant to be someone else, but obviously she was available to fill in when the other person called in sick or something.

Finally at 11:40 they started to let us in, and they filtered us into the rows between the CD racks. Once we were in these rows, they put some footage up on the big screen above the stage, and people started to try to push down the rows to get closer to the front. They tried, but they didn't manage it. Kieron, John and I can make a pretty effective barrier.

The celebrities played some tennis and boxing, but it was all evidently rushed because they were late. They had a few words with the person who was at the front of the queue, then took him over to buy his Wii, and left the rest of us behind.

Finally, 15 minutes later, they started to let some of us go over to the tills. About 10 at a time, every 10 minutes. It was therefore around 12:45 when I was finally asked what I wanted. A Wii, Zelda, Monkey Ball, Rayman, Wii Play and a nunchuk, please. They were doing a special deal meaning that the Wii plus three games and an SD card was £25 less than just the Wii and three games, so I took that. And I got one of the very limited edition Zelda tins. Only 200 ever made, and 3 of them are in our hands.

The organisation was OK, if a little sterile. Security was doing their best to stop queue jumpers, but there were still some around and what with the queue being 3 people across there was a bit of ambiguity to the ordering. When we got to the tills there was only one person running around assembling the orders, which seemed a bit daft, with six tills open. Still, at least we were early in the queue. I can't see them having finished before 4 in the morning.

We got to my car by 1:05, then drove up to Cambridge, to John's house. To bed? You must be joking. We all opened our Wiis at the same time and marvelled at the tiny size of the console, the loveliness of the remote, and the stylishness of the stand. John set his up, and turned it on. He created his Mii, then Kieron replaced John's console with his and created his Mii so that it was based on the correct Wii. I repeated this with my console. Then John put his Wii back in the stand, and we loaded up Wii Sports.

Tennis - amazing fun.
Bowling - great but Kieron's just too good.
Golf - Really difficult to get the power right, but it works well.
Baseball - possibly the best game there, and it's really satisfying to hit a home run.
Boxing - absolutely knackering but great.

By this time it was six in the morning. We went to bed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wii in nine and a half hours

I'm going to the official Nintendo launch party at HMV on Oxford Street tonight, along with Kieron and John. It starts at 11 and we'll be buying our consoles at midnight.

John's taking his camera so hopefully I'll have pictures to stick on here at some point. But not tomorrow, since we're going to be playing all day.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 06/12/2006

Not many challenges this week. Because on Thursday night, I'm getting my Wii.

Gain two more soul meteos in Meteos.

Complete two more levels of Field Commander.

Meteos: fixed

It works again!

I played a bit on the train last night and this morning. It's not easy with the sun on the screen.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: the water temple

That took a long time.

Amusingly, both of my predictions came true. I was expecting either an ice dungeon or a water dungeon, but instead I got both.

On my hunch, I went to the zora's place and found it all frozen. Even the king was frozen solid in a block of red ice. I went into the tunnel behind him and jumped across some icebergs into a cave.

The ice cavern wasn't very large, and there wasn't really an end-of-dungeon boss as such (there was just a white wolf thing, who died very quickly and easily). It was quite a clever dungeon, though, with rooms which were locked until five silver rupees were collected, and a clever block-pushing puzzle where the block slid on ice until it hit a wall or pillar. A lot of the level was blocked by red ice, and there was a blue flame which Navi hinted would be useful. It took me a while to work out that you could capture the blue flame in a bottle and then release it near the ice.

After beating the wolf, I got a pair of iron boots, which make you walk very slowly but also let you walk underwater. Which would be great if you could breathe.

I got back to the king and realised that I hadn't refilled my bottles with blue fire, so I had to go all the way back and capture some more, before going and thawing out the king. He gave me a blue tunic, which lets me breathe underwater. Evidently nobody's heard of an aqualung in Hyrule.

The king also told me that Princess Ruto had been saved by Sheik, and had gone to the water temple to defeat the baddie there and thaw out the whole of Zoras' Domain. I took this as a hint and played the song that Sheik taught me to warp to the water temple.

I arrived on a little island with a tree and a plaque, which said something like "when the lake is full, shoot the rising sun". The lake wasn't full, it was drained and muddy. After a bit of exploration I found a door underwater at the base of the island I was on; I equipped the iron boots and blue tunic and went down to it. It was locked.

Luckily, I had my hookshot equipped and could see that it was usable, unlike the other weapons I was carrying. I hit the switch above the door and it opened. And so I entered the water temple.

To get through the water temple took me four hours. Some of the puzzles were really hard, and some were obvious but just required a lot of backtracking. The decreased mobility underwater meant I became very low on health on more than one occasion, and I did die once when I got caught in a corridor with some horrible oyster-like enemies.

Half way through you come to this seemingly endless room with no walls, but with another door on the other side. I ran across the room to the other door, and it was locked. After exploring a bit, I noticed that I no longer had a reflection on the ground, unlike everything else. My reflection, in fact, turned out to have stayed on the central island, and proceeded to fight me. A few hits with the hammer and he died, opening the doors.

After such a long dungeon, I was rather disappointed to be given only an extended hookshot, instead of a new toy.

After getting the longshot, it took me ages to find the boss key, and then ages to get to the boss. Luckily I'd found the map and the compass, or I reckon I'd still be there. The boss was mean - a big water thing with a floating nucleus - and it took me a while to work out that I had to hook the nucleus out of the water and then hit it. It did kill me once, but luckily I'd captured a fairy in a bottle and it revived me.

After killing the boss, I was transported to the Sacred Realm again, where I was shocked and stunned to find out that Ruto was the water sage. Thankfully, this meant that she couldn't marry me, and so the world would never find out what a hylian-zora mutant would look like.

Back at Lake Hylia, the lake was full again, and I (luckily) remembered the plaque; standing on it I shot at the rising sun with my arrows and got the fire arrows. Hooray!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Meteos: broken

I tried to play it last night but the game card didn't work. How distressing.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: the fire temple

After a bit of an explore as little Link, I realised that I'd explored most of the world already and had come to a dead end, so I changed back to adult Link and went off exploring again. Navi told me that Death Mountain looked odd, which I took as a hind, and headed up there. Inside the goron cave I found a goron rolling around, and eventually stopped him through cunning placement of bombs. He told me that the others had been taken away to be fed to a dragon. The king had gone to save them all. He gave me a fire tunic to allow me to go into hot areas, which looks exactly the same as the normal tunic but red. How that's going to prevent burning I have no idea.


A suspicious looking pillar in the throne room turned out to be movable, and I went through into the fire temple. I won't describe it in detail, but it was relatively straightforward, saving Gorons as you go through, with some clever use of connecting passages which open from the other side to allow you to shortcut to different areas from the start. I got a big hammer half-way through, and the boss was a whack-a-mole type affair. A big firey dragon, Volvagia. It took me a couple of tries but I killed him, got the heart, and legged it out of there.

It turns out that the king of the gorons, Darunia, is the fire sage, and he gave me a medallion.

Now, Ocarina's not my first Zelda game, so I fully expect the next dungeon to be ice or water-based. Furthermore, I've come across three races so far: the kokiri, the hylians, the gorons and the zora. The forest temple was the kokiri, the fire temple was the gorons. It's not too much of a stretch to put two and two together ...

Field Commander: big shooty invisible tank thingie

I've just finished a level in which you have to capture a city in the middle of the map, and a factory on the other side to where you start, all the time avoiding fire from a big invisible super tank, the range of which and position of which you can only guess.

I managed it by working out that the tank couldn't hit me if I sent troops around by utility copter sticking to the mountains. It was far too trial-and-error a mission, and it took me ages.

I hope the next one's better.

In any case, I'm up to around 85% completion now.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Loco Roco downloadable demo: completed!

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

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: the forest temple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 29/11/2006

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

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

Complete both Loco Roco demos with full locorocos and muimuis.

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

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

Loco Roco: two new demos

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rally 3D

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mr Driller Drill Spirits: 1000m completed

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

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

This morning I was rubbish.

I'd forgotten how great Mr Driller was.

Friday, November 24, 2006

TrackMania Nations

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Online multiplayer 'fun'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, joy!

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Amped 2: tutor me!

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

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

Halo 2: ranked up twice

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2006

Naked War: I won against Kieron!

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

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

Field Commander: diverse difficulty levels

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

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2006

Field Commander: diverse objectives

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2006

Field Commander: dire design decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 08/11/2006

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

Complete another level in Battalion Wars.

Phantasy Star: completed!

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

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

Phantasy Star: completed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Phantasy Star: completed ... nearly

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

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

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

Monday, November 06, 2006

Field Commander: past the tutorials

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Phantasy Star: getting tooled up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 01/11/2006

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

Complete Phantasy Star.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Phantasy Star: goodbye, Miss Snake Head

Lots of progress last night and this morning.

Firstly, I went around buying the good weapons that I wanted. This was fine except for the laser shield which you can only buy in Abion, which is miles from anywhere and I'd already had to go there once already. I wish I'd bought it before - but then again, I don't know if I'd have had 4500 mesata to spend on it ...

I went to Dezoris, the third planet, and found a bit of a icy wasteland. Palma seems pretty underpopulated, so why don't they all just move there, rather than freezing to death on Dezoris or burning in the desert sun on Motavia? Seems pretty obvious to me. They must be doing something right, though, because everyone on Dezoris is loaded. Monsters give shedloads of money.

I then went back to Motavia, to a town called Uzo, and bought Alis the laser sword. It's missing the "whuuuum" sound effects. I talked to some people, and they told me that to the Southwest there was a cave in which dragons lived, who have giant gems in their heads. This sounds like a hint. There was also a man who told me about a "soothing flute" which he'd dumped in Gothic.

So, I went to the Southwest, and after a lot of wandering around found a cave. I wandered through it for a while and eventually came out into a town called Casba. No dragons to be found there, but there were some vehicular activities. I was able to buy a landrover from the shop for 5000 mesata - unfortunately, it's a strange tracked vehicle and not a Freelander. Also, a man in a house told me that he's abandoned a hovercraft near Bortevo, on Palma. As you do.

On the way back through the cave I went exploring and found a blue dragon, who I killed rather easily and then found an amber eye. I presume this was one of the gems they were talking about. No idea what I'll do with it yet ...

Since I had no other leads, I went back to Uzo to go and find either the flute or the hovercraft on Palma. I forgot how annoying it was to search - you have to bring up the menu screen, scroll down four spaces to 'search', then repeat over and over again. Luckily the old man had told me the flute was dumped on the outskirts of Gothic, so I went around the path on the outside of the town and it was handily hidden at the end of a path near the entrance.

The hovercraft was less easy to find. I went to Bortevo (half the way to Abion, so only half as far out of the way and half as annoying to get to - although the speed of the landrover helps quite a lot) and once I got there remembered that it's where I found Hapsby the robot - the whole town is a ruin and each of the houses contains junk. I searched in every house and in the last house, the one right next to the exit of the town, I found the hovercraft. Hapsby repaired it and it's as good as new.

Rather luckily, Bortevo is right next to a bit of water, so I jumped in the hovercraft and headed west across the sea. And ended up in Scion, really close to where the whole game starts. It's going to be much easier to navigate around now.

I did some exploring down the coast there and found a new town, called Drasgow, floating in the middle of the ocean. It was a bit of a dump, but one person told me about Sopia, which is a town surrounded by gas fields. They don't make it easy for themselves, do they? I also coincidentally found a shop which, after exploring a massive maze, let me buy a gas shield.

So, to Sopia, which is on Motavia. I went to Uzo, and talked to everyone in the hope that they could tell me where to go. Nobody did. However, I now had my landrover which meant that I could go over the top of the ant lions' nests, and so I went exploring. I was quite lucky in that I tried going East first, and that's the way it was - Northeast, in fact, but only once you'd hit mountains going East.

The gas fields are a nasty place, and I ran into a couple of nasty enemies on my way through - a horseman and a sorcerer, who took quite a lot of health off of me. I was glad to get to Sopia. It's not much of a town, but it does have a hospital! There's nothing else there, though. I found the mayor and talked to him, and he begged me for money - 400 mesata, in fact. His town's poor because nobody goes through the gas fields. Move, you fools. Since I'd earnt 300 from killing the two enemies out in the gas fields, I said yes, hoping for some sort of reward. But no. He told me that Perseus's shield was on an island in the lake - I presumed the lake next to the town. I presumed correctly, as it turns out, because on a small island I found the mirror shield.

Ah, yes, I thought, my Greek mythology's coming back to me. Perseus killed Medusa by using a shield that reflected her image back to her. Odin's going to be able to finish the job.

Nearly up-to-date.

I ran into Medusa's tower before, when I took a wrong turning on the way to Bortevo the first time I left Gothic. So, back to Uzo, fly to Gothic, and to the tower, Repunzal. I worked my way through the tower, which was a nightmare - traps everywhere which meant I kept on ending up in the basement, and there were some very nasty enemies in there. I had to go back to gothic a couple of times to restart. I also suspect I looked very odd on the train trying to draw a map as I went. But it all paid off, as I found Medusa, and killed her in four turns. She left behind a Laconian axe. I just hope it's good.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Battalion Wars: shooting down gunships

Two more excellent missions tonight; firstly I had to take a castle from the enemy, which I did by dividing my units and attacking from two sides at once; and secondly I had to destroy eight heavy tanks, using four light tanks and some bazookas. The second one was rather complicated by the presence of gunship helicopters, which I had to get my missile units to shoot down.

The only issue I'm finding is that I'm getting a low rank (generally a C) because I'm not doing the missions quickly enough. In order to get a better rank I'd have to know what to do from the start, but I don't feel like going back and redoing any missions. Yet.

The next mission looks rather hard, but I'm going to be given some artillary units so it should be amusing ...

Phantasy Star: battling for cash

On the way in to work this morning I decided to try to raise some of the money I need to buy things in Phantasy Star. While some of the areas I visited recently have a fair number of high-earning enemies, sometimes the battles can go on a bit and I'd have to heal quite often. So I headed back to Eppi for a wonder the forest, and to go werebat hunting.

So far I've earnt 8500 mesata from wandering around killing the werebats. I'm sufficiently levelled up that I can take down a group of four of them in two turns, normally suffering no damage. It's a little bit dull, but at least soon I'll be able to afford the equipment I want to buy. Then it'll be onwards and upwards.

In any case, such a mindless task is useful for doing while I'm listening to the 1Up Yours podcast.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Battalion Wars: moving out

I've set up my GameCube temporarily, so have spent this evening playing through some games that have hardly ever been touched, if at all. Sonic Gems was a great diversion for an hour, playing through the first level of Sonic CD, Sonic R, Sonic 2 for the Game Gear and Sonic Drift. I'd forgotten how confusing Sonic CD was. If I'd got it when it first came out, and had devoted as much time to it as I did to Sonic and Sonic 2, I'd know my way around all the levels, knowing when to time travel and so on. But only getting it six years ago meant that it's not had the time it deserves, and I don't think it ever will, unless all my other games mysteriously combust.

I played Ikaruga - fun but too hard for this evening; Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg - great and I've got the theme tune in my head now; Viewtiful Joe - again, too hard for this evening; and Battalion Wars.

I'd not played Battalion Wars at all; I bought it in a sale a while ago but after my GameCube had been packed up for the move. This evening I've played through and cleared the first four missions, and ... well, it's excellent. It's an action game first and foremost, but in the last mission I played the strategy crept back in, to the point where I was commanding other units rather than firing at the enemies myself.

You can see the Advance Wars influences, with strategy requiring you to command bazooka units to attack tanks, and infantry to attach bazookas, and so on. There's a clever paper-scissors-stone feel to many of the battles, and victory relies on you sending the right group in to do the job. Of course, in these early stages there's a lot of hand-holding, but it's done in a immersive way, with your brigadier (Betty) letting you know where the enemy's coming from and what units they've got.

The last mission was well-structured, too. It involved busting into an enemy camp, rescuing two scouts and driving them off in a recon vehicle, avoiding bazookas and missiles all the way home. Once hom, you had to defend against a retaliatory force. They may have killed a lot of my units, but I managed to last it out, using an airlifted-in tank to destroy their vehicles.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories: mayhem in a fire engine

On the way into work this morning I did a superb mission, set by the priest in the church (I'm on the second island). I had to drive around in a fire engine causing as much mayhem as possible, since cars are evil and a sign of greed. Or something.

Anyway, the fire engine seems to be indestructable, and so you just drive around trying to hit other cars out of the way, getting bonus points for knocking over motorcyclists, spinning cars around or flipping them, and destroying cars. After a while it gets harder, because the police start chasing you ... but at the same time, it's easier because they're trying to drive into you, and you're flipping police cars left, right and centre.

Anyway. that was fun. The next was also amusing - a mission set by a politician to canvass votes by driving a loudspeaker van around town. After claiming a couple of territories the opponent's vans start to do the same, and you have to get five more territories then them ... and once you've done that you can destroy them.

Hooray for mayhem.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Naked War: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

I have no idea how that happened. I was thrashing Kieron in Naked War, with him only having one unit with doofers left. I had three soldiers chasing him around the map. Then in one turn he kills two of those three soldiers, leaving me with one unit with doofers left.

Basically, I made the dire mistake of pushing forward onto the other side of the map too quickly, without ensuring that I kept my other doofers safe. We were effectively down to three doofers at the end - when you kill someone you take all their doofers, so what matters is the number of people with doofers, not the absolute number of doofers - and Kieron managed to capture two of them in subsequent turns, even after I did my best to run away. So I lost.

I've started two more games against him. I can't take this lying down.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mario Kart Dreadful Snaking

I had quite a few games on Mario Kart DS tonight, playing online against Kieron and John. Of course, I won most of them. The online system took a few tries to work, and John had to turn off his torrents to stop it crashing out, but once it was going it was great.

The game loses out on communication, but we solved this by sitting by the computer with a chat window open. Once I'm fully set up with my Xbox we'll have to use a Halo 2 private room for voice instead.

The game also loses out on a community aspect. It's almost as bad as Halo 2 in terms of the sportsmanship of random players. If you win, they quit. Dire. At least you don't get Merkin teenagers shouting that you cheat and you suck.

But played against friends, it's superb. Even when you get blue-shelled twice in one race.

Midweek Challenges - 25/10/2006

After the pain that was hard Stamp Mode, and the endless slog through the Pro tour, I'm going for a change in direction.

Complete a couple of missions on Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories. This may sound like very little, but I've also got to resist the appeal of just driving around stealing stuff.

Get 999 lines again on Tetris DS. Just because.

Play Phantasy Star again, and try to earn enough to buy a laser gun (in Skure), gloves (in Skure), a light sabre (in Uzo), a laser shield (in Abion) and a wand (in Skure). These are all pretty powerful weapons according to the list I've seen, so should put me in good stead to continue with the game.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Touch Golf: professional level completed

Some of the final courses at professional level were just insanely hard. Strong winds, narrow fairways and very good opponents. Oh, and very very lumpy greems - the keepers should be ashamed. On one course I finished at +3 and was still 36th.

But I've now finished the professional level, finally, and overall I came first. I've got a bit of money to play with now as well.

One annoying thing is that I can't choose to replay the earlier tournaments to raise more money for equipment or better my scores, but instead I'm forced to progress to the master class. Still, the prize money for the first game is €100,000 and I'm not doing too badly.

Oh, and another annoying thing is that you don't earn anything from playing the standard match play or stroke play games - only the championships. I need more money!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

42 All-Time Classics: hard stamp mode completed

I've been playing through the hard stamp mode, and once I'd got past ludo (which, thankfully, I never have to play again) I had quite a run of success. I beat the DS at chess, at field tactics, at koi-koi, and at Texas hold'em. Lots of other games too, which I can't remember.

I've now completed all the stamp modes, and I'm not sure I'll play this for a couple of weeks, apart from in multiplayer. The missions are generally just too hard or random, and I've got lots of other stuff to do.

Now I've completed this, I might think about playing some other games.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Touch Golf: blowing on

Since when have you seen professional golfers playing in pouring rain with winds up to 15mph? You haven't. Yet there I am with my stupid non-running ball and special shot that seemingly makes the shot worse. Bah.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

42 All-Time Classics: medium stamp mode completed

The final game - Escape - was easier on the medium setting than on the easy setting. Maybe I was just being more spatially aware.

I was quite pleased about some of the last games, though. I managed to win Chess, and Texas Hold'em, and even Koi-Koi - though the latter was more by luck than skill. I somehow won Darts too, even though it's a shambolic mess of inaccuracy.

I ought to now play some other game, but I just know I'll start the hard stamp mode on the train home tonight.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 11/10/2006

42 All-Time Classics has been wedged in my DS since I got it. I've not turned on my Game Boy Micro or my PSP at all.



Earn enough to buy a laser gun (in Skure), gloves (in Skure), a light sabre (in Uzo), a laser shield (in Abion) and a wand (in Skure) in Phantasy Star.

Complete the Pro class of Touch Golf.

Complete stamp mode on the medium setting in 42 All-Time Classics.

42 All-Time Classics: ludo

What an utterly, utterly pointless and painful game this is.

Ludo was never a great game against human players, but against the computer it's just stupid. There's no skill to it, it's just chance. This is all to obvious from my experiences yesterday.

In the first game, it was only after 35 dice rolls that I got a six, and was able to move my first piece. It had been around 30 rolls before the computer got its first six. That's over sixty rolls of the dice just seeing "no move" over and over again. What fun!

The computer won that game, by a very narrow margin.

The second game was even worse. I got sixes with alarming frequency, moving all my pieces out onto the board. The computer didn't. In fact, I had three of my pieces home by the time the computer got its first six ... and the next turn my remaining piece landed on top of the computer's piece, sending it back home. I therefore completed the game without the computer having a single piece in play.

At least that's over with ... for now. I've completed stamp mode on easy, and am now halfway through it on the medium difficulty level. I've still got to play ludo one more time for the hard level. Joy.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 04/10/2006

Because I've been ill, I only managed one challenge last week ...


Earn enough to buy a laser gun (in Skure), gloves (in Skure), a light sabre (in Uzo), a laser shield (in Abion) and a wand (in Skure) in Phantasy Star.

Complete the Pro class of Touch Golf.

Complete stamp mode on the easy setting in 42 All-Time Classics, which should be waiting for me when I go back to work. Apparently it's doable in a couple of days.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Touch Golf: dragging on and on

Make that 24,196,273 tournaments.

I've not been playing much, though, because I've been ill. As such, there's been no progress on Phantasy Star ... and I reckon I'm getting close to the end of that, so I ought to make a final push.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

River Rapids

Given that Soren's high score on Brickbreaker is increasing at a rate of knots, I've decided to try some of the other games available for download on the Blackberry. River Rapids is a simulation of white-water canoeing, and it works so much better than Brickbreaker in terms of the controls. The scroll wheel turns your canoe, and you've also got boost and brake buttons Other than that, though, you're at the mercy of the water.

It's not easy, but I've progressed a fair bit, unlocking three new courses and setting some good times. The trick is to not incur any penalties, even if that means going back upstream to pass through a missed gate. On the first course I found a good course which meant that I didn't miss any gates at all, but it's not so easy on the other courses.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 27/09/2006

Much the same as last week ...

Earn enough to buy a laser gun (in Skure), gloves (in Skure), a light sabre (in Uzo), a laser sheild (in Abion) and a wand (in Skure) in Phantasy Star.

Complete the Pro class of Touch Golf.

Complete the first two stages of River Rapids.

Touch Golf: dragging on

No, I've not completed the professional class, but that's mainly because it seems to have 24,196 tournaments to complete before you can progress. I'm winning about 75% of them, and coming 2nd or 3rd in the rest. I'll keep going.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Phantasy Star: flying around the galaxy

Now I remember where I was. I was trying to earn money in order to buy new equipment for everyone from the new towns I can now get to.

It's a little monotonous having to fight over and over again to get mesatas though.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Wipeout Pure: unlocking stuff

It still seems hit-or-miss as to whether things unlock or not, but I've just completed the Ascension tournament on the Vector difficulty, and came second overall, and that's unlocked the next difficulty level up. Flash, I seem to recall.

No idea how I can get the other tournaments to be available in Venom though. They're all available in Vector, but even completing them there doesn't seem to unlock anything.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Brickbreaker: unfunniness and funniness

Soren has just got a score of over 25,000. Unfunny.

In the next couple of weeks, they'll be installing a new Blackberry server system at work, which will reset all data on all devices. Funny.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tetris DS: puzzle mode

It's a welcome break from the franticness of the normal gameplay, but I'm not convinced it's entirely great. For some reason I can never remember the rule that you must always clear at least one line each time, and so get very frustrated when the piece doesn't drop in the correct place.

I'm not sure how many puzzle levels there are, but I'm looking forward to completing it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 20/09/2006

No, no updates for ages! Shock, horror!

Well, I have been on holiday. I think I'm allowed that.

Complete the Pro class of Touch Golf.

Unlock the Ascension tournament in Wipeout Pure's Venom class.

Get back into Phantasy Star. I sort of forgot where I was while on holiday.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Phantasy Star: Dr Luveno and the spaceship

I've rescued Noah, and he told me to go and find a Dr Luveno. He, apparently, could build me a spaceship. I seem to recall from the opening sequence that there were are three planets in the system - maybe it's almost time for me to go to the last one.

Noah's presence somehow allowed me to go down a manhole cover that I couldn't before, and I've found a new little town on the other side of the river. It's pretty desolte, full of ruined houses and beggars. One of them send me south to find the prison where Dr Luveno was locked up.

Monsters around here are scary and powerful. Luckily I've upgraded all my kit.

I managed to rescue Dr Luveno from the prison, and went back to the village (Gothic) where he built me a spaceship in 20 seconds flat. Rather impressive. Now I just need to find a pilot. I have no idea where ...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 06/09/2006

I'm off on holiday at the end of the week, and won't be playing much ...

Get to the third planet in Phantasy Star.

Clear another twenty levels in Tetris DS's puzzle mode.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Phantasy Star: Nuala caves

Far surpassed the challenge, and I'm getting into this game quite a lot. After the initial difficult stage, where any monster had a fair chance of killing Alis, I've now got a party of three characters who are relatively powerful and can at least put up a decent fight. Plus Alis has learnt a heal spell which allows her to replenish the health of anyone on the team when needed.

It's been hinted that I need to see the governor, and it's been further hinted that he likes sweets. And finally someone in Scion's told me there's a cake shop in the caves of Nuala. I can now appreciate the history behind the cake mission in Phantasy Star Online!

So I set off to Nuala, meeting werebats along the way (they put up a bit of a fight, but they give loads of mesata when killed). I save just outside the cave, and enter. I light a flash, and can see the dungeons spreading out ahead of me. I use my newly-discovered dungeon key and go through the door. I'm attacked by five Goldlenses, and fight them off like a champ.

It's good fun, though I resort to drawing a map as I go since it's a bit sprawling. I get some odd looks from the people on the train, balancing a pad on my knee, playing a game. Only because they're bored. They ought to buy a Game Boy Micro.

I finall make my way down four floors, and find the cake merchant. He sells me some shortbread for 1000 mesatas - rather expensive confectionary! - and then I realise that I'm going to have to go through the caves to get out again, since there's no teleporting here. I'm a bit low on health, so I drink loads of cola and set off.

After a long slog out I emerge into the sunlight. Excellent. Save ... and the game crashes. Without saving.

I'm going to have to do it all over again.


At least I've got my map.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Doom RPG: completed!

I wasn't that near the end, as it turns out. I'd just survived a massive explosion and Junction was ruined, but I still had to fight my way through the red reactor section before getting to the portal. Oh, and on the way, kill Kronos.

In fact, killing Kronos was easy. One hit with a rocket and one from the BFG and he went down.

I regretted that later though. Tim's Top Tip - save your BFG cells for the cyberdemon. He's a bit mean. I died a couple of times when I first met him - the problem is that you have to destroy two power couplings while monsters get spewed from the portal every couple of turns. And some of these monsters can revive others. I worked out the trick is to destroy the power couplings as quickly as possible, then just kill the cyberdemon quickly before other monsters are revived and get in your way.

And then escape.

The game's hinted there's more to find and I've been placed back at the beginning with all my weapons and passkeys, but I'm not sure I can be bothered to carry on right now. Maybe soon.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 30/08/2006

Having moved all of my stuff into the new house, it's now all in boxes.

Complete Doom RPG. I've played it a fair bit over the past few days since it's been available. It's a really good game, and although the story's a bit lightweight it does add to the atmosphere. I think I'm probably near the end now.

Get Alis to level 5 of Phantasy Star. It's an RPG game that starts off with the painful levelling that most RPGs finish with. It should be outlawed.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 23/08/2006

Very simply, one challenge this week:

Move house

I think that might just cover it. If I get a chance, I'll play some Tetris, and some Wipeout Pure. But it's unlikely.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Tetris DS: online

Hmm. It's hard. I lost my first game dreadfully. I then played a four-player game, which I came second on, then fourth, then third twice. Then I played someone called "Kerri" who beat me twice, before I beat them three times.

That felt good.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Wipeout Pure: downloading stuff

I've spent the last hour or so downloading all the extra tracks and racers for Wipeout Pure. It all seems a bit of a hasty addition, with nothing to tell you which ones you've already go and so on. Anyway, I've now got a huge number of competitions to try out before I need to worry about unlocking the others.

Which is probably a good thing. I've had a look at a guide and it seems that to unlock the next tournament I need to get all golds on the current tournaments. I'm sure I could do that; I'm just not sure I can be bothered to sit through the same races again only for the AI racers to overtake me on the last corner.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 16/08/2006

Win a game of Tetris DS online.

Work out how to unlock the next lot of stuff on Wipeout Pure.

Complete three more intermediate sudoku puzzles in Brain Training.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Touch Golf: the first 'level'

I'm no longer a rookie, I'm now a professional.

The prize money hasn't gone up much, but the competition's much harder.

I don't think that's a fair trade.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Tetris DS: marathon mode completed

On my third go, no less - I've completed 200 lines and so have unlocked the "endless" mode. I must admit, the old-school Tetris theme was nice to hear as the blocks were just appearing at the bottom of the screen. That God for the everlasting rotation stuff that the Tetris Company made Nintendo put in - it gives you a chance to move.

Some of the other modes are very clever. Puzzle suits the DS very well, although it can be solved by trial and error if needed. Touch puzzle is a little more difficult, but again there has been one level which I've 'solved' by randomly moving pieces around. The touch mode is fun, if not frantic enough. And the mission mode is inspired.

The less said about the catch mode the better, though. I'm not entirely sure I understand it anyway, but it does seem largely uncontrollable and just not fun.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dr Kawashima's Brain Training: drawing pictures

I'm no artist, but Dr Kawashima's just shown me Tamsyn's attempts at drawing a shark and a swordfish. Mine are works of art compared to hers.

I feel allowed to mock, though, since she's got all the high scores on Calculation x100. Boo.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Animal Crossing: Wild World: my flowers

I really need to get a better camera for this.

Anyway, here's my flower display. Unfortunately there hadn't been rain for a while, so I couldn't take a picture with all flowers fresh.

But you get the idea.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 09/08/2006

Suffice to say, I completed all of last week's challenges. I'll write more on the games when I get the time.

Win another $30,000 in Touch Golf.

Complete the 200-line marathon mode in Tetris DS.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Singstar: an 80s party

A superb game, it turns out. I never thought I was amazing at singing, but Singstar indicates that I'm not bad. I can hold a tune, at least.

Unlike many of the other people at my aunt's birthday party.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 02/08/2006

Complete a round of Touch Golf. Easy, I know - but I've not played it at all yet.

Complete the first ten puzzle levels of Tetris DS.

Get a brain age of 20, to beat my wife's 21.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Animal Crossing: Wild World: goodbyeeeeeeee

I can't devote any more time to it. I've only caught 70% of the insects and 75% of the fish, and collected 90% of the umbrellas, but Animal Crossing is now becoming too much of a chore. But don't feel sad, since the game has provided me with almost daily enjoyment for over eight months.

Stewart's bought himself a DS Lite, so I've taken a couple of pictures of my flower displays. I've written some letters to Blaire, to Bones and to Nibbles. I've tidied up my junk room, and released the fish I had in my pink room.

I will go back to Bangaio, one day. I will venture back and with John and Kieron's help I'll clear up all the weeds, and revisit all my townspeople. But for now, the town is silent.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Outrun 2006: Clarissa's challenges

I think that's her name, anyway.

I completed a few of the flagman challenges, but fancied something different so started to play some of Clarissa's heart attack missions. And they're hard.

In fact, I've only unlocked about half of them so far, since you need to complete a stage in a normal heart attack event before you can replay it over and over again by itself. It's not just reaching the stages - I can just about manage that - but there are up to four different modes for each stage, the later ones of which are obtained by reaching them while getting at least As in all previous stages.

And this is the first of three heart attack mission modes!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hitman: Contracts: big fat meat man

It's not too bad a game, and I do like the open-endedness of it, but I'm finding it rather hard. The first level was easy enough once I realised that the SWAT teams didn't pay me any attention if I was wearing an asylum inmate's outfit, and not carrying a weapon. The second level was much more complicated, though. Eventually I worked out that I could kill the lawyer first when he went to the loo, then steal his VIP pass and nick some clothes from a passed-out guest to get upstairs to see the big fat boss man.

Not sure how much I'll play this, but it's nice to have to think about things for a change.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Brickbreaker: challenge accepted

13210, on level 24. That makes me amused, and Soren annoyed.

In other words, I have a score 1.339 times Soren's, and have progressed seven levels further.

And I still think the game's a bit pants. I've just worked out a strategy for dealing with the levels where there's a row of silver blocks across the bottom of the playing field. The gun destroys these blocks; so as long as you get a gun you can destroy at least the silver block in the middle, meaning that if you die it's not necessarily game over.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 26/07/2006

Complete the first two levels of Hitman: Contracts, which I got for £2.99 from Choices.

Take pictures of my flower display in Animal Crossing before I leave it to die.

Complete at least six of the third set of flagman races in Outrun 2006.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Doom RPG: backtracking

After gaining the green keycard, there's a door in sector 1 (in the yellow area) which you're able to open. To get there you have to go through the whole of the sector, fighting off easy enemies with a single shot. Then you get through the green door, and blue dogs start jumping at you and it's just a bit scary.

Anyway, the green sector is relatively easy, once you've levelled up a bit. Again, though, I didn't find many secrets along the way.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Brickbreaker: challenge extended

Soren's just emailed me to tell me that he's got a new Brickbreaker high score, on level 17, of 9865.

I've also managed to get to level 17, but my score is only 9290.

I am not amused.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Outrun 2006: Outrun class cars

With a few Outrun Miles under my belt, I've bought some Outrun class cars. Hideous things - take a lovely designed Ferrari and add some chavvy spoilers and bodywork to it. But they go so much faster with such better acceleration it's unfunny. They're a bit more slidey, and it's more difficult to control the powerslides, but I can just about manage. It does feel like controlling a wild beast though.

Previously I was having a bit of a job finishing the harder arcade routes. I can do them easily on the Xbox Outrun 2, but on occasion I wasn't even getting to the last stage on the PSP. No longer. I completed destination D on my second go with the Outrun class 360 Spider, and I reckon the SP tracks will be similar.

I also tried some of the missions with the new car. The novice missions are all completed at AAA level now. But on the professional level, the game's rather ruined by idiotic AI. On 'race the rivals' stages, I can catch up to and overtake the leading cars in the first two stages. And yet even if I have a clean race all the way from that point, if I then mess up the last corner five cars go shooting past me. Really frustrating.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures

I've owned this for a long time, but we've not really played it much. And given that our previous save is in my Gamecube box, which in turn is in Box A9, which is under Box A27, Box A30 and Box 6, it seemed easier to start again when John brought this along.

I'm glad we did. This is a superb game, once you've worked out the controls - which aren't difficult really, they're just context-sensitive. I've written a review for Wii Ouendan, here. As I say there, the mix of competitiveness and collaboration works excellently, and we played through three levels last night having a great laugh. I'm sure we would have played more if it wasn't just past midnight, on a school night.

I look forward to our next game.

Sega Casino: multiplayer Texas hold 'em

The awful background music aside, this works really well in multiplayer. Of course, you can't see other people's screens, so you have to have a good poker face when placing your bids and so on. I obviously did, because I won. This was rather good.

This was helped by John placing stupidly large bids to start with, not realising we had limited money. He went out soon after. I then went on to win a lot off of Kieron in one hand, when I had three of a kind to his two pairs. After that we were pretty even for ages, with me on £3500 and him on £2500. To save John's boredom, Kieron went all in on what he thought was a winning hand. It wasn't.

They now owe me £2000 each.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike: Kieron wins. Again.

It's getting dull now. Too routine. We start a game of Advance Wars DS. Several hours later, Kieron wins. BORING.

Well, not really. The game's as fun as ever, and last night we played on one of the pre-deployed maps, which meant the game was actually finished (instead of ending in stalemate) and didn't take five hours to get going. Definitely the way to go in the future. However, Kieron's tactics were again superior to mine or John's. We knew they would be, and to start with I wasn't attacking John's units and he wasn't attacking mine - through some sort of unspoken understanding.

At least, John didn't think he was attacking my units. It turns out that he thought I was blue when actually I was green.

I'll have to practice for next time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 19/07/2006

Complete success last week!

Get past level 16 of Brickbreaker. This is the level with the row of indestructable blocks preventing you from progressing if you lose a life. I always lose a life.

Complete a run of Outrun 2 (on Coast 2 Coast on the PSP) finishing at stage D.

Complete parts 1 and 2 of the green sector in Doom RPG.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Doom RPG: green keycard get

Completed the yellow sector now, although I've missed a lot of secret areas along the way. Rather annoyingly, if you go back into any completed sectors it doesn't provide you with the map you'd uncovered previously, so you can't see where you'd found secrets before.

Some of the enemies are getting just a little scary.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Pro Evolution Soccer 5: preset results?

I'm getting a little fed up with this now. I'm pretty sure the game has decided which games it wants me to win and which ones it doesn't For example, I came back to the game after a brief break, and lost the next game in the league. I'd managed to keep possession quite well, though; I just couldn't score. So I abandoned that and played a few exhibition maches to get back up to speed. Won all of those.

I went back into the league and lost again. Again, I was playing well, but every shot was wide or saved. I tried quitting out and playing again. The same thing happened; but this time I defended well and managed a draw. My squad was knackered afterwards though.

I won the next game 5-0.

The first game was against North East London (Spurs, who are midway down the table). The second game was against Manchester Red (United, who are second, behind me). I don't think that follows somehow.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Naked War

Fabulous fun. I've posted a little on Wii Ouendan here. I'm currently in the middle of five games, of which I think I'm likely to win two. One is a bit of a stalemate at the moment.

I can't wait until I can start sending out challenges to everyone rather than just those on the Beta program.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Brickbreaker is a crappy game that comes installed on any Blackberry device. It's a Breakout and Arkanoid type game, with you controlling the paddle using the Blackberry scroll wheel. Unfortunately, said scroll wheel is rather stiff and clunky, and difficult to use, so it makes the game a bit rubbish. And some of the design decisions in the game make it really dire:
  • The ball doesn't bounce off of a wall at the angle you would expect - it seems to be prretty random whether it bounces back at a more obtuse or acute angle than it hit at
  • The powerups are assigned at random, which means that you could be lucky and get five extra lives in the first three levels, or you could get none, making whether you get very far in the game random as well
  • One of the powerups is the catch. But when you catch a ball, you then can't move your paddle until you've released the ball, meaning you miss out on any other powerups that are falling
  • When you catch the ball, you can change where the ball's aimed by rotating a guideline with the scrollwheel. But when you fire the ball, it doesn't actually go where the guideline said
  • After not very many hits, the playing field starts to move down the screen, one block each time you hit the ball, until the bottom of the block field is just above your bat. In later levels, such as level 16, there's a row of indestructable blocks across the bottom of the main block field. If you lose a life after the field has moved down, you have no chance of surviving long enough to get the ball back up into play, so effectively you've lost all your lives at once.
I've played it a lot, though. Why? Because Soren, someone I work with, told me his score. I beat it, he beat mine, and so on, and currently I'm about 200 ahead (on 9155). Competitiveness is a good thing.