Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Playing US GameCube games on a PAL Wii

Oooh, this is exciting. No need for Freeloader, just a bit of good timing:
  • Put a PAL GameCube game into the disc slot
  • Enter the Disc Channel screen
  • Point at the start button - but don't press anything yet
  • Press the eject button
  • Press A on the start button as late as possible, just before the button's disabled
  • Take the PAL disc out and put the US disc in as quickly as possible
  • The US (or, indeed, Japanese) GameCube disc should then load
Courtesy of Dolqube. No idea yet as to how this affects memory cards - bear in mind that with the GameCube you needed separate memory cards for Japanese and Roman characters.

Desert Strike: rescuing the secret agent

At lunchtime today I had a go of Desert Strike, and completed the first level. It's harder than I remember, or maybe that's just the PSP's crappy D-pad. It's great fun, though, and there's a lot of strategy there within the shooting - having to plan out a route to collect fuel on the way's a regular occurrence.

It did get me thinking about the time at which this game was released, though. Desert Strike sits more comfortably in history just after the 1991 rout of Iraq, where the US-led forces invaded in order to dispel Saddam's attack on Kuwait. The military operation was neat and powerful. For years afterwards, Iraq was kept in check through military restrictions and economic sanctions. It's all a far cry from the current situation, following the second war in Iraq. The country's hardly being governed at all, and the US can't keep control. It's a mess, and a game like Desert Strike probably wouldn't fit as well today. Even Conflict: Desert Storm wouldn't work as well today - it relies on the idea that your side will win in the end. And there's no real winner out there.

Road Rash: is Natasha supposed to be attractive?

Honest question. I'm halfway through level 2 now, with three 1st places under my belt. This bike is much better.

Hotel Dusk: Room 215: what's going on?

I've got a lot to say about this game, so you'll have to bear with me.

Firstly, the style of it is just amazing. Very few games have gone down the film noir path, and certainly none have combined film noir with Aha's Take on Me video. Even when the game's standing still, the characters shimmer in their pencil-drawn state. Combined with the well-modelled backgrounds and clever 3D exploratory bits, it's really good to look at. Sort of. The shimmering didn't half give me a headache after a while.

The story's really different from most videogames too. You're really thrown in at the deep end not knowing too much about where you are or what you're meant to be doing. So far I've established that I'm playing an ex-cop, whose partner went missing three years previously after being shot. I now work as a salesman and with a bit of private detection stuff on the side. I have to find things that have gone missing.

The game's split into chapters, which cover 30 minutes of real time. I've found out that some things are due to happen in the future - like the TV will be on between 7pm and 9pm. I've completed chapter 1 (5:00pm - 5:30pm) and I was impressed with the roundup at the end - Kyle Hyde (the character I play) gave a rundown of all that had happened so far and asked me questions to make sure I understood.

I also like the notepad on which you can write notes with the stylus. Unfortunately it's only available at certain times - I wish there was the option to write something down in the middle of a conversation. Maybe it's not really needed yet, though.

The way conversation's handled is a bit odd. Annoyingly, you can't skip the text scrolling, so it takes ages to read. As you go through, if something raises a question in Kyle's head, that question scrolls above his head - but while conversation continues on the other screen. So you have to read both at the same time - or, more accurately, the question first, since that scrolls past and doesn't reappear. But the question relates to something being said on the other screen, so you'll be reading it out of order.

Overall, I'm intrigued by the story and game, and will of course be continuing. I'll try not to spoil the story too much ... I'm sure Kieron will want to play it himself!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Road Rash

This morning I got EA Classics through the post, and so at lunchtime I had a quick go at Road Rash. It's still great. Well, the gameplay mechanic is. But it's got an appalingly low framerate, and on the PSP screen it's massively pixellated. There also seems to be a bit of a lag on the punch button, but then again I have a feeling it was like that on the Mega Drive as well.

I managed to complete the first set of five races easily enough, but I then stupidly bought the third bike which isn't fast enough to really compete at the second set of five. I had to come 2nd or 3rd a few times until I could afford to upgrade my bike again. I've now got a much better bike - the Kamakaze 750 - so am ready to win again.

The EA Replay packaging's bright orange. The copy from VideogamesPlus comes with the normal English manual inside, and a French translation cellophane wrapped onto the side of the box. But the French translation of the manual's bigger than the English one, so it won't actually fit inside the box.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


I've not played a game all day today. It's the first day since launch that my Wii hasn't got a "today's playtime" message on the message board. How sad.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kororinpa: green crystals got

I've now got all the green crystals on the main 45 levels of the game. I can't see any crystals on the secret levels, so I presume that's it, unless there are an extra five main levels like the selection grid hints at.

I enjoyed getting these - some are pretty well hidden and require a leap of faith. It's a good job I found out about the view map option!

Super Mario World: Donut Plains passed

Nothing too taxing, and I think I found all the hidden exits too - I found two exits from every level with a red dot. The only bit that had me confused was the ghost house, which had me stuck in a loop for ages - until I realised I didn't need to push the button to go out of the first door.

Tomb Raider Legend: completed!

I killed the big monster, and then got out of the crypt despite being shot at by lots of gunmen. On the way I found a gold reward - my first, I believe. A short trip to Croft Manor, and then I was off to Nepal. While the story's a little bit convoluted, I felt a little sad for Lara having to go back to the plane crash which she lived through when she was 9. Nepal was quite a short level really, though it wasn't too straightforward - one section in particular had me wishing for a Prince-of-Persia-style time rewind function. Having to jump off of four slides in succession isn't easy.

So, I completed Nepal and found Lara's mum's brooch, which turned out to be the key to fitting Excalibur back together. It wouldn't fit into the stone in Nepal, however, so I had to go back to Bolivia. Not really a level, more a final fight. It was made all the more difficult since I only had Excalibur, no guns, and I couldn't get the hang of using the magic it threw out. Luckily I found a gun emplacement which made my job easier. And then onto the final boss, Amanda in her demonic form.

She died, I pushed the sword into the stone, I saw Lara's mum on the other side of a portal, and then Amanda told us that Lara's mum wasn't dead, she'd gone to Avalon. And that was the end of the game.

I did some more exploring in Croft Manor afterwards, and found a series of inscriptions ... which led me to the gold reward. I think my save file says 90% now ... I've not done any levels as a time trial, or collected all the rewards. I may well do so at some point, since this is an excellent game.

Kororinpa: main levels completed?

Kororinpa is a tray maze game, where you have to guide the ball through the maze by tilting the level. Obviously, towards the end the protective walls disappear and the walkways get thinner.

I've played this for a total of two hours and 39 minutes, and I've already gone through the 45 main levels, and then played through the 12 secret levels I'd unlocked. I have a feeling I've not unlocked levels 46-50, and secret levels 13-15, since there are blocks on the board.

Still, this isn't a game where the objective is to get through the levels. I've set a few best times on some levels, with five or six gold cups and a smattering of silvers. I've collected most of the green gems (which unlock secrets), and unlocked a lot of different balls to use. Some of these are really hard to use - like the planets or the galaxy, and especially the rugby ball. Ouch.

The levels are really well designed. Unlike Super Monkey Ball, there's no limit as to the amount you can tilt the stage - although if it's upside-down then it goes a bit glitchy. As long as you can control your movements, you can rescue just about anything. Consider, for example, Advanced 15 on the original Super Monkey Ball. If the monkey went too far down the zig-zag, and didn't take the corner tightly enough, then there was no way of recovering it. That wouldn't happen here. Indeed, one of the earlier levels is set on a semi-circular cake, and you can effectively travel along the side if you're careful enough.

This lack of consistent gravity leads to some really clever mazes, where you must use a corner to get onto a different side and keep the controller tilted that way for the next part of the level. Some of the later levels get really complex like this, with frequent jumps having to be landed by twisting the controller. I had a job keeping track of where I was sometimes; I dread to think how hard it was for the level designers.

It's not a perfect game, by any means. It does seem really short, although the fact that any level can be replayed as a time trial, and there are a number of secrets to unlock, does extend it somewhat. My save file is on 62%, and I think it'll be a lot harder to get it above that than it was to get it there - gold cups in particular are tricky to get. I've found most of the green crystals though.

Oh, and one last annoying thing - it doesn't use the pointer functionality of the Wii remote at all. No, not even for the menus.

How annoying.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Super Mario World: first level cleared

I've now got a classic controller, and it makes the game great. I've completed the first world - beaten the boss, hit the yellow switch palace - and am now looking around the first level in the second world which apparently has more than one exit.

One annoying thing is that I can't see any indication on the map screen as to whether I've collected all five Yoshi coins on any one level. It's good fun other than that.

It may have to go on hold for a while, though - Kororinpa's arrived.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tomb Raider Legend: England

Coincidentally, a King Arthur museum was built on top of King Arthur's actual grave. Shock! The run-down museum was a great setting for the start of this level, with interactive displays in a state of decay telling you all about the Arthurian legend. I can understand the point of the game's subtitle now - it's regarding the fact that the same legend exists all over the world, with swords in stones and round daises (yes, that is the plural, I've checked!) and magic and mystical swords. Excalibur in this case. This was revealed through the narration provided by Lara's helpers sitting in the van outside. Ever helpful.

The level itself was pretty varied. After climbing down below the collapsed floor, I got to shift some boxes around with a fork-lift truck, drive the fork-lift through some shooty spear bits (breaking them in the process) and ram a wall to break it. Then I had to make my way down a staircase where half the steps had already fallen down and the rest were crumbing. I had to use some boxes to get through spinny blades of death by jamming them, then use the same boxes to climb over some fire. In the end, after surfing on some coffins, I found a massive underground temple, and inside ...

King Arthur. No, really him.

In order to get the sword which was encased with Arthur in a piece of Amber, I had to ring a bell. The bell was on the ground. I had to move half a tomb to next to a broken pillar, then get a chandelier swinging, climb up into the pillar and then jump onto a counterweight to raise the bell up. It took ages to work that out. After all that, the door opened and there was a big monster outside. My support outside has gone dead - I suspect others have turned up.

The big monster killed me. Next time, I shall kill it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tomb Raider Legend: Kazakhstan

It's freezing cold, and Lara's actually dressing sensibly for once. I've explored the complex, and have found the remains of magnetism experiments which could be turned on and played with. I tracked Amanda through the complex and fought a lot - it was another shooty level with not too much exploration - and then I got to the big boss battle. The big demon enemy from the flashback in Peru!

It took me a few deaths before I realised that I didn't really have to kill the boss - not that you could, because the only way to attack it is to push it back into one of the electricity arcs, at which point it loses 90% of its energy and disappears to recuperate. Instead I had to run around the room and flick four switches on, which brought a big contraption down from the ceiling. I then had to use the big magnetic gun in the middle of the room to push conducting orbs into the paths of the electric arcs, and then jump out of the gun and grab the sword fragment without being killed by the demon. I kind of missed what happened to it, and to Amanda, after that.

I'm now off to Cornwall, following a map that was found on the back of an ancient shield.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Tomb Raider Legend: Peru, Japan and Ghana

I finished in Peru, finding another dais and information about the civilisation that had lived there. Then I went to Tokyo to meet with a yakuza boss, in order to get part of the sword that Rutland had. This level took place at a cocktail party, which was a pleasant change of scenery. I met with and defeated the boss, then was sent to Ghana where Rutland was seen to be heading. Found my way through to the end of the level and killed him, but not before he revealed that Amanda was still alive. So I'm off to Kazakhstan to find her.

I'm really enjoying this. It's a really pretty game, and you get to absorb all of that when looking around for the path to the next checkpoint. There are some small invisible walls, unfortunately - stopping you walking all the way along a clifftop, for example, but generally it's well structured. It's a shame that Lara can apparently run through plants without touching them.

It reminds me of a slightly slower-paced Prince of Persia. Lara's not quite as athletic - she can't jump as high, not run along walls and so on - but the basic idea of working out a route is the same.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Football Manager Handheld: an update

I'm still playing this a lot, and have finished my first season in League 1 ending in 11th - a good midway position. The board of directors gave me only £55k to spend on new players though, which is a bit of a nightmare. Luckily I managed to get some people on the transfer list at a cheap rate - including Compton, a midfielder valued at £450k, for free.

Oddly it seems like the expensive players aren't actually that much better. I've started the new season and am just above the relegation positions after a constant stream of draws and losses.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Super Mario World: control idiocy

I bought Super Mario World from the virtual console. I played it for about ten minutes before realising it just doesn't work with the GameCube controller. You need to be able to hold down run and jump at the same time - and considering these use the Y and B buttons, that's impossible. Thay're too far apart and there's a massive A button in the middle.

Luckily I've a classic controller on the way from Amazon already.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Tomb Raider Legend: Bolivia

Really quite a stunning game. It looks lovely, and it's just enough like the old Tomb Raiders to be part of the series but distant enough to be a real evolution.

I completed the first two Tomb Raider games, found 3 to be far too long, and despite owning them for the Dreamcast I've never played Last Revelation or Chronicles. I've not got a PS2, so Angel of Darkness remains out-of-reach - probably for the best.

This seems to correct everything that was wrong with 3. I'm back to looking around tombs, puzzle-solving to progress, looking for clues in the scenery around me. There's perhaps a little too much shooting action, but otherwise it's great. I've finished the first level in Bolivia, and I'm now in Peru. The story's a little confusing, with you controlling Lara in flashback situations and so on, but it seems to have rewritten the whole Lara Croft history to suit the game. Probably no bad thing.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Football Manager Handheld: I won League Two

In the end, I won it by 8 points. And I won the League Two manager of the year award.

I'm chuffed.

I expect that League One's going to be rather tricky, but I have a pretty good team now so hopefully I'll be able to avoid relegaton in the next year and build upwards again. The board's only given me £140k to work with, though, so it might be a bit of a push ...

Rayman Raving Rabbids: completed!

As complete as I'll ever get it, that is. I've worked my way through the main story game, completing every minigame along the way. I've escaped from the cell, and got stuck in a rabbit hole. I've seen the end credits.

Now there appears to be a load more stuff to unlock from playing the minigames over and over again. I'm not sure I can be bothered, actually.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: completed!

The final dungeon - Ganon's castle - wasn't that difficult, really. There were six distinct rooms, and in the second I found the golden gauntlets, which let me pick up massive things. Given this, I thought I'd go and find stuff I'd missed.

I was sure I'd seen massive rocks near the desert colossus and in the Gerudo fortress, but I was wrong. While I was in the desert, though, I did find a great fairy fountain and got given Nairu's Love, a protective spell. And in the Gerudo fortress I found a big block that I hadn't pushed, and more importantly a gap in the ceiling which gave me the last small key and the path to the ice arrows.

There was a massive rock on the outside of Ganon's castle, blocking another great fairy fountain - this one gave me boosted defense, reducing the harm enemies' attacks did me by half - and there were two inside, one in the fire room and one blocking the entrance to the light room.

After completing the six rooms, firing a light arrow into the orb in each one, I climbed the tower, beating lizards and skeletons and big armoured knights on the way up. And then I met Ganondorf.

Good storyline. Ganondorf has the triforce of power, and was sat there playing an organ. I don't know you, but playing an organ just identifies the person as evil. Zelda was floating above the organ. Poor girl. It wasn't even a good song.

Then the organ and Zelda disappeared, and Ganon started throwing balls of energy at me. I pretty quickly caught on the the fact that this was just like the Phantom Ganon battle, and hit then back at him. All this seemed to do was stun him, though. It wasn't until the third time I did it that I realised that the light arrows then shot him out of the sky, and I could go over and beat him up properly.

That took a while - with a break halfway through when I ran out of magic power and had to fall down a big gap to find some bottles in jars - and then he went down. And the castle started to collapse. A timed race out, with enemies on the way that stop progress until you've killed them. Great!

I got out within the three minutes, and Zelda told me it was all over - the big fat liar. A big bang from the ruined castle, and there was Ganon, big and ugly. He took a few swipes at me and the Master Sword went flying outside the ring of fire that had sprung up.

Luckily, Ganon was rather slow, and I quickly realised that I could get behind him and his tail was identified as a target. The hammer hit him, and after a few blows he went down. I ran over and got the Master Sword, and repeated it - though he was faster this time, so I stunned him with the light arrows first, then ran behind and slashed away. After a few hits, he went down again. Zelda held him down using her magical powers, and I delivered the final blow ...

... not quite as good as the final blow in The Wind Waker, but still impressive ...

... and that was it.

Great game.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Football Manager Handheld: Oxford goes down

After rivalling me for the lead of League Two for a long time, Oxford has had a run of bad results, and had slipped to third. Then I played them, and thanks to two goals in the last ten minutes of the game I won. They're down to fourth place now, outside the guaranteed promotion places, and I'm six points clear at the top of the table with four matches to play. I think that if I win another match, I'm guaranteed promotion - I'm nine points above Oxford.

How exciting.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Football Manager Handheld: coincidences

I'm currently second in League Two after a run of poor results in January. But that's not what I want to talk about today.

This morning I was knocked out of both the FA Cup (4th round, against Crystal Palace) and the LDV Vans Cup (Southern semi-final, against MK Dons). Both defeats came about because I had a player sent off, and the opposing team was awarded a penalty. Both sendings off were in the 83rd minute. Both players sent off were plaing in the defensive right position. Both players had the first name "Danny".

Both players are now on the transfer list.