Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: playing the circuits

Until this point I've only been playing the individual events, which, while ideal for learning, seems to mean that you can't unlock anything new to play. So yesterday and this morning I had a go at the circuit mode, which is where you have to play through three set events, being scored for your ranking at each. What with my previous practice, I breezed through the beginner circuits - although I really am hopeless at the long jump, and I messed up the archery since for all but the last two shots I forgot about adjusting for the wind (and as a result was getting really annoyed with my seeming inability to aim straight).

The last event of the circuits was the "dream race" - basically a Mario Kart meets Sonic R meets 100m sprint - which wasn't as good as any of those. I got in front at the start and stayed there, laying bombs behind me, never seeing a shell but occasionally being hit by lightning or a Boo. I never saw any other contestant though.

Hopefully the advanced circuits will unlock further events. But this unlocking idea is daft. I have to get good at the game to unlock stuff. Therefore in order to play the game in multiplayer, I will have had to practised a lot, meaning that I will have a significant advantage over whoever I'm playing against.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Geometry Wars Galaxies: β, γ, δ, and ε clear

I'm still getting silvers before I progress on to the next planet, which is causing problems for some levels - while I can get the bronze quite easily, the silver is a significant step up. One level had me stuck for a whole day - it included something in the centre of the level that was spinning space around it alternating clockwise and anticlockwise. It was hard enough to stay in one place, let alone watch out for enemies that were being thrown at you from the wrong direction.

I really like the way that the levels are so different. Some are non-stop frantic action, with enemies constantly appearing - even to the extent that some enemies will appear wherever your ship was a second previously, so that you need to be constantly on the move. Other levels are more relaxed and (in the case of those levels with large enemy containers) almost let you take them at your own speed (as long as you don't take too long ...).

I'm very tempted to get the Wii version of this as well at some point, to see how differently it plays. Plus, of course, to unlock the last galaxy on the DS game.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Super Mario Galaxy: sixty-one stars in

Back into the game for a bit, and it's every bit as amazing as when I left it. I was worried about having forgotten some of the controls, but it's all so natural - you run where you want to, jump how you want to, shoot star bits, collect star bits ...

I've now completed the first run of galaxies in the bedroom (missing out the hidden stars and most of the comet stars) and have gone up to the engine room. I've passed 60 stars so I could go and rescue Peach ... but no, I'll let her hang on a bit.

I had trouble with one level - a cosmic comet (so a race against Cosmic Mario) on the Gold Leaf galaxy. The main issue I had was with climbing up what was effectively a staircase of blocks, where I kept misjudging my jumps so I hooked onto the side of a block and had to pull myself up, losing time. I lost six lives - but each time I was picking up an extra one, and when I finally finished I won the race easily.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Geometry Wars Galaxies: α clear

I must admit, I never really clicked with Geometry Wars (included within PGR2) or its sequel on the 360. It always seemed a little too hectic, and there was far too much to learn - which enemies did what, how the multiplier system worked, how to maximise points, how to use black holes. It was, I'll readily admit, more my fault than the game's, but there was far too much thrown at you straight away to let you get to grips with it. I never bought the Xbox Live Arcade game - I just played the game within PGR3.

So I don't know why I bought Geometry Wars Galaxies. It might have been the cheap price. It might have been the praise it was getting online. It might have been just because I fancied a quick shooter session and I was out and about. Whatever it was, I'm glad that I did - it's brilliant.

One of my main concerns with the original game(s) was the lack of structure. It all felt very random, and I never got the feeling that there was a set wave pattern to the enemies. In this game not only are there many different levels, with defined goals and objectives, but it's clear that the appearance of the enemies and timing of their attacks has been tightly designed. I've played a couple of the levels through more than once and scores benefitted through understanding how the enemy's attacks were structured ... though not to the extent of, say R-Type, where you can move your ship to avoid or attack enemies well before they come onto the screen. There's still an element of flying by the seat of your pants - only partially alleviated by the presence of a drone which tries its best to help you out.

The structure of the game works well too. When you destroy enemies, they release geoms which you must then collect. These geoms, along with any bonus ones you're awarded for collecting a medal on a stage, are then used to unlock behaviours for your drone (one of which is to send it to collect the geoms for you) and new levels. Collecting geoms and defeating enemies also increases your multiplier. This introduction of geoms fundamentally changes the way the game plays - you need to chase enemies down so that you can collect the geoms once they're destroyed, whereas my previous tactic was to run away while firing behind me.

I've cleared the first stage with a gold medal and the second stages with silvers (therefore completing the first level). I think I'll set myself a limit of silvers before I progress - though I have a feeling this might get a lot harder than it currently is ...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Advance Wars: Dark Conflict: completed!

I think that must be a record for me - the final mission falling on my fourth go. If you don't want it to be spoilt for you, and you want to work it out yourself, then skip over the next paragraph. I mean you, Kieron.

There were three things you have to watch out for. Firstly, the lasers. But it helps to notice that there's a definite pattern they follow, in particular the three in the middle. They fire in turn. Lure the enemy into the path of the one that's about to fire, and they lose 8 health, not you. The lasers are destroyed by a bomber in two goes,even if said bomber gets hit by the laser in between. Secondly, the poison bombs. I diverted these by building a group of heavy tanks to the west, away from any other units - their value meant that they were targeted rather than anything else. And thirdly, the fighter with Stolos on board, which was ridiculously powerful. I simply lured that down to the south of the map with lots of infantry units (with anti-air units sent slightly north to discourage it venturing up that way), and sent a processin of bombers along the top, destroying lasers as they went. S rank and everything.

I even sat through the awful story at the end, so pleased was I. I then went into one of the trial missions and completed that with another S ranking. Excellent.

Of course, the game's not properly completed - far from it. I have only a handful of the 200+ medals available, for a start. I've only completed one of the trial missions. And the game seems to have got wedged into my DS - it just won't come out.

Advance Wars: Dark Conflict: rescuing the clones

And so on to the final level. I assume it is, anyway - there's nowhere for the map to go after this.

Mission 25 (called 'Final Destination') was actually quite easy, despite its first impressions - dumped on a map with very few units up against a massive army. Mission 26 is set at the enemy's lab, with big lasers and hundreds of bases. And it's very hard indeed.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Advance Wars: Dark Conflict: avoid the bomber!

Luckily, the enemy doesn't seem to realise that if she puts her units within the blast radius of the big bomber flying overhead, they'll get damaged too.

Campaign level 22 has been pretty difficult - it took me three attempts to complete. The centre of the map is really a no-go area, since every turn a big bomb is dropped, which halves the strength of any units in the zone. So I took my units around the bottom, built up a massive force of megatanks, and rolled around, supported by bombers at the end for anti-tank dispersement. I only noticed on my third attempt that the opposition had no airports, so as long as I captured the spare one at the start of the game, their air units crashed and burnt after a few turns. No more bombers meant no more need for anti-aircraft guns or interceptors, and my megatanks only had the anti-tank units to worry about. I captured cities as I went, and once I captured the South Eastern base, that was about it.

Only an A rank, given the length of time it took me, but I can live with that.

I've not got used to the way you build up CO powers now yet. You have to have your CO in a specific unit, and all attacks in range of that unit are increased. More attacks in there increase the range and eventually let you use a CO power. I've not got around to that yet ...