Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bioshock: claustrophobes unite

Brr, it's a bit scary.

Essential Sudoku DS: moving towards a conclusion

I'm now on puzzle 882, which means there's a real possibility that some time in the near future I will actually complete the game. The thought scares me. If puzzles take an average of 5 minutes to solve, then I will have spent over 80 hours playing this game - and that's not including the sudoku puzzles.

I'm disappointed by the current crop of sports pictures. The stick figures look very rough indeed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Essential Sudoku DS: not impossible after all

I was all set this morning to unleash a torrent of wrath and indignation, complaining that puzzle 788 of Essential Sudoku DS was impossible. I had found a mere five squares which I could be sure about, and in a 15x15 grid that's pretty pathetic.

However, at lunchtime I tried a couple of deterministic paths - considering that this was a monocolour puzzle, I could test to see if certain spaces were on or off - and managed to complete half the puzzle. And then got stuck; I looked for twenty minutes and couldn't find a move.

This added impetus lead me to do a bit of searching - and I found a clever automatic solver which confirmed to me that there was a unique solution, and I'd got the half I was doing right. Then, after a full 5 seconds of looking at the puzzle again, I found the most obvious clue I'd missed (I had a block of five into which I had to fit a four, and I'd only coloured in a single square), and that led to me completing the puzzle.

So, in the hope that I can spare others of the anguish, here are some hints for puzzle 788 of Essential Sudoku DS:
  • On the bottom row, you're slightly limited as to where the 4 can go since there must be a maximum of 3 in any one place on the line above.
  • Test the top-right corner; see if setting that to 1 causes any contradictory issues.
  • The rows and columns with 5 and 4 together need only one square to be lost from the row or column in order for a single square to be coloured.
  • If all else fails, the picture is orientated diagonally from top-right to bottom-left.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Samba de Amigo: hey hey, we're not the Sonic Team

And boy, does it show. The Gearbox logo looks dire in the bouncy colourful lively startup sequence, all grey and boring. Where's the cheery voice? Where's the fun background music? Why didn't they just copy the front end from the Dreamcast game, which was perfect?

It's not all bad, though. It was at first; it was an uncontrollable mess, with needless "hustle" sections shoehorned into Tubthumping, destroying the amazing original. After a few songs, though, I started to work out how the game measured things, and by placing a finger along the side of the remote, and "shaking" by jerking the remote sideways towards the screen, I've found something that registers almost all the time, and also sort of feels like I'm playing on the Dreamcast again.

Sort of; almost. If it wasn't for the fact that the Wii version has many more songs, and more play modes, than the Dreamcast version, I'd not see this getting much play. As it is, after a bit of practice it works OK, and I can see myself playing it a bit, and it also coming out at parties. But it's a huge disappointment, to be fair. I can't imagine that many people at parties being willing to commit the time to understanding how to control the game; it should be intuitive and immediate, and it's not. A long way from it.

I hope this sells well, though, so that they can bring out Samba de Amigo v2009 using Wii MotionPlus and get it working properly.

Project Gotham Racing 4: cat and mouse

Last night I was online with my brother, John and Kieron. Because there were four of us, we were able to play cat and mouse, split into two teams.

The basic rules of cat and mouse: on each team is one mouse (driving a Mini) and at least one cat (driving a much faster car). The winning team is the one that gets the mouse across the line first. It's not exactly fair racing.

Cat and mouse was payed a fair amount in PGR2, but was never a set game mode. The reliance in PGR3 on all cars being supercars rather killed the game off, but it's back in PGR4 and is a fully recognised and organised subgame. And it's great.

I managed to frustrate John rather a few times by smashing him into a wall or spinning him off when he was driving the Mini, but met my match when Jay started doing the same to me. I was on the winning team for the majority of games though ...

The only frustration is that the cars become ghosts if driven backwards or parked for too long. As a result, you can wedge the Mini into a corner, but eventually it'll be able to get out, once your car is no longer an obstacle. I think John may have appreciated that feature though.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Essential Sudoku DS: a long way down a path

I'm now on puzzle 761. There have been a few recently where I've had to use other colours to test out whether a block can go somewhere and whether that would cause any contradictions later on. There was one puzzle which took me 50 minutes to do, because I went down two such dead ends and had to delete all the alternative colours.

The hardest puzzles are those where the picture lies along a diagonal of the square. You end up with only a few coloured blocks in each row and it's hard to start, but once started it's OK to finish. Puzzle 755, a picture of fish bones, was really difficult, because as well as the backbone lying diagonally down the middle, there were random scatterings of black for the ribs as well.

In fact, it looked like this: