Friday, March 25, 2011

Ridge Racer 3D: someone's in my slipstream

I can see the commentary getting tiring very quickly.

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

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Game memories: E

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earth Defence Force 2017 (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Game memories: D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wii Sports Resort: bettering Pilotwings

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

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

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

And Yet It Moves: twisty

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

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

Blur: not winning any fans

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

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

Pilotwings: jumpy handling

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Slitherlink: awful music

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Game memories: C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 04, 2011

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: completed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: collecting keys

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Game memories: B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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