Monday, December 31, 2012

The Unfinished Swan: balloons

Most balloons have colour to them, but some are white and so are easy to miss.  I've not missed any yet.

I've now completed the second chapter.  Again, read no further if you want to experience it yourself.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Flower: completed!

The tower was indeed the key to the sixth level, and indeed the whole game.  Winding up through the city, lightening the buildings and swings, I entered the mass of girders and destroyed as many as I could as I was blown ever upwards.  There were few flowers inside the structure, but as I reached the top I had a huge number of petals following me.  The tower fell, and a tree grew.  End of game.

I've found three hidden flowers on the first level, and one one every other level.  I'll be back to play this again.

Flower: purple and pink

By level five, it's getting a bit fraught.  The flowers and the wind do have an enemy, it seems, in the shape of electricity pylons.  Getting too close to these sets fire to accompanying petals, and smoke trails follow the wind for a while.  The pylons seem to be broken and falling, but at the same time they're a menace to the world.  Chiming with blue flowers at the base of pylons turns them from black and rusting to silver, but they remain no less broken.

By the end of the fifth level, this had turned from being a happy and cheery game, to being dark and depressing.  The flower given for finishing the level is wilted and dying.  I almost didn't carry on to the sixth level, but I'm glad I did.  The petal and wind are stronger here, and can break through the pylons - something I found by chance after trying to avoid them for ages.  Destroying pylons brings colour back to the world, and I find myself in an overgrown city with repairing buildings and roads.  The centre of the city seems to be a huge tower of pylons, and maybe that holds the key to getting past this level.

But I've been stuck on the road system for six minutes, trying to make sure I'm colouring the whole city, and I've not got there yet.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Limbo: into the haze

I now own Limbo on three formats: Mac, Xbox 360, and PS3.  I've only even played it to the first encounter with a big spider, which I found to be intensely annoying since I died jumping over the bear traps over and over again.

On the 360, I seem to have a little more control.  Certainly I was able to get past the spider not just once but a number of times (including being caught in its web, urgh), and have found some people who seem to want me dead.  I've been killed many times but have progressed a lot further than I ever did before.  Recent progress has been down into caves where it's even darker than normal, and everything is hazy.  I'm a bit claustrophobic.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Unfinished Swan: feet

The Unfinished Swan is an experimental game, in a number of ways.  It's an experiment on the part of the developer, who have included a number of different gameplay mechanics from the first level onwards.  It's an experiment in terms of playing it - it requires the player to try and work out controls and where they are, with no instructions other than a brief story.  It's an experiment on the part of Sony, who are increasing the exposure of more artistic games such as this and Journey.

Warning: if you want to play this game yourself (and I recommend you do) I recommend reading no further.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Super Mario Galaxy: lost

Arriving at the hub world, I was given five lives by a toadstool who shuffled over, breaking the cobwebs that had bound him. Peach had sent me a letter, despite being in captivity. I'm sure she's thinking that she'll never escape.

Rosalina asked me if I wanted to go to the special place. There was a sense of longing in her voice, as she pointed out I now had enough stars to go and rescue the princess. Longing and perhaps disbelief, that the hero had returned after all these years to complete the job that he had left unfinished.

But no. I spent a few minutes reacquainting myself with the space station, and found a chubby star thing (what are they called? Lumia? Or is that a Nokia phone?) who showed me a map. Where can I go to get new stars? It's not entirely clear. But there's a new galaxy in the engine room.

It took a while to find the engine room. Despite years of neglect, the robot inside was still whirring away, carving his trails into the mountains of dust. I jumped to the central star, and found that as well as the new galaxy, I had only collected one star from the toy-themed one. I elected to go there.

Mario meets Mario. The last part of the stage was a Mario-shaped floor with disappearing tiles. In order to get there, I had to navigate a complicated shape collecting jump star pieces, which took a while given the fact I couldn't remember how to ground pound. I was expecting the screw mechanism encountered half-way through to have rusted up, but someone's been keeping it oiled.

Onto the Mario floor, and I died several times as the yellow tiles flipped over and left me with nothing to jump from. Luckily there was a 1-up near the start. I had to collect five silver stars, which then became a gold star and was positioned at the start of the Mario floor. Unfortunately, I'd stepped on the tiles around that and they'd disappeared. Fortunately Mario has a long jump.

So I collected one more star. After I saved, as I turned the console off, I'm sure I heard a whisper. No, I won't forget, I'll be back.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Batman Arkham Asylum: completed!

It was indeed the finale. I fought the henchmen in the hallway, I fought the two titans in the main room, and then I was worried that Joker was going to be a boring boss battle of just another titan charging around the room. Oh no. The last parts on the rooftop were tricky, and I had to restart twice before I finally defeated him, with a sliver of health left.

Overall, this has been a great game. I'm not really interested in the whole superhero universe, but this game took the established characters and made them into something really interesting. The setting is pretty creepy at times, and it felt a very solid world (even if the rationale for the batcave was a bit flimsy). It wasn't too long, but if I wanted to get more out of it there's a number of extra modes which I've not touched, plus the main game on a hard difficulty level. For now, though, I'm done.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Batman Arkham Asylum: riddle me this

Up to what I presume is the finale now, where I've been invited to the Joker's party. Before I went in, I was clearing up the Riddler's puzzles; this exercise was made easier by the fact that I'd already found each of the maps which indicate the general location of each puzzle - with the exception of the Joker's teeth, which were annoying to find in a couple of the buildings.

After much exploration, all the puzzles had been collected - I had to cheat and go online to find out the location of the last Chronicle of Arkham, since that didn't show on any map, and though I guessed who it was that was being referred to I saw no real link to the location - and I've gone in to see the Joker.

He killed me, and it was late, so I'll come back to that.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Mario Kart 7: time trialling

I've managed to get at least one star on every grand prix now, so my name is displayed with a star on online races.  Interestingly, I got a star for the Lightning Cup on mirror mode when coming second overall, while I'd previously won the series and hadn't been awarded a star at all.  I'll still play the grand prix from time to time, but for now I've been concentrating on time trials.

Mario Kart 7 has a great implementation of time trials, where you get shown the worldwide distribution of times plus are presented with a number of ghosts across the spectrum.  You can then choose to race against seven ghosts randomly chosen from the ones surrounding you, or any specific ghost at all.  These are updated any time you connect to the Internet via SpotPass.  In addition, you get sent time trials via StreetPass of people you meet in real life.  The only thing I've not seen is whether your friends are included in the ghosts anywhere - since I have no MK7 friends.

Sad face.

Anyway, I've been playing the time trials trying to beat the median time for each course.  Some have been easier than others, but there are a few which have oddly-shaped distribution curves with two peaks where there's a trick to the track, such as boosting over a certain corner and ramp.  To compete on these I've been trying to find the shortcuts myself but also following some of the faster ghosts to work out the strategy.

The track I most hate is Kalamari Desert.  You have to avoid the train going around the track through use of two different ramps (to get to which you have to use a boost over rough ground first.  But you have to line yourself up to the first ramp and commit to it before you can even see if the train is going to be in the way.  It took a lot of experimentation to find that you have to use the second ramp for the first two laps and the first ramp on the last lap, but if and only if you've been closely tracking the best times.

I'm ahead of the median on all but two tracks now.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Picross e: completed!

I have very little willpower. This has become even more apparent as I've worked my way through the puzzles in Picross e, making increasing use of the game's feature which highlights which rows and columns have a possible move in them.  While I am able to say "no" at the start of each puzzle, when it asks if I want any hints (meaning it doesn't fill in a random row and column to start), I find it hard to not press the shoulder buttons to reveal the the row and column highlighting as soon as get remotely stuck.  This is made worse by the fact that I try to do it even on the puzzles where it's not available.

There wasn't anything particularly difficult, though I did work out a new technique (thanks to the row highlighting) which allows you to put a blank in space 2 if space 3 is filled and the sequence starts with a 1.  The end pictures were normally quite evident from the outlines, but I did struggle to understand what the pelican was until the name appeared.

More please.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Batman Arkham Asylum: taking over the island

I was stuck in one room for ages.  There were seven (I think) armed guards, and I could only ever lure two or three to their deaths under a gargoyle before the others spotted me and gunned me down.

I got past in the end more by luck than judgement, as the enemies kept on walking around in a circle underneath me.  It was very tense gliding down to take the last one out.

Now Poison Ivy is making plants grow all over the place, so I have to find her.  I should have captured her when I had the chance.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mr Driller Drill Spirits: reminiscing

Last year, I played Peggle.  At the time, I vowed to never again play Peggle, due to the unfairness of its randomness and impossible goals.  of course, its randomness and impossible goals are one of the things that makes it so compelling, and I've played it many times since.

But screaming and shouting at a console is not the way to remember Owen, and so this morning I played Mr Driller instead.  I'm rather rusty at it, but after fifteen minutes or so I was back into the rhythm the game demands, dodging under fused X blocks, dashing for air across the screen, and rushing to the two-colour stages which give a break from the action to some extent.  I played the 2000m stage, it being the only one that's not completed yet (other than the moon, which has items so is a bit of a variation from the pure Mr Driller experience).

Mr Driller remains a fine game, and the DS version is probably still the best version available to me.  Drill Land requires the GameCube to be set up (with Freeloader), and its unique modes are mostly multiplayer.  Mr Driller Online has virtually nobody online.  The Dreamcast version of the original works well but is hampered by the controller.

Of course, a 3DS download game which is always available could be better still.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Batman Arkham Asylum: creeping

I've now collected the sequencer from the head warden, which means that I can override the security doors dotted around.  There are lots of places to go back to at some point, but I'm being driven on through the story.  Harley Quinn is running away but it's only a matter of time until I catch up with her.

It'll be a while, though, since I'm off to Kuwait for a week tomorrow.  Joy.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Professor Layton and the Last Specter: completed!

I went back to it finally, and have finished the story.  It was a bit far-fetched, as is the Layton way.  I then went back and searched for the 10 puzzles I'd missed.  I completed the fish games, and the train games, and have downloaded the weekly puzzles, all of which are completed.

The only thing I've not finished are Layton's challenges, and also working out what the hidden door is for.  The first of these will be this weekend's task; the second may require Google.

A great game, as always.  I'm not overly tempted by London life, though.  I don't have 100 hours to spare at the moment ...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Batman Arkham Asylum: over the shoulder

The time requirement for F1 2010 proved too much, so my F1 fix will come from F1 2011 on the 3DS while I move onto something else in my short morning babysitting slots.  I bought Arkham Asylum a while ago after hearing that it was amazing and excellent; my time with it so far is consistent with this.

Each time I start playing it, thought, it takes me a few minutes to get used to the over-the-shoulder view; the camera is ajust a little too distant from Batman, making me feel a bit divorced from his actions. This is particularly odd when the camera shifts during fight scenes to be more behind him; it's just a littel too dynamic.

I'm having trouble following the story, because the sound on the TV is kept very low in order to not wake Nicholas.  It's obvious that the Joker has taken over the asylum though, and Batman is working his way around the island in order to regain control.  I've reached a Batcave now, which was put in place many years ago just in case.  What foresight.

Monday, August 13, 2012

F1 2010: rules confusion

I don't really watch F1 on TV, though I used to a few years ago.  Having seen F1 2010 in the Game sell-off for £2, though, I thought it could be interesting to see how things had progressed since F1'97 on the PlayStation.  They've progressed a lot.

The game looks stunning. A lot of this is down to the high-definition display, of course, but there's such attention to detail on the cars that it's difficult to not just stop and stare when you're driving up behind them.  Driving up behind them is something I'm doing a lot, since my qualifying positions are well down the pack and I have a tendency to brake late.  My first two races went OK other than the fact I had a penalty applied at the end for "causing a collision".  It wasn't me, it was the other car stopping in front of me.

I'm using many driving aids, and it's almost as if the car's driving itself at times, but at least this means I have a hope of getting somewhere through the game.  I may need to turn off the automatic braking though - that just feels a little too hand-holding.

The other thing about the game is the investment of time it requires.  Each race takes ages, through the practice sessions then qualifying, then a ten-lap race.  Since most of my gaming time is in half-hour chunks while Nicholas is asleep on the sofa next to me, this is hardly ideal ...

Thursday, August 09, 2012

King Kong: completed!

You may be feeling as if you've gone back in time to March 2007, as I completed this game then as well.  It's rare that I will play through a story-driven game such as this more than once, but I remembered really enjoying it and when I had the opportunity to buy a copy for the Xbox 360 for £2 I jumped at the chance.  High definition should be a bonus ...

I remembered the game as graphically accomplished with recognisable characters and beautiful locations. Maybe that was a standard definition illusion, as when played on the 360 it looks pretty basic. It's stunning to see how far games have come in the last five years.  Not only does it look rough, textures are repeated far too often and a lot of the game is just too dark.

Yes, she is meant to be attractive.

I also remembered the game as varied and well structured. It's varied to some extent, with levels split between controlling Jack and Kong, but there are limited puzzles and enemies, and by the time I was 75% through I was getting pretty bored. The chapter system works OK, but games have developed more elegant checkpoint and save systems now - in fact, they had developed them back in 2002 with Halo, but that's by the by.

Most of all, I remembered the game as good.  And it still is, though the difficulty is all over the place and if it went on any longer than it does it would soon turn into a grind.  As it is, it's a good fun short game that's starting to show its age.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Limbo: big spiders

Limbo is a black and white game, with the main character's eyes shining more than anything else in the world.  It's a game full of danger and death.  I have died many, many times - and not every death has felt like it's my fault.  I'm getting a bit past pixel-perfect jumping, which seems to be required to get past some of the traps.

I got to a big spider, who impaled me on its legs.  After a couple of deaths, I realised that I could push one of the traps under its feet and it would lose its leg.  I did this a couple of times, but kept dying in the trap as I jumped over it.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Bit.Trip Saga: bopping along

I really enjoy some of the games on this compilation.  Runner is undoubtdly the star of the show, even if I'm not vey good at it.  Beat gets hard to quickly and makes my eyes go funny.  Core is just too tricky from the start.

The 3D isn't used very well at all, though.  It's much easier to play with it turned off, which is very disappointing indeed.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition: completed!

My commuting game of choice over the past week or so has been the 3DS conversion of the GBA game that was included alongside Link to the Past.  The 3DS game has the benefit of being adapted so you can play it in single-player modes, rather than being restricted to only playing when there's someone else with a GBA and link cable around.

Nintendo evidently realised that such time would be few and far between, so Four Swords actually has relatively little content.  There are three main "dungeons", with three or four levels each.  In the new version, you control two Links, switching between them with a shoulder button, and puzzles have been redesigned so simultaneous actions aren't needed.  It's been really well done.

There have been a couple of times where puzzles have left me stuck for a few minutes, and I only died (properly) once - there were a few deaths along the way but they were paid for with rupees so no progress was lost.  The final boss had a few different forms, but died pretty quickly.

A nice freebie from Nintendo!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Assassin's Creed: completed!

Although some parts of it were a bit annoying - particularly the informer missions - this has been an excellent game.

I was wrong about there being two more missions in the animus - the last block is full of the additional missions such as collecting flags and killing Templars.  There was an obvious twist to the story in the end, though I wasn't expecting that the enemy at the funeral would turn out to not be Robert.  That makes it 50% on the twist-is-a-surprise-o-meter.

After spending most of the game trying to be sneaky and quiet and hiding from the guards, the last bit of the game forced me to fight out in the open, which grated somewhat.  Luckily, I had had plenty of practice at this since the guards throughout Jerusalem had a knack of seeing me even when I was trying to keep out of their way, and so I had been attacked many times over by the time I got to the final mission.  The fights against Robert's men were tricky, and I frequently had to run away to regain some health before returning to the fight.  Robert himself was a skilled fighter, blocking most of my attacks and forcing me to constantly parry.

But he went down, as did the super-secret-obvious end boss, and the game is finished.

I may well go back to collect some flags and kill some Templars, but will need to use a map if I don't want to end up wandering the kingdom forever.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Star Soccer: completed!

I'ver probably played this a bit too much.  After coming second in the premiership with Spurs by a single point, I lead England to world cup glory scoring a hat trick in the final against Brazil (which was won 4-0).  Rather than go back to Spurs for another season, I decided to move to Winter in the lower Swiss league - which I presume is FC Winterthur.  This has been a bit of a disaster, with team mates not passing me the ball and fans hating me.

I'm tempted to start over, but there are other things which have piqued my interest recently.  Maybe once I'm able to come back fresh.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Assassin's Creed: splosh!

Im on the 'final' mission now, which is to find the Templar organising all the blockades and book burning and general malpractice. Except I know it's not the last mission, since there are two more mission blocks in the animus.

The last assassination was exceptionally annoying. The port master was, as his name suggests, at the port. Specifically, he coops himself up on a ship. This would be fine if Altair didn't die with the slightest contact with water. This would also be fine if Altair didn't decide to randomly jump at an odd angle rather than onto the post directly in front. I spent ages working may way around the North dock, as the intelligence says, and on my 267,396th try finally made it to the large boat. At which point I realised that I hadn't triggered the cutscene starting the assassination, so Siread wasn't actually on the boat yet.

When I finally completed the assassination, though, I did so very well indeed. Siread is a jittery mess, and wanders around his boat all the time. I managed to get to a position where I was hanging off the side of the boat, and as he went past I jumped over the railing and killed him with one blow. All that was left was to flee the guards - which I did using the paths along the walls, rather than jumping over the boats and poles again. It's a little samey now, and the informant missions are a bit annoying given the propensity of guards to spot you just because a random drunk has pushed you. Still, off to Jerusalem ...

Friday, June 15, 2012

New Star Soccer: the quadruple

New Star Soccer is the best game on iOS. I have dedicated hours to it while commuting, and am now aged 40 in-game and still playing. Given that you start at age 16, and each year represents a full football season, that's a lot of game. It plays to the strengths and weaknesses of the platform superbly. No virtual joysticks, no overly-long matches, no diddly controls. You watch most of a match in text form, as in Football Manager Handheld, but then when your player receives the ball, you act - either in terms of passing, shooting, or intercepting (of course, that last one isn't after you've received the ball, that would be daft). As you do more training, the strength of your shots and the extent to which you can curve them increases, and your teammates appear in better positions as well. I started playing for Tonbridge in the Conference South. I've made my way up through the leagues, mainly staying in England with a brief flirtation with the Faroese league and some time in Portugal. I've now been playing for Spurs for a few years, and last year we managed to win the league, the League Cup, the FA Cup, and the Champions League. And I'm still playing, since England keep getting knocked out of international competitions at the semi-final stage; the last Euros saw a particularly annoying defeat by Greece of all teams. A superb game.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Assassin's Creed: back to Damascus

I've now completed Memory Block 4, which looks to be the longest in the game, and am back in Damascus to explore the last part of the city.  I'm getting through things much quicker now, especially since I fully understand what is expected of me.  It took me just over an hour to climb all the high points and save the citizens, with a few of the investigation missions along the way.

I've been trying to complete all investigations before going for the assassination, but there are two informer missions in this part of the game which are really difficult.  You have to kill certain guards without being detected - but the issue is that the guards in general are all on heightened alert and so you need to constantly blend in with the crowd to hide.  Within the crowd are people carrying pots and bits of wood, and if you get near them they drop these, alerting the guards even if you're blending.  As a result, you need to blend and then stop walking any time a pot carrier comes near.

An exercise in patience then?  It would be if the missions weren't timed.  Very frustrating.

The rest of the game continues to entertain.  The missions are a little samey in some ways, but the story that they impart is interesting and the information you collect can really help with the key assassinations.  The overall story has an obvious twist coming up - all of the victims after death seem to be happy with their actions, after all - but one of the last victims (the executioner) seemed to actually be a thoroughly unpleasant man after all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wario Land 4: gem collecting

One of the 3DS ambassador games, this isn't something I'd normally have picked up.  While Super Mario Land and SML2 were excellent examples of handheld gaming, taking home consoles experiences and reducing them to more immediate and shorter challenges, I had heard that from SML3 (Wario Land) onwards the games got just a little too complex.

That's true of Wario Land 4 to some extent, with levels being just a little too big to play on either part of my commute.  The character of Wario is a little too large to show enough of the level, and the jumping physics are a bit suspect as well.  It just doesn't feel like a Nintendo platform game.

I think it's unlikely I'll be back to this given the wealth of other games on the console ...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Assassin's Creed: touring the Holy Land

I've completed an assassination in each of the cities now, and am on Memory Block 4 which has three parts to complete, one in each area.  I've killed the man in Damascus, and have completed my investigations of Acre.

This is a really good game.  The gameplay flows well, and there's enough variety in missions to mean that at the half-way point (which is roughly where I am) it feels as if there's still a lot to experience.  The difficulty is starting to increase, with guards being tougher and more numerous, and targets are better protected and hidden.  Before each target I'm carrying out the full investigation - including climbing to all high points and saving all citizens - but at times I'm just getting lost in the metagame of assassinating guards and sneaking around.

Controls are still on occasion awkward, and the entire idea of losing your abilities after the first mission is just daft - especially the loss of the ability to catch a ledge as you fall past it.  I can understand not being able to carry certain weapons if you're demoted, but stopping yourself falling to death?  It's also constraining only having five throwing knives, and I hope that I can carry more at some point soon.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Assassin's Creed: to Damascus

I started this five years late in the early hours of this morning. It's a game I've always fancied playing, but have never had as a priority and had never seen cheap enough to warrant a purchase. In the GAME closing down sales I picked it up for £3; while sitting up with Nicholas I have the time.

The controls are occasionally awkward, with an unhelpful camera, as was the case very often back at the start of this console generation. I've died twice due to the camera swinging around meaning that I ran straight back at my attackers. Fortunately, dying isn't a massive issue, and the fluidity of movement generally makes up for it.

Indeed, one disadvantage of playing a game so long after its release is that there are many things you would expect to be included which aren't, or are a bit rough. The map is a little clunky, distances are very long, and riding a horse is more hassle than just running everywhere.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Truth or Lies and You're in the Movies: fundamentally flawed

I recently found two games that I bought ages ago, and never played.  I unwrapped them and played them.

You're in the Movies

You take part in some minigames using the Xbox Live Vision camera, in a similar way to in EyeToy Play.  The difference s that the camera takes a picture of the background, and then cuts that out when you step back in front of the TV.  Your exact image is then overlaid the playing field.

That's the idea, anyway.  In fact, I found that after a minute or so my arm would start disappearing, then my neck, then bits of my chest.  Even though I was wearing a dark shirt against a white wall.  It also started to lose my movements, to the extent that half way through I had to rescan the background, and from that point on rescan it after each game - even though nothing had changed.

The games weren't as well defined as EyeToy Play, either - it was unclear what the objective was at times, and there were many cases where I was unsure if I was actually doing the right stuff.

The clever bit of the game comes at the end, when it takes the various videos of you doing stuff, and puts them into a movie trailer.  It would have worked better if there were four people playing, since otherwise it just shows up the difference between the green-screened professional shots and the half-there blurry movies of me.  The game is a good idea, but the execution just doesn't work.

Truth or Lies

Truth or Lies is a type of quiz game where the console acts as a lie detector.  You get asked some incredibly banal questions, and you have to tell the truth, by speaking into a microphone.  Of course, this is designed to be played in a party setting, and you're meant to be very embarrassed about the answers you're giving - that's where the fun would come in, seeing where people lied to save their dignity.  At least, it would do if you weren't being asked pointless questions, and if the lie detector actually worked.

I told the game I was a cow.  I told it I had never kissed a girl.  I even told it that I preferred dogs to cats.  In every case, it told me that I was telling the truth - and more emphatically than when I actually did tell the truth.  The only time t told me I was lying was when I said that I was bored.  That was no lie.

The only way I could consistently get it to think I was lying was by screeching into the microphone.  Strangely, when I'm trying to lie, the last thing I'm going to do is to scrunch my vocal chords up to sound like a mouse.

Not only is Truth or Lies even worse from a technology point of view than You're in the Movies, it's also a fundamentally boring game.  Avoid.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Gravitron X: a difficulty mountain

Gravitron X is an Xbox Live Indie Game - costing around 60p, it's developed by a part-time coder who deserves to have a full-time job somewhere.  The game's similar to Thrust, where you must negotiate passages underground, combating gravity and avoiding obstacles.  There are enemies who fire at you and air vents which push you off target.  The main objective of each stage is to destroy the generators and escape back into orbit before the entire planet blows up.  There are stranded scientists to rescue (who repair your shields) and fuel stations.

I spent a good hour playing this tonight.  The control scheme takes a little getting used to - the ship points where you aim the left stick, rather than it just rotating left and right - but this actually affords a much better level of control, letting you pull off 180° turns quickly and aiming with greater precision to shoot back.  I got to the end of level 19 with eight lives, having lost one in the first few levels while I was still learning the controls.

Level 20 was, however, a massive spike in difficulty.  There were small spaces to squeeze into, which rotated around and let you move to another gear-type contraption.  The surface of the planet was covered with enemies, including homing missiles.  It took me all eight lives to complete the level; I was half expecting that to be it, but then level 21 appeared.  I died pretty quickly.

Thoroughly recommended, even without the extra challenge modes and extra map packs.  These are included with the main package. It's a bargain whichever way you look at it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bayonetta: try, try, try again

First annoyance: although I saved and quit the last time I played, I had to restart from the beginning of chapter two.  You can't save mid-chapter, it seems.  This wouldn't have been such an issue if it wasn't for the fact that I restarted just before a fight with the red witch Jeanne, which last time took ages to complete.  This time it took five minutes and I got a gold medal.  Huzzah.

Second annoyance: it suddenly got a lot harder.  There were times that I had to repeat a section five or six times in order to progress.  However, each time I did actually progress, and I was driven onwards by the fact that each time I retried a battle I got a bit further.  The example that sticks out in my mind is the fight against the dragon attacking me in a church: the first time I fought him, I died almost immediately.  I had to open the church door, skip the cutscene, and managed to get a few decent hits on the dragon using witch time, before dying again.  I had to open the church door, skip the cutscene, and dodged many times and performed many attacks until the dragon ripped the church from its foundations and took to the skies, at which point the dragon's second head killed me. I had to open the church door, skip the cutscene, beat the dragon up until it took off, and dodge the second head while attacking the first head, until it went mental and killed me again.  I had to open the church door, skip the cutscene, beat the dragon up until it took off, dodge the second head while attacking the first head, avoid the first head's mental attacks, and then finally the church was thrown heavenwards with me in it.  And I missed the QTE of pressing X in time, so died.

It restarted with the church being thrown upwards.  A good job, or no doubt the controller would have been thrown in much the same way.

I got part of the way through chapter three, which is set in the town after it was consumed by lava, before multiple deaths and a lack of time caused me to stop playing.  I wonder if I'll start it again knowing I've got to repeat the whole first part of the chapter ... but it's a great game, so I probably will.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bayonetta: back to black

I bought Bayonetta when it fell to £10 a couple of months after release. I played it for 43 minutes according to the save file. I then moved onto something else.

It sat at the top of my TrueAchievements "easy achievements" list ever since.

Then last weekend I decided to give it another go, as part of my 'play games properly' philosophy. I'm now half way through chapter 2 and enjoying it immensely. I think I was put off by the complex combos that it demonstrates while loading, but it's not a case of learning those by rote, it seems, but instead understanding how punches and kicks can be linked together and the timing of each. Combined with the evade button, it is possible to get 'good' and not just 'lucky', it seems.

Though I do find myself using the jump+stomp combo a lot.

A new set of guns has just been unlocked, but I've spent my halos on health items. I've not made any concoctions, or bought amulets, because they're too expensive. I can't see how I'll ever afford those, in fact.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Phantasy Star Portable: busting out busters

I've managed to equip both a sword and a gun, with the gun automatically firing at things (I think it's my Mag doing it, but I'm not sure) and the sword setting fire to things.  Even so, I have to hit some things many times before they go down.

I really like the story missions in this game now I've got into it.  Having others join you on quests is well done, particularly once I realised that others will heal themselves if left long enough.  The main issue I've hit is that as sword-wielder, attacks from flying enemies can be hard to avoid.  This was brought home by a boss character hovering above the playing field, which I was unable to hit (other than by my automatic gun) except for the rare occasion he landed.  When he did land, I could only hit his hands and tail.  The hints that his wings were the weak point didn't really help.  After ten minutes of grinding away he went down, though.

This has monopolised my handheld gaming for a week now, which is quite amazing given the competition.  It's more clunky than PSO, and the weapons system seems more complex (I can't understand where the gun is coming from, for example), but it's possible by large to just overlook that and hit things.  Which, on a morning commute, is just what you want.

Monday, February 06, 2012

1000 Heroz: first time's a charm

I'm still playing this every day, and have a few targets I've set myself: I must beat Sessile, who's the last remaining competitor in the UGVM group; I must come in the top ten, or preferably the top five, of the RLLMUK group; and I must come in the top thousand of the global leaderboard. I'm generally achieving this.

There have been a number of times when my first run at a course is actually my best; today's course is a good example of that. In the runs afterwards, I've bounced up the hill in a more jerky way, or caught my foot on a block of ice, or landed on an uphill section rather than the flat ground either side.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Sonic Generations: completed!

That was really fun.

The last boss fight took a few attempts, particularly when the enemy was throwing clock faces at the Sonics, but it fell eventually. It's well worth watching to the end of the credits, if only to see Cream the Rabbit at Sonic's birthday party and the skit with two Dr Eggmans trapped in no time together.  I smiled when Tails called him Robotnik the first time the Classic round Eggman appeared ...

The end credits were great - they interspersed screenshots from the original games with the equivalents from Sonic Generations.  It was interesting seeing how the newer games in particular had been given a 2D makeover (albeit in 3D) and how they had designed levels around additional abilities such as the boost and homing attack. In fact, seeing that evolution even made the game series itself make more sense.

There are loads of missions to unlock with playcoins, and time attacks modes, and I've got a D grade on a fair few levels, with relatively few As and Ss. I will be going back to some of them, since they are pretty fun, with a few exceptions.  It does remind me of the classic Sonic games though, where you have to learn the levels to play well - I was disappointed at first that I wasn't just breezing through the game, but I could only ever do that since I knew the old Sonic games like the back of my hand.  I'm not sure I'll play Sonic Generations as much as the Mega Drive games, but you never know ...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sonic Generations: not awful music

The 'Modern Sonic' take on Emerald Coast was mostly side-on, in fact, and played better than the 'Classic Sonic' one.  I'm on to Radical Highway now, which is one of the few levels I remember from Sonic Adventure 2, other than the city one.

The music in this game is actually really good - it's standard Sonic light rock, but the old tunes have been altered really nicely with differences between the two acts.  I'm back to enjoying this after my previous frustration.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sonic Generations: awful instadeaths

I'm still enjoying this, though markedly less so since 'Classic Sonic' got the homing attack and the side-on levels started to be reliant on it.  The homing attack makes sense in 3D, where you can see ahead of you and move towards the targets.  In 2D, the targets are frequently off-screen until the last minute, by which point it's too late to react to them and you fall off the bottom of the screen, again and again and again.

As a result, it took me ages to get past Act 1 of Emerald Coast, because it required a lot more learning of the level than the previous levels.

It's a shame, though, that even the best Sonic game in years doesn't distract me from Mario Kart 7.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Child of Eden: moving up

I loved Rez.  I loved the way it enveloped all your senses and felt easy and natural.  I loved the way the music evolved with the game, and it was built around rhythm in the same way that Daytona and WipeOut are.  I loved the sparse stylised visuals and short structure of the game.

I still love it, but now I love Child of Eden more.

Sure, the Move controls are a little flaky at times, not recognising the flicks to launch projectiles - a bigger movement works better but then you lose where the crosshair is - but on the whole removing the control pad makes this even more involving than Rez and draws you deeper into the game.  There are times when the immersion is broken, like when the game decides that you can't move around the area when previously you could, but this just highlights to me just how transfixed I become.

Is that a good thing?  For the game, yes.  It makes playing this more of an experience than I would ordinarily be used to, and as a result is quite draining.  It's certainly not a good thing for Justine, since she's likely to feel very ignored whenever I play it.  Then again, she's the one who bought it ...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Crackdown 2: end of an era

It's easier to find agility orbs in Crackdown 2.  For a start, the map screen tells you how many you've found in each area - meaning that my search was restricted to Green Bay (after, that is, working out where Green Bay is, since it's not marked on the map).  There's still a large area to cover, though.  I flew around a bit in helicopters, and using my thrusters and wingsuit, but couldn't see it.  So after completing all the wingsuuit rings, I decided to try some stunts instead.

I spawned an SUV and headed to the beach.  I jumped around in the car a lot, completely failing to get through the vehicle stunt rings.  And then I saw it.

Shining above me, reaching out.  I jumped up there.

A hidden orb!  How exciting.  But that's not all.

Agility orb number 500.  I'm well behind the first game on the hidden:agility ratio, though, with only 212 hidden orbs found.  For now I'll take the achievement.

Sonic Generations: awful cutscenes

If there's anything worse than cutscenes with bad voiceovers, it's cutscenes where only a few words have bad voiceovers.  Worst of all are cutscenes - which are effectively static or with a little animation - of two characters standing side-by-side with loads of badly-written text, where a few words have bad voiceovers.

Luckily, that's the worst thing about Sonic Generations so far.  I'm actually really enjoying the levels, striking as they do the right mix of nostalgia and modern-day polish; the physics on Sonic feel right, although I do keep tying to do a roll with modern Sonic - the boost isn't yet as obvious.  The 3DS version is much more of a side-on game than I've seen of the home console versions.

I've completed Green Hill, Casino Night and Mushroom Hill now, and am up to the Metal Sonic race which, as with the equivalent in Sonic CD, is just immensely unfair until you learn the level.  Nearly there though.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Crackdown 2: 499

499 agility orbs out of 500.  The 499th was on top of a chimney, which I used my wingsuit to glide to.

Amusingly, the narrator commented on me collecting this orb, saying that he knew I wouldn't rest until I found the last one.  At that point I turned the console off and went to bed.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Sonic CD: fragmented levels

I have played Sonic CD before, on the Mega CD, and found it confusing.  It still is, with the future lampposts being placed in awkward places and me never being quite sure if I've actually created a good future or not.  Do I need to travel to the future after destroying the machine in the past, or is it sufficient to just explode the generator?  Do I need to create good futures for both acts, and if so do I then have to fight the boss?

It seems pretty inconsistent as to how long I need to be travelling at speed; some of the levels have horrible designs, and it just feels a bit bitty.  But it's magnificent, requiring you to explore the levels and avoid not just enemies but also level furniture in order to get to the proper ending.  I've completed the game in the bad way (not getting good futures; not collecting time stones) and am now working back through it.

On the Mega CD I only ever completed one bonus stage; on the 360 I've managed three, but they are horrendous and difficult to control.  Blurgh.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Crackdown 2: crashing helicopters

I am surprised that I've not written about Crackdown 2 on my blog before, given that according to my 360 autoblog the original is my most-played game and the sequel is fourth on the list.  I've played the sequel through to completion - the end of the story, at least - mostly alongside John and Kieron, with a few solo outings making up for sessions I had missed.  My agent isn't fully powered up, and I haven't collected all the orbs as yet - I have 498 of 500 agility orbs and 196 of 300 hidden orbs - and so it's still a game to return to.

Especially since I can now spawn helicopters at will, use mag grenades to hang things from the ceiling, and fly using my wingsuit across the whole map.  This is all the more amusing when a new player - such as Toby - joins in and I can sit on the sidelines with a rocket launcher while he goes in to get his hands dirty.  Toby went up two agility skill levels in a two-hour playing session last night, while my shooting skills are resolutely stuck at just over five stars due to my propensity to make everything explode rather than just shoot it.

It's a fine game.