Friday, May 31, 2013

Nintendo Land: Donkey Kong (many) Crash(es) Course

The last parts of the Donkey Kong game are pretty evil.  I've now got the first eight areas down pat, although I frequently lose one or two lives in area 7 (in the upper-left of the screen below - you can see the remnants of a crash there) where you have to use the left trigger to raise and lower platforms.

But then I get to area 9, in the bottom-right.

You can see I've lost a couple of lives there already.  Here you have to tap the right trigger to launch your cart up the ramps.  You need to have the gamepad tilted just right to avoid flipping over.  And you need to press the trigger very quickly, and let go very quickly, to avoid catching your character as the platform comes back down.

It took me ages, but finally ...

I then lost all six lives on the last platform before the end of area 10.  I've not beaten that yet.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Homebrew Channel: ugly GUI

For various reasons I've not felt the need to mod my Wii up to now. There would have been a few advantages - being able to play my American and Japanese GameCube games, importing US games that didn't get released here, backing up some of the saves for games that don't allow copying.  But these advantages were outweighed by the idea that it was a difficult process and would make my Wii behave oddly.

I now have a bit more impetus to do this. I don't want to replace my Wii with the Wii U completely, for various reasons - GameCube support, Lost Winds not transferring, an extra step needed to get to the Wii menu. However, there are now benefits to moving data to the Wii U, including a cheap upgrade price for the various Virtual Console games I've bought.  If Nintendo had a proper account system in place this wouldn't be an issue; I could just transfer the games I'm interested in. They don't; I have to move everything across or nothing at all.

However, by modding the Wii I am able to have the stuff I've bought in both places; back up the system before transferring, transfer, restore from backup. I can continue to use my Wii for playing Wii games, but can pay the upgrade price for Super Mario World.

It wasn't a difficult process at all. I followed the guide here, and it took twenty minutes all in, from plugging the sensor bar in (as this moves between the Wii U and the Wii) to looking through the Homebrew Browser. The Homebrew Channel has a nice channel icon and a pleasant enough background, but as soon as you start installing anything else you quickly see why companies pay people so much for graphic design. Some of this software is very ugly indeed.

So first stage complete: I have a modded Wii and have it backed up to an SD card.  All I need to do now is to transfer my data and then restore it back to the Wii as well.  And then work out how to make everything region-free.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Super Mario 3D Land: gerrorf me cart!

With Rhythm Thief finished, it's time to move on to a game that I've waited a while for. SM3DL had some great reviews but it came out at the same time as Mario Kart 7, and the latter won out.  I've been waiting to see this reduced somewhere; I finally found it in good condition second-hand for £20.

It being second-hand, it had some save games on there already. Two of the slots had been used by one person and one slot by another. They'd got as far as world 2 before deciding the game wasn't for them.

It was sad, deleting their profiles. Did they give up because it was too hard, they just didn't like the game? Maybe they were short of money. I was going to get rid of all their hard work with two button presses.

Bye, random girl.

As for the game? It's OK. The viewpoint can be confusing in places, the controls feel a little imprecise, and the level design doesn't feel hugely imaginative. It's fun, but it's not amazing.  I'm on world 3 now, and it feels a little light on content so far - there are few levels per world in particular.  It may get better.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Super Metroid: nearly dead

I've been waiting for this to be on special offer since I got my Wii U.  The first Metroid game I played was Fusion on the GBA, which pre-dated this blog.  Metroid Zero Mission was completed in 2005, after an intensive playing time.  I've since wanted more of the 2D games, but there wasn't an easy way to get either the second game or Super Metroid - I have a feeling that the latter may have been on the Wii Virtual Console but I never thought to look there.

Anyway, I've started this now.

Oh no!  And that's where the last Metroid is!  I'd better go back!

But nobody's home.

Eventually I got through to the end of the space station, where a big bird thing stole the Metroid and fought me.  I was massively underpowered and nearly died - but luckily the enemy scarpered before I died.

Arriving on the planet, I descended down a shaft until I found a blue door.  Going through ... and I could go no further.  Huh.

After a bit of exploration, I finally found the morph ball, meaning I could go through the tunnel.  A little way.  There was a block just a way down a tunnel.

A bit more exploration ...

This meant I could go through the tunnel at last.

There wasn't much at the end (a bunch of missiles), but at least on the way back I could take a shortcut.

At least I have a few upgrades now, but I still feel pretty underpowered - so walking into this room I was rather apprehensive.  Luckily it appears to be a statue, or at least it is at the moment.

I found another lift down, but I didn't want to go down until I'd coloured in the blue.

There's quite a way to go ...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Heavy Rain: pedestrian

I played Heavy Rain back in late 2011, getting to a thoroughly miserable part where my character's life changed completely. It says something about the quality of the story that I still remember that and as I continued the game last night I could identify everyone.

I'd forgotten, though, how incredibly slow everything moves, and how awkward it is to move around the world. Placed in the run-down house with my son, I found it rather jarring when he didn't comment on my character constantly walking into walls and turning light switches on and off.  The son (Shaun) was pretty poorly animated at times as well. Maybe this is something I glossed over before, or maybe it just wasn't evident in the first two chapters.

The game is trying so hard to be a film, but it suffers from pacing issues. Nothing really happens for long periods, partially because of the character's slow walking speed and partially because of the fact so much time is spent on minute details like getting Shaun a snack or watching him eat dinner. Maybe that's partially because of the way I'm playing the game - sitting with my son while he eats is something I'd do (although I'd probably at least try total to him). In some ways it's reminiscent of Shenmue, but with more awkward controls (particularly given the idiotic shape of the controller's triggers).

And then I'm given control of a different character and there's a fight scene which is almost too fast paced, particularly given the fact that after 16 years of owning PlayStation systems I still don't know which way around square and circle are.

And then I'm given control of an FBI detective who looks a bit similar to the first character. I have to investigate a murder scene.

Again, I'm not sure whether such character switching works well in games. I was building an affinity with one person and then I'm switched to another. One character seems to have an odd moment of being transported elsewhere, but even though I'm playing as him I'm not told if he's dreaming or not - it seems from the game not, but it's not clear.  Before I can find out, I'm playing as someone else.

The story remains intriguing but elusive. I've worked out that there's a serial killer who leaves origami models behind. The murder investigation was for such a killing. The model in the dead man's hand was the same as the model in Ethan's hand during his dream sequence but Ethan's not dead. Piecing things together like this works well for a two-hour film, but it remains to be seen if it works in a much longer game that I'm going to be playing over a matter of weeks. Or years!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mark of the Ninja: sneaking

I evidently bought this a while ago in some sale, but had forgotten about it until I was looking through my purchased games list.

It's a good game.  There are multiple ways of getting past any section, and I'm doing well at not alerting any guards.  It takes me a while to get through each level, and there have been times when I've caught myself holding my breath in real life as a guard walks past.

I may well complete this at some point, as long as it doesn't get too difficult.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sega Rally Online Arcade: second, again

A couple of friends have asked me why I did so badly in this on my last blog post.  Just to clarify, you are not supposed to finish in first place on the Tropical course.  The idea is that you play through the three courses (Tropical, Desert, Alpine) and end up first by the end of the Alpine course.  I was hoping to have reached at least tenth at the end of the first level, though.

I've still not managed that.  I have progressed to coming eleventh, and by the end of the Alpine level I'm second with the leader in sight.  But that Alpine level is hard, with some nasty hairpins and slippery roads, and I'm still struggling with gear changes. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure: completed!

Napoleon wasn't Napoleon, he was a random bloke who announced his name with great flair but I had no idea who he was or what that meant.

Navigating the gardens, there was a particularly difficult battle where control shifted between Phantom R, Charlie and Inspector Vergier and I couldn't work out the timing for Charlie's sections at all.  I managed to get past it in the end - with a B rank - by just making no mistakes on the Vergier and Phantom R parts.

And then to Napoleon, with a particularly cringeworthy line.

I wish there was a better way of taking photos or screenshots on the 3DS.  You have to tilt it to avoid glare and reflection, but then you have to try and correct the skew ...

After a final battle, Napoleon jumped off the side of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (which were in the air over Paris, do keep up) and I had to flee with Marie.  Lots of questions remain unanswered - where is Raphael's dad?  How did the Duchess survive being shot at point-blank range? Will Phantom R ever be arrested?

He really ought to be, even if it's just for chat-up lines like this.

I enjoyed this game.  It didn't feel as padded as a Layton game, which is good as I'm not sure the rhythm games would have carried it that much further.  Some of the side games were pretty tough, including the Rub Rabbits theme performed Samba de Amigo style.  I may go back one day to pick up any last bits I've missed (a few of the music scraps, for example), but for now, I'm done.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Conceptis Puzzles: freemium done right

According to Mr Kavanagh, I have somehow missed the launch of the follow-up to my third most-played 3DS game.  I'm somewhat loathe to download this, as I know I'll end up playing it exclusively for the next few weeks.  I'm frequently tempted to do so anyway, but only at work and I can't connect my 3DS to the Internet there.

But yesterday I fancied a bit of a puzzle.  As I'm unable to buy Picross E 2 using work's WiFi network, I investigated what was available on the iPhone for my journey home instead.  There are, as you'd expect, a lot of picross puzzles, at various prices. There are also slitherlink puzzles, and other such grid games.  Some of the best I've found are by Conceptis, who provide a decent number of free puzzles in their (free) apps, with lots of additional puzzles available at a cost.  The controls of the puzzles have been well thought out given the limitations of the touch screen - a lack of accuracy in particular.

Investigating their catalogue has introduced me to some new puzzle types as well - link-a-pix and hashi in particular.  Hashi is a bit tricky to work out the logic at times, but I'm getting there.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

New Super Mario Bros Wii: infinite lives

A while ago, I promised a video.  Here it is!

Portal 2: completed!

A stunning game, overall.  It was a little too long, in that a few of the test chambers seemed a little too repetitive and the between-chapter sections were a bit sparse.  The story was a bit extended, and the dialogue over the last few chapters was bitty, but finding out where GLaDOS came from and how Aperture Science developed was well presented.  When I got back to meet Wheatley, his dialogue - while not on the same level as GLaDOS's congratulations for piling on the pounds - was very amusing, and I couldn't help but kill myself in each of the ways he suggested just to see what he said.

Wheatley's corruption of the centre was well handled as well.  From the physical decay to the blue screen error messages (something else that made me laugh), it felt very solid.

The last few chambers were very cleverly designed, combining all of the tools and environmental furniture.  It took me a while to work out how to get past the section below, for example, where a number of turrets were  sat behind the screen on the right.  To get rid of them, I had to drop a load of the blue gel onto the platform they were standing on; this involved catching the gel in light tunnels and manipulating it back and forth until it was overhead.

The final fight took me a few minutes to work out what to do.  Wheatley's surprise about me not being dead made me smile.  I'm not sure how my character was breathing when I went through the last portal, but the last lift journey was a fitting end.

I just need to find a cooperative partner now ...

Saturday, May 04, 2013

New Super Mario Bros U: lava waves

I was stuck on a level last night for ages - I must have lost over ten lives, but luckily there were loads of coins available to rack up extra lives, particularly in the room with the second star coin. Getting to that wasn't that easy - you had to go up the second green pipe in the screenshot, which involved waiting until the platform had raised to its peak, avoiding the waves of lava, and bouncing off the dry bones. I did that many times in the end, dying later in the level or on the boss.

The sign of a great game though - at no point did I think it unfair or want to give up.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure: ooh hoo hoo

Rhythm Thief is like a combination of Layton and Space Channel 5.  Set in Paris, you move a character around the city from location to location, talking to other characters and playing games to progress.  In Layton these games are puzzles; in Rhythm Thief they're (unsurprisingly) rhythm games - listening for a scale of notes, tapping in time, or responding to or repeating movements.

It's charming, even if the story is a bit weak.  I'm well towards the end point now, after six hours, chasing Napoleon through Paris after a daring hang-glider rescue off the Eiffel Tower.  Some of the rhythm games are pretty difficult, and I'm currently stuck on a second Samba-de-Amigo-inspired side level which was reached by talking to a dancing Mexican.  I think the buttons just aren't responsive enough.

The other amusing thing is that the on-screen text doesn't always match up to the spoken words.  Challenged by Napoleon on the tower, he gave an evil laugh.  On the screen, he said "Ooh hoo hoo!".  Charlie, the detective's son, has a comedy cockney accent; the text read "roam free", he said "runnin' rampant".  Of course, this may be the case with other handheld games but I very rarely play them with sound on.  This demands that I do - and the soundtrack is great.

New Super Mario Bros U: so pretty

I've continued through Soda Jungle, and found a level called Painted Swampland.  The backgrounds and some of the foreground elements to this level have a very stylistic look to them ...

This is a really pretty game.

This whole area was a little confusing at first.  I had initially found a secret exit on stage 2, but I didn't follow that path and instead replayed the level to get the proper exit.  The secret path seemed to disappear off the bottom of the screen.

After I'd played stage 3 and the tower, I found myself on the previously mentioned painted level (4) and another level (5).  Each time I exited one of these levels, the path led back up in a loop.  In order to progress, I actually had to find the secret exit in stage 5, which then took me down to meet the other end of the secret path from stage 2.