Friday, November 21, 2014

Virtua Tennis 4 World Tour: almost famous

Actually, very famous indeed. I've been playing this on my commute for quite some time, and am almost at the end of my second trip through the World Tour mode.

After an initial run of multiple losses in the arcade mode, I decided to try some of the practice modes and start World Tour on the 'casual' difficulty.  I was having no fun losing 15-40 0-40, after all.  World Tour is represented by a map where you must travel through countries stopping at practice sessions, publicity events, single matches, side tournaments and larger tournaments, building up your fame, condition, skills and money.  Each turn you get given a new move ticket to your collection of three, meaning that you can choose how many spaces to progress (and hopefully missing out on injury spaces).  At various points you can choose which path to take.

I quickly got into the swing (hah!) of the game, and won matches as a matter of course.  I got through the tournaments and won with few points against me.  I completed the whole World Tour mode after a couple of weeks, and started again immediately.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Borderlands: accidentally defeating Marley and Moe

Quite a lot of progress through this on Friday night, mainly because of the extended length of time we had to play.  The first five minutes or so were spent trying to work out which missions we'd completed, and this finally managed to introduce Kieron to the mission log.  He still doesn't know how to turn a mission in, though.

Then we had a look at the missions we had queued up, and compared them to our progress.  We are all still relatively low level, around 13 or 14, and so our choices of what to achieve were slightly limited.  There were a few scavenging missions which seemed appropriate, and finding the safe house with Sledge, so we set off to do those, killing lots of things on our way in an effort to build up our experience levels.

While running down a path we heard Kieron shouting that he was being attacked.  We ran to him, and started to fire at the skags that were responsible.  They were pretty tough; even after setting them on fire multiple times they weren't dead.  It was only when we were all crowded around my turret regaining health that we realised that these were Marley and Moe, who we had to kill for a mission that was recommended for characters several levels above us.

We still managed to kill them, after a long draw-out battle.  We're becoming a little better at team work.

We've nearly finished the missions in the Arid Badlands now.  Maybe one more session and we can finally move on.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ico: completed!

No more opportunities for Dido lyrics.  There are big plot spoilers here, so don't click onto the post if you're the one person who's not completed this but intends to do so - I wouldn't normally worry for a twelve-year-old game, but the end of the story is pretty affecting so shouldn't be spoilt.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Ico: I'll always be alone

I cleared the watertower a few days ago, and saved just after entering the West Tower.  Given the difficulty I had with the East Tower - well, less the difficulty, more the length of time it took to get through it - I was expecting the West Tower to take an absolute age to complete.  In fact, it was pretty simple and disappointingly similar to the East Tower (though the route through was significantly shorter).

After opening the main gate, massive plot things occurred.  I am guessing that I won't be able to save the game after this point, so I'll have to complete it in one go.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Duel - Test Drive II: falling off cliffs

There are some genres of game that have progressed beyond all recognition.  With driving games, very early examples retain some of their charm, particularly those that use the template of a relatively static road and moving car such as Chase HQ or Outrun - have you noticed how when you steer in Outrun, you are steering to avoid your car drifting to the side of the screen?

When developers tried to progress beyond this, the games have aged less well.  Test Drive II is technically quite impressive for the Mega Drive, with a seemingly polygonal road winding around in front of your car.  This is made all the more impressive when you get to sections with one side of the road bordered by a cliff, which moves and rotates correctly.

But it is horrible to play today.  The framerate is low enough to cause headaches and the controls are floaty and imprecise, making it very difficult to avoid traffic or falling off a cliff.  The other cars approach in discrete steps, making it difficult to judge when to pull out and when to brake.

Despite this, I completed the first section of the game, before running out of petrol just past the end point (since I didn't realise you had to stop).

That represented only two penalties - one cliff dive and one headlong crash into a stupid van that appeared from nowhere.  I was feeling quite pleased with myself.  That didn't last long.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Metrico: completed!

I did indeed decide to finish this off one evening, only to find that the coloured light sections lasted for about five minutes.  Once I realised that the rest of the game was commute-compatible, I left it until I was next on a train.

The final levels were tricky, but not impossible.  The most difficult one was right near the end, where you had to jump over a platform rather than landing on it in order to ensure victory - and then shoot towards a wall then jump onto a platform that would rise once your shots reached the creature you generated by landing.

And then the ending, where you are again presented with two doors, and I just couldn't work out what to do to get either to open.  The pie chart didn't help, either.

I spent ages on the train trying to get the doors to settle down - but everything I did seemed to reset the world to the initial state.  I tried standing still, and the world got more fuzzy, but every now and again it reset.  I jumped, I shot, I tilted the console, I tried to reset the level, and nothing worked.

Of course, nothing was going to work.  I imagine you've seen where I'm going with this.  In order for the yellow door to appear, you are meant to not do anything for a couple of minutes.  Sitting on a train which was moving meant that I couldn't get that to happen.

So, once again, played at home and completed.  I am getting a bit annoyed at Vita games being unplayable on a commute.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ico: give your trust to me

More than once every two months?  Oops.

So, a recap.  I have managed to lead Yorda to the main gate, from where we should be able to escape.  However, her mother - or at least someone pretending to be - has appeared, and closed the gate in front of us.  I have battled many shadow beasts, and worked out that the most effective way of doing this is to go and stand by the portal they drag Yorda off to whenever they capture her.  In fact, the combat, which previously annoyed me and I felt wasn't needed in the game, isn't much of an issue any more, although its presence still worried me and stops me spending too long when exploring.  If you leave Yorda for too long, the shadows come back, and then it's a race back to save her.

After the gate shut, I traversed through a number of stunning locations - including one with a huge windmill which I had to climb - until I was able to run along the castle walls to the East Tower.  In this tower were a number of large circular windows, and I quickly worked out that the aim was to open each of these by lighting torches underneath them.  Working out what I had to do was the easy part; working out how to do it took a lot longer.  I had to pull Yorda through the doorways and around the walkways, finally finding myself out the back of the tower with some stunning views across the chasm to freedom.  I managed to finally open all the windows, sending a beam of light across to the main gate, causing half of it to light up.  A pretty big indication that I need to do the same on the other side.

Getting to the other side was pretty difficult though.  Much of the effort was spent around a huge waterfall area, where I had to jump on and off a turning waterwheel in order to close the sluice gate.  Yorda was no use at all during this part, with her slow running and refusal to jump up to ledges even with me extending my hand down to her - the game couldn't position her correctly.

I managed to get through this section, playing basketball on the way, and am now at 'the watertower', which appears to be named after a very small ornamental part of the level.  I think once I'm cleared of this, I'll be able to go to the West Tower and make the main gate open up again ... but that may take a while.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Metrico: not an infographic

Metrico is a puzzle platform game.  Your actions - jumping, throwing, falling - make different parts of the world move, such as bars and lines that sort of resemble graphs.  This bars and lines often have percentages or fractions attached to them.  The trick for each puzzle is working out how to manipulate the moving parts in just the right way to let you get to the other side of the world - for example, you may need to land on a certain pad to make a bar move out of the way, but the action of jumping causes another bar to fall across the exit.

It's a very stylised game, and many compare to to an infographic.  This is reinforced by the official Twitter account publishing various statistics and links to interesting information.  The thing is, it's not.

Each of the six worlds I've uncovered so far has a new gameplay mechanic.  At first, you could only move left and right and jump.  After that came the ability to throw (using the triggers or front touch screen), then the ability to aim using the back touch pad.  The worlds are visually quite striking, and many move away from the flat-colour approach making this even less like an infograph.

Some of the puzzles have caused me to pause for a while, but none have been impossible.  There are a couple I've encountered so far where even after working out the methodology, it's been difficult to implement, which has annoyed me a bit.

But that hasn't annoyed me as the shoehorning of the Vita's motion controls and camera.  Hooray, another potable game I can't play on the train.  Throughout World 4 you have to rotate the Vita in different directions to move the bars, and it's taken me a week to get around to doing these levels because it's not practical to do them during my commute - you know, the time I actually play portable games.

And then you get to World 6, which I've worked out needs you to hold the Vita camera up to a specific colour and hold the button down.  Strangely I don't carry red, green and blue bulbs with me on the train.

It's a shame, since it's a clever game and has made me think a few times about how to progress.  Maybe I'll get around to completing it one evening.

Populous: the Beginning: unexplored territory

I have now progressed further than ever before.  Bloodlust has been conquered.

Back in 2005, I wrote of my troubles.  I started optimistic, settled for a war of attrition, then got a bit gung-ho and lost it all.  I tried many times to complete that level, and never managed it.  I did this time, though - on the fourth attempt.  This was a hard level.

I think my focus was initially misplaced. Just over the ridge from my starting position was a stone head, which the red tribe began worshipping at pretty soon after the start of each game.  I was dashing over there as soon as possible, to stop them gaining a spell that I thought would be catastrophic for me.  In fact, by leaving them to it (and blocking off access to the reds from my village) they used the bloodlust spell they gained on the yellow tribe part way through the game, causing chaos in my enemy's village.

So, rather than attacking the reds, I concentrated on killing off the greens as quickly as possible.  I built up a small army of preachers and warriors, and opened a pathway as quickly as I could down to their village.  I sent my followers down for a scrap, and quickly demolished the village.  One enemy down.

This then gave me a lot more space to expand my village, but I was suffering from attacks from the reds and yellows in the older side of my settlement.  I built a huge wall across the level, separating us off - though I left a small gap through which the red team was constantly funnelled, including the shaman.  I put down about 20 swamp spells there, meaning that I kept on gaining a nice manna boost.

As I said, the reds and yellows were fighting among themselves as well.  This meant that the yellow settlement shifted over time, and the yellows moved closer to the newer side of my settlement.  I was suffering a constant influx of armies, so I eroded the land around the edge of my settlement to create a water channel.  I still had to contend with balloon invasions, but that was soon sorted.

My settlement was thriving, now that I was concentrating on defence (you can see the cliff wall on the west of the map in the screenshot above, and the balloons around the edge of the village), but there were a few issues.  Firstly, the other settlements were also growing quickly, and secondly I was running out of building materials.  I needed to be able to build more balloons for defence, but had nothing to make them out of.  I just had to wait for trees to grow, to build up my army, all the time repelling the yellow army's attacks.

Note in the screenshot above the odd spit of land coming from the south of my settlement.  I had noticed another stone head in the middle of the sea, and rather than using precious balloons to ferry people over there, I just raised land all the way across.

Eventually, I decided to make my move.  I closed off the narrow cliff to make sure that the reds couldn't get through to my village just by sacrificing large numbers to overcome the swamps, and I raised a land bridge towards the yellows.  I sent a huge army of preachers, warriors and some balloon-based firewarriors across, led by my shaman in a balloon who killed off the opposing firewarriors before they could attack.  I killed the shaman, I destroyed the balloon factory and firewarrior training hut with tornadoes, I killed the shaman, I positioned a number of warriors and firewarriors around the resurrection site to kill the shaman every time she resurrected.  It was a rout.

Until I noticed that the reds were on their way down the coast to attack my village.  I quickly positioned all the remaining firewarrior balloons along the coast, and sent the shaman back to cast swamps to make sure.  It took ages for my army to finish off the yellow village, because the iditos kept rebuilding it ...

... but eventually, with a bit of help from earthquakes and tornadoes, it fell.

Two down.

The reds were still a force to be reckoned with, however.  They had a huge village and a huge army.  My excursions to the yellows hadn't hurt my fortunes too much, luckily, and my villages were replacing the dead pretty quickly.  I just needed to train more warriors and preachers - and particularly firewarriors.

But I had a trick up my sleeve.  I'd found another stone head, which had given me four spells of bloodlust ... but the one in the middle of the sea had given me angel of death.  Coupled with the fact that the reds hadn't built up a balloon army, this made things pretty easy.  I took over my balloon army, destroying the firewarriors as we went, and then I unleashed the angel of death.

Once the enemy was reduced to a manageable amount, I ordered the rest of my followers to come up and destroy the village.  They didn't even get there before the reds fell.

Nine years after I first started, I've completed Bloodlust.

I didn't stop there.  The next level was good fun, with an armageddon spell available in the middle of the map.  I think that the level is meant to see you stopping the others from getting that spell and then casting it for a massive brawl, but instead I wiped out two of the villages before casting the spell of a much reduced yellow army.  Still fun though.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Extreme Bike Trip: my favourite waste of time

If you asked me which game I have played most this year, I'd probably say Populous: the Beginning, with its 4-hour sessions, or Mario Kart 8 with its endless online.  Professor Layton's Azran Stuff has taken many hours as well, with daily puzzles adding to that.  One of those then.

But I'm kidding myself.  I have no doubt sunk the most hours into Extreme Bike Trip, a simple iPhone game where you control a bike hurtling through a hilly landscape.  It automatically accelerates (all the time it has petrol, at least), and your controls are a left and right rotate trigger.  The priority is to land on your wheels after every jump; but if you do only this then you'll quickly run out of fuel.  Instead, you must do tricks - flipping the bike over, landing into a wheelie, or slamming the bike downwards - which then give you a boost and allow you to collect more fuel cans.  Do enough tricks in one combination, and you get an overdrive which sends you rocketing.

It sounds simplistic, and it is.  There are a few things that set it out from similar games - many by the same developer.  Firstly, when you crash, your game's not quite over.  You control your hapless rider, hurtling along the ground, and you can try to make him reach that extra star by forward rolling.  The ragdoll physics are at times hilarious, as you land from a 30m drop straight onto your bum.

Secondly, there are the missions.  Each bike - and there are lots of bikes, each controlling differently - has a set of missions which you can work through.  It's a similar mission structure to many games, with you being given three missions at a time and only those that are current can be completed.  Early missions - jump over 25m, collect 100 stars - are all ticked off in their first game, but they get quite tricky towards the end.  On some of the bikes I have only one mission to complete, which tends to be something like travelling 200m upside down on a jump, or jumping over 300m.

And lots of these missions do really rely on luck - hitting a mine at the top of a long hill just after you've activated overdrive, for example.  Maybe that's why I'm finding it so compelling - I'm good at the game, but at times I can be great, and it's just making sure that I'm great at a time when a certain mission can be ticked off.

There's a load of other stuff in the game too.  You can buy new bikes using ether stars or bucks, which theoretically you can pay real money for but I haven't as yet (since I feel they're a bit too expensive for the amount you get).  Each day you get a 'frenzy run', where you get given a jet pack and have to collect as many stars and bucks as you can while keeping refuelled.

There's a multiplayer mode, where you can win trophies (which can be used to purchase some other bikes).  There are leaderboards for the fastest to 1km, 2km, 5km, longest distance, longest distance after crashing, and so on.  I dread to think how much time I've spent playing this, but I've completed the missions for only 15 bikes out of a total of about 40.

I'm not going to stop any time soon.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Borderlands: back to the start

I never did complete Borderlands with the UGVM crew.  We were doing quite well, having travelled through the Arid Badlands and the Dahl Headlands.  But then Nicholas arrived and I couldn't commit to a regular time to play, and it all fell apart.  We kept a spreadsheet to keep note of who had passed which mission, and this informed us who should host each time - since the host defines the story progression.

I've started again with John and Kieron.  It's not the ideal game to play with our group.  The potential for Kieron to wander off and get lost is huge, and there are often times when a specific action is needed which doesn't get done because nobody is actually paying any attention.  After six hours play, Kieron still hasn't bothered to understand how you pick up and turn in missions, and John doesn't know what his special skill does.

But it's great fun.  There are frequent breaks in action while the two newbies faff around in the shop trying to work out how to buy new weapons, but once we're on the road it's very amusing watching Kieron pummel enemies into the ground as a berserker.  At the end of our first play session we had levelled up to 8, and had been repeatedly killed by Bone Head who seemed to be able to one-hit kill us.  Our constant individual running into the same arena didn't help.  In our second session, we completed a couple more side-missions, levelled up a bit more, then actually hatched a plan before taking him on.  I threw a turret and shield down and helped to regenerate health; John had a weapon which set Bone Head on fire; we set up at opposite ends of the arena so he couldn't shoot us all at the same time.  Despite this, it was still a bit tense, and it was almost a disaster as after he died a couple of his henchmen were still running around to kill us.

But now we have vehicles.  The first vehicle mission was to jump the creek and open the gate so that we could access the rest of the Arid Badlands.  Somehow Kieron and I glitched through the gate, meaning that the game told us we'd passed the mission when we hadn't.  John didn't actually open the gate, and we were left in limbo for a while until we did it all properly.

We've got a fair few missions on the go at the moment, but we finished with the Circle of Death arena round 2 - a hard fight, but made easier with incendiary weapons.  We may need to level up a bit before going further though ...

Friday, September 05, 2014

Populous: the Beginning: a love affair with balloons

Level 13, Aerial Bombardment, saw the introduction of balloons.  There were two enemies - the greens, who were building up on the other end of my island, and the yellows, who were on a separate island which was much smaller.  The yellows knew of building balloons; the greens knew earthquake.

It wasn't long before the yellows started to attack one end of my island, coming over a large cliff with their balloons filled with fire warriors and spies.  My village was severely damaged, and I had to quickly rebuild my firewarrior and priest training huts.

The greens were leaving me alone, which I ensured by raising a tall cliff across the island.  No boats meant no access.  After a few more raids by the yellows, I was able to train us a decent number of firewarriors, and I placed then across the cliffs which the yellows were travelling over.  This was a remarkably successful tactic, and it meant that I was able to collect a fair few of the enemy balloons myself after dispatching the occupants.  This meant that my defences became ever more strong, as firewarriors' reach increased.

It also meant I could take my shaman, along with a lone firewarrior, in a balloon to start to terrorise the greens.  I first concentrated on killing all the firewarriors and destroying their training hut, which meant that nothing could touch me as I hovered above the sea - other than the shaman, of course, who kept coming over and getting hit by lightning for her trouble.  Much use of tornadoes, lightning, erode and hypnotise later, and the greens fell.

I prayed at the nearby vault, and gained the earthquake spell.  Back to the cliff, and I find that several yellow balloon parties have been foiled, meaning that I can grab loads of balloons and fill them with firewarriors for a bodyguard party.

I pray at the second vault, learn how to make balloons, then build a land bridge across to the yellow's island so I can get a huge army of warriors and priests over, to join my firewarriors.  The limited size of the yellow island had ensured that their army wasn't too large - even though they were mostly firewarriors - and the level was completed.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Mario Kart 8: edging to the end

I've written very little of late, but that's mostly because I've been on holiday and haven't played a lot.  In fact, my only gaming has been to continue working through the daily puzzles on Layton's Azran Babe, and the odd grand prix on Mario Kart 8.  We did have a tournament on MK8 while away, which I won.  Of course.

I am slowly three-starring the 150cc grands prix, which are really tricky.  I've tried the mirror-mode levels, which seem to have easier opponents but are tricky if only due to the fact I now know the courses off by heart.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Gaming Moments: J

Jaguar XJ220 (Mega CD)

It wasn't as good as Lotus Turbo Challenge on the Mega Drive.  Sure, it looked better, but I still remember the first time I tried to control it.  I couldn't.

Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast)
Jet Set Radio HD (Xbox 360)

I spent hours just trying to get off the tutorial, doing an endless grind around the central bus station.  Made all the worse since I did it twice, once on each console - but there was an achievement for the 360 version so I felt I had to do it again.

Journey (PS3)

A game filled with moments, but I think my pick comes early in the game, at the bridge.  The structures tower above you, and it took me (and my companion) a while to work out that our path wasn't just across the base but we had to somehow get up there.  Learning the floating mechanic in that way together was amazing.

Then there's the snow, but I can't put the words together to describe that.

Jungle Strike (Mega Drive)

Mainly played via the PSP, to be honest, since that added save states.  The last level is set at the White House.  Just as you think you've completed the game, tanks roll in and you have to protect the president's helicopter as he escapes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gaming moments: I

Ico (PS2, PS3)

I even remember writing about this on my blog.  I'll paste some text from the previous post:

Ico starts off slowly, with a long cutscene. You get thrown into a murky world and have to work out the controls. The world's not actually murky, but playing it on my HD TV certainly made it look so. I worked my way through the castle, until I found the girl in white. I knocked the cage down the tower, and rescued her from the shadow monsters. I then couldn't find a way out of the room. Huh.

Never mind, I thought, I'll come back to that later. I'd been playing for 40 minutes or so. I turned the console off, and then thought ... hmm, I wonder if the game does save at checkpoints?

Evidently not.

Ikaruga (GameCube)
I have only ever played this for five minutes, and it made my head hurt. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Populous: the Beginning: juggling armies

Level 10 was another timed one, with an established village being sunk at the start by the enemy.  I was able to get two boats built quickly, and ferried nine followers and my shaman over to a stone head, which raised a partially-built village from the depths.  Converting all the wild men on that island to my cause, I rebuilt the houses and trained up some firewarriors, then took my meagre army over to the other island to quickly worship at the stone head there before the timer ran out.  I only succeeded because I made the worshipping party invisible, and they were therefore able to pray while my other warriors and preachers acted as bait for the attacking hoard.

The next level was more time consuming than difficult; there were two enemies, and the game hinted that the yellows were the weaker of the two.  I spent a while building my village and placing towers with firewarriors around the edge closest to the green base, while amassing an army of preachers, warriors and firewarriors around a campfire on a causeway I had built towards a stone head.  I was attacked several times by both greens and yellows, but managed to fend these off with relatively little loss - although once the green shaman did manage to place a swamp right in the middle of my settlement, leading to a few dead followers.

Once my army was a hundred-strong, I went off to the yellows, hoping the greens would not attack my relatively undefended village.  As it turns out, they were in the middle of attacking the yellows as well.  I was able to kill both enemy shamans, giving myself a load of mana for more destruction, and unlock the swamp spell before destroying the yellow village.  My army had been halved in size, but so had my enemy.

I went back to the village and started expanding.  The greens came by a few times on boats, but I was able to hit them with lightning quickly each time.  I rebuilt my army, this time to 120, and then went walking along the side of the land which the greens hadn't touched.  Halfway to the green settlement I was alerted that there was an invasion of my village - looking back I could see some invisible warriors had been infiltrating buildings, but they were, along with a couple of preachers, being killed by firewarrior towers.

Standing across from the greens, separated by a channel, I could see a vault of knowledge, containing hypnotise.  This was going to be key.  I raised a bridge and quickly crossed, then crowded my army around the vault while I worshipped it.  The enemy shaman came near and I killed her with lightning, then I gained the power meaning that I could just get the greens to fight themselves.  It didn't last long after that.

I'm getting closer to Bloodlust.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gaming moments: H

Half-Life (PC)

The very first time I played this, I remember sitting watching the opening sequence and being amazed by the detail in the surroundings.  I accidentally nudged my desk and the view changed - and suddenly I realised that I could control my character already.

Headhunter (Dreamcast)

Travelling by motorbike, I somehow managed to get myself lodged in some scenery, and span on the spot.  Funny until I realised that I'd lose progress since the last save. The accelerator controls on the game were really sensitive, and it was tricky to steer.

Hexic HD (Xbox 360)

I shouted with joy when I finally got a black pearl. It's so tense working up to it, as one mistaken move can lead to everything collapsing. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Going Around: completed!

An amusing little game in which you have to get Ann Scantlebury out of the house in the morning, having found her Oyster card, keys and mobile, and with news for the One Life Left radio show all typed and ready to go.  You need to do this within an hour (which is probably about 6 minutes of real time).

The only issue was drying out the mobile, which didn't seem to respond properly when I clicked on the correct item.  I spent ages wondering around the rest of the house before it actually let me use the item properly.


Ico: sit on top of the world

I had left the game at the start of a trolley system, which I negotiated first thing to leave me high up on a ledge with Yorda - sofas are left in the oddest places.  I used a crane to move us both down to the top of another tower, then explored a room with a few high walkways and handy window ledges which I was able to use to clamber up and knock down the chandelier ... after half an hour of trying to work out what to do, that is.  A handy cutscene showed me the remaining support for the bridge, and when I rand down to it I happened to pass by some bombs.

It takes me a long time to progress in this game, not just because there are extended periods between play sessions but also because there is very little signposted.  The combination of the two means that I forget that I can call Yorda to jump over large gaps, for example, and then spend ages trying to work out how to move the crate over to the start of the ledge.  I spent ages fighting the shadows on the ramp before accidentally getting Yorda to the bottom and her killing them all using the shining door.  The same thing happened outside - I'm sure that previously I've had to kill all the shadows before progressing.

Anyway, I made my way to the main gate, only to see it shutting in front of me and Yorda's mum telling me to leave her daughter alone.  She seemed a bit evil.

I'm going to try to play thing more often than once every two months.  It's a fantastic game and I really want to complete it ...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy: completed!

How remiss of me; I don't seem to have posted about this as yet ...

This has been lodged in my 3DS for a couple of months now, and I've been working my way through it bit by bit.  In a way I'm glad this is the last of the traditional Layton games, since towards the end I was getting rather bored, finding the shoehorning of puzzles to random conversations a little too tenuous, and dreading having to backtrack over everything just to collect the puzzles.  In fact, I went to explore the world a bit before going to the final location, and then as I set off there I was told that more puzzles had arrived and I had to do it all over again.  Annoying.

Another case of doing things all over again arose a few times from the battery running out on my 3DS.  I wasn't saving the game that often, instead just closing the lid on the 3DS at the end of my commute and opening it the next time I got on a train.  Battery death meant I had to repeat a large part of the jungle section, and also a number of the mini games.

So, anyway.  The story was fantastical, as always, which sits at odds from the pretend real-world setting.  Once the game opened up options of where to go, and I left London, I was concerned that it may be just a little too big - though that wasn't an issue in the end, with most of the other places having a limited number of scenes.  Flying around in an airship certainly makes a change from trudging through endless screens of red dots.

Towards the end of the story, however, I found myself getting much more engaged.  Uncovering the phoenix was possibly the turning point, but discovering the true identities of Hershal and Descole cemented this as a clever tale.  The enemy from the last few games became someone I cared about.

And after this twist, I was gripped until I finished the story.

It still dragged on, though.  I wanted to solve the puzzles that would get me to the end, but at the same time I had a compulsion to go and examine everything in the world to see if there was anything hidden.  I got to the point of no return a few times and each time I was unsure whether to proceed.

Once I did, there was a fair bit of the story to complete, including a classic game where i had to take the last coin.  Always go second.

None of the final puzzles caused me problems, and after I completed the game I had five puzzles missing from the index, which I looked up on a guide to see where they were located.  Completion Stage 1.

The mini games in this were a bit hit and miss.  The dressing up one was largely pointless until you finished the game, since you needed to collect items of clothing throughout.  The squirrel one was OK but a bit dull.  The blooming gardens one was tricky and unrewarding - I felt like I was getting to the end either by luck or brute force.

Still those were done to reach Completion Stage 2.  They opened up the challenges - fifteen harder puzzles.  I finished those, leading to Completion Stage 3.  And now all I have left are the daily puzzles, which are still being released bit by bit.  I've done about 150 of those, I think - again, I'd have done more if my battery hadn't died more than once.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gaming moments: G

Gauntlet (CPC)

Andrew and I realised that as long as we could keep one of us alive at any one time, we could have effectively infinite lives, moving through levels forever.  We played for about five hours until Death attacked us both at the same time and we both died.  We both stared at the screen for a good minute then shouted "bastard!" together.

Geometry Wars Galaxies (DS)

One of the later levels had a stupidly high score for the silver medal, and enemies spawned all around my ship constantly. I seem to recall the level was shaped like a star. I finally beat it, sitting on the train, hiding in one of the points of the star and setting the drone to be a turret rather than my usual bait type.  I almost missed my stop.

Grand Theft Auto (PS)

I vividly remember completing the Liberty City missions, not knowing that there were two more worlds to unlock.  I also remember the soundtrack with the lyric "Grand Theft Auto" in one of the songs, which I thought was incredibly clever the first time I heard it. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

R-Type Dimensions: completed!

I've played through both R-Type I and R-Type II, at least, though I had to use a few continues on each.  I love R-Type, it's probably my favourite shooter with just the right level of complexity (with the force and varying powerups included) and varied stages - the first level boss is iconic, and the third level circling the ship throughout is equally memorable.

This is an excellent way to play both R-Type games.  You have the option of updated or original graphics, and switch between them on the fly (as you could with the Monkey Island remakes or Halo Anniversary).  The controls are suitably responsive, and other than that ... well, it's R-Type.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Gaming moments: F

Floigan Brothers: Episode One (Dreamcast)

I recall being stumped for ages that I needed to get to somewhere distant, but couldn't jump that far.  By accident I managed to annoy the big fat brother, who picked me up and chucked me over to the platform.

Feel the Magic XX-XY (DS)

I had the US version.  One of the first games in the game (if not the very first) sees you trying to get goldfish out of a man's stomach.  The first time I played this I was mashing the d-pad trying to control the goldfish, completely forgetting about the touch screen.  to be fair, it was a new control scheme at the time ...

Forza Horizon (Xbox 360)

Driving around in the early evening, I was worried that my console was dying, with odd spots appearing in the sky.  It turns out they were Chinese lanterns, floating upwards.

Field Commander (PSP)

I tried to play this multiplayer, not realising it would mean staying on the console until we finished the game.  You'd think that a turn-based game would work using a send-turns mechanic, but no - it worked through a continuous connection.  What's worse is that me and my opponent were closely matched, so I eventually got to bed at around 2am.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (Gamecube)

We played through this at regular games evenings and days.  Kieron played a short bloke with a bucket on his head.  At the end of every day, we watched them all dance around the campfire and made sexist remarks about the woman with big boobs. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

Super Mario Galaxy: completed!

Mario landed harder than normal.  Was it arthritis setting in?  Or had gravity been tampered with, maybe in an effort to get him to stay?  The toadstool blinked as if he was trying to remember something, then with a large sign shuffled towards me.  As he had done previously, he handed over a letter - maybe the same one, as the wording was identical.  There were five more lives enclosed, though some were starting to decay.

It had only been a year and a half, but the space station seemed to be creaking.  I looked at the map, wiping the layers of dust off, and realised that I had no idea how to find any more stars.

I saw that in the engine room there was a question mark over a grey star, but on arriving at this room I couldn't work out how to collect this rather than the previous star.  I assumed it was hidden on the same level, but I had no idea how to go about finding it.

There was a boss level sitting unplayed - a lava world.  But no, what was I doing?  I had 74 stars, was I going to try to get all 120 before facing my foe?  I didn't know if you even could get all 120 beforehand, and even if you could then I would never reach that point.

The time had come.  Peach had been languishing for seven years, Bowser waiting patiently for his plans to be finalised.  I ran down the path towards Rosalina, my burdens suddenly relieved.  I was going to finish this, and everything else was optional.  It did not need to happen!

The space station turned into a spaceship, and I was on my way to the castle.  It seemed to be well preserved, maybe due to a slowing of time at the centre of the galaxy. My seven years may have been mere minutes.

Bowser implied not.

The final battle was long and hard.  It took me ages to work out how to hit Bowser during the first part of the fight - having to work out where to stand to hit his head as he rolling towards me was tricky.  I managed it after losing two lives, and the last part of the battle seemed easy by comparison.

And that was it.  The star gleamed over the pole of Bowser's miniature planet, slightly corroded by time.

I ran to it, desperate to escape before the world disintegrated to dust.  Escape I did - though the end credits sequence was a bit odd, with Mario, Peach and Bowser waking up outside the castle in its grounds.  Everything seems to be connected.

Except, of course, that's not the end, and there are still many stars to collect.  New galaxies opened up, purple comets appeared, and Rosalina welcomed me back with a knowing wink.  45 more stars are needed to unlock something, it seems, and many of those will be up in the top of the space station, as well as following comets around.

Not right now.  I went back to the lava boss world, so I could be sure there wasn't an empty existing galaxy, and completed that.

Then I found myself at the gate world, where I was introduced to red stars and purple coins.  The flying controls are pretty awful - in fact, I've found the controls overall hard to adjust to, after my lengthy break.  A number of deaths falling off the side of the world or running into enemies that I should have been able to avoid.

It's completed, in that I've rescued Peach and her long-term incarceration is over.  I've seen the end credits.  I've not completed every star - I've not even played on every level - but I'm happy with that.  For now.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Pikmin 2: completed!

After a long break, I decided to go back and try to finish this before it was lost forever.  I had completed the first two areas, and had a remaining debt of just 105 doodahs.  It shouldn't take too long, thought I.

Straight away I found another bit of treasure outside in the Perplexing Pool.  It was on a high ledge, which could only be accessed by yellow pikmin due to their added throwing height.  I had to throw them up to a platform, walk around myself, and throw them up to the top.  The treasure was worth 100 pipplies.  So close.

So I went down into the shower room, a cave system which required me to have water, fire, electric and poison pikmin.  I didn't take enough poison pikmin for the first few levels, as half the enemies were spewing purple gas and I had to fight through with my little band of twenty.  The levels were quite inventive though, with a good use of previous enemies and some new ones - floating jellyfish in particular - thrown in.

Of course, after the first level I had made over 10,000 jinglies, but I wasn't going to stop there.  One of the frog enemies killed about 25 of my pikmin in a single jump; an electric jellyfish killed more.  Half way down I found a level which let me regenerate some more pikmin, and it randomly gave me some more red ones.

Which was annoying, as I managed to clear out the entire cave apart from one treasure - a set of false teeth underwater, which required twenty pikmin to move.  I had only 14 blue pikmin left.

The boss was hard as well.  A larger version of the wibbly slug on the surface, which meant I knew I had to attack the flower on the back.  It killed a large number of pikmin, and I'm still unsure of the best strategy to beat it, but I got there with brute force.  I went back to the surface, and ...

The end-of-game scores are presented as a leaderboard, hinting that other people should play this copy or I should go back and do it all over again.  Maybe not.

There's more game to play though.  Louie's been left on the surface; Mr Boss Man says he'll go back to get him.  There are a fair few treasures in the Perplexing Pool to collect, and a whole new area has opened in the top-right of the map.  I may well be back.