Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Velocity 2X: overcomplicated

I ended up playing this by accident. I had a notification on my PS4 that the game had been updated, and when trying to work out how to get rid of the notification I mistakenly launched the game.  Still, it's widely held as worth playing, so I might as well try it out.

As with all digital titles, my first stop was the instructions screen. Here I was presented with a long list of buttons against a diagram of a controller. Half of them were labelled with words that made little sense. I decided to just pick it up while playing.

I'd advise others to do the same. The first few levels introduce you to controls one by one, to the extent that when I finished playing, having beaten level 12, there's a lot on the controls lost that I've not used yet. And that's the problem - this just feels too complicated.

You have a fire button. You have a boost button. As well as boosting, you can (and have to) teleport using a different button. Controls are different - similar, but different - depending on whether you're inside or outside your ship. You switch between the two modes within levels. On top of that there are bombs and targets and other stuff I've not yet played with.

The main problem with Velocity 2X, though, is that to get to its icon on the PS4 menu I have to scroll past Rocket League.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sonic Generations: hitting walls

Oddly enough, although I wrote at length about my experiences with the 3DS game, I don't appear to have written about the Xbox 360 version which I played at pretty much the same time.  I didn't complete it though; of the nine main stages of the game I had completed both acts of six and played through the 2D parts of the remaining three.  I've no idea why I stopped.

With the launch of TrueSteamAchievements, I was able to register and see which games I own but have hardly played on Steam. Most of them, it turns out. One of the more interesting pages is 'My Easy Achievements' which lists those achievements I've not yet won which most people who own the games in question have. This list was topped by the achievement for completing the first Act in Sonic Generations. I have absolutely no idea when I bought the game on Steam, though I won't have paid much for it.

Anyway, suitably shamed, I loaded the game on my work PC - no Mac version, it seems - and played through both Acts of the Green Hill Zone. That took some effort; the game juddered and slowed in the resolution it recommended, and then looked ugly and in the wrong aspect ratio when I tried to change that. Why was I struggling through it when I had a perfectly accessible console version?

No, I didn't know either. And that, in a roundabout way, is why I loaded up Sonic Generations on my Xbox 360.

I'm glad I did. This is a good Sonic game - particularly the 2D sections, although most of the 3D Acts are fun as well. The only real problem is that the controls feel a little imprecise at times, which I think is down to using the analogue stick (with its length of travel) over digital pads. Turning in the air to avoid spikes can take a fraction of a second too long, and occasionally I can't steer Sonic away from the walls that jut out into the 3D levels.

I played through the second Acts of Crisis City, Rooftop Run, and Planet Wisp, with a number of lives lost due to me trying to hurry through the levels. It's easy to forget that even in the original Mega Drive games you had to take the later stages somewhat slower. There's a boss battle next, but first I've got to unlock it by completing three challenges - special requirements within existing levels. What a faff. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Rocket League: an epic match

Yes, I have a PS4.  I've not played on it too much yet - this three-month-old baby is less accommodating to gaming than the last one - but what I have played has been largely split between FIFA 16 and Rocket League.  The latter is a sort of football game, or maybe more hockey, where you use cars to hit a ball into your opponents' goal.  Your cars can jump, boost, and even fly if you use the booster rockets right.

Last night I had an epic match.  My team quickly fell to 3-0 down, partially due to a player dropping out and being replaced, and partially because we were all over the place.  With two minutes left on the clock, someone scored one back, then I scored a second.  Time ticking down, until I finally equalised with three seconds left on the clock.  Into overtime, and the ball went back and forth on the pitch until finally we scored and won.

The PS4 has a pretty nifty function where you can record your last 15 minutes gaming.  So I can show you the match in full.  Enjoy!

Switchblade: exploring the caves

Switchblade was always touted as one of the great games on the GX4000, using the power of the console over the standard CPC version and benefiting from instant loading.  Given the size of the map, that's not surprising; the disk version certainly seems to chug regularly.  Despite having owned it for many years, I've never given it a proper go beyond making sure that the cartridge worked.  Over the Christmas holidays I had some time to rectify that.

The first thing I was surprised about was the accuracy of controls. When playing many 8-bit games, there's a noticeable lag in inputs, and games are often designed to allow for this.  Some games did this better than others - Titus the Fox, for example, allowed a bit of leeway in jumping.  That's not the case here, but the response to inputs is instant, making you feel much more in control.

The second thing I noticed, after playing for a while, is how complex the game is.  It's packed with puzzles, in terms of finding new rooms, finding ways to attack enemies without taking damage, and exploration.  I originally thought that the fact that enemies can't attack you while you're standing on a crate was a limitation of the game, but in many cases it's the very basis of the puzzle.

That's not to say that the game isn't an action-based title.  I've not completed it yet, because the five lives you start with don't last long when you're being attacked.  I shall try again, though - each time I play I get a bit further.  I may need map paper soon though ...

Meanwhile, I loaded up an emulator to take some screenshots, and took the opportunity to compare the GX4000 game to the CPC version.  As I said above, the disk version seems to chug a bit more, which may be loading, but the main difference is the visuals.  Look at them, it's an astounding change.

(GX4000 is the top, standard CPC is the bottom.)