Thursday, April 07, 2016

Psycho Fox: completed!

I've heard many great things about Psycho Fox, and I'm sure that I've played it before, possibly at William Davis's house when we visited him after returning from Kenya, back in 1990.  I didn't remember much of it, though.

A predecessor to Decap Attack and Magical Hat Flying Turbo Adventure, Psycho Fox is known as one of the better Master System games.   It's easy to see why.  When you compare it to other games at the time, there's a great sense of momentum to the character, and the controls are perfect, so you feel that every death is your own fault.

It took me a couple of lives to get in my stride and work out what was happening.  Initially you have a single hit before you die, and you have to be pretty cautious when progressing through the levels.  However, by hitting the eggs (using a comic extending arm animation) you can sometimes find a black bird companion who not only gives you a projective weapon, but also acts as a second hit point.

So far, so Mario.  The two main differences are that first, when you throw your companion he lands on the floor and then returns to you, and second, all the time you're not holding on to the bird you are reduced to a single hit again.  So you have to be quite careful when you throw him.

As the bird returns to you, he continues to kill any enemies.  There are some parts of the game where this is used to good effect, where a row of enemies can be killed as long as you are standing on the same level as them.  Getting onto that level can be the hard bit.

Having mastered the basic mechanics, and without the need to play the whole game in one sitting (due to the wonders of emulation), I had little trouble with it.  Yes, I lost the occasional life, but by playing through relatively slowly and taking the top route where possible I was able to find treasure which allowed me to play the bonus game between levels, which often gave me extra lives.

In fact, by the end of the game I had 20 lives remaining, partially due to getting 5 bonus lives a couple of times, and partially due to finding eggs with lives inside.  The first time I found such an egg I ran away from the life - it appears as a flickering version of yourself, and you ave to catch it, but I didn't realise this until one ran into me.

The levels were slightly varied, between blue and black backgrounds and the floor sprites.  Some levels outside were set more in the sky, with clouds to jump on; others relied on collapsing platforms and ice floors (which caused their own problems with the momentum).

As well as collecting lives in the bonus game and in eggs, there were other items that could be collected - some sort of star, a stone staircase thing, and a green bottle marked 'S'.  Experimentation during the last set of levels showed that using the staircase thing enabled me to change character, to a hippo, monkey or tiger.  The monkey had a higher jump, the hippo a lower, and the tiger the same as the fox.  I saw no other difference between the characters, but recognise that the monkey may have been useful during some of the earlier stages where high jumps were required.  There were some areas blocked off by boulders, and I wonder if the hippo could have broken through them.

The star seemed to be some sort of smart bomb, and the potion might have been invincibility but I never quite worked it out.  The only time I tried it, the game corrupted itself into a glitchy wall (which I eventually jumped through to continue the level) so I never tried it again.

So, after a few sessions (with save states made between them) I completed the game, only learning half its secrets in round 7-2.  Maybe I'll go back to it one day to take a different route through some of the levels - especially in the later levels, there are many different routes to go and I suspect quite a few secret areas to find - but for now I'm happy to finally understand why this is considered to be such a good game.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Assassin's Creed Revelations: a very long game

My main complaint about Brotherhood was that there was too much to do.  Revelations gives you even more, and also takes the stuff you did in Brotherhood and complicates it.

This map only shows some of the stuff you get to distract you; shortly after this I bought a map showing the location of memoirs, and I've also now unlocked locations for data fragments which are strewn across the city.  There has been so much stuff to do it's a wonder I've made any progress with the story.

Complication: dens
In Brotherhood, you had to defeat Borgia towers before buying the shops in the area.  In Revelations, it's the same except with Templar dens.  And when you capture a den, you have to install one of your assassins as a den leader, and if you get too well known the templars may attack your den and you have to go back to it and play a tower defense type game to stop them retaking it.

Complication: international relations
In Brotherhood, you had to send some of your recruits off to far-off lands to partake in a finite number of missions which would reward you with money and materials.  You could recruit ten assassins, and allocate them effectively to make sure that success was guaranteed.  However, each mission took a certain amount of time, so it wasn't a quick win.  All of this exists in Revelations, except the templars try to take back the cities you have power in, and your influence is constantly decreasing, so you have to constantly carry out new missions.  You can also post your recruits to these cities permanently, which means that it's a little easier to make sure you have resources to defend the cities but it's a big pain to swap between local and overseas assassins when assigning tasks.

Complication: chests
There are now two types of chest: those which are not refilled, which contain money and ingredients, and those which are refilled, which contain ingredients.  Since I'm not using many bombs, my ingredients are almost permanently full, making the second type pretty useless.  It's not easy to tell from a distance which type of chest you're approaching, though.

Complication: recruitment
Due to the fact that you have dens to protect by appointing a den leader, and you can post assassins overseas, you can continue to recruit new assassins and then train them up. This turns into a balancing act - who do you send away, at what level, and who do you retain?  The first few recruitments were all quite interesting, but now it's just a case of stopping the soldiers beating up a citizen each time.

Addition: first-person Desmond
The modern-day story is odd; Desmond is stuck on an island in his head with the bloke who was leaving all the messages in the last game.  As well as entering the past, there are some other doors which are slowly being unlocked (I would guess by collecting data fragments).  Going into these starts segments where Desmond talks about his past and you solve puzzles in first-person by placing blocks in the air.  It's all a bit odd, and the general dark nature of the game makes it more difficult than it should be.

Oh, yes, the game is very dark and that's a huge pain if you play it during the day or in the evening with a light on behind you.  I've had to turn the brightness up on my TV to be able to see properly.

Addition: collecting books
There seems to be a whole other plotline going on, with a different icon on the map.  I'm not sure why this is or whether it's important (but I'm tending to do those missions before the main ones anyway).  The general format is that Sofia asks you to do something for her, you do, she tells you where a book is hidden, you go and get the book and find the location of a hidden location; going to that place lets you find a key for a memory.

The missions you do for Sofia are, at times, quite daft.

Addition: becoming Altaïr
When Ezio finds a memory, it's back into the past further.  This is one story I have been able to keep up with - it concerns Altaïr's exile from Masyuf after the first game, and in each (short) sequence you play as Altaïr as an increasingly old man.

It's fortunate that despite this abundance of distraction, the core gameplay is still great fun.  I have made a little progress with the story - up to the end of sequence six, in fact, which sees me (temporarily, I hope, given that there are still data fragments to collect) off to Cappadocia on a boat, sailing through flaming wreckage and debris caused by the templars' attempts to stop me leaving.  The action sequences, while a little on rails, are good at getting the blood flowing, although it can be a little disappointing and immersion breaking when you fail for no real reason.

The story has been complicated.  Ezio is trying to find out about his past and where the Apple of Eden has come from; he finds books buried all around the city although these are a side mission and not crucial to the story.  There's a Turk assassin who is setting up the order in Constantinople.  Other stuff is happening.  To be honest, because of the big gaps in my partaking of the story line, I've got a bit lost.  I might need to read the Wikipedia plot summary when I finish the game.

The story certainly isn't leaving me hanging there, anyway.