Thursday, 31 December 2009

Gears of War (XBox 360)

I figured I'd make my last game of 2009 one of the biggest games of the decade - Gears of War. But I'll be honest - I'm not really getting along with it at the moment.

I think a lot of this has to do with my relative inexperience with this kind of game. I'm struggling with cover, and getting blown away time after time. I don't find the controls all that intuitive.

I played it for about two hours, with the first hour on "Hardcore" setting. Well, it suggested this setting if I knew how to make a headshot, and I do! Just not well enough, it seems... I was getting nowhere! A quick switch to casual helped matters, and I was able to see more of the game... but not enough of it for my liking.

You can't even go sightseeing without getting into bother, these days.

Still, it's a big, bold bastard of a game, with some fantastic action setpieces. I like the team dynamic a lot, too. It's just a shame that my team mates aren't able to keep me alive a bit longer!

With 2010 fast approaching, this feels like one of my more rubbish write-ups. I haven't been concentrating on the game as much as I should, with everything else that's going on. 2009 saw the blog get off to a great start, only to die off partway through the year. It's been great to get back into it, especially with the added drain on my spare time that having a new baby involves. But I expect to go strong with this in the new year, and maybe even get back to my intentional aim of revisiting earlier games. But with so much still to play, and so much still to look forward to, this blog looks set to run and run.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Mini Squadron (iPhone/iPod Touch)

I got this as part of the appvent calendar, an initiative that gave away a different iPhone/iPod Touch game every day in December up to Christmas Eve. I'm all for free stuff, especially games, as it extends the potential lifespan of this blog even further.

I'm especially for free stuff when it turns out to be good. Mini Squadron is a pretty impressive little horizontally-scrolling shmup, which sees you going backwards and forwards and looping-the-loop over a fairly small tract o' land, downing enemy aircraft until a level is complete.

It's more or less as simple as that. What's good about it is that there are loads of unlockable planes (56, in fact!), meaning that there's a heck of a lot of game in here for what is essentially a simple shooter.

Look, pretty patterns! Shoot the planes, and you'll see black smoke. Better for you.

It also controls pretty nicely. Circling your thumb around is enough to have you swooping and spiralling around the skies quite gracefully. It plays very, very nicely. It actually reminds me of an old Commodore 64 game called The Island of Dr. Destructo... with some Time Pilot elements thrown in.

Throw in some fun extra weapons and you've got yourself a cracking time. If you played it non-stop it would take you at least five or six hours to complete, probably more. I reckon that's easily enough to justify its £1.79 cost, but seeing as I got it for free, I'm extremely happy. There's a Lite version available... give it a try.

Star Flight (Amiga)

I can't tell you how long I've been wanting to play Star Flight. After The Bard's Tale had ensnared me on the Commodore 64, I had been bitten by the complex games bug, and seeing this on the C64 really piqued my curiosity. But I didn't have a disk drive at the time, and when I did get one I'd either forgotten about this or just didn't bother hunting it down. In truth, I blame Wasteland for that.

So it was with some excitement that I saw this in my Amiga pile. I was immediately put off, though, when upon opening the box I was confronted with the deranged scribblings of a confined lunatic.

Gibber gibber, scribble. Make any sense to you? No, me neither.

Actually, it's quite understandable. My mate Stephen, who gave me his Amiga, always used to write notes when playing complex games, which makes sense as you'd need to refer to or remember this stuff maybe months later on in the game. Loads of his game boxes are littered with scraps of paper that look like something that would lead you to the Holy Grail, when really they just lead you to the planet with the best mining potential in a game.

In terms of the game, it was really difficult for me to get going. What with a huge manual and code wheel, there's a hell of a lot to get to grips with, something which seemed easier when we were teenagers. And probably was, come to think of it.

The latest Missile Command world record attempt wasn't going well...

Also, the disk is filled with saved games. And there doesn't appear to be a way to start a new game, at least, not without making a new backup of the original. And I couldn't be bothered with that, either. So I set out into the galaxy in the Starship Enterprise, with Kirk and crew at large. Cheers, Stephen.

Still, difficulties aside, the time I spent in the game showed much potential. I did manage to pick out a planet on the star map, made my way there without confrontation, landed safely, drove about on the planet, mined a bit, made my way back to the ship, and took off back into the planet's orbit. Not bad going. Next will come the job of finding somewhere to sell my stuff.

Star Flight is obviously a game that you could play for years. I don't know if I'll be committing to that, but I'm happy to have finally had the opportunity to play it, and to know that it's there if I feel like having another crack at it.

Project X (Amiga)

I seem to be all Team 17 and Bitmap Bros. with my Amiga selections at the moment. Not that that's a bad thing... they're renowned as having produced some of the best games on the Amiga. Still, given the range of games, apparently good and bad, that I've got, maybe I should spread the rest of them out a bit...

Anyway, Project X. It's a fairly typical Amiga horizontally-scrolling shmup. It certainly is extremely polished... it's got loads of huge sprites whizzing about, albeit in sadly predictable (and typical) patterns, some of which are more like demos than attack patterns.

Ooh. Swoopy. Swirly. Deadly.

But enough of the negatives... Project X is a lot of fun to play. It's obviously inspired by Gradius (or maybe Salamander, with the helpful speech) above anything else, with a large range of weapons to pick from, and collecting power-ups lights up the icons in turn along the bottom of the screen. A quick "Wizball Waggle" activates the power-up, and you're good to go. Simple, and effective.

There's not really anything revolutionary to Project X... like I said earlier, it just polishes everything until it's really shiny, and delivers a good time into the bargain. The version I've got cost a tenner... I reckon that would have been more than fair back in the day.

Battle Chess (Amiga)

Playing Battle Chess was a right blow to my ego, I'll tell you that much. See, chess is seen as the ultimate intellectuals' game. If you're smart, you can play chess. And although I haven't played it for ages, I always thought I was alright at chess.

I'm not.

Battle Chess kicked me seven ways from Sunday. And I was just playing at the default difficulty level. I suspect that if I'd looked, I could have made it harder still. The thing with chess is, you have to be able to look several moves ahead. And where I thought I was setting the computer up for a devastating loss, I was actually digging myself into a huge hole. Within four moves, I'd lost four of my most powerful pieces, and the game was almost up. I was devastated.

This isn't going well. And one of my own men is bored at his friend's demise...

Lack of human brainpower aside, what else can I say about Battle Chess? I remember seeing it in a computer shop in Newcastle when it was first released. It made an awesome demo for the Amiga... it's very enticing, with its big, bold characters wandering about the board like the creatures in that odd space-chess-type game in Star Wars. It was probably the perfect game for teens to convince their dads that the Amiga was the perfect computer for them.

It does look very impressive when the castle turns into a giant rock monster, wanders down the board and batters a pawn to death. And the other animations in "fights" are great. So, really, the only downside I saw to Battle Chess was the fact it exposed me as something of a clueless dope. Might be better if I stick to playing other humans.

Forza Motorsport 3 (XBox 360)

This is cheating, because I've been playing it solidly for ages. But I'm just throwing in some games that I've been playing "properly" because, well, I want to!

It seems odd to say this, but going by what people are saying, Forza 3 is something of a Marmite game. The people that loved Forza 2 for its difficulty and seriousness seem to be underwhelmed with this new iteration, feeling that it panders a little to the arcade crowd.

For my part, I can't really argue with that. I found Forza 2 far too difficult, and I'm not into tuning and modding, so I really struggled. Forza 3 has a Quick Upgrade feature, which means I can be competitive in the game without having to know the ins and outs of downforce and braking performance and engine capacity. In other words, I'm finding it much more fun.

Look, ma! Look what I did!

In fact, I'm enjoying this game so much that I've even dabbled with the paints and vinyls, and I haven't got an artistic bone in my body. And the fact that the multiplayer, the one part of Forza 2 that I did enjoy, has lost none of its appeal just sticks the cherry on top.

Forza Motorsport 3 is a beautiful looking, highly enjoyable racer that straddles the line between arcade and simulation just right... for anyone that loves arcade racing. If that's you, you'll probably be able to overlook the flaws that more serious racers have found with the game, and get on with the business of having some high-speed thrills.

Borderlands (XBox 360)

This one was raved about by... well, everyone! And when zavvi decided they would sell it for £17.99, it seemed rude not to, despite the fact I'm not usually a fan of FPS games.

Having said that, Borderlands is kind of like a cross between Diablo and Fallout 3, with almost every enemy you defeat in the post-apocalyptic landscape dropping loot. I like this in a game; it gives me far more incentive to keep playing when the game is constantly giving me stuff.

Rather than having you create a character, Borderlands gives you a choice of four, each in a different style. This might be a bit restrictive for your average dice chucker, but I appreciated the ability to just pick someone and jump straight in.

Ahhh, I love the smell of charred bandit in the morning.

Better than the accessibility, though is the weaponry. Borderlands must surely contain the biggest arsenal in videogaming history. Every day, the shop (sorry, vending machine) will have a new range of artillery for you to buy, with some very imaginative and sick stuff to pick from. My favourite so far is the sniper rifle that sets things (and people) on fire. It's bizarrely entertaining to see the experience points you're receiving leaking from a character as the flames take his life force away.

You'll also find special weapons at key points in the game, usually after defeating a boss character or completing a task for someone. Things like this really help to keep the game fresh and exciting, as you're always wondering what you'll find next.

Throw in a solid and very entertaining multiplayer game, and in Borderlands you've got one of the best games of 2009. I'm very glad I took that punt for eighteen quid... that was a bargain.


Yep, updates have been... umm... sporadic. Well, keeping it daily at this time of year is tricky, to say the least. Sorry. Still, I've got lots of updates on the way, and should have them all done by the end of, erm, the decade. And I'm doing more than one game a day at the moment! Fun times!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Spelunky (PC)

I like surprises, as long as they're good surprises. Spelunky is a lovely surprise. The only annoying thing is that I didn't get around to playing it before now... especially as I seem to have an older, unzipped version sitting on my hard drive. That's time I've wasted when I could have been playing the game!

Spelunky puts you in the boots of a caver. You're off exploring caves for treasure, and there are cave critters to defeat and damsels in distress to rescue. You'd be absolutely right in thinking that it sounds familiar... it most definitely is. There's more than a nod to the past here - the whole game feels old-school, and is absolutely no worse off for that.

Dah-da-da-daaaah, dah-da-daaaaaah...

There are a few minor control scheme niggles... it can be tricky to pull off exactly the move you want at the right time or in the right place, and I haven't figured out how to do certain things whilst carrying a stranded woman (yes, really). Generally speaking though, Spelunky offers hours of snake-whipping, bat-bashing, treasure-hunting entertainment.

Anyone who's ever enjoyed games such as Pitfall II, Rick Dangerous and, of course, Spelunker will be right at home with this one. The PC version is currently available for free at Spelunky World... a note there mentions that an XBLA version is coming soon. I'll be looking out for that...

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Bobby Bearing (ZX Spectrum)

Well, after the "fun" of Technician Ted, I thought I'd give the Spectrum another try - this time with Bobby Bearing, which as well as being a renowned Spectrum classic also received a Zzap! Sizzler on the Commodore 64, if I remember rightly. So surely I was in for a good time with this one?

Weeellllll... no.

Obviously, I was doing something wrong. But I spent my entire game rolling around a landscape that appeared to consist of about six screens endlessly bolted together, with the (very) occasional different screen thrown in to try and keep me awake. But as it was all done in near silence, this tactic didn't work.

Die, you irritatingly smiley bastard.

Actually, that's harsh. There's a noise every time you go off the screen, and the grating sounds of moving boxes every once in a while. The moving boxes provided my only entertainment... squashing the bastard bearing. Because I have no idea what I was meant to be doing. I was just rolling around a samey landscape, watching my timer go down.

I suppose the drawback with emulators can be the lack of comprehensive game instructions. Maybe if I'd had these, and some idea of the object of the game, Bobby Bearing would have been great. But usually you can pick up the gist just by playing, and it really didn't seem like the game had a point. Shame. Wonder what gem the Spectrum will land me with next time?

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Chip Factory featuring Technician Ted (ZX Spectrum)

Hoooohh, boy. Sometimes this blogging lark is a bit painful.

I've vowed to play not only the games I own for this blog, but also games on systems I may not have owned, or other games I may have missed in the past. Now, the Spectrum is not a computer I'm well versed in. I had friends that owned them, and I enjoyed a fair few of the games I played then, but I've missed out on a lot. So I've trawled the internet for "Best Spectrum Games" lists, in an effort to help my progress. Technician Ted turned up on some of them, so I gave it a go.

But not for long.

Technician Ted can probably best be described as "Jet Set Willy in overalls". Looking at it, it's more like Jet Set Fred Elliott. I say that, I say I say that, because I can only go on first impressions. The reason for this is that I literally only saw three screens in the game.

Yep, this must be the boardroom - there's the chairman's creepy floating severed head.

Now, I know I'm not very good at JSW-type games, but come ooooon, Ted! Each of the three screens you can easily access appears to be impossible. On the first, if you go left, there's a pixel-perfect jump that is too perfect and is actually impossible to make, and a too-fast meanie that you can't jump. On the second, the only platform you can plausibly reach is guarded by an impassable spinning coin. And on the third, there's no way down without dying.

So, either Spectrum owners were possessed with superhuman gaming skills (a possibility, given the abilities of some I know, and given what they had to work with), or this game just isn't playable without cheating. Up yours, Ted. I never even got to find out what kind of chips they make in your factory.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Canabalt (PC/iPhone/iPod Touch)

You might have heard of Canabalt by now... it's getting quite a reputation these days, and with good reason. Originally a free browser-based PC game, it's made the leap to the iPhone, and quite successfully, by all accounts.

Leaping is what Canabalt is all about. In what is one of the simplest games you'll ever play, the game sees you on the rooftops of a crumbling city, trying to get away from disaster. I'm pretty sure that, as in most games of this type, that's not possible, and you live by your high score/farthest travelled distance.

And that's it. You use one button to jump, and you can't control your character in any other way. It's extremely refreshing, and the game turns out to be very, very addictive.

Flyyyyy... fly, my beauty!

Canabalt has an appealing retro graphics style... it uses a black/white/grey palette, and the main character is very Commodore 64-ish. Once it gets moving, you'll be drawn in to your thrilling escape effort, which rivals anything from blockbuster movies in its scale.

There's really nothing more to say about the game... it really is that simple. But what's also simple is the fact that Canabalt is a really well done game that's very addictive and well worth your time. Play the free version first, and then if you like it, pop onto your iPhone and pay the £1.79 to have it on you at all times. See how good you are. The farthest I've managed to get is 6088 metres.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Alien Breed (Amiga)

Alien Breed is out tomorrow on XBLA, apparently. Big deal - I've got every Amiga version of Alien Breed upstairs. My mate was obviously a big fan. So, what better timing than to play the original version for my blog than right now?

I was quite excited when I opened the box... in something of a novelty, not only did the game come with two game disks, but also a story disk. A nice touch, I thought, and popped it into the drive to have a look-see before I played the game. Pity, then, that the disk suffered a software failure. Bloody old tech!

Oh well, not to worry. At least the game works... something which, after play, I am glad of.

I think it's pretty fair to say that Alien Breed is pretty much "Gauntlet... iiiiin SPAAAAAAAACE!". It's got more or less exactly the same mechanic... wander around mazes, using keys to open doors, collecting health and then getting the hell out of there. Luckily, there's a little bit more to it than that... there's more of a story and an objective than in Gauntlet.

Die, alien scum! Funny how they explode when you shoot them...

Also, things are broken up a little by the fact you can access a computer at certain locations, which is handy for all kinds of things. Best of these is the shop, sorry, weapons upgrade facility. There's quite a range of firepower... which you WILL need. Or if you're just bored with blasting aliens, you could have a nice relaxing game of Pong...

Alien Breed is, indeed, a spacey version of Gauntlet. I thought this might be a problem, as I get bored with Gauntlet quite easily. I did find myself drawn into Alien Breed, although with such a big game, the need to start from the beginning with each game can irk after a while.

As something of a Stop Press, I've now played the demo of the 360 version (thanks to the wonders of only half-finishing blog posts). It seems quite promising... there's a lot of darkness, which leads to some jumpy scares. I expect I'll buy it over Christmas, although 800 points for the first part of a trilogy seems a mite excessive. Maybe I'll just stick to all my Amiga versions...

Monday, 14 December 2009

F-Zero GX (Gamecube)

It's a bit of a stretch to say I've never played this. However, it is fair to say I haven't played it properly. See, when I owned it in the States, my Gamecube was hooked up to a 19 inch portable telly, and I was sitting ten feet away. And if you've ever played F-Zero GX, you'll know that that's no way to play it.

Now, I have a bigger telly. It's a 32-inch HD telly, which while not exactly being state of the art, is a nice telly and much better for gaming. So I figured it might be time to try F-Zero GX again.

And it's a much better experience on a bigger screen, that's for sure. Tear-arsing around at 1600 km/h is better in every respect when you're displaying it on a larger area. Speed apart, everything still looks pretty nice and sharp these days. In fact, I can't help wondering if the Wachowskis' Speed Racer movie was partially based on this game. The crazy looping tracks, the eye-searing colours, the insane speeds, the battling element... all traits that Speed Racer and F-Zero GX share.

Wish I hadn't had that sandwich before the race...

Having said all that, I can't say that I really enjoyed F-Zero GX any more, this time around. I still had a lot of trouble getting around corners smoothly, and in my first set of races, never finished higher than 20th. Things improved in my second series with a different vehicle... I actually finished second in one race. That was ruined when I couldn't negotiate corners on another race and ended up going from first to 27th in a matter of seconds.

Basically, I'm not very good at F-Zero GX. I realise that it's a game that needs a fair bit of practice in order to become close to proficient, and so it's not really for me. I think I'm doomed to suffer a dislike of futuristic racers for eternity...

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Super Metroid (SNES)

Well, stuff this.

I've never played any of the Metroid games, so I thought, where better to start than with the one I actually own (currently)? This may have been a mistake.

I'll be honest, though... I probably didn't go into this as much as I should have. Instead of digging out my original and playing that, I was lazy and used an emulator. This means that I haven't read any instructions. And this means that I don't know how to turn in to the morphing ball.

Lights... camera... but where the hell's the action?

That's right. Everyone that's ever so much as heard of Metroid knows that Samus, the main character, can turn into a ball to roll through small gaps. Well, maybe Samus can, but I can't. I've tried every key and button and combination of buttons on the controller, but nothing. And I've tried to redefine the keys on the menu screen, but there is no mention of the morphing ball there, either.

So I've been doomed to wander around a load of very dull and uninhabited corridors, in the hope of finding something to do. There was one bit with a bit pterodactyl-type creature, which beat me up a bit and then flew off. And that was it. The only enemy I've encountered so far.

I'm sure that Super Metroid might be a cracking game. If I dig out my original and read the instructions, and find out how to turn into that bastard ball, then I'll give it another try and write an update. Because the rest of the game surely can't be as dull as the start!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Ant Attack (ZX Spectrum)


Now, I know old games can be difficult. I've been there and done that. Sometimes, a game that looks very simple can be absolutely rock, much to one's surprise.

Ant Attack appears to be one such game. Now, I was not a Speccy boy, or Spec-chum, or whatever it is they're calling themselves these days. But I was aware it had some cracking games, and Ant Attack is renowned as a classic. So I thought I'd give it a try.

I'm not very good at it.

I don't know if that's because of my inability to grasp the controls... I had to use keys because I couldn't configure my joystick. As a result, I died a lot.

Quick! Run! We're almost freeeeee!

Despite the screenshot, I did score points and I did get past the first level. I took a screenshot early because, at the time, I didn't think I would get much further. I did, though, which was just as well or this little post would have been much shorter and more awkward.

Ant Attack has quite a nasty atmosphere to it, actually. It's set in a very bleak, forced 3D town/world, and if you wait long enough, you'll see that it's seething with giant ants. And these bastards don't mess around... once you jump over that wall, they're on you. They don't let up, either. You can't just run off and hide, and hope they'll forget about you. Even in "safe" spots, they'll just hang around waiting for you, and then bite big lumps out of you at the first opportunity.

I can't say I really got far enough into the game to have got to know it properly. I can't say I really enjoyed it that much, either. Too much pain in too short a time. It's interesting though, that's for sure, but I'm not sure if I'd have had the patience to stick with it back in 1983, let alone now.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Prey (XBox 360)

Prey is a game I've had sitting around for ages, and I figured I should finally get around to at least giving it a look. I can't say I was that bothered... I'm not a big FPS fan, but I've heard it talked up quite a bit. So, into the drive it went.

It's got quite an intriguing premise... OK, so the whole alien abduction thing is hardly new, but playing as a Native American Indian (Cherokee, in fact) is pretty unusual. And they've tapped into the spiritual side of the Cherokee to give you a range of "special powers" in keeping with that whole mystique.

So, it really is a massive clash of worlds, going from this ancient and noble race to the clean technology of an alien spaceship... one where the inhabitants are rather nastily hurting fellow humans, including your family.

Not a handsome lad. Also, not smart... he's not aiming at me, so he's about to be alien mush.

For some reason, though, Prey reminded me of a PS2 game. I can't for the life of me think which one. Maybe it's The Mark of Kri... yes, I think so. Although they're entirely different games, they do both feature a main character with a bird as a kind of guide. Glad I've nailed that down now.

Anyway, I quite enjoyed my little spell on Prey, although really the game was just getting started when I put it down. Is that enough to make me carry on with it? Yeah, I think so.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Bayonetta (XBox 360 demo)

I haven't written about a demo before, but the first game I played for this blog was Devil May Cry 4, and Bayonetta was directed by the creator of the DMC series, so I figured, why not?

There's more to it than that though... Bayonetta is quite probably the single most mentally insane game I've ever played. And bear in mind, I've played Blood Will Tell..

It's not just insane, though... it's possibly the most entertaining and enjoyable game I've played all year, and that's only based on the demo. It may, basically, be a lot like Devil May Cry, but it takes all that po-faced faux-sincerity and throws it out the window in favour of sheer lunacy and an imagination that you can't help but love.

Trust me, this is a relatively sane moment.

Something that's evident right from the start is that Bayonetta is gorgeous. And I'm not just talking about the lead character - the art direction and style is extraordinary. It's not just the actual graphics, although they're stunning... it's the amazing level design, and little touches such as the butterflies that fly from Bayonetta when she performs a double-jump. Lovely.

As for the game... I can't remember the last time a game made me laugh out loud out of sheer joy at what's just happened on the screen. Some of the tricks Bayonetta can perform are so way, way over the top that they're hilarious. The Torture Attacks are funny, but one of the bigger moves I performed to kill a big monster was just so utterly mad, I was giggling like a little girl. And some of the stuff that happens in the levels... incredible.

I've read all the hype about Bayonetta and tried not to be taken in, but from playing the demo, I absolutely cannot wait for the game to be released. Try the demo for yourself... not just once, but two or three times. Chances are, you'll feel the same way.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Comix Zone (Sega Megadrive/Sega Megadrive Collection on consoles)

Wow, it seems like ages since I last played a Megadrive game! And I haven't played many over the course of this blog at all. Not sure if that's because I owned a Megadrive back in the day, but I should really start putting that right. And I'm starting now.

Comix Zone was a game I always wanted and never managed to get, for some reason. It just looked like nothing I'd seen or played before... I always thought it seemed more imaginative than most games.

Having now played it for quite a while, that thought holds true. That said, Comix Zone is basically a button-mashing beat 'em up, which doesn't sound very exciting. It's the way it's been done that makes it a bit special.

Take that, you evil cur!

The game throws you, a comic book author, into your own comic, and you have to try and fight your way out. As you'd expect of a comic, it's split into panels, and you have to defeat every enemy in a panel before you can move on to the next one. At times, you'll be given a choice of route, making this something of an interactive story, and key things happen at different times or in different places, depending on the route you've taken.

I really like this approach and the style of Comix Zone. The characters relay their thoughts through comic-style speech bubbles, and you definitely feel as though you're taking part in a story. The relatively limited style of action is certainly made a lot more palatable because of the game's presentation. I like this one.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Super Mario Bros. (NES)

Oh, come on. I mentioned in the Soosiz post a few days ago that I'd barely played any of the Super Mario games. And seeing as I got SMB for free from Nintendo, courtesy of buying the Internet Channel on the Wii ages ago, I thought, "what better than a miserable Sunday afternoon to sit and give it a good bash?"

With that out of the way, I then thought I'd have a go of Super Mario Bros. Haha. Ahem. Yes.

There's probably not much I can say about Super Mario Bros. that's new... I'm one of the few gamers that hasn't played the series extensively. That's a bit weird, but I've never really been that much into Nintendo's stuff. I went with Sega all the way up to the Saturn, and then with Sony and now Microsoft. They all suited my needs better. At times, I've had a Nintendo console as my "second" console, but never really given them as much attention. My wife, Lorraine, knows a lot more than me about how to play this.

Why is it that almost every SMB pic on the net is taken from level one? Can nobody be bothered to actually play it?

I don't regret that, but Super Mario Bros., after some extended play, really is a wonderful game. It's that so much has been packed into something that is essentially so simple, that goes towards making it so extraordinary. If it was simply a case of getting from left-to-right before the time ran out, it would be fun but unremarkable. But there are so many ways of getting there, courtesy of warps, and so many little things to find that you could play it for weeks and not have discovered everything.

I don't expect to sit and play this for hours on end from this point on... this blog would end right now if that were the case, for one thing, and I've just got too many other games that need to be played. But it feels comforting to know that it's just sitting in my Wii, tucked away out of sight, waiting for me when I've got the time. And I will have the time... I'll make sure of that.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Starfox Adventures (Gamecube)

Quick question: is it wrong for cartoon animals to be sexy? I only ask because, in Starfox Adventures, one of the characters you play is a blue female fox. A nubile, young, blue female fox. With pert breasts. Dressed in a skimpy bra and a loincloth.

OK, so I realise that was probably a stupid question and that I might have just sent fifty percent of all readers scurrying off to find a copy of Starfox Adventures, but just hold your horses there... it's probably not worth it.

There. I've saved you the bother.

Everyone probably remembers Starfox (or Starwing) from the days of the SNES... it was something of a flagship title. The fast-paced flying and shooting action was, if not quite revolutionary, then at least tremendously entertaining. Starfox Adventures gets off to a good start... you're on the back of a flying dinosaur-thing, shooting down a giant ship. Or not... once you disable its guns, you land on the ship, and it all falls apart to a degree.

Starfox Adventures sees you roaming around foreign lands... not in a spaceship, but on foot. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's not really what you want from a Starfox game. But it's definitely not what you want from a Starfox game when you're saddled with a terrible camera. Many's the time when you'll be running into the camera, and you have to press the shoulder button to re-align. That's very frustrating and not really acceptable.

What if he comes at you with a point-ed stick?

Fortunately, the game appears to be easy enough for that not to matter. Really, despite the pert, nubile, skimpily-dressed blue fox, this is a game for kids, and that's a shame given that the biggest market for this game is probably the thirty-year-old age group. Even when you revert to controlling Fox himself, it's a simple, bog-standard run, jump and solve the simple, signpostged problems type of game. Starfox Adventures is not enough Starfox and too much Adventure, and that's really the biggest problem of all.

Friday, 4 December 2009

PC games are a pain in the arse.

Really, they are. I had a good one pencilled in for today, and it installed just fine, but when I went to actually play it... no chance. You never find out what the problem is, other than a guess that it's because you're using a newer version of Windows than the game was written for. I tried messing around with the settings and the compatibility, but with no joy.

So, there's no game today.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Denki Blocks! (GBA)

Sometimes, as gamers, we make mistakes with our purchases. Whether it's a badly-judged impulse buy, or going on recommendations when you know you really shouldn't, our gaming histories are littered with boxes, cartidges and disks that are sitting gathering dust.

Denki Blocks! is a game that I knew I shouldn't have bought. But, you know, everyone talked about how great it was. What a great puzzle game it was.

I hate puzzle games. But now and again, something comes along which grabs me. Puzzle Quest, Zoo Keeper, Jewel Quest... those games, I like. But I suppose they're not true puzzle games. They're all twists on the "Match three" genre. Denki Blocks! is a true puzzle game.

Move the blocks through the gaps to make the shapes. Yeah, just like that.

As such, I'm sure it's a wonderful example of its type. But I wouldn't be able to tell you that. My brain just doesn't work properly when it comes to these things. I can't process them properly. I can't work them out. And so, I don't play them.

I gave this one a fair shake, but in return, all it gave me was a headache. It shows you a shape that you have to aim for, and you have to move the coloured blocks through the gaps and manoeuvre them into those shapes. And I just can't do it. It's ridiculous. I hate it.

If anyone wants a copy of Denki Blocks! (cartridge only), posted for free, they can have it. I know for a fact I won't be playing it again.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

King & Balloon (Arcade/MAME/Anything NAMCO can get it running on)

I originally thought that this was going to be my easiest write-up so far (well, except for Peggle Nights...) - I was going to say "King & Balloon is just a shit version of Galaxian". But then I played it a few more times, and decided that was a bit harsh, and probably wrong.

There's not too much I can say about it... you're in a castle, and the king is running around underneath you. Floating above the castle are rows of balloons. I can only presume they're robot balloons, remotely controlled by some unseen enemy bent on kidnapping your king, because they don't just float there, they swoop down and you have to shoot them.

Yep. It's insane.

If they get past you, they'll sit at the bottom of the screen. The panicking king blunders about without much thought, and at some point will wander into a balloon, which will then fly off with the king. If you can shoot the balloon, the king will float back to safety. If not, you lose a life, and another king is crowned for you to save!

And that's about it. So, King & Balloon - not a shit version of Galaxian, just a weird one, that's not as good as Galaxian. Worth a play, but nothing to get too excited about.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (XBox)

This is a tough one to write about. I mean, I've wanted to play it for ages, and I love Star Wars. And the fact I didn't like it doesn't mean it's a bad game. In fact, given more time, I could probably really get into it. But I only gave it an hour, and to be honest, it hadn't really got started in that time.

The game is set way, way before the Star Wars movies. It starts in familiar fashion... the music, the scrolling intro, the pan down from space to a spaceship under attack. And then to your dope of a character, rolling out of bed as the unpteenth laser blast finally awakens them from their slumber.

Thank goodness for that, the guests have started to arrive!

Knights of the Old Republic is pretty dialogue-heavy... it is more of a role-playing game than an action game, after all. The problem for me is that, at least to start with, there's no flow to the game. Instead of having a tutorial, you learn as you go, with another character joining up with you and explaining how to use your inventory, maps etc. You'd think this would be the best way to go, but as soon as you encounter anything in your travels, the game stops while he tells you how to go about your business.

I'm certain that KOTOR will develop into a fine game. I just have to decide whether I'm able to give it enough time for that to happen. The prospect of running around a galaxy far, far away is one that's always appealed, and after suffering the extreme disappointment of dancing Wookiees having been a day one buyer of Star Wars Galaxies, this might turn out to be just what I'm looking for. Or I could go in the direction of Dark Forces...