Thursday, December 08, 2016

Fat Princess: Piece of Cake: not what I was expecting

I read a recent email from Sony which told me that Fat Princess: Piece of Cake was closing down its servers at the start of next year.  This was bad news, since Fat Princess is a game series I always liked the sound of, and I wanted to try it out - and a free version of the game is a good way to do so.

So I resolved to download it, but that meant finding my Vita, hoping it still held a charge, registering a new device password on Sony's 2FA system, and so on.  It all worked, amazingly.  I loaded up the game, ready to carry the fat princess around, to find that things weren't as I was expecting.


This isn't a strategy game or a platform game or anything like I believed Fat Princess to be.  This is a match-three game, with microtransactions all over the place and a slow learning curve.


But you know, it's actually a really good match-three game.  There's a lot of strategy in choosing which gems you are matching - choose red to make the swordsman hit one member of the opposing front row, yellow for the musket to shoot the entire front row (with lower damage), orange to drop a bomb on the first two rows, blue to restore health, purple to power up the princess (who acts like a smart bomb), and green to collect gems to upgrade your characters.

Get four in a row and you get an extra turn, and a sparkly gem which turns all surrounding gems the same colour when matched.  Get five in a row and you get a wildcard which erases all of a particular type.  Create combos (or 'cascades') and moves follow each other.


There have been a couple of tricky levels so far, normally with overpowered bosses, but I'm made my way through Cake Cove and ave completed the weekly levels a few times.  I will probably come back to this from time to time ... but probably won't spend money on it.

And I still need to try Fat Princess.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Assassin's Creed III: an expanding map

Now, this is the Assassin's Creed I recognise.  A map filling with icons to distract me from the main quest, a feeling of being overwhelmed and not understanding half the gameplay mechanics.  It looks as if I can build up my homestead with people sympathetic to my cause; there are pages of books flying around and random feathers; there are viewpoints and animal pawprint missions (?) and message delivery missions and and and.


It was so much easier when I was an eagle.


So, as always, I've started off by ignoring the story and trying to scale all the viewpoints in order to unlock the map.  What is quite interesting, though, is that I have a much lower drive to get the rest of the side missions completed when I don't have the achievements or trophies to chase.  I'm happy to see the pages disappear into the distance, not chasing them like those awful dynamic orbs in Crackdown 2.  I'm far more likely to head for the exclamation mark to continue the story.  This is shaking off years of videogame training, where sidequests may have been optional but they always made progression easier; in Assassin's Creed the benefits you get are marginal at best.

But it's still a bit overwhelming.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Pokémon X: breezing through the gyms

Still playing this, but I feel my pokémon may be too powered up now since I've taken the last two gyms with one-hit-kills, and I struggle to capture any wild pokémon without making them faint.  I may need to try to rush through the story a bit.

I have settled on a great team though:

  • Delphox, now level 54, with fire moves
  • Blastoise, level 51, with surf and strength
  • Pidgeot, level 51, a variety of flying and dragon moves
  • Pikachu, level 50, electrified up
  • Amaura, level 48, with ice and fighting moves
  • Lucario, level 46, with ghost and fighting
I've grown a bit too attached to them all, which doesn't bode well for finding legendaries ...

Friday, November 18, 2016

Assassin's Creed III: an unexpected twist

Hang on, he was a Templar?

OK, the clues were there: generally unlikable; cold and calculating; trying to find things rather than prevent them.  The characterisation was painfully thin, once the twist was revealed. But it's made me quite unhappy that I have aided the wrong side for three chapters of the game.

And then his friend did this.


Playing as a kid for a chapter seemed odd, particularly because it seemed so insignificant. I suppose the idea was to set off the carefree nature of childhood against the pain of loss, but it just felt a bit stilted. Still, at least I know who I'm playing as now, and it looks like the rest of the game is going to have some spectacular scenery.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Assassin's Creed III: an unlikable toff

Progressing with the series, a change of time period, a change of location, and a change of console.  I'm not sure if the latter is a good idea or not, because the combat controls have changed a lot from previous games, and I'm not sure if this is a change due to moving away from the Xbox 360, or if all versions have the same changes.  I assume it's the latter, and that means the change is a good one since I now how a larger map available to me (although not separately zoomable, which is annoying).

I seem to remember Assassin's Creed Revelations ended with Desmond being trapped in the Animus, but here he is, walking around with his friends, going to the pub and the greyhound races, having a picnic in the local park, watching the X-Factor and eating crisps.  Well, he's in the real world anyway.  There was a very brief explanation of him getting out, but it felt pretty tacked on.


Oh, and his dad was there as well.  I don't remember his dad from before.  Have I missed something?

Anyway, the big glowy ball of wonder opened a door, and the animus was set up inside a big cave system with no obvious food supply.  The target avatar this time was Haytham Kenway, a British man sent over to the US at the time of colonisation.  The first mission, however, was set in the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (or, rather, the Theatre Royal as it was then known).  I was tempted to watch the play, but I suspect it would have repeated quite quickly.


I quite liked the effects of the world being built around you as you walked through the courtyard.

After assassinating in the theatre, I was sent to the US, and several missions aboard a boat.  It was only on arrival in America that the title screen appeared, over an hour into the game.


I don't like Haytham.  He is a calculating, mean, simplistic idiot who has no morality or ethics.  I didn't want to do half of the stuff he was meant to, particularly because it was largely directed against British soldiers who were innocent of malicious schemes.  That wasn't the only reason I struggled though; as mentioned above the controls have changed significantly, with aiming and combat 'simplified'.  There is no longer the need to lock on in hand-to-and combat, but this means you lose some control of where to direct your attacks.  Shooting is also much more difficult.


Assassin's Creed games were never about the shooting, though, so I wasn't too worried about that.  Except I should have been, because a few missions have almost depended on it.  Sigh.

Anyway, the changes don't stop at the controls.  Yes, there are still viewpoints ...


... and collectables such as note pages, but there is a distinct lack of the empire building from previous games.  No shops to buy, no assassin network to command - or even assassins to call on during missions, except in very restricted ways.  In a way this is good, since my main complaint about Revelations was that there was too much to do.  It may be that the game expands a bit, since previous entries introduced them gradually, but I'm now four hours in and it's still very linear.

It's lovely to look at though, certainly more so than Revelations, and there are some very nice graphical effects around the world.  I am currently hiking around the countryside in the snow trying to find out about the movements of someone called Braddock, and there's a real sense of inertia to movement.  As you walk, you dig furrows in the snow.  Unfortunately not everything is modelled with accurate physics, meaning that if you kill an animal (such as one of the wolves which are constantly attacking you) and then walk around its corpse, you can make it levitate.


Hopefully I will adapt to the controls soon.  The Wii U controller is great for the game though, and I like the larger map, especially for planning movements through lots of guards.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Game Boy Wars: offset grids

I love Advance Wars, even if Kieron always wins.  Since Nintendo seem to have forgotten the series exists, I decided to try out some of the original games from the NES and Game Boy eras.  The fact that they were only released in Japan is a barrier only in terms of language, due to the wonders of emulation - and even that isn't an issue if you find translated ROMs.

I didn't; I like the excitement of not knowing what buttons do what.  Not that there's much to guess here.  The main difficulty was finding which menu item progressed a turn.

Unfortunately the version of Famicom Wars I tried first didn't work, so I progressed on to Game Boy Wars.  The first thing I noted was that the map grid has each row offset - so effectively it's played on a hex grid rather than a square one.  When you select a unit to move, it's not clear initially where it can move to; you have to keep an eye on the "distance remaining" marker.  Some of the squares are different colours and it's not clear why.  The units aren't cute like in later games in the series.




But it's still fun.  The first map was actually relatively difficult, albeit mainly because I forgot to build units for a couple of turns after the first.  I'll come back to this some day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars: playing online

For something old, with a much-improved sequel, SARPBC has an active online community.  I hosted a game, and found five people joining me very quickly - and just as with Rocket League, playing online multiplies the fun several times.

While recording gameplay on the PS3 is still tricky, SARPBC does allow you to save replays.  I scored the overtime goal in this match - after many close calls.


Friday, October 07, 2016

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars: evolution of a masterpiece

I was surprised to learn that Rocket League was actually a sequel to a PS3 game by Psyonix called  Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars.  With such a catchy title, it's hard to see why it never took off to the same extent as Rocket League did.  Having said that, apparently it was downloaded on PSN over two million times, so if anything it just goes to show how I don't keep up with trends any more.

Anyway, when I found this out I saw it was on sale on PSN for £1.99, and since I got Rocket League for 'free' via PS+ I thought I would try it out.  It was only after I had bought it that I discovered that there's an extensive trial version which I could have tried for free, since the way PS3 games are sold on the store is ludicrously complicated.

It's ... not bad.  The essence of Rocket League is there, and many of the pitches and arenas are recognisable from the sequel.  There is a single-player mode which is different from the standard tournament I played through in Rocket League - here there are minigames and a tournament of varying rules and opponents, which I have already played through once but am likely to do so again.  As with Rocket League, the game comes into its own with the online side, which is great fun but finding a match is a pretty bare bones experience, reminding me of Half Life deathmatch servers from 2002.

But the cars feel less weighty and solid, it's slower and less precise, and there's either awful screen tear or quite a poor (and varying) framerate.  The controls feel a bit untidy, and aerials are much harder to pull off.  It is a great demonstration on how controls can make or break a game.

I'll probably complete the single-player game and play a few more online matches, but other than that it'll be back to Rocket League.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: a great witch arises

You know, this game was keeping my attention, but unfortunately Pokémon X intervened and took up the cartridge slot in the 3DS - and, of course, there was the perennial issue with the 3DS of picross games.  With the launch of the new Phoenix Wright game on the eShop, however, I thought I ought to go back to the Layton crossover and try to finish it.

When I last played, I had just defended Espella in court and she had been subsequently accused of not being just a witch, but the great witch.  And so I went off to examine the town for clues, solving puzzles along the way.  I searched for, and found, a cat, running into the High Inquisitor along the way.  Layton was summoned to the storyteller.  Wright went to see Espella, and then to the scene of a murder three months previous.


The storyteller appeared flummoxed on how Layton and Luke had appeared in the town; he hadn't written them into the story.  He was keen to write them out, though.


He hinted that he was going to kill Wright, so Layton sped over to the alchemist's house, where the murder had taken place.  It wasn't Wright that was cursed though; Layton has been turned into a golden statue.

Statue?  No, it's Layton.

So, off to court now to prove that Maya - the only one in the room with Wright when the witches appeared and cast the curse - isn't a witch herself.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

An old-fashioned game save

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