Tuesday, September 20, 2016

An old-fashioned game save

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Friday, August 12, 2016

No Man's Sky: Bangaio One

I started on Bangaio One, a forest planet with temperate climate, abundant flora and some fauna.  In fact, one of the first things I saw as I turned around the survey the land was a pair of tyrannosaur-type creatures on a nearby hill.  Luckily they didn't run over and attack.


There is little grass on Bangaio One, with the ground covered by short bushes and leaves.  Parts of the ground are more barren, allowing you to glimpse the orange and red dust beneath.  The air seems clear, although in the distance you feel there is a bit of a lack of visibility.


The relatively leafy ground made spotting some creatures tricky.  The Bangaioan Jawbreaker was well-camoflaged and hid in the bushes; the Thundercatian Bangaioese Boar was more visible.



As night fell, the sky darkened to a deep green; the two dinosaurs had not moved from their positions.  I crept near them to harvest some flowers.



After fitting up my ship, I went for a fly around the planet, watching the sun rise over a rocky outcrop.  And then I pushed off into space, looking back to see my planet as I did so.



I have already been back a few times but I know one day soon I shall say goodbye for good ... unless they can add the functionality to revisit places you've been.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Pokémon X: I may have the Rumble Badge

There was a bit of mucking about in Shalour City, running back and forth to the Tower of Mastery and the gym.  I was anticipating a long slog up the tower, similar to the ghost towers of other games, but after winning the gym badge and being told to go back up the tower, in fact it was a simple slope to the top.  There I was given a Lucario with mega evolution.  Mega evolution seems to make your pokémon change colour a bit and become stupidly overpowered.

Lucario in hand, I left the city and started to travel East, but in real life I got off the train and some time over night my 3DS ran out of battery.   I can't remember when I saved.  I hope I don't have to repeat the gym, although beating the fighting trainers only required one of my pokémon - Vivillon, who could one-hit-kill with a Psybeam.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Assassin's Creed Revelations: completed!

I actually completed this a while ago, but it's taken me ages to get around to writing about it - and getting the screenshots off my capture box.  Plus, you know, there were some after-game parts I wanted to get around to, including an achievement for catching the taxman which occurs once in a blue moon.  I may write about those separately.

The main game first, then.  The storyline, pulling together the missing parts of Altäir's life with the later years of Ezio, was probably the most coherent yet, although the modern-day parts, with Desmond in some sort of coma, were less successful.  The story missions seemed more varied and tighter than in previous games, but the amount of extraneous guff seemed too high - the tower defence games and constant need to send assassins to the Mediterranean were not optional enough and felt entirely superfluous.

The city of Constantinople wasn't as interesting as Rome, partially due to a lack of countryside and ancient ruins.  There was possibly more variety in buildings, but I found myself constantly having the refer to the map to work out where I was, whereas navigating Brotherhood's city was second nature by the time I finished the game.  The poor draw distance from viewpoints didn't help.


Having said that, the game on the ground is stunning to look at, and I enjoyed the parkour more than before, largely due to the hookblade which allows you to make large jumps with little fear of damage. I noticed I played the game slightly differently as well - making more use of the hiding places and running from enemies, rather than simply engaging in the fight until they were all dead.



The one weak point in the story was the involvement of Sofia Sartor, who came across as naïve and hopeless at several points throughout the game.  Her kidnapping was a cliche too far.  It wasn't made clear why she was so interested in Ezio's books, and the limited involvement the two of them had didn't establish any sort of relationship.  Ezio continued to ignore her and hide away throughout, which makes the idea that there would have been any sort of romance extremely unlikely.


But she helped him find random books, so that's alright.

The end credits went on for hours, over a dull background of the destroyed animus hub.  Which was then rebuilt, so you could continue to play and find stuff.


Which I did.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pokémon X: lost in Reflection Cave

I've not written about Pokémon X before, and yet have fifteen hours logged to it.  Partially that's because I've been rather lazy with my gaming diary, and partially that's because Nintendo have prevented you from posting screenshots to Miiverse, which in turn means I can't post them here.

Anyway.  I don't have a great record with pokémon games.  I have played Yellow, Sapphire, LeafGreen, Pearl, Black, and now X.  I have never completed one; I have reached the Elite Four on the first four games listed, and on Pearl I managed to beat them - only to get defeated by a champion and sent back to the beginning.

Yet I keep getting drawn back in.  Maybe it's that I love the beginning game - exploring the map, catching pokémon and filling up the pokédex.  The gyms to start with are generally easy, and the main problem you can have is being too powerful, with a team who just KO any rare wild pokémon instead of letting you catch them.

And so it has been the case with Pokémon X, except the game seems to be progressing a lot slower than previous iterations.  I have played for 15 hours, and have only cleared two gyms.  The journeys between gyms are not only longer - multiple long routes each time - but also contain more sidequests and distractions.  It feels a bit Assassins-Creed-ish.  I am trying to ignore anything not important, outside of the usual pokémon collecting and levelling, but I fear that I may end up with an underpowered team.  We shall see.

I've just arrived in Shalour City, where I believe there is a new gym.  People are talking of a strange tower, though, so I suspect I may investigate that first ...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Assassin's Creed Revelations: a change of scenery

I've not played much of this recently, since gaming time has been limited and the PS4 controller is always there screaming "Rocket League!".  However, I did manage to progress with the story, largely because I last left the game on a boat to Cappadocia - a town built inside a cave.  There wasn't much to distract me there, with a few data fragments spread around and little else.  The missions were generally easy, with the difficulty coming not from the missions but from the soldiers on rooftops, which were the most effective way of getting around.  I rescued the spy, caused explosions, and killed the big fat man.  Back to Constantinople!

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.



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rocket League: not good for the heart

I have tried to play a number of PS4 games, but I find it difficult since as soon as I turn on my PS4 the Rocket League icon is sitting there.  To play anything else, I have to scroll past it.  I frequently don't.

It's a tense, exciting, thrilling game, played in short ten-minute installments, and I think I'm getting better at it, albeit slowly.  Last night there were a couple of games which I was particularly pleased with - including this one.


Friday, March 04, 2016

Pokémon Picross: you are not allowed to have too much fun

I am nearly done with Picross e3, which will mean a purchase of Picross e4 in the near future.  In the meantime, though, I was pointed the way of Pokémon Picross, a free-to-play 3DS game which uses the same mechanics as the e* games but with puzzle solutions based around Pokémon.  Obviously.

It's not quite the same.  The backend is the most different - rather than just selecting from a menu, there's a sort of story attached, where you have to travel from area to area, solving the puzzles and collecting picrites.  You get a certain number of picrites for solving puzzles, but also for meeting various conditions - enabling certain powerups, meeting the time limit, and so on.

Powerups are another difference.  You can equip a certain number of pokémon, who will then give you things like a random row reveal, freezing time, or showing you where moves exist - like in the e* games, with blue colours.  To be honest, I don't really use these - except you are forced to do so in order to get the maximum number of picrites.  It would make more sense if you got more for not using powerups ...


But maybe not from a financial point of view.  Your powerups can only be used a certain number of times before needing to be recharged - basically, they're out of action for an hour or so.  You can always pay picrites to recharge them quicker.  You have to pay a certain number of picrites to access the next area, but there aren't enough in the puzzles themselves so you have to do the daily challenges - earning a few each day.  Or you can just buy picrites for real money,

So everything seems to be geared up to get you to spend picrites.  It feels like you're constantly being badgered to give the game more money, or wait for another day or another week before you're allowed to have any more fun.  Have lots of fun!  But only a certain amount each day!

The odd thing is that there's an option to buy a bundle of picrites which are unlimited, which would effectively make the game a standard pay-for title.  But I resent paying for that, and instead am chipping away at the daily challenges in order to open Area 4.  I think it may be because even when using a virtual currency, buying things in-game always stresses me, so I don't like the backend structure of a game that's based around that.

Finally, an exercise for the reader.  I had trouble with this - where is the valid move?  It took me 20 minutes to find it, but there is indeed a definite place to go.


Assassin's Creed Revelations: a long tutorial

It doesn't seem like a year since I played through Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, but it is and so it's high time I continue the series - in an attempt to make sure that I'm only four years behind the curve and no more.  I mean, when I finish Revelations I'll only have III, III Liberation, IV, Rogue, Unity, Chronicles and Syndicate to go.

Hmm.

So, Revelations.  I know that I will get to play as both Ezio and Altäir, since they are both on the cover.  I know that I will struggle to adapt to a slightly changed control scheme, since they've moved the ranged weapons button.


I know that I will get completely lost in a new city for ages, and will take some time to work out the best way to run away from the guards.  I know that I'll quickly get distracted by opening shops and chasing down thieves and looting the bodies of dead soldiers.


I know all this will happen.  Why in the future?  Because as of now, a few hours into the game, I'm still playing through the tutorial.  It goes on forever.  I have had to complete some basic missions to learn about the new eagle sense, to learn about the ranged weapons options, to learn about bombs.  I finally have a bit of freedom now, but it's taken so long.  I mean, it took over half an hour to get to the title screen!


It feels like a refined version of Brotherhood so far.  I appreciate the better control over throwing knives, I find the reformed eagle sense a bit annoying, and I find the odd Animus Island a bit odd.  It's almost as if they're running out of ideas for the modern-world story.


I'll report more soon.