Friday, December 12, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pokémon Pearl: j'ai Palkia

My quest up the mountain led me to Team Galactic summoning a legendary pokémon, Palkia. My long trip had left my pokémon weak, and when I was challenged by the two lackies, fighting alongside Jay, I only just defeated them. Luckily, Jay then healed my pokémon (why couldn't he do that in the first place?) before I took on the boss. He was tough, with pokémon around five levels stronger than mine, but I beat him and he ran off with his tail between his legs.

Palkia was sitting there. I healed up, and went to fight. Luxray hit with Thunder first, paralysing Palkia and taking off 25% of its energy. But a heavy hit left him with only 5HP left, and I switched to Infernape (killed in one hit, after throwing a Flame Wheel which caused virtually no damage) and then Gyrados. I threw one ultra ball, which Palkia escaped from, but he didn't kill Gyrados that time. I threw another ultra ball, and he didn't escape. I was amazed.

Maintenant, j'ai une pokémon legendaire.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pokémon Pearl: erm ...

So much for this gaming diary. I had no idea where I was or what I was doing when I last played Pokémon Pearl, so I looked up the last entry here, which told me I had just beaten a gym leader and had six badges. In the game, I've got seven gym badges and no gym leader in sight.

I've worked out what to do next though, and have just beaten Team Galactic's boss, and freed three pokémon that he was experimenting on. They just disappeared, though - I hope I get to catch them again later ...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bangai-O Spirits: story and best completed!

There are three main modes in Bangai-O Spirits - the story mode, a group of levels called "Treasure's Best", and a larger bunch of levels which aren't quite as good. The categorisation works quite well.

The story mode acts as a tutorial to the rest of the game, although it gets quite hard towards the end, with quite funny and self-referential story segments interspersed. The reference to taking the game to the second-hand shop when it was finished was most amusing.

The Treasure's Best levels are quite shooty and action-packed. Some of them start with far too many enemies on screen, and an immediate need for a smart bomb. There's a load of slowdown, but it's not clear if that's on purpose or not. I'd guess it is, because on the rare occasion that I've managed a 100x4 (a hundred bullets, at four times the normal size), the screen's paused for a good second before restarting.

I'm still working through the puzzle levels, and I'm probably halfway through. Some take ages to complete; some are over in a couple of seconds. Some are great, others not so.

And I've not even tried to make my own levels yet ...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mr Driller Drill Spirits: not deep enough

Still nowhere near the bottom of the Egyptian 1500m level, despite loads of tries. I need to not panic so much.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mario Kart Wii: are you there? Hello?

I can appreciate that, when playing against strangers, a lack of voice chat can be a good thing. The absence of whiney American teenagers screaming in your ear is a blessing. But when you're playing against friends, it becomes a little soulless.

We've found ways around it. When I play Kieron and John at one of the DS's online games, we set up a Halo 3 lobby on Xbox Live, and use that to talk amongst ourselves. In fact, in a couple of days' time that won't be necessary, since Microsoft are finally implementing party chat on their new dashboard.

This evening I played online Mario Kart Wii against George and Marty, and I had to put my mobile on speakerphone just so we could have a conversation during the game. Rubbish. The game wasn't though - a fair smattering of wins from both sides paying testament to Nintendo's balancing policy, with several close finishes. Great fun.

I then went offline and completed two of the 100cc cups. I still can't get better than a silver on the last of the new tracks though - Rainbow Road kills it every time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Essential Sudoku DS: (picture puzzles) completed!


After hours of effort, Essential Sudoku DS is finally over. Well, the picross puzzles - I'm not going to do the sudokus.

So, what do you think the last puzzle was? Well, let's see ...

Last puzzle! How exciting!

Lots of colours. It looks like it'll be quite spectacular. Let's see, where to start? Well, the sixth column sums to 14 plus one blank, so we know how that fits in. We can see the seventh row too. Hmm, this is rather easy ...

Erm, what is this? I was thinking that at least we'd have a picture of a trophy as the last puzzle. I mean, that would have been obvious, yes?

But no. A pie chart. Great.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Essential Sudoku DS: 25 to go

Indeed, I am now on puzzle 975, and the last few have actually been quite easy with one or two exceptions. Some of the pictures are just dire, though. I know I'm not really playing to see the pictures, but rather to just solve the puzzles, but it looks like not everyone at the development studio was a talented artist ...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bioshock: claustrophobes unite

Brr, it's a bit scary.

Essential Sudoku DS: moving towards a conclusion

I'm now on puzzle 882, which means there's a real possibility that some time in the near future I will actually complete the game. The thought scares me. If puzzles take an average of 5 minutes to solve, then I will have spent over 80 hours playing this game - and that's not including the sudoku puzzles.

I'm disappointed by the current crop of sports pictures. The stick figures look very rough indeed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Essential Sudoku DS: not impossible after all

I was all set this morning to unleash a torrent of wrath and indignation, complaining that puzzle 788 of Essential Sudoku DS was impossible. I had found a mere five squares which I could be sure about, and in a 15x15 grid that's pretty pathetic.

However, at lunchtime I tried a couple of deterministic paths - considering that this was a monocolour puzzle, I could test to see if certain spaces were on or off - and managed to complete half the puzzle. And then got stuck; I looked for twenty minutes and couldn't find a move.

This added impetus lead me to do a bit of searching - and I found a clever automatic solver which confirmed to me that there was a unique solution, and I'd got the half I was doing right. Then, after a full 5 seconds of looking at the puzzle again, I found the most obvious clue I'd missed (I had a block of five into which I had to fit a four, and I'd only coloured in a single square), and that led to me completing the puzzle.

So, in the hope that I can spare others of the anguish, here are some hints for puzzle 788 of Essential Sudoku DS:
  • On the bottom row, you're slightly limited as to where the 4 can go since there must be a maximum of 3 in any one place on the line above.
  • Test the top-right corner; see if setting that to 1 causes any contradictory issues.
  • The rows and columns with 5 and 4 together need only one square to be lost from the row or column in order for a single square to be coloured.
  • If all else fails, the picture is orientated diagonally from top-right to bottom-left.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Samba de Amigo: hey hey, we're not the Sonic Team

And boy, does it show. The Gearbox logo looks dire in the bouncy colourful lively startup sequence, all grey and boring. Where's the cheery voice? Where's the fun background music? Why didn't they just copy the front end from the Dreamcast game, which was perfect?

It's not all bad, though. It was at first; it was an uncontrollable mess, with needless "hustle" sections shoehorned into Tubthumping, destroying the amazing original. After a few songs, though, I started to work out how the game measured things, and by placing a finger along the side of the remote, and "shaking" by jerking the remote sideways towards the screen, I've found something that registers almost all the time, and also sort of feels like I'm playing on the Dreamcast again.

Sort of; almost. If it wasn't for the fact that the Wii version has many more songs, and more play modes, than the Dreamcast version, I'd not see this getting much play. As it is, after a bit of practice it works OK, and I can see myself playing it a bit, and it also coming out at parties. But it's a huge disappointment, to be fair. I can't imagine that many people at parties being willing to commit the time to understanding how to control the game; it should be intuitive and immediate, and it's not. A long way from it.

I hope this sells well, though, so that they can bring out Samba de Amigo v2009 using Wii MotionPlus and get it working properly.

Project Gotham Racing 4: cat and mouse

Last night I was online with my brother, John and Kieron. Because there were four of us, we were able to play cat and mouse, split into two teams.

The basic rules of cat and mouse: on each team is one mouse (driving a Mini) and at least one cat (driving a much faster car). The winning team is the one that gets the mouse across the line first. It's not exactly fair racing.

Cat and mouse was payed a fair amount in PGR2, but was never a set game mode. The reliance in PGR3 on all cars being supercars rather killed the game off, but it's back in PGR4 and is a fully recognised and organised subgame. And it's great.

I managed to frustrate John rather a few times by smashing him into a wall or spinning him off when he was driving the Mini, but met my match when Jay started doing the same to me. I was on the winning team for the majority of games though ...

The only frustration is that the cars become ghosts if driven backwards or parked for too long. As a result, you can wedge the Mini into a corner, but eventually it'll be able to get out, once your car is no longer an obstacle. I think John may have appreciated that feature though.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Essential Sudoku DS: a long way down a path

I'm now on puzzle 761. There have been a few recently where I've had to use other colours to test out whether a block can go somewhere and whether that would cause any contradictions later on. There was one puzzle which took me 50 minutes to do, because I went down two such dead ends and had to delete all the alternative colours.

The hardest puzzles are those where the picture lies along a diagonal of the square. You end up with only a few coloured blocks in each row and it's hard to start, but once started it's OK to finish. Puzzle 755, a picture of fish bones, was really difficult, because as well as the backbone lying diagonally down the middle, there were random scatterings of black for the ribs as well.

In fact, it looked like this:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Essential Sudoku DS: transportation

Up to puzzle 679 now, which means that I'm over two thirds of the way through the game. It's only taken me a year and a half. At this rate I might have completed the game by the time the DS2 comes out.

Oh, and the last puzzle I talked about didn't require guesswork. It did mean I had to develop a new technique, though, of using different colours to progress down a path until it was proven to be a dead end.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Elite Beat Agents: Jack Flash isn't Jumpin'

EBA is a rhythm action game, where you have to tap circles on the touch screen in time to the music. It's a sequel of sorts to Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, but it's fully localised using western pop music and storylines. Well, the storylines are a bit odd, but not as odd as Japanese ones often are.

I bought this ages and ages ago, but only ever played half of it before playing something else. As a DS game, see, it's at a massive disadvantage in needing the sound to be heard. I normally play DS games with the sound off, on the train without headphones. It's only that I'm in a hotel room that I've been able to put the time in to play it properly.

I was playing on "Breezin'", the easiest difficulty, and managed to get all the way to the last song on my first go. But Jumpin' Jack Flash is rather hard, espcially the last segment which shows sequences of 14 notes that you have to hit. Ouch. After seven attempts I finally got to the end, with a bit of a poor score but enough to see the end sequence. All the characters from the rest of the game came to cheer me. Hooray.

I'll try on a harder difficulty now ... I can't call it completed when it's only done on easy!

Sega Superstars Tennis: popping puyos

Having played the Xbox 360 version of this when my brother visited, it was an impulse purchase when I saw it for $20 in the US. I played it a little while out there, but Professor Layton and Space Invaders Extreme, as well as Ring of Fates, meant it was put a little on the back burner. That, and the stupidly large difficulty step in the single-player game.

Now I'm stuck in Riyadh, I've had some more time to sink into the game. In particular, I've been playing through the mission mode, which puts tennis into a variety of different Sega games, including House of the Dead, Space Harrier (rather disjointed from actual tennis, it becomes more of a shooter with no returned balls), Monkey Ball (which has little to do with Monkey Ball but instead opts for a pool or billiards feel), and Puyo Pop.

The last of these is quite clever - puyos fall from the top of the screen as normal, and you must hit them with the ball to make them disappear. There's no combos, puyos don't disappear automatically when four group together. It's made difficult by the controls, however, since it's difficult to accurately judge where you'll hit apart from on the serve. In addition, it's really hard to hit anything above the top row of puyos. This last point becomes annoying when the clear puyos, which you can only get rid of by vanishing coloured puyos adjacent to them, start lining along the bottom row. Most annoying.

One of the Puyo Pop stages took me ages to clear - one where you had to keep playing for more than 70 seconds - but after that I whizzed through the rest and mission mode is now complete. There are a far few single-A scores, some double-A, and many AAA. I'm not sure I can be bothered to redo the As though. Back to the single-player tournament, where I'll once again breeze through to win the final, and then lose spectacularly on the bonus round.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Braid: going at 88mph

It's very stylish, very clever, but it makes me feel just a bit daft. I can't work out how to get roughly a third of the puzzle pieces in the first two worlds, which is all I've tried so far. I have a horrible feeling that I may need to play later levels, and get new abilities, which would mean my half an hour trying to make a certain jump was just a bit pointless.

Bangai-O Spirits: run (but not too fast)

I worked out how to get through the Mr Driller level - taking it slowly worked, but it was tricky to get through the last gap before the blocks fell down.

Now I'm on a level where you have to run through a twisty passage - or rather walk, since the walls are lined with explosives. Except these explosives are set off by a missile at the start, so you've got to rush. And there are blocks in the way that need to be destroyed, except you can't fire too much at them or you'll set explosives off in front of you and behind you, and you'll die.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bangai-O Spirits: crunch big boss

I finally worked out how to kill the big ninjabot - I boosted behind him, and during the 24 hours it took him to turn around, I hit him with my sword, over and over again. It still took me a few tries, since the level was a little constrained in terms of space and if he turned enough he could still swipe at me to kill me, but he eventually went down.

Now I'm stuck on a level where there are a mix of destructable and indestructable blocks - and if you hit the destructable ones then the indestructable forms a solid wall between you and the target. Most odd.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Crackdown: to the max

During our online games night on Thursday, while we were waiting for John to turn up, Kieron suggested we have a quick go of Crackdown. I've not played it for ages, but it's a great game and we were quickly causing havoc. I got the agency supercar and was driving around the roads launching cars into the air. Great fun.

I played some more today, finally maxing out my driving stat so that I'm now a fully upgraded super person. I enjoyed myself so much that I went and bought the extra content, and had a great time driving the buggy around, doing tricks. I managed to do all the tricks needed for the stunt driver achievement, but I still need to work out some way of keeping my car in the air for six seconds ...

I also found a couple more agility orbs and a smattering of hidden orbs. I've got 8 agility left to find, and 81 hidden. I'm now hearing the orb pulsing noises again.

Wii Fit: pleasing results

Wii Fit gave me a fitness age of 25 this evening. I am most chuffed.

Rainbow Six Vegas: cooperation is correct

Kieron, John and I played through around a third of the game cooperatively on Thursday evening. Both John and I have completed it before, but it was Kieron's first time. He'd set himself up with a face using the camera, which was hilariously bad and looked like he had a comb-over. Most amusing.

At least when you're playing single-player, your teammates do what you tell them, and they don't press the wrong buttons. On a few occasions we worked out a cunning entry plan into the room, got ready ... and then one person went in early, or opened the wrong door, or even instead of opening the door, threw a grenade into the closed door which bounced off and killed someone else. I won't name names. Mainly because that last one was me.

It works really well, but that could be expected given that the single-player game effectively has two computer-controlled characters in it for most of the story. Oddly, the story and voiceovers appear to have been removed from the coop game, meaning that John and I had to tell Kieron what was going on ... which wasn't helped by the random order I'd picked levels in ...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Bangai-O Spirits: ouch, big boss

This is excellent. It's like the Dreamcast game, but it's quite different too. The idea of choosing weapons before each stage is cool, though you often have to play a stage and fail once before you can work out what is best to use.

The only thing that's frustrating is that I can't work out how to kill the big big boss robot, on the eighth level of the Treasure's Best group. Anything I fire at him just gets reflected back, and then he kills me with two swipes of his sword. I've moved over to the puzzle levels instead for a while, before I no doubt go back and solve it first time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

SimCity Societies: completed!

I bought SimCity Societies a few months ago when T-Mobile was selling it cheaply; since then it's been an occasional game here and there when I've been unexpectedly held up by trains or planes. I've been playing through the scenarios, in which you're tasked with increasing or decreasing pollution, unemployment, housing, freedom, and so on.

The first few scenarios were easy; the last one not so. Building upon (ho ho) everything up to that point, the last scenario was to build a city back from poverty to excellence. I had to increase the population, reduce homelessness (to less than 10%), and increase employment (to greater than 90%). Of course, as the population increased, what with my city being a wonderful place to be, then the latter two suffered. After a year, I'd well exceeded my population target, but that just meant it was increasingly difficult to find space to house everyone, and I was having to demolish things like shops and cinemas to make way for more workplaces. Getting rid of entertainment venues, however, meant that the population was fast getting miserable - which then meant they weren't motivated to work anyway.

Finally, in month 19, I built loads of high-rise buildings and got housing up to 95%; I then built around ten fireworks factories all over the city in empty spaces and employment just snuck up to 90% - just enough to complete the scenario, and the game.

Luckily, there's a free play mode, so it's still possible to use this as my mobile game of choice. It's a very cut-down version of SimCity, indeed - but it's an excellent game to have on a mobile.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Professor Layton and the Curious Village: completed!

It took a bit of searching, but I found the four puzzles I was missing, and completed them quite easily. I unlocked the inn bonus, finished those, then did the last three puzzles which were unlocked, of which only the last caused me any trouble. I am a puzzle master, indeed.

Bring on the sequel.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Professor Layton and the Curious Village: completionary puzzles

I've made it to the top of the tower, solving puzzles 95, 96, 97, 98 and 100, and in that finishing the game. I've found the golden apple, and associated treasure. I've solved all the mysteries - or, more accurately, Layton did and explained them to me. Robots, tourists, the golden apple ... all very convoluted indeed. It's a good job I wasn't playing for the story.

So if I've reached the end of the game, is it completed? Not quite yet - there are a few puzzles which I've not solved, which means I've not found them. I'm missing a couple of items for the inn challenge, which I will probably get from the missing puzzles, and then I've got the bonus puzzles which will be unlocked from that.

Watch this space.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Professor Layton and the Curious Village: towering puzzles

I'm making my way up the tower now, having solved some of the mysteries of the curious village. I've found all the gizmos (making up a robotic dog) and all the painting fragments (meaning that there's a bonus feature opened up from the main menu).

The puzzles in the tower are quite a lot harder, and I had real trouble with the fourth slidy block to get the ball out puzzle. I managed it in the end, but more by luck than planning.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Halo 3: capturing the elephant

John, Kieron and I played a number of games online last night - Mario Kart DS (which I naturally won), Outrun 2 (which I naturally won), and Halo 3 (cough). Actually, we did pretty well on Halo 3, winning a capture-the-flag event (with me completing three captures, huzzah) and a team slayer and even a big team battle thingie. The last of these was pretty fun, with both teams fighting for control of the elephants - massive mobile fortresses with gun emplacements on.

But the best bit of the evening was Halo 3 coop, playing through Tsavo Highway and taking out wraiths and anti-air guns with all three of us on a warthog which didn't quite make a jump ... Kieron even managed to stay with us most of the time!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Professor Layton and the Curious Village: murderous puzzles

Some of the puzzles are a little harder now, particularly one where I had to try to decypher a code which turned out to be based on the layout of keys on a keyboard. What threw me is that one of the hints I bought seemed to indicate that it should be based on a texting keypad (as used on phones). I've not bought many hints though, so no idea if they're all as useless.

The puzzles vary in difficulty, and the amount you score depends on how difficult they are. If you get it wrong, then the total you can earn falls (again, the amount by which it fals depends on difficulty). I'd getting the vast majority of puzzles first time, though, which is very reassuring.

As for the story - well, someone's been murdered and there's an arrogant detective overseeing the investigation. It amuses me the way that puzzles are thrown at you pretty randomly by some people - you're told to go to the inn immediately, but "before you go, try to solve this ..."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Professor Layton and the Curious Village: exploratory puzzles

One of my purchases in the US was Professor Layton, which I think is yet to be released in Europe. This is understandable from a translation point of view, but they need to hurry up in getting it ready, since it's prefect for the new DS expanded audience. At its core, it's a game of puzzles, held together by a flimsy if charming story. My only complaint is that things are perhaps a little too easy, but I prefer to think of that as my superior brain power.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates: completed!

I didn't finish it quite as quickly as I'd hoped - acquisitions of Sega Superstars Tennis, Space Invaders Extreme and Patapon saw to that - but I finished the lengthy cutscenes and boss rebattles on the plan home from the US. The story became just really weird at the end, shifting between actualities, moon power, people being alive then dead, choosing which world to live in ... Very odd indeed. A couple of glaring errors too - Galdes says that he can'f find a single universe in the infinity when Yuri and Chelinka aren't together; yet later in the ending you see one such place.

The last battle was really obscure too. After a long fight, kiling Galdes, you're presented with a rotating pattern on the floor. I tried casting spells on Galdes's body, even casting four spells at once, but no effect. After a while he resurrects and you have to kill him again - not fun. In the end I worked out that you have to cast spells in each of the circles in the rotating pattern, which bears no relation to anything in the game up to that point. Very daft indeed.

Enough complaining though. A good game indeed, and I look forward to playing through dungeons in multiplayer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summer holiday gaming

Since Peterborough Passport Office is staffed by the most wonderful people ever, I'll be off on a holiday on Friday. This evening, therefore, I've been trying to decide what to take with me to play by the pool. After all, books only last so long ...

I'll be taking my iPod, so of course I've got Peggle and Phase.

I'll be taking my DS, with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates being lined up to be completed on the flight over. Since my sister is also going, I've got Animal Crossing: Wild World. My brother and mum also have DSes, so 42 All Time Classics may be fun in the evening. The last spot of my 4-cart holder is taken up by Pokémon Pearl, because, you never know, one day I might complete a Pokémon game.

I'll also be taking my PSP. I've even charged it up, which was necessary since it's not been used since around January when I had a quick go of PES5. PES5 is in the slot, and I'm also taking Loco Roco in the hope of finishing that; Power Stone Collection in the hope of starting that, Wipeout Pure, and the film Borat because I've not watched it yet and everyone says it's funny.

I think this is the first holiday in a long time that I've not packed an Advance Wars game. To be honest, on past holidays I may as well have only packed Advance Wars. Hopefully this time there may be some variety ...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Super Smash Bros Brawl: Pika!

It's great.

It's really hard to control though. I tried with the GC controller, and I may need to change the jump button since I kept on trying to press A to jump. Particularly when playing as Mario.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates: I'm going to eat you little fishie

I was full of dread when I realised that the flooded complex required movement of water to progress. Luckily it wasn't on the scale of Ocarina of Time's Water Temple, and I was able to meet with Meeth and get to the boss quite easily. Beating the boss was another matter. In the end I resorted to using Gnash's arrows, letting everyone else die and then running from one side to the other shooting the boss from a distance. It took a while but he eventually went down. As did the water level.

Then the facility started to crumble, and I legged it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV: handbrake oversteer

I started GTAIV, despite not having finished Vice City or even started San Andreas. Well, I've no longer actually got those last two any more ... must be rectified. Though I'm not sure I can face starting VC for the third time, since I'd be playing it on the 360 instead of my original Xbox.

It's OK. Quite pretty, but a bit too grimy and brown, and it's certainly not the most graphically advanced game ever. The camera is dire, though, and it doesn't swing around behind the car quickly enough when you turn, meaning that if you take a sharp turn quickly you often end up buried in another car, lorry, or anything simply because you couldn't see it was there.

The story's not great either. Eastern European immigrant; cousin already in the US hassled by loan sharks; attractive girl wanting to go on a date. They seem to throw too many things all at once, but at the same time it starts off too slowly. The fun with GTA was always once you got a fast car, rocket launcher, armour. So far I have a crappy taxi and a knife. This doesn't help when the police hassle me because I happen to hit their car - especially given that it wasn't my fault, I couldn't see it ...

But it's GTA, and the sense of freedom's still there. I can still go off around the city wherever I want. Except that my cousin keeps calling me asking that I go to help him out ... and if I don't go now then that's a bad mark against me ... sigh.

Wii Fit: all over the place

I've not been using this regularly, which is very bad of me. My weight's been roughly constant (slight decline) and my fitness age has been increasing, with last night being a highlight since it was 30, a year younger than me.

I do enjoy rhythm boxing.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates: I am a Selkie!

Further through the game, after a key character has died, I've now got a party of four traipsing around, including one of each tribe. The king's apparently under the spell of an evil yuke, who's pretending to be one of my party. I'm now battling through a flooded complex after finding my lilty friend, and have found a big fish who I wish to be rid of. He is killing me lots.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Rainbow Six Vegas: completed!

I was pretty close to the end, in fact. A coupe more of those hateful hacking sequences, which I got past with liberal use of smoke grenades (one of which was really easy with the use of the smoke, since the enemies rappelled down, couldn't see us, so just stood there while we shot them one by one with thermal vision on), and then we found Irene, who went down in a hail of bullets. As with all evil genius candidates, she let us know what was happening just before she snuffed it, so I knew I had to get to the roof to disarm the missile. Well, not disarm it as such; Michael stuck some C4 on it and then after it launched it blew up. Bad luck terrorists!

Then came the twist; there's a mole in Rainbow, who stole the helicopter after gloating about his success in duping us all ... luckily I managed to shoot the helicopter down so it crashed into the lake. Hooray, game over.

Well, this game is. The final words in the game were "this isn't over, not by a long way". Part of the radio extracts at the end told of how the pilot's body was recovered from the helicopter, but not the mole's. And, in case you weren't convinced by that, there's a big black and red "to be continued" screen.

That'll be Rainbow Six Vegas 2 then. I may play something else first ...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates: I want to be a Selkie!

It plays much as FFCC did, but with only one character on screen - although apparently that one character represents two, since both appear in the cutscenes. The dialogue is dreadful; the pictorial representations of the characters are abysmal and without the charm of their 3D counterparts. Despite this, the story's holding together quite well, with sufficient intrigue to keep me playing despite the obvious need for tedious levelling up and item collection that'll come later.

To be honest, this was bought merely so I could play online with John and Kieron; I want to be a Selkie again and see Kieron running around with a bucket on his head. I'm concerned, however, that a lack of miasma keeping us together will see Kieron lost in the midst of a sixteen-enemy fight somewhere while John and I explore carefully ...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Global Defence Force: they've taken London

On Steve's recommendation, I've set up my PS2, dug out a memory card, and tried Global Defence Force, the predecessor to EDF2017. I've cleared ten or so stages now, and ... well, it's pretty much the same game. The menu structure is the same, the lack of autosave, the categories of weapons, the ability to play cooperatively. The "Hard" difficulty level is perhaps slightly easier. There's a much greater variety of locations, with the very first being set in London, and travelling the world, going into the subway, to Tokyo ...

Maybe it's the lack of teammates, maybe it's the lack of voiceover, maybe it's the fuzzyness of the graphics compared to the shininess of EDF's baddies, but it's not quite as immediate fun as EDF was, to me. That may be, of course, because of the weapons I've picked up - I've only just got a reasonable homing missile launcher which can fire off 10 missiles a second, with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

I think the obvious fault is with the controls. I feel like I'm continually fighting to control my soldier, and the vehicles are an absolute nightmare to control - it's far easier to just run around on the ground. This is a shame, since you get the feeling that using the tank or helicopter would add something to the game, but as it is I'll never use them enough to get used to controlling them.

I will, of course, continue to play GDF, but more concurrently with EDF, and not as a replacement.

Now, interestingly, GDF is actually the second in the series, with the first being released over here under the name Monster Attack. I may need to track that one down.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Pop: the bubbles, I see them everywhere

This is a very clever game indeed.

It's easy to play it as a relaxing experience, watching the bubbles scrolling up (or down, or across) the screen, and popping ones that you want to. There's a deep game hidden within, though, with the combo structure being the only way to reach the really high scores. In order to make a combo, you must hit only those bubbles of the same colour, not popping anything else. This becomes more and more difficult, with bubbles overlapping, and you're then left to try and get the smaller bubbles which get more points but give you less time and are more difficult to hit meaning that you're more likely to end your combo ... it get quite frantic indeed.

My only complaint is that on some of the stages two of the four colours are quite similar, which is something you don't want when you're starting to panic ...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Earth Defence Force 2017: I want to cry

There was one mission that my brother and I just couldn't do on the hard difficulty level yesterday, but I thought I'd give it a go by myself. It involves three waves of giant ants, before two UFOs arrive and drop a load more and you have to bring down the UFOs while avoiding being overrun. The first two times I tried, I died after the UFOs appeared. There were too many ants. But on the third go, something clicked. I ran towards the bugs at the start, and joined up with my colleagues before they died - and then led them away while missiling the big group of ants until they were gone. I did this again with the second group of soldiers, and the third. By the time the UFOs appeared, I had a big group who were all killing the ants that came down while I was able to spend time shooting inside the UFO. Mission completed!

What's more, because of the huge numbers of enemies, I got loads of new weapons. Hooray!

I then went onto the beach landing level, which was pretty easy with my FORK missiles (20 homing missiles launched at the same time), and got another 5 new weapons. Hooray again!

And then I decided to try the level where the walkers are going through the city. It was all very hectic, but by concentrating on one walker at a time I got them down to two last enemies, with my soldiers firing constantly ... and then the screen went black.

No, I hadn't sat on my controller. My Xbox had decided to overheat, cutting the game off and also deciding it wasn't going to let me turn it off either. I had to pull out the plug. It's now sitting on the floor, all by itself, cooling down - it was burning to the touch at first.

So I want to cry. Due to EDF not having an autosave (WHY NOT?) and Microsoft making the most unreliable console in the history of anything (WHY?), my evening of playing has been turned sour. Bah.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Earth Defence Force 2017: they're spitting acid at us!

My brother came to visit last night, and for some reason among playing Samba de Amigo, FIFA 08, Beijing 2008, Ghost Squad and Virtua Tennis, I suggested we put on EDF2017. I bought it almost a year ago, and had never played it.

I wish I had. It is superb. Well, no, it's crap, in a funky skillo sort of way. It's the closest videogame I've ever seen to a B-movie, with giant ants and spiders, absurdly powerful weapons, and bad dialogue.

We played it for an hour and a half, until we turned it off and realised there was no autosave. And then we played it for two and a half hours more, frequently dying when we put it on harder difficulties in an attempt to gain better weapons. I think we've cleared around 4% of the game.

Apollo Justice Ace Attorney: completed!

So, in the end, it turns out that everything is even more interlinked than first thought, with many key characters being related. It does feel a little odd when it all tied up quite so neatly, really. Certainly it's not the best-written story of all time.

I think that I still consider the original Phoenix Wright to be the best of the series, before the magatama was introduced. Apollo's bracelet was quite a clever idea, which affected the court scenes rather than the investigation, but it was very limited in its use - and it could get quite difficult to actually work out what you were meant to be seeing and when. Better signposting would have been good. This game probably comes a close second.

But, of my, the end of the game didn't half drag on. I had to present a whole three things during the last part of the trail, and there was just far too much talking. Not quite Metal Gear Solid 4 standards of 90 minute cutscenes, but still. I wish to play the game, not read it.

And so ends the current Ace Attorney series. Take that!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rainbow Six Vegas: smoke everywhere!

Finally managed to get past the theatre, with lots of smoke, and setting Michael up beforehand behind the box with the turret. And they're trying to blow up the Nevada Dam. No idea why. Anyway, it looks like it's bye bye to Vegas ...

Rainbow Six Vegas: big empty theatre!

Or not empty, in fact, which was the problem.

I've come a long way, rescuing scientists and diffusing a large bomb. As I suspected, I've come across my two colleagues who were kidnapped in the opening stages. One died in a firefight, which really annoyed me. I saw him sitting there, so I kept my distance and killed all the enemies I could see using a silenced pistol, with only the last two returning fire at all (and they were nowhere near Kan). And yet, because the game was scripted so, he died anyway - but not before telling me that Vegas is just a cover and the terrorists are planing something bigger elsewhere. Hmm.

I'm now trying to hack into the terrorist's data hub to find out where that is. It's taken me fifteen attempts to get to the stage of the theatre, since there were loads of enemies running through every door once I got down to the stalls. I finally worked out that I could make them appear by going to ground level on an outside corridor and using my snake cam under the door, then go back up to the gods and kill them from there. It still wasn't easy, mind.

Now I'm on stage, and when I order Jung to hack the computer a lod more enemies come through the doors and abseil down from the of. The latter I can understnad, but the I've cleared out all the entrances already; where are they coming from?

In any case, I generally last about 20 seconds before they destroy the computer that Jung's working on. It's a laptop, so why he can't hide behind a crate with it, I don't know. I'll have to try deploying some smoke grenades in front of him so they can't see him to shoot it.

Apollo Justice Ace Attorney: complex relations

So, Magnifi is Trucy's grandfather, and they share a sort of mindreading power that's been passed down. Evidently through her mother. But Apollo also has that power ... does that make him related? A half-brother?

I've finished investigation of the past now, so I'm trying to clear up the present. Everything's interlinked, even more so than normal ...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Apollo Justice Ace Attorney: from the flames, he arises ...

Phoenix is back! And it looks like he didn't do it, but he did present it, and so there's a travesty of justice here that happened seven years ago. And I'm back to controlling Phoenix, flicking between the present and the past, looking to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that my next leap will be the leap home ...

Erm, wrong series. It's all a bit complicated now. I was very pleased with myself for working out the two guns and rifling marks puzzles, though.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Rainbow Six Vegas: overturned cars!

And so to Vegas itself, leaving my teammates captured and half dead. I very much doubt that's the last I'll see of them though.

It's lovely to have a bit of colour after the browns and greys of the opening arenas. I may have joked in the past about how the C64 could cope with many shades of brown, but the current trend for all action games to be set in dusty grimy locales makes everything look rather samey and dull. Vegas may be grey at times, but it makes all the difference having bright blues and reds inside the casinos.

I've fought through one of the casinos, in order to get to the security room. The layout of the casino is a nightmare for being able to keep track of where the terrorists are hiding; they ought to do something about that.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Ghost Squad: leave no trace!

Well, of course I'll leave no trace. The enemies' bodies disappear after three seconds.

I've not played a proper lightgun game for years - ever since, in fact, my last TV (the 28" widescreen CRT) was 100Hz only so my Dreamcast guns wouldn't work on it. Ghost Squad uses the Wii remote as a gun, and it's great. It's surprisingly accurate, and I get the feeling the software's been tweaked to allow for some slightly wayward shots.

It's a well structured game, with multiple choices at different stages through the levels, meaning that each game has the potential to be different. I've played mission 1 four times so far, and the best I've done was to get 40% clear ... yes, I finished all three missions, but I'm not going to claim that I've completed the game just yet!

I get the feeling it'll be a while before I get good rankings on the online leaderboards.

Samba de Amigo: go to the next stage

Well, when you've just set up your new high-definition LCD TV, what better way to celebrate than plug the Dreamcast in and shake maracas?

I wasn't great at it, though. I didn't manage to get a single entry on the high score table, and even got a B ranking on one turn. Hang my head in shame. Still, now that I've been reminded how great it is, I have every incentive to play more to get better!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Rainbow Six Vegas: snake cam!

For my birthday back in March I got this and Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (although receipt of the latter was delayed). Now I've got the chance, I've started playing through this.

I've not got to Vegas yet. It's pretty hard, though I'm slowly learning how to hide away and just peep around corners. I was learning the best way to control my team mates as well, until they get taken away from me ...

Unfortunately, that's not the only thing I'm learning. I'm also learning where the enemy starts and their routes, so that every time I die I no longer sneak around every corner but instead just run to where I can kill the enemies easily, over and over again. The checkpoints are rather far apart, and I'm dying far too frequently.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Apollo Justice Ace Attorney: Trucy's real dad

Finally, it makes sense.  I was trying to work out how Phoenix had a kid of 15 when, from what I can gather, this game is only set eight years after Trials and Tribulations.  I thought I'd have remembered seeing a kid running around.  Hopefully this case (the third) might provide more detail as to what exactly led to Phoenix giving up law ... it's all off on a bit of a weird tangent at the moment though.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Apollo Justice Ace Attorney: what a state

Phoenix, what happened? You look a complete state! And yet seven years later you've got far more confidence than you ever had as a defence attorney. Nice sting operation, too.

Apollo's a bit of a wet blanket at the moment, but so was Phoenix at the start of the first game. I'm looking forward to finding out what happened seven years previous, which meant that Phoenix lost his attorney badge. For now, though, I've just finished the first case, and it was lovely and concise, with some great DS features included - examining bottles, moving cupboards, and so on.

But Phoenix has a daughter?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wii Fit: tentative steps

I've had a few goes on this now, but given the hassle of setting up the Wii and the lack of available TV, I'm putting off the daily exercise regime until I've moved into my new flat. For now, though, I'm impressed. The exercises I've tried do seem to give a good workout, and some of the aerobic games are good fun - though heading the footballs can get rather tricky.

Plus it gave me a Wii Fit age of 26 when I tried it at John's, so I won't hear a bad thing about it.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Geometry Wars Galaxies: completed!

At least, I've now got a silver medal (at least) on all stages on all galaxies, with the exception of the last galaxy for which I need to link up the DS game to the Wii game. That'll have to wait.

Some of the later levels in the game were really inventive, although there seemed to be a tendency to make the game harder by simply throwing more enemies around, and upping the score requirements to allow for the fact that multipliers shot up much quicker. This made some of the levels a little bit too dependent on luck, with some attempts finishing after scores in the low thousands.

I've gone straight back to the start trying for golds, and it's pleasing to see how I'm able to obtain these whereas I wasn't before. I got a stonking score for the last of the α levels (over 50 million, whereas the requirement for gold was just 5 million). What is clever though is the way the game becomes progressively harder as your score increases, meaning that the earlier levels still retain a challenge, especially to make a dent on the online leaderboards. For example, my 50 million pales in comparison to the current world best of 17,000 million ...

The last time I completed a game with silvers and started to try for golds was PGR2. Evidently Bizzare knows something about putting goals just within reach ...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Scene It! Lights Camera Action: I am the champion

While at John's, we played Scene It! In teams of two. I was teamed with John, and we played using my gamertag. I'm very pleased we did; I got loads of gamerpoints for winning the game, for getting 100% right in a number of rounds, and generally for being brill.

Of course, it was all down to me, nothing to do with John's vast film knowledge ...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations: completed!

I was very near the end indeed. Three more questions (the last of which gave me quite a lot of trouble working to what to present) and it's over. Mostly a happy ending too!

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations: Maya, Mia, Misty, Morgan ... and Pearl

Morgan called her kids Dahlia, Iris, and Pearl. How daft. It's obvious that the Master has to have a name that starts with an M.

I must be near the end of this now, surely. I played through the fourth case, which was a retrospective of Mia's first ever case - and I saw that Godot used to be Diego. The hair and waistcoat gave it away. Now I've played through the first day of the last trial as Edgeworth, then carried on as Phoenix, and it's all a little far-fetched at times. Some of the needing to present at exactly the right time is annoying too. I wanted to present the weather report when they said it was snowing, but instead I had to present it when they talked about the time instead. Huh.

Almost everything is solved now. I know who killed Misty, I know who else was there, and I know what that other person saw. Just to prove it. Hopefully I can finish this tonight ...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mr Driller Online: not online

The Xbox 360's d-pad is rubbish, but even that can't take away from the magnificence of Mr Driller.

I only played this quickly last night after it had downloaded, just enough to complete the 100m and 500m levels.  There are items!  And odd flags!  One of the items looks stupidly useful - a full air tank.  I can forsee myself using that very often indeed.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations: cultural references

I'm halfway through the third case now, and it's very clever.  Confusingly, it appears to be a retrial when it should be an appeal, and there's a fake Phoenix around.

A computer programmer's been murdered, and it's difficult to get information out of his boss ...

Maya: "SuPer-Admin Restricted Desktop Access password-protected!?  What!?  This is madness!"
Phoenix: "No, Maya, that is SPARDA."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mario Kart Wii: the French are pretty good

This was delivered on Thursday, and, what with me running the London Marathon tomorrow, I have the prefect excuse to stay in most of today and do little else but play it. I've completed the 50cc game, getting gold cups on all tournaments, though only one star rank and a few Bs and Cs. Apparently the ranking you get depends on the total time taken to complete the grand prix, which itself is highly dependent on the items that the computer uses against you, so that seems a little unfair. I'm now onto 100cc, for which you have to use bikes. PGR4, now this - the world is ending.

I've also been online for a fair few races, and have ended up with a score of 5100 (up from the starting score of 5000). You win points for coming in the top half of a race, and lose points for coming in the last half. For quite some time I was languishing in the 4000s, but a few victories over Dutchmen and Germans saw me elevated again. For some reason the French seem to be very good at this game. The best bit though is that it's not out in the US until the end of this month, so for a while we'll have blissfully few disconnects, cheaters, and idiots driving the wrong way around the track. Excellent.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations: blackmailing a blackmailer

So, I've finally finished the second case - all very complicated by the end, with plot twists and turns all over the place.  Who'd have thought that pink paint would be so important?  I'm glad to see the back of Luke Atmey though, he's one of the most annoying characters I've come across so far.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Project Gotham Racing 4: speeding across the Brooklyn Bridge

One of the most difficult events I've faced today was a speed camera event, where I had to go through four speed cameras and get a total sped of 440mph. All but one of the cameras was just after a sharpish turn. The one exception was placed at the end of the Brooklyn Bridge, and I managed to get 185mph through it, in a TVR. Rather amazing.

I've managed to work out how to upload photos from PGR4 now as well. Rather idiotically, you can't upload ones that you've already saved; you can only upload them as and when you take them. After my stint in a TVR in career mode, this afternoon I was racing in a Jaguar.

In Tokyo, where an overtaking event was made all the more difficult by an opponent who refused to go slowly (you can see him in the background):

In Tokyo, where it was snowing and the wheels were spinning all over the place:

And in Las Vegas, where my car got infeasibly dirty:

You've got to love the purple and orange colour scheme.

Geometry Wars Galaxies: η clear

There was another of the difficult levels with the light and dark blue shapes; not a star this time but a cross. This one didn't take me quite so long, though, since I followed the same tactic as before, and found a place where I could hide and just watch out for things spawning behind me.

This morning I played through some of the planets in the theta galaxy, and have even managed a couple of golds. One on Rocduo, where I got 10million (the gold required 5million), and one on Flipente, where a score of 53million was not only four times that needed for gold, but is also the fifth best score in the world, according to the leaderboards.

That doesn't say much though. The leaderboards are idiotic, since you need to connect to Nintendo Wi-Fi individually for each planet. It really ought to be a one-off connection, where it takes a few minutes but downloads the current high scores for each and every planet at once. Especially given the nature of the DS, where the opportunities to connect to the Internet are rarer than with home consoles.

Still. Fifth in the world. Huzzah.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Geometry Wars Galaxies: ζ clear

That took quite some time.  There was one big sticking point - a level, shaped like an eight-pointed star, where the only enemies were the light blue rhombi and the dark blue nuclei, both of which dash towards the ship at differing speeds.  You get one life and no smart bombs.  The enemies appear equally spaced around the ship, so it's not easy to get them all before they arrive.  I got to bronze quite a few times, but silver was out of reach.

To start with, I tried using the bait drone, to attract the enemies away from me.  I'm only half way through levelling that drone up though, and it was rubbish - attracting enemies around one time in four, and being useless the rest of the time.  I tried moving, or finding somewhere to hide, but it was useless.

In the end I found a way to use the turret drone.  I sheltered against the side wall of one of the side star sections, and aimed to the point of the star every time I cleared a wave - so as to destroy the enemy there at its first appearance.  Often the turret would take out the rest of the wave, but if not I just had to quickly aim the other way to do so.  After a while enemies stopped appearing actually in the star point, so I moved right to the end and cleaned up from there.  Just after I got silver, however, enemies reappeared at the end of the point - but I've got silver now, and that's all that matters.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Halo 3: pretty pictures

While having breakfast this morning I was playing around with the theatre mode in Halo 3. I've used it before, as you'll have seen from my "behind you" screenshot. What I didn't appreciate was that it actually saves films of all your single-player games as well.

So, a couple of highlights from the last week or so ...

There was a room full of Covenant grunts, jackals and a gold brute. The first couple of times I went in, I managed to kill most of the jackals and grunts, but the brute killed me in the meantime. I managed to find an invisibility pickup, turned it on, ran into the middle of the room and stuck a plasma grenade to the brute; then ran back and watched the explosion before finishing the survivors.

This is what happens when the Flood panics you. I was carrying a brute shot, and suddenly was jumped on by a couple of Flood. Even watching through the replay it made me jump! I fired at the first one, standing next to me, using whatever weapon I had equipped. Oops. Luckily it didn't quite kill me. The remaining Flood did though.

This is from a multiplayer game a week or so ago. That's me in the red. I've just killed the blue person, who was jumping towards me. Unfortunately, that firey blob to his right is a fire grenade which he threw just before dying. Two seconds later I was dead too; killed from beyond the grave.

Halo 3: completed!

Hmm, that wasn't that long really ...

Maybe I played more before than I thought, or maybe it was just the solid three-hour session on Saturday, but that seemed a lot shorter than Halo 2. From where I was, I went and found Cortana in the infected ship, and escaped; fought my way into the control room on the half-complete Halo, killed the Spark with four shots from the big laser thing, activated the Halo and ran away. Then I found a warthog and thought I'd have a repeat of the timed sequence from the first game - but it wasn't timed, which made it more fun. The big explosions around me kept me going, though, and the track falling away in front made some parts tricky. But I hit the ramp at the end, jumped into the ship, and ... credits roll.

I'll enjoy playing this through in co-operative.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Halo 3: such a convoluted story

The original plan was to play through Halo 3 for the first time in co-op, alongside Kieron and John, fighting our way through the Covenant and the Flood together. And then I read that you actually can only play missions you've unlocked ... and if none of us have unlocked them, that could be a problem.

Last night I was on the exercise bike for three hours as part of my marathon training, so I progressed with the story. I'd played a bit before, working towards stopping the prophet Truth from activating the weapon stored on Earth (though for some reason I've not written about that, it seems), and I carried on fighting on Earth. We stopped the weapon being activated, but a massive portal opened up, and Cortana sent a message on a Flood-infected ship crashing to the ground. I went through the portal to find the Ark, from where the Halos could be controlled, and tracked down the remaining prophet - and the Arbiter killed him. Not before Truth's lackeys had killed Keyes, though. Sob.

While the game's made up of excellently-designed levels, and the way the set-pieces are built around the AI is really clever, it's not really that memorable. I suppose the individual fights are unmemorable in a good way, in that the whole game is actually excellent.

There were some highlights. Taking a Scorpion tank through installations, destroying Wraiths and Ghosts. Flying the Falcons to take out two Scarabs at the same time. Allying with the Flood to get to the prophet, running along and seeing fallen enemies being consumed to join my army. Great fun.

We found a new ring, being built to replace the one destroyed in the first game, and it was explained in a rather long-winded way that we could use this to destroy the Flood and not kill everything and everything. All I need to do is find Cortana, who's somewhere on the Flood-infected High Charity ...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hexic HD: two black pearls

I really love Hexic. It's perfect for when you want to just relax and take your time over a game. And I'm quite good at it. I managed to get two black pearls, which is amazing given the hoops you have to go through to get even one. I had four starflowers towards my last black pearl too. I was getting quite excited.

And then the stupid game-breaking feature came in: a bomb which was impossible to diffuse before it went off. I can understand the bombs; you do need some way to lose, and they do make the game more anxious. But it isn't asking much, surely, to request that it be always possible to diffuse them? Otherwise you get to a stage where the game is deciding when it's game over, with nothing to do with your skill. Rubbish.

I will no doubt be told that it wasn't impossible to diffuse this bomb, but it was. The yellow bomb sat alone, no other yellows near to it. There were only three hexagons underneath the bomb which could be cleared, and when they went no yellows appeared above it. All other moves were on the other side of the play area, so any yellows that appeared there were useless anyway.

How you're meant to collect six black pearls when the game is this unfair, I have no idea.

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations: nobody's died?

A case of burglary, not murder? I am shocked and stunned.

Project Gotham Racing 4: two wheels bad, four wheels good

I don't like the bikes. They handle oddly, you have to be really careful around the cars, and the rider is a bit oddly animated at times. I'm quite happy to have the computers ride the bikes, and it's fine if other people want to ride them, but ...

I was quite happily going through the arcade mode, and then I got to a stage where you must use bikes. I'd resigned myself to only completing half the game as it is (for each arcade mode, you get two sets of medals, one for the car and one for the bike), but even that's not good enough. I'm being forced to ride rickety bikes which fall over if you breathe on them. And the computer cars have a propensity to drive straight into me. Huff.

Sensible World of Soccer: a wonderful achievement

Last night I gained 5 gamerpoints. They were for the hardest achievement I've managed to unlock so far.

I won a game of SWOS against the computer.

Now, yes, I was playing as England against the Faroe Isles. I did play eight games before this winning one. I did only score once in those eight games (and then lost 4-1 overall). But let that not take my glee away from me. I won a game!

It's not as good as the old Mega Drive game. It's annoying, the controls are awful, and the computer's just too good. At least I can rest easy knowing that I won a game, and never have to try to again.

Project Gotham Racing 4: I've got me a career

The career mode in PGR 4 isn't quite as good as the old single player modes, which is a shame as it's obviously intended as the main part of the game. The old single player is most similar to the new arcade mode, but that's a bit odd with you being restricted to a single car for all the

As with PGR2 (and the small part of PGR3 I played before getting bored), I'm aiming for the silvers in the arcade mode, and so far have got them all without a hitch. The different types of gameplay are great - I particularly like the 'Time v Kudos' mode, which pauses the clock all the time you're earning Kudos points - large powerslides never felt more satisfying.

The career is much harder though. For each event you compete against three computer-controlled characters, and I've only won two of the five events I've completed so far - I came second in the other three. Interesting I seem to win by far for those races which aren't actually races - Hot Laps, Cone Challenges and so on - but often have difficulty in the street races. It all feels a bit unbalanced.

And there are some really daft things in the game too. Who put the names and nationalities in such large text, so that they can completely obscure the track ahead? Who decided that it was a good idea to only allow the Tourist mode to be playable in multiplayer online? I want to drive around London by myself!

Having said all that, I really do like PGR, and this does seem to be the best yet - yes, even better than PGR2. That's saying something.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations: piles of unbelievability

So, Phoenix eats a necklace, the prosecution is so flustered by my brilliance that he loses his hair, and my boss won't stop talking about his bottom problems. Really quite offputting.

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations: lovely pink jumper

The first case of the third game is very much a piece of retrospective explanation, with Phoenix himself accused of a murder while he was at university, and Mia defending him in only her second case.  As ever, it's rather easy and holds your hand all the way through, but I'm managing to solve the problems in many cases before they're even presented as problems - I mean, a necklace with a bottle on it ...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: playing the circuits

Until this point I've only been playing the individual events, which, while ideal for learning, seems to mean that you can't unlock anything new to play. So yesterday and this morning I had a go at the circuit mode, which is where you have to play through three set events, being scored for your ranking at each. What with my previous practice, I breezed through the beginner circuits - although I really am hopeless at the long jump, and I messed up the archery since for all but the last two shots I forgot about adjusting for the wind (and as a result was getting really annoyed with my seeming inability to aim straight).

The last event of the circuits was the "dream race" - basically a Mario Kart meets Sonic R meets 100m sprint - which wasn't as good as any of those. I got in front at the start and stayed there, laying bombs behind me, never seeing a shell but occasionally being hit by lightning or a Boo. I never saw any other contestant though.

Hopefully the advanced circuits will unlock further events. But this unlocking idea is daft. I have to get good at the game to unlock stuff. Therefore in order to play the game in multiplayer, I will have had to practised a lot, meaning that I will have a significant advantage over whoever I'm playing against.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Geometry Wars Galaxies: β, γ, δ, and ε clear

I'm still getting silvers before I progress on to the next planet, which is causing problems for some levels - while I can get the bronze quite easily, the silver is a significant step up. One level had me stuck for a whole day - it included something in the centre of the level that was spinning space around it alternating clockwise and anticlockwise. It was hard enough to stay in one place, let alone watch out for enemies that were being thrown at you from the wrong direction.

I really like the way that the levels are so different. Some are non-stop frantic action, with enemies constantly appearing - even to the extent that some enemies will appear wherever your ship was a second previously, so that you need to be constantly on the move. Other levels are more relaxed and (in the case of those levels with large enemy containers) almost let you take them at your own speed (as long as you don't take too long ...).

I'm very tempted to get the Wii version of this as well at some point, to see how differently it plays. Plus, of course, to unlock the last galaxy on the DS game.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Super Mario Galaxy: sixty-one stars in

Back into the game for a bit, and it's every bit as amazing as when I left it. I was worried about having forgotten some of the controls, but it's all so natural - you run where you want to, jump how you want to, shoot star bits, collect star bits ...

I've now completed the first run of galaxies in the bedroom (missing out the hidden stars and most of the comet stars) and have gone up to the engine room. I've passed 60 stars so I could go and rescue Peach ... but no, I'll let her hang on a bit.

I had trouble with one level - a cosmic comet (so a race against Cosmic Mario) on the Gold Leaf galaxy. The main issue I had was with climbing up what was effectively a staircase of blocks, where I kept misjudging my jumps so I hooked onto the side of a block and had to pull myself up, losing time. I lost six lives - but each time I was picking up an extra one, and when I finally finished I won the race easily.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Geometry Wars Galaxies: α clear

I must admit, I never really clicked with Geometry Wars (included within PGR2) or its sequel on the 360. It always seemed a little too hectic, and there was far too much to learn - which enemies did what, how the multiplier system worked, how to maximise points, how to use black holes. It was, I'll readily admit, more my fault than the game's, but there was far too much thrown at you straight away to let you get to grips with it. I never bought the Xbox Live Arcade game - I just played the game within PGR3.

So I don't know why I bought Geometry Wars Galaxies. It might have been the cheap price. It might have been the praise it was getting online. It might have been just because I fancied a quick shooter session and I was out and about. Whatever it was, I'm glad that I did - it's brilliant.

One of my main concerns with the original game(s) was the lack of structure. It all felt very random, and I never got the feeling that there was a set wave pattern to the enemies. In this game not only are there many different levels, with defined goals and objectives, but it's clear that the appearance of the enemies and timing of their attacks has been tightly designed. I've played a couple of the levels through more than once and scores benefitted through understanding how the enemy's attacks were structured ... though not to the extent of, say R-Type, where you can move your ship to avoid or attack enemies well before they come onto the screen. There's still an element of flying by the seat of your pants - only partially alleviated by the presence of a drone which tries its best to help you out.

The structure of the game works well too. When you destroy enemies, they release geoms which you must then collect. These geoms, along with any bonus ones you're awarded for collecting a medal on a stage, are then used to unlock behaviours for your drone (one of which is to send it to collect the geoms for you) and new levels. Collecting geoms and defeating enemies also increases your multiplier. This introduction of geoms fundamentally changes the way the game plays - you need to chase enemies down so that you can collect the geoms once they're destroyed, whereas my previous tactic was to run away while firing behind me.

I've cleared the first stage with a gold medal and the second stages with silvers (therefore completing the first level). I think I'll set myself a limit of silvers before I progress - though I have a feeling this might get a lot harder than it currently is ...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Advance Wars: Dark Conflict: completed!

I think that must be a record for me - the final mission falling on my fourth go. If you don't want it to be spoilt for you, and you want to work it out yourself, then skip over the next paragraph. I mean you, Kieron.

There were three things you have to watch out for. Firstly, the lasers. But it helps to notice that there's a definite pattern they follow, in particular the three in the middle. They fire in turn. Lure the enemy into the path of the one that's about to fire, and they lose 8 health, not you. The lasers are destroyed by a bomber in two goes,even if said bomber gets hit by the laser in between. Secondly, the poison bombs. I diverted these by building a group of heavy tanks to the west, away from any other units - their value meant that they were targeted rather than anything else. And thirdly, the fighter with Stolos on board, which was ridiculously powerful. I simply lured that down to the south of the map with lots of infantry units (with anti-air units sent slightly north to discourage it venturing up that way), and sent a processin of bombers along the top, destroying lasers as they went. S rank and everything.

I even sat through the awful story at the end, so pleased was I. I then went into one of the trial missions and completed that with another S ranking. Excellent.

Of course, the game's not properly completed - far from it. I have only a handful of the 200+ medals available, for a start. I've only completed one of the trial missions. And the game seems to have got wedged into my DS - it just won't come out.

Advance Wars: Dark Conflict: rescuing the clones

And so on to the final level. I assume it is, anyway - there's nowhere for the map to go after this.

Mission 25 (called 'Final Destination') was actually quite easy, despite its first impressions - dumped on a map with very few units up against a massive army. Mission 26 is set at the enemy's lab, with big lasers and hundreds of bases. And it's very hard indeed.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Advance Wars: Dark Conflict: avoid the bomber!

Luckily, the enemy doesn't seem to realise that if she puts her units within the blast radius of the big bomber flying overhead, they'll get damaged too.

Campaign level 22 has been pretty difficult - it took me three attempts to complete. The centre of the map is really a no-go area, since every turn a big bomb is dropped, which halves the strength of any units in the zone. So I took my units around the bottom, built up a massive force of megatanks, and rolled around, supported by bombers at the end for anti-tank dispersement. I only noticed on my third attempt that the opposition had no airports, so as long as I captured the spare one at the start of the game, their air units crashed and burnt after a few turns. No more bombers meant no more need for anti-aircraft guns or interceptors, and my megatanks only had the anti-tank units to worry about. I captured cities as I went, and once I captured the South Eastern base, that was about it.

Only an A rank, given the length of time it took me, but I can live with that.

I've not got used to the way you build up CO powers now yet. You have to have your CO in a specific unit, and all attacks in range of that unit are increased. More attacks in there increase the range and eventually let you use a CO power. I've not got around to that yet ...

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Advance Wars: Dark Conflict: big rotating gun

I've just finished a particularly nasty mission - where, to start with, I was hindered by mountains on the east side of the map, and there was a big cannon think in the middle, which attacked everything within range each turn reducing the health of each unit by half. Nice.
I built up a massive force, of bombers and tanks, and took them into the centre, bombing the anti-tank guns and shooting the missile launchers, avoiding the interceptors and rocketing their megatank. I was all ready to attack the HQ after destroying the big cannon - but once that went down (after one megatank strike and one bombing) it was mission over. Run away, fools!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Advance Wars: Dark Conflict: run away!

I've just finished the first mission that caused me real trouble - even to the point where I failed the first time. In it, I had to escort the Zephyian troops to the East, while the enemy chased me. The first time I thought I had to defend the captain's tank as well, but the second time I just ran for it and generally got in the way of the opponents. I only just made it - with two red units left - but that was enough for an S rank. Hoorah!

Dark Conflict is great. It's much more concentrated around the campain than previous games in the series - the war room equivalents are trials off the main campaign path - which in a way is a shame since the story's the weakest part. The combat, on the other hand, has been tightened up, and the revised mix of units seems to work very well. I particularly like the carriers, which can produce four seaplanes each over four turns, giving you an instant airforce even with no airports. The ability of mobile workshops to form a temporary airstrip is also genius.

So far, 10 S ranks and 5 A ranks, all from the main campaign.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games

I have a world record at the 100m sprint, the 110m hurdles, and the triple jump. There's something rewarding about seeing your Mii cross the finish line ahead of Tails, the jumped-up little fool.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Super Mario Galaxy: forty-nine stars in

This game keeps on giving. This evening I've encountered fire and ice flowers, skated around a pit of lava, and found Luigi twice. I've become a ghost, and climbed massive walls of honey. I've listened to the story of the girl and the luna, and I've defeated moles and a massive poltergeist.

It's just great fun.

Super Fruit Fall: ow, my head

For Christmas, my sister bought me Super Fruit Fall, which was one of the Wii's launch games. I have a feeling I've seen the basic idea in a pub quiz machine, but this is obviously a lot more developed. I've played through the arcade mode, getting over half way through, but I've now got to the stage where I'm reduced to randomly rotating the stage around through lack of time, and my head can't keep track of what's going to move.

The idea of the game is to get three of a kind together, by flipping the stage through 90° at a time and letting the fruit ... er ... fall. On the stage I've reached there are two ends where one piece of fruit can get stuck and won't come out. I can't work out how to ensure that I don't get a piece stuck at both ends. I've played the stage several times now and each time I'm left with three pieces of one type, with two stuck a long way from each other.