Monday, December 27, 2010

Pac-Man Vs: running in the wrong direction

As it's Christmas, I thought long and hard as to which game I could inflict on my family, as is tradition. And this year I chose Pac-Man Vs, which has had a bit of a renaissance of late since I realised I could run it on the Wii and found my GBA cables. And found in addition that Justine loves it.

So I had myself, Justine, my brother and my mum around the TV yesterday evening shouting at each other and laughing as my mum ran away from Pac-Man when she should have been trying to eat him. Justine was relatively silent since she said she couldn't concentrate on moving and talking at the same time. And I managed to clear two stages.

It's still great.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: they've been taken!

It's quite depressing when, after three hours of playing, you stop and look at the instruction manual and realise that you've only just got to the end of the introductory explanation of the game's storyline. Twilight's story is a little more personal than that of many Zeldas, with the emphasis placed not only on the rescue of the kingdom from the forces of darkness (quite literally in this case), but also on the rescue of two children from Link's childhood home.

Getting through the story has been slow to start with because of the controls. Not the 'waggle' - that in itself is intuitive and accurate - but rather the use of the analogue stick on the nunchuk. There's a large turning circle, and there have been quite a few occasions where I've been unable to see the enemies attacking me. Using the Z-lock solves the problem, of course, but it's something I need to get used to.

I've been to the twilight realm and back, and have saved just before I return there. I'm hoping soon to be able to control my shape as well as being able to travel back and forth a little more freely. But before that, I've got to go to the Forest Temple.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Burnout Legends: crash bang wallop

I've been playing the crash mode almost exclusively since my last update - I've now got medals on thirty of the courses. It's pretty hard though, since you have very little aftertouch control and the crashbreakers don't do that much. I've not managed to blow up a single petrol tanker yet.

Splosion Man: zzzzzz

I got bored after about four levels, and stopped playing after ten. There's not much variety, and while occasionally you have to think how the level wants you to get through it, it gets pretty frustrating when your jumps don't go where you're telling them to. Hmm.

Trials HD: breaking bones

Simple controls do not mean it's a simple game. It's anything but. Very good fun indeed.

Blur: destroying Shannon and beating Khan

I really like Blur. You can see the PGR influences, and the more arcade-like feel to the cars, but it's been well put together with the different weapons and event types so it feels very fresh. The visual style is clean and consistent, and actually works a lot better than I was imagining. At times it can be a little difficult to see what's going on, and the controls aren't the most intuitive (why not have three fire buttons, one for each slot?), but overall it's a great game.

The difficulty level could have done with a bit more work though - there are quite a few sudden spikes which almost make me give up on it. In particular, Khan speeds off at the start of his one-on-one race, and one mistake can make him unbeatable. It took me ten tries before I managed to sneak across the line a second before him.

Onto the fan-based challenges now.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Bioshock: mad cosmetic surgeon

Looking at the True Achievements site, I was reminded of the games which I've not played very far through at all. In particular, I've barely touched Bioshock, Bayonetta, Rock Band 2, Dead Rising, or Tomb Raider: Underworld. The whole point of this blog was to keep track of where I was in different games, and to encourage me to play more to completion. It seems to have failed.

But I've tried to rectify this over the last couple of days. I loaded Bioshock, and found that my last save was just over two years ago, about an hour into the game. Of course, this meant that I've now passed all the bits where you learn about controls, and have completely forgotten what to do. It was a good twenty minutes after starting that I realised that you could also use the left trigger to shoot electric things with your hand - needed to get past the robot sentries. After hacking some of those, and rescuing the first little sister, I was plunged into a darkened room with a shotgun and many enemies. The game does 'scary' very well.

I've now got two different left-hand tricks; I would have had three but can't work out how to have a new slot open up. I've found and killed a mad doctor who seemed to like cutting people up for no reason, and called me ugly. And I've now found a Big Daddy who promptly killed me.

It's a very cleverly done game, with a good narrative and setting. The limited use of ghosts and flashbacks adds a lot to the atmosphere. But while I can admire these qualities, it's not huge amounts of fun. I'll play again next time I want something very involving, I'm sure. Maybe in another two years.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Burnout Legends: coupe with no accent

I dusted off my PSP for my recent trip to South Africa, but it wasn't until the way home that I got around to playing anything on it. That thing was Burnout Legends, which is much better and much worse than I remember. It's still a long way from the console games in terms of content, but the way they've taken the tracks from the first couple of games and added takedowns and the later games' mechanics works really well. There's a nice sense of weight to the cars, and it runs at a fair pace.

But the controls on the PSP are awful, and it becomes a matter of luck as to whether you complete a course. Not so much of a problem for the road rage or race events, but the burning laps become really hard.

When I started I was half way through the second car class, and now I'm half way through the third - though I've given up on trying to get golds for everything.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future: completed!

So, despite the odd plot and the tenuous lock puzzles, I completed the story of the game, then went back in to clear up the ten-or-so puzzles that I'd missed as I went through. This was a particularly long process, since it meant having to talk to everyone again (in some cases more than once), and in the end searching a tree outside the hospital. And then I completed the parrot and toy car games, and the sticker books, and the bonus puzzles, and everything.

At some point I'll download the weekly puzzles and work through those as well.

One thing that I noted as I played through the game was how little I remember of the first two Laytons. It's great as you play through, but it's generally quite forgettable, and there's very little reason to replay. It's a one-off experience, and I look forward to the fourth game already.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future: plot deviations

A giant moving fortress, built under London. More to the point, built under a city under London.

How odd.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future: more funny voices

I'm sure that some of the lines spoken by Luke and the Professor are from different actors. They don't sound to be in the same voice at all.

I'm making steady progress through the game, and have been playing for around ten hours now. The story is a little convoluted, but that may be because I'm spending quite a long time chasing down extra puzzles and solving the parrot and toy car minigames. The parrot is odd - when he first appeared, it was hinted that he'd help to sniff out hint coins which remained unfound, but he's done that a whole one time so far. Maybe it's serving me right for naming him Sparrow. It was funny at the time.

The characterisation still feels consistent after two and a half games. Luke is an excellent sidekick to the slightly-stuffy Layton, and it's those two who make the game. Other characters are perhaps a little too odd at times, which throws Luke and Layton into a much more congenial role, along with the few other characters (such as Becky, the hotel girl).

The puzzles are more closely woven into the game, but I can't help but feel they are less well designed than in the first game. There's only been one which I thought was a bit oddly worded though - and that was ambiguous rather than just being wrong.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future: funny voices

Again, it's the US title - I'm not ruining the look of my Layton collection!

With Colour Cross finally out of the way, I've been able to move onto the third Layton adventure, which is set in London ... while I'm out of the country. Still, it's not as if it's a particularly realistic interpretation, feeling more like Paris or Brussels at times, so the homesickness hasn't kicked in just yet.

I've rarely played DS games with the sound turned up (it's not the done thing on public transport) so I'm not sure if this is the case with previous games in the series - only some of the phrases are spoken, and which are and which are not seems to be relatively random. I must have played at least some of previous games with the sound, since Luke and Layton's voices are familiar, but I don't recall being confused over usage before.

In any case, I've now completed the epilogue and the first chapter, which is about twenty puzzles in. I was disappointed to read that there were only 120 puzzles included, but I've found a hidden puzzle - number 144 - so there must be a few more than in the main story.

And it's an odd story indeed. No spoilers, obviously.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Colour Cross: completed!

Colour Cross is a picross-type game, with a few differences - there are always multiple colours, never any blank spaces, and it's got a fair few annoying aspects to it:
  • A few colours on each puzzle are very close to one another (with four shades of red on one puzzle) - this makes it difficult to see what is outstanding to be filled in.
  • The backgrounds can be either blue or yellow (with little pictures scrolling diagonally). Some puzzles have both blue and yellow tiles to place. It's really hard to see where bits are missing.
  • Each puzzle is timed, with penalties for placing the wrong tile down. This stops you going wrong, but when playing on a bus, I often amassed a hour's worth of penalties just because the squares were too small.
  • On larger puzzles, you have to scroll around the play area just to see the clues at the top. You can't do this using the d-pad though.
  • The general presentation is pretty awful. You frequently get dumped out to the main menu and have to go back into a submenu, when it would be far easier to have a "next puzzle" button.
It's biggest fault, though, is that there were a few instances where it wasn't possible to complete a level without guessing. And I always guessed wrong.

Despite this, it's all I've been playing on the DS for ages, and I've finally completed it. I feel like I can put it to bed at last - even though, due to an annoying bug, although I've completed every puzzle three of the avatar unlockables remain locked. It's all a bit shoddy really.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Crackdown: end of an era

Ooh, what's that?

I've not seen one of them for a long time. Well, not in the original Pacific City, anyway. It seems to be glowing.

It's not even that high up. It's on the top of a building, yes, but it's only about ten stories up. If that. And I could jump over there easily. Surely the final agility orb isn't just a jump away?

Oh, yes, it is.

500 agility orbs; I thought it would never happen. Now I can play Crackdown 2 with more gusto, without feeling that something's missing. As long as nobody mentions that I've got 272 of 300 hidden orbs.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Angry Birds: completed!

Three stars on all levels, all golden eggs found and starred. I must admit that I had to resort to a search to find out what order to play the sound test in in order to get the star. It was hardly intuitive.

The latest update to the game brought with it Game Center support, and achievements. I've got a fair few, but there are others that require you to get over a certain total score on groups of levels. That just seems too much hard work now - but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's a brilliant game, ideal for wasting time on the commute ... or just about anywhere.

Owen

Last Tuesday evening, I looked at Twitter and Facebook and UGVM after getting my phone to connect to the hotel's WiFi network. The idea was to have an early night, but it was anything but. Dreadful news crept around the Internet, that Owen Allaway had collapsed at home and had been rushed to hospital. Not long after, the news was that he had died.

I've known Owen for over ten years. I never met him, but I know him far better than I know many other people. We were in almost daily contact over that time, via UGVM, via RLLMUK, online gaming on Xbox Live, and even by email. Owen often played games in much the same way I do - in short bursts, looking for a minute's worth of fun at a time. He played about fifty times as many games as I do, admittedly, but we shared many favourites - Peggle, Crazy Taxi, Angry Birds, Bangai-O, Outrun 2, Crackdown, EDF, and most obviously, Mr Driller. We had a number of discussions over the fine points of drilling strategy, and which was the best version. We were pretty evenly matched in terms of high scores, and we even played Mr Driller Online against each other a couple of times, despite the hurdles the game made us overcome to get it working.

Owen was positive about so many things. He would look for the best in games - innovations, clever work-arounds, style - and was forgiving of bugs or glitches (other than developers not implementing an invert look function on the Y-axis). One of the last games he played and was enthusiastic about was Sonic the Hedgehog 4, when he rallied against the RLLMUK hoardes to say that he was having a good time. His enjoyment was infectious - many people relied on his postings in the iPhone games thread to guide their purchases. A number of us bought Mirror's Edge on the iPhone at the weekend, and it's every bit as good as he said.

He will be missed. He touched hundreds of people online in various fora, and made the world better for them, and more specifically for me. A week later, and his legacy is everywhere. Words With Friends has his name listed at the top of my recently completed games. Google Reader is full of his blog postings - it's amazing he managed to play any games at all, given the amount he wrote about them. He'll remain on my Xbox Live friends list, and many of his high scores will never be beaten. Every time I play Peggle Nights I remember how excited he was to see that the Peggle iPhone app had been updated. I completed the adventure mode for him.

Bye Owen. I hope that wherever you are, Mr Driller: Drill Land is available in English.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Colour Cross: fundamentally flawed

Colour Cross is a picross-type game, with numerous colours per puzzle and no blank spaces on the board. You solve one colour at a time, with each building up to help you solve the overall puzzle. It's difficult to explain; given that it cost a whole £4 in HMV, I recommend you try it yourself.

Or don't. One fundamental rule of picross games is that there is no point at which you should have to guess - unless you are able to quickly see if you've gone down the wrong path.  Colour Cross does this all too often, and while at the moment the puzzles are small enough that I am able to return down a path, I fear this may not be the case forever.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Miles Edgeworth Ace Attorney Investigations: completed!

I'm not sure I'll be buying the next Ace Attorney game. This just dragged on far too long, and the story just wasn't long enough to support it.

Still, I suppose I did complete it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Miles Edgeworth Ace Attorney Investigations: take your pick

I must be coming to the end of this soon, but the last case has just gone on and on and on. I know who the murderers were. I know who the mastermind of the smuggling operation is. But the game is very specific as to what evidence it'll allow me to show and when. It's just a bit too drawn out.

I now have a picture of the ambassadors with flowers, and I can see quite clearly that there's a fake flower missing a petal which is the same as the guitar pick I found outside. But can I present that? Oh no.

Sigh.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Flower: yellow and red

Flower is a lovely ... distraction. it's not realy a game as such, though it does include game elements. But there's no urgency, no failure, no benefits for completion. There is progress, to new fields and new music, but nothing really driving you there.

It's just very relaxing.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Miles Edgeworth Ace Attorney Investigations: plodding around

It's just not the same.

I'm on the third case, and the investigative nature of the game just doesn't fit as well as the courtroom drama of the main Ace Attorney series. All too often you have to fiddle around with the characters to stand dead in front of something to examine it. There are too many ways to examine evidence - connecting logic threads, deducing using evidence on scenes, presenting evidence to others, talking to your partner - and it becomes a bit of an exercise in trial and error to see what the game wants you to do.

The story's not as engaging either. Each of the cases has been stand-alone, but the timeline jumps all over the place and it hints that everything's interconnected. The writing isn't as concise as in the first games, and I'm finding that I'm holding my stylus on the screen in the hope that it'll just hurry up half the time. Edgeworth has a horribly convoluted way of saying some things.

But having said all that, it is an Ace Attorney game, and as such is worth playing through.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Home: what a pointless waste of time

It really, really is.

Wipeout HD Fury: quake!

Yes, I have a PlayStation 3 - it's finally broken the "enough games to own" barrier with Heavy Rain, and I was offered a backwards-compatible model in good condition.

My first game purchase was actually Wipeout. I've been playing through the HD side and while it starts off nice and easy, it quickly becomes trickier. There's little give in the AI, and one mistake can see you at the back of the pack for good.

I also played some online games, and won two of the three. Very pleasing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

World of Goo: nonsense story

There's a story, yes.  No idea what it's meant to be about.  There are balls of goo which stick together and you can make structures with them.  Then other balls of goo will travel along the structures and you can then use them to make more structures.  And then the structure will fall over and the mouse doesn't move quite quickly enough for you to rescue it.

I've finished the first world, but that last point is just a little too irritating to continue.  I can't find an easy way of fixing it, either.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mirror's Edge: run, fall, run, fall, run ...

I've reached the eighth level now, and things are getting harder. It's trickier to avoid enemies, the time you get to complete certain sections is reduced, and the areas you have to land on are smaller.

It's still a great game though, with a of freedom unlike anything else I've played since Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. And like that game, it's actually really linear.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bayonetta: what's going on?

It's just a little too much action for me, and it turns into a button-masher.  I shall have to try again one day when I'm more awake.

Portal: completed, again

Steam was released for the Mac in the last week, and as part of the initial offer you can get Portal for free. In fact, I'd get Portal for free anyway, because they're saying that if you bought it for PC, they consider you bought it for Mac as well. Very generous of them.

So I've completed Portal's main story for the fourth time (PC, PC with commentary, Xbox 360, Mac). I didn't buy my Mac as a games machine (I have enough consoles for that), but other than when Time Machine started whirring away the performance was great. As is that game, still.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Street Fighter IV: I hate Seth

I can't beat him.  I've managed to reach him many times, even without losing a bout to any character before him, but I'm lucky to get his health down by half a bar.

He just feels cheap.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Words With Friends: sorry, William

I just laid down ZEBRA, with Z on triple-letter and A on double-word. 74 points. Oops.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Words With Friends: qis?

Stupid non-word. Niaz came back with "qis", on a double-word tile. I've put down my "aloft" for 22 points, and I'm 19 points in the lead. Can I hold on?

Words With Friends: come on, Niaz

Words With Friends is a Scrabble-like game, which you play against other people over the Internet. Niaz and I have been playing a game for a couple of weeks now, and it's been quite tense. He built a 50-point lead near the start by making "rezones" on a triple-word score. I've been chipping away at his lead for a while, and finally overtook him a couple of days ago with "thugs" on two triple-letter tiles. Since then he's not played, which is annoying since I have an excellent next word to play which should score 22 points. We're now into the endgame, with scrappy words using up letters, so that could well win me it.

But I need him to have his turn first. Come on ...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Fish Listening to Radio: they've got the radio!

An Xbox Indie game, this has a certain charm to it. It looks hand-drawn, and is just line drawing, but as you progress through eating woms then it slowly colours bits of the game world in. I've had ideas about games being slowly coloured in through progress for ages, so it's good to see something taking the idea and running with it. It's a fairly simplistic game, where hooks descend and ascend and you must eat the worms on descending hooks but avoid the ascending ones. The more worms you eat, the more points you get. The hooks can also attach to the fishes' radio, and if so you must rescue it before it's taken out of the water. You get no points for that.

The single player is OK, but it shines in multiplayer, where you are trying to get the same worms to get more points than the other, but trying to save the same radio. A strange mix of competitive and cooperative play.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Phantasy Star Zero: longing for analogue

Phantasy Star Online is probably my favourite game, ever. I know I've said that about Populous: the Beginning before, and to be honest if I was forced to choose between them I'd have to toss a coin, but bear with me for now.

I've been looking forward to Phantasy Star Zero for ages. It was billed as a return to PSO, with new levels and quests but the same play mechanics, usable items, online gameplay and an upgraded picture chat system. The graphics looked really impressive for the DS - a bit of a drop from the Dreamcast, of course. I've tried Phantasy Star Universe and found the quests to be limiting; I've tried Phantasy Star Portable and the lack of multiplayer and linearity of the game kills it. I had big hopes pinned on PS0.

Oh dear.

The game in general is great. It's not quite like PSO - the levels are separated into discrete blocks rather than being all free-flowing. My dreams of resurrecting Xevious (my PSO character) died when I saw the limited character customisation options; there was no purple, and the main male human looked like a spoiled kid. Swords look like solid swords, rather than the lit-up sabres that I loved. Magic users are a bit too pathetically weak.

But that pales into insignificance when it comes to the controls. I've been spoilt by Zelda, maybe, but this is painful to play for any length. You have to press the buttons down for extended periods, and it's often on a diagonal. Trying to face the enemies is tricky when you can turn only in increments of 45° - and the auto-lock-on doesn't pick up large angles. So you end up battling against the camera, unable to focus on and hit enemies until they move into one of the angles you can turn to. All the time they hover over your character taking energy off of you.

It's a crushing disappointment, but it's still a great game.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pac-Man Vs: fruit appeared!

We also played this last night. It hasn't aged at all, and had six of us shouting instructions at each other to try to catch Pac-Man. The scoring system's a bit off (subtracting Pac-Man's score seems a little pointless), but the core of the game is still amazing.

Lego Rock Band: or pop band?

One of my birthday presents was Lego Rock Band, which is like all the other Rock Band games except the music selection is a bit more poppy and with fewer swears. And your characters are Lego people, obviously.

We played it quite a lot last night, since I had people round for a party. There's some overlap with Singstar, really, though this also gets people involved who refuse to sing. I have a feeling it may be quite expensive in the long run, given the number of songs on the Rock Band Store ...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Xbox Live: party like it's 2005

Last night I met up online with Kieron and John. We had a plan.

On April 14, Microsoft is turning off the original Xbox Live servers. After that date, it'll no longer be possible to play original Xbox games online - unless you go through some sort of unofficial LAN link. It's the end of countless classic experiences.

Xbox Live was amazing. Online gaming beforehand (at least on consoles) was normally an afterthought, bolted onto a game designed for party play. It was hampered by needing to accommodate for dial-up users, and with a lack of expectation that the console would be permanently connected. That's not to say that great games didn't exist - Phantasy Star Online would argue that - but because of the inconvenience, I didn’t play them that often. Chu Chu Rocket and PSO were about as far as I went. With Live, though, game designers started to exploit the medium properly. Project Gotham Racing 2 was the first Xbox game I played online, and I was amazed by how smoothly it worked. Not only could I join a random game and race against people worldwide, I could also talk to them as I did it. Plus the game downloaded leaderboards and my friends' best times, even when I was playing the single-player game.

Online functionality was increasingly included in games throughout the Xbox's life. It evolved from additional single-event versus modes, through dedicated party modes, to cooperative modes through the single-player game. Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow was a highpoint of the last of these.

To capture the past for one last time, we met up armed with our copies of Halo 2, PGR2, and Outrun 2. It was odd not being able to carry on chatting as we moved from game to game. It was annoying to have to sit and wait for updates to be installed for each game as we tried to play it - though bearing in mind that my broadband line now is 40 times faster than the one I had when I first got Live, I'm not going to complain too much. Online gaming's come on a long way since, with better options and play modes. But none of this mattered for what we played.

Halo 2 is still great. We played custom games amongst ourselves, since we didn’t all have the expansion maps installed and without these we couldn't join matchmaking. Rockets are great, and much better than their Halo 3 variants. Going back to Halo 2 only served to show how Halo 3 didn't really evolve the game that much, if anything adding too many options. Having said that, Halo 3 is obviously a direct replacement, and the loss of Halo 2's online mode won’t mean that there's nothing similar to play.

That’s the case for all the games we played, really. Project Gotham Racing 4 does effectively make PGR2 online obsolete, though I reckon the range of cars in PGR2 is slightly better. I don’t like the bikes in the later game either. Outrun 2 is obviously replaced by Outrun Online Arcade, though with different courses meaning the game's not identical. OOA has got one thing in common with the earlier game - there's never anyone online.

Farewell, original Xbox Live. You'll be missed. A little.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Angry Birds: going backwards

I now have three stars on only 50% of the levels.

They've just updated the game, and it's gone from three worlds to five. They've given us an extra 42 levels for free. That's very generous indeed.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: completed!

I was right about where I missed stamps - the Goron Village stamp was partially hidden and required the whip to get to it, which is why I missed it before since (I think) I got the whip after exploring the village. The Dune Sanctuary stamp was on an island to the Southeast, which I spent ages trying to get to before realising that all I needed was a chicken. Sigh.

Anyway, stamp book completed, all rabbits collected, all tracks revealed ... I'm never going to get enough treasure to collect all the different train parts, so off to the dark realm I went.

Despite its small size, this game does "epic" very well. The journey up to the final temple looked impressive and daunting, with the green portal pulsing. Half-way up the hill, Zelda hints that once we go through, we can't go back. It's a turning point for the game, but also for Link. He's leaving behind the friends he's made throughout the world - the gorons, the anouki, the flirts in Paparrazi Village; and he's travelling to somewhere evil. The innocence of youth is about to be broken.

Yes, I got all that from a straight bit of rail.

There were a number of final fights, with different play styles. The first of these I found to be quite tricky - planning a route around the rail map to hit light pearls and then the enemy trains shortly after. It was like a verson of Pac-Man where you were able to pretermine your path. The main difficulty came from the placement of the pearls, with two trains in the Northeast corner being too far away from any pearl - until I realised how the warp gates worked.

Then there was a rolling stock fight, versus the Demon Train. Easy enough, particularly given that my train had six units of health rather than the standard four. Zelda (in a guard's body) and I climbed on top of the defeated train and had to make our way to Malladus (in Zelda's body) at the front, with her blocking the laser and me killing off the electric mice. Zelda hit Malladus, and he left her body floating in mid air. She regained it, and that was the end.

Or should have been. The trademark death-blow of a Zelda game can't be omitted, and as such another boss battle was bolted onto the end, which just seemed a little superfluous. It was another battle using Link and Zelda together, but with the two screens showing different viewpoints of the same scene - a view of Zelda readying the bow of light, and a view of Link running around trying to distract and avoid Malladus. When he turned his back on Zelda, you could shoot, knock him down, and Link could attack the top of his head. Repeat three times, and Zelda joined Link to deliver the final blow; that was that.

It was good, but not as good as Phantom Hourglass. It's spurred me on to playing Twilight Princess, though.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: missing stamps

I've got the Compass of Light now - it took two attempts since I couldn't work out how to defeat the three flamethrowing warrior-type enemies, until I fluked on the fact that I could use my whip to grab their shields and then hit them. I was trying to get Zelda to go around the back to attack, but that was easier said than done.

I'm now on my way to the dark realm, but there are two stamps missing in my passport. I reckon I've missed stamps in the Dune Sanctuary and possibly in Goron Village, but for the latter I've no idea how I missed it - plus the Valley Sanctuary stamp might cover that. We shall see.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Angry Birds: three-starring progressing

I have at least two stars on every level of the game. I have three stars on around 85% of the levels. I'm not sure I can go much further.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: slipping away

The desert temple was pretty easy in the end, even the boss (as scary as he looked). I love the new item, which raises the ground up by one level - though it's a shame you can't use it twice to go up twice and so on.

I've caught more rabbits - all of the grass and snow ones now - and have found a couple more force gem ones now. One of the latter opened up a new area in which I could race around an ice rink to get to doors before they closed. It took me lots of attempts at the second course before I realised that you can roll on the non-ice parts to give yourself a speed boost.

I'm not sure what to do next. One annoying thing I've realised is that the DS only thinks it's a new day if you save and quit the game, and turn the machine off and on. I've not been receiving post because I've just been shutting the DS up and putting it to sleep that way. I turned it off properly last night; I'll see if I receive anything later today.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: deserted paths

The goron gave me a force gem after much persuasion, but it didn't open the number of tracks I was hoping for. Bored of searching for rabbits, I went back to the tower and saw the demon king getting into Zelda's body (f'nar) and flying off. Git.

It turns out that the sand by the ocean isn't, as you'd expect, a beach, but is instead a desert. So off to the sand sanctuary I went, collecting four sand rabbits on the way. Great, another type of rabbit for me to not collect all of. I met the fifth wheelchair bloke and he told me riddly things about an eye in a cave, twisty passages, and something else which I've forgotten. Hope it's not important.

Oh, and Mr Wheelchair Man is neither dead nor a man, apparently.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Mirror's Edge: all white

The visual style of this game is marvellous. The use of colours and themes throughout the game - red for highlighting routes, other colours used one at a time for scenery, white used as the main world colour - works really well.

Level six down. The background story continues to be a bit pants, but it drives the game on and gives a sense of urgency.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: hunting rabbits

I've completed the four temples in the four quarters of the map, and Zelda's urging me to hurry to the tower to visit Mr Wheelchair Man* who may, for all we know, be dead. The whole world is hanging in the balance.

So I'm off to hunt rabbits, collect treasures to buy trains, and ferrying people around the world and collecting fish, ice and wood. I've been burnt by this before; I don't want to leave so much of the game incomplete. I want to find all of the rabbits and claim the prizes that Mr Rabbit* promises me. I want to open all the tracks and see what the things on the beach in Ocean World are. I want to find a nice husband for the ugly bint in Paprika Village*. I'm having a great time doing it.

I've just finished motoring around the maze that is the top of the volcano, and notice a large space on the map to the North East. And in the town, a goron wanting to go to the city. I hope to see many more tracks after I've completed this run ...

* names may not be correct

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Angry Birds: blowing up the pigs

Angry Birds is like Worms in single player, with lots of additional bits of scenery that you can use to crush the frog/pig hybrids which are your enemies. The projectiles are different sorts of birds, and with some of these you tap the screen again to perform an action. OK, it's not really like Worms at all.

The genius of the game is the star mechanism. It's easy enough to complete every level - by destroying all enemies, but to get three stars you have to achieve a certain number of points - which means not using all your birds, hitting lots of scenery, and generally being overly destructive. I've managed three stars on around 70% of the levels, but there are some that just seem impossible.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: choo choo!

I don't think this is as good as Phantom Hourglass. To be more precise, I don't think the general world is as engaging as that in PH, and the train annoys me a bit compared to the wonderful sense of freedom you got in the boat. Having said that, the boat in PH paled in comparison to sailing in The Wind Waker, so it's all comparative. The story is typical Zelda, though it's a bit more self-aware than normal; the plot as to why Link ends up in standard Hero of Time garb is amusing, and it seems to recognise that the series has become clich├ęd in some ways.

I've already collected hundreds of rupees, I have a shield which I've used once, and I've been to the forest and snow dungeons. I know the settings.

However, the dungeon puzzles in this game are up there with the best, with inventive use of the boomerang and ice flames to freeze pathways on water, the use of a fan to blow keys around, and clearing snow with fire. The blizzard temple boss was pretty hard, though as ever a bit of cautioness meant that I didn't die. The hardest part of the game, in fact, seems to be avoiding the evil trains on the tracks outside.

The one annoying thing about the game is the extensive use of the microphone to play the pipes, blow the fan, and so on. I play the DS on public transport, which is noisy. As a result, the game thinks the microphone is constantly being blown into, and that makes things pretty tricky at times. A sensitivity option would have been good ...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Peggle: no longer challenged

I've finally, finally completed the challenges in Peggle. I completed most of them months ago, in fact, but there's one - the 750,000 on a single level challenge - which is just ludicrous.

I saw this many times.

On the screenshot above, I came so so close - but not quite. I almost quit forever.

But coming that close just shows you that it's not impossible. Finally, on one game I managed to score around 340,000 off of a single ball after hitting the triple score. It was still touch and go as to whether I'd do it, though, since it was reliant on me either clearing the stage or getting the ball to land in the 100,000 bucket at the end. But, oh no.

Now all I've got to do is 100% every level. Easy. Erm.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Mirror's Edge: keep on running

I'm really enjoying this. I picked it up ages ago when it was £7 somewhere, but never got around to playing it. There's a well-thought out setting, a reasonable back story, and emphasis on non-combative progress through the levels. At times, it reminds me of the puzzley nature of some Tomb Raider levels, or working out how to scale buildings in Crackdown. I like climbing.

There are some places where there's evidently more than one route though a level, but I do get the feeling that it's not quite as liberal a it pretends to be. All too often there are set doors you have to go through, or only one set of pipes you can climb. Although you can theoretically run through levels without fighting or shooting, I'm not sure if that's really possible, since the soldiers or police are often directly in the only path that I can see. Maybe that' just my inexperience.

It took a while to get used to the controls, but now I'm running and jumping like a seasoned veteran. Most of the time. Wall runs can be a bit tricky at times - it seems to be a little random as to whether you'll actually do one or not. The frequent restart points and general fast pace of the game means this doesn't really matter though, and I'm making good progress - having just finished the fourth level.