BLOGTASTIC

 

29/December/2008

I picked up three PS2 games ages and ages ago in a three-games-for-10 offer, but, uh, only now actually got to try them. See, I didn't really want to bother unplugging the Wii for three games that had a chance of not being good. Now for whatever reason, my A/V switch box has had its third slot magically decide to work, so now there's no unplugging of anything required to make it work. Huzzah!

Maximo vs. Army of Zin was the sole reason I bothered picking them up. As you may recall me writing like a million years ago, I thought the first one was pretty rad, but the sheer dickish nature of how lives worked, the confusing hub worlds and the cost for saving were kind of turn-offs. I've beaten the first boss and gone a few levels after that, and it looks like it's truly refined things for the better. Of course, losing the cheap save system does ruin the retro vibe just a bit, but if it actually allows me to finish the game in more than four very long chunks, that's fine by me.

Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was just picked up... because, y'know. I never had much interest in the series, but all other options looked rather crummy, so there it was. I tried to play more than just the tutorial level, but I couldn't find where I was meant to go, and what I'd done already was enough to make me want to change it to something else. I'm sorry, but lengthy movement-stalling exposition on health-refilling items just bugs me a lot. Give me a list of the controls, throw me in the middle of the action, and that is all I need in most cases.

Also, it was only when looking at the back of the box did I realise that Daxter wasn't always just that little chipmunk thing, but was as close to "human" as all the other dudes are. And he's trying to get back to his regular form. That is a story that always bugs the hell out of me, because in most cases their new form is awesome. Daxter was an ugly looking thing when he was a hominid, so at least he gets a bit of charm and those goggles start adding a visual style when he's like a mutant lemur. Similarly, some dude in Golden Axe 3 is turned out in an animal man and wants to return to human form. However he is turned into a goddamned panther man, who sprints and kicks with the doubled power of panther power, and he just looks cool. It's not like he's in a world of office workers and mortgages where being human would be kind of practical for that sort of thing, he lives in a world of death and conquest and where jump-attacking isn't the definitive way of killing everyone. He's a silly sausage.

And the last game is The Red Star. I, uh, haven't played it yet, but the back of the box was enough to get me sold

 "A cross between Streets of Rage and Ikaruga," says some incomprehensible fellow from EuroGamer! It tells the tale of an "alternate Russia" where "massive technology and futuristic weapons are wielded by its army," and you're "thrust[ed] into a gritty futuristic world of chaotic warfare, industrial technology and arcane magic!" For ages "12+" and "FIST SHAKING REPRESENTING VIOLENCE", says the PEGI! It's also developed by XS Games, who I think are known for being a bit terrible. I don't really pay attention to companies as much as I used to. It's probably not going to be worth the 3.33333333 I paid for it, but it will give me a reason to shout "Space Commies! From the 24th-and-a-half century!" and have it be relevant to what I'm doing.

I don't think I'll be able to work in "Joseph Stalin! From outerrrrr space!" in, though. Yosemite Sam's quote just doesn't make itself as accessible to other words.

 

I also played yet another goddamned hack of Super Mario Bros., subtitled Mushroom Kingdom Chaos. It can pretty much be summed up as rather awkward and glitchy designs, and lots and lots of crap firing at you. Every other level has Bullet Bills or Bowser's flames or something lethal and projectile flavoured coming at you. There's nothing very outstanding about it, though. Toad says "What the hell! Took so long I could smoke a blunt!", while the Princess says "What the hell! Your quest is doof. We present you a new fart. Push button69 to select a new VD." Because discussing topics considered unethical for polite conversation is hilarious.

 


26/December/2008

I've completed all the levels and gotten all the treasures in Wario Land: The Shake Dimension. I've still got to finish about 40% of the challenges, but for all intents and purposes, I've finished the game. Thoughts time!
If I haven't already made it clear from my reviews, the story doesn't mean a thing to me because I rarely play games where story is actually important; but basically, the Shake King has kidnapped the princess of the Shake Dimension and a bag of infinite coins, so one of her servants gets the help of Wario and Captain Syrup to sort the mess out. Syrup's reappearance from back in Wario Land II isn't too extravagant, though; she merely adds context for the tutorial stage and sells stuff from the shop. That kind of treatment isn't anything new, though. Remember the mild hoot people gave over Pauline's return in Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2? And then how the game could very well have existed without her? Yeah, same scenario.
Wario loses his ability to dash at will and his sliding crouch, but for the most part, he plays just like the old games. He can still be set on fire and made into a snowball, but new emphasis is made on obligatory tilt functions. You can ride in trolley pods that run along their tracks, can jump and move with a simple tilt; the rocket pods boost with a push of the 2 Button and what direction you face is sorted out by where you're tilting; and the Subwarine is used in slow-paced shooter-like stages where tilting is your direction, you can move back and forth, and fire torpedoes. And then there's cannons. They're pretty self-explanatory.

Just like Wario Land 4, upon finding the exit-opening goal, you've got to get back to it under a time limit, and every stage features a challenge of getting out in quick time. The Max Fastosity Dasherators, once crawled into, send Wario into a speedy dash which can break through tough blocks and, quite simply, makes reaching the goal a more simple task. And he can also throw stuff in several angles or shake them to get onions (health) or coins out of them, or if he isn't holding anything, a shake of the remote makes him make the ground tremble, stunning enemies, activating bomb switches and lowering or raising exclamation mark pillars. A fair enough set of moves. His controls are appropriately tight, and it's only the Subwarine I found to be a hassle, especially on the branching paths that would sometimes refuse to let me go down a certain one without being blocked by the wall; the auto-scroll certainly didn't help matters. Still, platforming is simple and solid.
The stages are essentially like Wario Land 4, except bigger. Really, that's it. There's ropes, the aforementioned vehicles sometimes, coloured switches to turn on/off coloured blocks, blocks... it's just Wario Land 4 again, except bigger. The variety of enemies is incredibly simplified, though, and only rarely do they actually harm you, as they're mostly fodder for abusing to complete puzzles, and there's more emphasis on the physics of dashing, such as running across water, being propelled into the air via slopes and so on. As such, nothing is really too difficult, and what looks difficult is often a case of not being demonstrated something. An early stage in world 2 has a block breakable by the dash behind three funnels of fire that spurt periodically. I thought it was a case of crazy ass timing to make it in time. In the end, all you do is slide under the fire and you'll break through anyway. Ingenious!

On the subject of worlds, although you need to beat the boss of each world to reach the final boss, you can tackle them in any order as you buy access to them via the shop.

Each level has three treasures (don't do jack) and several challenges, which unlocks that level's music when all of them are done. Although unimportant, they add a simple incentive to get playing and truly master the levels because... quite frankly, I'm a completion whore. I've played games a lot, but unless the game explicitly challenges me to complete a certain level without killing an enemy, I probably won't bother. It'd probably be fun, but I'm just one of those killjoys that doesn't like to do something without a purpose. If a game doesn't say "good job, you accomplished a stupid self-imposed task!" then I will not bother. Then again, this is coming from the person who transcribed all of the Puchi Carat conversations for the sole purpose of "because."

Still, the challenges are fun, and they always require you to get out quickly or amass a vast amount of coins, which requires essentially a perfect run of every nook and cranny. The secret maps feature some devious locations for riches that, if you mess up, you'll have to restart the stage to get another shot at it. And that, sadly, is a problem with most of the game - it's not as difficult as that. Secret maps sometimes impose the time limit at the beginning of the level and force you to use gimmick vehicles to explore; sometimes it's just simple tricks like using bombs on mimic treasure chests to get their contents; sometimes it's just more elaborately designed to make a number of challenges unnecessarily hard. "Collect no silver coins?" You can imagine there's one of those on every platform and at the end of every rope. It's simple dickery like that that gives me more reason to keep trying them again and again, even if I've fully completed them, simply because they're fun to play.

There's not enough like that.

Granted, despite this horribly, horribly disjointed review, I enjoyed my whole play through of the game. It's just that it doesn't take a lot to please me in the right conditions. An RPG? It'll need to be shitting things to engage me every five seconds to get a positive response from me. A 2D platformer? Well, if it can be called a 2D platformer without much ambiguity, that's practically all I need. In this case, it was a fun time, but not enough to truly kick my face in playfully. The secret maps are fair enough at that, but with the simple physics and gameplay it could've been more. And very easily done with a goddamned level creator.

Seriously! It's 2008! The stages are done in the very simple tile format of slopes and straight paths and platforms, and behind the glamour you can still see it looking practically identical to Super Mario World in terms of layout! There's enough gadgets and gimmickry to make some really great challenges! WHERE ARE THESE FEATURES

I think that's the very same reason I liked Super Princess Peach so much for a game that had zero challenge. It simply would've been fun to make stages to truly take advantage of the physics and make the most of them. And come on, that umbrella is just a lot of fun.

The Shake Dimension? It's no revolutionary 2D experience and people are still going to be pissing and moaning about the challenge, no doubt, but it expanded enough on the criminally short Wario Land 4 to tide me over. And, really, the basic concept of a new 2D platformer on a console is enough to make me happy.

... my reviews feel more and more like shams by the minute.

 

Jingle All The Way wasn't on yesterday, unfortunately. Christmas is officially ruined forever until they can rectify such a mishap.

 


25/December/2008

We won't be celebrating here until tomorrow because of reasons, so let me rant about Shark Tale!

As of this writing today has had Harry Potter, Lassie, Mr. Bean, Oklahoma! and an opera rendition of Hansel & Gretel. I didn't watch any of them due to occupying myself with Wario Land: The Shake Dimension and my cold, again. It's the second Dreamworks movie I've watched since Shrek and I never gained interest in any more of their WAHEY WE'RE ZANY POP CULTURE ANIMALS IN A ZANY SITUATION movies, and this one just horrifies me. Why?

Will Smith fish.

Seriously. Half of the designs for the fish aren't too bad, and then you see Will Smith as a fish. It's not even any attempt to be a character merely voiced by Will Smith. It is Will Smith in personality, voice and HIS HORRIFYING FISH FACE, except as a fish in a fishy scenario. It's like that time Rodney Dangerfield reincarnated as a plush vegetable, except a little less frightening. It doesn't help that for whatever reason he almost looks slightly worse animated than the other characters, as if they made a regular kids movie about gangster debts and then redesigned the protagonist to look like Will Smith afterwards with less budget. It's weird.

However, one half of the fish aren't too bad. The other half? Well, there's a puffer fish who, aside from elongated fins, looks like a regular puffer fish from the body part. The face? A human-shaped head, with hairy eyebrows. On the body of a puffer fish. And there's Jamaican jellyfish with tentacle dreads. Did I mention Will Smith's dad has an afro and a moustache? Despite still being a fish? Also, what acts as a person and as a tool seems to vary, with whale garbage trucks (in which Will Smith acts as a janitor. How very progressive of our fiction!) and the whole thing just seems inconsistent and inconsistently horrifying.

Here's hoping Jingle All The Way is on to make up for this.

 


20/December/2008

On Tuesdays I do voluntary work at my old primary school, simply for having nothing better to do and wanting to give a bit of something back to the part of my educational life that wasn't hideously depressing. Plus it gives me a chance to argue with 10 year olds about the pronunciation of words and other such petty things. All for a good cause!

But while helping them research Monet via the magic of the internet, I couldn't help but notice a list of famous people on the wall, under a heading of inventors or artists or makers of good things or something like that. Da Vinci, Einstein, you know the drill. Except in between Leonardo Da Vinci with his concept of the helicopter and Thomas Edison's light bulb pioneering, there was George Lucas. His gift to mankind was Star Wars and Indiana Jones, apparently. I found it amusing.

What wasn't so amusing was a realisation of how I've come to believe that after a few years, verified facts will be changed. When you're taught of the food groups you're generally told dairy products are pretty good, unless you're allergic to them, of course. Then the tabloids, at least years ago, would constantly spin out another story of "LOOK OUT GUYS EGGS GIVES YOU HIGHER RISK OF DEATH," and then later go "whoops sorry it was actually vinegar that's lethal, IF YOU HAVE IT A VIRUS WILL SPREAD." And I won't forgive the world for kicking Pluto out of the officially-certified planet club. Scientifically proven or not, you just don't let them in and then decide to up your standards specifically enough to chuck them out again. What this meant was that I was surprised to see the Wright brothers still credited for the plane. I thought by now we'd have had some obscure, unpronounceable fellow from the Philippines be credit for the marvellous fantabulous contraption. Thanks a lot, world, now you've made me more of a cynic!

I'm saving money on my car insurance!

I also noticed there were the pupils' own paintings of Edvard Munch's The Scream on the wall. I took it upon myself to desecrate all the painting stood for. I apologise.

 

Today's observation: It took me a whole fifteen minutes to realise the winter-themed episode of Scooby Doo was actually meant to be tying into how it's nearly Christmas. Here in the UK nobody really pays much attention to what episodes they show. I think they've shown at least ten Christmas-themed The Simpsons episodes this year.

 


15/December/2008

Woolworths is kind of dead, and apparently has been dying since the end of November, but it's only recently I heard. What a pity you have died! as that guy from Faria says. It wasn't a very good place, but I picked up Transmorphers there and would like to say I picked up some decent games and figures, but I don't think I ever did anything more than browse about there. So I went there yesterday in hopes of finding something good to make out of its demise.

Not a sausage. Quite understandable, the up to 50% off deals and all, but seriously, nothing of interest at all. What a way to go!

I did go to a writing group, though. It was actually surprisingly rad, though I suppose it helped that I actually kind of knew everyone there, so I guess that's cheating. It was about doors. More interesting than you'd imagine!

Blog entries are getting worse and worse these days. I blame the economy.

 

I also completed another Mario ROM hack today. Mario Bash. Same old stuff, really - new levels, not really intending to be savestate-worthy difficult, though the hammers are still hammers this time. The levels are of slightly more interesting quality than Justin & Friends, but only halfway through the game. Once it reaches level 5, it starts repeating stuff. The original game repeated a few levels, throwing in some new enemies to try and hide it, but this does nothing to make it any less obvious, and it shows very, very blatantly. Even castle levels are repeated, the only change being that Bowser throws hammers. It's a crying shame. Heck, although world 8-4 looks untouched, they actually broke it. I went in every pipe possible in varying combinations, but from the looks of things you can't actually reach Bowser. How about that! THAT SURE IS SOME QUALITY HAXXIN' YOU GOT THERE

It's not too bad. Good if you want variety, I guess, but you can live without it.

 


12/December/2008

Not much chance of me pulling off another update every day scenario like 2006, eh? Those were good times. If I actually knew anything about Thanksgiving I could crack a gag about being thankful how people actually still come here despite the site's dire early days of pimply-faced awkwardness and the simple fact that half the content wasn't very good; but like my plan of turning the place into Random Shoe-Haas for April Fools, I completely missed the deadline for it. Bummer.

 

In unrelated news, Aquafresh toothpaste? Fuck 'em to hell. Not only is the tube unnecessarily hard to open and the paste has sloppy gravity physics, it tastes like bacon fat. Bacon fat's not bad when it's bacon fat, but bacon fat toothpaste - that is meant to help my teeth - is simply not an enjoyable experience. Not to mention its ingredients table actually cites 'Aqua' and 'Fresh' as the first ingredients.

Seriously.

Aquafresh? More like AQUASHIT

IN MY MOUTH

FROM A PIG'S FRIED ANUS

(because that's a bit what it's like, if you look at the situation loosely)

 


08/December/2008

I completed a ROM hack today. Justin & Friends, a hack of Super Mario Bros. 1. I'd like to say it's almost notable for not just being graphics or making the game into a nightmarish abuse of physics (that when you actually know what's coming is pretty astonishing and great), but for simply making new levels in the style of traditional Mario levels. Basically an expansion pack without being exciting. The biggest change is that no enemy throws hammers anymore - they hurl fireballs .That bounce. It's almost innovative!

But... yeah. Aside from no longer having the convenience of a safe standing spot from Hammer Bros., the difficulty never exceeds that of the original game, and when you think it's saving all this for World 8... it just changes a few things in the first two levels of it and leaves the last two untouched. It does end with the Princess calling Justin "the great white pimp," which I assume is meant to be complementary. It's a pretty forgettable hack, though.

 


07/December/2008

Well, looky here!

"We can't make a good game because we think a long, painful experience is better than something short, sweet, and worth actually touching again after you've completed it."

Come on, it's not like you need to make fourteen million thousand miles of unique levels for each character. Just do what Sonic 3 did by reusing levels but giving them paths only certain people can access. Like what you did in Sonic Heroes, except less terrible.

 


03/December/2008

Watched Kingdom of Heaven last night. Pretty great, I'd say! Then again, a movie with historical religious examination combined with siege action is bound to be enjoyable for me. Seriously, something with food for thought and then something you don't need to think about ("boy, I bet that flaming cannonball to the face sure hurt!"), and that's essentially all I ask for. That's why Citizen Kane isn't among my top favourite movies. Also because it is in dire need of a randomised script for the thing-he-treasured on each viewing. What if it was his skateboard? IT WOULD REVOLUTIONISE ZE WORLD

I wouldn't consider myself intelligent enough to provide a plot synopsis, but basically: the Crusades, lepers, assholes, every bearded fatty is a bad guy, Jerusalem cures all sins, lots of people catch fire, giant catapults, and a really great "your mom" joke. There's obviously more to it than that, but the movie is three hours long and really makes the most of everything, so to explain one thing I'd need to explain another and I would bumble it up really bad. Just read the Wikipedia article. The synopsis is just as long as the movie so it evens out. I recommend it!

... my reviewing skills just get worse and worse, don't they? Definitely not a shining moment to recall in future.

 


01/December/2008

Okay, I've gotten a bit too friendly with the Wii's backup loader. I've used it to discover that House of the Dead 2 & 3 is definitely worth spending money on, while Sonic Unleashed, meanwhile, is best ignoring - just like every Sonic game since Advance 1.

You remember Blaze, yeah? Voice actor of Dash in Motorbike Man, Sonic fan, he draws stuff, he rambles stuff; I don't think he's actually been mentioned on the site for like a year? Well, being a Sonic fan who appears to still have faith in the series, he was shitting bricks over the upcoming release of Sonic Unleashed and was like "DOOD SEE ALL THE WORK THEY'RE DOING TO MAKE THIS THE BEST SONIC GAME EVER LOOK AT THESE GRAPHICS UPGRADES" but I was all "man it just looks like Secret Rings and Rush had a lovechild and they haven't done any work to the engine and both of those games sucked anyway" and he was all "YOU CAN'T JUDGE UNTIL YOU PLAY IT" and I was "all that's true" and we settled it there after I threw the same statement back at him. And I've played the game, Blaze, and it is making me cry.

One thing you've got to realise about Unleashed is that although Sonic games have been multi-console affairs, they've all been more or less equal, only the PS2 version suffering from slowdown and general crappiness, apparently. There are two distinct versions of Unleashed - one version for the Xbox 360 and PS3, and another for the Wii and PS2. Beforehand, the only difference I'd heard was that the latter had levels designed by Dimps, the dudes behind Advance and Rush, and that the behind-viewpoint stages were given wider ground to support the Wii Remote. Nothing too major, right? I mean, I just assume the levels would be the same for the most part, only a few being different between them. That is what a fool thinks.

In reality, the Wii/PS2 version has a 60-40 ratio of werewolf to regular Sonic levels, the whole map exploration has been ditched for a button selection of areas with 2D talky portraits, there's no sub-quests, the boost system is simplified, the Dimps level designs feature a stark amount of alternate paths or exploration, werewolf combat has been gutted considerably, and despite the fact you're no longer restricted to the Wii Remote, the controls are quite distinctly crap.

In a nutshell, they made the game worse. Hooray!

The game begins with a fantastic intro. I doubt it has the same effect for people who don't care about the franchise, but seriously, the first three minutes of this are positively bliss after all the crap we've had to deal with in the previous games, story and gameplay-wise. It sends my spine a-tingle when watching it, but once the game reminds us that they're forcing a hideous werehog counterpart into the gameplay, not to mention yet another world-destroying prophecy (that doesn't even have the decency to wait until the end of the game before revealing!), it just brings everything crashing down, and the story afterwards isn't too brilliant. Basically the prophecy has night cause unpleasant things to happen to people - Sonic becomes a werehog, an ice cream salesman becomes depressed, a professor's assistant starts dancing with strangers, and you've got to go about and restore things to normal by taking the Chaos Emeralds to temples and restoring their energy or... something. There's fifty million collectibles that are essential to the story yet I have honestly no idea what I'm doing half the time. It does involve traversing the world and doing each stage twice as both Sonic and the goddamned werehog, though.

Sonic and the werehog! Sonic's gameplay is essentially a refinement of Secret Rings, adding much more manoeuvrability via the ability to drift, how you actually jump without grinding to a halt, and simply better responsiveness. It occasionally segues into 2D gameplay, but to be honest, it's filler - it barely lasts for more than twenty seconds, rarely features more than a straight path with springs, and it's many times more simplified than even Sonic Advance 2. It's not perfect, and still frustrates me that they can't just take the engine from the first Sonic Adventure and clean it up with new levels, but it makes a better package than the mess that was Secret Rings.

Goddamned werehog, I remind you! The night stages feature Sonic becoming a slower, stronger, stretchy-limbed beast, and from the trailers his segments reminded me a lot of Crash of the Titans in terms of goofy combat and whatnot, along with the fact that that game almost looks half-decent. Instead, you play through five to ten minute long levels where you run at half the speed with twice the slipperiness, have the jumping skills of a mule (and the plummeting-into-pits-repeatedly skills of a teleporting lemming!), constantly have to grab onto ledges and poles with the exceedingly unresponsive R button, and beat up non-threatening but fast enemies by alternating between the X and Y buttons. It's as bad as it sounds. Now, when I heard you attacked by alternating between those two buttons, I assumed it would be like the Spider-Man games where although you could press the same button three times for a combo, you could mix it up with various orders and combinations to get new moves. No, that would actually add variety. As the werehog, you have a choice between a never-varying combo attack, or a crowd-clearing special move that does less damage than one punch. For up to ten minutes, I remind you, with the risk of repeated dying because of the motherfucking pits and the downright retarded ways you must cross them.

I mentioned that there are more werehog levels in the Wii version than the other consoles, where they had the sense to apparently make the werehog gameplay into something less reminiscent of being tortured, yeah? I'd just like to remind you of that fact, because it is ruining all possibility of me enjoying this game.

To get all naggy, the whole werehog concept is flawed from the start. One factor of the early Sonic games being good was their speed, and another was the fact that the level designs were large, multi-path-spanning and simply well made. You could take it slow and explore to your heart's content, or steamroll through in record time, and it fitted both quite well. Sonic's gameplay, however, throws you into bland environments that are just backdrops for pits, twists and springs with quite literal ignoring of the possibility to explore, while the werehog throws you into very short levels and drags them out by stopping you every three seconds for an obligatory fight with non-threatening foes that like to run away or simply not get hit by your attacks, therefore extending out the time you have to waste as the buggy clusterfuck and also puts a gate in your way while you find keys in the stupidest locations and all attempts to rescue yourself with the grab motions fail because it is the shittest crapfuck I've had to use and ARGHHHH

I've another Sonic chum who has the game, except he has the Xbox 360 version, and his frequent descriptions of what's happening seem to suggest that he may actually have bought a halfway-decent game - something possibly worth spending money on.

Words cannot portray my RAGE.

...

The sad thing is that I'll probably still play the game, because Super Mario Galaxy's pretty fun and all, and definitely does a better job of being labelled innovative over Sonic Unleashed, but yeah, all the spheroid levels with their wacky gravity aren't not fun to play when I can be buzzing around sane territory in a bee suit.

I really need to set up a swear jar.