Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 35 - Cool Spot

Yes, I know this isn't a photo of me with the cartridge.
 I did take one, but now I can't find it... oh well!

Cool Spot
Released on: Mega Drive, SNES, Master System, Game Gear, Amiga, Game Boy, DOS
Played on: SNES
Release date: 1993

Cool Spot is a game that belongs in the category that Wikipedia proudly terms Advergames - Games that are made as an advertisement for a certain business or brand. Can you guess for what brand Cool Spot is an advert for?

Let me put it this way. The main character is a "cool" Red dot with arms and legs who wears sunglasses. And he surfs into the title screen on a green drinks bottle.... Any ideas at all?

This picture is a hint.
That's right. 7-up. (Although, in a bizarre move, all of the blatant 7-up logos etc were removed from the UK version of the game - apparently (according to Wikipedia - so I am aware this information may be about as reliable as a bus timetable) this was because 7-Up had a different mascot in Europe - Fido Dido.

"Now listen here Brawny," I hear you all say, "This seems very interesting, but why have you spent all of this blog discussing the circumstances behind the game, rather than the game itself?"

Good question. The answer? Because the game itself is very, very pedestrian.

It's not an awful game. It's graphics are quite nice, the soundtrack only mildly irritating and the gameplay is 2D platforming, which you all know by now I have a soft spot for.

But it's just so - meh.

Maybe I've been spoilt nowadays. The fact that there has been a resurgence of 2D platformers in the last few years, combined with the fact that I've never re-played Cool Spot since I was about 15 means that where I thought it would at least be entertaining fun, it just rapidly became dullness personified.

And the other thing - no character who has the word "Cool" in his name will ever be cool. Just saying.

Sorry Cool Spot - you are a 2D platformer that I shall be leaving well alone.

Rating: 3/10
Time Played: 15 Minutes
Would I play it again? No. Sorry.

Now I know what you are all thinking. "My Word, Brawny wrote a blog that I could read in just five minutes! I'm happy/sad/relieved (delete as applicable)

Well panic not! I have played the next two games in the playthrough today - so they shall be following on very soon...

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 34 - The World is not Enough

Wow - I look like Mr Drunken McSquinty-Eyes in this picture!

The World is Not Enough
Released on: Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Colour
Played on: Sony Playstation 2
Release date: 2000

OK. Let's address the elephant in the room. Not only is this a licensed game, which means that it, by rights, ought to be a pile of droppings that the elephant in the room has left in the middle of the rug, but it is also a Bond game that comes after Goldeneye - one of the most successful licensed games of all time - so comparisons are going to be made, which will probably be unflattering, right?

Well yes. Of course they are. But my first statement in regards to The World is Not Enough is - "It's not that bad." (And I feel that is a review that they should have put on the cover.)

As I have mentioned before, my history with FPS's is that I believe they've now got way too complicated for old gamers like me - but luckily, The World is Not Enough is very simple. It's like Goldeneye but without the analog stick.

*NOTE - I had no analog stick as I was playing the Playstation version of the game. The N64 version may have been better, but I don't own that!*

The game is obviously based on the Bond film of the same name - do you remember that one? Bond drove a boat really quickly down the Thames, then fought with Begbie from Trainspotting and eventually ended up cavorting with a nuclear physicist played by Denise Richards in a submarine.

So - as far removed from reality as most Bond films then!

When developing this game, EA obviously looked at the success of Goldeneye, and decided that they didn't want to change anything in order to make the game as successful. So it's a very familiar-feeling game. However, there are a few changes to the established Goldeneye format.

The first (which I assume is primarily on the Playstation version due to the lack of an analog stick) - there's a little bit of auto aiming that helps you out. If you are close enough to an enemy and you point Bond in roughly the right direction, a little red cross appears over the enemy and when you fire, you will hit him straightaway. Now this may be sacrilegious, but I quite like this as an addition to the game, because it means that you can run down corridors shooting people without having to stop and aim side to side because your bullets are just whizzing past his left ear.

The other change from Goldeneye (apart from the pointless, badly rendered cutscenes from the film playing between levels) is the level design. It's not as good. In fact, it's nowhere near as good. The layout of the levels just seems dull - certainly there's nothing as awe-inspiring as the opening level from Goldeneye.

But it is fun - it's always fun being James Bond, and this is no exception. But it's nothing outstanding. And while I played it for the full hour, I don't see myself picking it up again anytime soon, as even if you put aside the pedestrian levels, there are a few minor faults as well - some bad collision detection, strange puzzles and levels that seem linear until one moment, at which point you have to backtrack all over the place once again.

So, it's an average game, which would do better if it wasn't compared with Goldeneye. But it always will be...

(I apologise for the short length of this review, but I didn't really have much more to say...)

Rating: 5/10
Time played: 1 Hour
Will I go back to it?: I don't see it happening to be honest...

Next time - Yet more 2D platforming - but this time with the most unsubtle use of product placement ever. It's Cool Spot on the SNES!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 33 - Gran Tourismo 2!

Gran Tourismo 2
Released on: Sony Playstation
Played on: Sony Playstation 2 (Because otherwise I'd have had to dig out and plug in the Playstation, and since our PS2 has complete backward compatibility, it would have been silly to do that...)
Release date: 2000

Going back to GT2 was a big unknown for me. I remembered very little about it, although I do know that some of my friends at the time insisted it was the greatest game ever, which I was unsure would be the case, but I fired it up, expecting some fun driving times.

And then?

Well there was driving, but not a lot of fun...

Let me backtrack a little. On the front cover of the game it states "The Real Driving Simulator". Well, it's not real is it. It's a computer game, that you are controlling with a D-Pad. Yes, it looks very impressive for the time it is from, but it just didn't grasp me as fun.

My biggest fundamental issue with the game was the controls. If I wanted to attempt to drive around a racetrack in something that steers with all the precision of a shopping trolley then I'd buy myself a Sinclair C5 and head off to Silverstone! The problem is that the steering is erratic and, because this is a game from the pre-Analog controller era, there's no gradual steering, meaning that it's very hard to tell how much or little you need...

Well, it is for me anyway. And then there's the other thing. The first race I played, I lost. Therefore the game only gave me the options to retry the race, or quit out of the whole thing and start again. OK, I thought, maybe it doesn't let you proceed without ranking. The second race, I also lost - and fairly obviously the same thing happened again. The third race, I came second! (God knows how!) And guess what? Same options again... now come on GT2. I know I'm playing the Arcade version rather than the massively in-depth and hugely complicated GT Version, but let me proceed track by track won't you?

And then there's my pettiest complaint of all. When you finish the race, before it lets you choose whether to replay or not? It automatically shows you a full replay of the race. Er, why? I played the race, I lost the race, I don't need an instant reminder of it!

So to sum it all up, I didn't really enjoy Gran Tourismo 2. It's one of those games that started the trend of bringing "realism" to computer games - Realistic driving games, realistic sports games, realistic war games.. where does it end? The whole reason I play video games is to AVOID realism, why on earth would I want to play something that has a passing similarity to the dull rules that affect our everyday life? I guess some people must do, and for those people I proudly announce my new game:

"Call Centre Simulator 2012", for all major platforms, in which you get to answer complaints from angry customers for 8 hours at a time. And you can't stop it. Once you load the game you have to play for eight hours, to provide that realistic environment. Play every day and then, in several years, you might get a promotion! - Only £40!

But in all seriousness, Gran Tourismo 2 was not the best game played in this playthrough so far. Maybe I'm just still bitter that I can't play Outrun 2. Now there was a driving game..

Rating: 3/10
Time played: 15 Minutes
Would I play it again?: Nope.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 31 - Super Mario Bros and Game 32 - Super Mario Bros 2!

Statistics are a funny thing.

(I appreciate that this is a strange sentence to open a gaming blog with, and it seems that it doesn't have any relevance to the topic at hand, but bear with me and see where it goes.)

When I arranged my 140+ games into their random order when I started this playthrough, the last thing I expected was a game to be followed on the list by it's direct sequel. But guess what? It happened - and that means that this blog is a double dose of Mario Madness!

Super Mario Bros
Played on: SNES
Release date: 1985

So, let's look at the first of these two classics. Super Mario Bros - the original. But is it the best?

Before I even try to answer that question, a bit of history. Super Mario Bros is one of the most famous games ever. It has been released, re-released, ported, pirated, ripped off and homaged more often than any other Nintendo game ever.

(NOTE - This information is based on the information within that great research depository that is my brain. It may or may not be true, but I can't be bothered to do the research to justify the statement, so just agree with me, yeah?)

I own two different versions of this game - one on my 3DS, which is a direct port of the original NES classic
(which I obtained through the oft-mentioned 3DS Ambassador program), and the Super Mario All-Stars version on the SNES, which has updated graphics and sound. (I say updated, they were updated in the early 90's, so it's not an ultra-realistic mo-capped Mario, simply some pretty 16-bit sprites). After a long internal debate, I decided that the version I would play was the SNES version, as the game was designed for a TV rather than the small screen on the handheld.

And for the first ten minutes I had a blast. I played through the way I usually play the game - zoomed through to the warp zone in 1-2, warped to zone 4, then hit the warp zone in 4-2 to world 5, before dying in world 5-3.

So far, so standard. Then, I decided to play without use of warp zones (but still using the save game function that comes with the Super Mario All-Stars version), and spent the rest of my hour happily playing through.

Of course the game has flaws. A lot of levels are very similar to each other, the Hammer Brothers are still rather difficult to kill if they happen to spawn on the same level as you, and the underwater levels are still as irritating as they have ever been. But of course, it's a classic game, and unlike some of the others I've played in this playthrough, it deserves it's classic status.

Is it the best of all the Mario games? No. It's not even the best 2D one. But it is the original, and it does deserve some credit for starting off Nintendo's mascot on a high. It can get boring (mostly due to the repetitive nature of certain levels), and I tended to find that it works in short 10-15 minute chunks much better than a long play in one go, but still, it's fun.

Rating: 8/10
Would I play it again?: Of course.
Time played: 1 Hour.

So from Super Mario Bros, onto the surprisingly titled... Super Mario Bros 2.

Super Mario Bros 2.
Released on: NES, SNES and then many, many others.
Played on: SNES
Release date: 1988

A quick piece of history. The game that we in the west know as Super Mario Bros 2 was not originally a Mario game. The game released in Japan as Super Mario Bros 2 was an extension of the original, and deemed too difficult for Western gamers, so Nintendo of America then took a game called Doki Doki Panic, (which itself was a Japanese game featuring Japanese TV characters that was never likely to be localised to the west) and replaced the characters with Mario characters and tweaked it to suit. This was then so popular that it was eventually released in Japan as Super Mario USA, and eventually (on the Super Mario All-Stars cartridge), the west finally got Japan's version of Super Mario Bros 2, except it was renamed Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels.


Everybody caught up? Good.

The reason I felt the urge to explain the complex backstory of the game is because it is very different to the original, and indeed, it's very different to the Mario series as a whole. Because of that association, it's the game on the All-Stars cartridge I have played least, and consequentially I was both looking forward to it and slightly dreading it in equal measure.

The good news? It's a very playable game. While some changes take a bit of getting used to (you can choose a character at the start, and each has different abilities, jumping on enemies doesn't kill them, you have a set of hearts for health rather than growing/shrinking), I found myself quickly getting into the game and enjoying the bizarreness of it all.

And yes, I warn you now, it is bizarre. It's set in Mario's dream (which must mean that he sometimes dreams of being his brother, his girlfriend and ... well.. Toad), and this seems to have given them carte blanche to be weird with the whole atmosphere. You can climb inside vases, you pull up radishes and throw them at enemies to kill them, and if that wasn't enough, this game is the debut of not only Bob-ombs and Shy Guys (who are a little bit weird), it also introduces the greatest transvestite pink dinosaur who spits his own eggs.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, it's Birdo!

Birdo appears as a sub-boss a lot, and you throw his own eggs at him to defeat him. Which is fine, but still...

All in all, this game has a lot going for it. Unlike my primary criticism of the original, Super Mario Bros 2 has long levels, with restart points all over the place (thankfully). It also has puzzley moments (mostly just figuring out where to move blocks to and how to blow up walls (Hint - find bombs...) ) and so it gives a very different experience to the pure platforming of the original.

Maybe it was my relative unfamiliarity with the game, but I enjoyed this just as much as the original, but for different reasons. I don't think it's going to be my number 1 2D Mario game in this playthrough, but it's certainly not the worst either.

Rating: 8/10
Would I play it again?: Definitely.
Time played: 1 hour.

Next time - A complete change of genre, generation and console. It's Gran Tourismo 2 on the Playstation...

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 30 - Midway Arcade Treasures

I have a sneaky confession to make. This game wasn't supposed to be my next game on the playlist. A couple of weeks ago I bought a new console - an original Xbox. It cost a pound. Bargain. And over the next few days I picked up 3 games for it. Once I put the games on the list, however, it meant that two of the Xbox games became the next ones on the list. Sadly, the first one was Outrun 2 - and it turns out the disc is so scratched it won't play. Which makes me very sad, as I was desperately looking forward to playing it. So then I plugged in Midway Arcade Treasures...

Midway Arcade Treasures
Released on: Xbox, PS2, Nintendo Gamecube and P.C.
Played on: Xbox
Release date: 2003

Midway Arcade Treasures is a compilation of 24 retro arcade games from the 80s and early 90s. And you know what? It's great fun. I mean, I don't pretend that all of these games are solid gold - and they're all arcade games, designed for short blasts rather than long-term play. So I played all of them in my hours worth of playtime. And here's a game-by-game breakdown of the results.

720°  - An isometric skateboard game which is fun, if slightly awkward to control. Fun, fast and funky - very 80s, but good fun nonetheless. - 7/10

Blaster - Now this is trippy. It's as if someone built an obstacle course of neon Lego blocks and then propelled you at three-hundred and fifty-three thousand miles per hour towards them, knowing that you're going to crash and burn. But it's such fun anyway. - 7/10

Bubbles - You control a water droplet around a sink picking up gum and fighting off spiders. Yes, this game is as awesome as it sounds. Very little longevity but fun 3 minute chunks. - 6/10

Defender / Defender II aka StarGate - It's hard to say bad things about a game that is considered to be an absolute classic, and I will state now, that this version is a lot better than the one I reviewed back in Game 1. It is entertaining, but it's still just nothing special to me - and the sequel is just more of exactly the same - except this time, it has portals. - 5/10

Gauntlet - I feel I didn't give Gauntlet a good chance, as I enjoyed the 3 minutes of it I played. OK, so it may throw more bad guys at you than the patented zombie-fling 3000 ("Flinging zombies at your enemies for more than thirty years), but it was an enjoyable top-down hack and slasher, and it may well see me try it out again at some point soon. - 7/10

Joust / Joust 2: Survival of the Fittest - Just like Defender and it's sequel, Joust is a famous game, and one that I've already encountered on the tiny screen of the Game Boy in playthrough Game 1. Sadly, like Defender, it's a game who's reputation sadly outshines it. It's hard to control, it's a bit bizarre and slightly dull. Sorry Joust. - 4/10

Klax - A puzzle game! And an addictive one at that. It's a classic "match-3" style game, which becomes ridiculously fun and involving. I had a copy of this on the PC when I was young, and I'd completely forgotten about it until today. And it's so awesome! I'm definitely going back to this when I have more time. - 9/10

Marble Madness - It's quite simply fun. Controlling a marble around a course. Yes, the isometric 3D and touchy controls mean that you quite often fall off the edge when you don't mean to, but it's still a lot of fun - I came back to this one more than once in my playthrough! - 7.5/10

Paperboy - I love this game. Always have, always will. It kind of reminds me of doing my own paper round as a teenager (although I didn't just fling papers at people's front doors. Well, not always anyway - obviously it depended on my mood at the time.) Again, like Marble Madness, the controls are slightly flaky, but it's still an entertaining play - 8/10

Rampage - A game that doesn't quite live up to it's concept. You can play as a giant King Kong-style ape! You can smash up buildings! You can pummel soldiers who are shooting at you! Except, the controls are really rather wonky and the collision detection is rather off, so in fact you spend most of the time walking/jumping/punching at random and hoping. Shame really... - 5/10

Rampart - As dull as watching beige paint dry. Seriously dull. Granted, I have very little patience with strategy games at the best of times, and this just held no interest for me whatsoever. - 1/10

RoadBlasters - Now this is deceptively fun. As I stated earlier, I had been disappointed that I wasn't able to play Outrun 2 on this playthrough, and while RoadBlasters is no Outrun, it's still a very entertaining arcade-style racer where you have to keep picking up fuel to keep going. Plus, your car has guns, which is always fun. - 7/10

Robotron: 2084 - A classic that truly lives up to it's reputation. I hadn't played Robotron for many, many years, but on firing it up, I re-discovered everything I loved about it. Granted, it's very basic, visually, and that can cause a little confusion, but it's still one of the most energetic yet claustrophobic shoot-em-ups ever. And it's great. - 8/10

Root Beer Tapper - This is a bizarre game - where you have to keep refilling everyone's glasses and make sure at no point does one hit the floor. It's a good idea, but sadly I was very bad at it, and it didn't grip me enough to have another go. - 5/10

Satan's Hollow - Unmemmorable, un-exciting. No more to say - 1/10

Sinistar - Another shoot-em-up, but again, this one is quite fun. Bouncing around in a spaceship shooting at a whole bunch of enemies. Unlike Defender, you can at least see what's going on and identify bullets as they are fired, so that rates it a little higher for me. - 6/10

Smash TV - One of the best games of the bunch for me. A quasi-sequel to Robotron, it takes all of the good bits of that game and applies some lovely looking graphics to it. Don't get me wrong, there's not a lot in the way of variety, but who needs variety when you have guns that fire grenades, and multi-bullets and you can just mow down people in a hail of gore... wow. I sound disturbed, don't I. Never mind, it's all fun! Although, as Neety pointed out, "If this is a gameshow in the future, who are all the people who volunteer to run in and instantly get shot down by bullets?" - 9/10

SPLAT! - This is the most bizarre game in the bunch. And considering others of them have included filling peoples pint glasses, guiding a droplet around a sink and the neon insanity of Blaster, that says a lot. Basically on this game, you have to catch pies and throw them at your enemies. If an enemy hits you, your head falls off, and you have to chase around to catch it. Yes, I'm not making this up, it's totally true... - 3/10

Spy Hunter - A vertical scrolling driving game where you shoot other cars. It turns out that you're trying to shoot a spy off the road, but I just killed a lot of civillians and then blew up. - 3/10

Super Sprint - A top-down fun driving game, that I am awful at. Really bad. Which is a shame, because I enjoyed playing it - I just couldn't win anything. - 6/10

Toobin' - Now this was a real disappointment. Toobin' was one of the reasons I bought Midway Arcade Treasures 1 (I had a choice between 1, 2 or 3), and I did so because I used to have a version of it on the PC, which I remember loving. Having played it again, with it's awkward controls, I am left to wonder whether the version I had used an entirely different control mechanism, or if my younger self was just deluded. It's supposed to be a fun time racing down a river on a rubber tube, but sadly, it's just bloody frustrating. - 2/10

Vindicators - Sadly, my experience with this game was as follows. Drive a tank around, and then die. - 1/10

So, I know that this has been a huge blog, and I thank you for sticking with it (unless you skipped over all of the middle and have just jumped to this final paragraph, in which case, shame on you! Go back and read it properly!). Overall, Midway Arcade Treasures was a real blast, and whilst I do have three or four obvious favourites (Klax, Paperboy, Smash TV, Robotron), I also got to enjoy games I had never played before (Blaster, 720°, RoadBlasters) and try out a whole bunch of games, the type of which you rarely see nowadays, due to the lack of arcades. I miss arcades. Anyone want to lend me the money to establish one in Bournemouth?

Rating - 8/10
Time Played - 1 Hour 10 Minutes (I had to, to get one go on each game!)
Will I play it again? - Some of it, definitely.

Next time on Brawny's Great Playthrough, it's back to some 2D platforming! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Great Playthrough - Game 28: Metroid AND Game 29: Super Mario Galaxy

Yes, once again today you are getting value for money with a double-game blog post. It's a double-dose of Nintendo goodness, contrasting the old with the new...

Released on: NES
Played on: 3DS Virtual Console (Ambassador Game)
Release date: 1986

So let's start with the old.


As I've banged on about in these columns before, I'm a big Nintendo fanboy. Couple that with the fact that I got this as one of my 3DS Ambassador Games, which meant I didn't really give it a fair play at the time, since I got 20 games at (almost) the same time, so didn't have time to try them all, and I was excited to try this.

Picture, if you will, a balloon. A Helium balloon. That represents me. The helium inside? That's the excitement I had to play the game. Now imagine this tiny pin represents reality. As the pin touches the balloon, the helium slowly seeps out and the balloon falls, dejectedly, to the floor.

If you didn't follow my frankly bizarre metaphor, here it is in simple terms.

I was really disappointed with Metroid.

This was especially gutting as I did, in my teens, own and thoroughly enjoy Super Metroid on the SNES, so I was hoping that this would be the same experience. But while it shares various traits with that game, I didn't warm to this at all.

There are a few problems - some of which would have been technical limitations from back in the day, and some of which are just, well, design flaws.

Firstly, the levels are rather sparse. Now, I didn't initially take this as a bad thing, because I am fully aware the point of Metroid games is to explore the setting, not to be in a fire-fight every 2 minutes. But the problem with this original game is simply that because all of the areas look very alike (occasionally undergoing a palete change), I found quite quickly that I was bored of walking around the same areas over and over again.

The game's also quite hard, although not as bad as a lot of the retro games I've played on this blog, but the frustrating thing is that whenever you die you start from the beginning. Granted things you've picked up (like the morph ball) stay with you, but still. For a game that encourages exploration, to go back to the beginning when you die and have to fight your way through the same enemies is (for me, at least) just irritating. And yes, I know that this is a partly due to me being so used to modern games where you have save points all over the place and instant respawns etc etc, but still, this blog is supposed to be honest, and that is one of the things that kept putting me off.

And yes, I know that I've only played the beginning, and maybe these flaws get fixed over time, but I'm not going to spend my time playing through a boring game in the hope it gets better. That's like people who tell you to watch a TV series because it gets really good from mid-way through season 3, but you have to watch from the beginning to understand it all..

My final criticism is not the fault of the game designers at all. But because I'm playing this on my 3DS's small screen, and it was originally designed to be played on a big TV (OK, maybe not THAT big, since it was released in 1986 and most people had TVs the size of a hardback book at the time, but you take my point), it's just not designed for portable handheld play. It's too small.

So all in all, Metroid was a real disappointment for me. I played it for 15 minutes, and I was happy to stop..

Rating: 3/10
Time played: 15 minutes
Would I play it again? Unlikely.

Super Mario Galaxy
Released on: Nintendo Wii
Played on: Nintendo Wii
Release date: 2007

Now I know what you're all thinking..

"Oh no. It's Brawny reviewing another Mario game. He's going to insist it's amazing and praise it to the heavens just because he's a Nintendo fanboy."

Well, I have pre-empted this reaction, and prepared my mature, adult response as follows.

*Takes deep breath*

*Blows raspberry*

Are we clear?

OK - here's my even more mature, adult response. I am a Nintendo fanboy, yes, and I make no apology for that. However, that doesn't mean I'm just going to love the game unequivocally, does it?

No, it doesn't.. As hard as it may be for me to be critical of a Mario game, Super Mario Galaxy does have it's problems, and sadly for this blog, a lot of these problems occur in the first hour of gameplay.

For years I was distrustful of 3D Mario games. I put off playing Mario 64 for years because I didn't like the idea of it, only eventually playing it when I got the DS remake, and Super Mario Sunshine is a stupid brave attempt to f*ck up evolve the gameplay...  (I may be being too harsh on Super Mario Sunshine, I haven't played it for ages - we'll see how I feel when I get to that playthrough). Super Mario Galaxy, on the other hand, I warmed to on my first playthrough, and was therefore looking forward to revisiting it.

And sadly? I was slightly disappointed. Unfairly so, in fact, because I know that this game is full of brilliant and innovative levels, and I know that before you can get into the more complicated ideas, new players have to learn and understand the mechanics of the game but the opening is very... how can I put this?

It's very .... meh.

(Note - In the Braunton Dictionary, "Meh" translates as "That noise you make when something is disappointingly average.")

The problems start at the beginning, with the cut scenes. Seriously, who needs backstory with a Mario game? Peach is Kidnapped. That's all you need to know. Three words. In fact, for Mario Galaxy it should have simply stated "Peach is Kidnapped... IN SPACE!". In fact, they could have hired the announcer from the Muppet Show to announce "PEACH. IN. SPAAACEEEE!" And then, the game just starts.

But anyway, once you've spent about ten minutes in cut-scenes and pointless tutorials, you finally get to visit your first galaxy.

And it's very pedestrian.

Again, I know that the opening of the game is designed to teach newcomers, and as I've played both this game and it's sequel to death, then maybe I'm just spoilt and too used to it, but...

Well, let's put it this way. I can play Super Mario Bros World 1-1 and I enjoy it immensely. I love the design of Green Hill Zone in Sonic 1, and it entertains me every time I play. So why does the first level in Galaxy have to be so dull?

"But Brawny," I hear you say, "It's a modern game. The player needs time to learn the controls etc."

OK, that's definitely an argument. But it's still possible to do teach the player how to play the game ina  fun and interesting way - take the opening of Batman: Arkham City for example - that's a modern tutorial level which is also gripping at the same time.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that we should have started Super Mario Galaxy with Mario handcuffed and walked through a corridor of guards and prisoners (That'd be an entirely different game - Super Mario Vigilante maybe?) I just want a first level that's gripping and fun. Is that too much to ask?

In this game, sadly, yes. Apparently it is.

It gets better. The 2nd and 3rd missions in the first galaxy get a little more exciting, although still rather bland, and then from the second galaxy, enjoyment begins to occur more frequently.

But in my first hour, that's as far as I got. Obviously there's a lot that is good about the game (the music is great, graphics are very pretty, controls are exceedingly intuitive), and I know from prior experience that the game has some wonderful sections. Sadly though, the slow start meant that more of this hour of gameplay ended up being full of frustration rather than enjoyment. It's still fun, but it could have been better.

Rating: 7.5/10
Time played: 1 hour
Would I play it again?: Yes - but probably not from the beginning.

As for what I play next time? That's a surprise. Why not tune in and find out?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 27 - The Lion King

All together now.. "It's the Cirrrrcle of liiiiifffeee......"
(Notice George the Turtle in the back of the photo, acting out the part of
every animal in the opening of the film, i.e. standing still with head raised.)
The Lion King
Released on: Sega Megadrive, NES, SNES, Sega Master System, Game Boy, Game Gear, Amiga and PC
Played on: Sega Megadrive
Release date: 1994

Before we get into this blog post - let's address the elephant in the room. (Not that there's an actual elephant in this room you understand - apart from Trundle the Elephant of course - but he stays in the corner and generally keeps himself to himself)

DISCLAIMER for RSPCA/PETA/Any other militant animal rights campaigners - THIS IS A JOKE!

The elephant I'm talking about? The fact that this is a tie-in game, and you know what they say about tie-in games, they are notoriously pieces of rubbish that are knocked-up quickly with no consideration to game quality, right?

Normally I'd agree with you. And indeed, if this was a modern tie-in game, the odds would be weighed heavily against it. Tie-in games nowadays tend to be less entertaining than playing "Watch that Rock" for 3 consecutive hours, followed by spending the rest of the day cleaning a rug with a toothbrush. That wasn't always the case, though, as The Lion King proves.

This game contradicts both of the most commonly held beliefs about tie-in games:

1) They are badly made and awful to play.
2) They are short and/or incredibly easy.

Tackling point 1 first (as any sensible person would do), we'll look at the quality of the game. And I'm telling you now, it's a good game. It's a well-designed 2D platformer with great graphics (the individual sprites were designed by Disney animators) and it plays funky 16-Bit audio versions of the famous songs from the film. How can you not love it?

Point 2 now, and I can only disprove one half of this question, because of the other half. (I know that's a confusing sentence, but bear with me, I'll make sense of it, I promise.) I don't know if the game is short - not from personal experience anyway. I guess I could answer the question if I cheated and looked it up on Wikipedia, but that's true of anything. You can cheat and look up anything on Wikipedia. Granted, an answer from Wikipedia can often have a dubious relationship with the truth, but there you go.

Wow, I digressed there, where was I? Oh yes - difficulty.

This game is hard. Bloody hard in places. In fact, it's harder than a Diamond coated in Kevlar and surrounded by Titanium Reinforced Concrete. (I did have a cruder analogy, but I decided that it would be too rude for your sensitive ears, so I spared you it.) I'm not proud of this fact, but I lost all of my lives and used all of my continues, and still did not get past level 3 (Elephant's graveyard) on my first attempt. So I went into the menu system, changed the difficulty to Easy, and started again.

And that time? I made it all the way to.... level 4. (The Stampede). Now I could complain about that particular level being unfairly hard, as it is a level where you are controlling Simba (as you do throughout the game), running away from the stampeding buffalo. (You remember the relevant bit of the film, don't you?) The problem with this level? It's designed so that you control Simba as he runs into the screen. And then you get to the bit where rocks are appearing in front of you....

Yes, I got frustrated at this point, but it didn't stop me trying over and over again - until I had once again lost all of my lives. This coincided with my time running out, so I stopped.

I know it seems that the vast majority of my opinion about this game is complaining about the difficulty, but that does become the one overbearing feature. I have played the opening two levels of this game hundreds of times, (Which isn't a problem in itself, level 2 in particular (Just can't wait to be King) is an absolute delight to play - as long as you figure out which pink monkeys you have to roar at), but I genuinely don't know what levels happen after the Stampede... maybe one day I will find out.

So all-in-all, it's a fun 2D platformer, brought down, in my opinion, by it's ridiculous difficulty level (and the fact that it has no save game/password system to help you carry on) but it's still great.

Rating: 7/10
Time Played: 1 hour 10 minutes
Would I play it again?: Yes. Definitely.

Next time - It's a return to the 3DS for another retro game - It's Metroid.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 25 - Warioware, inc. and Game 26 - Tetris Party Live

Once again, today is a double-dose of gaming goodness - A veritable harem of Handheld gaming if you will...

Warioware, Inc: Mega Microgame$!
Released on: Game Boy Advance
Played on: 3DS (Another Ambassador Game)
Release date: 2003

Tetris Party Live
Released on: DS (via the DSi Ware store)
Played on: 3DS
Release date: 2010

So it happened that the two next games on my list are a pair of handheld games, so I thought I'd embrace that and combine them into this one uber-blog.

"But Brawny, why are you reviewing these games together? Have you just got lazy and decided to write two reviews in one post?" I hear you all asking...

(Incidentally, I should really get these voices out of my head once in a while...)

There are a few reasons to review these together. The first is that yes, I am a little lazy, and I figured that since I happened to have played both of these before I started writing then it would make sense to write them together, and secondly I think that they are a good pair of games to contrast - as handheld games they are designed for short bursts of play - so how will they hold up for a full hours gametime?

So - let's focus on WarioWare first. This is the first game in the WarioWare series - a series seemingly designed to be played by those people with an attention span shorter than the legs of a dwarf who got squashed one day when he was sat on by an elephant. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, let me explain. WarioWare is a series of micro-games that last 5-10 seconds each, most of which you can win by simply simply pressing the A button at the suitable moment. Later iterations replaced buttons with the use of the touchscreen (WarioWare: Touched! on the DS), tilting the console (WarioWare: Twisted! on GBA) or waggling a wiimote in a selection of wierd and frankly often slightly rude gestures on WarioWare: Smooth Moves on Wii.

My description of the game may sound like I am being derogratory, but I don't mean to be at all. In fact, it's enormous fun and a brilliant idea, but I'm not sure whether it'll hold up to a full hour's worth of gameplay - let's find out!

I powered up the 3DS and started playing through the stages from the beginning - I had already unlocked them all from previous playthroughs, so I played them in the correct order, and you know what? It's still as much fun as I remember...

.... for about 10 minutes. Then the repetition starts to kick in.

There are still plenty of moments of awesome in WarioWare (The references to 8-bit classic Nintendo games in particular are an absolute treat), but after ten minutes of play I felt like I wanted to do something else. So I did. I stopped playing for an hour or so and then picked it back up for another go - which again, lasted approximately ten minutes. The problem here is the opposite to Half-Life 2 - whereas that game didn't suit my playthrough rules because the first half-hour didn't really feel like you'd started the game, WarioWare doesn't suit the playthrough rules because it's great for a short time, but I would never spend an hour on it.

Moving on to Tetris Party Live (which, incidentally was only the second game I ever bought from any kind of digital distribution service and downloaded to a console (I still prefer games to have a box - I'm an old fogey in that way)), and I was a little bit worried that I would have the same problems as WarioWare here. But I'd forgotten, of course, that it is Tetris. This game has been released (in various versions) on just about every console you could possibly think of, and no-one knows why guiding seven different blocks into lines is as addictive as something incredibly addictive (I tried to come up with a funny comparison there - but I failed miserably. Oh well, you win some and you lose some.)

I split my time with Tetris Party Live, playing a non-Endless game of Marathon (which stops at 150 lines), a quick snatch of online 2-player, a couple of rounds of Computer Battle and then a couple of Endless Marathon attempts, one of which smashed my current top score! And trying all of those other modes reminded me that endless marathon is the simplest and purest version of Tetris - The other variations all have their downsides - as follows:

Non-Endless Marathon - I find it frustrating when you reach 150 lines and it just stops - I prefer to carry on until I die..

Online 2-Player: This is incredibly frustrating, firstly because - as this version of the game is 2 years old and no longer available from the Nintendo E-Shop, the only opponent I could find was a Japanese player who was RIDICULOUSLY good at the game.

Computer Battle: The design of the battle game is OK, but for some reason, it just doesn't have the addictive qualities that the original does for me - the competitive element doesn't add anything. Also, the AI is not very variable - consequentially I am a level 2.5 player - I can continuously beat level 2 computer, and I continuously lose to the level 3 computer.

But the important thing is, that once I had gone back to Endless Marathon play, I played over my hour without getting even slightly bored - and that's due to the addictive nature of the game (and the high score chasing).

So all in all, these two games showcase the two options for handheld games. Tetris is the more traditional of the two, a game that you can play for 5 minutes or an hour, and it is just as rewarding, and WarioWare - which is much more along the lines of all the games available for iPhone, Android and other mobile phones - the kind of game that is fun for a few minutes, but you wouldn't play much more than that...

Nintendo should to do a WarioWare for smartphones - they'd make a fortune...

Ratings: 6.5/10 (WarioWare), 8/10 (Tetris Party Live)
Time Played: 25 minutes (WarioWare), 1 Hour 10 Minutes (Tetris Party Live)
Will I play them again?: Yes to both - WarioWare in short bursts and Tetris for slightly longer playtimes.

Next time - I wonder what genre we'll be visiting? Oh it's another 16-Bit 2D platformer - The Lion King on Megadrive! See you then!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 23 - Virtua Cop 2 and Game 24: Sonic the Hedgehog

As promised - it's time to break out the Sega Saturn for...

It's shooty  bang fun-time!

Virtua Cop 2
Released on: Sega Saturn, PC, Sega Dreamcast and (later on) Playstation 2
Played on: Sega Saturn
Release Date: 1996

I love light-gun shooters. They take me back to the wonderful times I used to spend in the local arcade before it became so full of fruit machines and "win-a-teddy" grabbing machines, that it makes me depressed to go anywhere near the place. And Virtua Cop was one of my favourites. That, and Time Crisis (which I also have at home, so you will hear about that at some point soon...). 

So I was excited about sitting down with the polygon-tastic game..... and then I had a problem.

It turns out that the Gun controller for my Saturn is broken. It doesn't like to shoot in the same place twice - even if you don't move the gun. At all. And also, it doesn't like aiming at the left hand side of the screen at all... 

So I tried, but I failed - and 5 minutes into it, the control issues proved too much. So, in a first for this blog, Virtua Cop 2 gets no rating, as I feel it is unfair to judge it when I can't play it properly.

Instead, let us move on from this sad moment, and move to Game 24.


Sonic the Hedgehog
Released on: Sega Megadrive (and later re-released on almost every console of every generation since)
Played on: Sega Megadrive
Release Date: 1991

OK - I'm warning you all now. If you've got fed up with hearing me say how great 2D platformers are - especially Sonic and Mario - then the rest of this blog is not going to be for you...

As you already know from reading earlier editions of the blog - I love 2D Sonic games. And now I get to revisit the original - the 16-bit wonder that is Sonic the Hedgehog. 

It's a great game - as you all know. Any game that launches a franchise that is still running 21 years later must have a lot going for it - and it's very true here. I could tell you all the wonderful things about this game - the fact that the level design is superb, the wonderful graphics, the music that burrows into your mind like a particularly vicious earworm and doesn't ever leave - but instead, I'm going to take a slightly different tack with this blog.

So here it is. The five reasons why Sonic the Hedgehog is not as good as Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

1) There is no spin dash. That magical manoeuvre where you can hold down on the D-Pad and then press the button in order to zoom off in a magical blue ball of speed doesn't exist in this game. Yes, you can spin dash by running up to full speed and pressing the down button, but it makes smashing blocks etc out of the way much harder.

2) There is slightly less level variety - and indeed, fewer levels. Plus, Sonic 2 has Casino Night Zone, which is one of the best levels of all time.

3) Sonic 1's special stages are good (they're the wierd twisty rotating mazes in case you had forgotten) but they're not a patch on Sonic 2's multi-coloured tube runs with the music that goes "Da. Da-da-da-da-da Da daaaa de-da-daaaa.... Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da.." (Wow it's hard to write music out when it doesn't have words. Still, you all know what I mean - if not, click on this link.)

4) There's no Tails. And yes, I know that Tails is one of the most annoying of Sonic's friends - but he was the first, and consequentially he at least had some use in Sonic 2 (as opposed to Sonic's friends like Vector the Crocodile, Charmy the Bee and the ever-irritating Amy Rose - who have never had any use apart from being rather irritating ALL THE TIME!). Plus, Tails means that you can play Sonic 2 in two-player, which is a cracking idea.

5)...... I can't think of a fifth.

And that (in a very roundabout way) is my point! This game is almost perfect - bested only by it's sequel - and, after playing the first two games in the Sonic series, it becomes very clear why the series went downhill from Sonic 3 onwards (and I'm hoping that this opinion of mine will be amended when I re-play later Sonic games). When you start with two games that are as close to perfection as Sonic and Sonic 2, then everything else just becomes a minor disappointment.

Sonic the Hedgehog is an awesome game. Play it now. Then play the sequel and enjoy the masterful pairing of these two superb 2D platformers.

Rating: 9/10
Time Played: 1 hour 10 mins
Will I play it again?: I'm tempted to do so right now!!

Come back soon for my next game - what will it be? Well, it's a surprise (mostly because I don't have the list in front of me right now...).

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 22 - Donkey Kong Country

That's right - by popular demand (i.e. at least one person asked for it)
it's the return of pictures of me holding a game and smiling wierdly!

Donkey Kong Country
Released on: SNES
Played on: SNES
Release date: 1994

Yes, it's another platform game. Yes, it's another Nintendo game. And do you know what? It's bloody marvellous!

Before we go any further, I have a confession. I cheated a little bit with this playthrough. I did start a brand new game, as per the rules, but then - about 20 minutes into the game - Neety came in and I wanted to play the two player mode with her - but you can't just add a player into an existing game, so I had to load up the old 2-player saved game I had on the cartridge. And then, when Neety stopped playing (because she was making scones. Which incidentally are very tasty indeed) I didn't want to re-play the levels we'd done together, so I just kept playing from the saved game - I didn't go back to the original new game.

Donkey Kong Country is a fantastic platform game - it's always been a favourite of mine. While it's sequels were subject to the law of diminishing returns (at lease up until Donkey Kong Country Returns - the Wii remake/sequel) the original is amazing. Famed for it's pre-rendered graphics which looked like nothing else on the SNES at the time, it's gameplay and well-designed levels are often overlooked. But not by me!  Also not by Neety - why don't we find out what she thinks?

It's been a while since I've played Donkey Kong Country - in fact the most recent Donkey Kong I've played is the recent Donkey Kong Country Returns - which is brilliant and I understand is coming up in Brawny's playthrough soon. 

The game is nice to look at, and offers a lot of variety as far as game stages, enemies and soundtrack are concerned. I particularly like the games way in two player mode of swapping you out with your team-mate when you die which varies the gameplay and saves you a having an argument. It's annoying that you can't play with both of you at the same time, a problem which Donkey Kong Country Returns rectifies - meaning that you do find yourself waiting for your co-players death, which is not an entirely healthy concept if you are in a relationship with the person you are playing with! 

As an avid 2D platform fan who was delighted when the genre began to make a comeback over the last few years, I find Donkey Kong Country's two-player mode to be the stepping stone between traditional 1 player platformers, and the modern Mario Bros / Kirby / Rayman multiplayer method of having multiple players on one screen. In fact, the whole incorporation of Diddy Kong, even in 1-player, gives a unique feel to the whole game as the switching/losing of characters works as an absolutely brilliant replacement for a traditional health bar etc.

The music in this game is fabulous. (In fact, you can tell it's good, because they released a soundtrack CD for the game which was, in true 90s style, called DK Jamz. Seriously, did someone lose a whole bunch of S's in the 90s and instead replace them all with Zs? Stupid rubbish 90s fashionz.... DAMNIT! Now I did it! I'm infected! Quick! Call the polizzz... HEY THAT'S NOT EVEN AN S! RUN AWAY!!)

*Runzzzzzzzzzzz away*




Ah, it seems to have gone now. Anyway, as I was saying, the music is superb and just adds to the whole atmosphere of the game, and the huge variety of levels is great - minecarts, barrels and lots of fun.

I'm running out of ways to say how good this game is. Tell you what, why don't I throw it over to Neety for any final thoughts.

I was glad that the nostalgia filter didn't do it wrong, and it is a good all round game. I highly recommend the recent edition to the series as well as this one for DK Fans all and new!

I agree completely with Neety. This is one of the best games on the SNES - and in fact, if you are a platform fan who wants a change from Mario or Sonic, then pick it up straightaway! You can get it on the SNES (if you're old school) or you can download it on the Wii Virtual Console too.

Rating: 9/10
Time played: Just over an hour
Would I play it again: In a hearbeat!

Next up - some Shooting fun on the Saturn with Virtua Cop 2...

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 21 - Half-Life 2

Back to the current generation now, with Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2
Released on: PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS3, Mac OSX
Played on: Xbox 360
Release date: 2004 (although the Xbox 360 version was 2007)

Occasionally, I find a game where I'm not sure my playthrough rules are fair to the game - and Half-Life 2 is one of them. As I'm sure many of you are aware, this is one of those games that everyone who was a gamer played and loved when it came out.

Except me.

At the time, the only current generation console I had was a Wii, and the idea of my PC playing anything more technically complicated than Doom 2 was just ridiculous. So the Half-Life saga passed me by. Until I discovered Portal.

Portal is a puzzle game by the makers of Half-Life (Valve) and using the same FPS engine. I LOVED Portal (and later on in this playthrough, you will see just how much) and consequentially I was ecstatic when I was given The Orange Box for my birthday last year. The Orange box (for those of you who don't know) was a packaging of Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2 for consoles.

Now that I've finished explaining the convoluted history of why I own this game in the first place (which I appreciate was confusing, thank you for sticking with me there), now I'll explain my opening paragraph again. As per the rules I set out for this playthrough, every game gets played for an hour (approx). The problem with this? Half-Life 2 is a very plot-centric game, and for the first half-hour of the game, where you simply walk your character around (in a very linear fashion as all doors are locked to you except the ones you need to go through), occasionally running away from people, and talking to NPCs, it didn't really grab me.... It didn't even really feel like I was playing a game! It certainly didn't feel like fun.

Part of the problem is that I have never played Half-Life (the original) and don't have any clue what the plot of that game was - and Half-Life 2 seems to just drop you straight into the plot, so I did feel a touch confused.

Also (and this is more a criticism of myself than the game), I'm a big fan of humour in game plots - and there's not a lot of that evident in the opening of the game. It's rather serious, and the feel of this blog is likely to reflect that, as I've got nothing in particular to joke about. Therefore I may, at some point during the remainder of this blog, insert a silly word or two in order to make you giggle.

Once I got into the game, after half an hour or so, and I became armed and could start to defend myself, then I did have some fun. It's a good game, and I can see why it gained so much acclaim. But honestly? It still didn't grip me a lot. I found it very hard (and I'm not excluding the idea that maybe I'm just really bad at the game) and while that's not necessarily a bad thing in a game - I do like a challenge - the very fact that I was noticing how hard it was tells me that I wasn't engrossed in the game.




And, to be honest, that's that. It doesn't matter that the controls are good, the graphics very serviceable, and the atmosphere genuinely well-crafted. If a game doesn't grip me, I'm not going to keep playing it, and that's what has happened here. Sure, I might give it another go in the near future, and not having to start over from the very beginning again may improve my opinion of it. But for now? It's going back on the shelf.

Also, just to clarify, I'm not visiting Half-Life 2: Episode 1 and Half-Life 2: Episode 2 in this playthrough, as they are extensions of this game, and I found this one confusing enough as I didn't really know what was going on!

Rating: 6/10
Time Played: 1 hour
Would I play it again?: Maybe - but not for a while...

Time to go back to one of my favourite consoles and one of my favourite characters next - Donkey Kong Country on the SNES!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 20 - Soulcalibur II

We have reached a milestone here - 20 games down (and still more than a hundred to go - so I should probably stop going on about milestones and get on with it..)

Soulcalibur II
Released on: Nintendo Gamecube, Playstation 2, Xbox
Played on: Nintendo Wii
Release date: 2003

I have a confession to make. When I bought this game, I did so for one primary reason - and that reason is shown on the cover art above. Link. 

I have confessed many times already on this blog that I am a Nintendo fanboy - and indeed I reviewed a Zelda game just two games ago. (Four Swords, in case you'd forgotten!) which I didn't rate very highly - however Link is a character I've always enjoyed playing as, and therefore when I saw this in a second-hand shop a few years ago, I had to have it. Also, the secondary reason was that it is part of the Soul Blade/SoulCalibur series, and I have Soul Blade on PS1 and I'd always enjoyed it.

It'd been a long time since I played this game, so I was quite excited when I popped this into the Wii to play. And do you know what? It didn't disappoint - at least to start with. I happily selected Link, and had a crack at the arcade mode. And then, 20 minutes later, I had completed the Arcade mode.

Yes, I know that there are loads of modes, and there are different difficulty settings to be found within the options menu, but even so, I would have hoped that I would have taken longer than 20 minutes to complete the Arcade mode - that time also included a couple of minutes of pausing the game and reading the manual to check the controls. Nevertheless, once I had finished that, I decided to have a go at the Weapon Master Mode, which looked to be a mission-style mode designed for single players. And that's what I spent the next 40 minutes on. And in the interest of fair play, I didn't play as Link. I played as the weird tall blond Final Fantasy Look-a-like who's name has slipped from my mind. 

So, what's the single player "mission" mode of a fighting game like? Well, as you would expect from this type of game, it's a set of fights strung together. But, in a fun twist, some of the rounds have you attempting to defeat multiple enemies one after the other, or a round where you have to knock someone out of the ring to win etc.... It's good fun. It also has some (almost entirely pointless) RPG style elements where you level up and earn money - although I'm not quite sure why. (There is a shop where you can buy weapons and stuff, although I didn't discover this until two minutes before I finished playing, so I didn't have a very good look around.)

The biggest problem with this Weapon Master Mode is that it tries to tell you a story, which is fine, but it does it in text, on screen, that you can skip through. This was all written in such a dull manner that I quickly stopped reading it at all, and consequentially I didn't have a clue what was supposed to be happening. (Not that plot particularly matters in Fighting games, but it would have been nice to have the option.) The other thing - and this is a particularly petty complaint, but there you go - is that in the mission mode, some of the opponents seem to have had their names changed.

But only on the introduction screen and the bottom of the main screen.

For example, Cervantes is listed as Alfred: King of the Pirates. I don't know why, and frankly, it just seems like a strange localisation issue - which doesn't seem to affect the Arcade version. It's almost as if they gave the localisation work on the Weapon Master Mode to the work experience kid, told him he had to do it in 12 hours flat, and left a bottle of vodka in the room with him. I expect these suspicions to be confirmed if later characters are called such things as "Yaymorebooze" and "Youremybestmate: I love you!"

So, overall? Good game, people, good game. Not great, but still reasonably entertaining.

Rating: 7/10
Time played: 1 Hour 5 Minutes
Would I play it again: Sure - when I fancy a quick bit of fighting-time, it'll be one of the games that I choose.

Next time: Half-Life 2 on Xbox 360...

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 19 - Sonic Generations

Another day, another game...

Sonic Generations
Released on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC (and 3DS, although it's apparently an entirely different game)
Played on: Xbox 360
Release Date: 2011

In general, there are two types of reaction whenever a new Sonic game is announced. There are the people who say, "It's all been downhill since Sonic 2, why would you bother? Modern Sonic games are rubbish", and there are those who say, "It could be good - it certainly won't be any worse than Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)".


I do not own and have never played Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 (aka the game where Sonic has a human love interest. Yes, that's right...) so I do not know if it is as bad as everyone says it is. However, the fact that Sega delisted the game from Microsoft's Xbox Live Games on Demand service in order to "increase the value of the brand" I think says a lot... (If you feel I'm being unfair on the game, or just have a copy of it that you no longer want, please feel free to loan/donate the game to me, as it is the only main Sonic game I've never played, and I am morbidly interested in how bad/entertaining it may be...)


Sonic Generations does a lot of things right, and on the whole I would probably rank it as the best current generation Sonic game. Mostly, it has to be said because of the 2D Sonic levels.

Yes, that's right - there's 2D Sonic levels in this game! Sadly there are 3D levels too, but they are actually rather entertaining in their own right. But while the game is good, and I happily played it for this blog even though I only got it for my birthday last year and played it to death (alternating with Arkham City of course. Sonic and Batman, now there's a crimefighting team - the Black and the Blue!) the whole game does reek of missed opportunities - and I noticed that more this time.

The theory behind the game is that the two Sonics (The Modern, green-eyed, skinny version who cannot help but talk with a 90's attitude and the Classic, chubby, silent and yet so much more timeless version) are running through past levels in order to... defeat an evil being.. who turns out to be Robotnik (or Eggman, depending on which version of Sonic you are)... and then it turns out it isn't his fault.... and then it is.... oh who cares. You don't play Sonic games for the plot, any more than you read Twilight for it's mastery of the English language. You play Sonic games to run fast and jump on things. And this game gives you that.

But not enough of it.

There are 9 zones in this game (and six boss battles) - and you get one 2D act and one 3D act of each. Which sounds like a lot, but just left me wanting more. Also, where they've picked levels from old Sonic games, I think it's very telling that the best zone is still Green Hill Zone, and by the time you get to the "Modern-era" stages (Crisis City from Sonic 06, Rooftop Rush from Sonic Unleashed, Planet Wisp from Sonic Colours) they just seem dull and sort of miserable (or overly complicated in the sense of Planet Wisp) in comparison with the earlier ones.

So you have a game that starts off well, but alternates between dull and confusing in the last third - and the less said about the Boss Battles the better. I am very aware that the wonder of 2D sonic boss battles is long gone, but these strange 3D monstrosities with lots of QTE events (or "Press X to not Die" sequences as they are referred to in our house) are just dull. And frustrating.

I could keep writing about this for ages, because it's a game that's really split my opinion. I have a lot of fun when I play it, and was excited about coming back to it for the playthrough - but as I played through I was reminded of all the minor niggles that bugged me last time. So, in order to prevent this blog entry from being 20,000 words long, I'm just going to a couple of lists of good and bad bits.

Good Bits: Nice long levels, fast and furious fun, some proper 2D platforming action, the music, revisiting Green Hill Zone, some of the 3D Sonic setpieces are still spectacular (particularly the Truck from City Escape (Sonic Adventure 2))

Bad Bits: Only one act of each Sonic-type for nine zones, rubbish Boss Battles, some slightly dodgy 3D camera (although it's much better than all the other 3D sonic games), no Casino Night Zone, the bloody "helpful" Chao who decides to give you helpful information throughout the game, important information like "If you hit something, then you will lose all of the rings you are carrying." OI, SEGA! THIS IS A SONIC GAME MADE FOR THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY. THE VAST MAJORITY OF US HAVE PLAYED A SONIC GAME BEFORE STOP EXPLAINING DETAILS THAT HAVEN'T CHANGED IN THE LAST 20 YEARS OF GAMEPLAY!

I could go on, but I know what you're wondering - you're thinking "What about the score then Brawny? If it's fun but frustrating, then surely we'd be looking at a 5 or 6 out of ten?" Well no. It's gonna be better than that. Because (as you all know) I love Sonic games. And I don't care if it's a biased review, it's my review.

Rating: 8/10
Time played: 1 hour 10 mins
Would I play it again?: Of course I will!

Next time we step back in time one console generation, and change genre once again. It's Soulcalibur 2 on the Gamecube...

Monday, 30 July 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 18 - Zelda: Four Swords (Anniversary Edition)

Two blogs in three days? Get me and my productivity!

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords (Anniversary Edition)
Released on: GBA (Anniversary Edition released on 3DS)
Played on: 3DS
Released in: 2003 (Anniversary Edition released 2011)

Aah Zelda. You and I have a chequered relationship.

(Before I go any further, I'm referring to Zelda the game series, not Zelda the princess. I have never had a chequered relationship (or indeed, a relationship of any kind) with any video-game princess. Clear?)

Regardless of my previous feelings though, I felt strangely positive about trying out Zelda: Four Swords - as it shares a lot of DNA with A Link to the Past (partially, one suspects, due to the fact it was released on a cartridge with the GBA port of Link to the Past, as seen in the boxart above), and that was one of the few Zelda games I spent a lot of time with as a youngster.

(Incidentally, how old am I, using the word youngster? Quick, order me a zimmer frame!)

Sadly, though, I was disappointed. For the second game in a row in this blog, I am playing a game of a genre I don't normally enjoy. The last one (Speedball 2, for those of you with a short memory) was sports games, and this is RPGs.

I may have mentioned this before, but I don't like games that give me too much choice. I'm a fan of linearity in games - I like it to be obvious what I'm doing and where I'm going, and Zelda traditionally doesn't do that. Don't get me wrong, Zelda games can be a lot of fun (and I have at least two more to play at some point in this playthrough, so hopefully some of them will entertain me more), and Four Swords has it's moments. But it seems really badly designed as a handheld game. I know it comes from an era where handheld games were something you played for an hour, rather than 5 minutes, but even so, the fact that the game has no save option until the end of an area means that, if you are like me, then when you get stuck at a certain point in the level, you are loath to turn it off and try again later, because you know that you'll have to play all the way through that level again to get to the point where you were stuck.

And yes, I am aware that the previous paragraph makes me sound like I have the attention span of a gnat, but in my own defence... is that a squirrel?

*Rushes away from the computer and spends five minutes being distracted by things that are outside, until Neety points out that I was mid-way through a blog, and that I should finish it.*

Anywhere, where was I? Oh yes - Zelda: Four Swords.

I think that it is a well-made game. The graphics are cute and very well drawn, and as is traditional, the Zelda music is absolutely superb. And I know that as a Nintendo Fanboy (I am, I don't deny it), I should absolutely love Zelda games. But it's just not the game type for me.

Yes I will always play Zelda games - but I seriously doubt I shall ever complete one. And part of this circles back to my earlier paragraph. The fact that the games are non-linear and open-world (to a certain extent), and they often don't give us easy signposts as to what needs to be done next - in fact, Four Swords is one of the more linear Zelda games that I have played - and therefore, if you haven't played it for a couple of weeks, then (if you're like me) you load up the saved game, wander around the game world for 20 minutes and then realise that you have absolutely no memory of what the hell it was you were trying to do.

I know this blog post has wandered into a discussion about my lack of interest in RPGs, rather than a comprehensive discussion of my playthrough of Four Swords, so I'll bring it back full circle. Four Swords was originally designed as a multiplayer experience, so the single-player experience will always be a little bit of a letdown, but even so, while the feel, graphics and entertainment values are high, I ran into puzzles I couldn't solve, or situations I couldn't get out of, and I just became overwhelmed with frustration.

Rating: 6/10
Time Played: 45 mins
Would I play it again?: I may do. It's not high on my list though.

So it's good, but not great. And I'm sure I'll get flamed for this, but I can't wait to get back to a platformer - which coincidentally, is what I'm playing next time - it's Sonic Generations on the Xbox 360!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 17 - Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe

I have resolved my RF issues! Well, by resolved, I mean I've had to move a VHS player into the lounge to run the RF through, but anyway, I can play the consoles again! So here it is, the long promised...

Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
Released on: Acorn Archimedes (yes, that's right), Atari ST, Amiga, CD32, PC, C64 (Yes, really!), NES, Sega Megadrive, Sega Master System, Game Boy and Game Boy Advance.
Played on: Sega Megadrive
Released in: 1990

So, I can now fire up the Megadrive again - and as a result, I can review Speedball 2, a game that a lot of retro gamers rave about, and believe is one of the greatest sports games from the 8/16 bit eras.

My problem with it? It's still a sports game. And there's not many of those I like to play. But I approached it with an open mind - mostly, it has to be said, because I'm always a fan of sci-fi and futuristic settings, and I hoped that it would turn out to be a fun and entertaining time.

Sadly, it was about as entertaining as watching Ann Widdicombe perform a striptease to a Jedward song (and I apologise for the image, but you'll appreciate now how I feel about Speedball 2). The game drops you right in with nothing in the way of an introduction (a common situation in 16-bit games) which is fine, but instead of dropping you into a game, it lets you choose whether you want to play 1 player or 2, and play a single match, or a league, or a cup game.... and then you get into a horrendously confusing stats screen where you can enhance your team. Except I didn't really understand what I was doing, because none of the abbreviations seemed to make any sense.

Once you've finally made it out of the statistical hellhole, (by clicking on the ESC button no less.... Surely common sense would mean that the ESC button cancels what you've done? Or is that just me), then you end up playing your game. And this is where the game really lost me.

I don't know if this applies to any of you who read this blog, as you might all LOVE sports games, but I felt that this game suffered from the basic issues that tend to plague sports games, particularly of that era.

Now before we continue, let me explain what my problem is with sports games. It's not (surprisingly) that I don't enjoy sport in real life. (I don't enjoy sport in real life, but I don't enjoy fighting, or jumping on the heads of wierd shaped beings, or dropping strange shaped blocks down a well in real life either - however I do enjoy games that involve these other activities - just not sport.) It's that whenever you have a sport that is a team game, you end up having to control the whole team. And the computer just doesn't seem to understand that it would be a good idea that you can choose which player you control at any one time. I know more modern sports games have (mostly) fixed this issue - and that's why I can play the occasional game of FIFA [insert year here] without flinging the controller across the room in disgust - but sadly, Speedball 2 is from the era where you control whichever player you were controlling until the computer decides another player is closer to the ball, and swaps your control. This is OK if they are both on screen, but often, as the screen follows the ball, the player you are controlling can be left behind, and then there's none of your players on screen, and you don't know who you're controlling - and then, when your player finally appears on the screen, it turns out that you've been making them run in the wrong direction for several minutes....

I had other issues with the game too - although a lot of these may well be blamed on the fact that I'm not very good at it - but I found that the shots were hard to line up, the tackles hard to exact and it was not very clear what things award you points in order to win.

I've got not much else to say about Speedball 2 - I didn't make the full hour of play, and to be honest, I'm quite happy that I didn't. Although, it has put the worrying thought into my mind that all the other sports games in my collection are also going to be this unplayable for me... ("But Brawny, I hear you cry, why would you buy the sports games if you don't enjoy them?" - Answer: They usually came with the console....)

For now, however, I am done with sports, as the next game is Zelda: Four Swords on the Game Boy Advance (played on the 3DS). 

Rating: 1/10
Time Played: About 10-15 mins.
Will I play it again?: Nope.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 16 - Wrecking Crew

Wrecking Crew
Released on: NES
Played on: 3DS Virtual Console
Released in: 1985

Yes, it's another NES Nintendo Ambassador game played on my 3DS and, in a first for this blog, it's a game that has dramatically changed my opinion after playing for a full hour. When I got Wrecking Crew (back when the Ambassador games were first released), I played it quickly and then wrote it off as being a novelty game that one gets bored of quickly. How wrong was I?

In my defence, the problem I encountered when I first tried it, was that as it stars Mario and has lots of platforms in it, I assumed that it would be a platformer and then felt cheated when it didn't turn out to be one. I mean, you can't even jump for crying out loud! And then, on my re-play for this blog, I realised - it's not a platformer, it's a puzzle game! And it's ridiculously addictive as well...

Basically, you have to guide Mario around the screen, avoiding enemies (which you can't kill, although you can occasionally slow them down), and destroying all of the walls, ladders, pillars etc. - the level ending once you've successfully wrecked them all. But often there are only one or two ways of clearing the level successfully, so it has to be done in a certain order. 

And I loved it! The hour zoomed past as I worked my way through the first 12 or 13 levels, and once I'd settled into it, I loved the strategic thinking required. The 8-bit graphics suit it perfectly (mind you, I've always been a fan of 8 and 16-bit graphics) and the sound is basic, yet functional. 

Is it a perfect game? No it's not. But it's a very good example of how gameplay is more important than graphics and how Nintendo can make the most wonderful games, that can be overlooked because they don't look amazing. I urge you, if you have the facility to play this game, whether you have an original NES (in which case I'm jealous, because it's one of the few Nintendo consoles I don't own), or an emulator, or maybe you were a Nintendo Ambassador like me, then play it. And enjoy. 

There's even a level designer! (Although I haven't tried that yet.)

Rating: 8/10 (and yes, I am aware that quite a few games have been 8/10 so far...)
Time played: Just over an hour
Would I play it again?: Yes - it's perfect for short-burst play.

Next time: Depending on whether the issues I referred to on my previous blog have been resolved, it'll either be Speedball 2 on the Megadrive, or Zelda: Four Swords on the 3DS.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 15 - Goldeneye

Let me just start with a quick apology. I'm sorry that it's been two months since I last updated, and I am aware that this loss of momentum may well have cost me readers... but life sometimes gets in the way of these things! Hopefully, things will be a bit more regular from now onwards...

Yes, once again, I'm showing a picture of the logo, rather than me with the game. Mostly because my camera/phone are too far away for me to reach out and get them right now...
Goldeneye 007
Released on: N64 (And later remade for Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3, but we won't be discussing that right now)
Played on: N64
Release date: 1997

I'm not a big fan of FPS's - being of the opinion that Doom 2 is the pinnacle of the genre, and that everything went downhill from there. However, I do own a couple of the genre-defining games from later years, most notably Goldeneye and Halo 3.

As readers of this blog will no doubt be aware, (because I assume that you are as knowledgeable about games as me), Goldeneye is one of the most famous and most revered retro games of all time. It is also a game I remember being really awful at. So I was strangely ambivalent about re-playing it, as it meant I may well have to admit to you, my wonderful blog readers, that I am actually rubbish at this game.

Well, it's time for the truth. I am absolutely awful at Goldeneye 007. In my one hour playtime, I died 6 or 7 times, and I only completed one level (and very nearly completed the second). But do you know what? I had a lot of fun playing it.

Yes, it suffers from some slightly erratically sensitive controls. Yes, the 3D is as sophisticated as you would expect from a 1997 game, where each enemy gets at least 5 WHOLE polygons each!! (This is sarcasm, in case you hadn't noticed). But all, in all, it's still ridiculous fun.

As I've said previously on this blog, I find it very hard to find things to say about games that I have thoroughly enjoyed, because - well - what can you say?

It has it's flaws, as any game does - I've already mentioned the controls and the graphics, and the repetitive environments and marginally irritating "puzzles" (if you can call pushing a button and then running to the door it opens before it closes a puzzle) ought to combine to create an unsatisfying game. But it doesn't. Even the lack of a map, which is nowadays a staple of the FPS genre, doesn't irritate as much as you might think,(although, I seem to remember that on later levels, which I didn't get to on this playthrough, this oversight does become much more irritating.)

Whatever that magical ingredient is that goes into a playable game , Goldeneye has it in spades. And, although I didn't test it on this playthrough - the multiplayer is as good now as you remember. (Or at least, it was as good about a month or so ago, which was the last time I played it.)

Will I return to Goldeneye again?

You bet I will.

Rating: 8/10
Time played: 1 hour (and a bit)
Will I return to it? Definitely.

Next time on Brawny's Great Playthrough - according to my list it will be Speedball 2 on the Megadrive! However, I'm currently having a few technical issues with the RF port on the TV, so until I get that fixed the early consoles (Megadrive, SNES etc.) might have to be delayed. So if that's the case, then the next game will be Wrecking Crew on the 3DS. Why not come back in a few days and see what it turned out to be?