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...