Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Great Playthrough: Game 43 - Toy Racer

Toy Racer
Released on: Sega Dreamcast
Played on: Sega Dreamcast
Release date: 2000

Looking back over the games I've done so far, this is the first Dreamcast game I've played in the playthrough, and now I think I've played at least one game on every console!

I like the Dreamcast. I like the controller, the VMU, and it produces very good quality graphics and sound for it's generation. However, my game collection for it is fairly limited - I don't have many of the games that people recognise as Dreamcast games (Jet Set Radio, Shenmue etc) because, when I bought my Dreamcast at a car boot sale, the previous owner had obviously been a fan of racing games. So I have quite a few of those.

And so I approached Toy Racer with trepidation. On the one hand, I like a good arcade racer (a sentence I seem to say more and more nowadays), but on the other hand, I can find racers to be boring after a while...

Before I continue, I should point out that I very rarely do any research before I play a game that I already own. I don't look up its details, I don't read reviews, I just pop it in and give it a try. Which is what I did here.

The first race I played, I was aware there were no other racers on the track - but I quickly realised that I had  selected the Training mode, so that was fine. I used the five lap race to adjust to the handling (which was pretty good), and to admire the graphics and smooth framerate of the game. 

So I finished that race, and then dropped back into the menu system, and I was mildly confused as the options available are the following:

Training - This is a training Mode, obviously.
Local - For playing locally
Network - This is for playing online - sadly, the Dreamarena online system is long defunct!

So I assumed, "Oh, you need to select local, because that's the option which will give you the one-player mode!".

So I did, and I selected a different track and vehicle, and started the race. Sure enough, the HUD proclaimed I was in first, and so I zoomed off competitvely. About a minute later, I realised I hadn't seen any other cars, although I had picked up some offensive weapons (in-keeping with the Toy theme, these were pencils as missiles, and boxing gloves on springs as mines!). And then I crashed. And no-one overtook me. So I got nosy and waited, not moving at all. Still no competition.

Confused, I finished the race, and then looked the game up on Wikipedia.

It turns out? Toy Racer is a multi-player only game. And I have only one Dreamcast pad. 


Rating: N/A (How can I rate a game that I can't play properly?)
Time Played: 10 minutes
Would I play it again?: Maybe, it was fun, but only if I have some other people and Dreamcast pads!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Great Playthrough: Game 42 - Sonic The Hedgehog 3

I look like a lunatic in this picture!
Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Released on: Sega Megadrive and then ported to.. *deep breath*.. Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, Wii Virtual Console, PS3, PS2, Gamecube, Xbox, Sega Saturn and Sony PSP.
Played on: Nintendo Wii (via Gamecube emulation)
Release date: 1994

So, I expect you all think you know the drill by now. It's a Sonic game, and I'm reviewing it, so I'm likely to shower it with praise and then insist that it is the best thing since sliced bread.

"We've heard you review Sonic, Sonic 2 and Sonic Generations now Brawny," I hear you all cry, "Why are you bothering with Sonic 3? We all know you're going to love it..."

Well here's a shocking piece of news for you. I didn't love it.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate it. It is eminently playable, and has great moments, but it just doesn't feel anywhere as coherent or as much fun as Sonic 1 or 2. I would even say that it didn't feel as much fun as Generations! *ducks as enraged Sonic fans throw all sorts of missiles at my head*

And why? Well that's a good question. Neety will tell you that as I played it I was just sitting there, saying "This isn't as much fun as the others. But I'm not sure why..."

And then after a while, it clicked. It's the level design. I don't know why, and I'm sure it's just a personal opinion, but the levels just don't seem anywhere near as well designed and as much fun as earlier games.

I don't play Sonic to stop running and do pixel perfect jumps. I don't play Sonic for lots of different power ups that are occasionally useful and mostly pointless. I play Sonic to run very quickly through the level, jumping, spinning and running until I reach the exit, or die. One or the other.

But in Sonic 3, there's all sorts of things that stop you running and building up that head of steam to dash through the level. Stupid blue things that you have to spin against to make bits of the world move and new platforms appear. Random little boss fights all over the place. Platforms that appear and disappear.

Plus, it just doesn't look as nice as Sonic 1 or 2. Levels are less vibrant, and the whole thing just feels a bit like a case of "been there, done that". Which is not an unheard of situation for the 3rd game of a series, but it just felt like a giant let down.

I played through the first three zones, and when I died (unfairly) in Marble Garden Zone Act 2, that was it. I felt no compulsion to load my saved game and continue on - I just put the pad down and turned it off. Which marks the first time this playthrough that I have stopped playing a Sonic game before my hour was up.

I feel like I have to point out, there is lots of good stuff. There are sections of the levels where it feels just like wonderful Sonic fun, and the Special Stages are nice (although not as good as Sonic 2's tunnel ones!) The new shields are pointless, but fun, and getting the options to play as Sonic or Tails is a bonus. But even so, it's just an average Sonic game - and that's the best thing I can say about it.

Talk about a disappointment...

Rating: 7/10
Time Played: 45 Minutes
Will I play it again: Maybe, in the hope that I'll be pleasantly surprised...

Next time - I don't know what game I'm playing! Because I'm writing this on the wrong computer so the list isn't in front of me!

Friday, 1 March 2013

The Great Playthrough: Game 41 - Halo 3

I look a bit strange in this photo..
Oh well!
Halo 3
Released on: Xbox 360
Played on: Xbox 360
Release date: 2007

Aaah. Halo 3. Long considered one of the best games for the Xbox 360 - the "killer app" for the console at launch if you will.

("Killer App" does sound a little like a dodgy straight-to-DVD horror movie where a phone app kills people one at a time, possibly while playing voice clips of common YouTube comedy videos while it does so... hey wait! That's a great idea! © Michael Braunton 2013! No stealing that idea - that's mine!)

As you should all know (assuming you've read the earlier posts of my playthrough, particularly this one) I have a chequered history with First Person Shooters, often finding them tedious and unimpressive.

Straight off the bat though, there is one accusation you cannot level at Halo 3 - and that is unimpressive. Graphically it is beautiful, and it really shows the power of a current generation console - at launch this must have been a jaw-dropping moment (I don't remember - I only bought an Xbox 360 about 2 years ago!) However, it's not all good news...

I really don't want to bang on about not enjoying FPS's since Doom came out, and I was willing to put those thoughts aside in an attempt to really try and get into this game. I've tried several times since I bought it, and have never made it past the second mission - and I wanted to get into it. So I sat down, with no distractions, and fired it up.

And five minutes later I was bored.

I know this may be heresy to those of you out there who are Halo fans - and indeed, those of you out there who are Xbox fans, and I had to think long and hard to figure out what my issues with the game were.

Is it the controls? No, they are almost perfect controls (which is why almost every Xbox FPS ever has followed suit)

The Game Mechanics? Nope. Again, they work very well - at no point did I have trouble moving, shooting, opening doors etc...

The Story then? The story? Well it's a bit of a mish-mash of Sci-fi rubbish (but I normally like Sci-fi rubbish - I'm a big fan of the TV show "Sliders"!) and it definitely hurts that it is the third chapter in a story where I have absolutely no idea what is going on because I haven't played the first two, and it does just drop you into the story with no explanation whatsoever, but that doesn't harm it too much. (Apart from the stupid, epilepsy-inducing "visions")

No - my biggest problem with it is that it just doesn't seem to connect. The opening level is a jungle scenario, where you run around and shoot lots of aliens. (See, you can tell I couldn't work out any of the plot!) And I have no problem with that. But there seems to be no danger to yourself at all. Thanks to Master Chief's recharging shields, there's no moment like in Goldeneye where you are sneaking quietly along a corridor, screen blood red, almost dead, tension ramped up high.... Nope. In Halo, you can simply hide behind a rock for ten seconds and your health is back to normal.

Therefore, my method of play simply became "Walk towards enemies shooting randomly. When they've shot you a lot, run around/hide behind a rock until your shields are better. Repeat." And that just got very boring very quickly.

That's not my only problem with the game - my other issues may seem like minor niggles but they all distracted me from the game itself.

The guns - There is no way of telling whether a gun you have picked up is good or bad. And yeah, I know that's the sort of thing that you should learn as the game continues, but it seemed like whatever gun I picked up (bar some kind of rocket launcher) took the same amount of hits to kill the alien in front of me. So why bother?

The navigation. This was a problem in the opening jungle level, as lots of caves look like solid cliffs from not very far away, so you occasionally have no idea where you are supposed to be going. It continued to be a problem in the second level, as people would tell me to go somewhere, and then I wouldn't know where it was. Also, I'd end up running up and down a corridor twenty times just looking for where the hell I was supposed to go next.

The way that missions are briefed. I know this sounds pettier than Tom Petty and a six year old girl in a squabble over a tea-towel (and I apologise for that metaphor, but I'm tired!), but I like to know exactly what I'm supposed to be doing in a mission, and that does not equal simply having a one-liner such as "Johnson's gone down, go and find him" announced over the radio, as it gets mixed in with all the background noise, and half the time I wasn't sure what the hell I was supposed to be doing.

And yes, I remember having fun playing it in multi-player round several friends houses (one of the reasons I bought the game), but this playthrough just highlighted the disappointment of the single player campaign for me.

So, in conclusion, it's a very impressive game - both visually and in regards level size/game mechanics, but I was so bored that I turned it off after about 40 minutes. Sorry.

*Ducks head to escape from bombardment of abuse coming my way*

Rating: 5/10
Time Played: About 40 minutes
Would I play it again? Maybe for multi-player. Not likely to play single player again though.

Next Time - Another game with the number 3 in it...