Vostok Inc (Switch): COMPLETED!

You know Cookie Clicker or Cow Clicker or Clicker Heroes or that paperclip clicker? Pointless but somehow addictive, right? And you know that little known twin-stick shooter Geometry Wars? Great, yeah? What about those tamagotchi thingies? Lovely.

Now bung them all into the same game. That’s right, the same game. A single game with all these elements in. There’s no way that can work.

But it does. You develop planets in a solar system in classic clicker style: buildings generate money each second, which you use to buy more buildings. More expensive buildings, and upgrades to buildings, generate more money per second. You keep this up, increasing earnings through ever higher powers of ten.

But while doing this, you have to fly from planet to planet to develop each. And you get shot at on the way and oh look – it’s a twin-stick shooter now. Shooting enemies and asteroids provides more money, although it’s the developing planets that really gets you the big cash.

Use some of your money to upgrade your ship’s weapons and abilities, and then take on the boss before expanding your business empire into the next solar system.

Oh yeah, and while you’re whizzing round the galaxy, why not rescue some executives? They inhabit your ship and – providing you keep them fed and entertained virtual pet style – they’ll give you a money generating bonus. They’ll also give you a minigame each to play should you have some time to kill while waiting for money to build up. They play out on a replica LCD screen, and are simplified variations of Flappy Bird, Galaga, R-Type and even Doom. They’re hardly full of depth, but they’re fun (and hard!) little diversions.

Then, before you know it, 20 hours have passed. Oops.

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Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China (PS4): COMPLETED!

I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand, it’s a perfectly good sneaky-stabby 2.5D platformer. On the other hand, it’s a terribly disappointing Assassin’s Creed game with a feeble story that weakly continues on from Ezio’s trilogy.

Initially, it feels a lot like the original 2D Prince of Persia game with obvious technical improvements. The more I played it, however, I realised it was really much closer to the Shinobi game on the Nintendo 3DS, only with a bit more emphasis on staying hidden rather than killing everything.

There’s nothing actually wrong with the game, aside from a couple of “endless runner” sections with their trial and error flaws, but it’s not good enough to make me want to play through the other two games in the series (India and Russia). I’m impressed that not being fully 3D worked a lot better than I was expecting, however.

The final boss was rubbish though. After a couple of proper boss fights with Prince of Persia style swordplay – parrying and stuff – you literally just walk up behind him and press a button. Oh, spoilers, sorry.

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North (Switch): COMPLETED!

I read a couple of reviews for North, and although they weren’t exactly high scoring, they all said the story was interesting if a little short. Someone referenced Blade Runner. Another mentioned Papers Please. For reasons that became obvious when playing, specifics were missing somewhat from these reviews.

Then I saw it was only £2.79, and more than that I had some free eShop credit. Not only that, but I’d get some money back now Nintendo have that rewards points thing. Why not, I thought.

North is a narrative discovery game, and starts with you – a refugee from the (seemingly literally on fire) South – having just made it to a city in the North. Before you can apply for asylum, you have to prove you’ve been persecuted in your own country, convert to the local religion, and be fit for work.

This plays out in the form of walking round mostly pitch black areas, writing letters to your sister who is still back in your old country, and some slight interaction with alien figures and switches. It’s important to mention the pitch black areas, because on the Switch at least (Youtube videos of other platforms suggest it’s a Switch thing), some areas are too dark to see anything. Walls, slopes and space are all just black. I missed a door for ages because it was so dark.

One of your first tasks (and the only one that requires any sort of skill or dexterity) is to work. You get a drink from a vending machine which allows you to run, then enter the mines. Here, you have three jackhammers you have to activate (and collect the stones they produce), only you die if you stay in the mines too long. You can recover health by running back to the entrance before you die.

Dying just repawns you outside the mines, but I encountered a bug in doing so: I was unable to get more drink, so was unable to run, and therefore unable to complete the mines. If you can’t complete the mines, you can’t prove you’re able to work, and so can’t progress in the game, so I was stuck. I had to restart the game. There were a few other bugs – sometimes the wrong name of a door appeared on a door, for instance – but this was a biggie.

Hardness to see and game breaking glitches aside, the game’s story was enough to keep me playing. I can’t go into details here much as almost everything is a spoiler, but when you realise why the player is being persecuted, you suddenly realise how politically charged the game is. Especially since it comes from Moscow…

For some reason, it feels a lot like Bernband only more oppressive and more lonely. It’s amateurish in the way it’s built, with unfinished rooms and what I sense are Unity assets, but it seems like that’s just the means used to tell the story. It could have been done in Twine, or Inform, or PICO-8, so I can’t really mark it poorly for that. Apart from the lighting and bugs, of course!

Having played it, I can see how the reviewers had a hard time scoring North highly. It’s like trying to assess a film using the rules of reviewing a concert. Is North a great game? No. Is it a great story? No. Is it an important story to “play”? Absolutely.

Oh, and the title music track is a lovely Vangelis-style thing so it’s almost worth it just for that.

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Life Is Strange: Before the Storm Bonus Episode: Farewell (PS4): COMPLETED!

Well this was a surprise! Sure, I knew it was coming, but to appear today with no warning… that I’d seen anyway.

Farewell is set a few days before Max left for Seattle. Her and Chloe seem to be 13 or so, and much of the episode is about them reminiscing over when they were younger. Indeed, the “aim” is to uncover a treasure they hid when playing as pirates five years previously.

It’s much shorter than other episodes (less than an hour long, in fact), and aside from the spoiler (which shouldn’t be a spoiler if you’ve played the rest of the game), not much actually happens. There’s happy chat between Max and Chloe, a bit of house exploring, and Max finally manages to tell Chloe she’s leaving soon. And that’s it.

Farewell doesn’t really tie up any loose ends, nor does it tell you much you didn’t already know. What it does do, however, is cement how close the two girls were and explicitly show just how hard it was for Chloe when Max left. Making the choice at the end of the original game harder still if you’ve yet to play that.

If you want to watch my playthrough, it’s here. Spoilers and stuff, of course:

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SNK Gals’ Fighters (NGPC): COMPLETED!

No, I don’t know why I decided to play this either. I mean, I’d just set my Raspberry Pi back up with a fresh install of Retropie, and yeah, I’d added this as one of the games, but still. Why this and not something else, I can’t say.

But these Neo Geo Pocket fighting games are just so good, aren’t they? So slick and responsive and fun. It wasn’t that long ago I played KOFR2 and it was great as well. In fact, there’s a lot of great NGP games. Best console. For a while, anyway.


I’m not sure what else to say about the game. It has a nonsense story about “Miss X” holding a Queen of Fighters contest (do you see what they did there?), but of course Miss X is – spoilers – Iori. And not a “gal” at all. Hilarious and we all fell about in stitches, didn’t we? Then there’s the cut scenes like this one:

Which are great. Just the right about of wonky translation mixed with a limited text area to perfectly ruin any depth to the conversation. Nobody cares about that though, because what is important is how good the punching and kicking is and in that regard, it’s lovely and fluid.

If you’re taking notes, I played through as Yuri. And if you don’t know how she plays, she’s basically Ken from Street Fighter. Which is why she is Best.

Oh yeah, and there’s a sequel of sorts to this coming out on the Switch soon! Yesss.

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Super Bomberman R (Switch): COMPLETED!

A lot of people derided this at launch, but I know Konami have changed a lot since then. In fact, the multiplayer mode is – baffling graphics choices aside – a decent enough Bomberman game. Today, I discovered that you could change the viewing angle of the single player game with the L and R buttons and you know what? Single player is just fine now too.

Sure, the camera angle, even when fixed, is a bit odd and sometimes it’s hard to see what “level” you’re on as a result, but mostly it’s not an issue. I’d have liked it to be a touch more overhead (perhaps I missed another button combo) but it hardly caused an issue.

In fact, I completed it. And it was fun, and it wasn’t too long and you know what? It’s the only Bomberman game with a single player mode I’ve completed since the SNES/PC Engine/Mega Drive versions. Which says more than any description I could stick here would.

Obviously it isn’t perfect, but all the necessary power-ups are there, each world has gimmicks that work, the levels are pretty varied (some have “survive for” time limits, some require you to kill everything, some have you saving people), and the bosses are decent too.

Of course with a Bomberman game, the actual game is in the multiplayer modes. But Super Bomberman R’s (haha! R’s!) is a solid 3/5 on it’s own. How much has changed in the last year I don’t know, but that’s where I’d stick it now. And yes, I played the “bonus” world after completing the game too, in case you were wondering.

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Grand Theft Auto V (PS4): COMPLETED!

I started it about a year ago, but after around 15 hours play GTAV was put away because I bought a Nintendo Switch. And Zelda happened. And then I thought actually getting back into GTA would be hard and I’d have no idea what I was doing any more. A few weeks ago, however, I gave it a go and was sucked back in.

My aim was to just concentrate on the story. A lot of fun is to be had in GTA games just messing around, doing the side missions, or (my favourite) Taking A Bike Where A Bike Shouldn’t Go, but my priority was to get the main missions done to clear the game off my backlog. And that’s what I did, although often it was difficult to tell what was a main mission and what was a side mission. Sometimes the mission “trail” went cold, and I’d have to do some other tasks before I was back on the path.

There’s not a lot to say about the game that hasn’t be said elsewhere, not least because it’s pretty old now. What I found, however, was that it was really rather good, but it’s too big. There’s too much in here. You can’t mark it down for that, but for me, so much of it was wasted. Case in point: in the end credits I saw a golf course. Did I see a golf course in the game? No. Can you play on it? It seems yes. Wasted.

Oh ho. Did you see what I did there.

Mechanically, the game is fine. I pressed the wrong buttons hundreds of times because there are so many and they change function depending what you’re doing, but that’s mostly my fault. I never managed to find a camera position when driving that I was completely happy with, but I coped.

Importantly, the story is pretty good. I’m not convinced that in any real world, Michael, Trevor and Frankin would ever even give each other the time of day let alone cooperate on a massively dangerous bank heist, but it sort of works in the game. Where the story isn’t perfect, the characters are. They’re excellent.

I suppose to summarise, it’s not perfect, there’s a lot more I could do (but probably won’t), it was fun, funny, varied and I enjoyed it. It’s no Vice City, but then nothing is.

Anyway. Here are some videos:

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The Lego Ninjago Movie Video Game (Switch): COMPLETED!

I have to say, I’m a little bit disappointed with this. The Lego Ninjago Movie Video Game (yeah, that’s the name) isn’t bad at all, but there are a number of niggles that actually cause gameplay issues. Sure, there are the “usual” Lego game problems – crashes and bugs, mainly – but two things in particular are really game breaking.

The first is the strange darkness of the game. In the open, sunlit levels (like the beach) it’s fine, but as soon as it’s a bit dark or even just shadows, it’s impossible to see. A gamma slider would sort it, but there isn’t one. And when you play as Garmadon or Cole, who are both wearing black, it’s even worse.

The other problem relates to Lloyd’s “green build power”. Like the “master builder” power from the Lego Movie game, you have to stand in a certain spot, hold down a button, then move the cursor over three glowing items. The thing is, when you’re playing in split screen two player mode, sometimes you can’t physically “tag” all three items – the screen just won’t scroll to reach them. We had to have one of the two players drop out so the remaining player had use of the full screen. A bizarre bug that would absolutely come up if two player mode was actually tested – which it clearly wasn’t!

That said, these are pretty minor things and it’s generally business as usual for Lego games. There are a few changes to the formula, notably no red bricks and no “True Hero/Adventurer/Whatever”, but surprisingly these don’t change the game as much as I expected. The plot follows the film, although expands it somewhat with a load of extra sequences. For some reason all the characters get their elemental powers well before they do in the film – making the whole purpose of their journey a bit pointless – but that doesn’t really affect the game.

My daughter and I played the whole game in co-op (bar the above mentioned necessary drop-out), but as usual we’re only actually about 40% done. No doubt we’ll do some more.

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Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (PS4): COMPLETED!

In most ways, it’s more of the same. Of course, The Old Blood is a prequel to The New Order, so being set completely in 1946 means the more technologically advanced weapons and gadgets don’t make an appearance. There’s no laser cutter, for example.

The scope is a lot smaller too, with no space missions, giant tripods, or lightning powered mechs, but that’s not to say it’s dull. The big robot dogs make an appearance, and one of the game’s bosses does appear in a very Wolf 3D Mecha-Hitler way (it’s not Hitler though, I should say). Then of course there’s the zombie outbreak that covers most of the second half of the game…

Click to view slideshow.

The main gameplay differences manifest in a new weapon: A two part pipe which BJ uses variously to climb walls, stab necks, use zipwires, crowbar things open, and wedge doors. Combat remains similar to The New Order, but I found the “kill the commander(s) otherwise the grunts keep spawning” sequences seemed to happen all the time. Especially in the first half of the game, in and around the actual Castle Wolfenstein itself. I’d started to tire of it well before I completed the game.

Another difference was that areas seemed to be much more open and larger than in the New Order (like the docks, or the town), or much more claustrophobic and narrow (like the caves and some areas of the castle).

The Old Blood is also quite a bit shorter than The New Order, but although I enjoyed it I wasn’t feeling it as much as the other game so I’m quite happy with it ending when it did. It’s still a great game, but not up there with The New Order.

As before, a complete playthrough:

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Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4): COMPLETED!

I have said before that I’m not a big fan of first person shooters. I’m not totally against them, and there are many I have enjoyed over the years, but they’re largely ignored. Wolfenstein: The New Order, however, has a plot that interested me, got praise from a lot of people (some of whom also wouldn’t normally play FPS games), and is a followup to the original Wolfenstein 3D from way back when – which I really liked.

Then, thanks to cheap credit and offers, I picked it up for less than two quid on PSN. Definitely worth a go, right? And oh god yes. It’s brilliant.

Like the original (and probably the sequels and reboots since that have passed me by), you play as virtually indestructible soldier BJ Blazkowicz. A man who shrugs off gunshot wounds and being stabbed, and is capable of carrying round several tonnes of heavy weaponry at all times. The game opens in 1946 as you and your allies attempt to storm Deathshead’s castle, but things don’t go well and BJ ends up with shrapnel in his brain following an explosion. He’s treated in a Polish mental asylum for 14 years, drifting in and out of conciousness, until the Nazis come and shut the place down (and kill nearly everyone) where he “awakens” and escapes.

So begins the game properly, with BJ in 1960 trying to find the last remnants of the allied resistance, and then helping them strike back at the Nazis – and ultimately Deathshead himself. It might have an alternate history premise, but the plot is utterly insane. The resistance are hidden under a fountain in Berlin itself. There’s a guy tainting the Nazi “super concrete” (that they built all their cities with after the war), who is some sort of Jewish sage with the key to an ancient store of advanced technology (some of which the Nazis have already made use of – hence winning the war). The store? Under the sea, of course. So BJ has to steal a U-Boat, by hiding in a torpedo.

And then he goes into space.

Look, it all makes sense in the game, but the important thing is that as mad as the story gets, the gameplay is just perfect. It’s not all shooting Nazis with increasingly bigger guns, although that’s obviously a big part. There’s stealthy bits, fences to laser through, items to find, and completely over the top set pieces. Car chases, mechs, bits where you’re stripped of all your weapons. It never gets dull.

My only complaints would be that ammo seems to run out far too quickly, and there are a couple of sections (one on the bridge in particular) which are inordinately harder than the rest of the game. But that said, it’s still fantastic and I’ve the prequel – The Old Blood – lined up in preparation already.

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