The Librarian (Mac): COMPLETED!

A short point and click adventure game, with lovely pixel graphics and a few simple puzzles. There’s not a great deal to tell you about it, really, otherwise I’ll spoil everything. But I will tell you this: there’s something wrong in the library.

If you’ve played these sorts of games before, then there’s nothing taxing here. I’ve just completed Thimbleweed Park, remember, so this was like easy mode compared to that. It looks and plays beautifully though, so it’s well worth a play. And it’s free! You can get a copy from the author’s itch.io page.

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Passpartout: The Starving Artist (Mac): COMPLETED!

Ah, the life of a French artist, living off his art, being French. Literally being some sort of frog like a racist stereotype. In Passpartout, you are this frog painter, and it’s your actual art that you sell.

Well, I say art. With tools even Microsoft Paint would sneer at, it’s not easy creating a masterpiece. Thankfully, as it turns out, whatever algorithm the game employs to determine the value and demand for your painting seems unconcerned with skill and it’s more about colour and complexity, depending on your customers.

Take George, for example. He’s easily pleased. My simplistic pictures of legless caterpillars with giant eyes always sold to him. Mary, however, would sarcastically comment on their lack of complexity and Don simply couldn’t abide the colours I used.

After experimenting with colour schemes and shapes, it seems the more realistic the picture the less chance I’d had of selling it. Generally more abstract shapes (big blocks of cheese went down well for a while), cartoony characters (a number of pictures staring a muscular crab sold for a high price) and those ever loved caterpillars allowed me to progress.

By the third act, it was clear that my clients just wanted grey pillys with big eyes, so I plied them with many variations on the same theme. Eventually I created one that was grey and red, and the massive bid I received for it basically completed the game for me. Which is just as well, as after five hours of creating things that either didn’t sell or were virtually the same as previous paintings, I’d started to flag. There’s probably a message in the end sequence where Passpartout is said to have become very rich, but I suspect he was just a caterpillar sellout and drank himself into oblivion to save the agony of 50 years of repeating himself.

Here’s a load of my “arts”, for your perusal:

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You Have to Win the Game (Mac): COMPLETED!

A relatively simple platformer, that sits somewhere between Jet Set Willy and VVVVVV, You Have to Win the Game was a random choice to play for five minutes and I got a bit hooked on.

It’s pretty short, not too difficult, but after about half way through I decided to buy it (for just a dollar) even though it’s free just so I could “own” it permanently in Steam.

And then I went on to Lose the Game (when you complete it the first time), and after that Win the Game (the second time, after finding the secret code).

Enjoyable and not too stressful. I don’t think I’ll be able to track down the last few things I’m missing to get from 95 to 100%, but it was fun getting as far as I did.

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80 Days (Mac): COMPLETED!

This was a continuation of a playthrough, my first playthrough in fact, from several months ago that I forgot to continue. Previously on 80 Days, I’d managed to get a train into a dead end somewhere in the American east, and had to head north-west into Canada to find another route.

With some bad luck, I boarded an airship from New York that was heading for Reykjavik since the route to London direct was far too expensive and there wasn’t enough time to obtain the necessary funds. This airship was slow, however, and I had to ditch all our luggage to board – I was hoping this wasn’t an issue as we were nearly home!

Once in Reykjavik, there was another airship heading to London which I mistimed while unnecessarily (as it turned out) obtaining money from the bank, and so a later trip was taken. A three day journey on day 77 – would I make it?

Of course I would. Just!

(Oh, and you can view my journey on the inkle website, here)

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Thirty Flights of Loving (Mac): COMPLETED!

Thirty Flights of Loving is a narrative discovery game seemingly built on the Quake 2 engine. At least, it said quake2.exe had crashed when it died for the third time during playing.

The plot seems to involve some sort of smuggling? Perhaps alcohol during prohibition? Maybe weapons? It’s not very clear. You and your two friends/associates/lovers (well, one of them is anyway), in Tarantino out-of-order fashion, go to a wedding, fly a plane, have a motorbike accident, get wheeled on a cart through an airport, and shoot lots of cameras hanging from balloons.

OK, you don’t actually do most of those things as they just happen around you, but it’s still most peculiar.

Did I enjoy Thirty Flights of Loving? Sort of. Although it crashed a lot. It was only about 20 minutes long, but I got it for free and so can’t really complain. I’d wasted money or time on it.

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Micro Machines: a lack of momentum

I have played a lot of Micro Machines in the past, mainly on the Mega Drive, and mainly with friends.  I did complete the single-player games in both MM and MM2, but they weren't too tricky when compared to trying to keep ahead of Kieron and John.  Revisiting them on emulators reveals them to still be tightly controlled, fun games.

This isn't a blog post about them.


The NES game isn't as pretty, obviously, but the graphics are functional and clear.  It's obvious which car (or other vehicle) is yours, and the sprites are well designed to help you with navigating.  It felt that there were fewer directions than the Mega Drive game, but I'm not sure if that was actually the case.


But it does feel more clunky, and there's a definite lag in controls - and that's not due to playing on an emulator, unless it's very specific to one game.  The cars have the wrong momentum, they don't turn as quickly, and collisions are more punishing.


The difference in handling is most evident on the time trial stages, which I found the most difficult.  The time constraints were pretty tough and it took me a few tries to succeed.  Nothing was too difficult though, and I completed about half the trophy cabinet before getting a bit frustrated by how different it felt to the Mega Drive games.  I think I'd prefer to play them instead.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2: completed!

Unlike the first game, I have previously completed the 8-bit Sonic 2, although on the Game Gear which made it rather more tricky.  The first boss, for example, rolls balls down a slope in an effort to hit Sonic, and on the Master System you have plenty of time to react, whereas the Game Gear's limited window means balls appear all too suddenly.


On the Mega Drive, there was a clear progression to the second game.  You lost some of the pureness of the platforming, yes, and the spin dash meant that there were fewer momentum-based puzzles, but the variety in stages, brightened colour palette, and more imaginative boss battles meant that Sonic 2 was definitely the better game.  On the Master System, I'm not sure that's the case.

At the time, it probably was.  Sonic's abilities have increased massively, with vehicles, the ability to skip across water, and hidden routes.  The problem is that when revisiting it many years later, a lot of this just seems a bit gimmicky.


It is almost as if the game's coders were more interested in seeing what they could cram in to create set pieces, and hide stuff away, that they forgot to make the main linear route in the game as good as it could have been.


That's not to say it's a bad game; far from it.  There are some objective improvements, like the way that Sonic can recapture at least one ring after being hit, and the controls are a little tightened up - even if only marginally (I had to go back and play Sonics 1 and 2 in quick succession to tell the difference).  Also, like the Mega Drive games, the added variety and colour in stages is welcome, even without the gimmicky bits.


No, it makes no sense to me how Sonic can float in a bubble.

It's a game that sits well in a list of "best Master System games", and maybe near the bottom of a "best platform games ever" list.  But to pretend it's as good as the Mega Drive games is just wrong.


For a start, the best games ever should never have a section in them which can only be accomplished by trial and error - and yet in the last few stages, Sonic 2 expects you to memorise a sequence of directional presses to move you along the correct pipes, which you can only work out by constantly going wrong, since the direction of the entrance and the overall direction of the pipe are not connected.  This led to many deaths (and many lost rings).


Good game, would mostly recommend.

Sonic the Hedgehog: completed!

Do you know what? I'd never actually completed the first Sonic game on the Master System, before now.  I could have sworn I had, but beyond the first few zones I realised that it was uncharted territory; I'm not sure I've ever even beaten the Jungle Zone boss.

Sonic on the Master System is a great game.  It's not as good as the first Mega Drive game, and Sonic's movement is a little floaty and imprecise, but the levels are designed well around the character and movement.  There are some big changes to gameplay, such as the ability to collect rings after you've been hit, and the collision detection seems a little off as well.

The levels are similar, but not identical to the Mega Drive game.  The fist two levels - Green Hill and Bridge - are a bit too samey, but after that the scenery changes, sometimes aping the Mega Drive's levels (with very close similarity to the Labyrinth Zone and the Scrap Brain Zone), and sometimes with a completely separate feel (the Jungle Zone has never been revisited, as far as I'm aware).




The special stages on the Mega Drive were where the hardware was used to maximum effect, and it's here that the Master System is a bit of a let down.  Built around different coloured springs, but with the game moving a little too fast to be able to judge where you're landing, this felt too much like a random mess - more so than the Spring Yard Zone or Casino Night Zone, and even more so than Sonic Spinball.


Some of the bosses seemed overly simplistic, while some were a little more tricky.   The Jungle Zone boss was one of the more tricky ones, but not because of his movements, more the slightly clunky jump that Sonic had from the angled platforms at each end.


 Some of the later stages worked really well, particularly those that forced Sonic to slow down - maybe belying the fact that the Master System wasn't built for Sonic's usual speed.  With a slower tempo, the level design was massively changed with many more rates ad hidden parts, and the jumps made more difficult.  Lightning flashed around the level making Sonic wait for it to clear.  This was, perhaps, my favourite level - the Sky Base Zone had some similarity at times to the Wing Fortress Zone at times.



And it all ended with a pretty disappointing boss fight.  Standing on the far left of the screen, as below, nothing could hit Sonic, meaning he could just wait for the electric barrier to drop and dash over to hit the glass tube.  A few hits later, and he was down.


No, I didn't collect all the chaos emeralds.  Yes, I probably will one day.  Yes, I'm counting this as completed.

Sonic the Hedgehog: completed!

Do you know what? I'd never actually completed the first Sonic game on the Master System, before now.  I could have sworn I had, but beyond the first few zones I realised that it was uncharted territory; I'm not sure I've ever even beaten the Jungle Zone boss.

Sonic on the Master System is a great game.  It's not as good as the first Mega Drive game, and Sonic's movement is a little floaty and imprecise, but the levels are designed well around the character and movement.  There are some big changes to gameplay, such as the ability to collect rings after you've been hit, and the collision detection seems a little off as well.

The levels are similar, but not identical to the Mega Drive game.  The fist two levels - Green Hill and Bridge - are a bit too samey, but after that the scenery changes, sometimes aping the Mega Drive's levels (with very close similarity to the Labyrinth Zone and the Scrap Brain Zone), and sometimes with a completely separate feel (the Jungle Zone has never been revisited, as far as I'm aware).




The special stages on the Mega Drive were where the hardware was used to maximum effect, and it's here that the Master System is a bit of a let down.  Built around different coloured springs, but with the game moving a little too fast to be able to judge where you're landing, this felt too much like a random mess - more so than the Spring Yard Zone or Casino Night Zone, and even more so than Sonic Spinball.


Some of the bosses seemed overly simplistic, while some were a little more tricky.   The Jungle Zone boss was one of the more tricky ones, but not because of his movements, more the slightly clunky jump that Sonic had from the angled platforms at each end.


 Some of the later stages worked really well, particularly those that forced Sonic to slow down - maybe belying the fact that the Master System wasn't built for Sonic's usual speed.  With a slower tempo, the level design was massively changed with many more rates ad hidden parts, and the jumps made more difficult.  Lightning flashed around the level making Sonic wait for it to clear.  This was, perhaps, my favourite level - the Sky Base Zone had some similarity at times to the Wing Fortress Zone at times.



And it all ended with a pretty disappointing boss fight.  Standing on the far left of the screen, as below, nothing could hit Sonic, meaning he could just wait for the electric barrier to drop and dash over to hit the glass tube.  A few hits later, and he was down.


No, I didn't collect all the chaos emeralds.  Yes, I probably will one day.  Yes, I'm counting this as completed.

Things I’ve been playing recently

Well, where “recently” is “any time in the last couple of months” and “things” is “games I’ve not completed as I’ve already posted about those”. In no particular order:

Spec Ops: The Line (Mac)

This was free, but only if I played it enough to get £1 credit back from Green Man Gaming. At first, I really struggled as it misdetected my PS4 controller and everything literally spiralled out of control – see this video, in particular from the 7 minute point:

With that fixed (I used a mouse and keyboard instead), I then worked through the first level, or mission, or whatever. It’s OK, but nothing special. It’s also difficult to play with an Apple mouse, because you can’t click the left and right buttons at the same time. I don’t know if I’ll play it more.

Paper Mario Sticker Star (3DS)

A lot of people seemed to be quite negative about this, but I’m really enjoying it. It removes almost all of the RPG elements (perhaps this is why it has the reputation it does), but the story and the combat are great and it looks lovely. Also, that Wii U one is out now and I thought I’d do this while waiting for that to magically appear in my possession.

Letter Quest Remastered (PS4)

Incredible Boggle/RPG hybrid. You’re given a bank of 15 random letters, some worth more than others (sort of Scrabble-like) and you make words out of them. The more powerful your word, the harder your attack is on your foes. You can level up abilities, making 6 letter words worth more, or double letters more powerful, etc. and it’s very addictive.

Assault Android Cactus (PC)

I set my Steam Link up again and this is one of the titles I played, having heard good things and getting it for virtually free in a recent Humble Bundle. It’s not bad, but I don’t think – so far at least – it deserves all the praise. It’s just a quite bland twin stick shooter with average graphics but with some great characters. I’m enjoying it, but not as much as I expected to.

Lego Dimensions (PS4)

I actually bought this a while back, but still had Lego Marvel Avengers on the go. With that finished (although not 100%ed) my daughter and I broke it out and yes – it is excellent. Jumping from world to world (we’ve had The Simpsons, The Wizard of Oz, Ninjago and Doctor Who so far) is great, and the references to other Lego games (such as the Joker Titanbot rematch) are awesome too. Playing shuffle-the-characters on the portal is less fun, though, but we’ve negated that a little by moving the portal to the sofa between us.

Pokémon Y (3DS)

With over 70 hours on the clock now, and still about 30% of my Pokédex unfilled, there’s a lot of game here. Not least when you consider I “completed” it at around the 35 hour mark.

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