Gravity Rush: completed!

(First drafted 27 February 2017)

It was pretty straightforward from the underground section back to the top; the greatest difficulty I had was interpreting the map of the underground system, with one mission causing real problems until I realised the flower at the North of the map was actually an actual island.

I'd completed many sidequests before this point, and as a result when I got back up there was little to do except progress to the end of the game.  There was an odd bit where I was transported to some sort of virtual world, and then tying up a story where I found out that an old couple had died ...

... but my biggest concern was where all the children from underground had disappeared to.  I was expecting them all to suddenly appear at the end boss and help out, but I won't spoil what actually happened other than to remark how frustrating yet beautiful the last sections of the game were.

Maybe the extended break in the middle of the game did it some good in that I never felt the story was outstaying its welcome - there are a large number of time challenges and so on that I've not completed, but I have no desire to do so.

It does pose me with a conundrum, though.  I would (now) happily pay for this game given the amount of enjoyment I got out of it, but I doubt I would have bought it before playing it - the only reason I did get to play it was that it was given away free.  It seems I will have to work out a better way to discover games that I will like.

Gravity Rush: a long time coming

I got Gravity Rush when it was free on PS+, and it was one of the first games I played on my Vita when I got it for Christmas in 2013.  However, with the mass of games I got with the system, and the more complicated nature of the game, it got left behind.

And then last year, on returning to work, I decided to play it again.  I completed a few more chapters, but was utterly lost and couldn't work out the controls to feel like I knew what I was doing.

So, obviously, the best thing to do is to leave it a couple of years and try again.  And this time it's stuck.

When I left the game back in 2015, I couldn't work out where I needed to go to progress.  I must have missed the legend on the map, and the bright red marker.  I flew around for a bit, and then jumped on a train to go to a new area - and as I stood on top of the train, the colour palette shifting in the background, something clicked about what I was trying to do.  The story didn't pull me in before, but the fact that parts of the town are missing and people's loved ones have disappeared can't be ignored.  I'll get them all back.

I just wish it was a little easier.  The controls feel quite clunky - but that may be by design, since the idea of gravity shifting is that you are just falling in a different direction.  Not much finesse there.  After a bit of experimentation I found the upgrades menu, which allowed me to extend the amount of time Kat can fly for, and improved the power of her kicks.  This, combined with learning the gravity kicks and other special moves, has turned this from a game I was struggling with to one I'm enjoying.

It's still a little cringeworthy in places; the fact that the entire town seems to be trying to hit on Kat is constantly annoying.  There are a lot of elements to the story which seem disjointed - a couple who seem to be travelling in time, a creator who sends Kat to the rift plains to bring back the town, the nevi who appear from nowhere, another gravity shifter called Raven who seems to be rather antagonistic, the police force and a detective called Sid who seem to be a bit incompetent.

And someone or something called Alias, who wants to steal power gems and has some sort of control over the nevi.

The fight with Alias was a bit of an anticlimax, actually.  He was built up as the main enemy, very mysterious behind a mask, but the game didn't end with his defeat.  A good thing, probably, because otherwise that would have been a very short game with many things unresolved - and with probably the worst end-game boss battle ever.

Alias throws red blobs at you, and they're difficult to evade.  It's best to hide behind a building, and then pop out and use a special move that lobs rocks at enemies.  But that recharges really slowly, so the majority of the boss fight is spent standing still and hiding.

And hearing him say that, over and over again.

I could have taken more risks, with more direct attacks and getting closer, but it didn't seem worth it.

Anyway, Alias defeated, and with the big tall tower in place, I explored some more.  The draw distance is cleverly disguised with the art style - you have to go to some extremes to get all the building faded out though.

My exploration found a lady looking over the edge of the city, saying she had dropped the last letter from her boyfriend down there.  I went down to pick it up ... and went down and down and down.  Half way down I met Raven again, who tried to stop me - but failed.

Now I'm in some sort of little village, in a cage.  No sign of a letter.  Hmm.

Assassin’s Creed Bloodlines: completed!

While still bogged down in the quest to avoid quests in ACIII, and with a newly-charged Vita downloading games I had purchased on the webstore and forgotten about, I came across Assassin's Creed Bloodlines, a PSP game I bought for about £2 in a sale a while ago.  Set between the original AC and ACII, it got middling reviews at the time of release, and I can understand why - on first impressions, it's trying to be a fully-fledged AC game, and releasing alongside the amazing ACII won't have done it any favours.

But step back from it for a bit and you realise that it's actually far better than it appears.  Gone are the open, sprawling maps, replaced with small, discrete areas.  Gone are the countless distractions, and the missions are a lot shorter (albeit often with multiple parts).  Unlike the original game, Bloodlines is far more linear, not requiring multiple side missions before approaching the main target.  This is a game designed for mobile playing, where there is no requirement for you to remember your objectives for hours on end.  It may be driven by the limitations of the hardware, but the result works really well.

That's not to say there aren't frustrations.  The combat is a bit clunky, especially going straight from ACIII, and the camera frequently served to frustrate this by hiding the person attacking.  It is very easy to win the fights, simply by holding the right trigger (the block button) and countering, with a few exceptions of boss battles.  The combat serves only as an annoyance, and I was frequently trying my best to avoid it by sneaking around the scenery.  This didn't always work, particularly when I accidentally jumped off a ledge onto a guard's head - and there's no air assassination here.

What was more annoying was when there was no alternative but to fight.  After each boss battle, he area was swamped with soldiers who would attack before I could run away.  In addition, there were often soldiers standing guard outside the entrance to key rooms, and without the distraction tools available in later games I just had to massacre them.

I may be going a little overboard though.  The combat was a minor annoyance, and the game anything but.  There was a reasonably involved story, with Altaïr searching for the Templar archive where they keep lots of exciting mystery stuff.  He tracks it down to Cyprus, which is where the game is set.  Throughout the game, Maria (who has a very modern middle-class English accent) is slowly won over to the Assassins, as she sees what the Templars plan.  There's enough tension to keep playing.

But it's not a long game. It's taken me a couple of weeks of commuting to finish it, and that includes a lot of unnecessary battles and diversions.  Easily worth £2 though.

Fat Princess: Piece of Cake: not what I was expecting

I read a recent email from Sony which told me that Fat Princess: Piece of Cake was closing down its servers at the start of next year.  This was bad news, since Fat Princess is a game series I always liked the sound of, and I wanted to try it out - and a free version of the game is a good way to do so.

So I resolved to download it, but that meant finding my Vita, hoping it still held a charge, registering a new device password on Sony's 2FA system, and so on.  It all worked, amazingly.  I loaded up the game, ready to carry the fat princess around, to find that things weren't as I was expecting.

This isn't a strategy game or a platform game or anything like I believed Fat Princess to be.  This is a match-three game, with microtransactions all over the place and a slow learning curve.

But you know, it's actually a really good match-three game.  There's a lot of strategy in choosing which gems you are matching - choose red to make the swordsman hit one member of the opposing front row, yellow for the musket to shoot the entire front row (with lower damage), orange to drop a bomb on the first two rows, blue to restore health, purple to power up the princess (who acts like a smart bomb), and green to collect gems to upgrade your characters.

Get four in a row and you get an extra turn, and a sparkly gem which turns all surrounding gems the same colour when matched.  Get five in a row and you get a wildcard which erases all of a particular type.  Create combos (or 'cascades') and moves follow each other.

There have been a couple of tricky levels so far, normally with overpowered bosses, but I'm made my way through Cake Cove and ave completed the weekly levels a few times.  I will probably come back to this from time to time ... but probably won't spend money on it.

And I still need to try Fat Princess.

Virtua Tennis 4 World Tour: completed!

Long time no see.  How have you been?

I've played lots of games.  I'm some way into Assassin's Creed Brotherhood now, and I'll write more about that soon.  But what I've been playing most has been Virtua Tennis on the Vita.  I've been through the world tour mode two and a half times now, winning major tournaments, and have unlocked all the skill games and playing styles.  I've completed the arcade mode multiple times.  I've played the game not just to completion, but almost to boredom.

It's a really great game, which has surprised me since I've never found the previous VT games that involving.  But, you know, it's a tennis game.  There's not much more to say.

Virtua Tennis 4 World Tour: almost famous

Actually, very famous indeed. I've been playing this on my commute for quite some time, and am almost at the end of my second trip through the World Tour mode.

After an initial run of multiple losses in the arcade mode, I decided to try some of the practice modes and start World Tour on the 'casual' difficulty.  I was having no fun losing 15-40 0-40, after all.  World Tour is represented by a map where you must travel through countries stopping at practice sessions, publicity events, single matches, side tournaments and larger tournaments, building up your fame, condition, skills and money.  Each turn you get given a new move ticket to your collection of three, meaning that you can choose how many spaces to progress (and hopefully missing out on injury spaces).  At various points you can choose which path to take.

I quickly got into the swing (hah!) of the game, and won matches as a matter of course.  I got through the tournaments and won with few points against me.  I completed the whole World Tour mode after a couple of weeks, and started again immediately.

Metrico: completed!

I did indeed decide to finish this off one evening, only to find that the coloured light sections lasted for about five minutes.  Once I realised that the rest of the game was commute-compatible, I left it until I was next on a train.

The final levels were tricky, but not impossible.  The most difficult one was right near the end, where you had to jump over a platform rather than landing on it in order to ensure victory - and then shoot towards a wall then jump onto a platform that would rise once your shots reached the creature you generated by landing.

And then the ending, where you are again presented with two doors, and I just couldn't work out what to do to get either to open.  The pie chart didn't help, either.

I spent ages on the train trying to get the doors to settle down - but everything I did seemed to reset the world to the initial state.  I tried standing still, and the world got more fuzzy, but every now and again it reset.  I jumped, I shot, I tilted the console, I tried to reset the level, and nothing worked.

Of course, nothing was going to work.  I imagine you've seen where I'm going with this.  In order for the yellow door to appear, you are meant to not do anything for a couple of minutes.  Sitting on a train which was moving meant that I couldn't get that to happen.

So, once again, played at home and completed.  I am getting a bit annoyed at Vita games being unplayable on a commute.

Metrico: not an infographic

Metrico is a puzzle platform game.  Your actions - jumping, throwing, falling - make different parts of the world move, such as bars and lines that sort of resemble graphs.  This bars and lines often have percentages or fractions attached to them.  The trick for each puzzle is working out how to manipulate the moving parts in just the right way to let you get to the other side of the world - for example, you may need to land on a certain pad to make a bar move out of the way, but the action of jumping causes another bar to fall across the exit.

It's a very stylised game, and many compare to to an infographic.  This is reinforced by the official Twitter account publishing various statistics and links to interesting information.  The thing is, it's not.

Each of the six worlds I've uncovered so far has a new gameplay mechanic.  At first, you could only move left and right and jump.  After that came the ability to throw (using the triggers or front touch screen), then the ability to aim using the back touch pad.  The worlds are visually quite striking, and many move away from the flat-colour approach making this even less like an infograph.

Some of the puzzles have caused me to pause for a while, but none have been impossible.  There are a couple I've encountered so far where even after working out the methodology, it's been difficult to implement, which has annoyed me a bit.

But that hasn't annoyed me as the shoehorning of the Vita's motion controls and camera.  Hooray, another potable game I can't play on the train.  Throughout World 4 you have to rotate the Vita in different directions to move the bars, and it's taken me a week to get around to doing these levels because it's not practical to do them during my commute - you know, the time I actually play portable games.

And then you get to World 6, which I've worked out needs you to hold the Vita camera up to a specific colour and hold the button down.  Strangely I don't carry red, green and blue bulbs with me on the train.

It's a shame, since it's a clever game and has made me think a few times about how to progress.  Maybe I'll get around to completing it one evening.

Gaming moments: E

Essential Sudoku DS (DS)

After competing 999 picross puzzles, there was one left.  Surely the pinnacle of difficulty, it's surely going to be a trophy or medal or something special.  Oh no, it's really easy and it's a pie chart.  A bloody pie chart.

Earth Defense Force 2017 (Xbox 360)
Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable (PS Vita)

Both games have many highlights, but the thing I will remember most is the mission in which you are sent into battle against the massive walking fortress.  I destroyed more of the city than the fortress did while trying to attack it, and finally the mission ends with you withdrawing because your weapons aren't powerful enough.  Sorry I broke the Space Needle for nothing, guys.

Exit (PSP)

One of the characters you have to rescue is very fat. I called him Fatty.  I pushed boxes onto him.  He died.

Ecolibrium (PS Vita)

Playing on the train, on the tutorial.  And then the game requires me to look around 180 degrees with my Vita to see the animals behind me.  Not going to happen; never loaded up again.

Endless Ocean (Wii)

I recently went back to this as part of the "Au Revoir Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection" drive, which was pointless as the only online mode it has is to connect to a friend who is simultaneously playing the game; that will never have happened.  Anyway, during my brief play I watched the most stilted and awkward cutscene ever made.

EyeToy: Play (PS2)

Accompanying the cleaning suds game with "When I'm Cleaning Windows" was a work of genius. 

Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable: they’re spitting acid!

It's just like the 360 game.  That's great.  I've played the first ten levels on normal, and am now trying them on harder difficulties just to try and find better weapons.  I'm dying a lot.