Iconoclasts (PS4): COMPLETED!

This is something I’d had my eye on for a while (nice looking pixel Metroidvania, so of course I have), and then, just when I was thinking about actually buying it a little while back, it popped up on PS+. Normally, that means it won’t get played at all, but since I’m letting my PS+ subscription expire (it’s just not worth the money now they’ve halved the number of games per month) I decided to give it a go before I can’t play it any more.

And it’s really good! It has interesting game mechanics, not least the literal mechanics of being an actual mechanic with a big wrench, looks wonderful, has a strange but enjoyable story, and is just a lot of fun to jump around in. And that’s the important thing in this sort of game – it has to be a lot of fun to jump around.

Also a big plus, is that it’s nowhere near as difficult as Hollow Knight. Sure, I love that game but it’s punishingly hard. Much too hard. So hard it’s verging on torture rather than enjoyment. But this is possible for mere mortals! It’s true that some bosses took a few attempts, but other than that, it was pretty easy and a lot more fun for that.

Aside from that “hide and seek” boss, of course. That was pants.

Anyway, here’s me playing it all:

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Iconoclasts (PS4): COMPLETED!

This is something I’d had my eye on for a while (nice looking pixel Metroidvania, so of course I have), and then, just when I was thinking about actually buying it a little while back, it popped up on PS+. Normally, that means it won’t get played at all, but since I’m letting my PS+ subscription expire (it’s just not worth the money now they’ve halved the number of games per month) I decided to give it a go before I can’t play it any more.

And it’s really good! It has interesting game mechanics, not least the literal mechanics of being an actual mechanic with a big wrench, looks wonderful, has a strange but enjoyable story, and is just a lot of fun to jump around in. And that’s the important thing in this sort of game – it has to be a lot of fun to jump around.

Also a big plus, is that it’s nowhere near as difficult as Hollow Knight. Sure, I love that game but it’s punishingly hard. Much too hard. So hard it’s verging on torture rather than enjoyment. But this is possible for mere mortals! It’s true that some bosses took a few attempts, but other than that, it was pretty easy and a lot more fun for that.

Aside from that “hide and seek” boss, of course. That was pants.

Anyway, here’s me playing it all:

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King Oddball (Vita): COMPLETED

Imagine a cross between Peggle and Angry Birds. You can’t? Well just play King Oddball instead.

The aim (ha!) is to chuck rocks at tanks and helicopters, so as to destroy them all. Of course, there are more things to blow up than you have rocks, so you need to rebound them or make use of other objects to drop on them instead. If you manage to bounce a rock back at your head, or hit one than three baddies in one throw, you get a bonus rock.

That’s pretty much all there is to it. There’s some variety in levels, with different layouts, and sometimes tanks need two hits rather than one, but very few are taxing and those that are can mostly be fluked. Still, it was enjoyable in a Peggle-y sort of way.

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Burly Men At Sea (Vita): COMPLETED!

I was going to buy this for the Switch on a number of occasions, but never got round to it. And then it appeared on PS+. My Vita came out of retirement, and after twice as long updating it as it took to play the game, I’d completed it.

And then completed it again. And again. And again.

You see, this story about four bearded sailor brothers is somewhat short, but that’s only part of the point. At various points in the story you can make a choice (although it isn’t always obvious there is a choice!) and the story takes a new direction. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll end up back at the start ready to begin a slightly different adventure.

I really love the art style, and the text is humourous. There isn’t much in the way of puzzling or gameplay of any kind, really, but it’s an enjoyable set of sea tales nonetheless.

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Yakuza 5 (PS3): COMPLETED!

I know it has been some time since I completed Yakuza 4, but I’d forgotten just how bonkers it was. Playing through Yakuza 5 reminded me, but then took it further. So much further. Warning: very minor spoilers follow, although I’ve avoided any details.

For a game which is essentially a man punching game with some city exploration, the amount of time you can spend not punching men is astounding. Within minutes of starting out, I’d already found a Sega Club in which I then collected every item from all the UFO Catchers, played a few rounds of Virtua Fighter, and then had a go on Taiko Drum Master because why not. Bad things are going down? Pff.

Eventually, I took Kiryu off to progress the story and then was sidetracked again with noodle making mini-games and street racing. When I tired of the side-quests and managed to push on properly, I found the gritty violence and twisting story somewhat at odds with the whimsy of the rest. That’s the Yakuza way, though. Finding out why the Tojo Clan chairman had vanished, and what treachery was involved, peppered with giving a TV chef a gastronomic tour of the city. Of course.

After Kiryu it was time to take control of Saejima who briefly pottered around Kamurocho before giving himself up to the police and getting sent to jail. What felt like a retread of his story in the previous game soon morphed into Monster Hunter. I’m not even joking. Sure, it’s foxes and bears not dinosaurs and dragons, but it felt and sounded so much like Capcom’s series it absolutely had to be intentional. Now with a prison-issued crew cut instead of his long sweaty locks, Saejima has to try and find out who killed Goro Majima – his sworn brother and long-standing Yakuza series character. Or is he really dead? Before it’s clear it’s time to genre swap again…

To Haruka. Kiryu’s adopted daughter is now All Grown Up ((C) Daily Mail) and about to break into showbiz in that legitimate Japanese stereotype – the teen girl idol. Yep, Haruka’s story mostly involves rhythm action style dancing and singing, with street dance battles replacing the “hey guy nice clothes I’m going to fight you” fracas the other characters endure. When things turn upside-down, everyone’s favourite plum-suited moneylender Akiyama steps in, as he’s money invested in (unknown to him) Haruka’s future success. He doesn’t get a full story of his own, having to share Part 3, but he breaks up the dancing nicely.

After discovering some of What Went Down at Haruka’s talent agency, the next part of the game focusses on Shinada. He’s a new playable character, as washed up ex-baseball pro with a cashflow problem. Although he’s quite likeable himself, his story is dull as anything (being baseball linked doesn’t really help) and I couldn’t gel with his fighting style either. His plot involves his loan shark (Takasugi – who is a great character), and finding out what really happened 15 years ago when Shinada was kicked out of baseball for cheating.

The final chapter, as expected, brings everyone together and eventually explains how all their individual stories are just small parts of some massive plan to, well, that’s a spoiler. There’s twist after twist after twist along the way there, though. Imagine an episode of Scooby Doo, only after taking the mask off the monster it just reveals another mask and another under that. Then another. There’s even the now traditional finale atop the tower in Kamurocho, only it’s not because there’s another twist.

In all, it’s Yakuza. The serious organised crimelords at war juxtaposed with singing contests and taxi driving. Men in suits executing other men in suits alongside baseball practise and playing darts. Punching a huge beast of a man who just won’t stay down followed by a drink with a pretty lady in a hostess club. It’s ridiculous.

And it’s the best. Sure, there are a few slight plot holes. A couple of MacGuffins. A sometimes problematic camera and invisible walls a-plenty. There’s asset reuse, occasionally wonky animation, and product placement everywhere but none of it matters. It’s a great story with a weighty game attached, and sure – I can’t understand most of the words, but the voice acting is *kisses fingers*. Will I be playing more Yakuza games? はい、そうです。

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Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

What a fun puzzle game this turned out to be. It was a free PS+ rental and I only really started it on a whim, but it ended up being actually quite enjoyable.

Click to view slideshow.

I’ve still a fair amount left to do, in terms of side missions and collecting more stars, but the main levels are done and so is the story, such that it is (basically I got pizza, it seems).

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Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

What a fun puzzle game this turned out to be. It was a free PS+ rental and I only really started it on a whim, but it ended up being actually quite enjoyable.

Click to view slideshow.

I’ve still a fair amount left to do, in terms of side missions and collecting more stars, but the main levels are done and so is the story, such that it is (basically I got pizza, it seems).

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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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Actual Sunlight (Vita): COMPLETED!

I’d never even heard of Actual Sunlight, so I was a little surprised to not only find it sat there on my Vita, but also to find myself playing it. Wait, what? A Vita game? Here? With my reputation?

It turns out it was on PS+ a while back. I dived in. Oh god.

actual sunlight
Get up, you lazy bum.

When a game starts telling you to commit suicide, you know you’ve made a mistake playing it. Sure, it’s telling your character to do it rather than you the player, but the exposition of Evan Winter’s dreary, dead-end life –  with his high tech trinkets that do nothing to make up for his non-existent love life nor his pointless, joyless job – rings a bell for many people, I’m sure.

Go to the roof, and jump off.

Actual Sunlight is a narrative discovery game, following Evan’s mundane activities as he gets up, has a shower, laments his existence, and heads off to work. Or the roof of his apartment building, if you decide to try and end it all. It’s a spoiler to tell you there’s no real choice in the matter, but a one worth spoiling as it’s as much about the journey as it is the destination.

Actual Sunlight
No, no you won’t.

I didn’t enjoy playing it. I don’t think you’re supposed to. Everyone you talk to is miserable, and playing it makes you miserable. Still, it was interesting, I suppose, watching Evan descend seemingly into schizophrenia as he converses with himself, acts out a life he could have had, and ultimately takes himself to the roof after all.

The opening titles warn you that Actual Sunlight deals with difficult and mature issues. I’m not sure it actually deals with them, but they’re certainly represented. Probably best to avoid the game completely if the themes here are likely to cause you distress. An odd choice for Sony to push as a PS+ title, I’d have to say too.

Actual Sunlight
I think many people can identify with this.

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Things I’ve been playing recently

I’ve not done a roundup post for a while, but I have been playing quite a lot of stuff. Regardez:

BattlefieldBattlefield 4 (PS4)

I’m not a fan of shootmans, but I am a fan of bargains, so Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline together for around a fiver was a steal. Then I did an odd thing: I actually played Battlefield 4. Not only that, but I think I’m quite near the end. It’s been quite good actually, although at this point I’m finding it a little bit repetitive – enter area, snipe everyone, move on. Naturally I could mix up my play style and use some different guns but when I tried that it didn’t go well. Tanks and boats and stuff did add some variety at least. Online? No.

HYRULE WARRIORSHYRULE WARRIORS LEGENDS (3DS)

Which is still amazing. There’s more DLC this week, but in the meantime I’m nowhere near finished. I have beaten the boss on the first Adventure Map (unlocking a second) and unlocked most of the characters. It’s just so much fun – I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.

Unravel Demo (PS4)

I’ve actually bought the full game as a result of being impressed with the demo. That and 1) it was on offer, and 2) my daughter was quite adamant I had to. She’s played the full game but I’ve only done the demo. It feels a lot like Limbo so far, albeit brighter and cuter.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FETokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U)

Ever since seeing this when it was announced I’ve been interested. I wasn’t entirely sure why, as I had no idea how the game mechanics would even work – some sort of cross between Akiba’s Trip, Idolmaster and Fire Emblem? Maybe? Who knows. It didn’t matter. Turns out, having bought it on release, it’s Persona. And it’s very most excellent, even if I’m only a few hours in so far. I really should get back into Persona 4 Golden, actually. Stupid Vita.

Table Top RacingTable Top Racing World Tour (PS4)

This was a free rental on PS+, and it’s not very good. Somehow, though, I’ve been playing it off and on and I’m just over halfway through the game. It makes me pine for Micro Machines and how much better that is than this, which is slow and has boring (and very few) tracks.

Assassin's Creed UnityAssassin’s Creed Unity (PS4)

I’m still playing it! I completed it not so long ago, but I’m still having fun doing side quests and mopping up all the collectables. Been a few Assassin’s Creed games since I last did that, so it’s obviously pushing the right buttons.

ShantaeShantae and the Pirate’s Curse (3DS)

So many boobladies. In eyepopping 3D! But as well as that, Shantae is a fantastic platformer with metroidvania elements. I’d enjoyed the original GBC game on the 3DS Virtual Console so when it was available as part of that frankly ludicrous Nintendo Humble Bundle I was very pleased indeed. I’m quite a way through it too, having been unable to put it down for a whole weekend, and I’ve just one main area left to clear, I think.

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