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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No Man’s Sky (PS4): COMPLETED!

Much has changed. Much has stayed the same. But it’s the changes that prompted a replay of the game that sold me a PS4 over a year before it even came out. Sadly, it was not a happy reunion, and there were more than a few problems…

Bugs are to be expected in games these days more than ever before, but bugs that break the game, then are supposedly patched out, yet still exist, should not exist. It seems along with all the new stuff in No Man’s Sky, a plethora of additional game breaking bugs were added and not completely removed again.

As it was new, I was following the Artemis Path for this playthrough. It involves trying to save Artemis, a fellow traveller, and to do so requires stepping through a sort of base building tutorial. You make a base, build some rooms, employ some staff who give you missions and blueprints, and eventually you have everything you need in order to build a Mind Arc that can rescue Artemis. Only in my case, the game skipped several bits in the middle there so initially, I was unable to craft a circuit board, needed to progress. The game thought I’d been given the blueprints. I had not.

Tyrannosaurus Moose

Thankfully, it was fixed in a patch. Eventually. So I could progress, and make the circuit board and the thing I needed it for. Next up – make some Living Glass so I could use that to craft the Mind Arc, except of course, the game thought I’d been given the blueprint and, again, of course I had not.

Several game patches came and went, and still I couldn’t progress. Someone on Twitter saw my complaints and offered to help: If I joined his game, he could create Living Glass which should make my blueprint appear. So I joined him, and then even more bugs appeared. Sigh.

I could give him the materials, but he couldn’t give them – or anything else – back, as the menu to choose where to send stuff (your ship, roamer, storage, etc.) didn’t show me on his screen. Then we tried him putting them in a storage unit on his freighter, but when I went to take them out they weren’t there. In fact, his storage units showed the contents of my storage units on my base hundreds of light years away. What. Finally, we quit the game and he joined me instead – which actually let him pass on the components to me directly. I didn’t get the Living Glass blueprints, but I did get Living Glass (and a Mind Arc) so I could progress the story at least. My saviour waved goodbye and off I went to give the Mind Arc to Artemis.

Jacks, anyone?

Only that wasn’t the end of it. The place he was supposed to be, marked on the map, wasn’t there. I had no choice but to restart part of the questline and do it all again. That worked, luckily, and a few hours later, I’d finished the game. The most bugged of all games.

OK, yeah. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the exploration, the souping up my spaceship, the naming every star system “Dave” – but that was all there in the “old” No Man’s Sky. The new stuff just gave me more to do, and sadly, it was all broken. Last time, I spent 125 hours on it. This time, “just” 80, around 20 of which was working round bugs and redoing missions. I genuinely think they’ve made the game worse instead of better, which is a massive shame. It’s still great, but it’s too broken for me to recommend it as wholeheartedly as I did before.

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Donut County (PS4): COMPLETED!

A very short, very easy, but fun little game. Imagine Beautiful Katamari only instead of rolling stuff up to get bigger, you’re a hole and you make stuff fall in to get bigger. No, I’m not sure how putting more things in a hole makes the hole bigger either.

Spooky hole is spooky.

There’s very little to it more than that, really. Apparently there are puzzles, but these are laughably simple, and there’s a boss fight which is also incredibly easy, but then that isn’t really the point of the game I suppose. What is the point? Put stuff in your hole. And progress the bizarre story.

Oh yeah, and they spelt “doughnut” wrong.

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Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut (PS4): COMPLETED!

I am very much aware that I’m playing through the Shantae games in an intermittent manner and in an incorrect order. This is because of reasons I don’t have to explain to you.

After completing Yoku’s Island Express I was concerned I’d do my usual thing of failing to decide which game to play next, and spend so long flicking through games I own but haven’t played that I ran out of time to play them. Instead, I forced myself to settle on the first title that came to mind from my pile of bought-but-never-played games, which, inexplicably, was Risky’s Revenge. Who knew?

Sadly, I was all too soon back in the same predicament as before I started, since I completed it in around 6 hours.

What’s cookin’ good lookin’?

But it was a wonderful 6 hours. Shantae is a joy to control, a wonder to look at, and just about as perfect a short-but-sweet Metroidvania experience as it is possible to be. The shortness is no doubt because the original Nintendo DSi release of the game (of which this is a partially HD remastered port) was intended to be a three episode game from which only part one ever appeared, but neither the story nor the gameplay suffers from it.

Fitting between the original Shantae for the GBC (which I played here) and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (which I played here) it tells the story of how Risky Boots, the large-boobed pirate from the first game, steals a magic lamp which – considering you’re a half-genie – unsurprisingly is somehow linked to your genie powers. And, spoiler, the reason why The Pirate’s Curse has you missing all your genie powers. Shantae has to get the lamp back by recovering three magic seals (no, not of the fish-eating variety) which, of course, are guarded by three barons in three dungeons.

The cover art is all new HD

Before you lose your powers, however, you obtain them in this game and they’re the skills needed to unlock areas of the map. As in the first game, they take the form of different creatures you can become by dancing: A monkey who can climb walls, an elephant who can smash rocks, and a naked mermaid who can swim. In addition, each creature has a collectable and necessary upgrade to add further skills.

OH! IS THIS A PUZZLE CLUE?

Most of the characters and areas are reprised from the Game Boy Colour original game, but they’re all redrawn and reanimated to a much higher quality. Even though the Nintendo DS is pretty close to retro itself these days it still looks and moves like a “modern” pixel art platformer. Wayforward really are the masters of pretty pixels. The regions of the map are pretty limited in number, and there aren’t many different enemies, but it doesn’t really matter considering the length of the game. The exploring is good, the backtracking and dancing simplified (for the better) from the first game in the series, and it’s much, much easier – perhaps to a fault as I only died once and every boss was a walkover.

It is excellent though, and I’m very tempted to buy the special edition of the latest game in the series now. If only I didn’t have a trillion other games to work through first, eh? Including the part-completed (and also another Metroidvania) Hollow Knight. Hmm.

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The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (PS4): COMPLETED!

Just a quick note about this, and an explanation. Firstly, I’m actually writing this at some point in late August not on the 27th July as the post date suggests. Why is this? Because somehow I totally forgot to write a post! I don’t know how that happened and I am convinced I did actually write one, but it seems not.

But yes, I played and completed The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, the free single-episode game that links into the Life is Strange world. It was Very Good Indeed.

Plenty of other places went into the plot and the lore long ago, so I won’t repeat all that here. I did notice at least three links to the Life is Strange games:

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

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The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (PS4): COMPLETED!

Just a quick note about this, and an explanation. Firstly, I’m actually writing this at some point in late August not on the 27th July as the post date suggests. Why is this? Because somehow I totally forgot to write a post! I don’t know how that happened and I am convinced I did actually write one, but it seems not.

But yes, I played and completed The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, the free single-episode game that links into the Life is Strange world. It was Very Good Indeed.

Plenty of other places went into the plot and the lore long ago, so I won’t repeat all that here. I did notice at least three links to the Life is Strange games:

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

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Rime (PS4): COMPLETED!

It’s hard not to compare Rime to Journey. The art style is similar, your character is basically – bar vague noises – mute, and you wear a red scarf. Unlike Journey, however, there’s a lot more game to Rime, with puzzles and platforming much beyond Journey. In fact, I felt it closer in terms of gameplay to something like Papo & Yo or possibly even Rain.

Rime is also not similar to Rive, a shooter which it doesn’t even slightly resemble but for a year or more I’ve been mixing the two up.

Anyway. There’s not a lot to say in case of plot spoilers, but your boy has woken up on the beach of an island, and has get to a giant keyhole shaped thing at the top of a large white tower. You progress through four main areas filled with beautiful scenery and puzzles, of which there are three main sorts: “how do I get this ball thing from here to there”, “how do I manipulate these shadows to do this thing”, and “how do I make these things line up so when I look through that thing they look like the shape over there”. You can shout to activate certain things like switches to help, and sometimes blocks need to be shunted round in order for stuff to work.

None of the puzzles are especially taxing. I did get stuck on one for ages because I hadn’t noticed there was a handhold to climb up and take me somewhere else! Looking around a lot is key to some of the puzzles and finding routes to places.

Hidden around the world are a number of optional things to find. Pots to be shouted at so they break, keyholes to look through, wooden toys to discovery. Naturally, you don’t even find out these exist until you stumble across one by accident so there’s no way I’d get them all in my first playthrough. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be finding them at all because that’s not incentive enough to play through it again. As much as I enjoyed it – jerky framerate and the odd bug aside – I don’t think it’s the sort of game that needs repeating. Certainly not for a while.

If you’re a fan of spoilers, here’s my playthrough in video form:

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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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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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