PixelJunk Monsters 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

Well this turned out to be disappointing. As a big fan of the original PixelJunk Monsters, this sequel with its incredibly pretty clay graphics (rather than the somewhat minimal ones seen in the first game) was a certain buy. I’d played the demo and yep – it was great.

Sadly, the demo didn’t make clear the horrific loading times. Starting a level? Wait for ages. Want to restart? Wait for ages. Complete a level? Wait for ages. And I mean ages. Literally several minutes in some cases. The entire game took less time to download and install than it takes to restart a level. That can’t be right, can it?

Stupid fat bee things.

And although loading times aren’t the end of the world, they certainly make a difference between “oh I’ve screwed this up, restart!” and “oh I’ve screwed this up, off it goes!”. Why no instant restart? Exactly why does the game need to load all the assets in again even though they’re already loaded? It’s frustrating and kills the fun.

Perhaps the loading times are there to bulk out the game, as there aren’t many levels here either. Around 20 in total, which doesn’t seem nearly enough for a tower defence game, especially since many of the maps look like they were intended to be reused (with blocked off routes opened up) but never are.

Thankfully, the actual game itself is still as good as it ever was. It’s just a shame it’s been hobbled in between the good bits.

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Pan-Pan (Switch): COMPLETED!

Having been on sale a number of times, and being pretty cheap already, I’d eyed up the lovely looking Pan-Pan on several previous occasions. Reviews saying it is slightly disappointing tempered my enthusiasm and so I always put my virtual cash away. Until today.

And sadly, the reviews were right. Pan-Pan looks really nice, with its flat shaded, low-poly graphics and almost Pikmin-like world to explore, but it falls very short of excellent for a number of reasons.

Firstly, its world is very small, but it’s the way it appears very open that’s the problem. Most of the puzzles in the game are reachable almost immediately, but some are somewhat obtuse and you’re left wondering if the reason you can’t solve it is because you’re missing the trick, or because you’re not supposed to be able to yet – and there’s no way of knowing.

This little bird doesn’t want you to steal his eggs. But you are a cruel woman.

Secondly, there’s just not enough game here. It’s perhaps ten puzzles in total, and sure, the game was only £2.99 but when I obtained the five items needed to complete the game, I was sure there’d be another chapter – or several chapters – afterwards. But nope, 90 minutes of game and that’s it. No replayability at all.

For what it is, it’s a quaint little thing, and perhaps the sometimes there, sometimes not (it depends where you read) subtitle of “A Tiny Big Adventure” should have tipped me off, but it feels more like a short demo of a larger game, which is a shame.

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Yoku’s Island Express (Switch): COMPLETED!

This game is, now bear with me, a pinball metroidvania adventure game set on an island where you’re an ant who also happens to be the new postman, and you collect fruit whilst taped to a ball. As soon as you arrive on the island, the god creature that oversees it is attacked and it’s up to you to find all the tribal elders who together can heal the god. Oh yes, and you’re armed with a party horn, and hoover up exploding slugs, and wear a little fish in order to swim.

So generally standard game stuff, really.

It’s a pretty looking 2D affair, with exploration broken up by caves and caverns that amazingly resemble pinball tables, and strangely convenient “flippers” dotted around the island to assist in getting you about by flicking you up trees and mountains and so on. I mean, it’s hardly a believable world, not least that all this pinball infrastructure only seems to benefit you and not the majority of the rabbits, rats, fish and various other creatures that you chat with.

Don’t forget to actually deliver letters while you’re out saving the island.

It plays like a metroidvania game through out of reach areas becoming available due to abilities you unlock as the game progresses, which let you blow up certain rocks, swim, or fling yourself around buds, as appropriate.

Yoku’s Island Express is a relatively short game with a compact map, but you criss-cross it many times through various routes and shortcuts so it feels quite a bit bigger. It’s not especially difficult, not least because it appears to be impossible to die (it is possible to get stuck and have to restart from a – thankfully frequently placed – restart point though). Some of the trickier “shots” are frustrating however, and the knack for sucking up exploding slugs seems a little random and so a minor annoyance, but aside from that the only real difficulty is figuring how to get to the points marked on the map.

It’s fun while it lasts, and once completed there’s still a multitude of things to collect and deliveries to make (you’re a postman, remember), so completists will get even more value from this already cheap title. Yoku is definitely worth picking up.

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Gradius (Switch): COMPLETED!

And another NES-game-onna-Switch, bus-based game completion. Gradius isn’t something I remember completing before but at the same time none of it seemed new to me. Which is odd because I don’t often play shooters like this.

Anyway, it was hard, especially the bit with the Easter Island heads, and the final boss was a complete walkover for some reason. All you have to do is stay in the right place and keep shooting – no dodging necessary!

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Super Mario Bros (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yesterday, Nintendo finally enabled their online service and with it came a big old pile of NES games for free 1, one of which was – of course – Super Mario Bros.

Like Sonic, it’s a game I have many copies of and of course have played and completed many times. Also like Sonic, I played it again today and completed it again today. Whilst on a bus. It was great.

Notes:

  1. Or at least “free while you have an active subscription”

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Sonic the Hedgehog (Switch): COMPLETED!

I couldn’t wait one single day for the UK release of the original Sonic on the Switch, so bought it from the Japanese shop. And then completed the entire game with all the Chaos Emeralds. Without dying.

I may have completed this game a few times before, but never on the Switch although it is probably only the second time I’ve completed it on a bus. I also now have something like 25 copies of it. No, you have a problem.

It’s a great version, building on the 3DS version by M2 by adding some new challenge modes and stuff, and of course it’s huge and lovely on the Switch screen.

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Lazy Game Update Post

Yes, I’ve been playing games. I’ve not completed any recently so haven’t posted about them. And, all the games I’m playing are pretty long. With all that in mind, here’s an update on them!

No Man’s Sky (PS4)

Having not played the game for almost two years, I started it again. Why? Because Hello Games have effectively turned the original game into a sequel over a series of updates I’d never even looked at since then. And since many people have found bugs and other issues when migrating an old save to the new version, I thought it best to begin again.

It’s certainly different, that’s for sure. I go into a lot more detail on the ugvm Podcast, but in short, I don’t really like most of the changes. The base building is, in itself, fine but it’s not what I want in my No Man’s Sky. Some of the Quality of Life changes, like stacking inventory items and easier ways to make money are appreciated, though, and the new Artemis storyline gives me a new thing to do, so I’m still enjoying it. So much so I’m already 40 or so hours in. Again.

Sanrio Characters Picross (3DS)

Yes of course I was going to buy this. Because I love Hello K–uh picross games. It’s huge, and I’m probably only 15% done so far.

Shenmue (PS4)

Oh my. Who’d have thought this day would come? A re-release of Shenmue (and Shenmue II!) for a new console? Over the last few years I’ve been trying to find a nice way to play the original Dreamcast games on something more modern, eventually running it in an emulator on a PC streamed to my TV with a Steam Link… only that was a mess and fiddly and didn’t happen. I toyed with a handheld device like the GPD Win, but couldn’t justify the expense. But now – it’s on the PS4 and it’s excellent.

Well hello to you too.

So far in the story, I’ve spent all my money on capsule toys, played with a cat a lot, found some sailors, not found Charlie, and have made it into the wrong Warehouse 8. And I’m loving it.

Hollow Knight (Switch)

When I was trying to find reasons not to buy this, because I already have too many Switch games, I settled on “I don’t like the art style”. Then it was on the eShop for cheap and I bought it anyway. I Am Not Strong.

But I’m glad I did, because it’s amazing.

The game is very bug-y.

It’s a Metroidvania, where you play as some sort of beetle with a nail for a sword, fighting other bugs and exploring a ruined world. It’s beautiful, challenging and really very well designed, and after about twelve hours in I thought I’d seen most of the map and then opened up three entirely new areas. It’s big.

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Bomb Chicken (Switch): COMPLETED!

I was never not going to buy a game called Bomb Chicken. Especially when I saw it in action.

You’re a chicken, and you lay bombs. You can kick them when you’ve laid them, but other than that and moving left and right, you’ve no other moves or abilities. Using this somewhat limited array of skills, you have to navigate platforms, kill baddies, hit switches and generally avoid touching anything.

Having no jump button is the main enemy you have to contend with, however. You can stack your bombs to gain height, or bounce on some baddies, so simply getting around the levels is different to pretty much every other platformer, and the basis for many puzzles.

It’s not a massive game, but there are some really difficult levels near the end, as well as some bosses, but it’s really rather good. The artwork is great and the animation – especially on your chicken – is really nice. The gameplay is also top notch although I hit a couple of minor bugs (bats you have to bounce on sometimes don’t respawn if you die).

Bomb Chicken is fun, unusual and cheap, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Even when I had to redo level 27 some twelventythousand times.

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Pokémon Quest (Switch): COMPLETED!

Aha! Take that Nintendo! I completed your IAP’d up game without paying a single penny!

Although I should temper that with two things: 1) I never saw the need to pay any money, and 2) where do you even pay money anyway? It was, however, a bit of a grind for the last two worlds due to me not having any decent psychic or electric pokémon.

I think I probably spent around two-thirds of the entire time I played just trying the final few levels on worlds 9 and 10 over and over, slowly levelling up and gaining slightly better power stones, whilst making meals to coax more pokémon into my garden just to use them up in training.

After finally beating those levels, the final boss was actually a walkover taking just three attempts, and then that was it.

Now I’ve some sort of NG+ unlocked, but I don’t think I can be bothered with it. Pokémon Quest started out fun but if it wasn’t for the fact I could stick it on Auto and let it pretty much play itself I’d have given up on it quite some time ago. Even with that, I’ve had enough now.

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Pool Panic (Switch): COMPLETED!

A lot of people say a lot of things about the Nintendo Switch, but I bet not many of them say this: it’s the console with my highest bought:completed ratio ever. Almost every game I buy for it, I complete. So that’s something.

Pool Panic is now added to that list, obviously, hence this post.

Imagine the balls from Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker. You know how they sort of come to life when you leave the controls alone? Well, now imagine each colour has a different personality, with some scared of the cue ball, and others chasing it, or jumping over it. Then, imagine that each level is a further deviation from a standard snooker or pool table. That’s Pool Panic.

The first couple of levels resemble standard pool. A green rectangular table with pockets, and you pot all the coloured balls before going for the black. But then, things get stranger. Some of the balls are dogs. Or spiders. Or zombies. The table becomes a scout camp-out or the line for ice cream. Pool is ditched almost entirely for crazy golf. Giant fish eat the balls. There are pirates and monsters and knights and aside from the basic premise – pot the colours, then the black – the game becomes very little like pool at all.

And it’s great. It’s funny, varied and nonsensical, and unlike pretty much any other game you’ve ever played.

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