Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Switch): COMPLETED!

The first of what will hopefully be many games completed on the Sega Mega Drive Classics collection on the Switch. I was going to play Fatal Labyrinth, but the lack of a manual and the terrible video options (which don’t affect Alex Kidd so much) put me off for now. Instead, this.

The Mega Drive Alex Kidd game isn’t as good as the Master System “Miracle World” title. There. I said it. It looks prettier (although it’s still almost Master System quality graphics), and it’s one hell of a lot easier, but it’s lacking something. I don’t really know what exactly, since it’s very much closer to a remake than a sequel, but there’s something. Heart? Soul? Blocks with stars on them?

Just the two of us. Building castles in the sky.

What it is, then, is a mostly generic platformer starring half boy, half monkey Alex, who suffers from wonky physics syndrome. Alex must unintentionally slide, over compensationally jump, and input lag his way around a number of platforming levels, mostly avoiding enemies as trying to hit them is much harder than just going around them.

He can collect money from defeated baddies and from treasure chests, and then use this money to enter janken (scissors, paper, stone) matches with people for power-ups. You also use janken to defeat bosses. So yes, it’s random as to whether you’ll win or not.

Alex thinking about punching ratboy over there. Sorry Alex! You can only play janken.

Finally, you reach a castle where there is a bit of puzzling and more interesting platforming, before facing the final boss in more hand games and then an actual normal fight. After which, you “rescue” your Dad who hadn’t been captured after all making the entire game a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

But actually, I really quite enjoyed it despite all the terrible flaws.

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Katamari Damacy Reroll (Switch): COMPLETED!

This came out of nowhere when announced during a Nintendo Direct a while back. Not least in that we’ve not had a Katamari game on a Nintendo console before, and the series has been pretty much dead for ages.

You can start as small as a mouse but end up rolling up skyscrapers.

Reroll is a remake of the original Katamari Damacy game for the PS2, upping the resolution, reducing the slowdown, making everything look a bit prettier, and removing the loading breaks between certain size increases. The result, is pretty much just perfect Katamari. Sure, it’s more limited than later games in the series (there are only really three rolling locations, for example), and yes, it doesn’t have all the best music tracks or some of the more interesting modes (like “stay on fire” or “you’re always moving”), but that doesn’t take away from the fun there is here.

Yes, you have to collect girls in one of the levels. It was a different time!

It’s impossible to play Katamari without a massive grin, and even though it’s incredibly simple and very easy, it’s just amazing. Now I just have to go back and try and get a bigger cow. Who knew signs with cows on counted as actual cows?

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Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! (Switch): COMPLETED!

Many, many years ago, I played a game called Pocket Monsters Green on my Personal Computer using a Game Boy Emulator.  I have now, essentially, just completed it.

Of course, this isn’t the same Pocket Monsters Green. It’s actually more Pocket Monsters Yellow, the modified version that came with Pikachu, only with the more familiar western “Pokémon” branding, and all the modern stylings and conveniences the yoof of today enjoy and appreciate. Yes, it’s many steps forward from the Game Boy title from last century, but it’s actually many steps back from more recent Pokémon games.

Lapras giving me the side-eye.

For starters, being a re-imagining of the first title in the series, there are only the original set of 151 monsters in your pocket. This also means it’s a straightforward and already known story. Then there’s the loss of actually catching them properly: Previously you’d battle a wild beastie until it was almost out of HP, then you’d use a pokeball on them. Now, the mechanic is borrowed from popular telephone distraction app Pokémon GO!, with a “throw” of the joycon approximating a finger swipe. But guess what?

High-fiving Dave, my eevee, is amazing.

It’s fine. It’s all fine. I only missed these things for about ten minutes, and once I had an eevee on my head I was won over. These changes, and others (like not needing a specific Pokémon for world-usable moves, such as surf) streamline the game and speed up the grind. Progress through the game is swift, and as a result I’d beaten the final trainer in under 27 hours. That’s quick, for a game in this series. I’m torn as to whether that in itself is a problem, because of course it’s short, but there’s a lot of post-game content to get through too that makes up for it. All the rest of the creatures to enslave, for one, and a load of new expert cockfighters have sprung up and need defeating too.

Elite Four? Wiped on the floor, more like.

Pokémon: Let’s Go! is a hybrid. It’s a simpler game than the “main” series, designed to pull users of the mobile game over (clearly proven by their close
interoperability – you can even pull your Pokémon over from your phone). It’s more in-depth and complex than the phone game though, adding a world, story and characters appropriated from the original Pokémon Yellow. It’s trying to be accessible to everyone without coming across as too cut-down for the full-fat game fans or too elaborate for the casual phone-prodders. Somehow, against the odds, I think it manages to occupy a sweetspot. Certainly, I could see what was “missing”, but I don’t miss it. I would have enjoyed a new story, but I’m not upset it’s a retelling. The lack of excitement for new areas and monsters discovery is tempered with reminiscence. Like someone remade your favourite slippers only now they have wheels and can toast bread.

Krusty the Clown’s decapitated head looks horrified as a dead Snorlax is found washed up.

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TwinBee (Switch): COMPLETED!

A few years ago, I completed this on the Xbox 360. And now I have completed it on the Switch. As in, the NES game in the NES classics thing.

It’s a decent little vertically scrolling shooter with an odd bell shooting system (shoot bells enough and they go blue, collect a blue one to speed up your ship), and I lost my ship’s arms at one point so couldn’t drop bombs.

After beating the end boss the game loops back to the start, so no credits as such. Still, done.

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TwinBee (Switch): COMPLETED!

A few years ago, I completed this on the Xbox 360. And now I have completed it on the Switch. As in, the NES game in the NES classics thing.

It’s a decent little vertically scrolling shooter with an odd bell shooting system (shoot bells enough and they go blue, collect a blue one to speed up your ship), and I lost my ship’s arms at one point so couldn’t drop bombs.

After beating the end boss the game loops back to the start, so no credits as such. Still, done.

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Bulb Boy (Switch): COMPLETED!

Bulb Boy is a nice little walk-and-click adventure game and it was very cheap recently. And by nice, I mean horribly grotesque and full of demonic imagery and guts and dead things and maggots and evil spiders and a giant monster made from your own poo.

There’s a story, although nothing is ever spoken or written down. It’s all gestures and speech bubbles with pictures in. Given the content of the game, that’s probably for the best. I don’t really want to understand fully why there is a giant headless turkey “pecking” about in the kitchen.

I mean, just look at the screenshots.

It’s only a couple of hours long, but I certainly enjoyed it. The puzzles were never too clever or too obtuse, and the sections where you had to navigate hazards provided variety. In fact, the only real complaint I can make is that when you die and your little lightbulb head is horrifically mutilated in some way, it takes just a bit too long to restart. Oh, and I came across a bug where I put an egg in a place and it was supposed to pop out another place and it didn’t, so I had to reload. Aside from those, though – recommended. Just wash your hands afterwards.

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Car Quest (Switch): COMPLETED!

My first impressions of Car Quest were, it has to be said, less than favourable. It had, as I mentioned on Twitter after my first hour’s play, a definite air of “My First Unity” game about it, not least because of the sparse, blocky environment that just screams “I can’t draw but I can sellotape geometric shapes together”. You, a car, don’t fit within this style either thematically or graphically, and it feels like a placeholder that was never replaced with a giant marble or something that matches the rest of the game.

Blocktacular! You’ve successfully written the first paragraph of your Car Quest diary post!

I can’t really say my second impressions were much better. The basic aim is, you see, to drive your car through this blocky world, finding rotating shapes known as artefacts. Each one opens a new route or area in the world, invariably as far away from your current position as possible so as to artificially extend the length of the game. As you drive around, you collect batteries, which you need to open portals to other areas and so the game is lengthened further as you collect these – which require no skill, just time.

Well done for informing the reader about elements of the game! Some parts of the game require artefacts, and others require time consuming item collection.

My third impressions? Well, near the end of my first hour I hit something new. Puzzles. Things to push around, tiles to drive over quickly in sequence. Clever driving stunts. More started happening – a level with a night and day warp, which raises a water level to ad a new dimension to the puzzles. Some sheep to herd. Timed sections, a maze, and more. Slowly, the game was becoming more.

Over time you may notice new features added to the levels! Like a maze! Or some sheep to herd! It’s blocking incredible.

In terms of gameplay, I was actually starting to enjoy it. The plain graphical style actually started working. I still couldn’t figure out exactly why you were a car, and how Lord Blockstar – who is King, despite being a Lord – the transparent floating head WHO NEVER SHUTS UP managed to convince you to help repair his world by doing all these things.

I do tend to state the obvious. In fact, in the game, I even tell you I state the obvious.

Every time you collect an artefact, of which there are approximately seven zillion, Blockstar tells you you’ve just collected and artefact. And, after opening a new area (which the camera pans to in order to show you’ve opened a new area), Blockstar tells you you’ve opened a new area. And when it’s obvious where to go next, he tells you where to go next. All. The. Sodding. Time. It’s maddening. And then there are all his puns, many of which are block or brick related and they hurt. 

You’ve just finished reading that paragraph but there’s another paragraph to read next!

Car Quest isn’t a difficult game either. In fact, there are only really two difficult things: forgetting where to go next (even if you’re shown, then told by Blockstar, it’s too easy to get disorientated on the map – not least because everything looks the same), and not knowing if you’re doing something not quite right, or aren’t supposed to be doing it yet.

I get the feeling you’re going to sum up the game for the reader now.

To sum up, Car Quest is an oddity. It’s not very well designed, it’s not short of problems, it has too much unnecessary to-ing and fro-ing and the damn lordking guy needs gagging. The car physics don’t feel right, and there being a car not a ball or similar instead doesn’t make any sense. The world of Blocktaria is just too abstract and plain and bizarre. It shouldn’t work and I’d be giving it a 1/5 and telling you not to play it.

But. BUT. Give it an hour or two. I know that’s a big ask. But do that. Play it. Ignore the “college game design project” feel to it and just let it happen. Something clicks, and even though you can see it shouldn’t work, it’s actually fun. A sort of guilty pleasure. And as you groan at yet another “blockcredible” or a 14th loop of the main world to collect yet more batteries, you’ll realise that somehow, you’re enjoying it. It’s not blocktacular, but it’s certainly blockisfactory.

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The Gardens Between (Switch): COMPLETED!

Well that was over quickly. So much so I’m a little annoyed I paid £11.99 for it, and that was an offer price! That much money for a game that offered no challenge, lasted less than an hour, and has zero replayability? At least Pan-Pan was a tenth of that.

Money aside, The Gardens Between is a beautiful and clever puzzle game. Each level is a small island, and your only controls are to move forwards and backwards in time, and sometimes press a button to ring a bell or trigger something. As you control time, your two characters – one who can hold and put down a lantern, and the other who can interact with bells – move through the level, sometimes together, sometimes independently. The aim is usually to “catch” a light in the lantern then take it to the pedestal at the top of the island, but as time moves forward things happen to prevent this.

It’s hard to describe but considering how little control you have and how linear (albeit backwards as well as forwards) it is, it’s incredible how many ways they’ve managed to use the gimmick.

Sadly, this works against it too – with so little to interact with, levels are very easy to solve, and even though there are a lot of ways they’ve used the formula, they ran out all too soon.

A clever experience, and one I definitely enjoyed, but over far, far too quickly for the price.

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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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