Virtua Fighter 2 (PSP): COMPLETED!

Sort of prompted by the Virtua Fighter article in the current issue of Retro Gamer, when I opened up Mega Drive Collection for the PSP – on my Vita – I decided to play this.

It’s crap.

No, it’s really pretty awful. The animation is terrible, the controls are unresponsive, and the implementation of the game on the Vita/PSP is woeful, with horrendous slowdown and sound syncing issues.

It looks nice. But then everything moves and you wonder what the hell Sega were thinking when they thought the Mega Drive was a good fit for a Virtua Fighter 2 port. It didn’t have the oomph to push enough polygons, so they rendered the animation frames with sprites instead. Leaving a poorly animated version of the game and awful sprites that are laughable beside Street Fighter II or even Eternal Champions.

I completed it as Jacky, by the way.

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Virtua Fighter 2 (PSP): COMPLETED!

Sort of prompted by the Virtua Fighter article in the current issue of Retro Gamer, when I opened up Mega Drive Collection for the PSP – on my Vita – I decided to play this.

It’s crap.

No, it’s really pretty awful. The animation is terrible, the controls are unresponsive, and the implementation of the game on the Vita/PSP is woeful, with horrendous slowdown and sound syncing issues.

It looks nice. But then everything moves and you wonder what the hell Sega were thinking when they thought the Mega Drive was a good fit for a Virtua Fighter 2 port. It didn’t have the oomph to push enough polygons, so they rendered the animation frames with sprites instead. Leaving a poorly animated version of the game and awful sprites that are laughable beside Street Fighter II or even Eternal Champions.

I completed it as Jacky, by the way.

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Claire: Extended Cut (Vita)

I was given this, kindly, by @IndieGamerChick some time ago but only just got round to playing it. Turns out, I wasn’t really missing much in the interim.

Claire is a narrative discovery game, in 2D (unlike most which are 3D), with some nice pixel art. The story interests me, revolving around some odd happenings in a hospital. Claire is there seemingly because her mum is really not well, but after falling asleep Claire experiences some weirdness.

The hospital becomes empty, run-down, and dark. There’s a dog. Shadows of monsters flicker in the dim candlelight. Stuff moves by itself. Claire has flashbacks, or at least, what seem like them, to when she was a child. I don’t understand anything happening. That doesn’t matter.

Dark here, innit?

What does matter, is two things. Everything is dark. Really dark. Stupidly dark. Even with the brightness up full, you can’t see a damn thing. You have a torch, which barely helps. The pixel art might be the most incredible pixel art ever created, but you can’t see it because it’s too dark.

The other thing, is the map. Long time readers might recall me complaining about the 3D map for a 2D game problem that Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate has. Basically, you’d sometimes enter a door on the left, and this would put you on a different plane and so left was now down not left. Or something. Well, Claire suffers from the same thing. Navigating from A to B is hard enough anyway (too dark to see the doors, half the doors don’t open) without throwing illogical directions into the mix too.

Especially since where I am currently, I need to find a nurse in Paediatrics. You’d think that’d mean the nurse’s station, right? It’s labelled on the map, and signposted (if you manage to see them) on the wall, so you’d expect that. But no. Instead, I have to wander the entire hospital blindly (both literally and figuratively), not knowing if some of the rooms on the map can’t be accessed or if I just haven’t figured out how, or missed the door in the dark.

And not really much less dark here.

What I’m saying here, is that Claire – for all of it’s interesting points – is a frustrating chore to play. So I’m not sure if I’ll bother any more. And that’s a shame.

As an aside, and this isn’t the game’s fault at all, but my Vita is a crashy, broken, pile of crap. It’s lucky if I can manage an hour without it crashing. It’s not the memory card, and the error messages are generic and mean nothing. What this means is, that my desire to play Claire is reduced even further as a result – you can’t save at any time, yet my Vita could kick me off whenever it fancies. Sigh.

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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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Lemmings Touch (Vita)


Lemmings Touch

What, you want me to expand on that? Erm. I’ll try: Lemmings Touch utterly ruins how Lemmings works by reversing the order you command your lemmings. In the proper, unbroken and excellent games, you click on what you want a lemming to do, then click on one or more lemmings to do that task or become that sort of lemming. It’s intuitive and it works. In this game, you tap on a lemming then a circle of options comes up and choose what you want that lemming to do. It means that for every lemming you want to make a climber, you have to tap the lemming then the climber icon. What’s the difference? Try making ten of them climbers.

Then they added evil lemmings to the game, which you have to prevent from getting to the exit.

Lemmings Touch
Or don’t bother, and go and play a different game instead.

Look, it’s just rubbish, OK? And it was a day late on PS+. Burn it.

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Hatoful Boyfriend (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_o1tnzmdqoj1svmpf2o1_1280When I looked up how long a game this is, I read it took about 8 hours to finish. So imagine my surprise when I reached the end credits in about 50 minutes.

Afterwards, it became clear that I got just one of many endings. Presumably my choices affect which bird I end up becoming close to, and since I spent all my time choosing the library, I got Nageki’s ending. Nageki who was… a ghost. WoooOOOO! Oh, spoiler. Sorry.

tumblr_o1tnz2bg5k1svmpf2o1_1280Yes, I was “getting close to” birds. Mostly pigeons. In school. And no, I wasn’t a bird as well – I was a human girl who lived in a cave and considered themselves a hunter-gatherer. Look, I didn’t come up with the game’s concept and quite clearly whoever did was dropped on their head as a child because even within the bizarre realm that is Japanese dating sims, Hatoful Boyfriend is elephant grade nuts.

Click to view slideshow.

I expect I will play it again for other endings. Because I happen to like elephant grade nuts.

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Thomas Was Alone: Benjamin’s Flight (Vita): COMPLETED!

image It has to be said that there were two things harder than the actual game itself, but related to the game itself. Number one: actually getting the damn game to load. I had to download the Benji DLC again, restart the Vita, and sacrifice several virgin goats just to get as far as the menu screen. Number two: actually figuring out how to play the DLC. Turns out you have to choose to replay a scenario and then pick Episode 10. Which isn’t listed as Benji DLC. Ho hum.

imageOnce in the game, it’s short and sweet with an abrupt ending that made me think I was missing some more levels. Not that it really matters.

Benjamin adds a jetpack ability, making his levels a bit faster and floaty than in the main game. It also seemed to make things a lot easier, and I rattled through the lot in just over half an hour. Not including problems with getting the game loaded and restarting from two crashes. Anyway, it was worth the 60p or whatever it was I paid.

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Grim Fandango Remastered (PS4/Vita): COMPLETED!

Interest started to wane the closer to the end I got. Puzzles continued to make less and less sense, and even the interest with following the plot was becoming difficult as it was taking longer and longer to solve the puzzles so the story was frequently put into stasis for long periods.

By the end it had become so drawn out I’d forgotten half the characters and the secretary, Meche and the woman from the hipster club all blurred into one. Then Celso appeared and confused me further. What I’m trying to say, is either have the great, funny story and a simpler or less difficult route to progress it, or stick with convoluted and obtuse puzzles and have an easier or more straightforward storyline. Or something.

Things were hampered further by playing the final year or two of the game on my Vita, where it crashed frequently leaving me stuck in scenery or completely kicking me out of the game. On another occasion I was supposed to pick up a grinder with a hand in it, but it wouldn’t let me until I’d quit the game and reloaded an earlier save. I’d also put down the Vita’s smaller, lower res screen (compared to the PS4, I mean) as cause of much annoyance when searching for a body in a meadow in the final section of the game – you can’t see a thing as everything is too small – but since I’d already had similar problems earlier on the PS4 (the sign in the wood bit) I can’t.


Items generally were fiddly to deal with. There was no way of accurately “activating” scenery, so often looking for items or clues turned into a Duke Nukem secret room style search, only without the HNGH HNGH WHERE IS IT. It was so easy to miss things, even when I was being helped (I didn’t use a guide, but did have a hint FAQ and Twitter at my disposal) simply because things were virtually invisible or you had to be pixel perfect to use them correctly.  Could I not cut a rope with my scythe because I’m in the wrong place? Or I can but not yet? Or it isn’t time yet? That sort of thing. Even objects you’d managed to pick up were a pain to choose from your inventory as you have to cycle through them all in what appears to be random, and ever changing, order one at a time.

tumblr_o1s0jhbhcz1svmpf2o1_1280I suppose back in the late 90s on original release this interface and 3D graphics style were still in their infancy, and later similar games rectified things a little, but for a game almost universally acclaimed as a classic falls way short simply because of the unnecessarily clunky interface – ironically an interface that seems designed to do away with the unnecessarily clunky interface of earlier titles like Monkey Island with its verb/noun point and click system. It’s a shame they didn’t improve the input method when they improved the graphics for the Remastered version. Oh wait! They barely did that either. Aside from being slightly less jagged and with altered – but not necessarily better  – lighting, the different between old and new is barely perceptible. In fact, at one point I’d been playing it for over an hour after accidentally putting it on “classic” mode before I realised.

Still it was funny, and I did, mostly, enjoy it. I just can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that it’s nowhere near as fantastic as I’d been led to believe. Shame.

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Geometry Wars 3 (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nr6uffdgpu1svmpf2o1_1280Like the awesome but mostly ignored Wii version of Geometry Wars, Geometry Wars 3 (which was a free PS+ rental this month) has a great single player “adventure” mode. Each level takes one of the main score attack modes and requires you to beat a certain score or clear a level in under a certain time with the rules of that mode, or perhaps with no smart bomb or extra lives.

In addition, every so many levels, there’s a boss (which is a new thing in the series, I think?). All the bosses are superficially the same, consisting of a large gemstone type enemy who periodically drops its shield while spawning standard Geometry Wars enemies and occasionally rushing you.

tumblr_nr8p4yjb0x1svmpf2o1_1280It all feels a bit like a “best of” Geometry Wars, really. It has the stuff from the first two games, and from the Wii game, and then nicks a chunk from the also excellent  Nano Assault Neo by setting many of the levels on the surface of a 3D shape rather than on a flat plane. As you progress through Adventure mode, the score multiplier Geom items also act as currency with which to buy or upgrade special weapons and drones.

Frankly, it’s superb and my only issue with the Adventure mode is that the final boss is a massive, massive difficulty spike. I easily spent as long attempting that single level than I did on the previous 49 levels combined! A single life and multiple “phases” and attack patterns, along with insta-death walls did not make it simple.

Tearaway (Vita): COMPLETED!

When Little Big Planet was announced, there was a lot of excitement over how innovative and clever and creative it was. And it was all those things, and it looked fantastic and everything. Then we all realised that it was just a platformer with horrible physics and a rubbish, game breaking and unnecessary third dimension. The fact that virtually all of the user made levels don’t bother with any level depth speaks volumes. Despite the lovely narration by Stephen Fry, it was ultimately disappointing as a game. A game creation tool, flawed and awkward as it was, great, but an actual game? Pretty but broken.

As a result, my hopes were not high for Tearaway, the Little Big Planet team’s followup. It’s all arty and stuff, this time going for a papercraft theme rather than fabric, but the creation side of things is heavily toned down. To the point where there is no level creation at all, and you’re restricted to little more than putting stickers on things. What I’m saying, is they removed the good bit of Little Big Planet to focus on the bad bit.

Perhaps this focus will pay off?

Well… no. Not really.

In Tearaway, the levels are all properly 3D now, like a standard platformer. You can move your cute little personified envelope, Atoi (or Iota if you choose a boy) around freely, jump (although not initially), roll to attack (again, not initially) and so on like you’d expect in any other similar game. These standard controls are augmented by horrific additional controls throughout the levels, in increasingly complicated and finger-twisting ways. Stand on a “Playstation shapes” pad on the floor, and you can tap the back panel of the Vita to jump. Yes, there’s already a jump button, but this is a different jump, made slightly more difficult because it uses the back panel.

Except that some of the “Playstation shapes” pads are for pushing your fingers “through” from behind, not for jumping. This feels fun when you use it early on, ejecting the “Scraps” baddies off the screen, but when you have to move Atoi at the same time, holding the Vita starts to become a little harder and accuracy on the back panel suffers. Other times you poke your fingers through to move blocks or activate mechanisms, again not an issue unless you need Atoi to navigate at the same time – and worse if you have to jump or roll as well.

As you wander through the great looking paper worlds, your own face gurns down at you from the sun in the sky. Much like an episode of Tellytubbies. At various points in the story you (as in, You) pop up, always slightly looking off to the side as the Vita’s camera isn’t central. Sometimes you’re asked to take pictures of things in real life to use as textures on things in the game, which seems like a great idea but – like many mechanisms – is underutilised. Other times, you have to take pictures of objects with your in-game camera, to colour them in (which unlocks a real-world papercraft version for you to print and make, which is quite sweet), add difficult to draw features to, or record a bit of your journey. It’s never really clear why you need to take so many pictures, although some are occasionally used as mainly background graphics later in the game.

To expand on the drawing aspect, which is the one creation tool brought over from Little Big Planet: It’s rubbish. For the most part, it is triggered whenever you need to put eyes or hats or badges on characters you have met (or yourself), and there are a lot of pre-made options to choose from for the cost of a few confetti (the overly abundant collectable in Tearaway). If you want to make your own, though, be prepared to be annoyed and disappointed. The primary issue is having to use your finger as a stylus. Accuracy is out of the window immediately, hampering your ability to complete a “loop”, for example joining all sides of a square up correctly. If the loop is incomplete, you can’t “cut” the shape out. Additionally, the way you have to choose, cut and stack other pieces of paper is fiddly beyond belief, and two fingered rotating and resizing once you actually start placing your creations on a model is frustrating beyond belief. Eventually I avoided creating anything where possible, and did the bare minimum when forced.

As Atoi and the story progress, you’ll meet lots of fun characters and have some humourous one-sided conversations. There are loads of great graphical effects with bits of paper flapping in the breeze and the landscape folding and unfolding like a pop-up book. There’s a lovely section where you make a pig friend and then take him for a ride, with a reprise late in the game which adds some twists. There’s a scarecrow with a pumpkin head who you give a recording of you roaring to, and he uses it to scare, uh, crows away. A section where you’re chased into the screen by huge monsters who increase in number, only to find out later on they’re quite harmless and actually help you. A little frogmonkey creature who becomes your companion for a while, eating his way through paper balls that block your path. A plethora of memorable moments, sadly tainted by so many other moments that are memorable for the wrong reasons.

Like the time you have to walk along a wall (on some glue or something) but as you walk the camera moves so you have to adjust your heading. Which would be fine, only you also have to stroke the screen with your finger in a vague way to make extra bits of your pathway unfurl, struggling with unresponsiveness and often accidentally triggering previously unfurled rolls to furl up again. Or the entire section where you have to use the Vita like one of those labyrinth ball maze things to roll a messenger around while at the same time navigating Atoi on a different path while also prodding both the front and rear of the Vita to activate buttons and switches all while not being able to see properly where either you or the messenger is.

Or one of the numerous platforming sections where falling off the small ledges makes you plummet to your death. In other games, the 3D spacial depth perception is assisted by your character having a shadow to show where you’re going to land. No such thing here, not that you’d have time to spot it as you’re busy poking the damn screen again to reveal the jump pads on later platforms and fingering the rear panel to bounce you off your current one. While using the left stick at the same time, while the camera moves of its own accord.

Then, after the first two main “stories” of the game, you’re given a new, personal story. “It’s experimental,” says Daddy Pig (who cannot be heard as anyone but Daddy Pig, which actually detracts from the immersion in the game). “Expect it to be weird”. By which, they mean, rubbish. They ditch loads of excellent bits they’ve already hardly used (the accordion and combat, in particular), add loads of tilty-Vita bits, more hard-to-judge platforming, and a whole pile of rolling along paths. There are hardly any characters to interact with either. It feels like Team A had finished with the game and passed it on to the work experience kid to add another half an hour’s content but without letting them have access to 50% of what they’d already created. Perhaps if they had finished it properly it wouldn’t have been so damn short either.

It is a shame, but it seems Media Molecule had a lot of great ideas. Where they went wrong was putting them all in the same game. With, for example, Super Mario Galaxy, there is a massive well of creative gameplay ideas that somehow it keeps drawing from for the whole game, reusing what’s great but never letting anything outstay its welcome, and always cohesively bonding the lot together. Nothing is out of place. In Tearaway, what works great is never exploited enough and some editing should have removed what didn’t work. Nintendo weave ideas together, Media Molecule have missed how this is done and just thrown everything into a big pot hoping it’ll mix well, and it hasn’t. The game changes too much as you play, becoming so many different types of game as you progress, and not in a pleasant form of evolution. Shoehorning motion and touch controls into games is something Nintendo is often accused of, but with this game Media Molecule take that to an unnecessary extreme, removing the fun along the way.

Ian Malcolm has a relevant quote that fits well here.