PLAY Margate 2015

This weekend I went to PLAY Margate, a games exhibition which is the little brother to equivalents in Manchester and Blackpool.  It was great; many different types of games all set up to be played with, random competitions, themed areas, and stalls selling stuff.  Obviously I didn't buy anything - cough - but I played plenty.

Chuckie Egg - BBC Model B

Justine's favourite game of all time, and it would have probably been great if I could find the key to go up ladders.  The joystick didn't work; I worked out that the keys V and N moved left and right, and the space bar jumped.  But standing in front of a ladder, I tried every key and none of them made me climb.   In desperation I tried every key on the keyboard, including the Break key which obviously quit the game.  I had to quickly search on the Internet how to restart it ...

Head over Heels - CPC 664

A game I've never given enough time to, but will certainly be doing so in the near future.  I started from the very beginning and realised that without graph paper I wasn't going to make a dent on the game.

Manic Miner - Spectrum

I've always found it overrated, but that might be because I didn't play it at the time and only experience it after being used to the platforming on consoles.  Fixed jumping paths and overly tight timing isn't a huge amount of fun.

Mine Storm - Vectrex

I've never played on a Vectrex, and was very pleasantly surprised with this.  Graphically it looks fantastic, and the way the game expands on the Asteroids template by introducing enemies that move towards you, fire back, or move quickly around the screen.  The controls were very tight indeed, and I managed to reach the fourth level before losing my first - and indeed my last - life.

PGR4 - Xbox 360

They had a competition for the best time around a certain circuit.  I only managed to get within 5 seconds of the winning time - I need more practice!

Hang On - Master System

Talking of competitions, there was a more formal competition where you had to record high scores for three different games.  Hang On was the first; I'd been playing the 3DS version a few days before so thought I would do OK but the Master System game just felt all wrong and as a result my scores weren't great.  I still got 28th highest score of the weekend, though!

Kung Fu Master - NES

Kung Fu Master was the second game, which I did rather better on despite never having played before - 6th highest of the weekend, and setting a high score on the machine I was using.  It's a relatively simplistic game, but I quickly worked out that punching an enemy gives 200 points while kicking gives only 100 - so I was able to work through levels building up points quickly.

Pop n Pop - PlayStation

Again, I'd never played this but quickly got the idea.  Challenge mode sees you working on two sides of the screen simultaneously, firing balloons upwards to form groups of three or more.  It took a little while but I soon worked out how to set up combos, which gave many more points and extended my playtime.  In the end I came 8th on the leaderboards.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Master System

I played through the Green Hill Zone mainly to amuse a couple of toddlers who were watching, managing to get through without dying.  Some people say that this game is better than the Mega Drive games; they are wrong.  It's still good though.

Sonic & Knuckles - Mega Drive

As part of the same display as the MS game, they had Sonic 2, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Adventure, Sonic and the Secret Rings, and Sonic Generations - representing the evolution of Sonic.   It's quite telling that the later games - other than Generations - were being less played.  I had a quick blast through the Sandopolis Zone, which is where the previous player had left off, and was reminded how much fun it was. I may need to go and play the Xbox 360 versions some more.

Street Fighter Alpha - Saturn

Similar to Sonic, there was a display showing the evolution of Street Fighter.  They didn't have a version of the original game on display, starting with SFII on the SNES, but I chose to try Alpha, a game I've not played before.  Initially I tried to play as Final Fight's Guy, before realising I didn't know any of his special moves and losing in the second fight.  I then tried Ken, and fought through four fights, before losing when the computer used the special gauge which is something I've never quite worked out.

Crazy Kong - C64

A hilarious rip-off on Donkey Kong, which basically changed the layout of some of the levels and made everything brown.  That latter bit may have been the C64 though.

Micro Machines 2 - Mega Drive

A couple of games against three random opponents in the multiplayer arena.  I won two and lost one, which felt like an achievement given that I had no idea of the courses before racing.

Defender - Arcade

I'm not sure I've played this before, actually - it was more complex than I was expecting. I'm sure I've played something very similar but without the humans to rescue, and given that that is a central mechanic, it must have been a different game.  Anyway, I played through a few levels of this before dying.

Crazy Taxi - Dreamcast

I got an A licence!  Mainly because I did a drift into a wall and sat there racking up points for 30 seconds, half way through my run.  It's amazing how much of the map I can remember, and despite the joypad having seen better days I managed a few limit cuts on the way down the hill.

Samba de Amigo - Wii

The music in the hall was too loud to be able to play this properly (or Donkey Konga, which kept hearing the clap sounds constantly), but I can't understand why they were showing the worst version of this.  Why not the arcade game, or the Dreamcast version?  And why has this never been released for Playstation Move?

Tomb Raider II - Playstation

A few minutes of exploring Venice, which took me back to the Christmas when I got my Playstation. I still prefer TRII to the first game, even if the rest of the world is the other way around.

Super Mario Kart - SNES

I still prefer later games to this.  Mario Kart 8 is just so much better.  They actually had quite a few of these in a display, but I've played the others to death and have them all at home anyway.

Random shooter game - 3DO

An illustration of how far first person shooters have become.  I have no idea what this game was, and searching for screenshots has turned up nothing. 

It was just a bit dull.

Pong - Binatone

A game against a random man.  We were both hopeless and unable to control the bat.

Arkanoid - Arcade

And another game I was hopeless at, having lost my ability to control with a paddle wheel.  After losing the first game very quickly, I lasted a bit longer on my second attempt and even got onto the high score table.  The last position, but still.

Borderlands: stuck in New Haven

Well, there and Rust Commons.  It feels like we made little progress tonight, for once not because John spent the entire session choosing between two identical guns, but because we struggled to make progress past the spiderants and other foes.  In fact, we only managed to complete three missions, and unlock five more.  We need to increase our firepower somewhat!

Forza Horizon: completed!

As I said before, an excellent game.  So much so that it became my go-to racing game, and I've been working through it at a pretty steady pace.  About half-way through I got a little bored, and took a bit of a break (from racing games in general, apart from Mario Kart 8), but once I returned I was compelled to complete the game.

And let's be clear, there's a lot of game to complete.  As well as the overall career, where you get points from doing well in races and earn wristbands to unlock more races, you get to race against the tournament's stars, compete in street races, do PR stunts, and compete in absurd 'showcase' events where you race fighter planes and hot air balloons.  And on top of that you can get achievements for driving on every road, finding advertising signs, doing races again and competing against Xbox Live friends ...

And I've done it all.  I've actually won every race, both official and unofficial.  I've taken photos, got skill chains, increased my car collection to about 30ish, have around 4million credits in the bank.  I've even bought a Land Rover, a Mini and a Beetle so that Nicholas can play with them in free roam.

And I've just ordered Forza Horizon 2, because I've heard it's even better.

Assassin’s Creed brotherhood: completed!

I'd love to say that I became sufficiently focussed to ignore the chaff and power to the end of the story, but the reality is that I ran out of other things to do - I completed the Cristina flashbacks, and the courtesan missions, and the thief missions, and there were no more assassination contracts unlocked.  Once I reclaimed the Apple of Eden, it was pretty straightforward to the ending, with a bit of a rubbish gameplay element where you were forced to use the apple to defeat enemies rather than using the sword which had sufficed throughout the game.  I could never quite work out what the apple was meant to do - it was apparently meant to turn enemies on each other, but at times it actually killed people next to me and at other times it didn't.  There were points where there was one enemy remaining, cowering before me, but I couldn't progress until he was dead.  The apple didn't seem to do anything, I couldn't select any other weapon to use.  Eventually after enough blasts and running away and coming back, I was allowed onwards.

That wasn't the weakest bit of the endgame though.  You become Desmond and have to get the Apple from its plinth, which means navigating a timed platform bit around the room that it's held in.  Which would be fine, if the game would actually go where you told it to.  I fell down countless times because Desmond hadn't grabbed a platform he was jumping to.  Not fun.

Anyway, story over, endless credits sat through.  Was that it?  Of course not; a couple of new assassination contracts opened up, and I had collected 99 of 101 flags.  I spent a couple of hours running around the world tidying that up.  I'm not going to attempt 100% synchronisation on all the missions though - where you have to complete the mission in accordance with an additional rule (like not killing anyone, doing it in a strict time limit, not being detected) - I think that way madness lies.

So, all done.  What next?

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood: getting distracted

Look at this.

Look at it.  Every single one of those icons is something screaming "come and get me, interact, get distracted!".  This is why I have made no progress in the story for the past week, instead running around liberating Borgia towers, finding loot stashes, and recruiting assassins with weird-looking eyes.

I have sent my group out on missions, I have found people who have been ill-treated by the Borgia, I have followed courtesans around the streets.  I have taken part in massive battles, I have destroyed war machines including a handy boat cannon thing.

But more than anything I've just spent time running around and admiring the world, trying to climb towers and exploring.  I know my way around now - previously I thought it was a bit odd to have just one city compared to the multiple locations of previous games, but this way it feels much more of a solid place.  The draw distance helps with that.

Borderlands: leaving Fyrestone

It feels as if we have made a lot of progress.  We had to find Sledge, who wasn't at the top of a snowy mountain unfortunately.  He wasn't a very nice person, and we had to fight our way through a long cave to get to him, but we worked well as a team - eventually - to bring him down.  Sure, there was a bit of an issue at first when everyone sad they were ready, I opened the door and ran through, and then looked around to see John faffing around with his gun selection and Kieron looking in the opposite direction.

When we encounter one of these big boss fights, the temptation is just to split up and all use specialisms.  Kieron does love to go beserk.  Where the battle against Sledge worked well was that the limited size of the arena meant we couldn't do that, so I threw down my turret near to where John was and helped to heal him while he was shooting Sledge in the back and I was throwing grenades at him.  His health went down pretty quickly.

We also cleared off all the other side missions from the Arid Badlands, including the Circle of Death.  I have no idea what happened there - I died after two rounds (with John desperately trying to heal me but to no avail), and everything seemed to reset.  We left the arena, John faffed around with his gun selection for another four hours, then we went back in - and then after killing three skags it told us we had won.

So, we're now in Dahl Headland.  We've invaded Lucky's compound to rescue him and powered up the fast travel network - but we've not been much further than that.  It seems a bit scary out there.

Assassins Creed Brotherhood: there’s too much to do!

I've no idea why I started playing this, other than just fancying some climbing and sneaking action.  For someone who hasn't played previous games in the series, it must have been horrible, with hundreds of game mechanics introduced in the first ten minutes.  For me, who's completed the previous two games and rounded up most of the collectibles, it was bad enough - I could ignore the movement instructions but had to learn the new building upgrading mechanisms, Borgia towers, tunnel system, and then over the next hour or so learn about recruiting assassins and sending them to do jobs around Europe, opening up buildings for the thieves, mercenaries or courtesans, and finding bits of aqueduct that had fallen down.

All of which seems pretty superfluous to the main story, and means I make little progress.  I've just finished sequence 5, after many hours of playing, and the lack of urgency isn't doing the game any favours.  I am more interested in finding the viewpoints and liberating the city from Borgia influence than I am following the plot - all I know is that the people I didn't kill at the end of ACII still aren't dead and people still want them to kick the bucket.  Oh, and the glowing ball has been stolen again.

It's a quality production, and the city of Rome has been well modelled (although it feels a little small compared to the multiple locations of previous games).  I think soon I will run out of stuff to do in the areas that have been unlocked, and I'll be forced to continue with the story to open these out.

Completed – Ghost Recon Future Soldier

The last mission took us quite a few attempts because the enemies kept on running away & we had to hunt them down either within a time limit or could not let them run away.

For the few quid it cost us in a 360 sale it's been a decent co-op game in the gameplay element, even if the story is your typical American Oorah bullshit.

I enjoyed the co-op play in tagging enemies & going for timed sniper kills.

We swiftly move on to Borderlands Pre Sequel which I expect may well be our last Xbox 360 PMG game.

Forza Horizon 2 – Nissan GTR

I was hoping I would have more time to enjoy Forza Horizon 2 this weekend but I only managed to complete a handful of events. Enough though to purchase the Nissan GTR and apply some upgrades.

The game did on a couple of occasions freeze the 360 console whilst loading up the menu or rewarding me with credits. Thankfully it did not lose any progress or corrupt my game save.

Simple things I take for granted on the PS4 like share a screenshot or upload a video to youtube I really miss on the Xbox 360.

Did not get a chance to play much else except the Destiny raid effort yesterday evening. I did watch the PS Experience Keynote on Saturday which was very impressive with lots of new games to look forward to in 2015.

New Game – Forza Horizon 2

Thank to a £10 refund from Amazon & a Black Friday deal, I managed to purchase the game for £12 on the Xbox 360. Yes I know the game is better on the XB1 console but I'm not spending £300 on another console so the 360 version is fine for me to enjoy.

I only managed to get as far as installing the game to the 360 Hard Drive before I had to hand over the controller to the kids to enjoy whilst I done some household chores, so not had a chance to fire it up yet but the kids have been enjoying it.