A collection of reviews that can be written by anypony! Generally it's done and overseen by Tyro The Fox but anypony is welcome to write up an article reviewing anything they like. Games, movies, Youtube videos, poetry, Fan Fiction, almost anything.

You could do an article on a brick, I suppose, but I can't vouch for anyone being fascinated by it.

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  1. [​IMG]
    Kill La Kill

    Me and anime have a rocky relationship. My usual thing is computer games. In fact, computer anything is good, according to me. But I also love a little expression and picking apart media and you'd think that deciphering the code of accepted tropes and things in another culture would be interesting for me.

    And, it is but...I think I'm one of these people that needs to take the effort to watch Anime. I have to sit down. I usually pick subbed Anime and so, I can't try and multi-task like with other shows I like. I would have to be paying full attention so I can read the subtitles and understand what's happening. Plus, I haven't come across a show that sounded absolutely perfect for me right from the get-go.

    Anime just doesn't interest me as much as games or computers or yammering on and on about fine details in media. I just associate it with a lot of effort. There's the culture, the fact that these things are not aimed at a viewer with my sensibilities or cultural background, and so on.

    So, take it as great praise that not only did Kill La Kill grab my attention, but it also get's a recommendation from me. This is an expertly crafted show with some stunning action along with some good comedy coming from a cast of fun, likable characters. The show is awesome and I couldn't be happier to have watched it.

    At least know I recognise who's on all the WeiB Schwartz cards now. Ah yeah! WeiB Schwartz! That's a review for another time...

    To do that review without mentioning 'Spaceballs' or do so every five sentences? Hmm...

    OK, stop me if this sounds familiar.

    Ryuko Matoi is a school student that is out for revenge after her father was murdered. The only clues she ehas is a gigantic scissor blads that the killer was carrying as well as the blade left sticking out of Ryuko's father's chest. She is now using this sword as a weapon, tracking the clues down to Honnouji Academy; a school that has been turned into a dictatorship by Satsuki Kiryuin, the daughter of the owner of a huge clothing company. The school dishes out special clothing called 'Goku Uniforms' which grant superhuman powers to anyone that puts them on.

    Satuki reveals that she might know things about Ryuko's father's death but will only tell if Ryuko beats her way through the rest of the super-powered student body. Initially, she's beaten badly but a strange, talking sailor suit appears and forces itself upon Ryuko. It gives her the power to fight back and maybe, just maybe, be worthy in Satsuki's eyes to hear the truth.

    And in between all of that, a little goofiness.

    Now, this is a criticism I've heard that I do agree with to a certain degree: this doesn't sound like anything ground breaking or new. In fact, it's very familiar to me.

    Enter Bleach, the comparison for this review. Now, I've seen enough to get how it runs, how it sees the world and where it's ever likely to go. It's an enjoyable show that, arguably, went on for far too long. Lots of action, lots of fights, lots of shouting. Fine, fine, fine. OK, good.

    Kill La Kill for a large chunk of it's runtime treads those same beats for the first 12 episodes. For that time, Ryuko is learning her abilities. She's getting a feel for her limits and figuring out what she can and can't do in her new, highly revealing super suit. Fine, OK. It's an important step because we learn as she learns. We get a grounding in the rules of her abilities and exactly how she stacks up against the other characters.

    That's cool. Even better, a lot of fights are won by interesting tactical decisions. One used the energy that was expelled during Ryuko's transformation into her...'battle form', I guess, to cause enough damage to an opponent that couldn't be hurt from the outside. Another had her cut a piece from her own clothing to cover the many eye-holes in a suit of armour, rendering the then opponent blind. There's some clever ways these fights are won and, I did enjoy rooting for Ryuko throughout.

    Bleach? It always felt like Ichigo (the main character) was simply managing to gain strength from screaming at the top of his lungs. While the show does come up with a few interesting methods of victory, both for heroes and villains, the majority feel cheep. More on the merit that there has to be a show after this rather than intelligence or strength on full display.

    It doesn't help that Ichigo is probably one of the more block-headed of protagonists that seems to tackle problems by simply butting into it with more force rather than an alternative.

    Kill La Kill makes every fight count. Even a few of the goofier ones, they're there to make an impact. Each fight is for a reason, even if it's just to show that no one at this school will mess around! They are going to beat you into the ground if they have to. They want to keep their status and they're more than happy to slap down some uppity girl in some lewd costume.

    And, I enjoyed that way, waaaay more. Bleach teases things out to stretch over hundreds and hundreds of episodes. What should have taken twenty minutes takes an hour! What should have taken an hour could take an entire arc to solve! I enjoyed the characters, tone and universe perfectly well but we got such long stretches of barely anything in between the highlights!

    Kill La Kill is only 25 episodes long including the OVA and it's so taut in it's storytelling. Nothing is wasted, yet you get so much out of every episode. There's not really any filler. Every episode does something for the story at large. There are slower episodes where nothing appears to be progressed, yeah. But they're here for both character development and breathing room.

    Dear Celestia, does this show need it's breathing room!

    The animation makes it very damn clear that every action can pack a wallop powerful enough to level a building if it wasn't hitting another equally powered up character. It's so energetic at all times when it needs to be, it's incredible. School students are going flying, explosions and rubble. I'm amazed there's a school left after some of the things these characters do in one bout. Sure, some thresholds of certain characters do get bent and altered here and there but I never felt insulted that they did it. I noticed it, like how Ryuko probably shouldn't have been able to stand up to certain attacks, for instance. Or been able to continue on at full force all of a sudden. There's a little bending here and there.

    Like randomly managing to gain transformation abilities somehow. But, eh. It looks awesome!

    Although, it does put me in mind of Bleach's blatant and near constant plot armour. Yes, I get it: these are magical ghost samurai. They are composed entirely of spirit and so, damage to them in this form isn't exactly fatal as they're not only immensely powerful but they're able to increase this power through force of will. Fine. It doesn't make it as entertaining to watch.

    Kill La Kill has stakes. And they are often clear and very high. And they are raised gradually over the 25 episode run as the nature of this world and the show are revealed to us. It's gradual but it means we get to enjoy the characters. We get to know them and build a rapport. We can actually care so that we can root for the good guys!

    Bleach in comparison, is glacial. It's pacing becomes hideously indulgent as it languishes in it's story. It's a larger show, sure, but time is not always used all that effectively. There are entire filler arcs where the attention and momentum of the main story is suddenly cut away to something else entirely.

    At one point, Ichigo and his friends could be fighting an entire group of hideous monsters, trapped deep within their desolate lands, far away from any help.

    Then suddenly, the writers were bored of the tense action and we get to hear about some princess for another twenty to thirty episodes. Those episodes could be fantastic but to throw them in the middle of things when everything was getting good just kills the fun for me. It's not letting me 'cool off a little', it's murdering my built up interest stone dead.

    Look! Bleach's Narrative Pacing has put a bit of a lick on! Look at it go!

    You know what? I loved Kill La Kill's character's too. Yes, they're largely nothing special and have been seen before. Ryuko is a strong willed tomboy with a good heart. There's Hōka Inumuta, who can be summed up as 'The Computer Geek'. He's only interested in data, not fighting. Ira Gamagōri is a huge, fearsomely loyal mountain of muscle that acts as the school's big disciplinary. In fact, it's even a little strange that he's somehow still in school...

    But there's tweaks in the characters. Sure, Satsuki is cold and dominant across anyone she meets but the level of ineffable confidence makes her powerfully striking. Gamagōri's utter devotion to the rules of the school are hilarious in the lengths he will go just to follow them. Ryuko questions things and shows a range of emotion rather than simply abject gruff or endless mopiness despite her character set up. Heck, she's even emotionally broken down in a few places but for completely understandable reasons. She doesn't grump about nothing.

    And there's two character's that stick out in my brain, mainly because they both can't help it.
    One is Nui Harime. Now, here's a picture of her, then I'll tell you about her:


    Oh wow, do I hate this character. Not because she's annoying but because she's so expertly crafted to be detestable. Nui acts generally cute and playful all the time, regardless of the situation. Whether she is killing someone or having tea, she keeps that childish smirk about her. She is psychotic in the extreme. A worrying girl that derives an unsettling fascination with inflicting pain. To cap it off, she is extremely powerful. Attempts to fight her are usually met with defeat at her hands. It's as if someone on the creative team hated Kawaii characters like her in other shows then meticulously tweaked and sculpted her character to be someone you wish would just die already.

    I cheered every time it looked like she was hurt. Considering how powerful she is, it took a long while before any damage she took stuck. But it was soooo worth it...

    The second character is Mako Mankanshoku. This character forces herself into the spotlight (literally) and doesn't leave you be. But boy, does she manage to win you over.

    For starters, she's just so adorable in her own way. Her own interpretation of what's going on in the show made me giggle. What she comes up with is completely wrong but she doesn't have all the facts so she just manages to cobble something half-plausible out of what she can guess. My favourite is her reasoning on why Ryuko talks to the sailor uniform she get's her powers from (who gets named 'Sanketsu').

    She just spends her time in her own little world.

    In her head, Ryuko has no other real friends except herself and has taken to projecting a personality on her only uniform. She talks to it because she's lonely. What makes this so adorable is just how staunchly Mako defends Ryuko's relationship with Sanketsu. Of course, girl and living uniform are actually able to communicate perfectly well through a link only they can share but Mako's frantic defence never fails to make for a funny scene.

    Heck! Consider her trademark move to bust into any scene she wants just by raising her hands over her head, crossed over each other with the 'Hallelujah Chorus' playing over it for some reason. Mako gatecrashes scenes just to inject her own skewed perspective and it's almost always tones of fun.

    You know what's awesome? Mako gets her own Goku Uniform and it makes her look bad ass! She kicks so much bottom in that thing, making her go from a strange, unathletic character to a completely capable fighter in a sweet flatcap and coat!

    She even has spikes, something to chew on like a leather clad Tom Sawyer and an armoured popped collar. So cool.

    And...Yeah, another comparison to Bleach and it's mainly in one character from that which fills a similar role. In Kill La Kill, Mako is Ryuko's best friend and lifeline when she get's too upset or frantic. Mako is always there, willing to risk everything just to ensure that Ryuko doesn't blow her top, damaging anything around her. Not to mention herself.

    A similar character would be Orihime Inoue from Bleach. She has a similar role, as a supportive team member that is able to heal her friends. She's almost always on hand to fix up her friends, especially Ichigo, whom she seems quite enamoured with.

    I despise Orihime. Never have I encountered a character so useless and helplessly frail in all my years of watching shows or playing games. No one has come close to how offensively irritated she can make me feel.

    Yeah...No. Whatever you think will change my opinion won't change anything.

    And it's not because you're seen as just a medic.

    My issue is her agency within any story she's in. For some reason, Orihime has a collection of fairies (I'm not kidding here (OK, they're more likely 'spirits' but it's not how I remember them described)) that will obey her commands. They reside within her hair-clips and will do whatever she wants. She appears decently powerful in her own way.


    Orihime has a dislike of violence and fighting that really doesn't ever appear to come from anywhere other than she doesn't like it. She's more than capable of fighting if she needed to as her powers allow her to not only heal herself but also protect herself with magic shields or slash through an enemy. It's just that she will not do anything to protect herself. Or improve her combat abilities, even in a self-defence manner. She holds back, she doesn't push herself to become better and apparently I'm supposed to still like her.

    Her passivity got to me the most when she was kidnapped by Arrancar (which a sort of powerful evil spirits that resemble humans). Now, I know the lives of her friends are threatened by the big, powerful meanies and she's right to be concerned.

    But she turns herself in without so much as a fight. Or even a plan. She's just allowed to be whisked away because the plot says so. Even though her friends are all stupidly powerful spiritual fighters that would likely survive an onslaught by these clowns. She gives in so quickly. No notes, no cryptic clues, no left behind items, no indication of a single thing to try and signify that she was in need of dire help.

    And how about the fact that she spends the rest of the arc as a nurse to the obvious villains, who treat her as little more than a pet? She just heals them, never bothering to try and get a message out or something.

    They're not holding her all that securely. Couldn't she just wriggle out or something?

    She even contemplates coming up with a plan but then shoots the idea down herself in favour of letting Ichigo save her.

    I dunno about later episodes but that was all I wanted to know about her.

    Mako? Mako is just fantastic. She takes on monsters by herself, fuelled only by her desire to not let Ryuko down. She puts herself in the way of danger again and again and again for Ryuko. If she is getting too hotheaded, she's there. If someone is insulting Ryuko, she's there. If someone is attacking anyone she cares about, she'll do something about it. She is even offered everything she could possibly want if she defeats Ryuko and eventually refuses.

    Mako has agency. Mako is a side character but she's not worthless. She does things. She's actively contributing to things. Heck! She can even do a little healing since her father is a back-alley doctor.

    And Drive Bys! Don't forget them!

    There is one other thing which a few people might consider a bit uncomfortable. This was something I had no issues with but the amount of naked characters or character's showing off some skin is pretty high. If you're uncomfortable by having so much ass, man chest and tits on display, then this show will not give you an easy ride.

    Don't understand it myself but OK.

    But I do want to state one thing: I do not believe this is Fan Service. Oh no! Fan Service is a bonus. An extra. It's the creators giggling as they nudge you in the side going 'Eh? Ain't that worth paying for? Yeah? You like it, I know it". It's unnecessary.

    Fan Service?

    Nudity is a clear and heavily central theme in Kill La Kill. So huge that trying to divorce the nudity from it would actually harm it. In this universe, clothes are power. Clothes give people power despite a somewhat corrupting influence if they cannot handle it. They are potentially dangerous and there are people that have been rebelling against them for years.

    They are honestly called 'Nudist Beach'. Apart from some ammo belts and pouches, they don't wear a stitch on them, on principle. They're the reason for so much nudity as well. It would be hypocritical to wear clothes unless you had to. Furthermore, there's actual reasons for why the outfits Ryuko and Satsuki are wearing in the top most image of this review are so revealing. I can't go tooooo far into them but they do fit.

    Not everyone can pull it off...​

    It's nudity for the sake of theme. To have purity against power. They milk it for a comedy but none of the moments of bared flesh was sexual, really. They spend too much time explaining why it's all necessary to really focus on titillation.

    So, this get's a big ol' recommendation. It's big, it's kinda daft but it's heartfelt. It sucked me in. I would totally adore a Scissor Sword now and, I totally get the appeal of this thing. It looks stupid but there's a brain in the show. It's usually looking to snark but, it's still there.

    Watch it. It's relatively new so, I'm pretty certain it's on one of those Anime Streaming Sites. Definitely recommended.
    Vulpine Script bro hoofs this.
  2. [​IMG]
    My Little Pony: Collectible Card Game
    Absolute Discord
    First Impressions

    (I warn you, this is gonna get very technical, despite my best efforts to explain what I mean for new players so, bare with me. I know probably waaaaay to much about this game. If you have any questions, please pop them in the comments below and I'll endeavour to answer them. Otherwise, a quick Google search might help.)

    Because I am a hugely selfless and thorough reviewer, I went ahead and signed up to spend an entire day getting to know the new card releases of probably my favourite card game. I spent the whole day playing a draft tournament, getting excited with all the rare and ultra rare pulls my group experienced over the course of the day and got to know all about the new mechanics and cards on display.

    And then, because I'm just that selfless, I did it all again the next day. Only with chocolate milkshakes topped with candy floss. If there's anyone here who's well equipped to talk about this stuff, it would be me.

    OK, Vulpine Script (a.k.a Foxytail) was there too but you don't see her with a review blog about pretty much anything relevant so, it's down to me.

    And Dilly Star is currently on Magic so, it's still me!

    Look, pull up a chocolate rain and I'll let you all know about how I found this new release.


    MLP:CCG, for those not in the know or simply enjoy having this stuff explained to you like a cult mantra (like me), is a card game rather unlike other card games of it's type, something a lot of Pony Inspired games seem to share. Instead of the intent of the game to defeat your opponent in combat (like Magic: The Gathering, The Pokemon Trading Card Game, WieB Schwarz, Yu-Gi-Oh and Vanguard (as far as I can figure out of that game, anyway)) in systems that simulate different forms of battle, the Pony games I've played have been very different.

    The MLP: CCG is a race to be the first to score 15 points. You start off with your Mane Character which is able to be 'Boosted', often to become more powerful or gain an ability, and a problem deck with one card flipped to face up. In order to score points, players must use their Main Character and friends to confront problems or defeat troublemakers or win faceoffs. The first to 15 Points wins, the other guy get's to mutter death threats under his breath.

    The game becomes more complicated when you consider not only how to get those 15 points but also, how to prevent or slow down your opponent's characters attempts to score as well. Up till now, there's generally been a few accepted characteristics unique to each colour to indicate how they play.

    Purple Characters are excellent at control, being able to move opponent characters around or apply special effects to Problem cards.

    Yellow has generally been seen as having plenty of cards that are easy to play to the field as well as gel well together. Yellow is also able to dismiss opponent resources.

    White cards are able to impose taxations to character movement, edit the opponent's deck using the ability Inspired or utilise resources to either grant more abilities to a character or score extra points unexpectedly.

    Blue cards are usually able to move around the field cheaply with the ability Swift as well as be able to 'frighten' characters which incapacitates them until a penalty is paid.

    Orange cards are able to generate great amounts of power to be used to complete problems. Orange resources can both power up cards as well as heavily de-power an opponent's characters.

    Lastly, Pink cards specialise in disruption, usually through being able to dismiss opponents cards to the discard pile but they are also excellent at recovering from a bad flip in a face off with the ability Random.

    Yes, I know! It does sound kinda familiar.

    Notice any patterns there? Well, guess what? One of the key aspects of any successful deck is not just the consideration of how to score points but also, how to screw over your opponent's characters as hard, and as efficiently, and as powerfully as possible. There are honestly entire decks I have seen, and built, designed entirely around the idea of smacking your opponent's chances of winning down with as much force as possible.

    For a game based on a show about friendship, there's plenty of pure deception and cruelty encouraged in this game. And it just makes me love it more.

    For example, Foxytail once built a deck that I like to think of as 'The Friend Machine Gun'. Foxy's usual play style is dismissal and she decided to take advantage of the ability of one of the Pinkie Pie Mane Characters. The Canterlot Night's Pinkie, when boosted by fulfilling the requirements on the start side, allow her to dismiss a friend at the cost of one of her own friends at a problem if she is able to confront said problem. So, Foxy filled the deck with as many cheap, easy to play friends as possible with the sole purpose of sniping the opponent's forces one by one every time she scored a point.

    I've managed to build a deck I like to call 'The Miner Beat' deck because of it's unique ability to gain power from both drawing cards to my hand and dismissing them to the Discard pile. It's Mane Character is DJ Pon-3 because of her useful ability to draw an extra card at the cost of exhausting her (which means she cannot move or solve problems while in this state) as well as cards that allows me to six cards at the cost of shuffling my current hand into my deck. The secret here is Twist, who gains +1 power for every time you draw a card. Using various cards to continuously draw cards from my deck into my hand, it is then possible to inflate little, geeky-looking Twist to somewhere around 20 or 30 power on her own for the duration of that turn.

    Truly hilarious.

    So,Who looked at this character and said to themselves "Yes! Almighty Powerful in the right hands! Perfect!"?

    And that's only two possible examples I could give without going on forever about this stuff. There's Princess Decks, Crystal Decks, Fashion Decks that can get hideous amounts of power just by attaching resources to them, Villain Farming Decks that spend the entire game trying to defeat monsters to gain the points attached to them, Inspired Heavy Decks that sit around picking out all the cards in the opponent's deck they don't like, Hyper Aggressive Decks that can confront two problems without breaking a sweat, Frighten Decks that can chain the action of frightening to potentially render entire groups of character's useless, Troublemaker Decks dedicated to using Troublemaker cards that function as roadblocks against the opponent that prevent them from solving a problem until they're gone, Teamwork Decks that spread abilities across characters that share traits in order to make that ability even more powerful, and so on and so on and on and on and on and on and ruddy, bloody on.

    Wow...I swear there's a 'The Elements Song' parody in there somewhere just waiting to be made...

    "There may be many others but they haven't been discovered,
    But you better pray to Celestia that my Villain stays uncovered!
    Dun-da-da-dun-dun! Da-daaah!

    The 'Meta', which is to say the deck themes and potential strategies that are valued as popular, powerful or simply 'viable' by the collective of players with play a particular game, is pretty wide and varied. You can try and speed straight for points, maximising every action or you can smack your opponent down with as big a strategic hammer as possible, laying out every, conceivable trap or required hurdle in your opponents way to get the match down to your pace.

    Some decks are built entirely around cutting the opponent almost entirely out of the equation, looking for other ways of scoring points. Villain farming and the infamous 'Rarity, Truly Outrageous' (colloquially known as an 'RTO') is able to continually score extra points every time a problem is confronted, speeding towards victory. It's a much sort after card as a result.

    Why am I telling you this? Well, I wanted to give you a flavour of how the face of the game looked like before Absolute Discord because afterwards, in comes the Master of Chaos. And he turns up, looks at all those strategies you held so dear then slaps them to the ground!

    He stomps on them, pulls you in by the scruff of the neck and says: "You're playing by my rules now!" because as far as I can see, the Meta has taken a pretty hefty blow as Enterplay came in and decided to mix things up even more than any pack that came before it.

    So, let's examine a few of these new bits and pieces, shall we?

    The first and most prominent characteristic I found while playing with these cards is that many of the abilities allow a player to mess with the board in a variety of ways. Some did it even when the opponent had managed to lockdown the board, thoroughly preventing me from scoring any points at all. New Event cards can now end Faceoffs before anything happens, cancelling any chance of winning points from them. New resources can change characters into Critters or remove the ability of a Mane Character, effectively destroying many deck strategies. And new friends can do anything from acting as a trap within a deck when flipped to stealing opponent's characters to use for themselves.

    First, let's discuss one of the bigger additions: Colourless Characters.

    A Colourless character is usually on a black card and seems to be mainly for playable bad guy characters. The advantage of a colourless character is that they generally seem quite powerful. They will still lend power towards a problem, although, they only count towards either a 'Not Power' total or a 'Wild Power' total.

    This is a Problem Card. This is where you score points. The thing at the top with the upside-down 5 is a wild power, meaning that 5 of any power is needed to confront the problem. Along the bottom, is a symbol meaning 2 Pink and 2 'Not Pink' are needed to confront the problem and gain points. Makes sense? Good.

    These Colourless Characters have one issue: they don't count towards any colour requirements. Some cards need a certain amount of power from characters of a particular colour on the field in order to be played. Colourless doesn't help you out there but does still allow the player some options. Plus, some of the abilities of these things are quite brutal.

    Holey Moley! Dive! Run! Fleeeee! They're not only invading, but they've teamed up! Save the Children! Help the Aged! Water Aid it all up in there!

    Ol' Cheese Legs and Flamey-Eyes are now playable characters! And they're damn powerful too! They also happen to be very cost efficient, as your getting at least three power for your three action tokens spent! Sombra over there even has the possibility to become hideously powerful, permanently. That is horrifying to contemplate playing against, the only comfort being that these are just two of the ultra rares released.

    Although, there was another few ultra rares that shows that Enterplay are starting to have a bit more fun with what they're putting in decks now. Behold!

    Proof that Enterplay is beginning to take the mickey a little bit.

    While nowhere near as bad as some of the bizarre Magic: The Gathering Joke cards, here's a couple of rare cards that show that there's something of a sense of humour driving some of the decisions in this game. First, we have Gummy, getting it all real'd up (?). It's certainly a powerful card. While it's relatively expensive and probably designed to be played very late in most games, this Gummy is able to negate a card that's clearly more powerful than anything else there. That just makes it hilarious as some strategies rely on overpowering some cards till they can just steamroll problems.

    Need I mention my 'Miner Beat' deck? This would cause it problems.

    The other one there is, oh yes! It's Slendermane, taken right from what I imagine to be an easter egg within the show somewhere.

    And yes! The card can cause you to loose your game right there and then! It's a wonderfully cheep card that grants three power for one action token but I've heard of no one that wants to use this card because it can pretty much end you automatically.

    How? Welcome to the new Keyword Mechanic being introduced: Chaos.

    Chaos only enters play when a card is flipped for a faceoff. If a card that has been flipped for a faceoff bares the Chaos Keyword, then the instructions following the keyword are followed. This can mean granting extra power to a character to exhausting, dismissing or even frightening a character involved in the faceoff automatically. Now, on one hand, they're pretty interesting. The ability to load your deck with traps that could be set of, devastating the face of the game with a lucky break could become a highly valuable strategy. With cards with abilities that allow a player to meddle with their own decks, they could plan ahead then gain the advantage when that flip comes about. It could be an ace up the sleeve.

    What else, what else? Well, we got new Mane Characters to play with. While I'm not totally versed in all of them yet, I did get to see at least two in action.

    "Look! Look at all the ****s I give, right here in my hand! Ho-hoo!"

    Guess who got to be a Mane Character? Yes, the Discord Mane is surprisingly powerful, even thought it doesn't look like it. However, it's able to start the game with 3 power, pretty much solving all requirement problems any player would have in Pink right off the bat. Very good, very nice. The issue is that Discord will flip over at the end of a turn if the opponent played two or more cards to the field. This makes Discord a little...awkward to use. When flipped, Discord's power is reduced to 1 and can't flip back over until the player controlling him plays two more cards. While it's not entirely a deal breaker, it does require attention as a low powered Discord could effect scoring points or winning a faceoff, simply by being weaker.

    But, the flippant nature of this card is given some reward for using him. Discord has the ability to look at the top, unrevealed card of any problem deck. Because of Discord's design, he appears suited perfectly for Aggression Decks, as he can allow some very powerful Pink cards onto the field almost immediately. But, Aggro is useful if you know what problem is going to flip next.

    Firstly, you'll know where the biggest amount of points lay. Problem Cards have a number of Bonus Points that's awarded to the first person to confront it. Planning accordingly so that Discord's forces can get there first in order to snatch up those points when that problem is revealed can be crucial.

    However, Problem Cards also have abilities of their own. Some do simple things like boost certain cards, allow players to draw from the bottom of their decks or gain action tokens. But some will force players to dismiss characters or require that at least four characters are present before a problem can be solved. A Discord Deck can see that coming and use it to it's advantage. One deck managed to force a problem to dismiss my cards when I wasn't expecting it then move in to solve the new problem that had just been revealed.

    Sneaky...Very Sneaky.

    Despite what the show might tell you, every MLP:CCG player can tell you that Fluttershy is a menace in this game. Every single Fluttershy Mane is potentially devastating.

    Now, I am a guy that loves specialising in Troublemakers when I play this game. For many reasons. One is because being able to plonk powerful roadblocks in front of my opponent, stopping them scoring is a wonderful idea. My best deck is not only chock full of troublemakers to play but also, cards that can make them all the more powerful. On top of that, it has a very strong draw chance that while not perfect, does allow my troublemakers to become very powerful little monsters.

    This Fluttershy Mane has been causing a bit of a stir. For starters, it's a Fluttershy Mane that focuses on Troublemakers, not Critters like the others tend to do. This one, as you can clearly read, nullifies Troublemaker Abilities when boosted.

    "Neat! Something to fight against Troublemakers my opponent puts down. Handy." No! Well, yes but there's more to it! For you see, this Fluttershy can now do far more than just disable most Troublemakers. This ability is far more versatile than it looks. For that, we need to show off a few of the new Troublemakers. Because, hoooooo boy! These guy's do not mess around!

    It looks like she's one step away from picking up the Limp Bizkit CD.

    Da-naaaahhh! The Discorded Mane Six are now Troublemakers. Twilight here being a pretty strong one to play in the right circumstances. Perhaps against a Crystal Deck that gains power from how many colours are present across the field. Still, the best part of this is how guilt free this card is. One Bonus Point for a 6 Power Troublemaker? Sure, it might be all the opponent needs but effectively sticking a single, measly point on a Troublemaker that powerful is a little needless. Still, it could be because of just how situational her ability is.

    But if you want no worries, all out horror Troublemakers, then how about this:

    I kinda want to see a cop show with these two now. 'The Hoarder and the Grump', on at 7, only on HBO.

    Yeeeap! The one on the left is a Troublemaker without a Bonus on it. Meaning that you can throw it out regardless of anything and, you shall be fine. You don't risk any points, you get to draw a card. Thanks to this Rarity, this could be an entire turn, at least, where your opponent is stymied. All for a single action token.

    Oh! And that Pinkie on the left? One of the most powerful Troublemakers in the game now. I am dead serious. There were players using that card which had managed to get that Pinkie to around 10 power in three turns. Some ended up with power 30 troublemakers and it just kept getting more and more powerful. Some decks are even built around the idea of card draw, so powering up little little madam just became that much easier. Shocking.

    But, I bring things back to Fluttershy. Remember her new, shiny ability concerning Troublemakers? Well, please look at these two cards.

    The best part of playing Troublemakers, seeing the opponent wet themselves a little. In their soul.

    Both of these cards, in normal play, likely wouldn't be around for long. Applejack there even seems kinda useless as she would just depart immediately but, it can be very useful for messing with the opponent, making a move that much more impressive when you put down two Troublemakers, looking to royally screw over that opponent's day. However, Applejack, The Liar is actually quite a strong card. Same goes for Spike over there which, in normal circumstances, would be able to extort two Action Tokens from an opponent, or it sits in their way. Most likely, the cost would be paid.

    Enter Fluttershy. If it's there when the Troublemaker is revealed, it looses those two abilities. This means that both cards, as long as Fluttershy was there, would remain in place. Applejack wouldn't depart and give you back the Action Token, Spike would not give the opponent an ultimatum. Both would just turn up and stay there.

    Even better, both have no Point Bonus to win! So fighting them is fruitless other than to gain progress. That is pretty sweet. Just being able to go 'Aaaand, I'll just leave this here!" is priceless. Completely priceless.

    But, there's another string to her bow. It concerns Villains.


    Lord Tirek is one of the new villains we have. It's quite powerful. It can gobble up cards, growing stronger and stronger. The Villain Keyword, means that it frightens all characters at it's problem when it flips over.

    The new Fluttershy is the only card that negates that. It even negates the whole 'Eating Ponies to Become Stronger' thing. It's hideous otherwise but kindly Fluttershy can totally disarm it. This counts for all villains. Fluttershy simply does not get fazed when fighting these things, making her an excellent Villain farmer. Because no cards are being frightened whenever she tries an attack because she negates that Villain's ability, she's then able to defeat them far easier.

    Ordinarily, Maud Pie would be used as she can be boosted up to a mighty 7 power by discarding cards. For each card type in the discard pile, she'd grow stronger. This brute strength is now somewhat rivaled by the technical prowess of Fluttershy. It's quite interesting.

    Still, I'm continuing to learn what exactly is possible with the new release of cards. There's meant to be other new Manes, like the Nightmare Moon Mane that can frighten opponents, joined by cards which gain power for each frightened player on the field. Very interesting, very powerful.

    I might be back when I've tinkered around more. But for now, I think I need to write that parody song.

    "I hope you've been taking notes. The essays on 'Why RTO Decks can go to Hell' is due in 15 minutes."
  3. Ugh...


    Broken Age - Act 2

    My word. After the several hours I put in trying to sit down, play through the entire game as it was apparently intended and then come to the end screen, I can't believe my overall emotions for this game were just:

    "Oh...That's it? Surely I missed something. I mean, there's still, oh! No. Right..."

    There is so much simply left out to tie up. And it's just left alone. Shay and Vella don't get a culminating moment that seems applicable to their characters. In fact, it seems like an entirely different game compared to what I just played.

    Are we sure I didn't play some beta test version or something? This made it so that the Mom Computer, a genuinely fascinating aspect of Shay's life that both freaked me out and kept me thoroughly engaged, now was actually always a real person.

    So...Then, doesn't she know he's being driven nuts? Can't she seriously not see that? She spends so long with him!

    Vella? Eh...Her story was always the weaker of the two. It was good but it doesn't quite hold as much kick as Shay's. Even so, there was a delightfully twisted aspect in how the maidens were being fed to a massive monster.

    And then there's an antagonist, who is clumsily added in. Some weirdos with messed up DNA? It's too late to care when they're hastily thrown in only a few hours before the end.

    Oh! And they're apparently just left alone. They don't really get addressed or anything at all.

    A fitting metaphor for trying to get through his story.

    Oh! And the sodding puzzles! So much Robot Rewiring, which happens to be clunky, fiddly and, for the first of these puzzles, idiotically set up.

    OK, so there are these Hexagonal Robots that perform certain tasks. They're programmed by how they're wired up and certain combinations of the three wires you have at your disposal will make the robot perform an action. For one puzzle, Shay needs to wire up a robot to fix things. However, the solution isn't anywhere in Shay's part of the story, but Vella's. In the background of a small photograph.

    Now, when I found this, I felt like a damn badass because now, I'd solved one of the puzzles. Especially considering, it had gotten pretty damn frustrating to do anything in that point in Shay's storyline. But solving one puzzle still didn't relieve the feeling of dread and irritation that I hadn't any other ideas on how to solve the other puzzles in the area.

    I actually felt quite miserable playing through this as soon as the second half kicked in. I couldn't figure out half of what was expected of me. Nothing seemed to logically fit. I genuinely tried scanning high and low for any new items I might have missed along the way.

    But nothing helped. Nothing salvaged this. The two main characters melt a couple of space ships, forming a bridge then the pair walk towards each other. Then smile.


    Fitting for how I felt at the end of this game...

    Well...Don't I feel ripped off. Not as much as it's Kickstarter Backers. I'm sure but what happened. There was a wonderful set up and this just doesn't deliver on anything. It's all ignored or swept away. In it's place, annoying puzzles...Super. Annoying. Mind-Bogglingly Tedious. Over-Long. Puzzles.

    My advice, the First Half is great but only play that half. The rest is something of a betrayal that I'm still disappointed and baffled to see come to my screen. I adored the game initially and was confident in the second half, when it came. Can't we just go back to that? Let Double Fine take a mulligan on Act 2 so they can do it properly this time?

    Yep! A short one. It is this uninspired.

  4. Slightly Obscure Sonic Games

    You have no idea how hard this was to make. Well, more time consuming really...Getting my little body to shimmy around was kinda time consuming but I hope the style worked out for the best.

    Thinking of doing more of these. What do you think?
  5. Ah...Usually I'd write this like a conversation between me and console but I'm not feeling it this time. Ah well...

    The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

    The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is considered one of the best games ever made.

    Except that it isn't. It's pretty good but it's age has resulted in it's actual flaws becoming increasingly apparent. People with a little more clout than me have tackled that, like a certain internet animator, let's player and thing shouter.

    But, my issues with the Ocarina of Time are mainly around the disconnect between exploration and combat, puzzles and some obstacles are often infuriating because they're often placed out of the immediate field of view but is very rarely built around the required freedom of viewpoint needed, some enemies spend way too long waiting around while impregnable to attack, the time travel mechanic that allows the player to travel between one time and seven years in the future is relatively shallow in it's use so feels mainly like a low rent Dark World only there to push the plot along and the plot itself is now kind of basic. Lastly, there's a lot of Lore but it doesn't impact the world so much that you need to know it.

    So, there. Otherwise, pretty good.

    Some rants on this have been catchier than others.

    Majora's Mask is better in almost every single respect, as far as I can figure out. But I have to stress, not all of them.

    The reason for this is that Majora's Mask was a game that was rather obviously cobbled together from assets from Ocarina of Time, something that has been recreated in this new 3DS update after Ocarina of Time 3D came to the console too. Likely borrowing bits and pieces from that recent Remake.

    And yet, even though it's kind of cobbled together Ocarina Loaf, it's just a better game and experience than any of the 3D Zeldas I have played. Better than Ocarina, better than Wind Waker and much better than Twilight Princess.

    Although, I have no idea about Link Between Worlds as I'm pretty sure that's a 2.5D Zelda. Right? It's my favourite over all but it's a little awkward in that respect. I'll stick with 2.5D.

    Anyhoo, Majora's Mask holds up because it's just that much better at both it's identity and it's gameplay for the most part. Sure, it's reconstituted Ocarina at it's core but it refines and alters itself, adding more spice while even cutting some of the fat. It's far more tasty than Ocarina of Time which was probably stunted a little from some of the wilder ideas they had just to ensure they could actually build a Zelda on that scope on the new shiny hardware.

    According to what I've heard concerning the CD attachment and worries over whether the N64 could even run a game that big, it's quite possible there was plenty of compromise just to create a little breathing room.

    "We spent months making a console look as presentable as possible, designing it to look great on a shelf. Now we're going to ruin the form factors and simplicity of our designs in order to add on CD support, even though our current console is dying and it'll ruin the look of a well known device." - Every Game Company In The 90's

    So, what plot was created to justify such hand-me-downs?

    Well, all we know is that the Land of Termina is doomed. However, only Link and his new...acquaintance seem to realise it. After being mugged by The Skull Kid wearing a powerful and strange mask called 'The Majora's Mask', Link is dropped into Termina as a Deku Scrub. He's transformed back by The Happy Mask Salesman but only if he can return The Majora's Mask to him before he leaves.

    He leaves in 3 days. Funny thing is, you have that long until Termina is destroyed. In fact, you kinda have that long to do anything. Luckily, by using the Ocarina of Time, you can rewind those three days and re-spend your time doing what you need to do. So, you must use all you can to save Termina from the vengeful but childish Skull Kid, else the power he selfishly wields destroys you.

    So, that's interesting. No Ganondorf, no Zelda. Just Link, young Link I should add, wondering around a new world. This is a unique story. I like that. Primarily because this one has a big thing it's interested in here. One of the extra spices that was added to Majora's Mask was meloncoly. Termina is a seriously weird place. Despite everyone about to die because of the Moon that is always right, bloody there and is now, somehow, even more unsettling to look at! Ahem, not a single soul seems to be all that bothered by the imminent crash landing of a gigantic, scowling celestial object.

    To be fair, almost all of them are embroiled in some issue that, to them, is far more important. Deku Scrubs can't find their Princess and are executing an innocent monkey because he was around. The Gorons are caught in a miserable blizzard that threatens their way of life. There's a Zora band that have a Vocalist who's lost her voice after having her eggs stolen by pirates. And then there's a curse of darkness over the once thriving Ikana Canyon, making a miserable and desolate place to be. Then, slap bang in the middle of these places is clock down, where everyone is determined to be normal even through, as said previously, there a god-damn Moon the size of a city scowling down on them like it's escaped from Soul Eater! However, not a single person is concerned. Life as normal.

    Go on! Tell me I'm wrong!

    And yet, there is a theme that permeates everything. That extra spice that makes this black sheep of the Zelda games that much darker. Those who've finished this already know but for those who don't; the game is mainly about


    I'm not kidding. The ideas surrounding grief, dealing with loss, passing on knowledge to the next generation, leaving a legacy, the concerns of the deceased concerning the living they love, even manipulating the memories of the dead or even using altered perceptions to solve issues.

    I'm not kidding, there are tons of puzzles that require you to pose as another person to proceed. It's both strangely intriguing as a mechanic and oddly melancholy that they'll fall for the powers of a simple mask to readily.

    Now, level design is excellent. Sure, they're kind of the same locations of Ocarina, as there's a 'Forest-Like' area, a 'Water-Type' area, a 'Mountain' and a 'Desert-Like' area to explore but Majora's Mask remixes them to be not only distinct from Ocarina but from each other. You never get lost because you always know exactly which part of Termina your in just from the music and feel of the place. Zora Bay is bright and on the beach while Ikana Canyon is filled with Gibdos, Ghosts and is pretty much desolate rock as far as the eye can see.

    Even better, each new temple and dungeon is distinctive. Woodfall Temple is dark and overgrown, trees have punched through the place and seem somewhat integral now. The Great Bay Temple seems more like a water treatment plant than a 'Temple' in how it's pumps and pipes snake through the whole place. The best part is how challenging these places are. There's barely any handholding. You either do it within the three day limit or you try again.

    You know what? I like this. It's been ages before a game actually challenged me. It's part of the reason I loved Puzzle Agent so much. Sure, it was mainly just an excuse for a really weird plot and puzzles but I genuinely love that game for both elements. The puzzles are taxing and while hints are plentiful if you seriously want them, they're optional. No serious moon logic, everything is laid out in front of you.

    You don't know weird before you play this to the end.

    Majora's Mask is mostly the same.

    While puzzles are usually a matter of having the right thing at the right time, there's plenty of instances where Majora's Mask straight up doesn't tell you anything. Y'see Puzzle Agent gave you all the information you could need to solve a puzzle. Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask are in three dimensions so solutions are often hidden from you and need you to look around. Often, its a little annoying if you miss something just because it was on the ceiling without a telegraph of any kind. Majora's Mask isn't as bad as Ocarina in this respect but there are a few places where this horribly annoyed me.

    The one being when you're expected to hit an icicle with an arrow to make it fall in order to smash big blocks of ice. Not intuitive but it makes some sort of sense. Providing that you notice it's there then think to try to hit it with the bow and arrow over the Deku Scrub's bubble attack.

    The inexcusable 'puzzle' is trying to get into the Pirate's fortress in the Great Bay.

    You see, there's three forms Link can take from the use of his masks: the Deku Scrub, the Goron and the Zora. The Zora is the only one who can swim underwater for as long as you like. The Zora is the only one that can smash through a wooden barrier that blocks your way. The thing is that no one mentions how to get through. Punches and kicks do nothing. The Zora's barrier form does nothing. Swimming at it does nothing. The Lens of Truth does nothing. There's no point to using any items as most are disabled in Zora form, so no bombs. Plus they don't work underwater. There's no type of underwater bomb either.

    How to you get in? You roll into it.

    The one time I can't have Iron Boots, I want them. At least then I could kick the barrier down!

    What?! Are you kidding me? This is the thing: no one ever tells you that rolling into wooden things can break them open in the Zora Form. No one suggests you use the move in order to save someone as practice or even draws attention to it. While underwater, you have to be L-Targeting and need to have a small run up to smash into something. It's not obvious. It's not even something you could guess at unless you spent days playing with it.

    It was something noticed though. It's a problem and it was addressed. My issue is that rather than adding anything from a small tutorial to a line of dialogue, they added a built-in walkthrough.

    Inside the Clock Town Tower, there is a giant Gossip Stone you can crawl into in order to gain hints and such. Well, by 'hint', I mean it will show you exactly what you need to do in order to enact the next step. I understand it. After all, some people will want a little help. The game is very old and isn't built with modern ideals in mind so there's a few archaic puzzle ideas in there that some players might get stuck on. However, I'm of the persuasion that this is a little bit lazy.

    Like, why not just fix the issue within the original game? For the example I cite, why not add in a small situation where someone is caught behind a wooden plank or under a box. That way, the move gets introduced to the player as, unlike anything else the Zora can do, it's way too cryptic to figure out without prompt. Even I had someone flat out explain how it's done just to get it to work.

    One mechanic I think is awesome is the aforementioned masks, on the other hand.

    That's the thing! It's like a point and click adventure with more swords. You bring a thing to person or another thing. In this case, you're expected to use not only items but your masks. These have weird effects where the usually total blank slate that is Link, is now able to assume the role of many different people throughout Termina. In some cases, the masks themselves will impart new abilities onto him. The Mask of Smells makes him smell things like a pig. Some will allow him to lead small animals, some imprint a dance on him that he can perform at a moment's notice. Some don't do anything but mostly, they have some use somewhere. The trick is figuring out where and when.

    Heck! Part of the puzzle is figuring out where and when each mask can be obtained in the first place.

    This doesn't even touch on the three transformation masks you get that literally transform Link when he wears them. In an effort to make this one of the most startling games I've ever played while still managing an E rating over here, each transformation looks horribly painful as they morph Link into their respective forms. And what varied abilities too. On top of their ability to fool certain people into believing you're actually the person the mask represents, they grant special powers of that form.

    What's wrong with scarring the crap out of kids? They've had it too easy for too long. Doctor Who has been slacking in this regard for almost a decade now. Zelda can help.

    Deku Scrubs can use flowers to fire themselves into the air and gain height as well as bounce across water.

    Zoras as mention, can swim and breathe underwater. For reasons forever unknown to me, Link can also fire two of his fins like boomerangs that are also able to travel through walls. Uuuhhh...Kay.

    The Goron is able to walk in lava. He is also the most powerful hitter. In a straight line, he's also the fastest as he can roll into a ball and speed away like a cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and a bolder.

    With their powers combined, these forms are used for each of the game's five dungeons. Each one doesn't take too long if you figure it out. They do follow the usual formula where you travel through a dungeon, pick up the doodad then use that to access the rest, like in Ocarina. While it did start to drag in that game, I didn't mind it much in Majora's Mask. Mainly because each dungeon was over quite quickly. They're short but it means they don't outstay their welcome with pointless and annoying over-designs or irritating fetching. They're very straightforward in comparison, making them just a little bit more enjoyable. There's no need to cram stuff in, just work on good design or decent puzzles. A little bit goes a long way.

    And really, I can't say too much without ruining it. It's a good game. It's inventive, decently flowing and very morbidly entertaining. Your the hero, yes, but you're not the saviour of this place. You're the guy looking for a way to give it a little more time. That strikes a chord that no other Zelda game has managed yet. Other games had their dark moments but they were countered with joy and the thrill of exploration. Termina is far more miserable despite it's happier tones. It stands apart from the others and I had a greater attachment to Termina than Hyrule. In any of it's forms. Termina felt more flawed and more real. There were people unhappy everywhere because of their own little problems. It felt like a few days in the life of some bigger story, my part being so insignificant that no one ever noticed me passing through it. And yet, I am pivotal to it's survival.

    It's charming and haunting. It's so engrossing because it tries to encapture the soul of a real facet of life, blowing it up into a land for you to explore. I've gone through this land myself, or some form of it whenever people in my life have died. Termina has a grounding that speaks to me.

    So much so, that I feel more heroic and accomplished helping a ranch hand fend off ghosts than defeating the Lord of Evil. And I felt three times as guilty whenever I failed.

    Seriously, watching little Romani get carried off into the night sky frightened me to my core, even though we'd had one conversation. She's not real and I freaked out when I saw her get beamed up.

    It's got it's hooks in me. And I wish Nintendo would try something like this again.

  6. [youtube]U3C_ssoeIc0[/youtube]
    [size=+1]Let's Re-Play Thursday #1[/size]​

    First recorded 20th of March.

    Maaan, am I always so boring doing these things? OK, I have a few good lines but having to listen to yourself for hours and hours...Yeesh! Still, I was wondering about the length. Is this too long? What do you guys feel?

    Otherwise, go nuts. I'll have to try harder with the next one.
  7. [​IMG]
    [size=+1]More Weird Drinks[/size]​

    Well, this ought to be fun.

    Because I'm a weird bloke, I like to wonder into strange places and picking up some of the strange and unusual from the shelves of shops. Some are things you could likely find anywhere. Some are in places like Cybercandy in Brighton, which is a cute little place that stocks everything from Lucky Charms to an entire range of Reece's Peanut Butter things to Doctor's Orders; the Chocolate Bar flavoured like Fish Fingers and Custard.

    So, here's a nice mixture of both what anyone in the UK could find to some things which might look familiar to things outside of Ol' Blighty.

    Cog Curry Wurst Energy Drink

    I'm sure your waiting for me to exclaim that this is equivalent to Satan's excrement. It's an Energy Drink that is supposed to taste like a German Curried Sausage. Something that's covered in sauce and spicy. Something that can savage your throat as it rolls down.

    Wouldn't you just love a carbonated version of that? With all the spice and vigour of the sausage itself! Something you could use to kick yourself into high gear!

    The verdict is...It's OK. Which is a little boring...

    I can't recommend it to anyone but...It's OK. If I had to drink a another can, I wouldn't be too upset. Granted, Monster tends to be a better flavour than this stuff but that's only because the curry flavour makes this more of a sipping drink.

    It's a weirdly smoky flavour as the translation to soft drink is made. In very small sips, I grew to like it. But you cannot chug this stuff without getting the full brunt of the flavour, of which is vicious in large amounts. This German drink probably wouldn't find much of a following here where spiciness seems to split the country down the middle. It's more peppery than spicy as they seem to try and add sweetness.

    It's a peculiar experience. Probably only for weirdos like me.

    Dry Cucumber Soda

    Speaking of things that seem appealing only appealing to weirdos like me...

    Cucumbers barely have any flavour. They're a fleshy, watery vegetables that don't really taste of anything, yet aren't particularly offensive. They're generally sweeter and more agreeable than most other vegetables. Try thinking of anyone that doesn't like cucumbers. Your likely to find few.

    So, why is this stuff so disgusting? There's no flavour except carbonation in this stuff, making it only have a few variations of flavour that make it only marginally distinct when compared against Tonic Water. Carbonation seems to overwhelm almost everything cucumbers are adding to the drink. This stuff is genuinely hard to throw down your neck. I expected to find that I wasn't supposed to drink it as is and should have mixed it with something.

    Perhaps a nice gin? Or a whisky? Like I said, it's so close to Tonic Water, I have the impression the 'Dry' bit is to hide the fact that the flavouring appears to come from whipping one down the side of each bottle. Unless you like Tonic Water or have some spare gin, avoid.

    The Sopranos Chianti Soda

    This is one of the few TV show tie-in things I've tried. I've also seen some blue rock things in shops that links with Breaking Bad. Might look into that and the TV show one day but for now? Chianti.

    Which is a wine from Tuscany. Apparently, it doesn't go with Liver, despite what a certain movie would tell you. That is honestly all I know about it. Other than it's red. And made from grapes.

    The soda? Well, despite a slight after-taste of what I thought might have been a swimming pool, it's actually pretty good.

    I have no idea on the translation from wine to soda but I don't care. I drank this after trying Curry Wurst Energy Drink and Dry Soda. It was blessed relief that this was very drinkable. I'm not sure if I would by this on a regular basis but, I would like to try a little more.

    It's just sweet enough to be pleasant but not sickly, so it is pretty refreshing. If you like weird sodas, give it a go.

    Grace Aloe Vera, Mango Flavour Aloe Vera and Strawberry Aloe Vera Drinks

    Aloe Vera is a plant that's been used in things all over the bloody place. Cosmetics, remedies, bog roll.

    I'm serious. At the moment, there's toilet roll you can go buy even though there's no scientific benefit what so ever. Some have suggested there's something to do with better bowl movements, although that could be because the stuff is toxic in decent doses.

    So, when there's not only one drink but three variations of it from the same company for a plant that I only really knew you could wipe your rear end with. Drinking it seemed bonkers.

    Having sampled some of these drinks, they're not completely bonkers but I can't say they're anything but a fancy juice thingy. Allegedly, one bottle is 100% of your expected intake of Vitamin C, which...I guess, they have to have on there and tested or else face the judgement of Trading Standards so...I suppose it's legit.

    Give scurvy a bloody nose with these things, apparently.

    Original flavour is just straight up Aloe Vera flavoured juice with bits in it. For some reason, the stuff is swimming with Aloe Vera gel chunks that seem to retain a little bit of the original plants hair. The result is a beverage that tastes like a fruitier version of strawberry pencil sweets with parts of an unfortunate tarantula mixed in for added vigour.

    The sensation of the bits in your mouth is weird. Unlike anything I've drunk or eaten before. Not a deal breaker, especially for those looking for a healthy alternative to whatever you were drinking and have an aversion to water.

    Mango is basically Mango Juice with added Aloe Vera bits. The Mango tastes fine, even with the globules of added plant. Strawberry is roughly the same. They taste like what they're meant to. Albeit, an artificial version but, it's definitely mango and strawberry.

    If you feel you need some extra vitamin C - and by 'extra' I mean a sodding boatload - then it might be worth looking into. They seem to suggest it's a good alternative to energy drinks to fight of tiredness and I feel remarkably OK and continued to all day, even after an iffy night's sleep. While a pound for a bottle seems a little steep, you might enjoy it.

    Just don't go in expecting orange juice. It's probably more for health food nuts than the Coca-Cola crowd.

    Septimus Spyder Medieval Brewhouse's Wild Hedgehog

    The drink is not bad. It's a herbal kind of thing that's pleasant but not overpowering. Some may consider it somewhat weak, like carbonated fruit tea but this was actually quite nice.

    It's the bottle itself that baffles me.

    One, it's the only drink I have ever brought where the bottom of the bottle is covered in a layer of wax. Why? I have no earthly idea. Does it lock in flavour? Was it encased in wax then suspended from the ceiling? Does it help stay on the shelf? Why, oh why, does it have wax around the bottom of the bottle?

    And it came like this. Is it a wine thing? Did someone spill a candle on it by mistake? What?

    Sadly, the guff on the side is kinda dull. Apparently, it's a drink made from 'Gruit' a herb and spice mixture that dates back to medieval England. So, it's the drink of choice for battle reenactors for that authentic, druid-y taste. And even this is a source of Vitamin C!

    Sorry Scurvy! The Druids and Drink Manufacturers have it out for you!

    If you see it, give it a go. It's a subtler drink than what you might be used to be I enjoyed it quite a bit.

    Still no idea about the wax though...
  8. [​IMG]
    [size=+1]Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8 and Injustice: Gods Among Us[/size]

    The Wii U is starting to regain some ground recently. It's a little tenuous but there is some argument for owning one of these things. Especially for me, who is incredibly lukewarm on upgrading my PS3 as it's still perfectly good at what it does. After all, the PS4 and Xbone to me are just extra powerful boxes. I'm more likely to side with a PC if I need to do something like that. Not necessarily a console. Even with long term PlayStation loyalty, there's no Crash, Spyro (in a recognisable form), Jak or Ratchet on the PS4. I'm not a shooter guy and I can't see anything in the line-up on the console that I want.

    I have a PS3. If I want dark, masculine power-fantasies, the PS3 has me more than covered. Don't care about The Order or Evolve when I have Infamous and Batman: Arkham City. It's Indie focus is pretty commendable but I have a PC for that.

    Xbox One? No, no, no! It's has no identity as far as I can see and it's only enjoyable looking game of it's own, is Sunset Overide. Call me narrow-minded there but it's not grabbing me.

    I don't mind if this is your thing, but I look at this and despair. It's not what I know I enjoy and I'm uncertain to enjoy other things of a similar light. It doesn't grab me as being a must own game. It just washes out as a big ol' meh.

    The Wii U, however? Well, there's something different to it. I genuinely thinks that it's a pre-

    "Your talking about me?" My Wii U asks, sitting up expectantly.

    "Yes...Yes I am."

    "Good things, right?" It asks. And then shuffles forwards, looking up with concern. The little guy'd been like this right out the box. Eager to please but it's confidence seemed a little shaken. I can understand that, I guess. "Right?"

    Oh, that screen. Like a little puppy. "Will you calm down and let me work?"

    My Wii U backs away, settling into it's charge stand while still looking over my shoulder. Very, very eager to see what I've been saying about it. My mild irritation with this distraction becoming apparent as I continue to write.

    "Hey!" I said. "3DS behaves itself. You on the other hand, powers yourself up for reasons you've yet to tell me randomly. Are you downloading things or just checking? It's a little weird. It's like you have to remind me of your existence every so often by whirring yourself up."

    "But it's what I do." The Wii U replies, somewhat meekly, turning it's screen from me. "You haven't played on me too much recently."

    "Well, I've been busy. It's not that I don't enjoy the games I have on you, Wii U. I guess it's that there's not too much I'm desperate to play right now. Don't worry. I'll play, just when I feel like it. I got a couple of your relatives sitting there with games I need to complete on them too. Then there's the Dreamcast, Mega Drive, PS3 and I even got Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath on my Ouya." I watch it's little screen turn in dismay and stroke it's controller reassuringly. "I'm a little bogged down so, relax. Let me work on my code, or the site and I might generate a little need to play Super Mario 3D World a bit more."

    It's about as graphically gorgeous as a PlayStation on steroids and Stranger keeps making irritating noises with every, single jump but it cost me £3. I don't think I can really complain.

    "You mean it? Because I was so worried when you played through it then just left it be." My Wii U's screen seemed to glisten with hope at that promise.

    "Yeah, I know. It's not bad, I just didn't gel with it all too much." I said, casting my mind back. "I mean, it's pretty safe as far as Mario games go. Good, but it's not like Super Mario Galaxy, which is my absolute favourite game in the series so far. It does so much with the setting, the ideas, the level design and makes everything so incredibly epic. It's a sodding spectacle. Your just so easily swept up in it. Your 3D Mario, my little Wii U, is kinda sedate in comparison."

    "Sedate!" My Wii U splutters, with a flabbergasted expression. "It's full of catchy music and thrills, gameplay, excitement and-"

    "No...Your not wrong." I jump in. "It's just that the tone is more...Arcade like. It's not really something I feel likes being played in one big lump but is pretty good to jump in when you feel like it. Tones of fun but I can't go through it for more than a few levels without getting a little ground down by it. Especially now I'm running through and 100 percenting the bloody thing. It seems geared more to be relaxing with a level or two, rather than the marathon other games had. A little like how I feel with Mario Kart 8, actually."

    Isn't it nice to see Peach doing something? Your floaty jumps are a welcome addition to the team. Especially considering Luigi's cobbler gave him the slippery shoes again and he's been scooting off the side of platforms ever since.

    "Another game you haven't played in a while!" The Wii U protests. "Come on! I thought you loved Mario Kart!"

    "I do. I just don't think it's anything more than a pretty solid continuation of the series, not anything new or remarkable other than being in HD."

    "B-but the Anti-Gravity!" My Wii U pushes again. "You can use this to find short cuts or get speed by bumping off special Anti-Grav bumpers or other racers. That's pretty cool and it means the level design can go insane!"

    I think for a moment: "Eh...Only half true. Usually, I find the gravity sections are mainly there to make a track feel less monotonous as you zoom around and around by breaking how your vehicle performs over certain areas as well as justifying why you can drive in weird places without instantly falling on your neck. And it doesn't even do that too well as it generally feels like just another part of the route, not a special shortcut.

    Now, jumping across a pit to another part of the track on the other side by way of a Mushroom, that is a shortcut. Not hopping onto a wall that the developers allow you to."

    I do kinda wonder if the Anti-Grav thing was only there to make tracks bunch up and use less space. Although, they all look so crisp and detailed, I'm not sure that would work...

    "But the gliding does give shortcuts, and there's vehicle customisation!" The Wii U seemed a little anxious to please here.

    Again, I dwindle on my time with the game: "Hmm...Yeah, you can build a kart but it's nowhere near as personal feeling as say...I dunno, a Need for Speed car you modified over the course of the game or a Gummi Ship in Kingdom Hearts. Really, your choosing a kart and what kind of tires it's going to use. Usually, your just looking to give it little slants in certain ways. Some tires handle better but some are better off-road and so fourth. If I was interested in experimenting, I'm sure it would be awesome but I'm really not. I max out my handling and try to take corners as tightly as possible on a bike. That's it. Everything else feels so weirdly similar to each other, you might as well not bother."

    "But...Why did you complete it? The save file is all the way up to the Mirror Cups."

    I smirk: "I still think it's pretty fun. All right, it's more unforgiving but damn it! It's gorgeous to look at and pretty decent at what it does. While not all the gimmicks work fully, I think the presentation and overall experience is pretty enjoyable. The tracks are fun, the music is damn well wonderful and needs to make a comeback but it's still full of content to find, unlock and play with. Heck! The DLC so far as been amazing! Cannot wait for the Animal Crossing stuff!"

    The Wii U sighs, looking wistful despite what I just said.

    "But your not coming back for more. Sorry I'm not blowing you out the water or anything...I'm trying my best! I got Smash Bros!"

    I nod: "You also have Harley Quinn exploding people with a landmine covered in whipped cream."


    One of these days, you'll realise I rarely just make these things up.

    "Well, if I might ride this gloriously laid down segue, Injustice is probably one of my favourites on the system so far." I explained. "I usually go for Soul Calibur for one-on-one battles but...Hey! This is fun and it's DC characters. It's hard not to enjoy it. A lot of them have a good sense of humour and the sense of weight to they're battles, while utterly stupid, where dazzlingly action packed. I even got some kicks out of the story mode, that was a lot of fun to watch as it followed these characters chat to each other. The interactions were my favourite parts, bar none, here. The Joker was just prating around as usual, Green Arrow has some memorable lines, Batman get's to argue with Batman and even Aquaman has a certain gravitas to him. Even though I was lead to believe he was kinda lame, here he's kinda awesome."

    The Wii U looked up: "But your not playing it regularly now."

    "Only because of the control. It's based on Mortal Kombat with a few extra things here and there like slamming opponents into the scenery. However, compared to Soul Calibur, where all combos feel more like branching pathways through a character's move set that flow into one another by moving into stances or certain moves that allow another set of options to build a combo from; this feels like a button-masher."

    I can get half-decent combos or special attacks but only if my thumbs break the sound barrier.

    I punctuate my point as I speak by pressing the Wii U's buttons. It keeps up, even if it has to stifle giggles as I talk and, apparently, tickle it. "You can only execute something by hammering buttons in the correct sequence. Some follow a modicum of common sense in terms of what buttons to press but I did find I had to sit down and simply learn the sequence to get the most out of certain characters. Some can chain hits with incredible ease, but guys like Bane or Superman, are a little more sluggish and need you to remember that button chain to succeed in landing a hit more interesting than a basic punch."

    "Wait...why did you complete it?" My Wii U asks.

    "Apart from it being a hugely expensive, ridiculous but still pretty gripping equivalent of slamming action figures into one another while making all the noises yourself and using sparklers for special effects?"

    "That story was that enjoyable. Plus, I wanted to give something else a try after spending time on three of the four Soul Calibur games so far. I figured a game where I could play as the Joker, might motivate me and, in all honestly, it pretty much has so far. I like it. Not as much as other games in the genre but it's a damn good game for the system."

    My Wii U still seemed a little bit in a huff. It sat and turned it's screen away from me.

    "Look...I'm busy. If I'm not doing site things, I'm trying to build my own games or some other project. My time is kinda absorbed by plenty of things. I will play you but you have to be patient, like all my other consoles."

    Actually as I looked around the room, they seemed pretty miffed at that too. My N64 still had Perfect Dark raring to go. My PS3 had an entire collection of Kingdom Hearts games waiting for me. My Dreamcast sighs, looking longingly at the stack of games I hadn't finished yet in their blue jewel cases. Even my Ouya - that sweet, messed up little grey box - was itching to go but instead, seemed more pre occupied with checking for updates, just to spring them on me when I thought it could.

    The only consoles not bothered where my 3DS and my Intellevision. 3DS has always been pretty mellow. Mainly, there when I wanted to hang out. We'd had the chat before so, now we were cool. My Intellevision just seemed happy to be in a warm home and not in a glass cabinet of a shop somewhere. The old codger had seen some scrapes in it's time and the rest seemed to be doing it some good.

    Then it hit me. I had a lot of games to play. A staggering amount. It was so easy to find these things now that the second hand markets were open, I'd plain ol' saturated myself with the things. Almost entirely. RPG's, racers, platformers, shooters. I had tones! I would have to play them all.

    I should play them all...And because I'm some sort of idiot, I should try getting a review out for them all...Hmm...

  9. [​IMG]
    [size=+1]PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal[/size]​

    Uuhhh...Oh man, oh man, oh maaaann...

    This is not a baaaad game. It just...it just has a heck of a lot to live up to. Even so, when one of my first thoughts is "Even I can build a better Smash Bros. clone!", you have issues.

    For those that have never heard of this: this is what happened when Sony Interactive tried to steal a little of Nintendo's thunder and have their own Super Smash Brothers Crossover game.

    Don't pretend like they didn't. It's practically on the box in big neon lights. Almost every fibre of the gameplay screams it, except for the bits they altered to avoid copyright violations.

    The plot, which is here for some baffling reason, changes between each character but the threads are rather simple. There is some sort of energy that is protected by a giant purple crystal head that doesn't really resemble anything other than they thought they had to have they're own version of Master Hand as a final boss. The characters want it because shiny shiny. They fight each other for it. Then they use the energy for whatever they want.

    That end goal for the ultimate power they just gained genuinely ranges from the continued conquest of the gods, to the acquisition of cake.

    Yeah, that's Fat Princess for you, which as far as I can figure out is like a Capture the Flag type thing except your flag is a princess and you can make it harder to have her captured by making her more and more obese.

    Wow...It's one of those moments where it's so silly and stupid, your not sure if you can get offended.

    Everything else is kinda just...there because fighting game.

    While this game is by no means bad, I just think of it like how I feel about Soul Calibur and Mortal Kombat.

    To me Soul Calibur is an excellent series. I've played a number of them and I've always found them far more accessible than the other 'One-On-One' fighters I've played. The controls are rather fluid and corispond to things that make some semblance of sense. It's battle system becomes very open and free by the fact that characters are able to move around each other as well as forwards and backwards. It feels like a real fight between two people with swords and your actions seem to settle into a decent analogue for that.

    Mortal Kombat has never felt quite as natural to me. To me, it's combo moves are rather weird. Stringing a combo together is not only difficult but disconnected. Moves don't flow into other moves like a tree, such as in Soul Calibur. Instead, it feels like every new move performed needs completely arbitrary combinations before anything happens. It's not a bad approach, I simply prefer the smooth links that Soul Calibur offers.

    You don't seem to learn combos so much as the routes through your character's move list you can take when and how. There's entire characters that are all about set up and pay off.

    So, I get the same vibe here.

    Smash Bros. at any point in the series has it's combat as tight, fast and free-flowing as possible. You have a standard combo but you also have all these different moves that are altered by pressing a direction. Linking moves is simple, even if they don't actually chain. They're generally so quick, you don't mind them acting as an independent move. But, the game is built around this, letting you rack up damage through the clever application of certain moves in different situations. It's like selecting a golf club before a swing.

    PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal (or, maybe, PSASBR) seems more set up to have each individual move chain into another move for extra damage. Combining individual moves is a bigger thing here than in Smash because the focus of the fight and it's metagame is different.

    Smash is closer to a kind of wrestling. You weaken your opponent with your attacks before performing a larger, heavier move that will knock them out of the current stage and score you points needed to win. It's simple and offers plenty of open combat. You can try to go for those heavy moves early. Or you can play defensively and minimise the damage done. You can even think about how effective your character's moves are going to be to your opponent.

    Like how Paluntena's move set suggests a strong defensive against almost any projectile based character. A good Paluntena character seems expected to stand her ground and swat projectiles around like it's a Legend of Zelda endgame boss fight.

    Good ol' magical tennis!

    Battle is centred entirely around performing special moves. There are no health bars, no percentages denoting weakened enemies and no points scored for anything other than catching an opponent in a special move.

    This is interesting but ultimately limiting. In my opinion...

    Battle does most of what Smash does. Character's have lots of moves to deal damage. Some can be combined for combo attacks and some can be repeated for special combos too. While Smash only ever gave their characters a button for performing normal attacks and a button for performing special attacks, Battle gives it's characters two special attack buttons. One is for heavier attacking moves and one for some extra abilities and whatnot, possibly to make up for a lack of a 'Smash Move' equivalent.

    You can smack several colours of snot out of anything in your way quite competently with these moves. Racking up damage is not exactly hard but we'll dive into that with more depth in a bit. The issue is how clunky linking one move to another feels. There's little fluidity here. It simply feels like they build some moves into the character and worked out combos from what they had given each character. Sure, some moves will knock a character into the air and another will hit them for more damage but it never gets any further than that in terms of complexity. Mainly because it simply can't. It makes the game feel like it has more depth than it actually does. It's a button masher, you just don't know it yet.

    Issue Number Bloody 1 I have with this game is how you score points.

    Every hit landed on your opponent garners you a percentage of a Special Meter. Fill the meter up and it'll display a nice, fat 1 next to it. This means you can now perform a Level 1 Special Move by hitting R2.

    Special Moves are a little like Final Smashes in Smash, except the game is built around them rather than being an optional item that can tip the balance of the game in your favour if used correctly. Like all other items in that game.

    Hitting opponents with Special Moves is the only way to score points and win. The issue is that every single special move is different. They all have different speeds, areas of effect, requirements, attached bonuses, that sort of thing.

    This is acceptable in Smash as knowing how each Final Smash worked didn't cost you the game necessarily. And you only had one to worry about.

    Stages aren't that interesting here either. They have things randomly pop in where they shouldn't. For example, Metropolis from Ratchet and Clank is attacked by a Hyrda from God of War. And I think a Bioshock Infinite blimp and some other things attack the Uncharted level. Lastly, Buzz hijacks the Little Big Planet level and makes you ask questions or it'll try to kill you. But the game rules render any hazards the levels have pretty boring as all of them don't cause damage, only make you loose energy. Or drop it on the floor were it can be picked up. So, they're not that devistating, in the long run as a few combos later, the penalty is recovered from.

    Still, they're pretty...And accurate to the games. Apart from when one franchise smashes into another because the developers just wanted to be contrary to as many of Sakuri's decisions as possible, it seems.

    Battle has three per character as you can fill up your bar three times for an increasingly more powerful Special Move. The third, of course, being the most powerful and needing the least skill to pull off.

    While a game based around building up meter by fighting opponents until you can finish them off with a Special Move doesn't sound too bad on paper, in practice it's kinda annoying. Opponents don't often stand still and these moves often assume that they will. Sure, they aim in roughly the right direction but they rarely allow for any sort of movement or aiming. Trying to actually nail the bastard with one of these attacks is the bane of a character.

    Some character's moves are very situational and some will only work if you happen to wait around for an item. Some only seem to work if you corner them against a wall first. And yet, some seem horrible to avoid. Jak's Dark Bomb attack will hold players in place then smack them with a large area of effect. That's tough to get out of the way of, even if you have to get to Level 2 first.

    And there's nothing else you can do. You have only one method of getting rid of an opponent.

    In Smash, your options are open. You can rack up damage but what then? Risk charging up a smash attack? Hope a good throw will launch your target far enough? Wait for a nice, hefty item? Maybe a special move would finish them off? You have a pretty well rounded amount of possibilities, making for a fleshed out set of game mechanics and player possibilities.

    Battle limits itself. Your avenues of attack are pretty bare. You have to rack up damage and use your meter. Or else you loose.

    No chance of a straying to the side and letting the others beat each other up, leaving the rest for you. No chance of stray items making or breaking a match.

    Your forced into the fray by virtue of needing the meter energy. That's not a brilliant thing when your enemies stay just as strong as they were at the start of the fight as they are now that they're aiming a rocket launcher at you.

    I would argue the characters aren't that well set up either.

    It feels like one of those fan versions of Smash that someone made in Adobe Flash. Like, they know that the moves are usually referential but they don't realise that move sets are altered to make sure they're effective but balanced.

    Think of Mega Man's Top Spin. By all rights, that move should suck. But in Smash 4 it was upgraded to become a pretty devastating running attack. And a great deal of Peach and the StarFox characters have moves entirely made up for Smash, simply because there wasn't much to work with.

    Battle has very different characters to attempt to do the same thing with. This is a game where Nathan Drake is supposed to exist in the same place as PaRappa the Rapper, for goodness sake. And yet, Nathan will always fire over RaRappa's head no matter what.

    But, the focus now is on simply causing damage and finding ways of being efficient at that. So, how about we analyse one of the character's I played as all the way through the single player mode.

    Jak, of the Jak games, is a pretty good choice for a game like this. We already know that he's very agile, pretty strong and the arsenal of weapons that he has amassed by the third game - of which this version seems to be based on - make him a pretty versatile fighter.

    Plus, Jak has this whole 'Dark and Light' power thing going on that make him stupidly powerful compared to everyone else. Either he can be a Demigod of White or a Horned Demon of Rage. Both are awesome to play with in Jak 3 (especially with unlimited Eco Cheats turned on.)

    So, lots to play with.

    Then why, oh why did they decide that Jak's only moves that are done by his hands and fists be the only four physical moves he's known for. I can understand the 1-to-1 translation of Jak's spin kick and punch to make it in but maybe as part of another combo?

    As it stands, Jak will slam forwards into a punch then uppercut, followed by an air spin kick. And that's his standard '1, 2, 3' combo but only if your pushing left or right as you hammer the Square button. Just standing still will only spin kick, nothing else. This is a move that forces Jak to travel halfway across the arena like a bull at a gate then rocket up into the air, where he's vulnerable to almost every other character in the game without leaving the ground. And it's the most accessible and simple to perform moves he has. Might as well just paint a bullseye on him somewhere if he's not OK with that '1, 2, kick' thing Mario has been doing since Mario 64.

    Yes, issue 2 with Jak's design is that he's not all that unique as most of what can apply to him and his weapons applies to almost everyone else here. The issue with the PlayStation character's on offer, is that they're variety it not all that fantastic. There seems to be a heavy bias towards character's from Shooters. Nathan Drake, some guy from Killzone, Cole McGrath from inFamous (which pretty much is a shooter, just indirectly), Issac from Dead Space, Sweet Tooth from Twitsted Metal, Ratchet and Clank; all of these guys will use guns or rockets. I mean, sure, you added in some sword fighters like Kratos or Metal Gear's Raiden as well as a few brawlers like Heihachi or Sly Cooper, but the guns in this game are still a better bet. They're range makes for a sounder bet because you don't have to be anywhere near a target to rack up meter energy.

    In Smash, projectiles were a decent if flawed approach to the game. You can use them but most projectiles don't launch enemies. So, most of them are only good for weakening opponents. The only projectiles that can launch are hard to charge up or access as well as actually fire at your target. Your forced into finding some other way with what you have to actually land that killing blow. Usually, that means moving in to fight.

    For characters in Battle, there is no such problem as you only need to hit an enemy with a Special Move to score. Usually, depending on which move your about to use, you can just rack up energy then fire without ever having to give up the distance you've put between your enemy. Sure, the arenas aren't so spacious that you can dance around each other the whole time without even trying. It's the fact that you can win by spamming moves, running away and then pushing a button that shows up the game's issues. All without having anyone come anywhere near a fight if you want.

    What would have helped Jak? Well, maybe giving him less of his guns to work with. His Blaster Rifle, yes but not necessarily his Anti-Gravity Field gun. Or the Gun that shoots a little flying saucer that shoots as it goes. Or the Needle Laser thing. A move set that was built around only a few of his guns could have been more focused and easier to string together into something effective. Heck! Most of the weapon upgrades they give you were superfluous but fun even in the game they come from. It could also have helped if they'd came up with a decent '1, 2, 3' punch combo instead.

    If only they had some example of a Gun-Focused Character in a fighting game that managed to keep the spirit of the source material but made the character balanced and interesting to play with against the other characters of the game. But where could you possibly find one of those?

    In fact, it does feel like they had plenty of ideas but not enough refinement. After all, they filled two special buttons with moves for on land and in the air.

    Ratchet and Clank have a rocket launcher and disk launcher. Neither can be fired straight forwards.

    Nathan Drake is able to summon a wall to hide behind and attack from. This masonry-based magic would have been great in his own games.

    Cole MacGrath has ice powers too, even though he's supposed to be an electric superhero. That from the sequel?

    I could go on and on about this. There's so much to nitpick. Even the selection of characters chosen is a little inadequate.

    You see, Sony, unlike Nintendo, doesn't technically own many of the characters used in their games. So, when it came to doing something like this game, they likely had a small pool of names to choose from that didn't require hours and hours and hours of debates and meetings just to have appear. Copyright and whoever holds the rights to things probably dominated the thought processes behind who was chosen to join the game's roster.

    The sad thing is, I think that Sony didn't want too much hassle unless this game was slated to be sold in the hundreds of millions, so didn't go too far to look for characters to add.

    Even so, there's plenty that should be here, if we're going for the same spirit that Smash holds. Because the PlayStations have had a great deal of interesting, recognised characters on the platform that would be perfect for something like this.

    It's Microsoft that I would be far more dubious of if they tried a game like Smash. It would likely just be Rare characters, Master Chief and Fable stuff. Hard to think of much else.

    So, why not anything from Square Enix. By this I mean stuff like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. The Disney thing would be a little tricky if you went for Sora or Riku or any of the Organisation XIII, I getcha there, but come on! Leon, Cloud, Sepphiroth, Sipher, Wakka, Balthire, Captain Bashe, Ashe, Auron, Rikku, Payne. There were plenty of Final Fantasy characters on PlayStation consoles, why not beat Nintendo to it? They made a home with Sony after the Super Nintendo ran out of steam, why not show them a little love for it?

    Just no Snow, OK?

    How about characters from Katamari Damacy? Or more Tekken characters? I know there's plenty by now. Maybe extend things out to Soul Calibur or, oooo...I dunno...


    There are three rather hefty and glaring omissions to the character roster here. And I'm sure you might have wondered where they were yourself. It baffles me that they would be so lazy as to ignore these three. Because, as a long standing fan of Playstation games, these three are what I would think of first over anything else.

    One of them is Abe, from the Oddworld games. A dark and oppressive world where you play as a little weakling, looking to use only your wits and cunning to overcome the odds. Granted, Abe would be hard to put into a fighting game but if they can make Peach and Olimar powerful characters, they can manage something with Abe.

    Be honest: How could you forget a face like that?

    Another is Spyro the Dragon. The first game was a landmark in how games like it where made for generations to come. Nothing else like it could have been made without the PlayStation exploding. They were fun, inventive and challenging. All three of the original games. Now, Spyro has been gobbled up by Activition and turned into just a side character in Skylanders these days but surely you can't celebrate PlayStation as a whole without him.

    It's like a Nativity Play forgetting to have Jesus!

    Lastly, Crash Bandicoot! Come on, guys! I know Naughty Dog don't make those games any more but did you really not think to ask them for the old Crash characters as well as the bits for Uncharted? Crash was a breakout hit that put PlayStation on the map. You would have had lines around the block if you'd had him and N.Cortex as playable characters. I can't think of any excuse why not!

    Hey Activision! Make another Crash Game! A good one this time! And properly! Not like that rush job Twinsanity got! That game was awesome. Well, the bits that were completed then stitched together to form...whatever that was, was awesome.

    Lest we forget Lara Croft or Rayman or Croc or every other game character that owes itself to this series of consoles. It baffles me that they're not in there but Sir Daniel of MediEvil is. Not even any love for Journey?! That game that was making headlines a while back with almost all the gaming press when it came out that happens to be PSN exclusive?!

    Is that really the best you could find, Sony? MediEvil is fondly remembered but he's hardly my first choice. I think I've made my first choices rather clear. Were the rights just floating around in an attic somewhere and you stuck him in when you realised your character roster looked a bit bare?

    I won't blame you if you go and Google who this guy is. I have to and I know who he is.

    And lastly, this game has paywalls. Four of the characters, only two of which I've heard of (Issac Clarke and Kat from Gravity Rush) are locked away, held for a small ransom for each one. Also, online multiplayer requires a special pass, which you need to pay to unlock.

    While it's only because I got my copy for second hand, I still don't want to pay it. I don't like this game as much as Smash. Any of them is better than this. The same level of care and detail hasn't been given to this game.

    And as such, it kinda sucks in comparison. It's had no where near the same level of love put into it. It feels too much like a cold experiment in marketting. There's touches of fun here and there but Smash is just that much more worth your time and money.

    No, it's not bad, it's just doesn't even try to measure up. I can only hope any sequels are more worth my time than this.

    Oh! The 'Not Master Hand' Spikey Head actually has some significance. This is Polygon Man, the original mascot for the Playstation when it was first released. Other characters replaced him. He's unknown outside of the US. He's the guy that fights you at the end of the 'Story' mode. It's kinda lame. You just fight more of the same characters you've been fighting so far except they're all purple and then smash the side of his head a bit. It's underwhelming.
  10. [​IMG]
    [size=+1]Freddy Got Fingered[/size]​

    Sometimes, I feel like a challenge. Y'know, something completely out of the blue to look at every once in a while. I am the guy that, on this very site, managed to write a review on the Fan Fiction known as 'Cupcakes'. I think I can take this. I actually try and watch movies like this every once in a while, just to form my own conclusions somewhat when people rant and rave about something being the worst thing they have ever seen.

    'Cupcakes' I will always consider simply torture pornography that got popular when the fandom was building itself up. Back then, I was just the random furry that had turned up, decided he'd start writing Fan Fic reviews and see what happened. I had to be careful, polite and talk about the highly upsetting content in a manner that wouldn't immediately get me kicked off the site.

    Look! At this point, I still wasn't sure if I should be more like a human or fox yet! I'm still wearing clothes! Plus, Poetic was still here. And a pony still.

    And I managed to give plus points to that fic for being decently written and effective in it's story writing. Only to then evoke Movie Bob by saying: "It's like making a solid gold Virtual Boy. Great job! Why'd you make that out of it?"

    Somehow, I feel like I'm doing that again. The only difference is that I own the site now and I'm in charge of the mods. I still can't just wave phalluses around or actually show all the gore, only attempt to describe it in a reasonable way that doesn't break the rules. In essence, a real challenge to review on this site, partly because of it's material and partly because of it's material, if you see what I mean.

    So, I have two things to say after watching this movie.

    One, in the spirit of friendly competition on this site, I say to Crimson Lionheart: Foodfight? Ha! Get on my level! Awful CGI Horrors that are meant to be appealing for all ages? Product Placement on a cynically massive scale? I got Tom Green slapping people in the face with a large sausage he's pretending to be his massive endowment. Just try and compete with that!

    Second, it's rather a general point but it sums things up nicely. Without hyperbole, it's quite simply:

    [size=+5]WHO FUNDED THIS BLOODY THING?![/size]​

    Firstly, I should explain that I am not a fan of Tom Green, the film's star and co-writer and director. I was not even aware of his MTV Show growing up and would have probably hated it. That's a guess though because I have no idea what 14-16 year old me would have giggled at exactly. I probably would have worshipped Nyan Cat as a god. Anyway, I'd vaguely heard of the Bum Song through a friend who enthusiastically showed it to me. Even his mother thought it pretty hilarious but I was just confused by it. I barely watched MTV as I have never been a dedicated follower of music and still don't consider myself one. I enjoy good tunes but I don't personally pursue them.

    And then I heard about his movie. That's won Razzies, gotten itself in enough books to outrank most serial killers in that regard and be considered so bad, it might actually be thought of as somewhat artistic at some point in time.

    The late Roger Ebert said that, not me. The weird thing is that I can seriously see his point...

    The movie is about Gord, played by Green himself. His father (Rip Torn) wants him to do nothing but get a job and earn a living then move out of the house. However, Gord is a psychotic man-child that believes he has what it takes to become an animator. He tries to get it cartoons sold in Hollywood but is shot down. On the advice of the owner of an animation studio, Gord tries his hardest to be an animator, much to the dismay of his dad. From there on, things...happen...

    This film is sick in the head and, here's the kicker, I'm convinced it's doing it on purpose. This is the intention of the film.

    Like it or not, this is short very competently. Each angle is lined up nicely. They roped in Rip Torn and Drew Barrymore (that could have been because they were an item at the time). Unlike other train-wrecks such as The Room where it's blatantly obvious Tommy Wiseau barely knows what he's doing in every field he's involved with and the rest of the cast don't care, Freddy Got Fingered has people delivering lines correctly. While The Room reveals and then drops story elements throughout the entire movie that are as broad as breast cancer to drug dealing, Freddy Got Fingered has constant themes of desiring the acceptance of one's father, no matter how vile he might be, as well as how fascinating a dingle-dangle is, apparently...And while The Room hasn't the budget even for an outside roof set, Freddy Got Fingered has the budget for an animation interlude as well as many stunts, practical effects and decent looking sets.

    Centaur Tom Green everypony! The Present no one was expecting but got anyway.

    Let's face it folks! This is almost exactly as Green imagined this film to be. As a fan of 'So Bad, It's Good' Movies, this gives very little to work with because it's shot very well. No dumb rubber costumes, no fumbled lines, no hilariously mangled ideas. It's hugely competent and that seems to bring about an even bigger issue.

    Green's idea of comedy appears to be a mixture of shock, childish antics and almost endless noise. He is actively attempting to be annoying and tasteless to a faultless, gleaming degree of maddening. Scenes very often, don't follow on from each other in a reasonable and logical manner. The ones that do are baffling in they're attempt to impart a little bit of humour. There is a scene where it's suggested Gord relaxes by eating food, playing music and drawing. Gord takes to mean doing all three at the same time.

    And so, he attempts to play a keyboard, draw and eat sausages that are dangling from the ceiling on strings. All while coming up with strange little songs.

    Thought I was making that up or something?

    Also, this movie has sold a good million or so DVD's by now. Just let that sink in.

    Gord is a child in a man's body. And that child is probably seven years old at best. It's the best explanation I have for why Green will set up scenes for a couple of seconds and then simply, just...act like a toddler. There is a scene where Gord starts his first shift at a Cheese Sandwich Factory. Because those are a thing, apparently. I get the feeling some of the writing was the result of whatever was in the room at the time but I guess it could be a thing. Maybe.

    Anyway, the scene starts. Gord lays the cheese down, we see more workers making the sandwiches. And then Gord just gets onto the conveyor belt, grabs a sausage and flings it around as if it was his own phallus.

    What the hell am I to do with that?! The movie is like this consistently through out it's run time. There are moments were the story simply progresses without any interruptions, but then Green just...does stuff. He simply does something and I get the feeling it's either because a joke is a required to end the scene on or because the character just get's bored. He just, does things. Like stopping in front of a stud farm and then, ugh...grasping the stallion's shaft, shouting "Look at me, Daddy! I'm a farmer!"

    Something something, 'First Recorded Clop', etc, etc.

    It's just that there's no lead in. It just happens. When Gord is told his drawings aren't very good, he pulls out a gun and sticks it in his mouth. From no where. Oh! And he's dressed as an English Bobby for no good reason. The most baffling is when he stops his car and watches a stallion mount a mare that just happens to be there while chewing through cheese sandwiches. Is that an equivalency with the audience? Is Gord just fascinated by this stuff because there is no discernible reason why Gord would ever, ever, ever need to stop by the Stud Farm again.

    There are clop jokes, right there, and I can't touch a single one! The things I do in the name of taste, ugh...This is the best I can do.

    Anyway, scenes often play out like this initially. They just...happen and it's baffling. I mean, it feels like Green is avoiding having conventional jokes out of some kind of hatred for them. As if having them is an affront to him and his sensibilities because it's kind of clear this is intentional. Green co-wrote this. He acted in it. This isn't a case of actor and director having two different script interpretations. It's all him. Furthermore, I know the lines are improvised, largely, to be as crap as possible as Green's portrayal of Gord isn't that articulate. He just shouts and raves over and over with the same line. Again and again, and again. He doesn't have any real monologues, he just shouts things. Like a child.

    This only seems to make Gord increasingly unlikeable because he has nothing interesting to add to a scene but noise. Despite being a good artist, he's directionless and his work shows just how much he has no idea what he's doing. Even in most scenes, he just bawls the same line over and over, hammering the point of the joke that is being supplanted here. The original joke being something a normal, average sitcom movie would do; the crazy antics that ensue when you have a foodfight in a restaurant, for example.

    And this is my theory on this. Art or not, I do think this movie is driving towards a point.

    First, look at the synopsis I wrote and you might notice that it doesn't seem too alien from other movies you may have seen. I mean, how many times have we seen the journey of one little guy or gal that had a dream but wasn't getting anywhere right now. Until one day, they pull their finger out and manage to achieve they're dream by showcasing themselves in just the right way.

    "Works for me. Although, a few sacrifices to Satan help. Can't give him my soul, how do you think 'Happy Madison' started?"

    Been done to death. It's in this too, it's just buried under a mountain of Green's bile. This is not a love filled parody like maybe Hot Fuzz or The Naked Gun. This is a rage-induced scream at the sort of movie I think Green was expected to make after being pigeon-holed as a Comedian, of which this title is shaky at best because it only barely resembles one. It's...It's Anti-Comedy. It's born of hatred and disgust.

    I didn't want to evoke the Nostalgia Chick review of this thing that looks at the idea of whether this thing is an art film or not but there is a perfect way of describing what this movie does. It doesn't engage the audience, it alienates it. You can't laugh at the characters because they're actions are unlike anything you've ever seen. I stress, on purpose. Green doesn't want your adoration, he wants your disgust. Possibly not even for his real audience, those that watched his TV show.

    This is pretty true to life for any viewing of this movie.

    But why? What could possibly possess someone to make something this inanely stupid.

    To try and answer that, I actually looked that old TV Show up! Mainly clips on youtube but I did get some idea of what his show is like. Now, I don't have much to go on but I could figure out that Green, even then, didn't seem to like convention. The stuff I was looking at had roots in shows like maybe Candid Camera or Local News Shows, but Green combined the two to create a kind of one joke idea with hundreds of variations: he would make the thing look like a cheep, student documentary (possibly because it actually was one, we're talking early MTV here) but instead of interviewing for anything specific, he'd do stupid things instead. Like put poo on his microphone while making sure it's nice and close to his interviewee. Or painting pornography on the bonnet of his parents' car.

    My best guess is that this was a sort of comedic take on a trend towards films and media that looked more realistic and true to life. Things like maybe Clerks. There's the rather cheep looking camera, a mic attached but with no other equipment at all. No lighting, no obvious checks and no obvious set ups. Just Green, the Cameraman and the American Public. The thing is, it does feel like a more spiteful and unenthusiastic parody of these trends at times. It's mimicking that style but it effectively boils down to being expected to laugh at the person being goaded into feeling uncomfortable or throwing a fully fledged tantrum. Green will make jokes occasionally, but they're usually made with the member of public as the straight man to Green's goofy, if apparently bored, antics. Often, it seems to be there simply to antagonise said member of the public.

    I dunno, I didn't get it. Maybe it's just my sense of humour, or that it doesn't translate to Ol' Blighty very well but I didn't get into it too much.

    Pictured: My Sense of Humour

    Now this is just a theory here but I really do think Green also has something of a subversive streak in him that shapes some of his outlook on the world as well as his angle on comedy. And while I'm in the middle of pulling said theory out of my arse, I may as well finish. So how about fast-forwarding to now where Green is a stand-up comedian. I know it's a common bit with comedians to find something and pick it apart but Green seems to do this all the time with a group of reoccurring ideas. Of the clips that I could find of his shows, he had a pretty consistent theme running through them: Tom Green despises mobile phones but more significantly how we behave with them (Link does contain some swearing).

    Green dislikes the effect of the advancing technology available to all and increased communication within the world, if his regular stand-up topics are to reflect on the man himself. There's an emphasis on how it draws people out of this world and into another. It's clear that bothers him, seeing these things as an addiction in their own right, disrupting normal activities with texting and such.

    Valid or not? I don't know but it's interesting at least. I enjoyed his stand up far more than his old TV show though.

    So, this does somewhat inform the interpretation of this movie. This wants to be a kind of The Tom Green Show like parody of usual comedy films, like early Adam Sandler works. Therefore, it's mainly laughing at Green infuriating movie executives as he parades a series of angry, stupid and horrible people across the screen while aiming squarely at shock value almost exclusively. Why? I think it's because Green saw the sort of movies his contemporaries made and he saw it all as corporate sludge, churned out to make a quick buck. So, he sought to combat it, subverting the genre with a movie that takes the same framework but fill it up with an hour and a half of the most awful crap he could think of. He tweaked and warped that basic movie idea until it was almost unrecognisable, as if aiming to recreate what most elderly people believe modern movies to be like.

    "Danny! Danny! This Art Film you suggested! What is going on?! There's a man running around in a deer carcass! Danny!? This is nothing like 'The Queen'! DANNY!"

    The idea is to not only insult the people behind the movies but the one's that support it. There is an implied insult to the viewer that genuinely finds this movie funny. Laughing in surprise is fine as moments such as running around like a moron while wearing a deer carcass to the tune of 'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing' are idiotic. I think there's something to be said for laughing the whole way through at the gross out humour alone. Now, some movies have gotten pretty shameless but I think even this would be reviled by almost everyone.

    Just take a look at Gord's father in that particular light.

    Rip Torn's portrayal of the Father character is as a horrible person. A misogynistic, sadistic, aggressive, insensitive and horrendously violent little man. If there was a 'villian' of this thing, it would be him. Now, I can understand this character to a point. If you'd have to live with a psychotic man-child that stages bizarre little skits, often ones that get him into trouble or cause damage, you'd be at the end of your tether with Gord too.

    Mr Torn has a pedigree in Bad Movies. You just didn't know it extended further than 'Men In Black II'.

    Just...Pulling him through a glass shower screen? Really? And the amount of pleasure he gets out of being this incredibly cruel cancels out any sympathy I might have had for him. At one point, he smashes the half-pipe Gord and his brother had been making out of wood. He'll shout and scream back at Gord, who only shouts and screams back. I have no interest in supporting either character. At least Gord's girlfriend's goals are simple and she's attempting to complete them straight forwardly.

    Actually no, because she's incredibly pushy with her insistence on fellatio. Yeah, in an unusual twist for the kind of movies Green is warping, the female is the one pushing for sex while the male is the one insisting on getting to know each other better first. Again, nothing can be left unchanged into something a marketing executive couldn't immediately have a heart attack over.

    Also, she likes rockets. Ha.

    Pictured: Sexual Congress. I'm not joking. Do you think I'd still be making stuff up by now?

    And that leaves very little to really talk about. The rest is just that old structure of a usual movie of this type that still manages to shine through. The Introduction to the Down On Their Luck Protagonist, The Moment of Clarity, The Early Attempts at Success, Hitting Rock Bottom, Coming Back and Succeeding with Everything Forever, Credits. It's all here, only it's broken up with sequences and 'jokes' that would probably only appeal to teenage idiots. Young teenage idiots.

    In short, this is a bad movie. Sadly, it is not funny bad. It is torturous. It's the first movie I've seen that seemed to show genuine contempt for it's audience, the medium and the fact that it exists. This isn't some slap dash cash-in on the Tom Green name. This is a calculated effort to make a sarcastic piece of crap. I do think that students of film or of other mediums could pull some use out of this as this is a movie that deliberately attempts to do everything is can to be unappealing. It's a little like showing Fawlty Towers to people that deal with customers: you just have to do the opposite of what they're doing. Same here.

    This sums up what I think of the whole 'So Bad It's Art' thing, by the way...

    Just do the opposite of Green. Make sure your movie moves at a decent pace without meandering unexpectedly. Ensure that your jokes follow a set up and pay off structure. Random Humour is hard to pull off for an entire movie without it being tiring. A protagonist we can rally behind is very important if you want to involve your audience in your story. Also, gross out needs set up or purpose and some level of restraint, or it seems tacky.

    It sucks. It sucks really hard. I will agree, its interesting to write about because, well, it's unlike anything you've seen before in it's magnitude of bad. It's not 'So Bad It's Good' because there's little redeemable about this. There's nothing you can make fun off because it's not exactly incompetence on display that you can tease, it's pure misplaced Absurdity. It's made for no one. And that's why no one should really watch this.

    And yet they are, because Internet. In their millions.

    Tom Green: Shouting and Raving Since the 90's
  11. [​IMG]
    Pokemon: Alpha Sapphire Version

    The 3DS has been very kind to me of late.

    "Tyro, m'boy!" It says, "Remember that game you liked on the Gamecube about ghost busting with a vacuum cleaner? I have one of those. You should buy me!"

    And then I agreed. And it was glorious.

    Then it said: "Tyro! Tyro, Tyro, Tyro. Now that I have you and I've gotten to know you a little, I think I can do my best for you. So, there's extra Streetpass Games. A little pricey but I have a deal on them for you, don't wait around. And how about this Legend of Zelda based on Link to the Past? Looks good huh? If not, how about these Indie Titles just laying around? You've already completed Shovel Knight? Well, there's these other things...Gunman Clive, Demon King Box, Zombie Panic in Wonderland...Those last two? You haven't heard of these? I guess these Japanese games were localised by accident. Oh well, worth a go when you're finished with Mega Man II, ay?"

    And, in all honesty, those games mentioned have been pretty fun for the most part. But then I felt like an RPG and...

    "Tyro! Oh, Tyro, I heard someone liked Pokemon: Sapphire! Wellity, wellity, wellity..."

    "In Tyro's mind, I should be smoking a pipe and looking at people inquisitively while I swirl brandy. But because I can't do any of those, how about another update to the theme store, hmm?"

    "You do know that's my favourite Generation of these games, right?" I reply.

    My 3DS scoffs: "The Third Gen? Why?"

    "I dunno.." I reply. "I think they cracked the balance of new and old in that one. Like, the bad guys were nuts but struggling towards something epic to thwart. Even though your character is ten."

    "Don't look at me." The 3DS chuckles. "You're the one that didn't stop playing these games after, what was it...Yellow version, yes? They're generally intended for kiddywinkles."

    "Mmm...Yellow was awesome. It was the first time I'd ever played an RPG to completion. It was a long struggle that I could share with my friends. Now, I'd missed out on the legendary pokemon, defeating every single one. Why? Because I'd gotten a level 100 Pikachu named Sparks. I loved that little guy...Beating up the elite four was hilarious with just this tiny electric mouse electrocuting everything like it was nothing. 'Dragonite? Meh. THUNDERBOLT IT TO DEATH!'"

    3DS titters quietly: "So, why are you still playing these games, exactly?"

    "They're still pretty appealing RPGs! Sure, they're simple but there's a great deal of depth involved. People have been figuring out the intimate details of how to manipulate these tiny little creatures for years now. We know the algorithms for how a Pokemon is caught in a pokeball. We even figured out how to find and capture a Mew in the original games, even explaining why it happens. We know how to manipulate breeding and eggs to create the ultimate pokemon team. The combinations for a pokemon team are only limited by synergy and what's available within the game immediately. And then there's trading, battling each other, contests, messing around with combinations of Pokemon, their moves, training up to beat the gym leaders. It's pretty enjoyable, as long as you enjoy a simple RPG. Maybe not for everyone but they're consistently enjoyable."

    The 3DS raises an eyebrow. Well, the face it has on it's top screen does. Nintendo's eyebrow attachments being as dead as the Wii's heart rate monitor.

    "All right, why 3rd Gen Pokemon?"

    "I dunno..." I reply, casting my mind back. "I picked it up and played it while on Holiday and...Well, the new pokemon are very powerful and consistently effective. Then the battle to save Hoenn from idealistic maniacs trying to extend the sea for the benefit of Pokemon had be hooked. Somehow that leads to them discovering Kygore, a legendary pokemon that ends up attempting to drown the planet. Until you catch it. That's a huge tale to be at the center of. Then there's Contests that add more to do the game, the legendary pokemon they don't tell you about, the personality of the characters involved, the challenges ahead. Plus, the starter pokemon are pretty decent in this generation."

    Even the cart itself stood out with it's see through azure colour, like some kind of jewel you stuck in your Game Boy. Few other Game Boy Advance Game did this. It made Sapphire pretty memorable, even if you didn't play it.

    "That was my thinking, my dear fox. Yes, I have something to show you." And then 3DS showed the new game on it's screen. "Say 'Hello' to Pokemon Alpha Sapphire

    And so I played it for a while. I managed to play all the way to the Elite Four, completing the story and defeating the gym leaders, until...

    "Tyro! Tyro, why...Your at the Elite Four! Why are you walking out the door? My dear boy, I thought you were enjoying yourself!!" My 3DS asked in surprise.

    "I am."

    "Then why are you turning around?! The end of the game is right there!"

    "I know. I want to see more of this game first."

    The 3DS furrows it's pixelated brow: "What? Gosh crikey, Tyro! Dear sweet Tyro! You're wondering away from glory! The reward! The incredible consummation of your incredible journey across this land! Why are you turning around?"

    "I want to explore some more. This time round I raised Oscar the Mightyena. Now I want a Gardevoir. And Wally had a Gallade. I want one of them too. I've still got pipes to collect and I want a Raichu."

    "Bu-but, there's...You know what? Go ahead. I shouldn't have said anything." And with that, my 3DS remained quiet for a few moments until I broke the silence.

    "Why the hell is Cosplay Pikachu in here?"


    "Cosplay Pikachu." I reiterate. "A Pikachu that can't breed, is always female, can't evolve but is able to wear costumes and learn moves outside of it's move pool. It's not got any extra stat changes or anything. Why is she in this?"

    "Well, this generation introduced Contests, so this Pokemon is probably to commemorate that." The 3DS speculated. "She's amazing in all facets of the contest mode. She has max stats, can change herself to suit all modes of the side mission and walks out to applause instantly."

    "Yeeeaap!" I said. "That why I only ever use her in battle."

    "Yes. Why do you keep doing that?! She's not intended for combat."

    I scoff at that, looking at my handheld with a smirk: "Could have fooled me. She's pretty powerful and who wouldn't want a Pikachu firing lightning bolts out of her face while prancing around in a dress borrowed from Cardcaptor Sakura?"

    "Come on! Tell me I'm wrong! I dare you to argue this isn't a Pikachu dressed up like she's come from a Pokemon/Magical Girl Anime Crossover Somewhere!"

    "I suppose...But you could do that after the Elite Four is over. Couldn't you...Are you catching a Misdreavus?"

    "Yes." I admitted without much remorse. "You missed me catching a little Lillipup too."

    "But, I-And a Sandshrew? So, are you looking to fill up your PokeDex? That's an excellent endeavour, ensuring your game is complete 100-"

    "Nope." I said. "I'm raising more pokemon for my team. I want these pokemon in case I need more variety. Besides, I like these ones."

    "And...You're avoiding the Elite Four to do some more training?" The 3DS was becoming concerned, confusion mounting as to this unplanned reaction. Gamers wanted to win things, right?

    "Yeah. You gave me that Exp Share. I might as well put it to some good use."

    "Bu-but..." The 3DS struggled to understand. If it had one, it would be furrowing it's brow in frustration, cracking the plastic of the screen like a multi-lane pile up of tectonic plates. It settles for the approximation on the screen. "I gave you that to get you through the game easier! I'm cutting down the time spent grinding. Why are you undoing that? I thought you didn't like grinding?"

    "I want my extra pokemon. Besides, I don't mind it if I can find the right places to wander around in. Thankfully, you've given me plenty of places to wonder to train up."

    The 3DS nods it's top screen in unconvinced agreement: "Yes. Yes, I guess that's right. But, you're really going to do that at this instant? Why not claim your final reward?"

    "Because I never got the chance to explore these places like I did in the original game."

    The 3DS fell silent suddenly. Something had clearly gone wrong in it's plans for this game, so I continued.

    "That's my problem with this. I like this update in a lot of ways but that's my really big gripe. You've made it so that everyone can play it no sweat but you've gutted the game of it's bite as a result."

    "Dear boy, I've made this game visually vibrant. I've given every character some personality. I've allows for sweeping camera angles over this colourful and varied land!"

    It had a point. This game did look gorgeous for the system.

    "Difficulty." I said. "You've messed with the difficulty. And the pacing of the game. I want to explore because I've been swept across the Hoenn whenever it's felt I've spent long enough in one place. I missed entire segments of the world map, just because the story dictated it. I missed going to the desert. And the Sunken Wreck. And a chunk of Route 119 where I remember there being some really cool Pokemon. I was even confused about when I was supposed to talk to Wattson in order to explore the Power Plant area underneath Mauville because of the new map. I never got to run all the way through Meteor Falls and travel back on myself to go on route. You just whisked me away to save me the bother. Even though I want to bother. Character's whisking me away to somewhere else cuts out most of the game. I've breezed through this thing."

    "But you didn't have to do that. You had the choice to run all the way there." The 3DS said.

    "Not on my first run through. As far as I know, I have to follow Brendan back to wherever or the event doesn't trigger. It feels more videogamey to do it that way, if you see what I mean. Nothing else in the game suggested I would miss out on anything by agreeing to the boxes. It's convenient, why would I refuse?"

    "But you can make the game harder. Same with the Exp Share. You can just turn it off." My 3DS pleaded.

    "But why would I? It makes my pokemon easier to raise. I want that. It doesn't make sense to turn off what's helping me win."

    "Then why are you complaining?!"

    "Because it's making me win easier!"

    The 3DS just huffs. It would tap it's foot if it had one.

    "Look, you seem to care quite a bit about rewarding me. That's not a bad thing and I know you're trying to make this game accessible to everyone. It's a good idea in order to ensure that everyone can play." I suck in a lungful of air, regretting having walked down this line of conversation with my 3DS. Ever since having to exchange harsh words with my PS2 over the PS3, I wasn't hoping to do the same to another beloved console. "You just seem so preoccupied with getting me to the reward or the next part of the Super Pokemon Story Rollercoster. You never let me just wander. The original let me meander, because it's an RPG. Exploration nets you extra levels at the very least. But it could also get you new pokemon, more items, all sorts. The Original knew this. Your Older Brother knew this. You're always hurrying me. 'Hey! How about we head on over here? Walking takes time and your attention span can't possibly last!'. Sure, you don't badger me but it doesn't feel like there's much to be gained from the alternative. And seeing as we're talking about the Exp Share, why is it given to you right at the start of the game?!"

    The 3DS begins to formulate an answer but manages little that it was confident would sway me. So, I continue.

    "It's to make the game accessible. I know! I know, that's fine but it makes the game insultingly simple because your team grows without ever having to have each pokemon see battle. They just have to be in the team and one pokemon does the work of six. Can you not see how that takes out most of the sense of achievement from the game? Sure, it makes a part of the game that's not very appealing less arduous but it makes raising your pokemon facile. The once feared Gym Leaders can be out-levelled without much work. I'd understand if this highly powerful item was something you found after completing a large amount of the PokeDex or at the end of a hard dungeon or at least later in the game than right at the start when you save the Devon Researcher in Petalburg Woods."

    "Fear meeeee! For I am powerful! Even if you have a water type! I'll flail you alive little boy! FEAR MEEEEEEEEE!"

    The 3DS attempts a rebuttle: "But you could always turn it off."

    "I could, but on your first playthrough, you don't have the knowledge of what the game is like to make that judgement call. You just switch it on because the game just gave you a new toy. Other games would inform the player by asking them questions, the most common being 'What Difficulty Level would you like?'. Or at least, 'Have you played a Pokemon Game before?'. Other RPG's will have systems to tailor themselves to match a player's level. This Pokemon doesn't. In fact, the series never has. So, when it simply hands over an item like the Exp Share, I just assume it's something the developers expected me to use to ensure I can get through the game at all rather than as a handicap I can switch on and off. It doesn't tell me that, only it's function. It makes the design a little patronising."

    I pause for a run up: "The worst part of all this is the Cosplay Pikachu! A Pokemon that can stomp through the Contests with every possible advantage and with incredible ease in all contests ever. What's the point of doing the Contests? I have the best Pokemon possible. What's the point? I've already won!

    The game has removed most of it's bite. By making things accessible to everyone in the ways that it has done, it's harmed some of it's appeal. I'm all for more inclusive games but you have to let us know that's what you're doing. A little sign or note on the EXP Share could have done wonders for the two groups of people this wants to cater to. One is looking for a good time while the other wants that gauntlet thrown down before them. Catering to both can be done but I don't think the hands off approach is the right way."

    "Oh..." The 3DS said. I'd clearly made it rather disheartened. "I'm sorry, I guess it was a mistake to suggest this game for you...Uuh...I'll do better with the next one."

    "Oh shush!" I said. "That's one small flaw I found with this game. Otherwise, it's really good. I enjoyed the updated visuals, the pokemon available and the tweaks to the story to make it a little more involved. I mean, the new engine meant what were once static sprites could now act, emote and give a proper performance. That's the biggest appeal I got out of this game. The journey. Not where I was heading but how I got there. It sounds mushy but it's true."

    It could always be much, much worse...

    The 3DS nods it's top screen: "All right. That's, that's good. I'm glad you liked it."

    "I really liked the story and the characters in this. The difference between the two teams, they're flamboyant personalities that came through really strongly on screen. It was great to run through that."

    The 3DS seemed to pick up a little after I'd said that.

    "Aaaand, I was a little weary about Mega Evolutions, thinking they were just a symptom of Power Creep. And they might be, but they do have a function as a sort of power boost when you want it. They specialise the pokemon, making them very good at one thing but retaining some of their weaknesses. Some even gain new abilities and alter in their entirety. That's pretty interesting. Plus, it's the only game in the series where I've fought using Pikachu wearing a frilly dress. That's a sight to see as this creature with an adorable little face rains lightning from the sky."

    Even if I am reminded rather heavily of another franchise whenever Mega Evolution does occur.

    "Hmm...Well, then. Good." The 3DS beginning to smile. "I'm glad you enjoyed it and my talent for scouting games hasn't vanished quite yet. Now! If I were you, I'd complete the Elite Four and become Champion."

    Now, I frowned in confusion: "What did I just say?"

    "It was going to be a surprise but...There's another storyline after you beat the game that's centred around Rayquaza?"

    I stare at my little device in mild shock.

    "Say what? Really? Awesome! When I'm done looking through every nook and cranny of the game for presents, I'll get on that. Right now? Cassy the Gardevoir has just hit level thirty. Twenty more and she'll be ready to try smashing through the updated Hoenn Elite Four."

    "All right. Go ahead." My 3DS said, chuckling gently. "The world is your playground. Explore to your hearts content."

    "Mm. Better."

    And that's without talking about the new PokeNav Functions, the Updates to Secret Bases, the Updates to the Battles, Sneaking up on Pokemon or Hoard Battles. There's just tones of new content in this thing, I'll keep you busy for weeks if you'll let it. It's a thumbs up from me on this.
  12. Admit it: in the little jukebox inside your mind, it's playing that song. It's been doing that with me every time I hear about this thing...

    [size=+1]Sonic Boom[/size]​

    If you enjoy keeping up with computer games and that sphere of things, especially new Sonic games, then you'll have heard about some new thing being done with the IP. Yeah, Sonic Team are still kicking around and apparently, someone thought Sonic could do with a shot in the arm. So, new location, new dynamics, new looks to the characters and a few tweaks here and there. Apparently, this is a full force thing. There's a toy line. There's video games. There's a TV show. And, get this: there's a comic book series.

    By Archie Comics. I have to admit, I kinda figured Archie Sonic Comics went dormant a while back but apparently Sonic Comics started in the 90's and have never bloody stopped. EVER.

    So, we all know about at least one part of this little escapade in marketing: the video game is complete ****. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric looked decent right up until some moron thought it needed to be a Christmas Launch and shoved it out WAAAAY before it should have been. So, bad frame rate, barren environments, sloppy dialogue, mundane platforming, half-formed mechanics and so on. For all that business, go elsewhere because I don't have a Wii U (yet (OK, so Smash Bros. and Bayonetta 2 might have sold me on actually getting one, OK? Plus, Splatoon looks awesome!)) and it's been done to death already. And from what I hear it's basically: "Sonic '06: Part 2'. So, joy of joys...

    "I could have told you that for nothing back when it was anounced! Snarf-snarf!"

    You know what I've heard next to nothing about? These other things! Are the comics any good? How about this TV show? Well, I decided to actually do my own venturing on that last front and my overriding conclusion is that its not bad.

    As far as kids shows on right now I think Gravity Falls is far funnier without any effort, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic possesses way better character dynamics and makes you care about those characters far more. Lastly, Regular Show, Bravest Warriors, Adventure Time and The Amazing World of Gumball all feel like far more worthwhile shows. Sonic Boom doesn't have anywhere near the same level of ambition that any of these other shows do. In fact, the one thing I do think it does is have a better look and polish than Dragons: Riders of Berk, which I always feel looks like Dreamworks' Table Scraps. Sonic Boom looks like a Cutscene and I mean that in a good way.

    But I digress. The bottom line is that Sonic Boom isn't bad. I'm just not sure it's doing enough to be anything but a distraction while you wait for something you're actually interested in watching. The writers seem to know this as well, that each episode seems to zip by incredibly quickly.

    Yeah, from deeper reading, it seems this is meant to be something of an added extra for the game. The game is the set up and the TV show is just what happens next.

    Yeah, that plan hasn't been going so fantastically, has it lads and lasses?

    In fact, that's the stupidest possible thing they could have ever done, even if the game was any good. Alienating the audience by leaving out basic elements of story telling is pretty bold and often, pretty hard to remain compelling. Because of this choice, I have no idea where this show is set. I don't know why Sonic and the new Gang are there rather than somewhere else. Apparently, the answer is just 'Shut up and watch, ya'yutz!'.

    "How abouts yeh just settle down while I count how many friends my wallets has made over here!"

    Gravity Falls explains things or at least introduces you to the characters. Amasing World of Gumball eases you into the unique characteristics of each character because they're so stupidly varied.

    Sonic Boom has this big wall that kinda makes getting into the show an uphill struggle. There's no formal introduction to anything because that is all in the games, I'm guessing because it's not anywhere in the show. Possibly...Afterall, I've only the 'Game Grumps' Let's Play to go on here.

    Right right! The premise, as far as I can figure out, is that Sonic, Tails, Amy, Knuckles and...Sticks the Badger live in some place. Because this is a Sonic thing, they live near a village or town or something filled with Anthropomorphic Animals in the same style as 'Sonic Sat AM'. I actually kinda like this idea. It keeps things simple, limiting what needs to be explained to the audience. Because Sonic X got increasingly weird with it's whole 'alternate reality' stuff. Better off this way, I think. The rest you need to know is standard: Eggman makes machines. Sonic and Co break machines. Eggman returns to evil lair. Repeat. Simple but it works.

    From here, believe it or not, we hang a slice of life comedy with occasional action bits.

    From what I've seen of the four episodes currently available through my devious sources, Sonic Boom has probably one strength: it's humour. The art looks decent to me and I've grown used to the new designs. Exaggeration isn't a new thing and it doesn't look terrible to me. They're just there to help hammer in the new take on the characters.

    Boy, do they like to do that...

    Anyway, I barely even cough at the new designs of the characters and...I kinda like the Sonic Neckerchief. Tails looks stupid with the harness and I have no idea why they're all wearing bandages. It feels like Square Enix and belts. I guessed it was because the environment surrounding this place was very varied, so it's partly there for protection. Some places are covered in jungle, some in desert and there's even a place where it's cold enough to freeze a lake somewhere...

    The geography is all over the place, let's put it bluntly.

    Speaking of, I guess you could say this is just sort of a harkening back to the very first Sonic TV Show. They're very similar now that I think about it.

    This isn't the best of directions but it could be worse...

    There's no connecting story line between episodes or some long quest. It's just jokes framed in some sort of plot that ends when the episode does. It's very simple. That's fine, there's just not much else but those jokes. That can turn some people off as there's little else reason to look into the show.

    But where the First Sonic TV show was a random mess of colour and noise, Sonic Boom at least looks like it's trying it's damn hardest to be funny. And I actually do find this thing funny. I wouldn't say it's the best thing in the world, considering it's competition, but it's certainly decent. Jokes are usually pretty quick, usually quite snarky as they attempt to poke holes in the whole 'Sonic Vs Eggman' thing. In fact, Eggman is my absolute favourite in this show. He's given all the best lines, has the biggest personality and get's the most fun things to do.

    A show about Eggman would be something I'd tune into because he kinda carries most of the show. But that's not to say that the other characters are superfluous. The other characters do have a new gags here and there.

    Sonic, being Sonic, cracks wise. Because Sonic is a cocky, sometimes arrogant kind of guy. His many iterations seem to keep most of that intact and, that's fine. You can do things with that. I mean, at least there is a personality to exploit. I'd like to see Nintendo do something similar with Mario every once in a while.

    AH! No! I take it back!

    Otherwise, Tails is smart and builds machines. So, no difference at all. Knuckles has gone from stubbornly determined if somewhat gullible to muscle bound and a little slow. I...I actually haven't seen him open his mouth enough to really get my dander up over that one. Amy has gone from one form of insane to a slightly milder one. Firstly, she's a lot quieter. Rather than the love sick, manic stalker with a short fuse, he's now just a little weird. Like pretending to be a juggling italian or making the group engage in counselling exercises. And that's a thing that makes sense in this context.

    The new character is Sticks the Badger and...I've kinda had to either guess or gleam from what I'd seen or read to understand her. Sticks is paranoid and more than a little loopy. She dislikes robots and believes they're dangerous. Considering the proximity to Dr Eggman, that's understandable at the very least. And...Well, she's OK. The issue is that I've not played through the Wii U game because, well, it's digital landfill. So, I've had no grounding or introduction to anyone in this universe. The others are updates and slants on pre-existing characters I'm familiar with. Sticks doesn't have that advantage and it's greatly arrogant that the show expects you to have prior knowledge of her behaviour and personality going in.

    But, you do get a feel for her. Apparently, she likes things that are usually pretty dirty. She's paranoid enough to believe her shadow is stalking her (took me a second to figure that gag out). She believes in conspiracies. So, she's like the Sonic version of the crazy homeless guy. Actually kinda a new spin on a female character, fair enough. I still can't help but be anything but lukewarm on this.

    But can I just go back to the fact that, sometimes, exposition is a good thing. World building can expand the universe and create some depth to the world. Sonic Boom appears to be avoiding it like the plauge. Now, I respect aiming to just be something funny but it's already part of a larger universe and franchise! It doesn't make any sense to have this show languish in what little world it's made. There's no exploration, no new additions, no real purpose for the characters. They're just there, because, reasons. Gumball, Regular Show and Adventure Time all evolve with every new episode. They show something new about the world or characters over the course of the episode.

    Sonic Boom seems like it's not going to do anything like that. It's like a sitcom. Nothing really is achieved. And it somehow drives me nuts because it just exasabates the issue of needing prior knowledge to start watching.

    You know, The New Looney Tunes Show went in the sitcom direction and that works surprisingly well. Were they aiming for something like this?

    You know what? I find this show frustrating. It's got plenty of potential but one of Sonic Boom's biggest failings is that it comes into a world where Gravity Falls, MLP:FiM and Adventure Time exist. They are all shows worth your time ten fold more than Sonic Boom, in my opinion because they have heart, artistic skill, grandeur to their worlds and personality. Sonic Boom has some fun jokes but unless it does something more than that, it can't compete.

    But that's not to say it's necessarily time wasted. Like I said, what it does do, it seems pretty good at. The joking at itself and it's characters is done well enough that I can't out right hate the show despite the irritating viewer unfriendliness. The action is nice. The plotlines are harmless and fun. Dr Eggman is in every episode. It's not flavourless but you'd likely get more for any other show I've mentioned here. There is room for massive improvement.

    What I fear is that it's just coasting on the false assumption that the game it's based on is good and that it's audience already brought it, played it and loved it. Sorry Sonic Team but you need a Plan B. Right now.

    What could that be? How about some motivations for the characters? The most we've had so far is that Amy has a crush on Sonic, vaguely hinted at because of one of Tails' machines. How about something Sonic is striving towards? Maybe introduce a hobby of Knuckles? Or...I dunno! Dr Eggman starts a knitting circle? Something? Because there's no damn urgency to anything.

    For some odd reason, the TV show doesn't have any plots between episodes. Which is baffling considering how there's a perfectly reasonable and usable one within the game it's based on! Why not build off of that? Why do all this 'Slice of Life' stuff with characters that haven't been introduced to the audience in any way! Because MLP:FiM does it and you want a slice of that pie or did you think it was easier to make little shorts to beef up the franchise a bit?

    Tell me Sonic Team! Tell me! Because now there's nothing to these characters! They don't don't do anything except fight robots! They aren't fighting for anything, there's no additional insights into the games that might lead you to want to check the game out. There's no story in of itself to keep you comming back. It's just this barely flavoured puff of noise and sound that doesn't seem to want anything other than to tell jokes. It's just, I, I...


    BREATHE! Breathe...I'm sorry for the rant. Functionally, Sonic Boom is fine, it's just that apparent lack of ambition or grace in it's writing seems underwelming comapared to everything else currently sitting around on the tubes. I find it frustrating that it's just being squandered. I fully except I might just be acting a bit spoiled. Not everything has to be fine art but I still don't think that's an excuse to half-arse it. There's a lot of what could be done here. I just hope it goes into the show, and not into more games that have all the interactivity and smooth animation of Microsoft Powerpoint. It's just how I felt with this while watching it. And before this damn review grows any longer, let's close this down.

    I...I need to calm down...
  13. [size=+1]Click here to read Part 1[/size]

    [size=+1]StreetPass Games - Part Two[/size]​

    The next four examples are all paid for products from a special little shop within the Mii StreetPass Plaza itself. Each one would cost me just under £5 (or about $8, or roughly €6.30 (prices may vary outside of the UK)) but there's a special deal where you can buy all four at under £14. But the offer is only available the first time you try and buy something. So, it's either buy what you want or get them all in one lot for a not bad deal. In essence, that's one game for free and one reduced in price as the whole lot would, of course, be £20 all together.

    I went for the deal because I knew I'd want to try each out to maximise what little StreetPasses I tend to get in my home town. Also, it seemed decent review fodder.

    Sometimes, I am that transparent.

    [size=+1]StreetPass Squad (a.k.a Mii Force)[/size]

    Now we're not even hiding the arcade game design of these things, are we?

    For five quid, you can get a decent space shooter that's actually pretty tight, challenging and enjoyable. What are the odds of that?!

    StreetPass Squad has you put in charge of 'The Mii Force'; a team of space pilots that are dedicated to defending the galaxy from bad guys. Well, that should be space pilot as there's only you and your commanding officer; a robot version of the moustache man from the Pringles Logo in a hat. The rest of your team is made up of whatever Mii's you encounter through StreetPass. Your villain is a space pirate called Gold Bone.

    I'll just give you a second to stop giggling.

    It's like the Fisher Price version of Skeletor

    Gold Bone wants to pillage the whole of the galaxy, you get in a space ship and stop him by pew-pew-pewing all of his forces. Simple but good.

    While Puzzle Swap and Quest appear to have been made by Nintendo themselves, the paid StreetPass games are from outsider companies. Squad is developed by Good-Feel, who are responsible for a lot of bland educational titles but also Wario Land: The Shake Dimension, Mario and Luigi: Dream Team and Kirby's Epic Yarn. So, they're not entirely bereft of development chops. And, it shows. Even if it's a little short, Squad tried it's damn hardest to earn it's price tag.

    Firstly, each Mii that you StreetPass with is now a weapon. This get's a little complicated. The idea is that each Mii travels with you in little pods to the level and they are scattered across it. You are given one Mii Pod to begin with so that you can start fighting through the waves of baddies. This pod attaches to your ship in one of four positions that are known as 'Weapon Slots'. If they sit here, they are then fired with the 'A' button. The options are to fire ahead, fire behind you or fire a little to the left or right ahead of you. You can stop the game and alter your set up at anytime using the pods you've collected thus far.

    Behind each 'Weapon Slot' are two 'Upgrade Slots'. If you put a Mii Pod in there when the Weapon slot is filled, the attack the Pod in the Weapon Slot does is enhanced. You can do this twice to make a Pod more potent. If you find you have more Pods than you need to shoot with, upgrading your weapons is the best idea you can have. A strong offence makes cutting through baddies child's play.

    And, just as before, the colour of the Mii matters. Each colour will fire out something different if the pod is used as a weapon, not an upgrade. While some make sense and some are a little arbitrary, I'd still say they're all pretty handy in certain spots. Green will fire shots that bounce off walls to continue causing damage. Black fires powerful bombs. Dark blue will fire homing missile sharks.

    Homing Missile Sharks. I want to kiss the designer that came up with that.

    "I'll take fifty right now."

    The interesting thing is that each pod you have also adds to your hitpoints. If you are damaged, you are made to forfeit one of the pods you're using as a weapon. Lose all your pods and that's Game Over. You have three restarts at an entire stage when you lose all your pods but when that's spent, your gone. I'll take that over Quest's arbitrary rules about how a dark room makes a battle hardened warrior flee with it's tail between it's legs. No run feels like a waste of time. You can manage to do any level if you're skilled in this sort of game, its just easier if you have more than one Mii Pod because the firepower and extra hits you can take without dying are valuable.

    As a small aside, your Pay Coins can either hire a random character to join your squad for two Play Coins, which is handy if your hits are low or just want extra fire power. But, uniquely, you can hire Miis you've already played the game with before. So, if you need a certain colour to deal with a certain enemy or to shoot a switch in order to unlock the way to a secret area, this option is for you. However, your limited to only three of these guys and they cost three Play Coins rather than just two. So, choice is costly but probably worth it in the long run.

    The interesting dilemma is that you are weakened with every shot your hit with. Which is a bummer considering I find the game challenging. Not too hard but certainly on the top end of 'doable'. Which I like. Again, if StreetPass is about little digital presents, then Squad feels like being given a few coins to play on an arcade cabinet that's playing something inspired by Parodius.

    Although, it has a few more ideas in it's head than Parodius or Galaga in terms of gameplay. The shoulder buttons will rotate the fixed positions of your weapon pods like a tank, letting you shift your angle of attack without sacrificing movement. This lets you attack at an angle and get the better of some enemies.

    This also lets the developers squeeze some extra level ideas out of the game because it means that enemies can come from any direction without it being unfair. Because you can shoot in all directions, they could then add levels where you defend the power sources for some machine in a little arena battle. Or, be able to switch the direction of enemy flow at anytime. One level even puts you on a rollercoaster where you have to swivel around just to shoot things properly. For a diddy little game, it's pretty imaginative.

    And you can play this in public without feeling awkward, unlike certain Parodius games we could mention. Like Sexy Parodius here. Seriously, search it up and prepare to be astounded.

    Everything else is vibrant, challenging and fun. There's even little jokes. Slightly corny jokes but appreciated all the same. Then there's the collectables. You get rewards for collecting five pieces of treasure in the game, and racking up a high score, and completing the level without losing a single pod.

    For only about 12-ish levels, there's plenty to do.

    The only reason this feels longer is that the current team of Mii's you have are dismissed if you use up your 3 extra lives or complete the mission. After that, you have to pay up some Play Coins or find more StreetPasses. However, I don't mind this as each level is a decent length. It's both great and a little awkward. Having each level be as lengthy as they are means that the worth of your StreetPasses or your Play Coins is going pretty far. They're of a satisfying length and well designed with a vibrant colour palette. Good work Good-Feel.

    On the downside, they're not as bitesize as the other StreetPass games. They do take the most time because there's no fast forward for when you're battling through space. The game trundles along at normal speed. For a long train journey, that's cool. For a quick flick through of what your current crop of StreetPasses brought you at, say, a convention, it's awkward because you don't want to miss your opportunity to complete a level but you might prefer to get back to the convention to wonder around and pick up more StreetPasses.

    Well, I would anyway. And while the game is it's own reward, it does hand you Mii Plaza Tickets as a bonus for defeating a new boss. These are used to buy hats from a selection of four in the Mii Plaza. So, yay!

    If you like Space Shooters and are happy with the StreetPass idea it uses to change up the gameplay each time, then give it a go. It's not that dear. It tries very hard to please and I can't say fairer than that. Check it out!

    That is if the T'n'A Crowd are still listening.

    [size=+1]StreetPass Garden (a.k.a Flower Town)[/size]

    Let me sum this one up in one word: [size=+1]BOOOOOORRRRIIIIIIIING![/size].

    I am perfectly comfortable with admitting that horticulture is not my thing. I don't find it very engrossing. I enjoyed it in Animal Crossing, which Grezzo (who made The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D for 3DS) seems to have taken inspiration from, but that was because I mainly planted fruit trees. In essence, I was managing an orchard. I wasn't as bothered by the idea of having a little collection of flowers. Nor was I fussed by the idea of collecting data on each type of flower and it's possible colourations by trying to get them to cross-pollinate. The StreetPass game equivalent of a biology lecture doesn't stimulate me.

    The plot, and yes it does have a thin facsimile of one, is that your now in charge of a Garden. The garden has plenty of plants in it but it's up to you to grow more while documenting each new plant as it comes along in your journal like a Pokedex for the contents of any B&Q gardening section. You have a fellow gardener called Mr Mendel to help you out. Each of your StreetPassed Mii's will turn up with a flower and a watering can, regardless of whether they have Garden or not. They'll water the plant your currently tending to and bring it closer to flowering. Sometimes, it will also make the flower your growing cross-pollinate with the StreetPass Mii's flower, creating a new offshoot of the breed.

    Once a flower is complete, you can display it in your garden and start on another plant.

    Strangely enough, you have a shop and currency to spend inside. One shop sells different pots that just look different from the normal, identically-functioning pot. Another sells seeds. Another sells things to tart up your garden a bit. Another sells more space to store flowers. You can earn money by selling flowers or doing little jobs for one of the shops.

    And that's as far as I got. I found this game to be a chore. My biggest gripe outside of the lack of interest in the subject material was how much I didn't do anything to get me interested. It assumes you want to learn about the flowers you're growing. And I couldn't give a Rainbow-Rocking, Jewel-Encrusted, Twilicane-Sporting, Chaotically-Transformed, Jewel-Mining, Love-Feasting, Aria-Singing Chimichanga at all! It was just so, unequivocally dull! There wasn't much substance to it and it's design seemed to suck any joy the passtime has simply by being inspiringly hard to comment on other than being 'functional'.

    Relevant Joke

    Perhaps in Japan it's more interesting. Perhaps to certain people interested in flowers but don't have the knowhow or space to grow they're own, they'd get a kick out of this. For me, there's no freedom. There's no obvious reward for hard work and patience put in other than an entry in a book and a Plaza Ticket. Both of which I didn't do anything to earn, my StreetPassed Miis did everything for me.

    Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon got this right. The effort put into the growing of plants is what makes the game compelling. The freedom to work towards a goal. Garden is just a series of menus. It's so cramped. Nothing felt rewarding to me.

    I can't think of anything more damning; I was bored and felt it was a slog to play over and over. Even with a fast forward button. Not recommended.

    [size=+1]StreetPass Battle (a.k.a Warrior's Way)[/size]

    Welcome to the most complicated version of 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' I've ever seen. Yes, more complex than 'Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock'.

    Battle makes you the current ruler of a country with your butler, Wentworth, who urges you to take over the world. Because...there'd be no game otherwise? So, because the developer Spike Chunsoft said so (who made a Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game and a bunch of stuff I've never heard of but mainly seem to localise western games for Japan) you now have to conquer the 20 countries that make up the entire continent you inhabit. And that means building up and army and using it to stomp on the armies of the other rulers.

    Batman would have been quite different with him as Bruce's Butler. He'd probably grow up to run Gotham City as a dictator and then start looking into how to add places like Keystone and Metropolis to his empire, Wentworth egging on the most powerful Villian the world has ever seen

    The way this works is that a battle between two armies is split up into three rounds. First, you divvy up your troop numbers into one of three unit types; Cavalry, Archery and Infantry. Then you choose a unit to charge with and so does your opponent. Then you fight. Winning and losing is decided by a few things.

    - Unit Size: Kind of obvious but if your unit is larger, it'll smoosh the opponent easily and you'll win the round. However, remember that you only have a finite number of troops, so having one huge unit and two tiny ones will win you the battle but not the war. Literally.

    - Unit Weaknesses: Each unit has a weakness to another type of unit. Cavalry beats Archers. Archers beat Infantry. Infantry beats Cavalry. While superior numbers can still win a match up even if the larger unit is on the back foot, exploiting weaknesses is the easiest method of taking down an enemy because doing so correctly will halve the unit size instantly. And this is where the 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' comparison comes in. The difference is that there's always a winner, because if there's two of the same unit fighting, then the superior number wins out.

    - Critical Hits: For some reason, you have the chance to deal a critical and win. Again, another way to ensure there's always a winner. Handy when they happen in your favour, crappy when they don't. They feel, somewhat out of place. I got one once and I felt like the game was babying me a little. Like, a random chance helped me win rather than my brain coming up with a strong gambit to move forward with...

    - Terrain: Some battlefields will have perks or nerfs. Some will hobble one of your units, ensuring they will be trampled by all units. If so, it could be a handicap you must work around, or a point of weakness to target.

    - Army Types: Sometimes the game will make an army a different type. Ninja armies are typically smaller than usual but Ninja units have no weaknesses so only brute force through larger numbers will win. Berserker Armies will fight more ferociously than normal armies. When trump a unit, they don't just halve a unit's number. They reduce it to a fifth of it's size. If they take on a same unit clash, they reduce the opposing unit to a third of it's size. They almost, always gain the advantage, meaning you have to be smart with your decisions.

    Thankfully, enemy units rarely use an army of all three Unit types but you do. They will usually use an army of one or two types, making their weakness obvious. Your job is to use that to your advantage. Now, that's largely a guessing game, much like 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' except you can see the only possible moves likely to happen, you're just guessing the order they're going to be made in. To help, Wentworth can help you decide how to divide up your forces into each of the unit types to best deal with the enemy. For Play Coins.

    What? I don't pay him enough as a butler to throw in battle advice for free?

    I need them! What else am I supposed to put in the girl's bra? Plaza Tickets?

    You are also able to spy on the enemy once you unlock the ability. That's done by upgrading your castle using materials found in conquered countries and costs men. The Spy ability shows you the next move of your opponent, meaning you can gain the advantage in the next round of the battle. This also costs Play Coins. The thing is, the Spy Ability seems invaluable to you as later foes become insidiously large as well as awkward to defeat. Especially Berserker Armies that require you to trump their Unit type in order to assure victory. It does make the Play Coins that much more valuable.

    Considering you can only tackle one country each round of play, I'd say this isn't a bad length for this sort of game. It's in between Squad
    and Puzzle Swap. It's a fun distraction, I'll give it that with a little bit of thinking. Not much but enough to warrant more of your attention than say Garden does.

    The main way you gain more men for your army is through StreetPasses. If the Mii doesn't come from a 3DS with Battle installed, it'll have the number of StreetPass hits it's Mii Plaza accumulated in total added to your Army as troops. They'll turn up as a general from your country with a little booster to your army. If that 3DS has a copy of Battle installed, they'll turn up as a 'Monarch from Afar'. This lets you either try to take on this Monarch's army or just say 'Hi'. The second option is usually the better one as my army seems to be pitifully smaller than almost every other Monarch's I've found so far. However, if you defeat another Monarch's army, you can gain a percentage of the army's size to add to your own.

    In fact, that's applicable to all enemy armies in the game, which is the second way of gaining new troops.

    The third is straight up paying for them. Mercenaries will turn up at the cost of up to 15 Play Coins. Your castle size indicates how far your Play Coins will stretch to. If you find you're not getting too many hits or want to boost your numbers in a pinch, it seems like a good idea. Although, it's certainly the most costly game so far if you're nowhere near a place to farm for hits.

    It's like a battle between Weebles from the Feudal Japan playset that never was.

    Again, it's...OK. I like it as a little distraction. The gameplay is basic but you can get your head around it easily. I find it enjoyable but simplistic. By all means pick it up, but I wouldn't expect it to draw you away from your proper games for two long.

    [size=+1]StreetPass Mansion (a.k.a Monster Manor)[/size]

    This is my favourite out of them all. If this was extended into it's own title, I would buy it. I enjoy it that much. All of my Play Coins, are spent on this game when I haven't got any hits. I like it that much.

    Your Ambassador Mii is now in charge of a Detective Agency. One of your underlings ran off to a mansion to check whether it's haunted or not but then goes missing. You go of after her. Guess what? The place is haunted and defies most laws of physics. You are now trapped in the mansion with your assistant along with all the other investigators and random passing Miis that are stuck on the various floors of the mansion. Each is carrying a piece of the map to the mansion, which is needed to explore your way up to the thirtieth floor, which is where your assistant reckons an escape route is. Probably...

    Exploration is done by collecting Map Pieces from the StreetPass Miis you encounter. This then turns into a tetromino to place down on the current floor your on. And I do mean tetromino. This represents a corridor that you use to construct rooms. Each has a colour, that of course, corresponds to the colour of the Mii you got it from. You have to place a room piece down somewhere that it connects up and then can be accessed by your character immediately after it's laid down. Matching room piece colours will extend that room, usually resulting in a chest appearing. Finding these is essential to getting the gear necessary to compete in this game. That can be anything from a new gun to a helpful item to a little medallion you keep on you to gain bonuses.

    Yes, the developer Prope (Who have made nothing I expect you to have heard of but are founded by ex-Sonic Team employees) has filled this Nintendo game with lots and lots of fantastic looking laser guns to fight ghosts with.

    It is honestly, the best part of the game.

    "Leave it to the professionals, kid! We thought of Ghost Lasers first!"

    Guns...Well, they're called 'Weapons' in the game but I'm calling them what they are. Anyway, Guns come in four main varieties and have varying stats between them all. Each one comes with a powerpack of some kind to provide fuel that sits on the Mii's back and a shield to defend against attacks. The five elements a Gun can fire are Light, Fire, Ice, Electricity and Wind. As you'd expect, there are enemy types of varying types with symbols that match the colour of those element's symbol. Simply match the colours together when you fight that enemy and you'll gain the advantage.

    It's just that, it's not any more complex than that. Enemies don't appear to have any resistances, only weakness. This might be because of the unpredictable nature of the rooms and the items you'd be getting. After all, your gear is dependant on what you find and what you find is dependant on how you use what pieces you're given. Resistances, could have gummed up gameplay but I am finding combat easy. Enjoyable but still a little easy.

    When you magic a room up from a map piece, there's a chance that there's a ghost inside it. When that happens, you enter the battle mode. This is the best part of the game. It seems to be like a real time, RPG, gunslinger style thing. You have a bar to charge up shots and a set of batteries. You also have your HP and your enemy's HP. The batteries indicate how many shots you have remaining. They will charge over time and are necessary to fuel your weapon's actions. Firing will use up one battery but cause damage, obviously. Shielding will slowly drain a battery rather than use it up outright while your shields are up but will negate all damage done to you while activated. You can also charge up a shot to unleash a more powerful attack and activate your gun's special ability. Which is generally randomly chosen. This takes up a number of batteries in one go.

    In all honesty, I really enjoy this. I which I could play it more often. The simplicity of controls makes you feel like a Gunslinger crossed with a Ghostbuster. Never has the phrase "Nice Shootin' Tex!" ever been so triumphantly appropriate as you dive behind your shield, let loose a few shots then wait for the next attack from your foe. For such a basic system, it's so...engaging. You're never just sitting idle. You're always wondering whether you could get away with a charged shot, watching your enemy for any attack telltale signs or keeping an eye on how much energy you have. Your reactions and tactics are necessary as well as your gaul to fight back with everything you have. I wish I could see more from this system. It's got me hooked.

    "Stealing our catchphrases too now?!"

    On top of this, there's stats and stuff too. Each gun has it's Battery Recharge Rates, how many Batteries it has to power shots and how quickly it can build up a charge shot. It even has limits on how powerful the charge shot can get. The other stats to take note of are it's attack and defence stat. Seeing as your gun is all you have, it now acts as your weapon and your armour. The stats of the gun appear to be randomised when they're pulled out of a chest, usually within certain thresholds that's dictated by their rank. They're letter ranks and the closer to 'A' you get, the better the weapon is.

    Even though, I've managed to rig the game's weapon upgrading system to create a mega-powerful flamethrower. My C-Rank Banshie Burner is at least 40 to 50 points more powerful than any weapon I've picked up so far and I'm only on Floor Nine. The reason being is how the upgrade system works.

    Weapons will gain experience when they win fights but the other way is to discover a green orb in one of the rooms. Once you've found one and approached it, you can spend gems and other guns to upgrade another gun. Gems are found all over the place; chests, defeating ghosts, gifts from StreetPassed Mii's that are loitering in a room for some reason. You can also convert items and guns into gems. While some items are nice but can be ignored if your savvy enough, you might be all right if you made them into gems for weapon upgrades. However, converting guns to gems cuts the number of guns you can use to upgrade weapons. It's actually a nice trade off that makes you think about how to get the best you can out of your gear. Do you save up for the next orb you encounter or try your best to do something now?

    The reason my Banshie Burner is so powerful, is because upgrading a gun with another of the same gun upgrades it in a unique way. It becomes a +1 weapon, which increases the level cap that each weapon has by a certain amount. This increases the potential power of any weapon you have, thus staving off having to switch to a new gun higher rank later on for a bit longer. To my knowledge, there doesn't seem to be a limit on this type of upgrade that I have been told about so, in theory, you could stick with the same gun the whole game, artificially lengthening it's potential usefulness for another five floors or so before needing to do so again. However, that seems a little dull as, I really like the look of each gun. Each one looks unique and memorable. But also because the game seems to want you to switch between guns in order to take advantage of ghost weaknesses.

    But this is what I've been doing with my Banshie Burner and, it's made it into a power house. I've given up trying to upgrade it using orbs and, instead, focused on another gun to hopefully fill out my usable arsenal a bit. Currently, I only use two guns. The game gives you eight slots for items, so I suppose that's five slots of guns of each element and three for items.

    It feels like playing through Pokemon with a Lvl 100 Bidoof right at the start. It should have been outclassed ages ago but it just keeps winning because it's too powerful for anything to touch it! You feel like your cheating a little bit.

    So far, my irritation is how much I want to bust ghosts. I really enjoy the battle mechanics and which I could play those on a regular basis. I find them fun, engaging and exciting for what they are. The exploration is fine, if a little long winded.

    The idea is to try and use the map pieces to fill in as much of the floor as you can. Ideally, you'd want to do so, using as many matching colour pieces placed together as possible. While that's generally possible and will net you the most rewards, it can get awkward to do. But, completing a floor by laying a map piece to cover the entirety of a floor gets you...a gold star. Woo?

    However, progressing up a flight of stares issues a health boost as well as bringing you closer to the top of the mansion. That's actually not a bad reward as you apparently have to just feel around for the stairs using your map pieces. They'll appear if a room appears on top of the tile it occupies.

    Now, I know it's not far to be talking about this game so early in. But I'm impressed with it's length. It's much longer than any of the other games, even without the stretching out that waiting for StreetPass Hits does to these games. It even looks good. Environments alter from floor to floor. It gives off a slight Luigi's Mansion vibe, that I approve of greatly as a big fan of both games.

    Even that slightly repetitious song they play over the top evokes a similar vibe but not enough to rip off the unique sound design of those games. It stays more electronic, matching the sound of the other StreetPass games. Luigi's Mansion would dabble in a mix of electronic and orchestral styles to invoke the feel of Horror B-Movies. Lots of Theramin's, Synthesisers and Cellos. Mansion's sound design is a little less memorable or inventive but more memorable than the other games. It's identity stands out more for me than the other StreetPass Games.

    Luigi, sweetie; hand in your vacuum cleaner. The Miis have something much better than a turbo-charged dustbuster. Take a Laser Pistol and the Mansion will be cleared in less than an hour. Unless you really want to mix housework and ghostbusting.

    Over all, I think this one is the most fun out of all the games in the Mii Plaza. It seems a little exploitable at the moment but it's fun, rewarding and every time I play, I feel like I want to play more. I want to have another set of StreetPass hits so that I can have another throw of the dice, just to see what I uncover. I want to upgrade my weapons. I want to gain more of them. I want to see what new monsters I can encounter.

    I want to play this game every time I see that little green light on the side of my 3DS. It's the highest praise what's meant to be a present for going for a walk can hope to gleam.

    So, in conclusion: Puzzle Swap is quite satisfying. Quest is annoying but enjoyable. Squad is well made and challenging. Garden is a colossal misfire that I feel wastes my time. Battle is enjoyable if a little lacking in depth to draw me in. Mansion has a battle system so much fun, I wish it was made into a full game.

    In fact, if it hasn't been, I might try doing that myself. If I ever get round to it of course...

    So, is each game worth playing at all? Is the StreetPass thing worth bothering with? Well, despite obviously being a ploy to get you to meander around, yeah. I'd say so. It's actually pretty satisfying in a small way because it's a side benefit and knows it. It's there to boost the features of the 3DS and keep your attention on it while you play the proper games. It's like Nintendo have built a little loyalty card system into it with the intention of making you walk around but also keep you playing with your expensive hardware, justifying the purchase. Which isn't a bad thing. I feel like I've spent my money on something worthwhile, so mission accomplished. The 3D gimmick is touch and go but the power of the device, the library of games and it's various features range from fun to astounding.

    So, back to brass tacks rather than gushing. Puzzle Swap and Quest are free and come shipped with your machine but I do think they're worth trying out. Squad and Battle should probably be read up on, maybe try them out on a friends 3DS first before putting down any money of your own. I can't see all 3DS owners enjoying them fully. They're good but they're appeal seems very niche, especially Squad. It's genre and length you spend playing is very different to everything else here. In short, it's an actual game, if that makes any sense. It doesn't fit in quite as much. Mansion I would recommend in a heartbeat and feels worth £5. Garden feels like a waste of money to all but the most diehard gardening-simulator enthusiasts. I'm not sure if they're catered with anything else but, I'd have thought they'd prefer something else to play with. I found it deplorably dull, slow and tedious. Avoid and save your money.

    But, if you take the bundle deal, at least you get all three for a decent price and you don't have to play any of them. Just delete it from your SD card and everything is hunky dory.

    Now, I'll write about some other stuff but there's still games to talk about on the 3DS. Smash Bros. 4 being an obvious choice and I will get to them. But I hope that was at least somewhat helpful if you still have those strange spots in your plaza. I just hope we get a few more of these games. They're unique and seem to be pretty good.

    Well, 5 out of 6 ain't bad.

    I reward you for getting to the end of this article with another crazy Sexy Parodius snapshot. I appreciate you reading on, even if it's just to kill time while your Sexy Parodius ROM download finishes. Don't deny it!
  14. [​IMG]
    [size=+1]StreetPass Games[/size]​

    I know, I know...I've spent a lot of time barking on about my new, shiny red box but I'm enjoying this one. It's worming into my little heart, like it's granddad the Game Boy did when I was but a wee cub. While it's game library is actually giving me some pretty interesting surprises, I'm actually pretty surprised by one tiny thing: how much I like StreetPass.

    In essence, it's a little program within the heart of the 3DS/2DS that gives you presents for walking around. That's it.

    From now on, I'll lump 3DS, 2DS, 3DS XL and anything else Nintendo makes under the same banner of '3DS' because they all do the same thing to save time.

    For the uninitiated, StreetPass is a system that manages an instantaneous data transfer between two 3DSs that passes a little packet of data when both machines are within a certain range of each other. It contains an 'Ambassador Mii', that you create and then send off to other 3DSs like it's being catapulted over like an invading tribe. The data also has a bunch of little bits and pieces, depending on what you have installed on your device. The frequency of these data transfers appears to be about eight hours between 3DSs that have already transferred with each other before. New 3DSs will transfer instantly.

    It's this data that generates your present.

    So, this: Jolly, Giving and Japanese

    Now, I call these StreetPass Games 'Presents' because they can only be played when you have a Mii turn up in your StreetPass Plaza when you StreetPass with another device. The only other way is to use 'Play Coins' to buy a StreetPass for that game like an Arcade. The prices vary between games but you can only earn a maximum of 10 per day.

    Yes, earn. Play Coins are tied to your 3DS's internal pedometer. The only way to earn 1 Play Coin is to walk 100 steps. Walk 1000 steps and you're done for the day.

    Yes, Nintendo are now nakedly trying to make you get up and walk places. Yes, they're serious. Yes, I actually am in favour of this.

    While I can't vouch for every reader of this fine article, I like a jolly good stroll every so often. Sure, it's usually to the corner shop for a Mars bar but it's still getting up, stretching my legs and resting my eyes from the constant barrage of light that my computer screens give me because I enjoy the internet and computers. But even then, a break is appreciated. So, an excuse to get some fresh air and think things over (especially when a programming problem as me stumped) is a daily godsend.

    And so, it feels like a little present for taking a walk.

    "Here you go lad! Go have some fun on the Arcade Machines! You did good."

    Another fine motivational method, if you happen to live on Isla Nublar.

    The thing is, this can only work if the games are any good. Are they? I mean, the concept is decent but the reward has to be there or it's pointless. How about we take a looksy?

    [size=+1]StreetPass Puzzle Swap[/size]

    For a...egh, calling it a 'Game' is kinda stretching it. Anyway, for a 'game' (barely) about swapping pieces of image tiles to create animated, 3D images of Nintendo characters, it's not bad. This is the one that feels the most like a 'present'. In fact, 'Present Delivery System' might be better than 'Game' for this title. It's a little basic. It has all the intellectual value of a Kinder Surprise toy if every piece was hidden inside other 3DSs.

    Puzzle Swap has what you'll doing on the tin. Think of the digital equivalent of trading cards. Only, you have infinite copies of everything you own. So...Trading cards mixed with the Common Cold. Probably a Pokemon executive's dream come true....

    Pictured: Someone's Sneeze when they have Swinub Flu.

    The general idea is that you start off with one panel piece. You get to choose a piece from all the Mii's you have arrive on your machine. You get to pick which of the panels they have to pick panel pieces from, but you can only pick from what they have at the moment. So if they have a gap in their collection, your out of luck. So, obviously, you want to try and find as many Mii's as possible to fill out your collection.

    The reward for completing a panel is a 3D, Animated Image. I know, I know. 'Woo!' you must be saying to yourself 'Sign me up for pretty pictures! I can't wait to unlock the Grass Growing one!' Ordinarily I'd agree but each one is animated, they're vibrant, interesting, have plenty of detail and look fantastic. The most interesting is the Kirby 20th Anniversary one that has the little puff ball jump around and avoid character sprites while he hangs from a warp star. While I'd have liked some interactivity, these little things are very pretty. Completing a panel, while simple, is satisfying.

    And best of all, it's bloody spritely. All StreetPass games have a fast forward button. If you hold 'R', the game will romp through all the text of the cutscenes and animations quickly, making the experience take about twenty seconds for each Mii you have visit. It's a simple feature to cut into something you know is going to become quickly grinding on your patience.

    For a 'Present Delivery System' that comes shipped with all 3DSs that rewards farting around busy areas in the hope of a StreetPass hit with pretty pictures that move like Harry Potter, it's actually pretty satisfying in it's own way. It's not going to revolutionise the world or anything but...well, I like it.

    [size=+1]StreetPass Quest (a.k.a Find Mii)[/size]

    StreetPass Quest is the simplest turn based RPG you have ever played in your life. There's no exploration, barely any leveling and very little attack variety. The number of enemies is shallow and your reward is a selection of hats.

    Yes; Hats. Valve apparently have made Nintendo sit up and take notice because you are now able to customise your Mii with hats. On one hand, it's a very small reward that doesn't mess up the design of the games you play in any noticeable way, unlike in Team Fortress 2 where it has the possibility of messing up the outlines of the characters if they're too wacky. The Mii's are just simplistic avatars so an extra dimension of customising makes perfect sense. Also, Mii's can get away with such head gear because they're rarely needed to be recognised from a distance, unlike a Soldier, for instance.

    Yeah, I listened to the Developer Commentaries. Even the one about shader models that, while helpfully illustrated in real time, is dull as dishwater...

    Anyway, the other advantage of rewarding the player with a hat is that they're not hard to make. It's another, simple model you just slap onto the Mii and your done. My main complaint is how basic some hats are. I've been happily sporting a Luigi cap for as long as I've gotten the thing. While I will tip said cap at other hats like stetsons, Zelda wigs and cat ears; some are just lazy. As if some temp at Nintendo rummaged through a box of 3D models and tried to see what he could sellotape to a Mii's head. Some are as lazy as having an 8-bit Mario or a Rupee on it's head. No head band or fez it might be stuck to, just floating there.

    Because of course he's attached a Triforce awkwardly to his head even though it looks horribly out of place. Wouldn't you? I'd put on a coffee table if it would stay put.

    Anyway, StreetPass Quest might sound like the logical direction for a possible Final Fantasy XII Part III but it manages to squeeze a little more thought into the gameplay than 'smack things with sword'. Heck, it even manages to have a plot that it keeps basic but with just enough charm to show that they're in on the joke a bit.

    Your 'Ambassador Mii' is now a Monarch. He/She is now a happy little king that is kidnapped and stuck in a cage because we said so. The Mii's that invade your system through Streetpass are now the band of hapless heroes sent into the dungeon leading to the Monarch's whereabouts that are given nothing but a sword and a magic spell. That's it. They don't even get HP. If it's the enemies turn, they'll scare off the Mii you're currently using and that's them gone for the whole round. Once you've run out of sword-wielding doll people, that's the round over and your results are totted up.

    Combat is as basic as it can be. You have three options in combat with any Mii in your party. They line up and take on the current threat one by one.

    Option one is to smack them with their sword. This is directly proportional to the Mii's current level, which is increased (with a maximum of seven) every time that Mii arrives via Streetpass. It will grow a level then be able to fight. In essence, someone that you meet with regularly who also has a 3DS is now the Mii equivalent of Conan the Barbarian as they will be able to climb to level seven easily and kick some serious arse for you. Especially if they land a critical hit which triples the damage of a standard attack. The early game becomes hilarious to boot through while level one Mii's can struggle. Later enemies even gain armour that diminishes whatever power they had to nothing.

    So, Nintendo wants you to visit your friends more often, and in exchange, you'll get to turn them into a little Leonidas that will fight for you. Good deal.

    It helps if they are already.

    Option two is to use Magic. Now, here's something that's carried over to a lot of the other games in this article: the colour you made your 'Ambassador Mii' matters.

    For example, while your blade rarely loses it's ability to kick bottom, there are some situations where it's kind of pathetically woeful. One is when you encounter a ghost with a shield. It means that all other colour Mii's that try to attack this ghost will deal zero damage and then be dismissed instantly. The exception is if that Mii is dressed in a matching colour. Then they can smash the shield and cause damage. This is bloody irritating, especially as there's only two shield types I've encountered so far, yellow and light blue. And they largely screw up your ability to progress if you don't have the right colour Miis to deal with the situation.

    On one hand, it encourages the player to, again, play with it fleetingly as a quick bonus for either wandering into your local town centre or to your mates. You cannot play this game too often because it's shallow but paces itself out. Which is smart as you ought to be playing the proper games. But, there's little that is frustrating about trying to find one of the correct colour of Mii just so that you can get back to your little RPG themed Disney Park ride. This can literally take days because of the imposed restrictions on the gameplay. An entire group can be wasted just because not one of the group can hurt this little pillock with a yellow shield!


    The worst trick in this game's arsenal are rooms that are either pitch black or blindingly bright. For a room that's too dark, you need a white Mii because they're magic power is to cast light. The opposite situation needs black Miis because they're able to cast a spell that darkens a room. Again, if you don't do this, all members of your party will walk into the room, complain that they can't see anything and then give up and go home.

    It's infuriating, especially when you're hoping for a white Mii to turn up. To help, you can 'hire' a hero for two Play Coins, meaning you can just pay for up to five heroes for your party. Their colours are randomly decided, however, so it's pot luck as to whether you get what you want.

    As for the magic spells on their own, they can range from causing damage (which is the only way you can get around coloured shields or armour without colour matching or levelling up) to causing status effects. Purple will poison enemies. Pink will pump the rest of your party up for better attacks. Red will cast fire on both enemies for double the damage of a standard attack. Now, this also takes up a Mii's action, meaning it's that or whack it with a sword.

    There's no 'umm'ing or 'ahhh'ing, you choose one or move on.

    So, apparently all Miis are battlemages then?

    Option three is to send the current Mii to the back of the queue. This is the other aspect of strategy Quest lends you. You can filter through your party and try to see who would do best in this situation. Which makes some sense, especially if you want to boost a high level Mii or take out a shield. This doesn't forfeit a turn either, so you can do this all you like.

    As a final word, this would be completely irritating if this didn't have a fast forward button. The tiny little game is simplistic by nature because you're expected to dip in when you can be bothered. You don't grind, it's a 'present' for walking. On that basis, it's complexity can actually hamper the experience. It's the excitement of Bingo crossed with a five minute RPG maker project.

    But, even though I've been very harsh on this one, it don't hate it. It's a free doodad that is pre-loaded on your machine. It's design is clunky but it is satisfying to get a bunch of your mates Mii's up to level seven and rofl-stomp your way to the end boss. Again, the fast forward button speeds up the process, making it's footprint on your life marginal. I can't hate it's clunky design if it's only there for a minute tops.

    So, it's a big ol' "It's OK, I guess" from me.

    [size=+1]Click here to read Part 2[/size]​
  15. Ah! Well, that was fun. I have litterally just 100% this thing. And...well, I guess it's time to digest!

    [size=+1]Luigi's Mansion 2[/size]​

    My 3DS is starting to worm its way into my heart. Much like the Game Boy, the Game Boy Advance and the original DS I have owned in the past, this is fast beginning to become rather attached to my hands. I haven't put it down for very long because it keeps finding new things for me to do. Initially, I just messed around with it. Then I discovered the StreetPass stuff and I'm interested to see if the payoff for these things is worth it. Plus, I like the Augmented Reality games. The cards didn't come with my second-hand device but it barely matters. Just have it in front of the screen, and the 3DS is fine. Whiteboard drawing, computer screen, reflection in a mirror; the 3DS is perfectly fine. I even found out about some of the secrets. Like resolution settings on the backwards compatible stuff. Want to play DS and Game Boy games in their original resolution? Just start it up while holding down Select. Dunno why it wasn't an option to toggle but whatever. There's also the budgie, who is neurotic and actually worth talking to for once. That's a nice touch. Oh! And the 3DS Game and Watch Football Minigame Visualiser? Or the Arwing thing you can actually control? Or messing around with the voice filters? Plus, who doesn't like messing around with the pitch or tempo of their favourite songs? I like listening to everything with high pitch but low tempo. It's like listening to whale noises mixed with chipmunks.

    Yeah...My 3DS is kinda growing on me. While I was a little dubious, I can see the big appeal for this little thing. I might not even want to give it up for the upgrade...

    Anyway, one of the big, big, big, biiiig deciders in the appeal of this thing is just one of it's killer apps: the sequel to the cult classic of the Gamecube, Luigi's Mansion, Luigi's Mansion 2.

    For those that somehow still don't know even though Luigi's Mansion has likely cycled through every single second-hand outlet at least fifty times so copies can't have be too hard to find, Luigi's Mansion is the game where you play as Luigi. Guess what? Luigi won a mansion even though he didn't enter any contests! Guess what? The mansion happens to be haunted. Oh! And Mario is definitely trapped inside somewhere. Luigi is roped into learning how to ghostbust using nothing but a super powered vacuum cleaner created by a crazy inventor named Professor E.Gadd. This is the same E. Gadd that created F.L.U.D.D from Super Mario Sunshine as well as a few other appearances. I think he turned up in one of the Mario and Luigi RPG things. You know, the time travel one?

    Anyway, Luigi's Mansion is generally fondly remembered because of two things: it was a pretty decent if short game right at the start of the Gamecube's life and Luigi finally got a shot at the leading role. That was pretty unusual back then. The other other times where crap like 'Mario is Missing' and such so, kinda big news.

    For me, Luigi's Mansion had plenty going for it. Not only was there the fact that Luigi was in the forefront rather than boring ol' Mario that barely has a character these days (at least as far as his games go). Luigi was allowed to emote. He was a cowardly little man in waaaay over his head and that was relatable. Add onto that an atmospheric environment that attempted to bring in as much variety in challenges it could present to the player without seeming overtly out of place. There were your ice, fire, wind and plant areas, sure but they all meshed together in this one building. It made some sense within the cartoony logic of the game. Also, while it was creepy but refused to dilute it's colour pallet. Each ghost is memorable in their own way while also attempting to be somewhat unsettling. I mean, will you ever forget the Baby boss you fight? Heck no because that little brat had the power to transport you to a pocket dimension then tried to murder you with a rocking horse!

    Chauncey: the first boss in video game history that could be subdued by jangling your keys in his face and a Tickle-Me Elmo

    So, while aesthetically Luigi's Mansion was trying to strike out away from the usual Mario Bros. stuff, gameplay wise...weeeell...

    I have this little theory that I like to call the 'Mario Effect'. Mario has had so many games in so many genres but in each one, they're recognisably a Mario product but have roots in something relatively established. In short, they get 'Mario-ised'.

    They tried sport stuff. Golf and Tennis had crazy stuff added to them to boost them up. Racing games became hectic when they added weapons to the mix on top of enthusiastic tracks with plenty of hazards and became Mario Kart. For football, they effectively took the game Red Card, which is football without the foul system thus legalising pummeling opponents in the face just to get the ball, and added weapons. And a big, flashy 'Kamehameha' just to kick some footballs really hard. The result is Super Mario Strikers.

    The 'Weapon-Based' 3D platformer, a la the Ratchet and Clank series or Jak II/III which were popular at the time, was stripped back to just one wea...well, not weapon but more of a tool that had multiple functions while being based around the familiar Super Mario 64 mission structure and platforming mechanics. You were only as good as the device you had, even through they threw in a few segments without those parts because...I dunno, they feared it wouldn't be a proper Mario game without them. And so, Super Mario Sunshine.

    And Mario Party is...Mario Party is...Mario Party is a board gams on steroids.

    With that in mind, what is Luigi's Mansion 'mario-ising'? The answer I think is Survival Horror. It's an obvious thing to say but how it does it is important to note here because the entirety of the gameplay is hung from this one idea. Luigi's Mansion borrows one very important thing from Survival Horror; environment interaction.

    Take Resident Evil, of which it resembles most closely from that genre. You have a set of items, each one does something but only on certain things. Gun solves your zombie problem but it's a limited solution. Keys solve your locked door problem but they're precious too. Other random crap like levers and broken bits of various, everyday devices is the crux of the solution for each new puzzle. You find this random crap but have to make it open a door or help retrieve a plot-crucial thingamebob. It's Point-and-Click puzzles without the point and click. Most of the environments are largely static but will do something when interacted with in the right context. If you just poke a cupboard, it doesn't do much but with inventory item #13, it suddenly yields something new.

    Luigi's Mansion is largely the same only with a vacuum cleaner. You run around this mansion sucking on things until they yield to you. Once they spit out either dust, gold, a key or some plot thing, you know there's nothing else to be found. There's a little bit of picking stuff up with the vacuum to move it somewhere else, a little bit of pulling on stuff to operate switches or remove curtains to some end and a little bit of blowing ice/fire on stuff. Everything else is running around to catch ghosts in the very satisfying 'stun then wrestle to the ground' method of ghostbusting. No highly dangerous laser beams but plenty of rampaging around the room like maniacs. You literally wrangle ghosts like a bucking bronco. Doing so perfectly, especially with more than one ghost, is incredibly satisfying.

    So, yeah! Luigi's Mansion is a nerfed, goofy but enjoyable Resident Evil. In fact, if anything, it's much closer to the Lego games in terms of tone. Possibly even being stuck in the middle. Again, it's all largely static environments with 'Context Sensitive Spots' to mess around with. The puzzle was figuring out which character to use on what. Much like Luigi's Mansion's list of tools and abilities only they tend to hide their 'Context Sensitive Spots' a lot better. Rooms are usually built around them so they don't feel contrived.

    The Lego games rarely gave much of a toss. Father Christmas on Tatooine? Must be a puzzle! Not that it's a terrible thing of course but Lego games rarely take themselves seriously.

    Anyway, there's a few reasons I'm talking about the first game to begin with. Reasons like how I've probably binge watched too much Nostalgia Chick, much needed context for how the sequel stacks up against it's original and that I kinda want to write a lengthy analysis because I thought it was interesting. Luigi's Mansion doesn't seem to get picked apart much. It's always 'Cult Classic' and that's it. No reasoning why, just 'Cult Classic' and move on. It's true, as the goofy horror elements that paint it in an enjoyably 'Fisher-Price' eeriness won't appeal to every player, it seems cruel to just stop there.

    Especially when Luigi's Mansion 2 tried it's damn hardest to win your heart. The context of it's predecessor shows the shift in perspective here as I think Luigi's Mansion 2 has been made by fans of Luigi's Mansion. Or at least, fans of Luigi himself.

    "All most there! Widen those eyes! They haven't got enough glitter in them yet!"

    Next Level Games, supervised by Mr Miyamoto because duh, present the tale of the Dark Moon. It is a large, crystal moon that has the ability to pacify ghosts. Professor E. Gadd is studying these docile ghosts quite peacefully in the Evershade Valley that has six highly haunted locations. But it's cool because the ghosts are happy and nice because of the large, glowing purple crystal moon doodad.

    But, because it would be very strange if this isn't happen as it would just be a game about Luigi napping, the Dark Moon is destroyed. It breaks up into bits that fall into each location of the Evershade Valley and turn the ghosts into rawkus lunatics that start messing everything up. Think of Gremlins that have had every single thing you're not supposed to do to them, done to them. But timed by hundreds. Professor Gadd flees to his bunker and summons Luigi to try and save the day because, he's kinda the only ghostbuster he knows. Except himself but he's too old at this point.

    And that's the setup: Gadd and Luigi must fight the wayward ghosts and recover the pieces of the Dark Moon before there's nothing left to save.

    From here, endearment and increasing peril ensue.

    So, first thing that shifts in this game is where the personality is coming from. You see, being a Nintendo project, Luigi didn't display too much personality within the first game. He shivered a bit but cowardly shivering was really all you got. The personality and charm of the game comes from the environment and the portrait ghosts you're sent to capture primarily. Luigi was kinda downplayed simply to let the other characters shine a bit more.

    Plus, Nintendo likes their leads to be sort of blank so you can project yourself onto them. Next Level Games does not.

    Let's deviate a little more and look at one of Next Level Game's other successful Nintendo titles: Punch Out! for the Wii. Now, they didn't have to expand on the characters in this but they did in a big way. In fact, the source material sort of gave next to nothing to go on but I think that's more to do with hardware than typical Nintendo 'player projection' stuff. Within this updated version, each fighter within the game gets a set up before you fight him. It's about ten seconds but it doesn't matter. It introduces the character and sets up their gimmick, as it were. It just bolsters and refines the obvious stereotype each character obviously represents to just make them that much more appealing and memorable. Whether you're fighting a silly, Canadian bear of a man that drinks maple syrup like water or a spanish ladies man with an obvious amount of swagger your going to remember every one of these guys. Heck, the championship defence fights makes things even better, simply because you then get to see what happened after you fought these weirdos, that adds even more character to them.

    You see, that's the magic word here: character. Luigi's Mansion 2 pumps the cowardly green plumber with as much of it as they think they can get away with. The original was largely subtle. What with hesitations as he turns door knobs or nervously singing along to the background music. The sequel just adds more moments like that and brings Luigi to the forefront in a way that's not really been done before in a Mario game. Mario is the leading man but he doesn't show as much personality and charm as Luigi does in this. And I love him for it.

    It's usually very quick but moments where Luigi does things other than yelp and shiver enrich his character, like this scene where Luigi and this Toad fall through ice into a frozen mine. Tiny little moment but it makes a massive difference. You might not acknowledge it but your brain does.

    In a word, and I hate that this is the best word to sum it up but...yugh...Luigi is 'adorkable'. I know it's a kitch term but it's really the most appropriate. Luigi has so many little moments where he simply comes alive as a character and not just a little avatar I wheel around the screen. He screams when he's scared by a ghost, but he pulls out his torch, clutching to it as these multi-coloured menaces chuckle at his fear. When he wins against deadly boss fights, he does little victory dances. Some are even interrupted by a ghost ruining his flow and he cutely fumbles the little moment. And, what about every time he arrives at his location. He lands, takes a moment to get his bearings then quickly jerks back and forth, fearful of something immediately looking to come get him. When it doesn't, he gets back up, thankful for the fragile peacefulness. Just simple animation has elevated this game from being just a fun extension pack of the original.

    In fact, let me show you a little bit. Just watch this one cutscene, it's one of my favourites. You're in this dark environment and you know have to delve deeper into this place. And as such, you walk across into the only room on the map you haven't explored yet only to discover some new gadget. Professor Gadd mentioned E-Gates but didn't explain what they were but you notice that they have a light-triggered switch, just like the ones you've been using over and over throughout your adventure so far. So you activate it and this happens. Remember, I only want you to see that one cutscene.

    The purpose of this cutscene is to show the player how an E-Gate works. As you can see, it's a little teleportation ring that lets you zip from one place to another. That's all they needed. And yet! And yet, it's turned into a charming little bit where Luigi just plays with it. That little scene of him waving to himself and adding a little 'Hello' melted my heart. I don't care, it's the most endearing a Mario Brother has ever been, ever, in my eyes. It shows a character! It subtly shows that these weird portals are harmless as Luigi himself is pretty amazed by them despite an initial nervousness. And that's important as it's not just Luigi we have to teleport through these things. They happen to be the only way of getting stuff from one room to another as you can't carry stuff and open doors.

    Next Level Games took it to the...next...next level when they started adding these fun, simple little moments. And they're fairly frequent. Because of them, you keep playing. You're still playing because you want to see more of Luigi's antics. You want to see what he'll do next and you also want to see him succeed. You connect with the character. It also helps to cement the idea of Luigi being in waaaaaay over his head in this game. As the tension rises and the threat from the ghosts becomes ever more incredible, seeing Luigi win becomes increasingly satisfying because you get to see that happy little man celebrate overcoming incredible odds.

    And it's all because Next Level Games let him be himself.

    Of course, the other reason you'll enjoy the victory is because this is a nicely challenging game if your not careful. If your not paying attention, you will be joining the ghosts you're supposed to be busting.

    Yes, I'm done fan-gushing over Luigi.

    "Ah...Can I have my leg back now or are you going to just...I can't move without it! Umm..."

    Despite the loss of an analogue stick, gameplay is largely intact from the original game. You still kind of suck on things until they yield gold. Or a heart. Or a key. Or a plot thing.

    Well, actually...Not entirely. While you can suck on stuff, it won't do anything in this game. Unlike the original game where you can interact with everything just by waving your vacuum cleaner around, Luigi's Mansion 2 simplifies this all down to just pressing X on important looking items in the room. Of which I'm kinda iffy on as an idea. On one hand, it simplifies the process of upturning an entire room in your ceaseless search for gold, hearts, keys and plot items as it localises they're likely locations to only a handful of objects. No more careful combing of every single cupboard in a room just to figure out where there might be a cash stash. No, you just bang on it with a touch of a button and wait for what pops out until it becomes very natural to gravitate to these objects.

    On the downside, Luigi's Mansion thrived on your ability to search all over the place and into the strangest of places or tiniest of nooks just for the possible treasure bonus. That promise of a bounty somewhere hidden in a mouse hole or a strange draw is a satisfying reason to search the Mansion. The sequel brings that a little closer to the Lego games. While the level design ensures that they don't look out of place within the environment, unlike your average Lego game because they're for all out crazy fun, there's a layer of complexity in their interaction that's stripped back. Vacuuming randomly is usually a waste of time unless there's a fan to turn or something is out of reach. The directed approach is more straightforward but less organic.

    But! How about the make or break moment in this review? This is where the game could have been a horrible slog or a little gem. Everything rests on this as it strips out even more of what made the original engaging.

    Ready? You sure? OK...

    Blimey! Calm down! It's not that tense!

    Luigi's Mansion 2 is mission based. DUN-DUN-DUUUUUHHHHN!

    What is it with DS additions to bigger games and their mission systems? I mean, Kingdom Hearts Blah-di-blah-over-dippity-do Days did the same thing and I consider it the most boring and gutless waste of code I have ever played in that series. What about this?

    Well, Kingdom Hearts Dee-dah-dee-over-Lah-nah-nah Days was a colossal downgrade in almost every way from the original concept just to fit it onto the hardware. It was compression to the original DS from the far more beefy PS2 that caused most of the problems as the only thing they kept was the combat. They apparently didn't have the resources or time for story, locations, gameplay elements other than fighting things or anything...They had very short video segments for some reason. Why not take those out to make the gameplay better? Wouldn't that have been more useful? Ah...I've harped on that game enough. Let's get back on target.

    Luigi's Mansion 2 is an upgrade in almost every single way. There is no visible cutting corners here, at least as far as I know. The hardware appears to be better than before. Sort of. The technical specs are a little weird. What I'm saying is that the original game was ran on the 3DS just to mess around with it, according to Wikipedia, so there should be no doubt that the 3DS can't handle a game like this.

    The mission system is apparently to ensure you stay on track at all times. But if you want to explore, generally it's OK. In fact, exploring is usually encouraged as there's plenty of treasure to find, Boos to capture and a Jewel collection to fill up. It seems to be trying to help out a newer audience that wouldn't be used to the pleasures of the original game.

    When the original game wants you to do something, E. Gadd is all like: "Luigi my boy! I'm getting blehblehblubble readings from over there, some place. Go and do!" And it's up to you to find out where that is. Usually, you have to explore a variety of different rooms to get there. Or get lost as the instruction is never repeated. Nor are you pointed in the right direction, you just have to look at what rooms you haven't looked in yet and guess.

    Luigi's Mansion 2 is more directed. It tells you where you're meant to go by way of a constant map on the touch screen but not always how you get there. Plus, whether you ever get there is down to you. Again, it makes things more comprehensible at the expense of a tiny bit of self-discovery. But, it's still rather nice to walk off the beaten track to see what can be found, if anything. It's a balance between the newbies and the people that remember the original fondly. It's not a bad way to go. In fact, you'll often find that treasure troves move between each mission, meaning it's worth your while to check all over the place each time you arrive in a new mission. You end up learning a location's likely hiding spots as you check them over and over.

    But! And this is an important point, I like the missions. You're usually doing something that behooves you and your goals, which is usually trying to get to the next fragment of the Dark Moon. Every mission, indirectly or directly, furthers your goal. Whether your chasing stuff down to make some variation of a key to then open a door to continue onwards or just sucking up some ghosts, nothing feels like a complete waste of your time. There are moments with the ghosts that cheer you right up for having seen them. The slapstick is great, the little moments with Gadd are fun and I even like the Toads. If only because they're projectiles now...

    My one complaint is just the regularity of each delay to my progress. They started to feel a little contrived. Just as I was about to get somewhere, I am stopped, simply because a ghost stole something from me. Or they sealed the door somehow and I have to find and take them out just to get that door open. It happens alot. I can understand it. The developers need to come up with things for you to do. Plus, the ghosts don't want to win so you always feel like your wrestling with the wayward ghosts the whole time, which makes sense. I am not complaining. I'm just a little annoyed they used the Polterpup thing at least three times...

    I won't spoil that...

    Don't trust that happy face. This thing is a calculating monster.

    There's 6 environments to explore and clear out the ghosts from. They all appear to have vastly different, if familiar aspects to each of them, which I actually quite like the idea of. Each is distinctive, interesting and full of little holes to suck the money out of. It's in part due to how each location isn't necessarily 'a mansion'. I like how they branch out into other, typical horror locations to add a little more variety without feeling contrived. You don't find ice in the clockwork factory that happens to be sitting in the middle of a sand dune. There's not forcing ideas together like that.

    On top of this, you have items in the environment that appear as invisible. Because ghost powers. These gits are so determined to make sure you do not progress that they have cast an illusion on certain objects that renders them non-existent. This is generally a required item for the solution to a puzzle that is mysteriously gone missing and you have to get it back.

    Enter the Dark-Light Device!

    This is an alternative mode for the flashlight that you gain within the game. It casts light that dispels the ghostly particles that cause illusions. Once you have found an illusion, you shine the light on it, wait until it spits out it's particles and hoover them up. As an added bonus, it reveals the location of any ghosts you shine it on too, allowing you to catch them unawares. As an extra weapon, I kinda like this. It's not overpowered as the device has a short use time and not too wide a beam. But the advantage of seeing your next target is valuable. Especially against ghosts that try and sneak up on you while being invisible.

    Ah...That sad moment when you realise that Luigi is a better equipped Ghostbuster than the actual Ghostbusters. Might have been handy to have that when Sigourney Weaver rose out of the bed, snarling.

    Now, ghostbusting. Unlike the original game, there's only a few base types of ghosts to fight. But, they have about eight different types for the base ghost alone. You see, there's the basic ghost in green, the fast blue ghost that hides from you, the red heavyweight that's slow but hits hard, the purple ones that sneak up from behind to catch you unaware, the even more heavy weight yellow ones that spit damaging goop but can take plenty of vacuuming and the orange ones with large craniums that can throw stuff at you but can also summon lesser ghosts to help them get you. Apart from a few extra ghosts here and there that turn up mainly for boss fights, thats your lot. You'll see them plenty of times and apart from a power boost, most don't switch up their plans too much.

    Except the Greenies. These are the base level, super simple to defeat ghosts and yet they manage to become the most devastating threats you can face, simply because they will switch up their plan of attack constantly. Greenies are the only ghosts able to arm themselves with whatever is handy. Some simply gain a weapon to make themselves more powerful. That's the best case scenario. But then they find sunglasses or a mask of some kind that ensures that your torch can't do anything when you attempt to stun them unless you catch them out or suck off whatever is obscuring their eyes. The worst case scenario is having them find a weapon and a shield. Yep! More powerful attack and invulnerability to attack. Oh yay...

    I actually applaud this, despite my constant swearing. I wish there was more of this. The original game simply pallet swapped, this actually has enemies that appear to think. They pass a rolling pin or a lan lid and appear to go 'Ah! That'll help make a salad bowl out of that little green man's head very nicely' and pick it up. It gives the illusion of a game where the enemy is thinking ahead. And that's fantastic! It adds to the challenge without having to introduce a new enemy because each upgrade to the Greenies are actually pretty creative. I never thought a shovel could be used as a mask as well as a weapon but it can be. And it's interesting to fight, considering that they now control the pace of the fight. If you want to get rid of them, you have to wait for the point where they're defence slips up. Factoring into the fights adds a layer of complexity to them, pushing their difficulty skyward, potentially.

    Heaven forfend that you fight more than three of these guys...

    "Welp, I'm gonna go dig your grave preemptively. I'll put in a drainage ditch for those dungarees. They'll be fit to burst when I'm through. HU-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!

    All right...I...I love this game. On balance, I should mention a few things...

    One, this game is pretty challenging. I've died a few times playing this. Bosses are inventive but can deal some serious damage if you're not careful. I won't spoil them for you, but expect to be made to feel very small and overwhelmed. Luigi's enemies will get quite devastating if given half a chance. There's no increases to your maximum health and hearts will get rarer and rarer while the threat steadily grows. I like the learning curve in this. Things ramp up where it should, I think. Plus, the mission system allows regular breathers as well as cut down on needless backtracking.

    The controls are not ideal. While the loss of an analogue stick isn't great, my complaint is in the controls on the 3DS itself. I still find the analogue nub...or maybe disk. Whatever it is, my large hands start to cramp around these buttons. My fault for not getting a much more comfortable 2DS, I guess but I'd much rather have the clamshell to protect my machine, thank you!

    Lastly, this is still pretty short. Now, multiplayer adds a little bit more life to the game. Not too much but some as well as being a big one up over the original. Even so, while I enjoyed it, it is pretty short. One hand, you'll battle through it in seven hours. On the other hand, it doesn't outstay it's welcome. The plot threads through each set of missions doesn't feel like it's dragging on. Instead, they can keep a logical thread through each for what happens in each one. It's not entirely a terrible thing that something is short if it means it's lean and taught.

    In fact, let's speak a little on the Multiplayer.

    It's Co-Op and works fine. In essence, it is just the the normal game, only without a plot. Just ghostbust. There's 'Find the Pulterpup' and 'Get to the Hatch within time' modes but I generally found that the 'Ghostbuster' mode was the only one I gave a damn about. Not much to say other than 'It's pretty good and very smooth, even online'.

    OK. Essay coming to a close. In short, buy it. It's worth the money, especially if you enjoyed the first game. The second does it's level best to top the original in almost every single way. Well worth the money.