Pixel Rift VR


Note: Distortion and blur in the screenshots is a side effect of the Oculus Rift display mode, it doesent look like that in actual play!

Finding myself to be a “VR enthusiast” having obtained an Oculus Rift via Mysterious Circumstances™ I’m doing that thing of downloading absolutely everything (within the realms of non-WTFGTFOeww) I can find for it to experience.  That inexorably led me to finding Pixel Rift – an absolute delight of an indie project by the immensely talented Ana Ribeiro and her team.  The game is still very much in early development, but the premise is not only clever and original, but also hugely appeals to the RetroGaming fan that I am too.  It also contributes to Donna’s and my own love of indie Kickstarter projects 🙂

The game is played from a first-person view, from the perspective of Nicola, a gamer who’s a huge fan of the fictional game “Pixel Rift”.  What follows is a progression for both Nicola and the “game within a game” as she gets older, and the game “upgrades” through generational hardware changes… e.g. Atari console, to Gameboy, to SNES, and beyond.  The clever framing mechanism for this is the virtual representation of the environment, and Nicola’s “growing up”



In the alpha demo, the menu screen sees you as a baby toddler, sat on the floor, with an old telly looming in front of you in an appropriately “giant” living-room.  There’s an advert in creaky old 70’s style on the tv for Pixel Rift – watch it long enough and you get a pseudo-augmented-reality explosion of colour from it, delighting both you, and your virtual infant representation.  In front of you are the various consoles, delineated by year, with their representation of the virtual Pixel Rift game.  In the demo, you can only play the 1989 “Gamegirl” version, the others are “locked out”.

Selecting the Gameboy…  er, Gamegirl, you find yourself in a primary-school classroom, sat at a desk covered in paraphernalia relating to Nicola’s Pixel Rift obsession.  Your classmates surround you, fooling around, whispering at you and each other.  At the front, next to the blackboard, your very hoary strict school teacher/school mistress (a la “Misty” comic, those of you old enough to know what I’m talking about) talks at the class in a very thick Northern accent, dryly talking about the subject (Biology, I think!) and –depending on you, and the class’s behaviour – either turning her back to write on the blackboard, or shouting/being exasperated at you and the other children.  With her back turned, you can look down to sneak your Gameboy out from under the desk, using the gamepad to control the virtual game, within the game.


Pixel Rift for the “Gameboy” – is a mono platform game, the objective being to get to the end and fight the end-of-level boss.  Play is interrupted by having to drop the Gameboy back under the desk when the teacher turns around, or risk her wrath.  However – there is MUCH more to explore beyond playing the game-within-a-game.  You’re also armed with a paper spitball launcher, which you can use to torment classmates, the teacher, or somewhat more modestly fire into the bin in the corner – the results of which are somewhat fantastical, but hilarious.


Get to the end-of-level-boss on the Gameboy, however, and you are treated to an explosion of virtual augmented reality, as the boss and your player avatar leap out of the confines of the game, out in front of you, as the reality of the classroom fade into the background.  Its gorgeous as the characters appear as their 2D chunky pixelized selves, but huge, capering and clambering about in front of you and over your books and desk, whilst the 3D world of the classroom still resides hazily in the background.  Defeating the boss requires a blend of the 2D play mechanics, and the “real” world.


The potential for this game is HUGE, and I *love* its quirky fun little nature.  The promise of going through different ages and years, Nicola growing up, the games becoming more advanced just really appeals to me.  I really like the pseudo-personal nature of the premise, but also how it appeals to my nostalgia.  However… I don’t know how much the game will appeal when played in a purely 2D non-VR realm , and VR is the only way to play it at the moment.  Suffice to say it is very much a niche product at present.  I think there might be an audience for Ana’s game were she to make it 2D compatible too, but the game most definitely achieves the wow-factor when played with an Oculus Rift.

Oi! Swot! Whats the answer to number 7?

Oi! Swot! Whats the answer to number 7?

It’s got some glitches, some oddities, and some of the animation is buggy, or at least unfinished – but for a prototype game for a prototype device, it’s immensely entertaining, and has a lot of potential.  It might be a bit of a British gamer thing in particular, but I’d love to see posters and assorted other paraphernalia of the eras shown in the various scenes, e.g. movie posters, “Look-in!” pinups, etc.  From the screen shots on their page, it seems that there might be some other expanded stuff beyond the classroom/living room environments, so maybe we’ll see that kind of stuff later.

With a relatively small audience available for VR projects at the moment, I hope it is successful in its bid for Steam Green Lighting, or if they decide to kickstart it, though again I think they could help themselves a bit by making a non-VR play option too, it would certainly appeal to the RetroGamers out there.

It’s got my vote, thats for sure 🙂


E3 Nintendo Conference (Part 2 – The 3DS)

As I mentioned it the last post, Nintendo had a separate show dedicated to their 3DS handheld.

This time around, Scott Moffitt took to the stage and started off by mentioning The new Castlevania Lords of Shadow game : Mirror of Fate.

The aesthetics look great, and it looks as if their trying to take some of the techniques that made the first Castlevania so great and implement them into this new title.

Next up was Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon.

It’s nice to see Luigi getting a new game after such a long time; With multiple mansions to explore each with their own challenges as well as new types of ghosts, it looks like Luigi will have his work cut out for him this holiday season, when the game is scheduled to be released, as both a retail title, and a digital download.

After that, Warren Spector and Peter Ong from Dreamrift take the stage to show us: Epic Mickey- Power of Illusion.

Apparently this is an all new game: not a port or a sequel to the Wii game.Mizrabel (known better as Malificent), the evil witch from the original 1990’s game Castle of Illusion is trying to break out of her prison and takes Minnie and Mickey’s friends as hostage; Mickey will have to rescue them by using the touch screen to use both paint and paint thinner to make his way through the castle of illusion. I was pretty impressed by the  style of this game, it;s both detailed, and yet manages to keep its cartoony atmosphere.

There was a lot of other great titles mentioned throughout the show; like Paper Mario-Sticker Star , Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance , Scribblenauts Unlimited , Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes , Transformers Prime The Game, Rabbids Rumble and  Heroes of Ruin.

We were also reminded that the release of Pokémon Black/White 2 is only a few months away ; also that Kingdom Hearts 3D would get a demo released in the Nintendo E-shop at some point in the near future.

Lastly Moffitt talked about New Super Mario Bros. 2.

This new Mario game will allow players to complete the entire single player campaign with the help of a friend ( though I don’t I’m pretty sure that’s not what Single player means) whereas the 2-player single player mode allows you to play cooperatively or competitively ,there’s also new competitive mini-game “Coin Rush Mode” which will use the coins you collect in the main game.New Super Mario Bros. 2 will be available on August 19th as a retail copy or a digital download.

E3 Nintendo Conference (Part 1 – The Wii U)

This Afternoon was the Nintendo E3 conference, and the one I was most looking forward to.

It started off strong with Shigeru Miyamoto announcing Pikmin 3 for the Wii U. With a new species of Pikmin, the Rock Pikmin, and a team of up to 100 of the little creatures you can get them to find food or take down an enemy, you can even get them to carry materials to build bridges or use the Rock Pikmin to break down large objects using the motion plus on the wiimote. You can also play the game from  the new Wii U game pad.

Next up Reggie took to the stage and announced The New Super Mario Bro’s U.

Yep Mario is back , this time for the Wii U; The gameplay looks similar to older Mario titles, but there’s also boost mode which allows up to for people to play together  on the same console, either using wiimotes or the game pad.

The last title I’m going to mention is Scribblenauts Unlimited.

The new game will allow players to bring their own creations to life and bring it to life on the game, and share them with friends; There will also be a Co-Op mode.

There was a ton of other titles announced aswell : Batman Arkham City : Armoured Edition , Darksiders II, Mass Effect 3, Tank Tank Tank! by Namco; Tekken Tag Tournament 2; Trine 2: Director’s Cut; Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, Aliens Colonial Marines ,Lego City Undercover , Zombi U, Rayman Legends, A new Rabbids game and NintendoLand ( a party game)

There was also a few 3DS titles they mentioned, but I’ll give you more details tomorrow once their 3DS only conference is over.


Skyward bound – Legend of Zelda : Skyward Sword (Wii)

So  there’s now two Zelda games on the Wii, the first being Twilight Princess (Which I will play again properly when I find a cheap game cube version, cause given the chance I will not use motion control) and the second being Skyward Sword, which is  not only the most recent Zelda game out, but also a prequel to all the Zelda games before it; Confused yet? Lets see if I can explain this.

You see up until recently  the Zelda time line had been a thing of speculation, every fan had his or her idea of what game went where , which gave way to forums upon forums of  fans arguing that their timeline made more sense; so along with Skyward Sword, Shigeru Miyamoto ; who I guess got fed up his fans ,finally released an official  timeline, with Skyward Sword starting the who epic saga off.

Even with the timeline, I'm still uncertain as to how it all fits together :S

Like I said at the beginning , Skyward Sword is the second Zelda game on the Wii and is as determined as  Twilight princess to shove the whole motion control thing in our faces. You start the game, like most of the zelda games, with naming the protagonist, I’m unoriginal and boring I stuck with his official name: Link. After a quick cut scene  we cut to link asleep in bed only to be interrupted by a giant bird who spits a letter at him ( I wish I was making this up ) the letter is from Zelda , who in this game is Links childhood friend as opposed to the Princess we all know her as from other games, after a quick read of the note link leaps off the bed and hands the control over to you.

I see Link also suffers from Monday morning syndrome

Using the circle pad on the nunchuck makes movement easy and fluid , the camera is reasonably  well-behaved, only occasionally looking at the sky instead of what your meant to be doing, but a quick tap  of the ‘Z’ button and the camera centres  itself , so no worries there. Running and jumping are again straight forward aswell; unfortunately the motion control isn’t so smooth. Even with addition of the Wii motion plus, there’s still a delay with links movements, and trying to roll a bomb can be a nightmare if the sensor  isn’t positioned in just the right way; throwing a bomb is simple, with the bombs selected bit ‘B’ , move into position and give the wiimote a small flick, but to roll a bomb, you have to raise the wiimote in the air whilst your  positioning yourself, but with the delay link doesn’t  always register that you want him to roll it right away, so you end up being blown up because our spiky eared hero won’t respond to your commands, all you can do there is throw the bomb before it blows and try again.

One of the first things I noticed about Skyward Sword , when I first turned it on, was the art style.


Look at that, its gorgeous! we’re welcomed into the world by bright colours and a cartoony art style which looks like the cell shaded versions like Wind Waker and Twilight Princess all rolled into one , and throwing the music into the mix makes it pretty on the eyes and the ears.

It would’ve been nice to have had more to do whilst in the over world, soaring through the sky on your loftwing is fun, but there is not enough to do, with the five main floating islands being host to mini games or shopping, the smaller pieces of rock that hover in the sky are either empty or have treasure chests that you can only open once you find their goddess cube equivalent in one of the levels below the clouds.

I guess, overall, I can only really recommend Skyward Sword to people who are already fans of the Zelda series, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be the first in the series, the game still expects the player to have a certain amount of knowledge of the world and lore before they even start playing, so whilst fans will probably feel right at home in skyward sword, to the people who want to get into the Zelda series…..Start anywhere else in the series and pick up some of the history before you try out skyward sword, otherwise a lot of the story may not make a lot of sense.

~ HeadphoneGirlZ

Madder Than A Mountain Full of Madness

Every now and again as you wander through your Friendly Local Games Store, you see something that makes you go “Eh?” quickly followed by “Noooo, they can’t have done” and “How in the blue blazes is that going to work?” (Or, you know, something along those lines). I had that very experience last weekend, when a tootle round Grainger Games revealed this intriguing oddity:

Yes, that is H.P. Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness. And yes, that is a jewel puzzle game. My one previous attempt at a jewel puzzle game ended badly, but this was something I just had to see…

At its heart, Mountains of Madness (well, this version anyway) is a hidden object and match-3 puzzle, with a bit of “figure out how to get the jewels out of ice/hideous statues of Elder Gods” action thrown in for good measure. It must be said, carrying out a hidden object search through the frozen corpses of hideously murdered Antarctic explorers isn’t something you’d want to do every day, but its certainly a new twist on the format (particularly when, if you click on said corpses, there are some pithy statements made about the poor person involved). One particular comment about a person trapped under an overturned sled looking a bit distressed made me laugh somewhat inappropriately (and he, at least, was still alive).

Some of the match-3 games are tricky, but not in a “throw your DS across the room in a fit of pique” way. Plus you earn tools that, once you figure out how to use them, can be tremendously useful in beating some of the harder puzzles. Although be warned: one of the tools lets you switch the colour of every stone on the board, which can actually put you in a worse position than the one you started in. You also earn trophies as you progress through the game, although it’s a bit idiosyncratic as to when it hands them out. I received the one for playing for three hours before I got the one for playing for two and I’m still waiting for the one you get for achieving 12 other trophies.

The story, as you would imagine, has been massively abridged and monkeyed with to make it fit the game format. Some of the translation leaves a lot to be desired, both in what some of the objects in the puzzles are called (I’m sorry, but a glass beer stein is not the same thing as a jar) and also in terms of the passages of narrative text, particularly at the end of the game where it all gets very confusing.

One of the main ways the game shines, though, is in the artwork. The backdrops for the puzzles are beautifully painted and very atmospheric. You’ll again get comedy comments if you click on certain items (“I wouldn’t want to meet the thing that posed for that statue!” etc) which shows that although their translation skills may be a bit duff, the designers have a very good eye and a sense of humour.

It’s a truly oddball thing, this game. I suspect hard-core devotees of Lovecraft will hate it because of what it’s done to the story, but it actually gives a little more interest to the proceedings. After all, if I hadn’t been bamboozled by the concept in the first place, I never would have bought it. And that would have been a real shame; it neither drove me mad nor reached new peaks of gaming experience, but it was fun and compelling and that’s pretty much all of what I ask for in a game.


Mayan Mayan Mayan

You don’t get a great deal for trade-in games for the DS at the moment; I suppose that’s because its old-hat now, what with all this shiny 3D malarkey. Still, the shops don’t do too badly out of the deal and it must be said that if I’m not sure about a game, I’ll pick it up second hand rather than fork out for the brand-spanking new version. Sorry, should really say “pre-owned”, shouldn’t I? I wonder why they do that?

Having had a bit of a bad day (long story, involves handbags and shoes), the Prof (also one with an eye for a bargain) arrived home with a pressie for me in the shape of “Amazing Adventures: The Forgotten Ruins”, a puzzle game from Ubisoft set on a South American archaeological dig. Its your task to rootle around in the jungle in search of a missing Mayan Temple, all the while thwarting your arch-nemesis, a rather pudgy, beardy and rather naughty Indiana Jones type. Actually, if you think Indy versus Belloq, you won’t go far wrong. Except the special effects aren’t as good. There’s no giant rolling boulders, for a start. Or Nazis. But other than that…

Predominantly a hidden object game (there’s a lot of ‘em about), you do get to play mahjong, spot the difference and do jigsaw puzzles for a bit of light relief. It’s also a surprisingly long game. You have to find 17 specific items to unlock the various mini-games and I assumed that after you’d found those, the game would end; but no, on you go for another ten chapters. And you can win trophies too, which is all very nice.

The plot is wafer-thin with a fairly predictable twist, but the music is jolly and there’s a lot of play in it. It does get a bit wearing
as you go back to the same locations over and over again (just how many times do you need to search an aircraft to prove there isn’t an ancient religious site hidden somewhere in the onboard loo?) but at least you can see the objects clearly and unlike some other games I could mention, you’ve really got to be going some to trigger the random tap penalty.

There are other games available in the Amazing Adventures series, but they all appear to be for the PC, which is actually a bit of a shame. Despite the repetition, I wouldn’t have minded learning a bit more about our hero’s adventures. Fingers crossed they get their act together and bring out a new one soon, or at the very least, translate the existing ones to hand-held.


Lone Wolf Cub (Okamiden – Nintendo DS)

It’s a bit weird when Deities have kids. Take the Greeks: they either leap out of their parents’ heads, or discarded testicles end up morphing into grown women. Then if they’re not eating each other, they’re breeding with each other.

Thankfully Okamiden‘s tale of the prodigal son is not quite as decadent. The main protagonist is Chibiterasu, son of wolf-Goddess Amaterasu of Okami fame. As the cute and excitable Chibi, you must follow the path set by your mother with the guidance of chirping bug-guide Issun.

I’d like to point out that despite my best intentions, I never sat down and played Okami properly. However, I did manage to wrangle myself a quick demo thanks to a Game store manager friend. Maybe I’m a little under-qualified, but the main differences between both games are pretty obvious.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to guess what the main differences will be: just look at the platforms. You could never hope to recapture the visuals of the Wii on the handheld DS – at least not at the moment. Look at Mariokart DS versus Mariokart Wii: there’s no comparison. So perhaps it isn’t fair of me to say that if Okami is akin to Hokusai, Okamiden is a crayon replica.  Brush strokes aren’t quite as smooth, and scenery didn’t quite ‘blend’: Chibi stood out as a completely separate object from the background, reminding me of a time when polygons ruled supreme and everything looked like a virtual Mount Rushmore. It made me feel a tiny bit like Okamiden was a step back a few generations rather than the bright young thing it promised to be.

For all my (possibly unjustified) picking at the visuals, the gameplay is as fun and frisky as Chibiterasu himself. Your circle pads unleash a bundle of smooth melee attacks so Chibi can bash and crash his way through enemies, bushes and crockery like there’s no tomorrow. Chibi can now leap and even vine whip his way across the landscapes, but beware of lag between sections of the game: sometimes you can find yourself having to wait (admittedly only a few seconds) for the game to catch up. The stylus lends itself elegantly to sweeping brushstrokes, and it’s a lot of fun to swirl and sweep your way through battles (although you do have to watch your ink pot level, running out mid-flow is a bit of a downer).

We all know how much kids hate being compared to their parents, but you can’t help but notice that Okamiden feels like a big game stuffed into a small console when stood beside Okami. Play on and you’ll be rewarded with Chibi’s new abilities, innovative boss fights and lush dungeons.

With its dynamic battle system and dungeon-style route map, it’s easy to compare Okamiden to the Zelda franchise – in fact, reviews from ONM to IGN have recommended Okamiden to fans of Link’s adventures. If you’re not a fan of Zelda, I say pick up Okamiden anyway. The puzzles are more likely to raise a chuckle than a furrowed brow, but the game itself is just like Chibi himself: cute, charming, and easy to follow.