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.
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.
Never believe everything you read in a review. That’s probably not how you would expect another review to start, now is it? But it’s true. Hunting round for a puzzle game to tide me over until the next drama-fest that is Professor Layton, I looked up a few reviews on Amazon to see what was lurking out there in the shadows. And I do mean shadows; the good Professor casts quite a long one, making it very difficult for a lot of games to gain any purchase in a market that has been well and truly spoilt rotten with lovely animation and devilish conundrums. Most of the reviews I read said that GSP’s “Jewel Quest: Curse of the Emerald Tear” was a goody, so I picked up a pre-owned copy, just in case. Which was just as well, as it turned out.
It doesn’t start off promisingly; a very shady character bwahahas his way through the briefest of introductions and it soon becomes horribly apparent that this game is one of a series. A series that the writers have no intention of bringing you up to speed with, should you not have had the misfortune to play any of the earlier ones. Okay, you could overlook that; I mean, it’s not desperately complicated. Basically, two bright young things travel all over the world looking for prophetic jewel boards and other exotic treasures by way of hidden object puzzles and the most piggingly awful and frustrating Connect-4 type game (helpfully called “Match 3”) I’ve ever played.
I didn’t finish this game. I don’t care if I never see it again; it makes the frustrations of “Flower, Sun and Rain” pale into insignificance. And the reason is this: each chapter has a series of quests leading up to a final puzzle on the jewel board, where you must turn all of the squares gold within a set time limit by matching 3 jewels in either a vertical or horizontal row. Should you fail, not only will you have to do that particular puzzle again, you’ll have to repeat the entire sodding chapter from scratch. Even if you quit out part way through that chapter, saving your progress as you do so (or so you thought, sucker).
The rules for how the end-game works are never really made clear, changing every now and again as they do with the introduction of some new random factor to the equation. After several hours of being bunted right back to the beginning of a chapter, my mind started to blank every time the jewel screen came on and it became, in the end, a truly vicious circle of panic and shouting. Maybe my mind just isn’t programmed that way and maybe this really is a good game for those who’ve followed it from its first incarnation, but nothing will make me go back to find out what happens in the end. “Curse of the Emerald Tear” has just joined “The Hobbit” as one of the most traumatic gaming experiences I’ve ever had.
On my last visit to our FLGS, I picked up two DS puzzle games: James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club and Cate West: The Vanishing Files. After our not exactly positive experience with a certain DS game a few weeks ago, my good husband (the Prof) had kindly checked out other reviews for Cate West before I bought it. Basically, they recommended getting it either on the PC or the Wii but we couldn’t find those versions, so plumped for the DS one instead.
The game format is hidden object, where you must find X number of named objects across Y different locations. To spice things up a bit, you also have spot the difference puzzles, whodunits and, quite bizarrely, putting things back where you found them puzzles as well. Our heroine is Cate, erstwhile author and budding psychic, whose father was murdered many years ago. Suddenly she finds herself embroiled in a spate of weird and wonderful cases revolving around religious iconography, all linked to the church where her father was killed. She is accompanied by two rather dishy policemen who help her solve the crimes and present the evidence in court.
Having played the game, I can see now why the other formats are recommended over this one; the density of objects and relatively low level quality of the graphics do make it difficult in some locations to spot the hidden objects in amongst the background fuzz. There’s also a random screen tapping penalty, which is fair enough in some cases, but it does get annoying when you get penalised for tapping something that really looks like the thing you thought it was, only to find it isn’t. With fifteen chapters, the game also starts to get really repetitive, particularly as after a certain stage there are few new locations added. This is definitely a game to play one mystery at a time with a good break in between; played over two days it has a tendency to turn your brain to mush.
Despite that, the game does pull you in; the story is madder than several sacks of ferrets but is sufficiently intriguing to keep you fighting your way through the far too numerous junkyards of Arcadia. Mind you, the police here are a bit thick; if they really wanted to cut the crime rate, it would have been far more expedient to just leave a detachment at each of the locations, seeing how often the bad guys return to the same place. Still, that might have made the game a bit short. There’s also some great comedy mileage in the links Cate comes up with between the hidden objects and crucial pieces of evidence (that for some reason someone has cut up into bits and scattered here, there and everywhere). I still can’t quite work out how you get from a chilli and a map of Portugal to a set of false teeth and some roller skates, but there you go…
It’s fairly obvious who the bad guy is from very early on, using the standard mystery solving technique of the least yet therefore most obvious person has to be guilty, but that’s really all by-the-by; its why he’s doing it that’s important in the end. If you like your puzzle games a bit left of centre, then The Vanishing Files is worth the effort but unless you have Action Man’s eagle-eyes, get it on the Wii or PC, or you’ll probably go blind.
Having had my appetite for murder mysteries whetted (and most definitely not satisfied) by “Flower, Sun & Rain”, I wandered into our FLGS to see what else might be available. The first game I picked up was “James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club: Games of Passion” from THQ. Of course I’d heard of Patterson, even if I was only really familiar with his work through his guest appearances on Castle with Captain Tightpants, Nathan Fillion. Other than that, this was going to be a bit of a leap of faith.
Interestingly, the game runs not in the standard DS orientation but in a more traditional book format; I actually found this far more comfortable to hold, particularly during extended play sessions. The music is suitably US cop show, the female protagonists suitably glam, the men suitably slobby and/or gruff. The language is also right out of your average glossy crime drama, which may make it a bit rumpty-tumpty but also strangely endearing. This is safe, comfortable gaming; you know exactly what you’re going to get, with no nasty surprises.
Our feisty, gorgeous female detective and her feisty, gorgeous friends (a lawyer, a reporter and a police coroner) meet up at the end of each day to discuss the current case over the best food San Francisco has to offer. Equally gorgeous young women (and a fat bloke) are being dumped in the Bay (amongst other places) and it’s your job to solve the crimes and discover the link between them. The game is predominantly a hidden object mystery, where you must identify key clues scattered about various locations in order to answer prompt questions on the left-hand screen. But there’s also an LA Noire style bit during the over dinner case summary where you must remember what bits of evidence support your case (even if in some cases working out what these are is sheer guesswork because of the somewhat obscure wording of the prompts).
Patterson cheats in the same way that many crime authors cheat, by not giving you enough information to really solve the crime until he wants you to (although it is actually quite obvious who the criminal mastermind is very early on). In fact, I still have no real idea why the fat bloke gets it or how our feisty, gorgeous and really smart female protagonist doesn’t spot the bad guy right off, but it remains a perfect example of its genre: mildly diverting, gently entertaining and ultimately, utterly disposable. It’s a very short game, so if you have an evening where mildly diverting is about all you can cope with, then you could do worse than organise a dinner date with Mr Patterson and friends.
I do enjoy a good puzzle game; sadly, “Flower, Sun and Rain” (Nintendo DS, 2008) is not one of them. I should have realised something was a bit off when Game were flogging it for a fiver second hand and the previous owner hadn’t bothered to save any progress. But no, I thought, it’s by Rising Star Games (who include in their back catalogue Harvest Moon, possibly one of the most effective time vampires going) and Suda51 (who I’m reliably informed is an “innovative game designer”). Must be okay, right?
Wrong. It starts off well enough; slick investigator Sumio Mondo arrives on the leisure island of Lospass, where he’s been employed by the local hotel proprietor to solve a mystery. The introductory film is very existential and pretty, but it goes downhill from there on in. Your first game encounter is very confusing, seeing as neither the characters on the screen nor the handbook see fit to really explain what’s going on and the translation from Japanese into English is distinctly iffy. Part of the game involves you looking for “hidden” mysteries, but I didn’t manage to figure out how to do that until after leaving the first area, only to discover that I couldn’t get back again. Some early hidden mysteries require items found later in the game, but for the life of me I can’t work out how you get back to solve them.
And that is a major problem with this game; you think you’re in an open world that you can explore at will, but it soon becomes apparent that you are going to be railroaded in a single, predetermined direction. Deviate from the designer’s chosen path in any way and the game grinds to a painful halt, leaving you running backwards and forwards trying to work out what to do next. And if the designer doesn’t want you to go somewhere, he’s not above sticking giant purple crocodiles in the way. Seriously, I kid you not. Giant. Purple. Crocodiles.
On top of this, nearly all of the characters are desperately unsympathetic, making it very difficult for you to actually care what happens to them. Awful as it sounds, when the main character starts beating up a kid, I actually found myself cheering him on because the little toad was so vile. There’re even attempts to knowingly break the fourth wall which are supposed to be humorous, but come off as deeply pretentious (particularly as some of them are delivered by said brat).
There are several other major irritations: the memo pad, the graphics and the off-screen explanations, to name but a few. The memo pad allows you to make notes on how to solve the hidden and story mysteries. Only problem, you can’t actually access the memo pad when you’re solving the mysteries as they both use the bottom screen. In fact, most of the time the bottom screen is wasted, showing a less than useful map of the island. The game has been adapted from a much earlier Play Station 2 version and has pretty much failed to make good use of the change of platform, with almost all of the action taking place on the top screen in a very pixellated manner. And when the plot gets too impenetrable for the writer, the screen fades out on the protagonists explaining it to each other and fades back in on a “so you see, it makes much more sense now you know” type comment. And yes, the game sees fit to make jokes about how crap the animation is and how weak the plot is, which just smacks of laziness all round.
In the end, this game became a war of attrition. I was determined to finish it, not because I was particularly enjoying it or gave a stuff about what was going on, but because I didn’t want to be beaten by it. I have no clue what was actually going on in the end, other than it seemed to involve talking pink crocodiles, clones, hyenas and exploding planes; it’s utter tosh from start to finish. Oh, and don’t fall for all the “Groundhog Day” comparisons, its not even close. I only paid £2.50 for it thanks to the credit on my husband’s Game card and I still feel like I’ve been ripped off. Best avoid unless you enjoy inflicting mental anguish on yourself in the name of gaming.
WARNING: If you don’t want to know what was announced at the live E3 Nintendo announcements that aired this evening, don’t go any further: I’m not going to cover the whole thing at the risk of this becoming a novel, but I will be revealing a lot of what went on and giving my two penn’orth.
ON WITH THE HYPE!
Such is the love for gaming in our household, we awaited the Nintendo conference live from E3 like the visit of a much loved relative. The flat was cleaned, the projector wheeled out and pointed at a bare wall, the drinks poured and sofa cushions fluffed in eager anticipation. When the momentous occasion arrived we sat with eyes glued to our wall.
As Nintendo America President Reggie Fils-Amie said, this time last year we learnt that we would be able to experience glasses-free 3D. With the 3DS now among our presence, we eagerly awaited the dawn of the latest titles. I’m going to walk you through some of the titles that caught my eye:
Mariokart 3DS: Well, it wouldn’t be E3 without Mario would it? Nintendo may be famous for flogging the metaphorical horse, but Mariokart has always done something new. Karts are customise-able, as illustrated by a hilarious clip of Mario barging along on a monster truck. There are new tracks, obviously – but they feature new terrain such as underwater dives and flight tracks, complete with glider wings sprouting out of the top of your Kart. There is a host of new and old tracks including what appears to be a Luigi’s Mansion course. And, speaking of the little brother…
Luigi’s Mansion 2: I wonder how many other gamers out there found this announcement to be the numero uno pleasant surprise of the day? After a long wait (heck, there have been three new consoles between this installment and the first one) we’re now promised a 3D version of a game that was made for 3D in the first place (it was, honest). New features include several mansions instead of just one, and what appears to be a host of new gadgets for the Green Meanie.
Starfox 64 3D: In contrast to the above new release games, Nintendo promises us a smart new release of an old classic. It looks like the 3DS technology has been fully exploited; using the dual screens to de-clutter your flight path, allowing you to pilot your craft as if you were truly at the steering wheel, and utilizing the online play function to allow you to interact with your rival pilots, even allowing you to gloat victoriously (or blubber at your loss) in front of players from around the world.
Mario 3DS: What do you get when you take the mechanics from Super Mario Galaxy, blend with the gameplay from Super Mario 64 and throw in a little tanooki? It looks like Mario’s had a little futuristic-meets-retro makeover; either that or he’s mastered Doctor Who-style time travel. In all seriousness, this looks like a refreshing take on the staple Mario platformer, and with all the Mario we’re expecting over the next couple of years I think this is just the tonic.
Kid Icarus: Since Pit’s welcome appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Kid Icarus fans have nearly broken their fingers from crossing them so hard that Pit would get another game under his item-packed belt. It looks exciting, and as if in homage to the game that popularized his return, there is even a four-way melee-style battle game in which you fight off the opposing game’s angel.
Of course, with two very different gamers in the house there were going to be some times when one of us wasn’t listening. Neither of us were particularly excited about John Ricatello, the CEO of EA Games’ appearance, but as a commenter on the Official Nintendo site’s chat feed pointed out, once you’ve got the attention and support of the world’s largest independent videogame company, you know you’re winning the race.
I’m going to say very little about the next generation of Nintendo home console, except that I half-guessed the name as soon as Reggie Fils-Amie started talking about “we” and “you” and “unity”. My bets were on something as daft as “Yuu” making the grade, only to be pipped by Reg who announced it as the Wii-U. There were sniggers and scoffs, but as I pointed out, people laughed at the name “Wii” until it took casual and hardcore gamers by storm, whether they were playing it or merely admiring from a distance. The advent of the handheld ‘remote’ doubling up as a console in itself looks innovative and widely acceptable, and it will be very interesting to see what Nintendo will do as far as backwards compatibility goes. Oh pants, I fear I’ve said too much.
Without further ado, I leave you with a quote from Shigeru Miyamoto himself:
“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about Rock n’ Roll.”