Games Rebels Play – September 2013
I’ve mostly been playing Wind Waker HD and loving it. Aside from that, I have been playing a bit of Animal Crossing New Leaf (Still! Over 150 hours now!) I also tried the demo of Witch and Hero on 3DS, which convinced me to pick up the game. I am having a lot of fun with it, even though it gets pretty tough. The stages are short enough that I keep playing “just one more time.”
September was a busy month for me but I actually had time to play a few games for review as well as for entertainment. I reviewed Rise of Venice and found that it was pretty fun overall. I also put some serious time into The Inner World. It’s a solid game and I posted my thoughts on it earlier this week. . I also played a lot of Rogue Legacy, Punch Quest, and Mark of the Ninja. They’re all great pick up and play games that did a good job of fitting into my busy schedule.
I also played some Guild Wars 2 but far less than I have been. This is mainly because the monthly content patch re-introduced the Super Adventure Box sub-quests. These are all retro-style platforming quests that are very artfully executed in every way except controls. The GW2 engine is not great for platforming in general and is significantly worse depending on the character type you use. With a larger characters the hit boxes don’t line up with characters and animations and make some of the tricky jumps nearly impossible to pull off. It’s easily the part of the game that I find to be least engaging and I wish they would quit pimping it like they’ve initiated a revolution in platform gaming. Hopefully the new content coming out this month (including the return of the Halloween events) should be pretty fun and I’ll get some more play time.
Finished StarCraft II on brutal, finally. Started playing multiplayer quickmatches again and went from silver to bronze. Great.
With the Humble Bundle 9, I tried Fez finally and finished the first cube. I’ve entered the Steam hardware beta and also tried Ultima on iOS, but it kept bothering me so I’ve removed it. I’m looking forward to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
September allowed me to play several new releases while also dipping into my backlog here and there. I was able to finish the last set of puzzles from Picross e and bought Picross e2 to celebrate because there is no better way to show we want more picross games!
I started the month with Tangram Style, a 3DS puzzle game available in the eshop that takes an ancient Chinese puzzles and brings it to the 21st century. It has several game modes, and even has one for little kids where the puzzle pieces are color coded so that everyone can enjoy it.
Playing The Walking Dead: 400 Days was a short experience that reminded me of why I loved Season 1 so much, and it really makes me look forward to Fables and Season 2 of The Walking Dead. Sure, this DLC episode is shorter than the rest, but it helps gap the story between Season 1 and Season 2 while introducing some new twists that make the game click.
Also reviewed Darts Up 3D for the site, a budget digital release for which we also did a giveaway, which is a port of a previous Wiiware release and that is a rare 3DS game that uses the 3D from the top screen AND the gyroscope in the portable to control your aiming.
A funny thing happened in September: I reviewed Splinter Cell Blacklist… and actually liked it! As I said in my review, before playing Blacklist I hadn’t liked any of the Splinter Cell releases, but Blacklist managed to grab my attention thanks to Off-TV gaming and some nice ideas that make the game’s action flow without a problem, except for the occasional dip in frame rate.
After playing Giana Sisters on PS3 a few months ago, I went back to the game on Wii U to see if anything was different. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams on Wii U added Off-TV gameplay, a better frame rate and better color saturation, and the premise of changing between two different versions of Giana, which also makes the whole world change, was as solid as before.
Spot The Differences: Party was definitely a different kind of game and one that not everyone is going to enjoy. Since I loved to play this type of game no magazines back in the day, I was definitely happy when I had a chance to review it. It also allowed me to get a second opinion by having my sister join in and bring another perspective on the game which was a nice change of pace.
Played a lot of Rayman Legends before the month was over, which I’m sure every Wii U owner on 4cr has already bought. Even though the game is no longer a Wii U exclusive, the Wii U version IS the definitive version. If you don’t own a Wii, you can check the review for the PS3 and Vita versions that were over at PS3blog.net.
During the month I went back to Fire Emblem Awakening, doing a campaign level one day while completing some of the DLC campaigns here and there as well. After buying all the DLC for Fire Emblem, I’ve got a lot of content to cover! On top of that, I also played New Super Mario Bros 2 on 3DS since I got about 10 street pass challenges and I’m still working towards the 1 million coins threshold.
I played a lot of Ron Gilbert’s iPhone/iPad match-3 game Scurvy Scallywags. It’s a pirate themed, roguelike match 3 with RPG elements. It’s fantastic. I can’t believe it took me so long to check it out. I’ve also been playing through the PlayStation 3 version of Diablo 3 with my wife. The local co-op is great. The controls and menu have been completely redesigned for consoles, and the loot drops have been re-balanced since they got rid of the auction house. I think it’s the best local co-op game (other than Borderlands 2, perhaps) on consoles.
I also reviewed Nihilumbra, a fantastic indie platformer that really impressed me with great game play and excellent production values. It has since been Greenlit on Steam, and should be released soon on Steam.
I’ve been doing a lot more gaming lately. My momentum actually started last month with Guacamelee, which I purchased on a whim after reading an article saying it’s superior to The Last of Us. It’s a nonsense comparison, but I completely agree. It’s the best game I’ve played in ages, and I recommend it to everyone.
Next was Pikmin 3, which I’ve been looking forward to since long before it was even announced. Specifically E3 2008, sitting through Nintendo’s brutal conference and waiting for any indication of its existence. That was a hard year. Now that it’s finally out, I couldn’t be happier. The game doesn’t revolutionize the series, but it perfectly balances all the gameplay systems to create the perfect Pikmin experience. Also the graphics are gorgeous and the level design is ingenious. I’ve heard the levels compared to Zelda dungeons, and I think that’s about right.
I just beat Rayman Legends, which completely took me by surprise. Origins disappointed me – I had assumed I’d love it, but ended up finding the controls frustrating. Specifically, I had trouble with the way Rayman “boosts” when you start moving while holding the run button. This unnecessary boost made precision platforming unnecessarily sloppy. The controls are exactly the same in Legends, but the level design seems to accommodate for it properly and I no longer mind. I was enamored with the game from start to finish, and I find myself coming back to it for the daily challenges. I don’t want to let go! It’s the most fun I’ve had with a 2D platformer since, well, Guacamelee. Before that, Super Meat Boy or VVVVVV. It’s certainly better than any of the New Super Mario Bros. games.
It’s worth noting that I selected the PS3 version. No touch screen for me! All the touch-based levels from the Wii U and Vita are more conventional platforming stages on the PS3 and 360.
I’ve started September by playing and beating Killer Is Dead on the PS3, the latest title by Suda51′s Grasshopper Studios. I’ve already shared my thoughts on the game in a recent x5 feature and Gabriel Turcotte-Dubé also posted a great article about it but let me just repeat that I’ve really enjoyed the game.
I’ve dedicated most of the rest of my playtime to Grand Theft Auto V that, yes, lives up to all the hype and praising reviews – it’s a blast to play and when they said they’ve refined all the gameplay mechanics they weren’t kidding as it feels really fluid most of the time. It’s a very impressive title but it’s not a game without faults. There are a few technical hiccups here and there that were to be expected from such a big game but they are minor. My major gripe against GTA is its tone. It’s a blatant satire of the American lifestyle and its distorted sense of morality – I get it. But it is often a dissonant tone, jumping from juvenile jokes to harsh criticism. It’s a bit all over the place, sometimes leading to clumsy takes on touchy subjects (like torture or racial tension) that made me feel uncomfortable. Ultimately, cynicism is a double-edged sword.
The little time I had left for portable gaming went to the downloadable StreetPass games Nintendo recently released. They are far more demanding than the basic Find Mii light RPG, so the StreetPass Plaza app took the top of my most played games on the 3DS this month, over Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the latter which I’ve neglected for the past few weeks.
After months of delay, I finally finished The Cave. It’s a strong adventure title, gorgeously-rendered, and superbly voiced-acted, with more than enough of that wacky charm that made me love the adventure games of yesteryear. Heck, this time, I even resisted the urge to look up how to solve certain puzzles that I was absolutely sure I would never pass! It was an excellent experience, and I managed to collect all of the pieces of each of my three adventurers’ backstories. Three down, seven to go! Speaking of seven, I’ve already begun my second playthrough, and was delighted (horrified?) to learn that my first task was to collect the “Object of Desire” from the mummified remains of each of my previous party members. My first playthrough was so long ago, I don’t remember who I snagged them from that time.
The thing about this game is that since there are more characters than you can bring along in a single playthrough, you need to play it at least three times to see everything. More than collecting a few still images of their backstories, there is one level for each party member tailored specifically for them — so you are literally missing game content if you don’t play it multiple times. And I’m quite happy to do it as many times as it takes. The Cave is just such a joy of puzzle-solving and nonsensical fun that I recommend everyone pick it up. I have my copy on Wii U, and while it doesn’t have off-TV play, I couldn’t be happier with it.
(I should also note that I took so long to beat it because I was concerned with recording video for a possible review, but I think that ship has long since sailed. Or maybe not. But I’d rather enjoy the game and come back to it again than worry about getting review footage.)
For the first (third?) time ever, I am enjoying Earthbound on the Wii U Virtual Console. I believe I rented this game when it first came out, but it didn’t really grab me. Playing it almost 20 years later, I don’t know how that could have possible happened. I just love it to death. It’s full of just the same kind of tomfoolery as you would find in The Cave, so I suppose that explains a lot. It looks at the ridiculousness of the premise and makes it that premise. A kid takes off on his own to save the world? Is he an orphan? Nope! In fact, his parents almost bemusedly accept the quest that Ness has taken on. His mom doesn’t question him when he comes up, just sends him up to bed after eating pizza. And his dad, in typical salary man fashion, is just never home; you only speak to him on the phone. He’s also fortunately your method of saving progress in the game, and the source of a steady flow of cash based on your enemy encounters throughout the game. He also (patronizingly?) tells you that you work too hard “just like your mother”, and yet he’s the one who’s never home because he’s working too much. Lots of social commentary about Japan there, I think.
But the dialogue is just silly. The character designs are also (probably deliberately) outrageous. You fight aging hippies and ghosts and zombies, because… why not? You meet a girl with psychic powers. Your initial benefactor in this quest to save the world is a sentient, extremely powerful buzzing insect. Clearly, you cannot have such a powerful ally so early in the game, and the way this problem is solved is… well, it’s certainly original!
I’m currently hanging out in Threed, trying to figure out what to do next. I’m going to take a page from Vinnk’s book and just take my time exploring all this game has to offer. I’m beginning to fear it will end all too soon. But I want to share the quirkiness, so I highly recommend checking out this snapshot of a conversation between Vinnk and me, proving that Earthbound is indeed the greatest game of all time.
Finally, I’m making a near-daily habit of playing my Streetpass Plaza games on my 3DS, despite that I get almost no streetpasses in my daily life. Phil Bond was kind enough to get me a point card for my birthday to purchase the remainder of the streetpass games — with enough left over to pick up my first English-language copy of Link’s Awakening DX. But the one I play the most is still Warrior’s Way. You’re one of 21 rulers of a fictional island country, felling opponents in your wake with a rock-paper-scissors style game. You have the cavalry (rock), archers (scissors), and ? (paper) to fight opposing armies. Each battle you are able to see the types and distribution of that army, and plan your strategy accordingly, moving your forces from one group to another. As you progress you can spy to find out which battalion will attack first, and respond in kind. I find it absolutely addicting, even though I’ve conquered all 20 countries once already.
Since I don’t get a lot of streetpasses, I use nearly 100% of my coins on this game, despite that I have others. You only get 10 coins per day from walking around with your 3DS (1 coin per 100 steps, and a 10 coin daily maximum), so sometimes I will “walk” my system shortly after midnight so I have enough coins for at least 2 playthroughs. It’s bad, I know.
Secondary to that, you earn plaza tickets for certain achievements that you can exchange for hats. Fortunately, I ran into another Emperor at Best Buy (and defeated him in battle!) in time to get a ticket to swap out the Kitsune suit before the items changed over for the next day. Now I can tell you what the fox says when you streetpass me.
This month I played Animal Crossing New Leaf some more, though by this point, I’m starting to wonder whether I’m the town’s mayor or automated sprinkler system. I also finally got around to playing Shantae for GBC on the 3DS Virtual Console. It’s really amazing how they were able to make a game like that on an 8-bit handheld system, although does it matter how colorful or well-animated you can make a tiny screen when said screen can’t show most of the holes you’re going to fall into and enemies you’re going to fall on? I’ll have to get back to you on that one. All those cheap deaths still couldn’t make me any less excited about the 3DS and HD Shantae games coming this way, though.
This month was a lot busier than last so there wasn’t quite as much game playing got be had. However if it weren’t for the genius of the Wii U gamepad controller I probably would not have played anything this month. Being able to play in bed when the family is asleep or to play on the sofa while my daughter is watching Dora the Explorer is invaluable.
Continuing through Earthbound. I am in no rush to beat it. I am taking my time and trying to talk to every person and find every secret in this absolutely charming game.
I got NintendoLand as a pack-in with my Wii U last month, but it wasn’t until last week that I opened it. I was I had sooner, it is so much fun and next time I have a party, this will be the first game I bring out. Only played a few hours so far since my TV time is limited and a lot of the games don’t support off-TV play.
Sean picked me up New Super Luigi U, Wonderful 101, and Rayman Legends this month. He should be sending them to me soon and I think that will be the majority of my gaming when I get them.