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Sprite Machine

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  1. It's all right so far. Not as hard-going as SoM, although combat feels woolier and more chaotic, like I barely feel I'm in control sometimes. The menus and equipment screens are sluggish, like the little SNES is trying to push around too much memory at once, I dunno. Graphics are improved and the day/night cycle is very well done. Different beginnings depending on which character(s) you pick is mad clever. Good stuff. I wish I'd picked a magic healer in my party, I'm relying on items a lot! I shall continue!
  2. I've started playing Trials of Mana, SNES version (official translation of Seiken Densetsu 3). I wanted to play it for years but never got around to it. After being underwhelmed by Secret of Mana earlier this year, I'm hoping this will impress me a little more. Not in a rush to get through it, mind.
  3. Previously... 36.) Doom 64 - Switch - 2020 (1997) So much for taking a break from Doom. Completed the main game and The Lost Levels on the default difficulty (Bring It On). Before this remastered version came out, I actually had no idea Doom 64 was a brand new game - I figured it was just a port or a compilation of Doom. But nope, all new. New creature designs, new art style (pre-rendered CG sprites, very popular in that era), almost total absense of music in favour of atmospheric soundscapes, colourful new lighting effects and impressive audio with dynamic reverb. The guns in particular sound monstrously powerful; the chain gun feels like it's ripping the universe a new hole, and the only major complaint I have is that the reload animations are either a bit feeble or absent. With the garish colours and retro-bleeps of Doom 1 and 2 left behind, Doom 64 is more of a sci-fi horror game that feels like it connects a little bit better to Doom 3. It's still basically Doom, you still run around rooms looking for keys to open doors while shooting hell-demons of various types, across maps that are still basically 2.5D, and despite the game's age, there are some performance issues on Switch, but it feels nice to play. On the default difficulty, I didn't struggle too often. It rarely throws as many enemies at you as the older games did (except for the last level - strewth!) but most of my deaths or restarts came from falling into traps or down pits, or from those sodding flaming skull things. All said and done, this is simple, solid, violent fun, and it doesn't outstay its welcome.
  4. Previously... 35.) Doom II - Switch - 2019 (1994) It's more Doom, but now you've got a double-barrelled Super Shotgun, which is still one of the genre's most satisfying weapons (particularly the clunk-click of the reload). I last played Doom II on the Gameboy Advance, and I'm pretty sure it ran like shit but I didn't care at the time. The Switch port is silky smooth, but my god the continual Bethesda login prompts are annoying as hell. Almost ruins the package. Switch Doom II also has the Master Levels, which are 20 more standalone levels, presented seemingly at random. These are generally quite good (some clever workarounds for the old engine), but the difficulty ramps up to a ludicrous degree and I couldn't be bothered to finish the last two levels. A glitch in Black Tower got me stuck, somehow stopped some walls from coming down on the third floor so I couldn't get to the end of the level. And so by the the final level, Express Elevator To Hell, I was just too irritated to carry on. Swarms of gun-toting dudes and those resurrection fire demon things are awful, just piling on difficulty for the sake of it, so I called it quits. I don't like leaving two levels 'uncompleted' but they were winding me up, and I'd rather not end on a sour note for the sake of it. Other than those, all levels finished on the 'Hurt Me Plenty' difficulty. I'm pretty much done with Doom now. This took far longer to play through than I anticipated. I was going to go straight onto Doom 64 (which I've never played before) but I think I'm all Doomed out. At least I need a breather.
  5. Previously... 34.) Doom - Switch - 2019 (1993) Completed episodes 1-3 on 'Hurt Me Plenty', and episode 4 on 'Not Too Rough'. Weirdly enough, the last time I played Doom was also on a Nintendo handheld, twenty bloody years ago! The Gameboy Advance port was an amazing novelty back in 2001 ("I'm playing Doom... on the bus!") but looking back on it now, it was obviously compromised. The Switch port is lovely and smooth, and all those giant pixels are blown up to their full splendor. It's also got the brutally difficult 'Thy Flesh Consumed' episode at the end, originally from Final Doom. Everyone knows what Doom is. It's Doom! It's still a fun game. It has level design that isn't just a straight corridor full of cannon fodder. You have to actually, like, explore and stuff! What's particularly impressive about Doom's level design is that they built these impressive spaces basically in 2D. The maps have elevation but you can't go under or over anything, nor can you look up and down. And yet, we have tunnels and moving platforms and spiral staircases and hidden rooms and bridges and pits. That it did all of this and it was a fun shooter to play as well? Pretty impressive, and it still holds up.
  6. Depends what they've done to them. If the controls (and particularly the targetting) have been modernised, and they've put some of the sequels' features back in (motorbikes, shooting out tyres, flying through windscreens) it might be worth playing through again. From what I recall, GTAIII had an excellent city, structurally the best level design of all three games, I'd say.
  7. In my opinion, Shenmue 3 is not as good as 1 and 2 on its own terms, not compared to modern games. It is simply a far more tedious version of what 1 and 2 did (which I re-played shortly before this one, and loved them both!), and most of its problems stem from the stamina system forcing you to do regular repetitive daily chores. You aren't allowed the same sort of freedom as in the first games because there's this constant, nagging, drain on your character's stamina that keeps saying "hey, buy some food, chop some wood, earn some money, buy some food - don't you dare run too far!". It saps the joy out of the game, turns it into much more of a 'job' than it should be. It's almost like it's trying to force you to explore and mingle and earn, rather than just allowing you to. It's a structural problem, I think, that stems from the early design stages. That said, it's quite possible the game would be massively improved just by removing the stamina drain / food requirements. I'm sure the PC version could be modded to do just that and it would make it at least 75% better. Nowt to do with 'wanting Shenmue to be like GTA' of whatever nonsense, I just wanted Shenmue 3 to be a better Shenmue game.
  8. Previously... 33.) Sonic Mania Plus - Switch - 2018 (2017) Uh, again! Completed Mania mode with all characters and Chaos Emeralds. Completed Encore mode with all Chaos Emeralds. Not the first time I've played through it this year, but the first time on the Nintendo Switch. I bought it in anticipation of the Origins Collection next year, and my desire to have all Sonic games playable on a widescreen handheld. It's still just as wonderfully playable as ever of course. Special Stage big rings are still bloody hard to find compared to the old games, and even harder in Encore mode where they've moved them around! Level design can sometimes be a bit too visually 'busy' (see Studiopolis Zone for instance) and I think there's a little too much reliance on springs pushing you around, rather than letting you build up your own speed. But on the whole, it's a masterful piece of work by people who love and understand classic Sonic games. The additional characters feel unique enough to justify their inclusion (flying as Ray is great fun). It's also got the best (cheesiest) Super music ever, I love it!
  9. The cutscene improvements are significant. They've improved the facial animation and gotten rid of the weird vacant open-mouthed expressions. And the character of Alan looks a lot more like the live action actor, which I assume they tried and failed to do originally. I quite enjoyed Alan Wake and American Nightmare when I first played them last year. I'm well up for a proper sequel, eventually.
  10. Any particular reason this thread doesn't come up in google searches? (Maybe bumping will help.) -------- January Nothing February Nothing March The Last Express Gold Edition (PC) £1.64 (+ Steam credit) April Halo: The Master Chief Collection (PC) £14.46 (+ Steam credit) [SOLD] Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4) -£2.00 [SOLD] God of War (PS4) -£7.00 [SOLD] Star Trek: Bridge Crew (PS4) -£5.00 Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4) £22.00 Black Mesa (PC) £7.11 (+ Steam credit) May Nothing June The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch) £1.99 (+ eShop credit) [SOLD] Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4) -£17.70 July Beyond Eyes (PC) £1.77 (+ Steam credit) August Nothing September [SOLD] Nintendo DS Rumble Pak -£3.35 Super Mario Odyssey (Switch) £31.99 (+ eShop credit) Sonic Mania Plus (Switch) £9.99 (+ eShop credit) Doom (1993) (Switch) £1.99 Doom II (Switch) £1.99 Doom 64 (Switch) £1.99 Doom 3 (Switch) £3.59 (+ eShop credit) Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (Switch) £22.31 (+ eShop credit) October Nothing November Inside (Switch) £0.67 (+ eShop credit) Firewatch (PC) £3.49 (+ Steam credit) 2021 total so far: £91.93
  11. Previously... 32) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Switch - 2017 Completed all the major things, I think. All four Divine Beasts, got the Master Sword, all memories and a hell of a lot of shrines before defeating Ganon. 90+ hours. Four years late to the party, there's not much I can add that hasn't been said. Everyone told me it was great, and it was. It's pretty incredible! For me, this game feels like an attempt to replicate the open-ness and "work it out yourself" feel of the original Legend of Zelda on the NES - it doesn't hold your hand, lets you tackle the quest in any order you want, it rewards experimentation, and the sense of discovery is very natural and rewarding. It also lets you fail in a way that Nintendo games often don't - it feels more like an RPG where you can just blunder into situations you aren't prepared for. It's also a game that, finally, sells the idea of a massive open world without the need for smoke and mirrors. It's the promise of Ocarina of Time, sprawling landscapes and distant landmarks, except instead of just being segmented arenas with bitmaps pasted onto the walls, these mountains and castles and hills in the distance are actually there, part of a fully modelled environment that you can actually explore in its entirety. And you can climb everything, even things that you assume you shouldn't climb. Take shortcuts, try to break the game, do what you want - and live with the consequences. It takes it all in its stride and gives you more. This is an enormous game - the size of the map is mind-bogglingly huge for any developer to have come up with, never mind one as conservative with its franchises as Nintendo! And yet, it feels like a cohesive whole, like a genuine wilderness with varied climates that fit together believably. Seeing the smoking Death Mountain from everywhere on the map, wondering how to survive the heat, getting nearer and nearer to Hyrule Castle as I pass back and forth doing other quests, knowing that I will eventually be returning there for good. Wondering how to reach each Sheikah Tower as I map out paths through mountains and over hills, or try to avoid enemy camps. If I had any criticism, it's that the sheer number of side quests is overwhelming and they're often not very rewarding. The Shrines are great, the Divine Beasts are excellent, and the plot is surprisingly touching (a little voice acting can improve the franchise - who knew?), but it's not a game I would like to play through again from scratch. The idea of starting over and doing all of that again is not appealing. I got a little bit addicted by the end just trying to mop up my quest log and find as many clothing ingredients as I could, which started to make the game feel like a chore. I also had to resort to Google a few times to find things that I simply would never have found without help, such is the sheer scale of the map, and although I definitely didn't find everything, it still took me nearly a hundred hours! Maybe some shorter games next...
  12. Sorry, I never played the remakes. I don't particularly like the way they look, but I'm sure they're fine.
  13. Amazing soundtrack! Paper Jam wasn't as good but worth a go. Actually, here are my thoughts on it from 2019:
  14. Previously... 31.) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy - PS4 - 2017 Completed on normal difficulty (approx. 7 hours). Not much to say about this one. It's like a little chunk of Uncharted 4 all over again. It makes good use of stealth to spice up the combat arenas, hiding in tall grass and grapple-hooking over chasms; the traversal sections are good fun; the set-pieces are eye-wateringly bombastic; and even though Drake and Sully are nowhere to be seen, Chloe and Nadine have a similar dynamic going on, with plenty of quips and cockiness as they slaughter hundreds of people in their quest for a valuable McGuffin. Unlike Uncharted 4, this game doesn't have much downtime or filler. It's a shorter game, probably only half the length, but it packs in lots of entertainment. It feels a little more Tomb Raider-y, though that's probably more down to the setting. It's a beautiful-looking game in places, and a technical marvel, as Naughty Dog never disappoint in that regard. I do wish it was 60fps, though - the framerate and the motion blur (particularly when panning the camera around) are a bit of an eyesore. I would have waited for a PS5 enhancement before playing both of these games, but I don't have a PS5, I don't especially want one yet, and said enhancement hasn't been confirmed anyway. Worth a playthrough for one (presumably last?) bit of Uncharted fun.
  15. Previously... 30.) Statik - PS4 - 2017 Played through all levels once (approx. 3 hours). This is a VR puzzle game in which you inhabit the body of an apparent test subject in some sort of laboratory, your hands bound inside a series of puzzle boxes, while a strange doctor with a blurred-out face makes notes on a clipboard. It's mysterious, unsettling and creepy. All you can do is press buttons on the controller to make parts of the puzzle boxes move, activate or change. And anything can be a clue, so pay attention. Statik's greatest strength can also be its biggest weakness. It has no instructions and so you must work out what to do, which can be very satisfying when you get a flash of inspiration and finally solve something, but it can also be very frustrating if you just don't 'get it' and you spend a long time making no progress or missing some small detail. I never felt any of the puzzles were unfair, though, and most are deviously clever. There are also some secret puzzles within each level that can be solved through retrieving hidden clues from later levels, but I didn't get around to doing that, so I don't know if there's a secret ending that better explains things. Using just a standard controller (no Moves required), the motion tracking isn't always perfect and there's often a disconnect between your real and virtual arms, but it's reasonable and the graphics look good. More importantly, this is one of the most interesting and cerebral games I've played in VR and I'd recommend it as one to check out. I may even go back and find some of those extras...
  16. Previously... 29.) Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Switch - 2020 I've still got a King Salmon to catch (next month) and I'm missing loads of Art Pieces, but I've done almost everything I wanted to do, bought everything I wanted, done loads of events, had an in-game birthday party, watched fireworks, saw all the seasons roll around and curated a cute bunch of villagers. I'll keep dabbling here and there in the coming months but having finally completed my bug collection today, I'm calling quits on regular daily play, and putting this game in my "basically finished" pile. The Switch says I've played 180+ hours, but it feels like more. Everyone knows Animal Crossing and I'm sure it's been discussed to death on the forum. It's been a great escape from the nightmare of reality this past year, although I didn't jump in until Sept/Oct. The biggest change in New Horizons (unless I missed it in a previous version) is the ability to display your items and furniture outdoors, rather than only indoors, thereby opening up untold avenues of island customisation. People have gone to town on this and made some pretty wild stuff. Personally, I liked to keep the rustic island aesthetic as best I could, while still building little cafés, outdoor cinemas, classrooms, playgrounds, zen gardens and orchards. The way the Switch handles its data and locks your island to the hardware is slightly terrifying, however I have enjoyed being able to share an island with the missus over this past year. In fact, she's made most of the creative decisions and has played for longer than I have! I recently did a little island tour video:
  17. Previously... 28.) Job Simulator - PS4 - 2016 Completed all four jobs and unlocked all Trophies. This came out early on in the PSVR's life, but it never dropped below that impulse sub-£10 price point, so I kinda left it until now. Well... this is one of the best VR games I've played so far. It uses the Move controllers to great effect, is really intuitive for anyone to play, and is absolutely hilarious too. Some of its humour is scripted, some of it is emergent, and some is a combination of the two. In the chef's job, I created a soup by combining ingredients like "Romantic Music CD" and "Fire Extinguisher", and the resulting can that popped out of the cooker had exactly that on its label. As a store clerk, I grabbed the tobacco pipe from one of the customers, put it on the 'enlarge' machine and gave it back to him jumbo sized. In the office job, I 'photocopied' a stapler and then proceeded to fire both of them over the other cubicles, dual-wielding them like a couple of guns. None of this is required or even especially recognised by the game, it's just emergent fun that happens thanks to the loose constraints the game imposes. Every object is simulated with physics, the tactile interface is wonderful, and it's just a heap of fun you can enjoy in short sessions, plus it's played standing still, so it causes minimal motion sickness for me. Definitely a keeper, and one to pull out at the next permitted social gathering.
  18. Previously... 27.) Beyond Eyes - PC - 2015 Played through once, and somehow missed every single optional achievement! (2 hours) This is a clever and original game about a young blind girl called Rae, who is trying to find her missing cat, Nani. As you navigate the world, it gets 'filled in' like a watercolour painting by Rae's interpretation of what's around her. Sounds, smells and physical touch are manifested visually, and often misleadingly. There might be something ahead that sounds like one thing but turns into another as you get closer. I don't imagine that this is a truly accurate portrayal of blindness, but it's a strange and disconcerting way to explore a virtual environment, shuffling forwards into the unknown white void, which I suppose is the point. If I had any criticism, it's that Rae moves painfully slowly, which is fair enough as she's blind, but when you're backtracking through areas you've already 'revealed', or generally trying to scout out the boundaries of the level, this can start to become tedious. The ending is also a bit of a downer, it must be said. Still, a lovely game and well worth playing.
  19. Previously... 26.) Subsurface Circular - Switch - 2018 (2017) Played through twice (second time with developer text commentary). A 'short' by Mike Bithell (of Thomas Was Alone and Volume fame). A robot detective rides an underground subway system in an unnamed futuristic city, talking to other robots (Teks) and trying to solve a mystery. This is little more than a text adventure, albeit one with graphics. The hum of the subway, the gentle vibration of the controller, the lights and sounds, create a nice atmosphere, but other than the Teks getting in and out of their seats, there's not much else happening. The wider world-building is instead created in the imagination and in the descriptions given by the characters. Gameplay involves starting conversations, working through dialogue choices, finding key words and terms to ask others and a bit of light puzzle solving. It's not a bad game, but it does feel under-developed. It has a few ideas that it toys with but doesn't flesh out, and the story seems like it can branch more than it actually can. It was made and released in four months, though, which is quite impressive.
  20. A handheld PC more powerful than my current desktop - crazy times! How many Gamecubes is that?
  21. Previously... 25.) The Last Express Gold Edition - PC - 2013 (1997) Completed and got the final ending (approximately 8 hours). Set entirely on board the Orient Express on its final pre-war journey in 1914, The Last Express is ostensibly a point-and-click game, only with a lot more clicking and a lot less pointing. This visually striking adventure game from 1997 uses a combination of rotoscoped animation and pre-rendered backgrounds to bring its scenes to life. But the most interesting aspect of the game is how the other passengers all follow a prescribed schedule and you can carve a different route around their schedules to get different outcomes or complete tasks in a different order. It doesn't always work perfectly, there are some bugs and most of the game is spent getting disoriented and lost until you accidentally stumble into the right room or person, but it's still a really interesting way to design a game. If you make mistakes, die, or just want to try something else, you can rewind time and start from an earlier point. A modern update could probably do a concept like this justice, but it wouldn't have the same distinct style unique to its era. Not quite traditional game art, not quite FMV, a style that sits in the middle. I don't know how many of the game's accessibility features are new to the Gold Edition. This is a PC game to smart phone back to PC port, and the presentation is a little rough. I'm guessing it didn't originally have the hint bubbles at least, which are very useful. One other thing I really like is the performances. Adventure games can often have staccato dialogue or sound forced, but because The Last Express's characters are usually speaking on their own time, often overlapping or overheard, it sounds really natural. I believe the performances were captured live as well (before rotoscoping), which really helps. Did I enjoy actually playing this? Nyeeeah, kind of. But I think it's a really interesting game that captures not just an era of PC gaming, but an era of history and geopolitics and romance. Plus, y'know, trains in games are awesome.
  22. Previously... 24.) MINERVA: Metastasis - PC - 2013 (2005/07) Completed on Easy difficulty (3.5 hours). Following on from Black Mesa with more fan-made Half-Life, this is a Half-Life 2 mod, starring an unknown character who infiltrates an underground Combine facility under orders from a mysterious person who relays text messages to you. Features Half-Life 2 assets and enemies (including those fucking screaming bastards that run at you) and a whole lot of stuff I'd forgotten about since I last played Half-Life 2. Pretty much had to play it with keyboard/mouse, which I don't enjoy much. Generally, the game involves descending through levels of an underground facility, and then scrambling around looking for buttons, switches or triggers to get to the next area, while fighting off waves of enemies. I got lost a lot. I can't remember who recommended playing this, and maybe it seemed more impressive 15 years ago, but I thought it was just OK and nothing special. I think I'm done with Half-Life stuff for now (until I can play Alyx).
  23. Previously... 23.) Axiom Verge - Vita - 2016 (2015) Completed with 100% map and items (with a lot of a help from a guide!) - 16 hours An almost Metroid clone with Giger-esque techno-horror themes, Axiom Verge is lovely to play and just different enough from Metroid to surprise you. Unique abilities give way to secrets in fun new ways, that still require skill and patience to use, though I do miss becoming an all powerful flying death machine and hoped that might happen before the end. It's possible to get through this without much help, but for clearing the whole map and finding every item -- that's practically impossible without a guide. Some of the secrets are soooo secret, so cryptic and obscure, you'd never think of the solution in a hundred years. Or maybe you would and I'm just impatient. Either way, an excellent game, and I look foward to the next one.
  24. Interesting! What's up with that extra long spring too?
  25. Previously... 22.) Black Mesa - PC - 2020 (1998) Completed on normal difficulty (20 hours). "Play Black Mesa", they said. "It runs on old PCs", they said. .... *Reaches Xen, PC proceeds to shit itself* So I think the developers pushed the Source engine to breaking point with this fan-made reinterpretation of Half-Life. Granted, it's not their fault my decade-old PC doesn't have the oomph to bruteforce it, however it ran fine for the most part, up to a point. That point being the final quarter of the game, where I had to regularly endure framerates descending into the single digits. Honestly, the bits where the floating brain things (Controllers) are flying all around you, mind-controlling Vortigaunts and telekinetically flinging explosive barrels while Grunts fire swarms of hornets at you... I can only describe it as a 'slideshow'. it made Perfect Dark look smooth! On top of some rather clumsy combat and torturously long sections with conveyor belts, alien machines and ponds full of killer fish, the Xen portion became a real grind to get through. Yeah, it's probably better than the original version of Xen, which I gave up on and never completed. I wasn't going to do the same here - but I came close to quitting a few times. The prior sections of the game, within and surrounding the facility itself, are more bearable. Like the original, Black Mesa is just as much a survival horror or a hazardous obstacle course as it is a shooter, which is just as well. Coming off of the Halo games this year has spoiled me; the combat in Black Mesa is a real ballache in comparison. I know it's not optimised for controllers and I'm doing myself no favours by playing with one, but it's such a clumsy, awkward game. Movement is digital and therefore twitchy, aiming is hard work, switching weapons is cumbersome. And often, it's not the frantic combat scenarios that kill you - truly the most dangerous adversaries in Half-Life games are ladders. Well, this turned out a bit ranty, and that's a shame. This is an amazing fan project, and on the whole it's probably the best way to play Half-Life. But man, Half-Life is a slog in 2021.
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