Sunday, September 30, 2007

Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels

I am going to do this review from the perspective as if you have already read my original review or played on the original game as I don't want to rexplain the same concept

I recently downloaded "The Lost Levels" to my Wii of the shop. These levels were orginally only released in Japan as they were deemed to hard for the Western market. However, for a limited time only, they have been released on the Wii Store. So are they really much harder, and are they worth paying 600pts for?

Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels
Platform: Wii Virtual Console
Type: Platformer
Graphics: 7/10
Story: 4/10
Gameplay: 8.5/10
Multiplayer: N/A
Sound: 10/10
Overall: 8/10

The graphics, although still running in 8bit, have a little bit more detail, most notably in the ground. However, as I have said, the graphics are basically the same. It is nice to see Nintendo put a little bit more attention to their home market thought.

The gameplay has been marked up from the original when it comes to difficulty. Right from the offset you are presented with paratroopa koopas (the bouncing turtles for all you non-nintendo fan boys), chomping plants and a item that was never included in the original; poisoned mushrooms, which do the same as a normal enemy. You will quickly realise that the game is much harder than the original. Once in world 1-2, the jumps start to become a lot more challenging. There is one jump where you have to take a running jump and jump at the absolute last pixel. A few moments later, their is a jump which once again requires this same precision, then you must then instantly jump on to the next platform, where you must sprint and jump on to the next platform and do that one last time before you can even breathe. This because all these platforms start falling the second you land on them. This kind of difficulty continues throughout out where I have got up to and I presume continues through the rest of the game, with jumps that require you to raise a platform to the exact right amount to make the jump possible and others involving jumping not to high or else hitting other structures that will send you to the ground. I consider my self quite good at Mario, having got to world 4-3 on 6 lives and I found this very difficult and still haven't completed it. Occasionally, the game can become quite repetitive because you will keep restarting the game and because of the way the game operates, you have to clear four (very tricky) stages to get to a point where you can restart after you have lost all your lives. This however, is unimportant when compared to the sense of success when you beat a really hard section.

The game, fortunately, does not continue with the charade that was multiplayer. Instead it introduces a different character. Luigi, although can jump much further and higher, slows down much quicker, meaning if you are running fast, you will find your self falling of cliffs etc. He allows you to reach parts of the map which were previously impossible and the harder control makes him more for pros.

The sound has been changed from the original, with a slightly more techno feel. The sound isn't quite as classic as the original, however it stands up and you won't want to mute it. Other than that, the sound track is the same.

In conclusion, if you enjoyed Mario, but have just about finished it, this game is fantastic. If you found Mario too hard, you will find this just annoying. Due to the raised difficultly level, if you found Mario frustrating, this game is still going to be frustrating. Ultimately, if you enjoyed Mario, you will enjoy this, but nothing has changed enough to change peoples minds. I recommend downloading this, even though it is more expensive, because the game is still good value for money and will keep you playing for ages.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Halo 3

The Sun are calling it the game of the decade, Gamespot gave it a 9.5 will very few negative points, and even I, the sole Xbox owner without Halo 2, want to play this game. Yes, that's right, I am talking about the legendary Halo 3. I went in to Game on the way this morning, and it was surreal picking up the box, so surreal, it sent a shiver down my spine. A game I never thought would come out, and I was holding it in my own hands. How can any game be that big? Thanks to Halo, gaming is now a bigger market than film.

What am I most looking forward to in Halo 3? More Xbox Live multiplayer. That is the obvious one. Slugging is best on Halo, so Halo 3 should just capitalize on that. There are some new vehicles, which judging by Bungies track record, will be amazingly fun to use. New weapons will add a new strategies to the game and items such as bubble shields will turn even some of the repetitive maps in to varying and insane. But, that is not all I am looking forward to. I am also massively looking forward to Forge, this map editor allows you to add stuff to the map on the fly. This sounds immensely cool and will open the world right open. I don't know how to describe the excitement every time I think of Forge. I mean, an idea I thought of off the top of my head in about 30 seconds was, how about a normal team game, where you nominate 1 person to be the thing that can add stuff, everyone else must play normally. You could radio in for a Warthog or maybe have a bombing run on the enemy by spawning hundreds of explosive crates. The possibilities are endless. Also, I am looking forward to the type of co-op that keeps score, you get points for killing enemies, more for headshots and even more for multi kills with grenades etc. Also, you can loose points if you kill one of the people. This will make the single player much more fun.

I am not particularly looking forward to the single player. I haven't followed the story, I am not dying to find out what happens and I find that Halo SP is dull, linear and repetitive. Halo 3 will hopefully improve on this, making more set piece battles and vehicle chases (the highlights of 1+2) and less going down a corridor and shooting grunts. However, I struggle to get to excited over Halo SP. I hope I am wrong. I am also not looking forward to the voices of annoying American 12 year olds on Live, we all have out foibles don't we?

In other news, I downloaded the hidden levels for Mario for a hefty 600 points. They are alot harder, but really rewarding when you beat them. Should be properly trying Mario Kart MP this Friday, the review to follow shortly after. Prime is coming up soon!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Brawl Online

Well, we all knew it was going to happen, but it has finally been confirmed. Super Smash Bros Brawl will support online multiplayer modes. It will not support voice chat, you can, however, pre-set messages (taunts) and then use the D-Pad to send them. However, these can only be sent when playing friends. When playing unknown opponents, you don't get to see there name and you cannot send taunts. Although this hasen't been specified, all things point to it not being easy to swap Wii numbers if you enjoyed playing with someone, as there is no way of finding out their name. Considering you have no way of contacting them, there is no way that you will ever get to play again, except by extreme chance. Although I am exceedingly pleased that it will be supporting online, this is a major disappointment. Hal Labortory, the people developing Brawl, said that there were to be further online modes to be announced (please co-op) so we will have to see. Read the whole thing here...

Also, if you haven't been keeping up with the updates, which you really should be, a single player mode has been announced called the SubSpace Emissary, it is a side scrolling game. You can read all the updates on the dojo, but it is shaping up to look really good. The character design is outstanding, and considering they aren't even playable characters just makes you realise how much attention has gone in to this game. This, along with other cool things such as my music, is making me eat my foot in anticipation for this game. I simply cannot wait.

Finally, there are many people who can't wait for a different title; Halo 3. For a lucky few the wait is now over, for once, in the UK first! Argos, a retail store, has broken the release date set by Microsoft and released Halo 3. Microsoft are said the be in the process of punishing Argos, I just wish I was one of the lucky few. If just so I could rub it in to every Halo fanboy and then play it at my friends house while he watches in envy. Well done if you got a copy, enjoy it! Read the full story here...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mario Kart Double Dash First Impressions

I got my second GameCube game yesterday: Mario Kart Double Dash. The game is a lot of fun, and despite feeling like an expanded version of Monkey Race, it is very addictive. The graphics, whilst not being Metroid Prime, are still really good. The sound is really good, hearing your characters voices echo when in tunnels is a really nice touch and some of the music is as good as the original Mario tunes.

At first the game feels a little easy, I completed the first cup in a matter of hours, and there are only 3 cups. However, the second cup, kept me going for some time, and I still haven't completed the last cup. Plus, I discovered that you can alter the car power (I think) to make it even harder. Completing certain things unlocks characters and cars, further extending the game. Furthermore, the time trials are far more addictive than they are in normal racing games because it isn't just about taking corners well, it is about going up golden gate bridge esque sides to shave off a few milliseconds off time.

The tracks, although some what limited in number, are very diverse in style. You will go from city centre to a high speed trek down a mountain, and everything in between. Plus, being a Mario game, the tracks are much more interesting than normal racing games, you will be dodging boulders and cars, avoiding sudden pits and being blasted huge distances at 195mph.

For those who are unaware, MarioKart features weapons to shoot your opponents with. These weapons add a nice twist to the game, allowing for a much more balanced game if you get stuck in last place. The weapons are varied and amusing. Featuring a huge ball and chain to being able to shoot fireballs or drop bananas for opponents to slip on.

The game lets you mix and match two characters and a car to your liking. Each character has its own special weapon and cars each have their own strengths and weaknesses. This choosing forces players to think about how they drive and offers additional challenges to veteran players.

Overall, the game looks good, I hope to complete this in time for the new Mario Kart, coming to the Wii next year. I will post a full review when I have had more time to play with it, but current impressions are good.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Gravitroix Interview

Well, Medaverse has very kindly answered some questions about their upcoming WiiWare title Gravitronix. Without any further ado, here is the interview:

1. Could you give us a brief outline of what Gravitronix is about?

I've found it's difficult to describe how the game will play without going into paragraphs of description which ultimately wind up confusing people instead of enlightening them. To this end, we plan to release a very succinct but thorough video detailing the entire game and how it's played before its release. Yeah, I know it sucks that I'm not spilling the beans right now, but trust me, once we release the preview video, you'll understand why this is an idea that needs to be delivered all at once and not in small portions. If we tried now, we'd fail and more people would come away saying, "I hate the way it sounds." than understanding how the game will actually play.

2. Could you elaborate on the term Action/Battle game?

"Action/Battle" means pitting players against each other directly in a situation where those with quick reflexes and strategic planning will prevail, and while I can't go into the utmost specifics, I can say that randomness will also play a factor in success.

3. How are you using the Wii Remote unique motion sensing ability and will the game use the Nunchuk?

For both the Wii Remote and nunchuk, players will be twisting (like turning a key) and using only the A/B or C/Z buttons to play the game. The controls themselves are immensely simple to learn, but mastering them to achieve the highest effectiveness is another story altogether.

4. What kind of graphics style are you using?

The graphics will have a sharp, rendered look to them, but beyond that, while it's not set in stone yet due to time constraints, we hope to allow the players to select characters to represent them on screen.

5. When is the game set, i.e.. in the future, and will the game feature a story?

It doesn't have a storyline or a setting. If we're going to give a game a storyline, we're going to do it properly and Gravitronix didn't present itself as the type of game where it would be plausible. You're fighting for the sake of fighting and that's where we're going to leave it. If you want a setting, consider it a dimension of its own. Don't get me wrong, we have a laundry list of ideas which involve compelling storylines, but if we're going to do it, we're either going do it right or not at all.

6. You say the game features 1-4 players, will the game support online and offline multiplayer?

The game will easily support four player offline, and while we're looking into Wifi support, I wouldn't count on it. We're only even going to look into online play after all of the core game is honed to the point where we're extremely happy with it, and while I'm pushing hard to get eight player into the game, I'm not going to promise it until we're certain it's doable.

7. Will there be any single player to speak of?

Yes, there will be a single player mode, but as for the complexity, we're not yet certain how far we want to go with it. Gravitronix is an unabashedly multiplayer-focused title. The campaign mode will at least consist of a series of successively difficult battles, but we also hope to have multiplayer co-op support for these as well.

8. How many Wii points are you expecting to sell this for?

We'd opt to charge 500 points for Gravitronix even though I think it'll provide far more than that in a dollar to hour entertainment ratio. This is our first game, after all, and we understand that players will be a bit leery on the subject of trusting a developer they've never heard of before. When many people have tight entertainment budgets, we consider having a $5 price tag meeting our potential customers half way. I don't want people to feel burned on the purchase of a Medaverse game, be it for $5 or $50.

9. What design challenges have you had to overcome when developing for the Wii?

The biggest challenge was coming up with an idea worthy of developing but at the same time simple enough that a small dev team like us can pull it off. We went through two other games before deciding on Gravitronix because the first two ideas were far too complex for a team our size. We want to start small and work our way up and finding the idea that could be our start was probably the biggest challenge.

10. What has been your favourite game on the Wii and have you taken any inspiration from it?

I hate to be cliché and say Wii Sports, but I'm going to choose it anyway. Not only is the game the best viral marker I've ever seen (anyone who tries it at a friend/family member's home will want a Wii shortly thereafter), but it demonstrates how a game can have the simplicity to appeal to anyone while at the same time the depth hardcore players crave. There are some insanely good WIi Sports players out there and I'm quite certain that anyone who wants to pass Wii Sports off as a simple tech demo with no depth will have their asses repeatedly handed to them by the veteran players. Wii Sports struck a perfect balance between accessibility and depth. It is my fondest wish that Gravitronix can achieve even a fraction of that same appeal.

11. What stage of development is the game currently in?

We're still in the early stages: the engine is being finalized, the sprites are being made, the character concept art is being drawn up, the music is being mixed, etc. I realize we have only a few short months between now and the launch of WiiWare, but the project is moving at the best pace capable with the team it has. Everyone on "staff" currently works another job and is doing this on the side in the hopes of living out their dream of game development, but the allure of doing this full time is more than enough to keep us chugging away at it late into the night. I'm even answering these interview questions at 10 PM.

12. When do you hope to have this game finished?

We hope to have Gravitronix ready to launch alongside WiiWare in 2008.

Thanks again Medaverse, I look forward to hearing more about this title in the upcoming months.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Metroid Prime First Impressions

No, don't get your hopes up. I don't have an advance or imported copy of Corruption. I do however have the GC game, Metroid Prime. I am currently waiting on a GameCube Memory card that I bought on Ebay last night. So, there hasn't been much point in playing the game, but it is still fun. Initial Impressions are strong. The game puts you in the feet of Ms. Samus Aran. The training level is very well designed, quickly running you through the controls in a believable manner and throwing enemies at you as soon as your ready for it.

A crucial part of the game is scanning. Although it feels arduous to have to switch in to a different visor (one which you can't shoot in) just to scan items, the scanning works very well. Some things have to be scanned, like computers that open doors. Others have serious advantages, like scanning enemies you can find out what their weak points are. Other items will give you a little piece of literature to fill you in in what looks like in incredibly deep story, finally, some just give you a little pop up briefly describing the object. Although the majority of these scans are unnecessary, they add a nice depth to the game, and the more you scan, the better your final percentage (I believe)

It is difficult to classify this game as at some points. Sometimes it feels like a FPS, others a FPA(first person adventure, and no, I didn't just make that acronym up) You will spend a lot of time exploring and the shooting you do is mainly handled with by locking on to them. The game also has environmental puzzles. The ones I have come across have been fairly simple, but I imagine that they will get more and more complex.

The two boss battles I have fought have been much better than most other bosses I have ever thought. They will have a weakness, but to find this weakness you have to either scan them or be very lucky. Even when you have found the weakness, there is still plenty of skill and timing to defeat the boss. When you beat them it feels much more rewarding than most boss fights.

Overall, the game looks and feels great with some fantastic boss battles as well. I can't wait to get my memory card and give it a proper spin.

"All your base are belong to us"