Category Archives: Nintendo Switch

Dead Cells: A frustrating, challenging game that has me hook, line & sinker

Happy New Year to you all, dear readers. This, the first post of 2019, is the first of many this year. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Dead Cells, from indie developer Motion Twin, is a hard game. In fact, it is a very, very hard game, especially for an old man gamer like me!

Yet, Dead Cells is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a long, long time and it has an element about it that despite you dying many times during each play through  – and you will die many, many, many times – you’ll restart again, trying to go further and further each life into the rogue-lite ever-changing world that Motion Twin have created [each time you die, the dungeons are randomly generated so no two are the same, which means you can’t memorise specific paths].

The developers describe Dead Cells as a “rogue-lite, Castlevania-inspired action platformer” and many people describe Dead Cells as a metroidvania-like game but I’m not sure it is, really. Sure, there is a little bit of back tracking as you find the right path to the exit door that will lead you to the next level but by my understanding, metroidvania-like games limit access to other parts of the world by locked doors or obstacles until the player gathers specific items/tools/abilities.

Sure, there are doors in Dead Cells that are locked but they generally get unlocked by a pressure pad or similar so I’m not really sure you can class this game as a metroidvania-like, can you?

What makes Dead Cells interesting is that it has permadeath, and no in-game checkpoints, which means when you die [and again, you will die and die and die], your character gets re-incarnated at the beginning of the dungeon, fresh and ready to begin again. Let me make that clear: You don’t re-spawn at the last checkpoint, you re-spawn at the beginning. As Motion Twin says, “Kill. Die. Learn. Repeat“.

I thought long and hard before buying Dead Cells for my Nintendo Switch. I’d heard people rave about it, saying it was the best game they’d played all year, but I’d also heard about how insanely difficult it was, how unforgiving it was and how maddeningly frustrating it was at times. It sounds, though, I was wise to wait a bit to pick it up on Switch as it suffered frame rate issues at launch, which seem to have been rectified now thanks to a patch which lets you lock the frame rate.

It was a good few weeks [perhaps months?] between me thinking about buying it to me actually buying it. Ultimately, I didn’t want to buy a game that I would die constantly because, well, I suck at games like this.

I fired it Dead Cells for the first time and was proud of myself that I lasted 25 minutes to reach the second dungeon [The Promenade of the Condemned]. The foes didn’t seem too difficult and I got to grips with the controls easily enough.

“This isn’t too bad,” I said to myself. “What the feck were people talking about saying it was insanely hard?”, I said to myself. I then ran into guys with large swords and spikes that I didn’t realise drained health if I stood on them for too long [I know, right? What was I thinking?]. I died – and was transported back to the opening dungeon, having to find the new route to the next dungeon doorway.

But you know what? I didn’t curse. I didn’t scream. I didn’t turn off Dead Cells and go play Full Throttle. I continued on. I made my way through this newly generated dungeon. I was hooked.

I died within minutes, mind you: These new enemies were more brutal and tougher and smarter – One variant carried large broadswords and could telport about  – but I carried on. Dying, respawning, delving deeper.The further you progress, the more secrets, weapons and abilities you unlocked. Statistically speaking,  I shouldn’t like this game but I do. I like it a lot. Well done, Motion Twin, well done.

I was most pleased with myself when I found myself quite a way into the Promenade of the Condemned, entering a rather strange room that featured what appeared to be a garden variety archer. Sadly, he appeared much stronger than the others and when it seemed I had him on the ropes, he morphed into some sort of super archer and, yes, you guessed it, lopped my head off and sent me back to the start!!!

Despite me not buying Dead Cells until almost the end of 2018 – I can’t believe I waited so long to pick it up – it has turned out to be one of my favourite games of the year. Funny how that works, eh?

I’m loving the art style, too, and the intricately animated characters: Dead Cells is a damn good game that, for me, is a stand  out in a year that had a fair few bloody good games.

Right, enough talk. If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to fire up Dead Cells, collect some cells and have my arse handed to me on a plate. Several times, I’m sure, but like the line in that song by Chumbawumba says, “I’ll get knocked down, but I’ll get up again …”

Katamari Damacy Re-roll: Craziness ramped up to 11!

Think of the craziest game you’ve every played – then quaduple it: That’s Katamari Damacy Re-roll, the very definition of Japanese crazy ideas at its finest.

The Katamari Damacy series first graced the PS2 waaaaaay back in 2004 and even back then, it was a large scoop of whacky mixed with a side order of “WTF?” While the game spawned a few sequels over the years, it’s now available on Nintendo’s Switch console – and it’s a perfect fit for the device.

The story is simple enough: A tiny prince must rebuilt the stars, constellations and moons that his wayward King father, The King of All Cosmos, destroyed when he decided to go on a drinking binge. Crazy, right?

To make his father happy, the prince is tasked with rolling a small, adhesive ball – called a katamari – around locations on Earth, collecting pretty much as much as he can  – people, animals, pins, balls, dominoes, playing cards, people, even mountains – until the ball is big enough to become a new star in the sky.

The story is as bizzare as the game play, with the prince having to rotate and guide the katamari around earthly locations, slowly growing bigger and bigger until the King of All Cosmos deems it big enough to become a star.

Adding to the pressure of creating more stars is the fact the tiny prince is often under a time limit to reach a certain size katamari ie 10cm, 15cm, meaning the prince will have to often sprint around the location, adhering more and more objects to said katamari. You have to be careful, though, as banging into some items will knock objects off the katamari, reducing its size. Yes, it’s as off-the-wall as it sounds.

Katamari Damacy Re-roll is a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch, as each location is perfect for bite-sized gaming sessions if you only have a few minutes to play. Visually, it looks nice, with a colour palette of bright colours and a graphical style that is as far from realistic as you can imagine.

The controls worked well enough, although it took a while to get used to flicking the analogue sticks in the right direction to give a speed boost to the katamari, something that is vital to master and is crucial in helping pick up objects faster when you’re against the clock!

The music is catchy enough, with a kind of bouncy note to it, and an at times bombastic theme tune, but the voice of the King will get on your nerves after a while. That said, it’s in keeping with the game’s off-the-wall aspect and you can always do what I did: Turn the volume down a little.

Overally, Katamari Damacy Re-roll is perfect for the Nintendo Switch, especially if you’re after something that definitely doesn’t take itself seriously and is something so mind-bendingly weird that you can’t help but smile, something especially apt during what is now commonly called the Silly Season.

A big thank you to Bandai Namco’s Australia PR man for providing a review code for Katamari Damacy Re-roll.

What a year, eh?

Twenty eighteen was a great year to play video games.

It was a great year for triple AAA titles and indie games and looking back, I didn’t play as huge amount of games this year. I played more games on my Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 than I did on my Xbox One, although, that has changed lately, with the excellent offerings Xbox has dropped on its Game Pass service lately. Make no mistake though: 2018 was a most excellent year for video games.

This year, I also found myself replaying some of my favourite games from past years, one of them being Titanfall 2, which is just a phenomenal game and I really hope spawns a worthy sequel [I hope EA is listening]. I also started replaying The Stanley Parable, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Civilisation V, all games that captured my attention when they released and found time from me this year.

I’d like to thank you, the readers, who have stuck by this blog as it’s lurched from year to year. There aren’t many of you but I appreciate every one of you that stops by the blog.  Apologies for not updating the blog as often as I should.

OK, enough faffing about: In no particular order, here are some of my favourite games that I played this year.

GamejunkieNZ most favouritist games of 2018

God of War [PlayStation 4]:

I’ve always been a long time fan of the God of War series but this year’s edition took it to the next level. I like to say it was “All killer, no filler” as it didn’t overstay its welcome with unnecessary fluff. Here’s what I said in my review: “Ultimately, Santa Monica Studio has brought us a tale featuring a boy and a man trying to get to know each other in some pretty trying circumstances but, my word, what an adventure it is. Simply put, God of War is one of the best games I’ve played this generation. Pure and simple.”

Red Dead Redemption 2 [PS4/Xbox One]:

It had a slow start but, man, once RDR2’s narrative about diamond in the rough cowboy Arthur Morgan got its hooks into me, I couldn’t stop playing – I actually thought about it while I wasn’t playing it and may, or may not, have shed a tear during a particularly emotional moment. Without a doubt, RDR2 is Rockstar’s magnum opus when it comes to characters that you’ll connect with and care about. “Hindsight is  a wonderful thing,”so the commonly uttered phrase goes, and in my case, it is entirely appropriate for Rockstar’s Red Redemption 2, a game I initially criticised on social media but now, with hindsight, and several hours of game play under my belt, I’ve changed my opinion.”

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus [PC/PS4/X1/Nintendo Switch]:

While New Colossus wasn’t as memorable as Wolfenstein: The New Order, it’s another fine adventure for BJ Blaskowitz, a character that has evolved with each gaming generation. The fact that it was on the Switch, too, is mind-boggling. My words: “Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is going to have its detractors but I tip my hat to Panic Button: The developer has knocked it out of the park with this portable version and I’m glad I waited until now to play it, to be honest. It’s just an added bonus that I can also now play Wolfenstein The New Colossus on the toilet, if I’m that way inclined, of course.”

Yakuza 6 [PS4]:

I first fell in love with the Yakuza games on the PlayStation 2 and have loved the craziness of the series ever since. Sure, the Yakuza games are filled with Japanese nuttiness and the like, but the combat is engaging and the narrative never fails to deliver in spades. “Yakuza 6 is said to be the last game of the series featuring Kazuma Kiryu, which will be a shame, but what is also a shame is that the Yakuza series isn’t as popular as it should be in the West: It’s a series that deserves more attention from gamers thanks to its deep narrative and strong character development. I can’t recommend the series highly enough.”

Old Man’s Journey [Nintendo Switch]:

The hand-drawn art style just captures the emotional journey of an old man’s journey after he receives a letter from a family member. It’s a game of exploration in a land of pastel shades and weird angles. Here’s what I said: “Old Man’s Journey is a delightful game that manages to evoke an emotional story without the spoken work just by using hand-drawn art and the emotions they conjure up.”

Hollow Knight [Nintendo Switch]:

It’s described as Metroidvania-like but all I know it’s bloody hard at times, with dexterity and prowess needed avoid hazards and clear obstacles through a ruined kingdom over run by insects and other creatures. Perfect for short blasts and often spoken in the same breath as Dead Cells.

Grim Fandango [Nintendo Switch]:

It’s no secret that I have massive love for Tim Schafer’s point-and-click adventure game set around the Mexican festivities of the Day of the Dead and focused on deathly travel agent Manny Calavera, so it’s no surprise that the remastered version is on this list. I can’t get enough of this game. indicated by the fact that I own it on several platforms.

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden [X1/PS4/PC]:

A game set in a post-apocalyptic world that isn’t all brown and irradiated, MYZ: Road to Eden feels a lot like the Xcom series and is best played stealthily, but it took me a while to get into that mindset, meaning I often went in all guns blazing, forgetting to take out units that could alert other units. You can imagine what happened. For this one, slow and steady wins the race.

Katamari Damacy Re-roll [Nintendo Switch]:

A crazy, off the wall game – from the days of the PS2 – where you have to recreate the stars in the sky [that your king father destroyed] by rolling a katamai ball around, sticking all manner of objects to it: small animals, pins, domino tiles, cards, plants. The bigger the katamari, the happier your father is. It’s as weird and crazy as you can imagine.

 

I’d like to thank PlayStation New Zealand, Xbox New Zealand, Bethesda, FiveEight Distribution, and the companies in both Australia and New Zealand [PeadPr, Huawei NZ, Oppo NZ, King Creative Media, Nintendo Australia, Acumen Republic, Samsung NZ, that have supported me this year with review product. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Reaching for the stars – Starlink: Battle for Atlas review

Ubisoft might be a little late to the party when it comes to toys-that-appear-in-your-games peripherals but with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the company could have a hit with pint-sized space explorers who like to play with toys as part of the game they’re playing.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas treads the commonly told tale of an evil entity wanting to take over the solar system and it’s up to you to save the day but central to Ubisoft’s space game are the plastic spaceships and figures that use a special mount that fits to your controller then brings the ships to life in-game.

Fox McCloud’s famous starship & the special base that the Joycon’s slot into and the spaceship toy locks into.

I played the Nintendo Switch version (it’s also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), where you slide a Joycon onto each side of the mount then attach the spaceship toy/ you have. Each craft and pilot has different abilities and weapons. The toy feels a little heavy on the controller to start with but you soon get used to it. As a bonus for Nintendo Switch players, the Switch version has a toy based off  Fox McCloud’s Arwing spaceship and the wily fox himself – and it’s a beauty of a craft, and Fox plays a major role in the game, with Switch exclusive missions focusing on the Star Fox team.

Fox McCloud in the flesh. Well, plastic. Alongside him is pilot Mason Rana.

  If you’re something of a toy collector then things could get expensive if you decide to buy as many ships as you can afford. The starter pack costs around $118 with additional ships setting you back about $58 a pop for a spaceship. Additional weapons packs cost around $30. You snap on the attachments, which appear in-game and you can swap out weapons and modify them on the fly, depending on the enemy you’re squaring off against.

Some of the other spaceships that you can buy for Starlink: Battle for Atlas.

That said, the toys aren’t necessary to actually play the game so you don’t have to buy them if you don’t want to: You can play it without spending a cent on the ships and weapon attachments, if you want. The game takes place on a variety of planets with different fauna and flora, as well as the Atlas star system, and while there is a bit of a grind where you have to explore planets for clues to help you in your missions, mine for resources, form alliances with other alien races and do busy work for locals to move the story forward,  I was surprised how much of a smile it put on my face. Maybe it was the fact that I was controlling the on-screen spaceship with a controller that looked like the on-screen spaceship. The combat is fast and fluid enough, and it seems to hold a pretty consistent frame rate on the Switch, something that is vital for a game that relies on fast reflexes. It’s a lot of fun, too,  swapping out weapons mid-battle when you realise your initial arsenal isn’t up to scratch, but young players might find the intricacies of weapons management mid-battle  a little daunting, though. Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a lot of fun, even with the grinding busy work and some repetitive missions, but the toys add a different dimension to the game play that will appeal to spaceship fans. Parents, just keep in mind that the cost will mount up if your game fan wants more and more ships and weapons. Heck, 10-year-old me would have danced with delight if I’d been able to play a game like Starlink: Battle for Atlas with its snap-on space ships and weapons. Thanks to Five Eight Distribution for the review copy of Starlinke: Battle for Atlas and the toys.

Figment review: Battling the thoughts in your head

Figment, a puzzle/platformer for Finish indie developer Bedtime Digital Games for the Nintendo Switch, reminds me a lot of a children’s story book, with its whimsical artwork and fairy tale locations, except it’s set within the human mind with all sorts of weird shit going on.

Seriously, though, for most of the game the environments are like something you’d find in Alice in Wonderland, with teapots for houses, flowers made out of stringed instruments and white fluffy clouds providing a peaceful backdrop, things are more sinister than they seem at first in this fairy tale land, populated with memories, thoughts and urges and home to the voices in our head.

When Dusty (the game opens with him relaxing in a rocking chair, dreaming of ice for his drink) finds the nasty figments of the imagination have invaded the world, causing chaos, he must save the day. Accompanied by ever-optimistic bird Piper, Dusty must battle his way through a variety of dangers to, well, save the day.

The sumptuous visuals are the first thing that will attract your attention with Figment: They’re said by the developers to be hand-drawn, and by golly, does it look gorgeous, with an art style that belies the undertones of what Bedtime has called a “musical action adventure”.

The second thing that you’ll be captivated with is the wonderful voice acting which at times is delightfully over-the-top, and the musical score: Both are just delightful, with the score supposedly “defined by your exploration of the world”, which means that it adapts to how you react with the world: Move closer to the cello-like flowers and the strings sing, wander closer to a tuba-looking tree and the music takes a more brass band-like tone. It’s delightful and really adds a nice personal touch to the game.

The puzzles won’t cause you to have a brain haemorrhage, ranging from things like tracking down the handle that will turn the windmill that will blow away the nasty black fog and finding the right colour battery that will power the windmill to finding the missing pieces of a brass band bridge that will let you cross to another part of the world. Combat generally involves Dusty whacking unspeakable horrors with his sword or knocking back projectiles from said unspeakable horrors.

Figment is a delight to play, both visually and the way that the sound reacts to the player’s movement through the game world, and it’s further proof that games from small independent developers are a perfect fit for Nintendo’s console.

Remember how I commented last week on the great year that Nintendo was having?  Well, Figment is further proof of that.

Thanks to Bedtime for providing a digital code for Figment

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus (Switch): Panic Button has the Reich touch

Think about this for a minute: I can now play a current-generation first person shooter while sitting on the toilet. Not that I did for this review but, you know, if I can if I want to.

Or in bed while my wife reads on her iPad. Or during my lunch break at work. What a world we live in, eh?

I have to say I’m impressed with what Panic Button have done with Wolfenstein on the Switch.

Sure, if you want the most graphical superior version of the game then the Switch version isn’t for you and if you’re the type of gamer that will balk at lower resolutions then, again, the Switch version isn’t for you.It’s for gamers like me who haven’t played the game on another platform and it’s for gamers who want to play Bethesda’s latest Nazi-killing simulator on the go, filling the well-worn combat boots of BJ Blazkowicz in a story of what the world would be like if Nazi’s had won WW2 and invaded the US of A.

Wolfenstein 2 is the second Bethesda shooter from Panic Button that has appeared on the Switch and right off the bat, the port seems a much smoother experience right off the bat than the port of Doom, which took a few patches to sort its frame rates out.

Make  no mistake, this version is the real deal in terms of content: It’s the same game that appeared on the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 last year but, as is to be expected for a portable machine that has a fraction of the processing power of its rivals, Panic Button has made compromises to get the game working on the Switch.

As you’d expect, textures are much lower in resolution (mostly noticeable on faces and clothing), it uses a dynamic resolution to adjust the pixel count on the fly and the game is locked at 30 frames a second.To my old man eyes, I thought the game ran smoothly in both docked and portable mode (looking slightly better in portable mode given the smaller screen) and I had a blast.

One thing I did notice  due to the lower resolution and blurrier textures, was every now and then textures would pop in a few moments later, and at times,  picking out enemies and power ups in some locations was much, much harder than it should have been, especially when in portable mode.

Can you see the subtitles? No, I can’t either.

I found the text size of subtitles was too small for my old man eyes. Even with my reading glasses on, I struggled to read them. Dear Panic Button, perhaps an upcoming patch might address that issue?

The latest adventures of BJ Blazkowicz is a battery hog, though.  I started the game with 79% battery & by the time I’d completed the first mission and a few minutes of the second mission, my Switch’s battery was down to 42% – and the wee thing’s internal fan was working overdrive.  Wolfenstein is working the Nintendo Switch to within an inch of its life but, frankly, I can see why.

Look, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is going to have its detractors but I tip my hat to Panic Button: The developer has knocked it out of the park with this portable version and I’m glad I waited until now to play it, to be honest.

It’s just an added bonus that I can also now play Wolfenstein The New Colossus on the toilet, if I’m that way inclined, of course. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks to Bethesda in Australia for the review copy of the game.

 

 

 

Bite-sized review: Little Nightmares Complete Edition (Nintendo Switch)

Little Nightmares Compete Edition (Version reviewed: Nintendo Switch, review code kindly  provided by Bandai Namco)

What is it? Little Nightmares Complete is a side-scrolling  horror/puzzle game from indie game developer Tarsier Studios that tells the tale of a mysterious girl called Six who must negotiate a vessel called the Maw through three story chapters: The Depths, The Hideaway and The Residence. This complete edition also includes  all the DLC that was released for the game, including the story of The Kid (a second playable character) and the Secret of the Maw expansion storyline. Little Nightmares can best be compared to games like Limbo or Inside as all three games have a creepy, unsettling undertone to them that might just well have you having nightmares yourself.

The Janitor in search mode. Time for Six to hide.

So, it’s a horror. Is it scary? Well, it’s not blood and guts scary, but it’s more creepy, uncomfortable scary, with nightmarish creatures inhabiting the Maw, doing unspeakable things. The game succeeds in creating a tense atmosphere that’s unsettling at times. Making things more uncomfortable are the Maw’s creepy residents, which often force Six (and The Kid) into a game of hide and seek as they skulk around quietly, careful not to draw the attention of the grotesque beasts such as The Janitor, who has incredibly long arms and bandages wrapped around his eyes, or The Lady, the proprietor of The Maw who just seems a little … not quite right.

This is Six exploring The Maw. Quite unsettling, isn’t it?

Is there anything else I need to know about? Little Nightmare’s does a great job of creating tension and has a great visual style, which is really suited to the Switch but the experience is marred a little by the long loading times after you die, and you will die a lot, thanks to at-times-clumsy controls and at times hard-to-judge jump puzzles. The game is also quite dark visually when played in portable mode but holds up well when played in docked mode. Both run at 720p, 30 frames a second.

So, what did you think overall? Tarsier Studios does an excellent job in creating a macabre and creepy narrative with a nice twist in that one of the lead characters turns out to be more than she initially appears. If you’re a fan of games that create creepy tension in unsettling environments, then Little Nightmares is worth a look but just be prepared for some frustrating jump puzzles and long load times between deaths.

Thanks to Bandai Namco for the review code

 

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