Old Man’s Journey review

Old Man’s Journey, from indie developer Broken Rules, is a game for those moments when you want to contemplate and stop and smell the roses.

It’s a game for quiet times when you want something soothing and non-confronting.  It looks like a child’s water- colour book, full of pastel colours and memories of a younger time that make you smile.

The game starts with the titular Old Man receiving a letter from the postman than seems to concern him so he dons a backpack and starts on a journey. A long journey that sees him traverse hills, mountain villages, sea ports and everything in between by foot, boat and train – and have to avoid the odd flock of sheep along the way!

The quirk with this game is that you can re-shape the landscape to make paths for the old man to traverse. Can’t get across to that bridge? Just gently drag that background hill closer, enabling the Old Man to jump the gap and continue on. There are limits, though: You can’t re-shape the “line” the old man is standing on and you can’t stretch a hill further than it is capable of going.

Despite its shortness, Old Man’s Journey is punctuated by delightful moments: During a train journey as the locomotive races along the countryside, you have to join the track beneath the speeding train. If you click the bell in the lighthouse of a sea-side town, the Old Man reminisces about a wedding years ago (I’m guessing his wedding?)

If I had one criticism with Old Man’s Journey,  it would be the inclusion of “handcrafted, pressure-free puzzles (the developer’s words)”. An example of these puzzles is sometimes having to move on a flock of sheep that are blocking your path: It just felt a little unnecessary.

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.

Old Man’s Journey is available on Nintendo Switch ($US9.99), Windows PC, Mac and iOS/Android. Thanks to Broken Rules for providing a review code for Old Man’s Journey.

Nintendo Switch reaches 10 million sales in nine months & Shu coming to Switch, too

I’m putting this out here right now: The Nintendo Switch is my console of the year, despite being woefully under-powered when compared to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (and their Pro and X variants).

With games like Super Mario Odyssey, Death Squared, Doom and Thimbleweed Park on Nintendo’s hybrid console, it really has been one of my gaming highlights of the year. So it’s no surprise to me (or anyone, possibly) that Nintendo has told 10 million Switch consoles in just nine months (the console launched in March this year). The console is a sure-fire success, pure and simple.

Congratulations, Nintendo: You’ve knocked it out of the park with this one!

Sticking with the Switch for a little bit longer, British developer Coatsink (which I have covered here before) is bringing its platformer Shu to the Switch in January, 2018.

Here’s a little about the game: Set across 6 different worlds, Shu combines gorgeous hand-drawn characters and fast-paced action as Shu and companions battle to save their friends from the mysterious and unrelenting storm. Can you outrun the end of the world?

Featuring an original soundtrack, 10 recruitable characters and a plethora of secrets to discover, the Nintendo Switch version of Shu will also include the Caverns of The Nightjars add-on content.

Shu will costs around $NZ15, if my calculations are correct.

 

 

Doom Switch review: Rip & tear on the go

Doom.

It was the game of a generation.

It was also one of the first first-person shooters I played on my dad’s 486 PC when I was a teenager (a long, long, long, long time ago). That was the days when DOS was a thing and games came on floppy discs (young people: Ask an adult what they were).  Doom was a game that kicked off FPS gaming for a whole generation.

Fast forward lots of years and Doom has seen several iterations, on several platforms, each one founded on iD’s tech. Last year’s, Doom was a smash hit – and now it’s on an unlikely platform: Nintendo’s Switch. It works:  Yes, there are some compromises but, frankly, when it’s played in portable mode, it looks bloody good to me.

Of course, to get Doom running on the Switch, developer Panic Button has made serious compromises: Graphically, things are a lot blurrier and lower resolution than on its console and PC counterpart, and at times, the frame rate drops are noticeable (the game tries to reach 30 frames per second all the time, and seems to mostly achieve that, according to tech reviewers who know more about that thing than I do) but this is the full 2016 Doom experience. On the Switch. Something that is essentially a tablet when compared to the other platforms.

Sure, graphics downgrade further when in docked mode – and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to play the game in docked mode on a 55-inch TV – but Doom is a much better experience when played in portable mode. This is a version that is for the bus ride home, the long drive to that holiday destination or the plane flight. The Switch’s 6-inch screen means that the graphical compromises aren’t as noticeable and the game works because Doom is the type of game that is meant to played fast-paced, with the player moving swiftly from location to location. It’s not designed for camping and hiding behind cover while enemies search for you.

Doom on the Switch can’t compete with the version on Xbox, PlayStation and PC. It just can’t and I don’t thing it’s fair comparing it to other formats, which have much more power and graphical capabilities (especially on PC, where with a top-end GPU you can crank everything up to 11). I don’t think the point of porting Doom to the Switch was to compete with the other version. I think the point was to show that, actually, a fast-paced, first-person shooter can work on Nintendo’s handheld console. The glory kills are here, the gore is here, the atmosphere is there: This is Doom.

There are purists who will say Doom on Switch doesn’t compare with the Xbox/PS/PC version and people are just cutting it slack because “It’s incredible that it’s on a portable platform at all” – and they’d be right to a certain degree (on how it doesn’t compare to versions on more powerful platforms) so they should steer clear of it, but for me, I determine a game on how fun it is, not whether it has cutting-edge graphics and how it compares to versions of it. Bottom line for me: Doom on Switch is a hell (pun intended) of a lot of fun on the Switch and frankly it look bloody fantastic.

Something that was a pain for me – and again it’s probably due to my eyes – but on-screen text was painfully small and hard to read: Even with my glasses on. Actually, even my son, who has 18 year old eyes, said the text was hard to read. He liked it but reckoned it could have looked better.

It’s good to see that major publishers are supporting the Switch but one concern I have with Bethesda’s strategy is that Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is coming to the Switch in early 2018 – and I’m not convinced that game is going to work as well as Doom. I haven’t played it but it’s a graphically stunning title that I’m not sure the Switch can do justice without some serious compromises. I guess we’ll find out next year.

Look, I might have old eyes but, man, this looks bloody good to me.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch) is a game that can elicit joy and frustration during the same play session.

Heck, it can elicit those feelings during the last 100m of a race – and I love it. I can’t stop playing it.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe isn’t a new game. In fact, it’s an updated and enhanced version of Mario Kart 8 which came out on Nintendo’s last generation Wii U console but it’s a perfect fit for the Switch. Deluxe features all the content from Mario Kart 8 (and tracks from past platforms the racer appeared on) as well as a new Battle mode. Multiplayer offers four-player races, while online player is both single player and two-player.

As you’d expect, the roster of characters includes favourites like Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Yoshi to characters like King Boo, Dry Bones, Donkey Kong and Link (from Legend of Zelda fame). Tracks include circuits like Yoshi Circuit (GCN), Rainbow Road (SNES), Koopa City (3DS) and Moo Moo Meadows (Wii).

Right off the bat, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looks superb on the Nintendo Switch. I said to my son while I was drifting around a corner on the Rainbow Road that for a console that is under powered when compared against the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4, Deluxe looks incredibly vibrant and detailed on the Switch. The game looks good running through a TV but because of the smaller screen, I reckon it looks much sharper when using the Switch’s portable mode.

I said at the beginning that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe can elicit both joy and frustration during the same game session and it does. Here’s an example: During a few races, I was leading on the last lap of the last race in the four-race series that would clinch me the victory cup (I tend to race as Yoshi on a motorcycle) when – with no joke of a lie – within the last 100m I’d be zapped by a turtle shell, had oil squirted on my screen by the oil ghost and zapped by lightning, shrinking my race character. Generally, I still managed to win the race but sometimes it would mean I’d come second, losing the cup. It was almost as if the game ganged up on me, not wanting me to win.

Surely not, right?

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the sort of game that’s perfect for when you’ve got a few spare minutes to do a few races. I took it to work one week so I could play during my lunch break.

Look, I love Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and if you’re a fan of the game on other Nintendo platforms, and you own a Switch, you’ve probably bought this already. Heck, if you only buy two games for the Switch, pick up this and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You’ll have enough to keep you busy for a long, long time.

When I first got a Nintendo Switch I said that while it was a fantastic piece of hardware, it was hampered by the lack of games. With the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, I’ve changed my tune. The Switch is really starting to hold its own in the console space, and that prospect can only get better as the year progresses.

Thanks to Nintendo Australia for the review copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe