Premium Fire

This weekend I was at CoxCon in Telford (helping out with selling early copies of Uncomfortable Labels with Laura Kate Dale) and I got a chance to go hands-on playing firefighting “un-simulator” Embr by Muse Games.

If you’re the kind of Silicon Valley tech type who thinks things like “what if there was a private security force that kept just my neighborhood safe?” Or “what if we made an Uber but for transporting you to hospital?” Or “what if there was a premium, for-profit fire and rescue service, which was available 24 hours, and staffed by anyone aged 18-85 who signed up?” Well, do I have news for you?

I do, in fact, have such news.

The gig economy called and there’s a capitalist system that needs oiling with the blood, sweat, and tears of the working class. Woo! (You probably say, because you’re a parasite (unless you’re not actually the hypothetical tech type I proposed earlier (in which case, welcome, help yourself to one of the guillotines, we march at dawn to overthrow capitalism))).

How about, instead of trained, professionals, we have (probably self-employed, so we don’t have to offer any kind of benefits) Respondrs™? A Respondr™ can hire equipment from us, and we connect them with contract holders who are in need of fire fighting services. We’ll have a clause in the contract that says we get to keep any money or valuables (with a cut to the Respondr™) and the Respondr™ will have to rescue a percentage of the contract-holder’s household.

Whoever though of that probably had some equally insidious tech friend who turned to them and called the “a fucking genius”. To which they likely replied, “I know”, because they’re like that.

Anyway, enough of the plot, what about the game itself?

I only played one level of Embr, but it was a lot of fun and had a certain dark humour. There I was, a bespectacled, elderly person known only as Granny, dropped off on the lawn of a burning house. According to my choice of load-out I was a hero (*blush* I’m just doing my job a Respondr™) with the axe being my first port of call.

With a comforting cry of “Here’s Granny”, I turned the door turned to kindling and set about rescuing at least three out of the five people living there. Stopping only briefly to look for any money they might have lying around the place that I could rescue (can’t be leaving cash about, it could get hurt in the fire, and Embr are very against such things).

With flames rising higher, I had to disable electrical supplies to avoid getting shocked, and engage ventilation to avoid poison gas clouds. At one point I found that an upstairs floor had collapsed, so I thought to bridge the gap with my ladder. Happily, this was a viable option (always nice when games let you improvise like that). No way a little thing like there being a lack of flooring was going to stop a cunning octogenarian like myself.

As I pulled out the third person from the blazing remnants of their home and hurled them into the designated safe zone I had to ask myself “do I want to just reel up my hoses and pack away my ladder, or can I earn myself a few more pennies by running back in and looting the joint?”

In this gig economy, the answer had to be “yes”.

Braving a further trip inside I found things were really heating up (yes, yes I am pleased with myself). Beams had started to fall, the floors, wall, and ceiling had been hurriedly redecorated in a charming shade called Raging Inferno (I checked the colour chart). I figured it would be worth hosing some of the hot stuff with wet stuff. Even deploying the odd water grenade (refillable at a sink) to make my way through the most aggressive parts of the blazing domicile.

While doing so, I did encounter another resident so I guessed they had to be rescued too (*sigh* I didn’t have all day. Ethel and I were due at the new action movie at 4 so I’d have to wrap up quickly). As I was upstairs, the quickest option was to deploy a trampoline and yeet my client out the window, as you do.

It was about this time I was starting to find all the fire a bit much. Despite having thrown water grenades into the heart of the hottest part of the flames, it was clearly well out of control at this point, and since I wouldn’t get paid if I died, I decided to head home. I briefly considered calling an Embr to deal with it, but who has that kind of money?

Embr is pencilled for release Autumn 2020 and will feature solo or up to 4 player, cross-platform, online co-op modes. Use cash to lease better equipment and take on the biggest jobs for the biggest payouts.

A Steam Page is already up so adding to your wishlist will keep it in mind come release date.

And remember, whatever you do, rescue Pim!

Butt Not Found

When I was about 9-10, my parent’s marriage fell apart. They said they’d “stay together for the child”, but what that really meant was that my maternal parent didn’t want to find somewhere else to live (the house belonged to my nan, who also lived with us). As such, the backroom downstairs was turned into her bedroom. It was almost always closed – like all bedroom doors in the house – and consequently, somewhat of a mystery. About a year later, maternal parent brought home a guy she’d been dating. Shortly thereafter he was living with us, in her room. A further mystery to that area of the house.

Outside of working hours, maternal parent would stay in her room smoking her partner’s wares and he would take over the office she’d converted out of the garage, for her secretarial business (which failed) to play games on her PC.

MP’s partner didn’t really speak to me, I was just an annoyance, but if I kept quiet, I could sit at the back of the room and watch him play these games. If he was out selling at the weekend I could even play them sometimes. These are still games that I have a huge fondness for, games I still try to dig out and play every year or so. Lucasfilm Games’s Night Shift, Interplay’s Lord of the Rings, and from the Bitmap Brothers: Xenon 2, Magic Pockets & GODS. They may not be perfect, I may be pretty bad at them, but they lodged in my heart somehow and I’ve never let them go.

Imagine my surprise then when I went through my Steam list the other day to see that GODS had been remastered for modern systems. 11 year old me gave a little cheer and I immediately threw some money down on this updated version of my favourite action puzzle platform games of all time.

I usually only stream about an hour a week, but this week I ended up playing for two, without even realising. And I’ve been sneaking in some additional time here and there ever since. I was back there, toggling levers in the hope of working out the secret combinations to unlock bonus areas filled with glittering prizes, shrinking in horror at some of the floaty jumping, cheering on the thieves to bring me the treasures I needed.

GODS is the story of a hero who faces the fear of the ancient city, to slay the four great guardians, in order to win a single favour from the Gods. The favour they ask is to join these deities as an equal.

This is a loving recreation of the original version, as played by the remaster’s dev on Atari ST. The player character still walks with a certain weight and purpose, and jumps in this odd floaty manner.

Obviously the first thing to talk about with a remaster is the graphics, so (*Mario voice*) here we go!

Platform and background textures are nicely updated, while keeping the feel and style of the original artwork. There was something about Bitmap Brothers games that always stood out and made it instantly recognisable as one of their creations, so it’s nice to see that style given a shiny new coat of pixels.

The design of the shop is great, and icons are clear and familiar. It all feels very much like the original as upgraded by nostalgic memory. Then we come to the character models and here I do have a few problems. Some of the monsters you fight look very odd indeed, less demonic than they once were, more darkly adorable. The humanoids just look like scaled down assets rather than unique, short and stocky races. They all have the plasticy shine of 90’s era 3D animations, with none of the more modern soft glow of subsurface scattering.

The player character model has quite incredible muscles (especially those thighs) and their build overall is much more bulky. Where the original felt like they were built of strong, lean muscle. Like they were strong but agile. This new hero looks like they live on three square meals a day of 3000 calories of chicken, pasta and steroids. Like He-Man got self-conscious at the gym and decided he wasn’t quite ripped enough. Most egregious of all, they’ve hidden their butt. When using ladders, you used to be able to clearly see those firm buns wiggle. Now, the hero has immobile shorts that give no hint of the buttocks beneath. It’s a travesty I tells ya! A TRAVESTY *screams until the very Gods themselves quake in fear*.

With those gripes out of the way, it’s time to talk about some of the benefits. In the original version I played on PC, if you ran out of lives, you’d have to start a whole level again using a couple of continues (for some reasons it’s multiple worlds per level, rather than the other way around). If you ran out of continues, you could use passwords to get back to the start of a level and you’d be granted a set amount of cash to arm yourself. This often meant that you’d be at a slight disadvantage compared to having gone through from the beginning.

In the remaster, you don’t have continues, which means that you can just keep going with the weapons you’ve earned. You can even quit the game and come back to the beginning of the world you last played. It’s quality of life like this which makes me really happy, as someone who is very bad at this game.

Should you want to start a level like you’d used a continue/password in the original, you can access each one you’ve unlocked from the main menu. Here again, you’ll have a set amount of money to kit yourself out for the run.

Another nice upgrade is having multiple buttons for control. GODS was originally designed for one button joysticks so you could easily find yourself jumping instead of going through a door if you were off centre with your movement. Now there are separate buttons for jump, attack, inventory, and using levers. Additionally, there’s a turn and fire control which is great for the regular sections of the game where enemies will appear and surround you.

Back in the day GODS ran at about 17 fps. This version will run at a solid 60 in modern or classic graphics mode. This can be switched on the fly by hitting F10 or clicking the right stick on a controller.

Music here is a little disappointing. The original intro music, Into The Wonderful was super memorable, with its digised speech, catchy tune and low-res intro scene. The new title music is a legally distinct knock-off and honestly, I’d rather that they’d just accepted they couldn’t get the licence and go for something completely different. It’s the 500-in-1 video game console your uncle mistook for a PS4, to the misery of your cousins by comparison. Additionally sound effects are a little odd now. Getting hit sounds like you’ve suffered a minor inconvenience and not like you’ve just lost a quarter of your health. Not sure where they got/how they made that asset but it doesn’t sound right at all.

For all my usual moaning, I’ve really enjoyed this version, even if I do flick graphics modes on the regular, to avoid some of the less than impressive looking enemies. I’m looking forward to more time playing and would definitely say it’s worth the price (~£17.00) especially as it takes the hassle out of playing it on modern systems and provides those quality of life upgrades.

GODS Remastered is available on PC and XBOne now and is due for release on Switch and PS4 early 2019.

Pros:

  • Easiest way to play on modern systems
  • Improved control scheme
  • Easier to put down and come back to, when you need

Cons:

  • Odd sound effects in remastered mode
  • Character models are plasticy
  • They nerfed the hero’s butt!!!

Overall Score: 6/10

Archive Software – Starlink

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This is the first in a new series that will show up from time to time. Games I really feel I’m done with, but have more thoughts on now I’m as done as I’m likely to be and just before I hit ‘archive’.

So after ragging on Starlink in my review, I found that I’d still rather play that than Townsmen. While I moaned about the content I wouldn’t be able to unlock without additional purchases then, I feel like I’ve still seen most things after sinking maybe another 6 hours into it.

So just a quick refresh, I only have the Switch exclusive, physical edition, with the Arwing. This means no other elemental weapons than fire and ice.

Without access to other elements, I stopped even bothering with the space shipwrecks as they usually needed a levitation weapon to open. So this left me hopping from planet to planet, taking out just enough of the Legion’s Extractors (industrial mining facilities) to weaken the Primes (powerful insectoid mechs) to weaken the Dreadnoughts up in space. Once they were all clear, it was plain sailing all the way to the final boss, which was far easier than some of the dreadnoughts tbqh.

While it’s possible to 100% destroy the Legion forces on a planet before moving on, it doesn’t make much sense as there’s a constant countdown to the dreadnoughts deploying another Prime, which will in turn create more Extractors. Consequently, I ended up roleplaying it in my head that I was clearing the main dangers on the planet, then helping organise the local vigilante forces by building armouries, which provide planetary defence forces. The flavour text even says they look after things while you’re away. I’m off dealing with the big bad, I can’t be expected to fight the whole war on my own.

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That said, I did end up going and clearing out all the extractors and imp hives once I’d finished the campaign. I was still haunted by the spires, which taunted me every time I flew by. ‘You’ll never get us open… unless you want to pop us another few quid for new weapons’. Leading me to feebly shoot at them with the useless weapons I had.

Next, I cleaned up the exclusive Starfox missions and honestly, while I was initially surprised by the amount of cutscenes and voice acting for this version, I had to remember that the digital version had all this too, but without skimping on the weapons. However, it’s a fun enough story, chasing Wolf around a few planets, shooting up some pirates that he’s allied with. I’d estimate, there’s about an hour of extra content exclusive to this version – excluding the main story cutscenes, which the Starfox team seem to have been quickly pasted into.

How could they have done things better and left folx (me) feeling less aggrieved? Simple, have the digital edition include 2 ships, 2 pilots and 5 weapons (one of each fire, ice, gravity, levitation, kinetic types); have the physical edition include all this as digital only, but charge a little more to cover the cost of the toys. Then you can still lock whatever that is in those last three upgrades on the mothership behind DLC/extra purchases of physical items, and you don’t alienate anyone.

People – especially kids – will still want the cool ship toys. It wouldn’t be hard to add a simple mission or two that unlocks when you buy another ship/pilot. Heck, even spend the extra time and do online multiplayer dogfighting (which would be epic in this engine). Once it’s competitive, it wouldn’t be hard to sell all the customisation bits (although maybe that’s an evil idea and I’ve spent too long coming up with bits for Electronic ActiSoftWorks).

Starlink is not a bad game, but I feel like it had potential to be way better, and less repetitive. And with that final thought, this one is archived.

Starlink: Battle For Fat Cash

I’ve had the chance to sit down with Starlink: Battle for Atlas over the last week or so. It’s the latest toys-to-life game from Ubisoft. This time we’re avoiding big name characters and franchises (bar Starfox if you’re playing on Switch), the building fun of Lego Dimensions, or the whatever the heck Skylanders was about and going into the one place that was previously thought to remain uncorrupted by capitalism.

Turns out Tim Curry was dead wrong.

I was lucky(?) enough to get to play with the physical release on Switch, which comes with a rather nice Arwing model with detachable wings, a couple of weapons (one fire based, one ice), a Fox McCloud pilot figure, another pilot (who I’ve spent so little time playing as, I have no idea what his name is (ok, I looked it up, he’s called Mason. Happy now?)), and a stand to attach it all to my joycons. There’s a poster in there too, but who cares. Want game now! In addition to this, there’s digital versions of a third weapon (kinetic type) and the standard ship that comes in the other format physical editions.

I’ve probably dumped around 20 hours into this so far. Lots of buzzing over planets claiming every ruin, enjoying the beautiful and varied biomes & wildlife, destroying enemy extractors (think fracking/mining if it made clouds of evil that corrupt local fauna… so, fracking), building up a whole host of mining and observation facility-running friends by completing basic tasks (allowing me to get regular cash deliveries and see more of the planets I visit respectively), and crushing the wonders (world bosses).

I’ve been struck how much Starfox content there is in the game, making me feel kinda bad for people on other systems. There’s cutscenes, and bonus missions to be had. PS4 and XB1 players will miss out on this, but I suppose they can rub themselves down with slightly better graphics to feel better, if that’s their bag.

On the subject of missing out, I come to my main problem with the game. As mentioned earlier, the physical version comes with two physical weapons, covering fire and ice elements, plus a digital weapon that’s kinetic. As far as I’ve seen, kinetic weapons can’t open anything particularly special, they just do non-elemental damage. However, elemental weapons do act as keys for specific doors/chests. At this point, I ask myself: “do I miss whatever this is and move on, or buy more bits to unlock it?” and looking at my cool Arwing model and go, “this is yet more plastic tat that will sit on my shelf after a week and never be looked at again, meanwhile, the actual game I want to play is gating content”. Often, you will find canisters with the required element that you can throw at these elemental locks, but sometimes you have to go well out of your way to find the right one.

See, the thing is, once you’ve got the game going, you don’t actually need the models attached to the controller, as you can just use the menu to change them digitally. This takes unnecessary weight off and makes long term play more comfortable. As such, after the initial hour or so of “hey, this is fun to take the wings off on the fly, or attach them all on one side and make the ship really wonky” turns into “ah, that enemy is resistant to cold damage, I’ll hit the menu and swap that out as I don’t own the third weapon physically anyway”.

“So what about the digital version”, I hear the imagined voices in my head cry, because I imagined them crying that.

I’ll tell you. The digital edition includes the game + 4 ships, 6 pilots, and 12 weapons. Add to that the Switch version includes the exclusive ship, pilot, and missions. All this for slightly less than a physical version. Those weapons cover all elemental options, meaning you can unlock (as far as I can tell) every elemental door/chest and easily find a weakness for every elemental enemy without the need for additional purchases. Furthermore, additional ships will act as extra lives, meaning you can respawn immediately, rather than back at a prospector/observatory.

Throughout the game, there are upgrades you can make to your mothership. These include adding additional mod slots to your ships and weapons, the ability to fuse low level mods into the next level up, extra space in your inventory for collected items, etc. At first progress is nice and steady, but before long you’ll notice the bottom three categories can’t be unlocked with the pilots you have available in the physical edition (and, I understand you need at least two extra pilots with the digital edition). Right now, I can’t tell if these are really important to the game, but I feel it’s important to let you know where you’ll need to spend extra monies.

Right now, ship packs – containing one ship, a pilot and a weapon – will set you back £24.99 for physical editions and £9.99 for digital. Then there’s pilots, which are sold individually for £6.99 physical and £4.99 digital. Lastly, there’s weapons in two packs which go for £9.99 physically and only £3.29 on the eshop. I have no idea where they got these prices, but it feels like they just drew numbers out of a hat.

I get that it’s a toys-to-life game. I get they want to make fat cash off of these toys, but when you’re skint like me, the value from the physical game feels greatly lessened when I start finding bits I just can’t do, because I was wowed by a plastic Arwing.

As far as I can see, someone buying the physical edition of the game will need at least two extra weapons (gravity and levitation based) and 2-3 extra pilots to unlock everything. I’ve tried to work out what the smallest amount of extra stuff I’d need to buy to see what I currently feel is gated, but it’s proving a pain so close to release. Best guess right now is two ship packs 1-2 pilots.

“Enough of the gripes about how much the damn thing costs and tell us about the actual game”, the imagined voices holler. To which I say, “shut your noise hole and try a brownie. While your mouth is full, I’ll tell you.”. The voices agree, and I move on.

The game starts with a grumpy alien vulture kidnapping the team’s peculiarly named leader (just as Starfox and pals arrive in the area). Apparently they’re the Legion and they’re bad, so they’ve decided they need leader guy more than we do. With our ships disabled, we’re helpless to fight back and badly named vulture makes off with our heroic motivation.

Next thing you know, you’re down on a planet, learning to fly around, plucking fruit, scanning fauna, helping out the locals, mining currency, blowing up the Legion forces, looking for plot clues, and planning epic revenge.

Play went something like: do all listed tasks on planet, upgrade some stuff, head to space, attack a few random space pirate bases, head to next planet, start again, go back to space, plot happens, go to next planet, find all my weapons are made of fail against these enemies but do my best (standard enemies taking nearly 3 times longer to beat, not due to their skills, but because they’re bullet-sponges), encounter a jumping puzzle.

A. FUCKING. JUMPING. PUZZLE!

If you think jumping puzzles in FPS games are bad, try it in a hovering ship that will just slide all over the tiny ass platforms. It’s absolute garbage and whoever, thought it should go in needs an Arwing, with the wings on backwards, shoved right up their nose for their crimes. True, it was 1am when I got to this bit, but hovering ship-based jumping puzzles can get in the freaking bin! Worst part was that the first time I made it to the top, I couldn’t finish the puzzle as I hadn’t noticed that I needed to cut free the final platform from the ground first. This really doesn’t help that before this I was already starting to feel that the game was getting a little repetitive. This just made me swear at the screen and go to bed.

I’ve got past it now, only to be rewarded with a well done that implied that it took me ages, it did, but heck you and the modular ship you flew in on.

Overall the game is fun-ish, graphically very pretty, nice to listen to (really digging the Starfox theme when you call for support), good to explore, ship design is interesting, and the plot isn’t too awful.

Pros:

  • The worlds are diverse and pretty
  • Nice Arwing model
  • Solid space and planetside combat

Cons:

  • Switch version requires a huge download before you can play the physical version
  • Physical copies really skimp on content compared to the digital versions
  • FUCKING JUMPING PUZZLE!

Overall Score: 5/10

Hurling Poop

Windjammers has been around as long as Super Metroid. Sadly, it hasn’t stood the test of time nearly as well. First released on the Neo Geo in 1994, and then again in 2010 on the WiiU Virtual Console, this Flying Disc Game (because I guess frisbee is a brand name) sees you picking one of six characters and to play a suped up pong-like.

Characters each have different power and speed, meaning they can throw the disc harder or move around faster. As rallies go on, the pace gets more swift and you find yourself sliding around at high speed to avoid letting your opponent score.

The angle you throw at can be changed by moving the stick diagonally forward before throwing. Alternatively, throwing while holding diagonally backwards will make the disc bounce up and down across the court, making it more tricky to catch. You can also perform a half circle before throwing to do a powered up special move.

Each match takes place in a different arena and each has a unique layout of scoring areas and centre obstacles. Score in a yellow zone for 3 points or red for 5 points. The center obstacles provide additional bounce points in around the net, meaning that you can bamboozle your opponent by hitting them just right.

Between some matches, you’ll get to play one of the two minigames: Dog Distance – throw your disc and have your doggo friend chase after it, while avoiding beach users; and Flying Power Disc Bowling – Knock down pins with your definitely-not-a-frisbee (I found playing as the Spanish character and holding forward and throw got a strike every time,so that’s fun /s). These are very short and simplistic and can also be accessed through the local game menu.

Windjammers, features online multiplayer, local single and multiplayer, and a wireless mode. So plenty of opportunities to bore the crap out of your friends playing this.

Like a lot of old games being ported to modern systems, and new games that want to look like they were, there’s options to play with or without scanlines, or even a CRT mode. Furthermore you can play in the original 4:3 (with or without your choice of borders to fill in the blank spaces at the edges) or a stretched out 16:9 screen ratio.

According to Wikipedia, there’s talk of a sequel coming to Switch next year. So if you really must throw digital discs at your rapidly diminishing circle of friends, you may want to hang on for that and hope for the best (I don’t really see how it could be much worse), or else invest in something like Mario Tennis Aces.

Pros:

  • Er
  • Um
  • Oh, the controls function

Cons:

  • Bland
  • Short
  • End screen is a picture of you holding a trophy and a three line congratulations message. Fucking woo!

Overall: 4/10

 

Windjammers is available now on Switch.

E3 2018 Hype Train

Choo choo. All aboard the hype train.

It’s nearly time for E3. So let’s have a look at all the awesome things that we can get overly excited about, and start getting our pre-orders in for this stuff.

Ringo Starr [narrating]: “Oh no, there’s been a terrible accident. The hype train’s derailed and smashed into the Sodor nuclear power plant.”

Janeiac: That doesn’t seem good Ringo. Should we call someone?

RS: It’s too late Janey. Look there.

Kevan Brighting [narrating]: Ringo was right. As Janeiac looked, she saw Sir Topam Hatt’s face start to blister and melt off as he screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed. And then his eyes melted too.

KB: It was absolutely horrific. Probably most horrifying thing she’d ever seen, and she’d once walked in on her mother having sex with a hairy pot dealer when she was 12. Sometimes she still had a memory of that monumentally hairy set of bouncing buttocks. It was not a visual memory, but was still scarred into her mind.

KB: Janeiac wondered if this was perhaps more tasteless advertising from the people that brought you the dismembered corpse that came with Dead Island. She felt deep in the very core of her being that somehow, all of this must have something to do with the E3 article that she’d planned to write.

Richard Ridings [narrating]: It is pay day!

J: What are you doing here?

RR: There are unspeakable horrors unfurling. It seemed appropriate. Also, I had to get out of that dungeon, the yoghurt was starting to go off and it smelled worse than a bile demon’s foreskin after a week of humping a handful of its own faeces.

RS: I think we’re losing track of this whole E3 thing.

Morgan Freeman [narrating]: They were, in fact, losing track of the whole E3 thing. People were supposed to be getting excited about the latest electrical wizardry, but sadly, everyone was too distracted by the fact that, Thomas was on fire, nuclear waste was turning biological matter to cancerous soup, and Richard Ridings had forced me to think about a bile demon’s foreskin.

RS: At that moment, Spencer pulled up and expressed his disappointment in the assembled narrators.

RR: A tory has entered your dungeon!

Spencer: I’m very disappointed in all of you assembled narrators.

J: Oh, do fornicate off, you David Cameron looking twunt.

RS: Spencer had to admit that he did rather look like David Cameron. Right up until the meteor fell from the sky and turned him into sheet metal.

All: [4.27 minutes of riotous laughing]

MF: Such laughter in the face of a world falling to pieces was a much needed tonic. Everything had gotten rather dark of late in the world and laughter was really all anyone had left in the face of utter unpleasantness.

Edward Norton [narrating]: I never felt so alive as when the earth began to spew boiling lava that pushed up the train tracks, causing Gordon and Percy to go flying at high speed into the air. The whole world was tearing itself apart and I couldn’t help but notice Reggie Fils-Aimé, sitting on his horde of ill-gotten Amiibo and wrapping gaffer tape around his head like a discount balaclava, while laugh-crying and bleeding from a small graze on his knee, which he got while running too fast with an untied shoe lace.

J: Wait a minute!

RS: Said Janeiac.

J: Shush you.

KB: Ringo had been suitably chastised by Jane…

J: and you

RR: [laughs evilly]

J: [glares at the assembled narrators]

Narrators: [uncomfortable silence and awkward shuffling]

Does anyone have any information about E3?

Andrea Libman [Pinkie Pie voice]: I don’t!

J: Oh, hey Pinkie.

AL: Actually, I’m Andrea Libman.

J: Sorry, it was because you did the voice.

AL: I suppose that’s fair. I do do other voices though, you know.

J: I did know that. You’re a very talented voice actor.

AL: Thanks.

KB: Somewhere in the distance, Annie and Clarabel exploded into a billion splinters, which flew through the air and fell around the duck pond like a rain of needles.

J: So, let’s get this straight. None of us have any information about E3, or any idea about what’s coming.

[silence… apart from the sound of all the fires and screaming and exploding and general awfulness]

J: Right, well, thank you everyone. This has been fascinating but I’m heading home.

AL: Wait, I have a thing!

J: You do?

AL: Pretty sure we’re going to see more of that Yoshi game from Nintendo.

J: That’s a fair guess.

RB: Jane felt an amazing sense of relief at hearing at least one thought on what might be appearing at E3. This was because she kind of liked the idea of writing about games but didn’t really have time to do proper research. Or rather she did, but she seemed to prefer oddly written improvisational pieces to actual journalism.

J: Hey, I’m not against journalism. I just prefer to get hands on before I write about games and stuff.

[distorted voice of Jigsaw]: Hello narrators. I want to play a game.

J: Not right now Jigsaw.

[Billy the puppet dejectedly rides his tricycle away, a single tear running down his cheek]

[Fade to black.]

[closing title card, overlaid with some visual scratches and picture jumping, to imply old timey black and white film]: fine

[Fade out]

[Fade in]

[Title card is on fire]: …this is fine.

So there you have it folks, all the good good E3 news you could want ahead of next week’s big event.

Hyrule Genocide Simulator

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Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition has just been released on Nintendo Switch. This is actually the third version of the Nintendo-property-skinned genocide simulator from developer Koei Tecmo, having previously been released on WiiU and 3DS. I’m told this one suffers with less frame rate issues than the previous incarnations, but having never played them, I couldn’t say for sure.

You take control of various familiar faces from the Legend of Zelda franchise history + KT’s self-insert character, that I’m fairly certain is contractually required in all such games. The game opens with Hyrule castle being attacked by enemy forces and Link – here appearing initially as a fairly standard guard, training at the castle – find’s themself on a chaotic battlefield full of demonic looking little bastards that need a strongly worded… sword to the face. Hack cleave and grind your way around the map, following blips on your minimap and character conversations in a tiny box on the bottom left of the screen.

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Ok, here goes, I’m going to wade in with everything I hate about this game *hits the badge shop and throws all the resources into defence badges*. I get easily overwhelmed. It’s a thing. If there’s too much going on around me in the street, I sometimes need to just go hide in a toilet stall and gather myself. So the idea that I would have to track hundreds of onscreen enemies, a minimap that could do with being about 10-20% larger to be clear enough, and unvoiced character conversations in a tiny corner of the screen. That’s too much, man!

*waits for the bottles of piss to stop being thrown*

Right, so here’s the thing. I love this game. I’ve been playing it every spare minute and I nearly blew off going out for my friend’s birthday this weekend because it would have allowed me another 8 hours of solid play. In spite of all I listed above, this game is brilliant fun and very addictive. The first thing I had to learn – as this is my first time really digging into a Warriors game – is that a lot of the shit on screen really doesn’t matter. You just push your way through the general minions to whoever the quest marker deems important, like a white, middle-class woman with a bob desperate to take her ire out on the store manager. Then, if the quest marker isn’t satisfied with their answer, you go find someone more senior to shout at until victory happens (look out summer 2019 for Soccer Mom Warriors).

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As you progress through the game you’ll gain experience from those that fall at your blade (or crossbows, or book… somehow). As you level up, your characters become stronger. Just stronger, no other stats matter. Just how ready you are for more slaughter.

Randomly brutalising any enemy with a health bar can gain you extra weapons or materials. Weapons add a little more strength to your attacks and often come with various elemental or bonus perks. These perks include the ability to find better weapons (with higher damage or more perk slots), power up certain combos, have advantages against certain enemies, or the ability to find better materials. Perks can be swapped into empty slots in the smithy between battles, for a price.

The final way to power up your characters is with badges. These are crafted between levels and allow yet more perks. These come in three delicious flavours: attack, defence, and assist. The attack badges unlock more combos, more damage against defending foes, give additional special attack uses, etc. Defence badges will let you take less damage from different elemental sources or allow use of health potions. Assist badges allow you to take over enemy keeps more quickly and increase the duration of certain power-ups. Each character will need their own badges, and each may require different materials for the same badges, on different characters. So there’s going to need to be a lot of item farming if you want to unlock everything for everyone.

The Story Mode takes you on a super meandering journey through Hyrule to defeat Cia (a witch originally tasked with keeping the balance of the Triforce) as she causes chaos while trying to gather up some funky glowing orbs. I’ll not spoil the plot here, but there’s more to it than that, obvs. The story takes several branches along the way, as you get to visit areas from Ocarina of Time, Twiglet Princess, and Skyward Sword. Then sends you back to see things from other perspectives. See how things got going for Cia and her captains – Volga and Wizzro. In addition, you can enjoy Linkle’s side adventure. (Side note: Pleeeeeease Nintendo, we need you to fully adopt Linkle, she’s hecking awesome and needs to be in mainstream LoZ games).

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The graphics are beautiful and the characters are really nicely modelled. It’s really good to see hi-def versions of so many familiar faces form LoZ history. Each of these warriors plays quite differently, having different movement speeds. From the plodding Goron, Darunia to the fleet of foot Link. Each character has a number of combo attacks and specials to wreak havoc on the armies that oppose you. The animations for these are pretty stunning, but can get a little repetitive if you’re playing the same character for an extended period. A perfect excuse to swap out to another of the 28 playable characters.

As well as the familiar playable characters, there’s some familiar boss monsters in the shapes of King Dodongo, Gohma, Manhandla, the Imprisoned,  the Helmaroc King. They all look stunning and all need to be taken down at some point. Luckily, you’ll slowly be gathering the unique items during the game that will help with this. Series favourites like Bombs, boomerang, hookshot, bow and arrows, and hammer will help you take those giant, aggy arseholes down in short order.

While all the original game characters are open from the start, the DLC characters of old now have to be unlocked from Adventure Mode. Speaking of which, here’s where you’ll be spending a considerable amount of time if you want to get those final characters and indeed the epic number of alternate character costumes and weapons that are hidden away. I’d felt like the Story Mode had been a good value for money experience. Then I popped open Adventure mode – as the character select screen was now showing a bunch of question mark characters in addition to those I already had – and it suddenly became obvious to me that amount of content in this game is fucking ridiculous.

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There are 9 separate Adventure Mode maps, each with slightly different mechanics, but based on a previous LoZ game. Each cell of the map represents a different challenge and can lead to new character, weapons, costumes, or item cards. These item cards can then be used on certain cells to open up more rewards in other cells of the map. Each of the maps features a wide span of difficulties per level and each map is rated overall from the menu. This is an epic task and should take you a decent chunk of time to work through. I’ve probably put about 16 hours into this mode and still have 2 characters to unlock and I’ve barely touched the weapons and costumes yet. Challenges include slaughtering more mobs than your opponent, butchering a certain number of enemy captains, trouncing a number of boss monsters in a time limit, slaying specific foes to answer questions, and more. Basically, this game does killing a lot.

LoZ has some pretty iconic music, and HW:DE does a wonderful job of covering them as stunning, driving guitar tracks that really add to the metal as fuck mass slaughter fest. I’m terrible for turning off game music and whacking on my own tunes most of the time. I had no intention of doing so with this because it’s just too good. I can’t recommend the soundtrack for this enough.

Pros:

  • A whole lot of awesome game for your money.
  • Beautiful graphics.
  • Awesome soundtrack.

Cons:

  • Starting the co-op mode is ridiculously contrived and needs to be reinitialised after each level.
  • The minimap is a little small for my liking.
  • Possibly dangerously addictive.

Final Score: 8/10

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive edition is out now on Switch.