Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II - Rogue Leader (Nintendo Gamecube)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

Star Wars.

It's probably the most recognised name on the planet. It's also, surely, the most-milked for merchandise, although I guess that's arguable. And it's got loads of videogame spin-offs. Most of which I haven't played...

I dunno. I love the films, particularly the original trilogy, but I still managed to get a fair amount from the newer ones. For some reason, though, I haven't been all that bothered with the games. Yeah, there's the classic arcade original... but I never saw one in its day, and so I never really fell in love with that.

Then there's stuff like X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter. Again, supposed classics, but they came at a time when my gaming mojo was at an all-time low. Even the Dark Forces games have passed me by. Thinking about it, I feel a little empty.

I've lost R2! Oh well, he was irritating me, anyway.

The Gamecube is a machine I got late in the day, and so missed a good amount of its classic titles. I seem to remember that Rogue Leader was a launch title, or thereabouts, and it generated a lot of excitement. And after playing it, I can see why. It's certainly the most spectacular-looking Star Wars game I've seen. The tutorial, set on the sandy plains of Tatooine, leads you into the game very gently... too gently, in fact. I found it a bit dull, and soon skipped past it.

The next level, though, is an attack on the Death Star. That's more like it! It's actually very familiar if you've played the first arcade game... first, you're shooting towers on the Death Star's surface. Next, you have to fight off waves of TIE-Fighters. And then, there's the trench run, as you attempt to blow up the Death Star.

See, now that's the stuff. There's no more intimidating enemy than an AT-AT.

Swooping over the Death Star, dodging and weaving as the TIE-Fighters scream around you, is really pretty thrilling stuff for any Star Wars fan. And it looks convincing, which is key. The trench run, too, has an incredibly solid feel, possibly for the first time. That said, it doesn't feel as fast or frantic as the decades-old arcade game, but it does feel authentic.

I did, though, find it quite difficult. And as such, I finished playing after I'd destroyed the Death Star. I'd played for over an hour at this point, including the time spent on the tutorial, so I consider it sufficiently played for a blog write-up. Two levels further on comes the Imperial Attack on Hoth. I've just GOT to play on to see that one...

Professor Layton and the Curious Village (Nintendo DS)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

Professor Layton is a curious title. It's renowned for being caught in the great Woolworths crash of 2008, when every copy in England seemed to be stuck in a warehouse, and those that had made it into the wild were selling for eighty quid that Christmas. Eighty quid! People were desperate to get their hands on it. But why? For £8.99 from Cash Converters, I decided to find out.

This is a puzzle game. So yes, you might be wondering, what was I playing at? I have little love for puzzle games. But it did promise to be a bit different from the norm. For one thing, it's not a match three game... nor is it a Tetris-esque "fill the holes with the shapes" type of game. Thank Christ for that! I hate most of those.

It's not intuition. I already knew that letting a kid read the map would be trouble.

No, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a mystery wrapped in a puzzle, quite literally. The good Prof has to solve a mystery to obtain a great treasure, a Golden Apple, and to do so he must travel to the village of St. Mystere and solve the puzzles within.

And what a lot of puzzles there are! And several different types, which means that your brain really does get a bit of a stretch. Some are fairly straightforward, enough for even my meagre brain to cope with. Others, though, are right bastards, and when they tell you you're wrong, you're very likely to question them. Out loud. Strongly.

Haha. Yeah. 12 moves for you, maybe... 112 for me, more like!

The game is tremendously well put together, and beautiful, too. When I got to the title screen and saw that it was by Level 5, who were responsible for Dark Cloud (among others), it came as no surprise. I knew I recognised the style from somewhere, and it helps to make the game even more appealing.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a great little game. It's interesting, beautifully presented and a real workout for the brain, set out in a style that is very unlikely to irritate. And it's very easy to just pick up and play for a few minutes, whenever you feel you've got the time. I'm very likely to do just that, which is something to be said for a puzzle game!

Deja Vu (Nintendo NES)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

This is more my wife's game than mine. As I've mentioned before, I didn't own a NES back in the day. Lorraine, though, grew up in America, and she did have a NES. One of her favourite games was Deja Vu, so I thought it was only right to educate myself of her past.

Deja Vu, it turns out, is an icon-driven murder mystery adventure game. I think it was released on pretty much every format you can think of before it hit the NES, but as that's the version my wife played, that's the version I wanted to play.

And that you've only got one eye! Jesus! How did that happen?

I've been a bit more at home with adventure games of late, thanks mostly to the brilliance of the Lucasarts games that I've been playing. So although this was released for the NES in 1990, it had been out for years on other systems by that time, and as a result, the icon system that probably seemed fresh at the time feels a bit clumsy to me now.

I think that's partly down to the fact that it's like a graphic representation of a text adventure. So whereas with the SCUMM games, if you try and do something you can't, you get a charming shrug of the shoulders, or some other fun little graphic "reward". But here, you just get the typical "You can't do that" type of message which has frustrated so many gamers over the years.

Awwww, man. I bet that happened after the cleaner went home.

Still, that aside, I was finding the story in Deja Vu pretty interesting for as long as I was playing it. Certainly compelling enough that I want to carry it on. It has an interesting atmosphere... you wake up in a public toilet in 1940s Chicago, and you've lost your memory. Wandering about the building, you find a dead body. I'm sure you can guess where it goes from there.

I'm a bit surprised to find that this was a NES title... it doesn't really seem like the kind of game that would fit on that system. Maybe, being released toward the end of its lifespan, they were trying to appeal to a now-older gaming audience. No matter... it's an appealing game that's managed to get me hooked. And I have to play it more now... it'll get me brownie points with the missus!

WarioWare Smooth Moves (Nintendo Wii)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

I'm totally ignorant when it comes to WarioWare games... in fact, I'm totally ignorant when it comes to Wario in general. Well, let's face it, if I've only recently played Super Mario Bros. properly, I'm hardly likely to have bothered with Wario.

I picked this one up for Aidan as a little Christmas bonus, for the princely sum of six pounds. I thought it would be rude not to... it looked and sounded like silly fun that we might all be able to enjoy, and the Wii could do with a bit more of a run-out.

And, indeed, it's just as you'd expect. It's packed with silly mini-games... or maybe you'd call some of them micro-games, as they might only last a second! The games are appealingly presented, and imaginitive in their use of the Wiimote, although the attempt at passing off the controls almost as ancient mystical kung-fu techniques comes across as a cross between a Marks & Spencer ad and a 70s porn film!

You might be waiting a while... he's only got four!

Porn overtures notwithstanding, bite-size gaming like this is quite appealing, and with the games lasting such short periods of time and being so silly, WarioWare Smooth Moves could be ideal for parties or gatherings. So what kind of ridiculous idea is it to have multiplayer locked from the beginning?

That's right, a single player has to play right through the game to unlock multiplayer. That's ridiculous, and was quite a disappointment for Aidan. Luckily, you don't really have to do an enormous amount of playing to get your multiplayer component unlocked, and it is fun getting there, but it's just an unnecessary frustration.

WarioWare Smooth Moves is not a game I'd ever play for hours on end. It doesn't particularly lend itself well to prolonged playing, but I don't think that intention was ever in the minds of the designers. It's more of a daft distraction than a game, but there's plenty of room in the world for silly toys, and I think I did quite well in picking this one up for that price.

Shaun White Snowboarding (Wii)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

I got home at 2:45pm today, having left work earlier than usual because of the heavy snow. Thirty years ago, if school had been closed because of the snow, I'd have been straight out in it, not coming home until I was in tears due to my wellies being packed full of snow. Nowadays, I'd rather be inside where it's warm. But it seemed only right today to have some kind of snow-related fun, and so I fired up Shaun White Snowboarding for the first time.

You can probably guess that I bought Wii Fit with my Wii: my wife, Lorraine, quite fancied it at the time, and I'd promised the family a Wii when we moved into our house. Of course, we've both used it once each, and the balance board sits and gathers dust under our coffee table.

But with the purchase of Shaun White Snowboarding, it looks as though the balance board might finally get a bit more use. Unfortunately, I have a bit of a problem with the balance board, namely that I can't actually balance. I don't know if it's because my feet are too big for the board, or if I've got an as-yet-undiagnosed inner ear condition, or if I'm just hopeless. So what you'll usually see is me leaning forward like Eddie The Eagle in a crosswind, just to have my character go straight on. And as soon as I stand normally, the character goes veering off to the left, usually into a tree or obstacle, or away from the reward or stunt that I was heading straight towards.

It's a bit of a shame, but I'm sure that a quick recalibration of the board will sort that out. And even with this problem, I still find Shaun White Snowboarding to be a lot of fun. It's not going to give you anything like the workout that Wii Fit does, but if you fancy a bit of SSX-type fun, albeit gentler and less extreme, and you've got a balance board sitting idle, then you really ought to pick this up.