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Christmas Wii U Time

Christmas has come and past. In that duration of family time spent eating food, drinking booze, and playing the greatest game of dice to steal my other cousin’s presents! I had a real go of spending some time on my youngest cousin’s Wii U console that he received from his Mum.

He got himself three games, Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros U, and ZombieU. First things first, as expected, after reading a billion articles about it from launch day, my cousin was whining about the big update that was required to start the system, however we were all occupied trying to help my Aunt out with the cooking that it wasn’t so much of a problem, in fact we took the controller stand into the kitchen and sat the game pad on the kitchen counter so that we could glance at it to see so far it got to updating. This took about 30 mins or so, a crazy amount of time for a console update, but it was fortunate that at the time we were busy, so it wasn’t a huge issue for us.

After doing the preparation on the cooking, the Wii U was waiting for us, and we popped New Super Mario Bros U into the system, and well, it’s New Super Mario Bros, but it’s in HD, finally. It was fun playing it with my cousins at the time, but it really is just the same game as the three games before it, which is kinda bad considering that between 1985 and 2007, almost every other Mario game was different to the next (OK OK, I know that the Japanese Super Mario Bros 2 was just a harder version of Mario1, but in the west we didn’t see it until the SNES days). Since 2007 and the present, there’s only been one original Mario game, Super Mario Land 3D. Which is pretty sad to be honest since I would love to see an Original Mario title for the Wii U in the same way that Mario 64 got me when I was 13. Still, I have to remember that the Game Cube and the Wii wasn’t released with a real Mario game, and even if this is simply a game play clone of another Mario game, it’s still a Mario game that got released with the system. The one thing I did get to check out was the ability to play the game on the GamePad, out the room where the Wii U was set up. This was kinda cool as I took it downstairs and could still play the game, the reception was pretty good, though there was a part of the kitchen and dining room that we couldn’t get reception in, but in the living room it was loud, clear and responsive. From spending that little bit of time actually playing a game on the GamePad, I got to see the video quality. As I expected, it’s not super duper HD like what you’d get on an HDTV, but it’s what I’d like to call “Watching an HD video on Youtube” quality. There’s a little bit of artifaction, and a tiny bit of colour bleed, but you’d have to be one of those lonely fools at your Christmas College Alumni dinners who’s complaining about how one method of video encoding is better than the other, and before you say it, no it wasn’t me, I was trying to toxicate myself with alcohol. All that being said, about being able to play on the pad is pretty cool, but it’s not really worth the £300 price tag!

Zombie U, or what little I played of it, as my cousins kept stopping me when I attempted to play the single player campaign, so all that I got to play was the multiplayer game. I knew that the game itself was a single player affair, but to my cousins they use the typical Xbox 360 logic of “If game = FPS, then FPS has multiplayer mode like every other FPS”. Which in this case it doesn’t, the multiplayer on Zombie is a bit tacked on, a bit like what they did with Bioshock 2, but this multiplayer is a little different than your typical FPS death match or capture the flag, well, those modes are on there, but the difference is that player 2 uses the gamepad to populate the map with zombies. Each zombie is worth an amount of virus which you slowly earn back, or gain quickly if your zombies hurt the player 1. There are 3 different zombies to start with, the guard, as it’s describes, it stand in a place and only attacks when the player approaches it. The Hunter, a Zombie that will keep on chasing after the player, and a grunt, which you use in the capture the flag mode so that Player 2 on the gamepad earns flags. To be honest, being player 2 on this is a little better then playing as the guy in the game, for starters you’re really slow, and you can’t keep the run button held down because your character will run out of breath. As my cousins played this together, one cousin would scream that he has to press a button to pick boxes up from the ground to get ammo and stuff and wishes it played more like a Call of Duty… Again, I’d hate to think that these fools though that it was a Left 4 Dead game, at least I’m more informed about this game than they are. The only way I could really give an opinion about this game was if I had a chance to play the single player game, as it’s simply an FPS version of Dark Souls set in London, infected with zombies. Sounds great, but we HAD to play together, and the system wasn’t mine fortunately, I’m not paying £300 for one of these.

The there’s Nintendo Land, where I barely had a chance to play it, all I got to play was a mini game where once you collect coins from one game, you put it into a pachinko like machine where you play what I can only describe as 8-bit Peggle! You shoot a coin as if it’s a pachinko ball bearing, and you have to put a coin in each of the holes at the bottom. The idea being you can’t land a coin in the same hole, you have to get a coin in each hole to than earn a question mark block that places an item in the Nintendo Land park.

In conclusion, it’s a little better actually having more time to play with the system, but I will still agree, even when they announced it, the price is too damn high. I mean sure there’s a controller with a screen in it. But with the games that came out and the long updates, it’s not worth the £300 price tag. The Wii U just feels like it was rushed to make it out before Christmas. The beauty about the original Wii was that it was cheap, had descent games at launch, despite no Mario game, at least there was a Zelda game, and it was a lot more “involved” than the Wii U. The system itself feels more like a system concentrated around the single player experience rather than the multiplayer, even though the modes were there, my cousins and I really wanted to use the Gamepad rather than look at the screen, which was pretty dull. In essence, the Wii-U needs to grow a bit before it’ll become popular. It needs more games and more media exposure before it’ll have the same kind of popularity that the system before had, and hopefully as it’s now on par with the 360 and PS3, hopefully people won’t find it has an excuse to throw poorly developed games on to it, I’m looking at you Ubisoft! Even if you did make ZombieU, you released all those terrible pet games on the Wii, so I’m keeping a good damn eye on you!

Review for Motocross Maniacs on the GameBoy

One game I loved on the GameBoy as a kid was a motocross racing game called Motocross Maniacs, developed by Konami and published by Ultra. I originally had this game on a pirated cart that my Grandparents got for me on holiday to Lanzarotti. It came with four games on one cartridge, with a label on it that says “Game Carpridge”! The four games were Doctor Mario, Klax, Battle City and Motocross Maniacs. When I was younger I had played Excite Bike as it was in a collection of video games at my local Youth Club, the same place where I got to play an NES and Super Mario Bros for the first time, and I wasn’t good at Excite Bike at all. But what’s interesting with the Motocross Maniacs was that it was a clone of Excite bike, but made it more exciting as you would pull off insane tricks and go through loop the loops with turbo nitros. I sold the four in one cart to a pawn shop when I was a Teen, as I wanted to get a copy of Wetrix on the N64, what a crazy decision that was! Later on I bought a copy on eBay and relived an awesome unloved GameBoy Classic!

You could treat this game as a plagiarisation of Excite Bike, it feels very much like the game, to a certain extent it even copies game play mechanics in the Commodore 64 game, Kik-Start. The game is side scrolling, and you accelerate to the right, and you press left and right on the D-pad to lean back and forth. Oh yes! Even Trials have taken this concept, but where this game is at least a little to Excite Bike, Kik-Start and Trials is as I said above, there’s Nitro! Now OK there’s a Turbo boost in Excite Bike, but the nitro in this game is different. Rather than a constant thrust, it’s a sudden burst of speed, and you’ll use this on ramps (almost) all the time, and unlike Excite Bike, the Nitros are limited in Motocross Maniacs.

Unlike Excite Bike, but more like Trials and Kik-Start, the game doesn’t have lanes, rather it’s a strictly side view on a single lane. There are three game play modes, Solo, Vs Computer and Vs 2-Player. Solo is simply a single player affair whereby you need to finish 2 laps of a track within a qualifying time, Vs Computer is a race between you a computer controlled racer, in order to win each track you need to beat the computer. And Vs 2-Player is simply the two player mode where you would use a link cable between you and a buddy and race each other.

As I said above, what makes this different to Excite Bike are the crazy loops and platforms you have to go through and over. If you want to get through those loops you’ll need nitro, but again you’ll need to keep an eye on your nitro counter on the bottom right of the screen in case you start to run out, but most loops will have power ups to extend your nitro and time, so they’re still worth doing. Later on in the game, you’ll have much more complicated loops and platforms, many of these have been used in Trails, most of these you might have to use your nitro two or three times to get around. So you’ll really have to economise on those nitros in later levels.

What makes this game different to the other games are power ups. There are six power ups that you can collect in this game, each power up is simply a letter. N For Nitro, pick this up to earn an extra nitro boost, S for Speed, this will allow you to push up your gears to get extra speed, but if you fall over you’ll lose it. R for Radius Tires, this allows you to handle ramps better, and again if you lose it if you crash. T for Time, earn extra time in the game, I forgot to mention that not only do you have a qualifying time, but there’s a timer where if it hits zero it’s game over, grabbing “T”‘s will increase the time you have in the level. J for Jet, this allows you to use nitros to keep yourself air born, but you’ll still have to keep an eye on the nitros that you are using up. And finally there’s a power up with no letter as it’s invisible, but there are 3 “Mini Maniacs” that you can collect in each stage, and they’re achieved by performing flips off certain ramps with good timing.

The music in the game might sound a little off for a stunt racing game, but it’s really catchy. It’s hard to describe how good the music is without actually playing it, so here’s a Youtube video!

The game itself is a bit of an unloved classic in my book, for a GameBoy game it’s one of the better early GameBoy games that should be in everyone’s collection. If you enjoyed Excite Bike, Kik-Start and/or Trials, this is a game you should hunt for and play it. It’s well worth finding a copy!

Review for Hotline Miami on PC.

OK, sometimes there’s a game that I glance at, slightly ignore it, buy it on the cheap, and discover that it’s the best thing since sliced bread, the last time I experienced anything like this was with Bethesda’s Fallout 3. I had no real interest in the game, and I bought it after seeing a cheap deal on Cheap Ass Gamer, and after leaving it in shrink wrap after a day or two, I put it into my 360 and was spell bound by it’s awesomeness! Fast forward to the present day, the Steam Black Friday deals come up, and I purchase Hotline Miami on a whim as it was cheap; you can’t beat cheap right? Well technically free is better than cheap, but I’m losing the point here. A few weeks after leaving Hotline Miami in my Steam list, curiosity began to kick in and I double click the game to run it, and POW was I in for a surprise.

The game began with a title screen in Cyrillic and I wasn’t even sure if I was even playing Hotline Miami; it doesn’t help when you cant read Cyrillic. But as the game began, you get thrown into a typical tutorial where it teaches you how to knock out, kill, and shoot your enemies, the agents in white suits. But after the tutorial, you’re thrown into the game and realise why you needed the tutorial, because you’re going to die, over and over again. Not just because you’re not quite used to the controls, but because you have to self teach yourself the techniques and strategies of each level. Fortunately there are unlimited lives, and this is good thing, because I once died twenty five times in one level over the space of ten minutes, and that’s the beauty of this game, no matter how many times I died in this game, I was never once frustrated, I always felt that the reason for why I died was due to making a bad move, not knowing what was up next and/or not timing things right. But in the same ways that Super Ghouls and Ghosts masochistically makes you want to play the game again even though you miserably failed, Hotline Miami does the same thing, you just WANT to beat the level, so you’ll do it over and over again, planning out new routes, thinking about how to take out your enemies and what weapons to use. Even though this game is a top down action shooter that feels like what would happen if the original Grand Theft Auto played like Smash TV, but the game has a nice balance of stealth, and strategy too without it being too much of the other. It’s not overly stealth-like on the lines of Metal Gear Solid or Hitman, and it doesn’t use too much strategy like XCOM or Red Alert; you can pretty much treat the game like a full-on action game, but without knowing what’s coming up next you’re bound to get killed, so a little strategy and timing will help a lot on getting through those levels that you’re so damn eager to beat!

The graphics are very reminiscent of the original Grand Theft Auto. Everything is seen in a top down look, and there’s plenty of pixelated blood on the floor when you smite your enemies with a lead pipe or a machine gun. However unlike GTA, you don’t drive. Each level is a building whereby your object is (nearly) the same in every level; kill everyone. Killing in this game isn’t just a case of going on a shooting spree, you have a variety of weapons of both melee and fire arms. Melee weapons ranging from knifes to katanas and firearms ranging from a basic un-silenced hand gun to an over kill Scorpion Sub Machine gun. But it’s all to do with how you kill off each white suit claded enemy is where the real game play comes in. The game features a scoring system similar to the likes of Devil May Cry and Bullet Storm where by putting variation to your kills you score you bigger points rather than doing the same thing over and over again. This is where strategy kicks in, you look at the screen and see the enemies in each room and think about how you can pick them off to earn more points so you can unlock new weapons in the game. For example in one level, you might kick a door down that’s near an enemy, which makes him fall over, you pick up the knife he was carrying, pick him up and slice his neck with it. Walk into the next with said knife and throw it towards the next victim and take his shot gun, then put some holes in the chest of the next two or three enemies, this will grab attention as it makes noise, so time to grab that semi automatic off floor and hide behind the door and pump some lead into the unfortunate fools who creep into the room and create a pile of bodies in middle of the room and so on. You could just knife everyone, but by doing the example above will give you more points than just knifing everyone.

The next cool feature is the masks, the character you play, simply called “Jacket”, due to his high school prep jacket that he likes to wear, has a selection of rubber masks that he wears over his face in each level. Each mask is a face of an animal, and each animal mask gives Jacket a perk. You start with a Chicken mask, named Richard (of course, got to have a name for each mask you know), which doesn’t give you a perk, but as you beat each level, you earn a new mask such as Rasmus the Owl mask that gives you hints for secrets in each level, or Tony the Tiger that allows you to cause instant kills by punching enemies with your bare fists, my favourite mask by the way! You select a mask before you enter a level, hiding Jacket’s identity, not that Jacket really has an identity, sometimes you can see his face as he becomes un-masked from a death, but the sprites are not that well detailed anyway, but you get the gist. Experimenting with the masks will help you find out which mask you like better, though you can’t change masks after getting yourself killed in a level. You can only select a mask as you begin a level, not after each time you restart a level, which does give the game an element of challenge as you try to figure out how to beat a level with a certain mask, though I have found myself having to quit the level and starting it again to use a different mask that takes away the challenge a bit, then again removing the quit option would make the game suck from a user interface side of things. The only issues I found with the gameplay was the slight problem with point blanc shooting. When I was early in the game, I found this weird little bug where I would try to shoot a guy with my shot gun, to find out I shot the guy behind him, as if there was a magic gap between the point of my shot gun, and the spray of the shell. The guy in front of me killed me off with a lead pipe. From this point on I decided that point blanc shooting was a terrible idea in this game and that for close range combat I would only use melee weapons.

As controls are concerned, a game that has twin stick like game play works amazingly well with the keyboard and mouse. The problem I’ve had with other PC twin stick shooters is that their mouse and keyboard controls aren’t really that great. But what makes Hotline Miami good is the fact that Jacket is (nearly) in the middle of the screen at all times. There are times where Jacket might be a bit off from the centre of the screen, but never enough to make the aiming with a mouse a chore like on PomPom’s Mutant Storm. The Game does provide support for the 360 controller, though there are issues if you don’t have the latest drivers for it, but when it works it works, but I found out that as much as the 360 controller is fine, I still preferred the mouse and keyboard controls, but I can see how people might prefer to use a 360 pad if they’re more in tuned with console gaming.

The sound track in this game is simply awesome! It has an 80s action film feel to it from a collection of different artists such as Sun Araw, M.O.O.N. , Jasper Byrne, El Huervo and many others that make up a great selection of tunes that give the game it’s gritty, “over exposed film” feel, it’s as if it feels like a 70s Grindhouse movie, but based in the 80s, and it totally fits into it’s ultra violent theme. You can listen to the awesome sound track free on SoundCloud. https://soundcloud.com/devolverdigital/sets/hotline-miami-official

The story itself is minimalist, yet feels like the kind of plot you get from the likes of Fight Club. As you go through each level, you sometimes come across other mask wearing characters that ask you questions about why you go out killing, and it then turns into a quest to find out why you’re doing the killing sprees that the person on the phone is asking you to do. There’s even a scene where you find yourself in an out of body experience where you see yourself in a hospital bed in a coma. The story is very mysterious, trippy, and not told very well, but leaves you asking questions that you so want to ask Jonatan Söderström, the developer of the game, all the juicy details about the plot that’s missing from the game.

To conclude, I loved this game a lot! Out of all the games I got this year, this game that got released fairly late in the year is by far my favourite. Compared with games such as Dark Souls, XCOM: Enemy Unknown and The Walking Dead, this proves that a low budget indie game can become more impressive and enjoyable than mainstream games. As I repeat to other people on forums and Youtube videos, indie developers will bring a spark into the games industry that will make games a lot more interesting than seeing yearly sequels to Call of Duty and sports games. It’s time for the video game lovers to show how games should be made rather than men in business suits!

You can purchase Hotline Miami on Steam or GOG.com for around $10/£7.