Articles tagged with nintendo

Jan 30
Posted by James at 10:18

Nintendo surprised everyone by recently releasing a demo for Codename S.T.E.A.M. (or SHHHHTEAAAM, as its home menu icon proclaims). It's Intelligent Systems' latest take on the strategy genre, and a big departure from the Advance Wars and Fire Emblems of this world.

You see, Codename S.T.E.A.M. is played entirely in third person, complete with 'shooter controls'. At first glance you wouldn't be mistaken for thinking it's a very similar game to Sega's Valkyria Chronicles, but it's actually quite different, with any comparisons only running skin-deep.

Project lead Paul Patrashcu laid out his team's ambitions for the game at last year's E3, stating that the genre tends to be a turn-off to people because of the many layers of abstractions within their interfaces - things like character turns, an overhead map, and grid-based movement. He then explained how they wanted to break the linear gameplay associated with many strategy games, noting that Intelligent Systems' own strategy games play out almost like puzzlers.

Codename S.T.E.A.M. certainly has a unique approach to strategy, then, complete with a set of rules to deliver on Paul Patrashcu's nonlinear vision. There's no top-down map to speak of, and you don't pick a unit, then complete a turn, then pick another unit. Instead you're encouraged to take a more active, hands-on approach to solving the maps. Being able to switch between units on the fly in real time encourages you to scout out your surroundings from your own perspective, perhaps taking advantage of different routes or terrain, or your team's nexus of abilities.

It's a bit like playing in Fog of War, only without the fog. The game's insistence to not give too much away seeps into enemy turns, which is only viewed from the point of view of your own troops. This can make enemy turns drag on for a little, though, especially if you haven't uncovered many threats, but in the right situations it lends an unnerving sense of tension.

The handful of maps in the demo are also quite claustrophobic - true to the game's roots as a strategy game. Like Advance Wars, almost every square metre of space has some useful purpose to it. Upgrade cogs tempt you to take daring moves and explore harsher locations. It all neatly complements the battle system's main theme: that Steam is the most valuable resource there is.

Steam in your characters' boiler packs is a scarce resource, required for moving, attacking, and even counterattacking. Combining all actions into one metre along the bottom of the screen not only reduces those strategy game abstractions (there's no separate 'resource' for taking turns), but in encouraging you to focus on making sure every decision counts within the game's tight environments. Do you use those last three bits of steam to take out that enemy threat, or do you leave them free to defend yourself during the enemy turn?

Here's hoping the A.I. is good. Valkyria Chronicles' Achilles heel was its unpredictably stupid and exploitable enemies, but initial impressions here are positive. If you've made a silly move, the enemy will show you no mercy for it, and there's some fiendishly tricky enemy placement in the second and third demo maps to get your head around.

So there's Codename S.T.E.A.M. Intelligent Systems have certainly crafted quite an intuitive take on strategy. Rather than worry about remaining 'turns' per unit, the focus is on making the most of your steam power, and the prospect of head-to-head multiplayer is a positive signal that the game has a well-balanced battle system.
0 comments / permalink

Gunman Clive 2
Video Preview
Jan 29
Posted by Ben at 02:10

Gunman Clive 2 is out later today, and I can confirm it's a fantastic little game.

There'll be a full review later, but it's a better game than the original Gunman Clive, and still manages to feel packed with good, new ideas.

There's a gameplay video below where I show off a couple of the levels and a boss fight

Show/hide video

0 comments / permalink

Posted by Ben at 02:29
I forget what score I gave the original Gunman Clive, I definitely liked it, not as much as many other people, but it's great little game that you really should pick up.

So it's very much good news that the sequel is imminent, coming to the European eshop on January 29th

The trailer is below, and it looks twice the game graphically

Show/hide video

0 comments / permalink


Jan 19
Posted by James at 15:15

Qbby is a box with legs. He can jump about, extending his two legs. He can retract them and, erm, literally become a box. Or several boxes - from himself he can spawn a chain of them in different directions. Oh, and his game is the latest from HAL Laboratory, creators of Kirby.

Soon after Nintendo's own Captain Toad marked the return of the bigger budget puzzle game, HakoBoi! (BoxBoy! in English) stands at the opposite end of the spectrum. It's as minimalist as they come, sporting a charming yet basic monochrome look which is made up almost entirely of angular shapes. Its ability to entertain therefore lies almost solely in how well designed its levels and various features are.

There's an incredibly compelling puzzle platformer in HakoBoi! which extends around Qbby's strong yet slim moveset. In finding the exit door to each stage, you're frequently encouraged to find news ways to utilise those moves to solve a variety of puzzles.

To begin with you'll be creating boxes to throw into spike pits and safely jump across, or using those boxes to build bridges. So far, so straightforward. But give it a few worlds and you'll discover neat tricks within the world's rules. One favourite is being able to reverse-retract your Tetris-shaped box extension if it hooks itself onto a ledge, thereby transporting Qbby to new places.

These 'Eureka' moments of discovery make you see the game in completely different ways. Going back to the previous example, you'll need to do some jumping to 'hook' your box extension onto ledges, and the box shapes you create need to take this into account.

Each new world introduces increasingly inventive gizmos, objects and traps, further eking more smart ideas out of what Qbby can do. Conveyer belts and Star Blocks encourage you to solve a solution in reverse. Cranes make you quickly realise that you can manipulate Qbby's location based on nearby walls and his ability to create new boxes as an extension of himself.

Hakoboi! does the near-impossible and makes the most of each world's central mechanic in just seven levels. Its puzzles are focused and simpleEt least retrospectively speaking. You'll frequently have to think hard and experiment, but there really is nothing better than spending a while on a particular solution only to realise the pure simplicity and genius of it all. It therefore avoids long, drawn out solutions without feeling overly easy - things sail along, and before you know it that quick five minute session to tackle the next level just became an engrossing two hours.

To cement the challenge, crowns (which grant you credits to spend on goodies) have been placed in some devious places, stretching your thinking further. They'll also only appear if you've been economical in creating boxes, encouraging you to find the optimal solution each time. And levels containing an even bigger, smarter, meatier challenge await after the credits roll.

It's all a sound proof of concept for Nintendo Web Framework, a WebKit-based development environment. The constraints of making a game using web technologies like HTML5 and Javascript have allowed even a big developer like HAL Laboratory to focus on crafting a compelling videogame above anything else.

Hakoboi! is a triumph. Not because it remains vastly interesting across its 160 or so levels, but in how it goes about achieving this. It'll make you feel like a genius with surprising regularity, and it does more with the few levels containing each world's standout features than you thought possible. It's a masterclass in minimalist game design, and never less than a delight to play.
0 comments / permalink

Posted by Ben at 15:25
I had a 32x, wait, hear me out! One of my absolute favourite games on it, to my surprise, was After Burner 2, the already ancient arcade game. Playing it with an angular pc steering wheel, it really helped bring the 'arcade home'

The 3DS version might not be able to capture those childhood memories, but After Burner 2 should lend itself well to 3D.

Sega have promised more of their 3D Classic range will come over throughout the year, but until then keep an eye on the eshop when it updates this week (the 15th)
0 comments / permalink

Kuru Kuru
Jan 02
Posted by James at 19:20

The Game Boy Advance launch title which nearly everyone ignored thirteen years ago returns on Wii U's virtual console service. A more momentous release than others, then, and this is every bit as good as it was back in the day.

You're in the driving seat of Kururin's helicopter Helirin (don't ask why a Bird needs to fly a helicopter), off to find your friends who also have cute names that end in -rin. Naturally this gives you an excuse to fly and navigate themed worlds, and it all makes great use of the various tricks the humble GBA brought to the table, like parallax scrolling and sprite rotation.

Navigate is an important word here. Kuru Kuru Kururin's stages offer a bunch of obstacles and walls to guide your helicopter around in search of the goal, and it's played entirely from a top-down perspective. The helicopter you're piloting becomes an ever spinning stick, and that's where the genius of it all comes in.

This simple idea paves way to some devious stages to pilot across, each one more of a joy to tackle than the last. You're first encouraged to get your head around moving a constantly spinning Helirin through tight environments, so making use of those little coves as you wait for your "blade" to come around, or moving along with a level's curvature, or bouncing your helicopter off a spring to change its direction of rotation.

It never feels unfair, and there's no trial and error here. Reach a particularly tough looking section of map and you'll soon start mapping out the next steps in your head, your brain already picturing various routes for your helicopter to take, your head tilting as it tries to capture the rotation.

From there onwards succeeding is always down to your own skills, with the ability to quickly switch to two faster movement speeds shaking things up further and providing a much needed safeguard for when you've misjudged your timing. It's thrilling to crank up the speed of your helicopter and *just* miss scraping a wall, or just avoid colliding with a rolling spikey ball thing.

So Kuru Kuru Kururin is a game in the purest sense, reminiscent of the excellent Super Monkey Ball. The only problem is it's over too quickly, and while the game does introduce a few new tricks along the way, it often repeats the same ones - seeing the machinery of Machine Land in later worlds felt a bit cheap. With just three stages per world it's also overly eager to shift you on to the next distraction: we really wanted to see more of the zig-zag shaped Cloud Land.

While it's thin on content, developer Eighting managed to cook up some time trial challenges which inspire near OCD-levels of replayability - at times we couldn't move ourselves onto the next level until we'd achieved the top position on the leaderboard. An unlockable hidden world and helicopter design goodies - placed in cursingly devious locations - also encourage mastery of the game's stages.

If you're looking for something straightforward and gamey to play, you really can't go wrong with this. Here's hoping Nintendo release the Japan-only sequel as well - it injects plenty of new ideas to the mix.
2 comments / permalink

Posted by Mark at 20:36
That's also an interestingly jaunty angle the text's at, too.

Show/hide video

2 comments / permalink

Posted by James at 08:43
it would appear Captain Toad may be on its way to us sooner than expected, despite yesterday's launch trailer showing us Nintendo's previously planned 2 January release date.

Signs of this happening come by way of two sources: firstly someone who works at a retailer mentioned yesterday that his chain store received their Captain Toad shipment.

There are also a few tweets from GAME customers expressing surprise that their Toad order is being paid for and that it's due for release on 19 December.

The change, if true, is to be welcomed. Captain Toad has always seemed like the perfect game to play over the festive season.

Update: We're hearing that Nintendo approved a soft launch with GAME. That would explain why it's being shipped out to GAME customers as we write this, while other retailers are still listing the game for an early January release.
0 comments / permalink

Posted by Ben at 13:27

Rpgs are notoriously difficult to demo. How do you present a game all about progression in a bite sized chunk, taking something out of context, late enough in to the game to be interesting but early enough that it's not throwing too many systems at the player? With Bravely Default, and now Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Red, there's been a couple of examples of building a small taster game, a standalone piece of content using game assets, with rewards that feed back in to the game. It's a smart idea, particularly with something as much of a known quantity as Pokemon is, a demo for Pokemon is just an advert, a bit of build up hype for the game's release, no one is discovering the game.

We do learn a few things though, mainly from a technical point of view. Pokemon X and Y, while fantastic, fresh feeling Pokemon games (if a little on the easy side), didn't run anything like as well as they should have done. The 3DS isn't exactly a powerhouse, no one can deny that, but Pokemon X and Y had framerate problems all over the place, a problem massively exasperated by turning the 3D on. It's not like it was an amazing looking game either, it wasn't bad, but you didn't feel like the dropped frames were 'earned'

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Red is seemingly a better looking game now too. I guess it's hard to say without seeing more of the game, and maybe running both side by side, but it looks sharper to my eyes, more pleasing at least. What is noticeable is how rarely the 3D is available to you, as though rather than managing to solve the technical problems Gamefreaks have instead removed the problem altogether. As someone who likes and uses the 3D function of his 3DS, and with the promise of the New 3DS on the horizon, it's something of a shame, but knowing that I'd be unable to resist the temptation of using it, maybe not having the option to make the game, and my experience, worse is for the best.

I touched on it earlier but if you play through the Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Red demo you're rewarded with items to take in to the game. First up is the pokemon Glalie, a level 40 pokemon that can mega-evolve, it'll be interesting to see when they introduce him in to the retail game, because he's way too powerful to be given to you early on, too late though and you won't find a use for him, a problem the Pokemon games I've played have had when letting you bring in pokemon from previous games.

Of more use early on will be the pokeballs I got for beating the demo for a third time. Which is indicative of a nice touch in the demo, each time I played through the demo I had a played through a different area with a different goal. It's for the best too, as the core demo is pretty short, especially as you've got an overpowered pokemon at your disposal.

I went in to the Pokemon demo not really needing another Pokemon game, at least not this year. I loved X but it was only last year I played through it. However, the demo has done it's job, I'm open to playing another Pokemon game again, that's pretty good going considering there's absolutely nothing surprising in there
0 comments / permalink

Posted by Ben at 15:40
It's been out for a fair old while in America (and Canada etc), and it's been out a fair old while on Steam, but European WiiU owners will finally be able to play the highly regarded Shovel Knight in a couple of weeks

Due for release on 6th November and priced at e14.99, which, if they match Steam, should translate to £10.99
0 comments / permalink

Older posts