Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Luigi's Mansion 2 - 3DS

When the ever bashful Luigi reluctantly entered the spotlight without his more famous brother in 2002's Luigi's Mansion - a GameCube launch title - there was a smattering of grumbling from some, who were disappointed that Nintendo chose not to unveil a fresh Mario platformer to kick-start their dinky box of tricks.
    However, Luigi's Mansion - despite being a rather short caper used mostly to highlight the GameCube's technical fizz - proved to be an enjoyable little gem, which is now, I'm happy to say, fondly remembered.
    Earlier this year, Nintendo finally saw fit to release a spooky sequel and with Halloween only a few days away, it's the perfect time to revisit this gem of a game on 3DS.
    Professor E. Gadd has been happily studying ghostly goings-on in a variety of spooky locales when the Dark Moon above his base in Evershade Valley shatters, turning the once friendly apparitions into mischievous rascals. Who better to sort out this phantom menace than the experienced - if utterly terrified - Luigi? Armed with the wonderfully titled Poltergust 5000, Luigi reluctantly agrees to help the professor by Hoovering up these translucent tykes across five sprawling levels and restore some sanity back to the once peaceful valley.
    The Poltergust 5000 might be nothing more than a modified vacuum cleaner, but it's not just for cleaning up dusty corners and sucking up cobwebs. Luigi uses it to capture ghosts of all shapes and sizes, but first he must stun them with his trusty torch. What follows is a paranormal game of tug of war, as Luigi clatters around the fabulously detailed rooms, frantically wrestling with the obstinate spooks. It's a hugely enjoyable activity, too, and it can be quite a challenge thanks to a decent variety of ghosts who are intent on making life as uncomfortable as possible for the industrious Luigi.
    Later in the game, new elements are added which make Luigi's task even harder, but it rarely becomes frustrating and causes the player to think quickly and change tactics on the fly.
   But even when he's not ghostbusting, Luigi has plenty to keep him occupied. The five huge locations Luigi is forced to visit contain a wonderful array of fiendish puzzles and it's to the game's credit that they never feel stale or lose their focus throughout the course of the lengthy adventure.
    Exploration is a key element and rooting around in gloomy corners amply rewards the player, with the Poltergust 5000 used to snaffle out of reach coins, pull dusty curtains away from grimy windows to reveal shiny trinkets, blow aside rugs to reveal secret switches, and expose glittering gems which had previously been squirrelled away in the game's glorious environments. The whole experience is underpinned with eye-popping art direction, amazing animation, a terrific soundtrack, an extraordinary eye for detail, while a healthy seam of humour runs throughout, causing the player to chuckle away at some of the ludicrous sights.
    While the haunted environments he scuttles around in are magnificent, it's Luigi himself who proves to be the star of the show. He nervously glances around as he creeps about, leaps in the air with a startled yelp if he discovers a supernatural spectacle and all the while his wee knees knock together in terrified tension. He also hums to himself to keep his flagging spirits up, an act which is beautifully choreographed with the game's soundtrack.
    But Luigi's latest adventure isn't perfect and it occasionally stumbles. The constant interruptions from the professor - he contacts Luigi via a bit of technical wizardry in the shape of a humble Nintendo DS far too often - quickly begins to grate, while the mission-based structure of the game can be annoying. Too often Luigi is teleported back to the prof's lab just when things are getting interesting, leaving the player slightly frustrated that they can't snoop around and explore to their heart’s content. I suppose the bite-sized missions have been crafted to suit the mobile nature of the 3DS but it's still frustrating when all the player wants to do is see what new terrors lurk around the next corner.
    Multiplayer has been included, which sees teams of up to four people - either online or via local multiplayer - partake in three ghostly activities. These provide short-term fun, but never match the sheer scope and variety of the single player campaign.
    An intelligent and instantly appealing game, Luigi's Mansion 2 is bursting with creative ideas which, for the most part, are implemented perfectly. So this Halloween lock the door, turn out the lights, put the headphones on and experience one of the finest games on 3DS.

Monday, 21 October 2013


Over the course of the last year or so, I've backed many diverse projects on Kickstarter - from the OUYA console and board game Dungeon Roll, to animated graphic novel Niko and the Sword of Light and delicious puzzle game Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake. But last weekend I stumbled across a game which has completely captured my imagination thanks to its setting, subject matter, delightful handcrafted visuals and music.
    Beeswing by Jack King-Spooner takes its inspiration from games such as The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Illusion of Gaia, Earthbound, To The Moon and the Secret of Mana series, but it's immediately clear this will be a game that will tread its own path.
    Jack has drawn from his experiences of growing up in Beeswing - a small village in rural Scotland and a place where all the residents have a tale to tell. He will blend true stories will fiction to create a rich experience with interweaving tales focusing on childhood, community and growing older. Refreshingly, Beeswing will have no combat or puzzles and will instead concentrate on characters and setting - something the aforementioned To The Moon managed so successfully.
    The visuals are already looking rather special, with Jack blending various styles such as watercolour, graphite sketches and clay animation to frame the game's narrative structure. Not only that, but he is also recording the game's musical score which is already sounding superb.
    The game has headed to Kickstarter to enable Jack to finish the project and he also plans to make a physical copy of the game to backers who pledge £35 or more. In fact, the Kickstarter rewards are incredibly generous, with a mere £5 netting you early access to the game, the game upon release and a selection of musical tracks. Throw £10 Jack's way and he'll give you all that plus five other games from various up-and-coming developers.
    The Kickstarter pitch is extremely humble and Jack is looking for a very modest £2250 to complete the project. As I write, he is fast approaching that total after just a few days on Kickstarter so it's looking good so far.
    In my opinion, we need more of this type of game, one which encourages creativity, careful thought and respect for the world around you - and the fact it has no combat is a real plus point in my book. It should be quite a journey and it's one I'm really looking forward to taking.
    Check out Jack's Kickstarter page HERE and pledge some cash if you like what you see.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Toren is back and more beautiful than ever

Back in September 2011, I posted about Toren, a visually beautiful adventure game by Brazilian developer Swordtales.

Not much information was available about the game, but a new video has surfaced ahead of the 2014 Independent Games Festival which shows off much more of what we can expect from this stunning looking title.

As I initially wrote, the game is based inside an ancient tower, where a young girl is kept prisoner and the themes running through the game are based around discovery and growing up.

Ico comparisons are inevitable, with Toren's setting echoing a similar theme to Team Ico's classic, and hopefully we'll learn more about the game in the months to come. You can watch the trailer HERE

 Toren is currently in development for PC, Mac and Linux.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD - Wii U

When it comes to repackaging its past, no one does it quite like Nintendo. They have repeatedly blown the dust from old game carts from previous consoles and released them on various formats, especially titles from the NES, SNES and N64 era - although, infuriatingly, still no sign of Pilotwings 64.

The company has also been castigated for retreading familiar ground from some quarters, regurgitating updated versions of popular first-party tiles such as Mario Kart, Smash Bros, Donkey Kong, Animal Crossing, Pikmin, Mario platformers and Zelda. But Nintendo always manage to pull out the stops to make these core titles worth investigating and it's this quality which draws people to Nintendo's consoles. And that leads us neatly to Nintendo's most recent first-party reboot - a remake of GameCube classic The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker HD.

At its release back in 2003, there was a great deal of negative reaction to the game's visuals - a criticism I never personally understood. Perhaps people were expecting more realism from a new Zelda game and The Wind Waker's cell-shaded visual style jarred with their expectations. However, because of the decision to go with a highly stylised look a decade ago, time has been incredibly kind to this splendid adventure - especially as the game is now presented in glorious pin-sharp high definition.

While Zelda games are known for their devious dungeon designs, familiar weapons and hulking great bosses, it is impossible to go any further without talking a bit more about The Wind Waker's graphics. The visuals are enchanting, boasting rich and vibrant colours, spellbinding lighting effects and wonderful animation - it is quite incredible and one of the most attractive game worlds you'll ever find yourself in. Thankfully, The Wind Waker has much more going for it that just an eye-popping visual charm - underneath the glorious fresh paint job is a classic Zelda adventure which, in my opinion, stands side-by-side with anything else from the Zelda series.

The dungeons and their puzzles have been wonderfully devised and there are several stand-out moments for the series woven into the fabric of the game. But it's the decision to have Link traverse this vast and beautifully realised world by boat which really stands out and is one of the game's crowning glories.

There's something magical about heading out to sea with Link at the helm of the mysterious King of Red Lions, swiftly cutting through the waves and continuously moving ever onwards on the quest for adventure. There are plenty of islands to explore and as new items unlock as you spend more time with the game, returning to areas peppered across the archipelago throws up an abundance of mysterious charms. Splashing about in the salty sea spray and sailing away from the main quest also throws up a galleon-full of wonderful secrets and a beguiling collection of charismatic characters to converse with, making this chapter of Link's adventures one of the very best.

The threat from adversaries is never far away, but The Wind Waker's combat is rather good, making these bouts of hack and slashing highly enjoyable. While going toe-to-toe with enemies could never be described as complex, with Link's ever growing arsenal of weapons - including some old favourites - it is rarely boring. Add to that the use of handy button prompts which allow our green-clad hero to dodge, weave and hurdle opponents opening up weak points, and these frequent scraps are allowed to flow perfectly.

The Wii U control pad is used to great effect and although simple, it allows the player to swap items on the fly, while also acting as a handy map - both in dungeons and while cutting a swathe through the expansive seas. It can't be underestimated how this small change affects gameplay as there's now no need to pause the game to fuddle about with inventory management.

Despite its age, The Wind Waker looks and feels like a completely new game. Those who played and loved the original will warm to this beautiful version, while newcomers are in for a treat as they are blown gently through this quite incredible game.

Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is quite simply one of the most magical and beautiful video games ever created and a game everyone should experience first-hand.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

24 hours of Monster Hunter for charity

I've been playing and writing about games for longer than I can remember, so I thought I would put my skills to good use and raise money for The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.

On the weekend of October 11-13th, I'll be playing Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on Wii U for 24 hours straight, stopping only for toilet breaks, coffee, the occasional snack and to sharpen outrageously huge longswords and forage for blue mushrooms and whetstones. It's going to be a gruelling play session but I'm hoping people will throw words of encouragement my way on Facebook and Twitter. I'll also be using both these sites to keep everyone up to date on how I'm getting on.

The venture is in conjunction with Edinburgh Sick Kids Friends Foundation - a charity which provides funding over and above NHS provision to help make time spent in hospital better for young patients and their families.

I know times are tough for everyone these days, but if you are able to donate even a small amount, your efforts would be very much appreciated both by myself and the charity. Even if you can't afford to make a donation, please spread the word and cheer me on from the sidelines. It's going to be a crazy 24 hours!

Here's a link to my Just Giving page, where you can make a donation: http://www.justgiving.com/kiltedmoose

Wish me luck!

Update: Well, I survived my 24 hours and had a blast in the process. I started flagging with around five hours to go, but a cracking online session with three Twitter friends raised my spirits and I finished up with a few low rank quests as my fingers had started to go to sleep.This is the final photo I took, and I think it captures how I felt at the end perfectly! Thanks for all the support.