Monday, 26 October 2009

Nintendo Wii - Wii Sports

Nintendo Wii
Wii Sports

Well, after several weeks of waiting, I finally got my Wii, and as a result, Wii Sports.

I got several other commercial games with it too, but I’ll be honest, I’ve spent at least ten times the amount of time on Wii Sports so far as I have Zelda: Twilight Princess.

The main reason for this is that it’s so much like Crazy Taxi in that it’s simple, pick-up-and-play fun from beginning to end, no two games are exactly the same, and you don’t feel like a complete idiot playing it.

To begin, then… Wii Sports brings together five sports and makes them playable through simple remote gestures. First on the list, and probably the most challenging, is Tennis. Swinging the remote will cause your Mii to swing his/her racket, and as might be expected, both forearm and backhand swings are recognised. Timing is crucial lest the ball fly wildly to the side and out of play…

Bowling and Baseball are two of the most addictive sports included, and are both very realistic to play, bowling especially. The temptation on Baseball to hold the remote up and shake it slightly whilst waiting for the pitch is immense, especially as your Mii rather satisfyingly copies your action in doing so. The temptation to use true-to-life gestures is equally immense, but simple “flick” gestures seem to work just as well. Bowling, on the other hand, includes the function of actually letting go of the ball, as well as picking up twisting motions in the swing to calculate spin on the ball. All in all, it’s fun, addictive and realistic.

Golf is probably the most frustrating event included. It’s all about balance of power. Hitting the ball too hard will result in it going off course, GUARANTEED. For best results, swing gently but firmly enough to fill that power bar. The chances are, though, you’ll not play this as much as the other events.

The final event makes use of the nunchuck controller, but is scarily easy to control… yup, it’s boxing. Punching with the remote or nunchuck results in a nice head-shot being sent out, or going low with a thrust gives you a body blow. Swinging upwards will deliver an uppercut, whilst swaying left and right will make your boxer sway left and right. That’s right, it really works, almost like Police 24/7 in the arcades, you can move your body to dodge the blows, really try to float like a butterfly. Stinging like a bee is difficult, though, without some care and thought into your punches you’ll be stinging more like a gnat.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are three training games for each sport (ten of which must be unlocked), and also a Fitness mode. This mode should be used once a day to chart your “fitness” level, simply by partaking in three different challenges from the training mode. With age 20 being the maximum score, you can view a graph of every time you’ve competed and chart your progress over a period of time.

So, as with most games these days, Wii Sports isn’t without its faults, but they’re only minor, and none of them really detract from the sheer playability that you’ll find in abundance here. Just watch out, Nintendo… I can foresee not only court cases over the amount of time put into Wii gaming, but for injuries attributed to Wii Sports… Tennis elbow, anyone?

Friday, 23 October 2009

Nintendo Gamecube - Crazy Taxi

Nintendo Gamecube
Crazy Taxi

I HATE driving games. I'm terrible at them. It's probably because I hate the idea of driving. But this game takes driving by the horns, and makes it fun. Is it because there's no penalty for crashing? Is it because you have to drive like a maniac to get anywhere? Is it because it's totally Crazy?

d) All of the above.

I don't know, this game has a lot to offer. It's a relatively short game, and unlike most modern games, there's not a great big story or long involving process to some fantastic ending sequence, it's a throwback to the quick "pick up and play" days of arcade games, real intense, fast-paced, high skill requirement arcade games, the one that you really struggle to get your money's worth from.

From the off, you're required to drive at breakneck speed, picking up your first passengers and striving to get them to their destination in record time. In order to rack up your score and climb the high score table (and gain a good "grade" for your performance), you should aim to miss vehicles on your route, but near misses are rewarded, so try to barely miss the paintwork of your fellow road users.

Get your passenger to their destination as quick as you can, gain a time and score bonus, and do it all over again. Until you run out of time, that is. Best get a shift on, boyo.

And that's it. No complicating the concept, just easy fun. There's additional bonuses to be achieved, like Crazy Jumps, fast starts, some short cuts, none of which are essential, and that's your lot.

PC - Sim City 2000

Sim City 2000

If I had to make a list of the best 3 games of all time, this would be on it. I’m not sure where it would be exactly, but it would be with Pyro II (PC) and Chaos (Spectrum). I paid the princely sum of £15 for this game, which is £15 more than those other two games, but one was on a covertape and the other is PD. Which goes to show, you don’t need to spend a fortune to play excellent games.

So, the sequel to Sim City sees you thrust into a 3D landscape on which you must build your city. As before, you need the basic ingredients… Power, roads and zones, but if you want your city to flourish you will need Police and Fire protection, provide water resources and maybe even park facilities.

Oh, wait, that’s not all you can offer… how about hospitals? These Sims are a demanding bunch, and will demand you provide them with such amenities and entertainment as Stadiums, Marinas, Airports, Seaports, Zoos and parks, lest they take their presence, and indeed income tax, elsewhere.

It’s all about striking that careful balance… Keep taxes at a level the Sims are willing to pay, get enough of a balance between residential, industry and commerce to keep the Sims both happy and employed, educate them in schools, protect them with police and fire brigades, and generally look after their well-being.

So, you’ve managed to strike some sort of balance, and you’re actually pulling in a profit… are you out of the woods yet? You need to make enough every 50 years to afford a new power plant, because that’s how long they last!

The more you delve into the game, the more you discover… some zones are boosted by the presence of military bases, while others suffer a detrimental effect. Balancing Taxes and the income and expenses from City Ordinances is tricky, certain ordinances will boost your population and their opinion of you, their mayor, but will cost you money. Others will not endear you to your citizens, but will make you a little extra dosh.

Remember that some services, such as the police and schools, will need money constantly pumping into them every year to maintain their effectiveness, as will roads (YOU CAN’T CUT BACK ON FUNDING! Or at least that’s what the guy who looks like my old Maths teacher says, along with the threatening line of “YOU WILL REGRET THIS!”), so you will need to be a shrewd thinker and take your time, don’t rush into building too much too quickly and running out of funds… Or even worse, finding yourself in serious debt…

Oh, sod this. Just get the bloody game, play it and feel totally absorbed and involved with your citizens. Oh, and read the funny “About” scrolling message…

Sega Saturn - Virtua Cop

Sega Saturn
Virtua Cop &
Virtua Cop 2

When I bought my Sega Saturn, I came up with a list of games and accessories I absolutely HAD to get with it. The Virtua Cop games and the Virtua Gun made the list, pretty damn easily, in fact. And with damn good reason… To this day, I don’t think any light gun has matched the Saturn’s Virtua Gun for being the right feel, so accurate and downright reliable!

Sega decided that the conversion of their arcade hit should retain the feel, and as such the Virtua Gun was essentially identical to the ones found chained to arcade cabinets around the country. A swift crack at the Gun Calibration screen in the options menu ensured the gun worked from wherever you sat / stood / crouched, and that was it, you were off into the Virtua underworld to shoot first, ask questions later. Well, let’s be honest, it’s a case of shoot or be shot.

The bad guys pop up at a quite alarming rate, but you are helpfully informed just how long you have until they open fire thanks to your high-tech coloured homing sights (imagine the targeting system in Robocop!), and the screen helpfully zooms in allowing you to make your shot count. Bonus points are awarded for having the skill to shoot the gun from the enemy grunts’ hands, or indeed if you can hit them with three bullets…

Of course, a game like this would be boring if it didn’t have power-ups…

Actually, no, it wouldn’t. It’s so much damn fun I wouldn’t care if there weren’t any extra weapons, but nevertheless there is, for a limited period you can have the 15-shot clip of the Automatic, the power of a 3-shot burst Rifle, the Magnum that shoots through barrels and walls, the shotgun with a nice spread or the full automatic of the Machine Gun. All you have to do is find the weapons (dead baddie, shoot a crate) and shoot it, and mysteriously it’s yours. No, I’ve never really liked that system, but in the case of on-the-rails shooters, what else can you do?

Virtua Cop itself is a fine game, but the superior sequel was superior for only two reasons: The improved graphics and a higher difficulty curve. That’s not to say Virtua Cop was too easy, although once you’ve played it, as with most games of this type, you start to learn where the bad guys are hiding and in what order they attack you. And of course there’s always the unlockable Mirror Mode to mix things up for you the next time you play…

One thing Virtua Cop offered that Virtua Cop 2 is sadly missing is the extra “Training” mode. This was a stroke of genius on the part of Sega, this mode essentially thrusts you into a shooting range on which you can hone your shooting skills. Either compete against some of the game’s characters in a shooting contest, or take on the series of goals to progress through the various ranges and target formations. Performing well in this event is rewarded by a rating in the form of Virtua Cop Badges.

So, with very little to actually complain about with these games, and with Sega getting almost EVERYTHING right, then this is a moment not to miss out on, right?

Hold on just a second. Unlike some other consoles and computer hardware of the past, which aren’t going to have any problems, the light gun, or at least most of its incarnations, are going to become useless. As people upgrade from their Cathode Ray Tube TVs to the LCD and Plasma panels, retro collectors will notice their light guns will no longer work. Indeed, the instructions for light guns claim that they will ONLY work with bevelled (curved) 50Hz TVs, and not 100Hz TVs, pure flat tubes, projection TVs or any kind of modern flat panel. So although these games come with the official Fishsta seal of recommendation, they do also come with a warning… make sure you’ve got the right equipment before investing in them. Otherwise, you’ll end up very disappointed.