It’s not you, It’s a me!

 

Dear Mario, I don’t really know how to say this…

But you’re just an annoying little git aren’t you?

It’s not just you, it’s the whole world that you inhabit. I don’t mind the cartoon visuals, the bouncy tunes, and yes, you’ve got some great characters, but it’s all just too videogame-y.

Let me explain…

So, it’s your latest Odyssey that has finally made me realise how much we’ve grown apart… It’s the Switch’s second big hitter and another contender for game of the year, if not game of the generation, after the mighty Breath of the Wild.

So, i’ve played it, I enjoyed it for what it was, but I’m not keeping it. I know that, having seen the credits roll, there’s a shedload of things we still haven’t done together, worlds to explore, story to unlock, little twisty jumpy bits to swear at, that sort of thing, but…

It’s not just your latest iteration, I don’t think we’ve been getting on since I owned and rinsed the original two-screen Game & Watch back in 1982. There’s just too much going on, too many changes of pace, of style, of gameplay, of, well, of everything. Your inherent madness is just too much to bear, I need a bit more… Well, a bit more consistency.

This is massively noticeable in the New Donk City section of Odyssey, where semi-realistic looking NPCs wander around behaving, well, behaving like NPCs in a Mario game. It simply doesn’t work. See also, the slightly spurious dragon fight later on in the journey – or the one against a giant disembodied baby head. They wouldn’t be out of place in Bayonetta, but do they really belong in your day-glo world?

Jarring.

That’s the word. It just jars, too much dissonance between (or even inside) worlds. I know that this is precisely what some people love about you and your world, but as much as I love videogames, I don’t love them like this.

I’m going back to Hyrule…

Breath of the Wild

So, here it is, the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild review literally no-one is waiting for…

I have what you might call a “boutique” gaming collection, if you were being generous. My games are bought to be played, rather than left in pristine condition for future generations. At this moment in time, spread across multiple locations and entirely from memory, it consists of the following:

  • Dreamcast, 30 or 40 games, mostly Japanese shooters and the common as muck Euro releases
  • Gamecube, 15 of the best Japanese imports I could find
  • Xboxes 360 and One, 10 years of XBLA, plus games with gold freebies
  • Playstations 3 and 4 Similar numbers, with maybe slightly more games
  • Various retro oddites including Colecovision, Atari, Sinclair and Amstrad
  • Various handhelds from Nintendo, Sony, NGPC, Wonderswan et al
  • Four arcade cabs, in various states of nearly-but-not-quite-working
  • One Wii-U, with Breath of the Wild

Anyone want to make an offer on the lot, apart from that last item?

A good walk, spoiled?

Ah, Golf. Game of kings and gentleme…

No, hang on, that’s not right. I’m here to talk about videogames.

Specifically, it it’s not obvious by now, Pokémon Go.

I, like the vast majority of us, downloaded this several months ago now and have pretty much “played” it every day since. Even if it’s just sitting in my pocket ticking away the miles while I walk to Starbucks at lunchtime.

It’s compulsive in many ways, the early game is certainly compelling, with new Pokémon around every corner, and the tantalising upgrade path there for all to see. But this much you know. It then gets massively dull, again as you know, as the corners of your Pokédex (or whatever the hell it’s called) slowly fill in and you’re left with rarer and harder to obtain monsters (I’m going to stop typing Pokémon because that accent is doing my head in) to fill in the gaps. Of course, by now, I’ve got hundreds of kilometres beneath my trainer’s feet, and I could even argue that by gamifying my daily walk, it has even contributed positively to my general health, weight and fitness. And with so much time, and mileage, commited to the game I’m not going to give up now. Not until I evolve that bloody Machoke anyway.

But, really, it’s a shit game. There’s simply not enough to it to make me want to play – other than the core notion of collecting ’em all. The upgrade/evolution path is just dull – with one single exception that I have found, a monster upgrades to another bigger monster and that’s it. The gym battles serve no particular purpose aside from being the only free way to amass the in-game coinage. Catching wild monsters is a random challenge – I guess aligned to your trainer level at a push. Just dullness heaped upon dullness heaped upon dullness.

Would it have hurt to make the evolutionary paths a bit more interesting? To allow you to upgrade monsters quicker via gym battles? To actually have some game elements in there somewhere? Or would that have simply broken the core Pokémon-ness of the game?

Maybe I should take up Golf after all…

Super Hexagon

 

What do we mean when we say that something is Perfect?

To me, it’s the idea that something simply cannot be improved – that adding, changing or taking away any part of it would only make it worse. That changing a single frame, a single word, a single note would destroy it utterly.

So, what is perfect? How many perfect anythings – films, games, books, songs or other works of art – are there? It’s a small list. Some Like It Hot? Voodoo Ray? The Mona Lisa? Mario 64?

Super Hexagon is perfect.

It’s simple enough that a five year old can understand it. You move, if you hit anything you die, and that’s it.

It’s hard. But it’s never unfair – if you die, it’s your fault. There are no invisible bullets, no unfair behind the screen intelligence artificially extending game play by throwing a curve ball at you. Everything you need to survive is there, on the screen with you and if you miss it, if you don’t see something you have nothing to blame apart from your own reactions, and your own poor planning.

It trains you. When you first pick it up, you will die within five seconds, convinced that no human brain can survive the audio visual onslaught. 60 seconds feels like an impossible dream and that this is all some elaborate joke, like a more stylish Flappy Bird. And then you begin to learn, your brain keys in to the nuances of the game, you learn the patterns, your fingers move on their own and 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 50 seconds goes by and then, BOOM!, you survive for a minute and it turns up the pace again. You move on to the harder modes and you start to survive them too.

It makes the impossible seem normal. Go back to “Hard” mode after working your way up to 30 seconds or so on Harder or Hardest and… It’s slow. This was something that a mere two years ago seemed to be impossibly fast, and now you have all the time in the world?

I first wrote this review years ago, and it still stands today. I have poured more time into this, in five second bursts, than most of you have ploughed into Fallout’s 1 through to 4 combined. I still haven’t beaten all six modes; and I may never do so, but I’m getting there. Hard and Harder are done, and I’m up in the 30-40 second range in Hardest, Hardester and Hardestest, so the end is in sight. And I still love every second I put into it.

If you play games, you should play this.

If you make games, you should play it until your nose bleeds.

Just get it played.