More Wii U Goodness

It’s a long time since I played a Tomb Raider game and the reviews and comment on the latest incarnation whetted my appetite for a bit of action with Lara, if you know what I mean. Rather than dive into Rise of the Tomb Raider I decided to go for the first in the series, i.e. the reboot – Tomb Raider.

I really enjoyed it. Not too long and not too short. I couldn’t help but think I haven’t ever seen any protagonist either in a game or film fall down so many things. Highly recommended if you fancy a good 12-15 hour game that’s just straight linear action.

After Tomb Raider I was faced with the release of a load of games, none of which I could really afford and all of which I wanted to buy. Reluctantly I whittled it down to a choice of two: Zelda Twilight Princess or Xenoblade Chronicles X, both for Wii U.

I never got to play Zelda TP so the release of the HD version was just what I needed to scratch my Zelda itch, but I was also itching for another massive RPG and I hadn’t yet coaxed my PS3 back off my daughter to play red Dead Redemption (who also managed to take my PS4 as well!) and that’s when I noticed Xenoblade Chronicles X.

The download version was £50 or so but you could get it for about £30 on disc second-hand so I trawled my local Computer Exchange and GAME for a copy, but it was no-where to be found. After about an hour of searching I gave up and treated myself to a Costa coffee instead. On the way out of the shopping centre I noticed an Argos, so I reckoned I might as well have a look in there and see if I could maybe get a bit knocked off the RRP, maybe to £40 or so.

I noticed that they had a game called Xenoblade Chronicles for £25, but it was pictured with the Chronicles X box art. Xenoblade Chronicles X was priced at £40 but had a different cover for the box art, and it was different to any of the art I had seen in reviews. So I took a punt and got a genuine, brand new Xenoblade Chronicles X for £25. Get in!

I really didn’t know what to expect from the game, but I did not expect the glorious spectacle that was set before me.

I will go as far as to say that this is the best RPG I have ever played. The graphics are about as good as you could expect from a Wii U, and on the downside the draw distance of NPCs and associated graphics is really poor. That is made up in spades by the scale of the world. It is phenomenal and as good, if not better, than anything I have played – even on PC. It is truly open world and you can run, walk, fly or swim across the whole thing and you will never see a load screen or a pause.

The level of detail in the various systems is incredible, with a depth that I have not experienced in any game. Not only do you have to keep an eye on your equipment and stats but you have to invest carefully in equipment suppliers; develop your “spells” which are known as “Arts” in this game; build up NPC characters and relationships with them; develop a mining system where you balance resources against cash and get stuck into a bit of crafting. For the first time in an RPG I got into the story. The side quests feed into the main story which is cinematic to say the least. The cut scenes are relatively short but are gripping and you want to watch them, then when they’ve finished you want to watch them again.

If you like RPGs it is worth buying a Wii U to play this game. Especially if you like RPGs that are very Japanese, including associated cheesy music. I put over 100 hours into it before deciding to complete the main story and I could easily spend another 100 hours in it if I wanted to. Sheer unadulterated perfection.

And that leads me onto a point I’d like to make – the Wii U is currently the best console of this generation.

Quite simply the best games I have played over the last year have been for the Wii U and I cannot understand why PS4 and Xbone are as popular as they are with the dross that gets churned out for them. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good games for them but the Wii U seems to ooze great games but gets no attention (over here in the U.K. at any rate) and it should sell at least as many as the other platforms.

My next game will either be Zelda TP or the Fallout 4 DLC when it comes out but only because I have already paid for it so I practically have to.

Before I sign off I’d just like to make another contentious statement:

Xenoblade is better than Fallout 4 and even Fallout 3. There, I said it!

Cheers,

Leeram

 

 

Decisions Decisions!

What to play after Fallout 4?

The first course of action was to finish Bayonetta 2 (B2) on my Wii U because I only managed to get around three quarters of the way through it before Fallout 4 came along.

B2 is a game of three halves. It starts off and pierces your brain with synapse scrambling gorgeousness and action but about half-way through the game it starts to get a bit “samey”. Although Bayonetta has more moves that John Travolta I found myself sticking with my favourite three or four and it turned into a bit of a grind for an hour or so.

There is a shop system but getting enough currency to buy anything but the very basics seemed impossible. I think the idea is that you go back and improve your score on each level to build up the amount you can spend. I rarely play games twice though so that wasn’t going to happen in my case.

Then, for no reason, it decided to show the world exactly what the Wii U can do and lavished the rest of the game with the guts, finesse and style of nothing I have ever played before, propelling this to the lofty heights of the being the greatest action RPG I have ever played.

B2 is emphatic in its “Japeneseness” {that’s a real word, in my head at any rate}; the music, the graphics, the sexiness, the flow and the unfathomable story all taking me back to a time when Japanese games ruled the world.

As I said to my mate in a text, “I have no words. Ridiculously hard, beautiful , stupidly fantastic, immensely astounding Japanese punishing slog-fest of a billion health bars with incredible pulsating mash-fests of doom in a wonderfully unfathomable story and eye bleeding colour. With bad accents.”

The best action-game ever, bar none. Nothing comes close.

Going retro

The next game was going to have to be stunning to come close to B2 so I thought I’d give the universe a chance and play some retro goodness. That way, the game scan be fantastic but doesn’t need to get close to B2 on account of old age.

Up first was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I’d heard nothing but good things about this game but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get into it. I decided to go on a Sci-Fi odyssey and loaded Deus Ex because that is supposed to be a fantastic game too, but, again, I just couldn’t get into it, mainly because it was so dark I couldn’t see anything. I don’t know if that’s the way it’s supposed to be or whether it’s a bug.

Going even more retro

I may have forgotten to mention that around this point I bought myself a New Net City arcade cabinet to replace the Egret 2 I sold a year or so ago. It’s an awesome machine, currently running my Neo Geo set up, so I’ve been giving Strikers 1945 Plus some welly. At some point I will get Gradius V running in it but that’s something for another day.

Going retro – but not quite as retro as before. Actually, is this retro at all?

A friend of mine gave me a PS3 which had Red Dead Redemption with it. I gave the game a go for a couple of hours and found myself getting dangerously sucked into it, however I wasn’t really up for another 100+ hour open-world RPG after playing Fallout 4 so this one is in the playing queue.

I eventually settled on Batman: Arkham City. You might recall my adventures into Arkham Asylum and I was expecting a similar experience but to my surprise it’s been improved in almost every way, transforming it from a good game to a great one.

Arkham City is organised in a more open-world manner and contains side-quests you can have a go at if you like. The Riddler collect ’em up seems much more cunning if you are into that kind of thing. Rocksteady have tweaked Batman’s movement just a tad and the whole game flows better because of it which becomes strikingly apparent when navigating the city. Rocksteady have nailed the feeling of gracefully floating around using a bat-cape but managed to keep real weight and heft in the fighting sections. It feels like you are Batman. The characters are possibly the best acted I have come across in a game and the story does just enough to be not too crazy but allow the inclusion of a load of antagonists.

I’m a bit Batmanned {again, definitely a real word} out now so I’ll give Arkham Knight a go later in the year I think. Hopefully it’s as good as everyone says it is.

So, what next?

Well, I was going to load up Red Dead Redemption and start playing that but a certain daughter of mine decided to “borrow” my PS3 so that’s out of the window for a while.

I’m minded to finish off Sin and Punishment 2 and then Super Mario on the Wii U, but who knows?

I’ll let you know how I get on in my next post.

Avaguddun!

What to play after Fallout 4?

The first course of action was to finish Bayonetta 2 (B2) on my Wii U because I only managed to get around three quarters of the way through it before Fallout 4 came along.

B2 is a game of three halves. It starts off and pierces your brain with synapse scrambling gorgeousness and action but about half-way through the game it starts to get a bit “samey”. Although Bayonetta has more moves that John Travolta I found myself sticking with my favourite three or four and it turned into a bit of a grind for an hour or so.

There is a shop system but getting enough currency to buy anything but the very basics seemed impossible. I think the idea is that you go back and improve your score on each level to build up the amount you can spend. I rarely play games twice though so that wasn’t going to happen in my case.

Then, for no reason, it decided to show the world exactly what the Wii U can do and lavished the rest of the game with the guts, finesse and style of nothing I have ever played before, propelling this to the lofty heights of the being the greatest action RPG I have ever played.

B2 is emphatic in its “Japeneseness” {that’s a real word, in my head at any rate}; the music, the graphics, the sexiness, the flow and the unfathomable story all taking me back to a time when Japanese games ruled the world.

As I said to my mate in a text, “I have no words. Ridiculously hard, beautiful , stupidly fantastic, immensely astounding Japanese punishing slog-fest of a billion health bars with incredible pulsating mash-fests of doom in a wonderfully unfathomable story and eye bleeding colour. With bad accents.”

The best action-game ever, bar none. Nothing comes close.

 

Going retro

The next game was going to have to be stunning to come close to B2 so I thought I’d give the universe a chance and play some retro goodness. That way, the game scan be fantastic but doesn’t need to get close to B2 on account of old age.

Up first was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I’d heard nothing but good things about this game but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get into it. I decided to go on a Sci-Fi odyssey and loaded Deus Ex because that is supposed to be a fantastic game too, but, again, I just couldn’t get into it, mainly because it was so dark I couldn’t see anything. I don’t know if that’s the way it’s supposed to be or whether it’s a bug.

 

Going even more retro

I may have forgotten to mention that around this point I bought myself a New Net City arcade cabinet to replace the Egret 2 I sold a year or so ago. It’s an awesome machine, currently running my Neo Geo set up, so I’ve been giving Strikers 1945 Plus some welly. At some point I will get Gradius V running in it but that’s something for another day.

 

Going retro – but not quite as retro as before. Actually, is this retro at all?

A friend of mine gave me a PS3 which had Red Dead Redemption with it. I gave the gamn a go for a couple of hours and found myself getting dangerously sucked into it, however I wasn’t really up for another 100+ hour open-world RPG after playing Fallout 4 so this one is in the playing queue.

I eventually settled on Batman: Arkham City. You might recall my adventures into Arkham Asylum and I was expecting a similar experience but to my surprise it’s been improved in almost every way, transforming it from a good game to a great one.

Arkham City is organised in a more open-world manner and contains side-quests you can have a go at if you like. The Riddler collect ’em up seems much more cunning if you are into that kind of thing. Rocksteady have tweaked Batman’s movement just a tad and the whole game flows better because of it which becomes strikingly apparent when navigating the city. Rocksteady have nailed the feeling of gracefully floating around using a bat-cape but managed to keep real weight and heft in the fighting sections. It feels like you are Batman. The characters are possibly the best acted I have come across in a game and the story does just enough to be not too crazy but allow the inclusion of a load of antagonists.

I’m a bit Batmanned {again, definitely a real word} out now so I’ll give Arkham Knight a go later in the year I think. Hopefully it’s as good as everyone says it is.

 

So, what next?

Well, I was going to load up Red Dead redemption and start playing that but a certain daughter of mine decided to “borrow” my PS3 so that’s out of the window for a while.

I’m minded to finish off Sin and Punishment 2 and then Super Mario on the Wii U, but who knows?

I’ll let you know how I get on in my next post.

Avaguddun!

I’ve realised the first few words you add to your post get replicated on Facebook and Twitter so I’ve started with this so I don’t accidentally spoil the game for anyone!

 

161 hours. That’s how long I played Fallout 4 for before sitting my character in a camping chair on my in-game porch waiting patiently for some DLC to come along.

I completed the main game after around 90 hours, the rest have been spent systematically visiting every building and object I could find in every square on the map.

So what’s the verdict?

Well, I never found the dog after forgetting where I sent it and still have 11 bobble heads to find so I’ve bloody well missed some places despite my best efforts. Perhaps Bethesda could have put something into the game to let me keep track of where I have and have not been. You’d think with a game designed in the year 2015 that might be possible but it turns out to be just one of a plethora of complaints I have about this game because Fallout 4 is broken. Broken to its core:

The Instructions:

There are no instructions for anything except a page of useless text which you won’t even notice is there until 20 hours in, well I didn’t. Fundamental parts of the game just have no help and are totally unintuitive. Take for instance the building system. The game expects you to think to use the arrow keys to navigate through the menus. When was the last time you pressed an arrow key in a game on PC? Until you work out by sheer fluke that you are to use the arrow keys you are completely stuck and cannot progress through certain parts of the game. The reviews of the game I read said that building things was optional so this shouldn’t matter, well, they lied.

Even something simple, like pressing “enter”, is a problem. Almost every interaction tells you to press the “enter” key. That’s fine but after a very short while I got fed up with either lifting my hand off the mouse to press it or move my left hand off WASD to press it. It turns out that you can press “E” instead which is much more convenient but you have to guess it.

The perk system is absolutely key to your character’s progression, yet is it explained? No. I assumed that I had to fill every level of a perk before I could move to the next perk and there’s no explanation to say otherwise. Yet what actually happens is that every point put into a base perk opens up another perk that can be chosen. Meaning I wasted a good number of my early game perks that I would probably have used for lock picking and terminal hacking to open up more of the map. Perhaps I would not have struggled so hard early on if this critical game mechanic had some instruction with it.

The Pip-Boy:

Perhaps the most important part of the game yet is there any explanation about what half of the things on it mean? No, not that I could work out anyway. What the hell does a line next to an arm mean?

In Fallout 3 it was new and charming but even in that game after about 5 minutes the flickery graphics became tedious. Why have they persisted in having a flickery effect green screen piece of annoying shit for the main interface into the game?

The lay out is dire, constantly having to flick through screens just to find basic information like how much weight you have left that you can carry. You can’t even have a map that follows you around so you spend half your time flicking into the Pip-Boy just to see where the hell you are. There is absolutely no point to the close-up map view either, it’s just a mess. There is plenty of real estate on the screen so surely a basic world map would not have been beyond the capabilities of a company like Bethesda, let’s face it, every other game in existence has it.

There has simply been no effort put into making anything like a decent update to this central mechanism in the game. It’s just lazy and I do not buy the argument that it’s to maintain the feeling of Fallout 3. This is Fallout 4 and the world has much more powerful hardware, even the console fanboys, so there is no reason to stick with archaic crap like this.

The graphics:

Let’s skip the part where I played the first 30+ hours with juddery graphics because you can read about that in my last post. But what about the randomly spawning enemies that just materialise out of nowhere? What about being in a lake watching Synths drop out of the sky and go for a swim when according to the map I should have been on dry land? Around every corner is a new and unique graphical feature, you know the kind of thing: objects floating in the middle of nowhere; objects embedded in other objects; cars randomly falling out of the sky and bouncing around; characters twitching like they are in a Harlem Shake video. It’s all good random fun in the Wasteland. This is 2015 for crying out loud, I just don’t expect this nonsense.

The getting stuck:

I can’t count the number of times I got stuck and had to re-load my last save. I often got stuck in-between objects and when entering terminals even more. For some reason, when I pressed “E”, the graphics just bounced around in front of the terminal and I was stuck. So I ended up saving the game immediately before every terminal because I had no confidence that the game would carry on running.

The inconsistency:

Sometimes you press escape to exit a dialogue, sometimes it’s tab, sometimes it’s enter, meaning I often navigated to the wrong places. It’s just frustrating and unnecessary.

The companions:

I lost the dog, which is good because I hated it anyway. The companions form a part of the gameplay and can be interesting to use, I took {Eady} MacReady because he didn’t mind the odd spot of random murder, but they always get in the way. They have the full environment to walk around so why do they choose to stand in the doorway of the door you are trying to walk through?

When you call them over to trade, a set of options are displayed in the centre of the screen. The characters often shuffle about so when you try to pick the option to trade the option disappears just as you select it and you end up shooting them instead. Over and over again it happens and I cannot believe that play testers did not pick this up. Just more and more frustration to deal with.

The main quest story:

In Fallout 3 I made some huge game changing decisions, like whether or not to nuke Megaton but there were more besides. In New Vegas there were far fewer large choices and in this game there are none. NONE. The choices I made seemed pointless and hardly affected my game at all. It’s very disappointing for me because this is the part of Fallout 3 that I loved so much.

The actual story itself is drivel, or should I say the Brotherhood of Steel path was drivel. The ending is almost identical to the DLC for Fallout 3 (at least I think it was Fallout 3) with the big robot. I did not pay for a AAA game that had the same ending as its predecessor. This is absolutely awful.

I could go on but what’s the point? I think what’s most annoying is Bethesda’s absolute lack of respect for my gaming time.

So why did I play for so long I hear you ask?

The world you inhabit and the way it lives and breathes around you is utterly breath-taking. Although the main story is dross, a lot of the side quests are not. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t have characters as crazy as those in New Vegas, nor the depth of decision making as in Fallout 3, but there’s enough in the game to keep you entertained almost indefinitely. It’s littered with those “little moments”. Like, for instance, finding a boy that had been trapped in a fridge for 200 years and wanted returning to his mum and dad. Just think about that – trapped in a fridge for 200 years! How many people walked by and left him in there? The Wasteland is brutal.

You never know what’s around the next corner, on top of the next hill or in the next valley and the uncertainty pulls you along. What you think is irrelevant unwinds into a sprawling story and what you think must me immense turns out to be insignificant.

How about walking into a cemetery and finding an altar with headless chickens all around it and then as you walk through the graveyard you find a dead body with a chicken head next to near a headstone? WTF is that all about?

Fancy helping a bunch of robot pirates get to the sea? Have at it!

Let’s not forget to mention SWAN, holy crap that made me turn tail and run like I’d never played a video game before.

Stories span the entire game so it pays to read and listen to everything. One NPC talked about her friend and how she’d been kidnapped and forced to write ransom notes that demanded food be sent to the captor. The NPC was constantly sending food in the hope to eventually rescue her friend. Then I read later that the captor had killed her friend by accident and the ransom notes were all faked.

The story telling hits you in multiple ways and how much of it you engross yourself in it is the difference between this game being a mess or being genius. I advise everyone to look at the bones of the dead characters that litter the Wasteland and imagine how they got that way. Read the text in the terminals and on the various notes you find. Listen to the distress signals and garbled messages. Interact with all the NPCs. Delve into the smaller parts of the game and you will find the beauty of the experience.

The game is fundamentally broken in unacceptable ways and it, coupled with Skyrim, has severely jarred my faith in Bethesda. It feels more like a Fallout New Vegas update to me rather than a AAA game made for 2015 technology. The main story is weak, obvious and ultimately devastatingly disappointing. The side quests and exploration are by far the best parts of the game and make it worth the asking price and 150 hours playing time.

There is a complete lack of respect for gamers’ time from Bethesda and I am left with a lack of respect for them. I will not be pre-ordering Fallout 5, that’s for sure.

 

 

I promise there are no spoilers here. This should have been published a couple of weeks ago but, you know, I’ve been engrossed in Fallout 4 and forgot!

I had a plan:
– Book 10th and 11th November off work
– In October – Inform family that I will be away for a couple of days on the 10th
– Around 5th November – Remind the family that I will be away for a couple of days on the 10th
– Go to bed at 6.00pm on Monday, 10th November
– Get up at 10.30pm on Monday 10th November
– Ensure graphics drivers are up to date
– Sit with hands on keyboard and mouse till 12.01am
– Play Fallout 4 for as many hours as I can in the time I have off work

The plan executed flawlessly and I spent over 35 hours in the Wasteland before I had to pack up my PipBoy and get an early night ready for the real world of work, which started at 5.30am on 12th November.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster I have to say.

I promised myself I wouldn’t rush into Fallout 4 which I have a tendency to do with all open-world games, so I watched as the camera scrolled around my power armour when the game started. It’s not very interesting if I’m honest.

The story began – I have to admit it wasn’t the story I was expecting but there again I had no idea what to expect. I think I was expecting it to have a similar “flow” to Fallout 3, but it’s completely different and strangely compelling. Video game plots and stories are not something that usually interest me (save the princess again blah blah blah, just give me the virtual guns to shoot and point me in the right direction please!) so it was a surprise to me that I was mildly interested.

The first thing that struck me when I got into the game proper was the god-awful juddering of the graphics. The game automatically selects the graphics settings and mine were set to medium. I’m used to playing most games on high settings so I was a bit disgruntled about it, but to get all this judder as well just pissed me off. I decided not to get into the usual two days of doing the developers’ beta testing for them that I often have to do and just sucked it up. After a short while my eyes got used to it and my brain filtered it out.

I plodded on and got absorbed into the virtual world that Bethesda had created for me. Meeting characters and accepting quests, remembering lessons from Fallout 3 – don’t wander too far at the beginning of the game and don’t try to steal everything. I got slowly but surely engrossed. The world is exactly what you’d expect, a desolate land filled with desperate people and maniac animals. Plenty of secret little areas to stumble across and a million shades of brown.

It’s great to walk around Boston and see some of the places that were important when the American colony’s treacherous rebellion was started against the British by a bunch of criminals desperate to increase their power base and profits.

I have to say though that the level of decision-making has not been as satisfying, so far, as it was in Fallout 3. I am expecting some major story arcs like blowing up Megaton or something but it hasn’t happened yet. Fingers crossed.

At about 20 hours in I started to get really frustrated. It seemed like every quest had a stupidly hard boss that I couldn’t beat. I did not have the money to buy the firepower needed to kill them, nor the perks to persuade them, so the game just got stuck for me. Sitting with 3 or 4 unfinished missions that I got no XP for after trying them for hours was no fun.

It came to the point where I had only one quest that I thought I might have a reasonable chance at beating. This quest was given to me after the others so in theory should have been a harder quest. It was exactly the opposite. I barely fired a shot, got through the whole quest and completed it. At the end I was given a weapon with some decent firepower and a load of loot to sell for decent money rather than the trinkets the game had offered up to that point.

I immediately went and completed the outstanding partially completed quests that I was able to. Unfortunately, even after completing everything in one of the quests,  it would not complete. I spent another hour trying to work out what was wrong and eventually I realised I was waiting for a bunch of NPCs to walk the entire length of the map that I had explored thus far. Very frustrating! And I was hoping that this wasn’t a sign of things to come. I went and completed some other quests and eventually the status notices told me that the NPCs had arrived, I met with them and the quest completed.

Now it probably sounds like I think the game is awful, but it truly isn’t. I think it’s because the world is so engrossing. Since that pivotal quest the game has completely opened up. The money, whilst still being sparse, is enough to give a decent chance.

It was getting towards the end of my time in the Wastelands so I decided to give the crafting a go. I have absolutely no interest in crafting or creating things in any game except Minecraft and that is only because I can play the game with my daughter. I felt it only fair to give it a go though.

You know when you give yourself a palm slap on the forehead? I gave myself a palm slap on the forehead. I realised that the key to having enough money is through scrapping things, crafting something else and then selling it. As soon as I started doing that the in-game currency started to flow.

I slowly but surely worked out the crafting and also the settlement creation. There is almost no help at all for anything, including the crafting system, which is a tad unfair. I think Bethesda could have really helped by giving some worked examples of how to build things. Granted, there are some help files but  they only cover very basic stuff. I spent probably 30 minutes trying to hook a power plant up to a light that I had crafted, that’s 30 minutes of wasted holiday time.

One of the most important screens is the perks screen and I think I have screwed my choices up on that too. I thought I had to fill in all the stars at the top most perk before I could choose any of those below it, but looking at other peoples’ builds I think I might have assumed wrong. Again – no help on this basic game mechanism.

At the end of my 35 hour stint I pressed shift & tab to go into the Steam overlay and message a mate of mine to say good-night and noticed an article in the “guides” section which mentioned upping the frame rate. I clicked on it and it described my juddering problem. It suggested that the game be set to borderless window in the graphics settings, rather than full screen. I did that and the game became as smooth as a silky silk worm making silk things for my grandma.

I really enjoyed my 2 days in the Wastelands but even with that amount of time  I have barely scratched the surface. Fallout 3 took me over 100 hours so I expect many more visits to the Wasteland from here on out and I’ll check-in with you once I’ve completed it.

Avaguddun,

Lee

Lucky Me!

Replay at Manchester was great again, the pinball section in particular this time seemed to excel. I had my usual bash at The Black Knight 2000 but also found a new one: Attack of Mars which is basically a rip-off of Mars Attacks!

The arcade section was as good as it always is, but for some reason the hall filled up and it was difficult to get a game. I don’t recall having this problem in the past, but I walked around for a good hour at one point and wasn’t able to get on a game I wanted to play. Admittedly I didn’t stand in a queue to play a game because if there’s a queue I just go and play something else. Usually.

The second day was my “trawl around all the consoles” day. My feet wreck me through the second day so it’s good to sit down! I couldn’t help but feel the retro section was smaller somehow. It could have just been an optical illusion but I definitely got that impression. It will be a shame if they let that section wither because it’s a large part of why I go.

You might not be aware but there is an arcade in the U.K. called “Arcade Club”. It’s quite new and I’ve known about it for a while now but hadn’t been. That was rectified about 3 weeks after Replay Expo. The Arcade Club was in Haslingden, which is a stone’s throw from Bolton (the place where I was born and near to where all my family are), near where Wallsy lives and near Ramsbottom – which is completely irrelevant other that it’s the town my last name is from. The plan was to go to Arcade Club and kip over at Wallsy’s.

I entered the Arcade Club and was not disappointed. There were about 100 games which included practically everything you could think of, well not quite because Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace and Strider weren’t there, but everything else was. In my opinion it’s better than Replay Expo’s arcade section. It costs a tenner to get in and all the games are on free-play, so it’s basically a free night out.

I played my fill of Salamander, Smash T.V., Star Wars, Ghosts and Goblins (carry on for everything else you can think of) and went back to Wallsy’s. I got some kip and, the next day, had a few games of DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou. I might have forgotten to mention that Wallsy has a stonking collection of Japanese shoot ’em ups. SaiDaiOuJou is a tremendous game and there are probably only 2 or 3 people that have it in the whole of the U.K. {and I know one of them!}

Then it struck me how completely lucky I am when it comes to retro games! I have a Hyper Sports, Atari Dragon’s Lair and Atari Space Ace (both of which are as rare as rocking-horse shit). I get to go to Replay Blackpool and Replay Expo Manchester every year and sleep Wallsy’s so get to play Ketsui, SaiDaiOuJou and Mushihimesama et al on a proper candy cab, these are games that most people have never even seen. I live in Middlesbrough so I will be visiting NERG (North East Retro Group) from next year which is only an hour away in Gateshead.

If you go back 10 years the stark fact was that arcades were dead and it’s why I started buying my own PCBs and machines. It’s completely different now because there are so many retro events through the year now that it’s almost pointless buying your own. Just about the only games not covered by a decent public event are Japanese shoot ’em ups.

Arcade Club just moved to a new location in Bury (still a stone’s throw from Bolton) and has nigh on 200 games now. The place is truly amazing and best of all it’s open 11am till 11pm every Saturday so I can plan a regular trip down there and don’t need to stay over.

There actually has never been a better time to play arcade games than right now so long as you can easily get to the northwest of England and have a mate with a New Net City and an awesome taste in games!

Gaming in a Mild Blaze

I’m on holiday in Turkey.  For those who’ve never been it’s quite pleasant but just be prepared to shake hands with people a lot and woe betide you if you get annoyed with yet another restauranter trying to use the hand shake to drag you into his,  and it’s always his,  gaff and refuse to shake the hand. Trust me,  it’s not worth the hassle and you’ll get banned from their restaurant, which,  thinking about it,  is a positive result.

Because I’m in Turkey I have no internet,  not because they don’t have it – they do,  much better than the U.K. when you are out and about,  but because , in order to get a minute of peace, I have already forked out a fortune for my two daughters to have it permanently in the hotel and I can’t face handing over any more money for a bit of internet, much to the dismay of my youngest daughter who reluctantly lends me her phone for 5 minutes each day – which, based on the amount of whinging in that 5 minutes, is apparently an eternity to her.

The internet here is so good that I have had the pleasure of witnessing 4 or 5 children,  boys and girls (no #gamergate required ) set up around a table to play Minecraft. They had set up a LAN party.  All of them were on the same map,  all talking to each other to set up a little production line to get whatever resources they needed (“I found the diamonds you need” shouted the little girl,  she can’t have been more than 7 years old.)  I really wanted to take a picture to tweet out,  but I thought that might not be appropriate! It was a sight to behold though.  A spontaneous LAN party set up by kids, brilliant.  I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again,  “Minecraft wins”.

I’m in the Julien Forest Suites Hotel in Icmeler. The hotel is up a hill sandwiched in a mountain giving an awesome view and, more importantly, an awesome breeze that turns the inferno like temperatures into a mild blaze.  Perfect for keeping you cool while playing on the pinball machine that’s just visible in one of the pictures in the holiday company’s brochure, or it would be if the machine actually existed – which it doesn’t.

So the only real gaming opportunity I have is to fire up the trusty 3DS that I brought.  As it happens I do have one game to play – Super Mario 3D Land – which I never got round to playing.

Playing practically any Mario game reboots your brain to load a core set of game mechanics that you don’t need to think about –  like all the Beatles songs, they are built into you.

Super Mario 3DS is the colourful,  cute, head squishing,  block bashing,  princess rescuing  ride of generic brilliance that no other video game can come close to.  If you have played Mario 64 then you know exactly what to expect.  I particularly like how it’s broken into nice small chunks of concentrated platforming that mean you can have a quick game and interrupt it with a quick close of the 3DS when the kids start complaining about the next irrelevant thing they find to complain about.

I have found the game a bit easier than previous incarnations,  but,  that said I have only just beat Bowser and some new special levels have appeared so maybe they are notched up a bit in difficulty.

I could really do with a Zelda game next,  I just need to relax with the familiarity of it,  I forgot to buy one though so it looks like it will have to be Rythm Thief. Not sure I can take the stress of it though, or the earworms.

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