Author Archives: lewispackwood

About lewispackwood

The first game that Lewis ever played was "Horace Goes Skiing" on the ZX Spectrum. Yes, he's that old.

My Yarn Yoshi obsession

OK, so I think I’m getting a bit obsessed with obtaining a Yarn Yoshi amiibo. Tantalisingly, GAME have uploaded pictures of said amiibo, and yet there’s no option to pre-order. Have they gone already? Am I too late? If not, when do the pre-orders start? Why am I so obsessed with a woolly plastic toy?

Because it’s awesome, that’s why.

And I’m not alone in my thinking – just take a look at these crazed Yarn Yoshi hunters tweeting Nintendo. There’s a lot of love in the room for that woolly figurine. Not to mention a lot of crazy fan desperation.

Now excuse me while I continue to scour the internet for clues as to when pre-orders will start.

Yarn-Yoshi-amiibo-790x459

4 Comments

Filed under Pulp

From The Armchair: The Shorter The Better

ArmchairWhat-ho, chums! Since my last missive back in January, events have continued apace. The expected arrival of Merriweather Junior is now mere weeks away, after which I expect all gaming exploits will cease, at least for a time. So in the run up to the big day I’ve been luxuriating in my precious gaming time, all too aware that my consoles will soon be entering into a period of neglect – but for the very best of reasons, of course.

Junior’s impending arrival isn’t the only big news – Ian of 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better fame got married, and the stag do was suitably gaming focused, featuring bouts of Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros., Street Fighter II and Super Ghouls and Ghosts (the latter two thanks to a tiny MegaDrive emulator that plugged into the TV). MK8 proved a big hit, but Super Smash Bros. for Wii U mostly provoked frowns and much scratching of heads as everyone playing tried desperately to work out where they were on the screen and what the hell they were doing. After only a few rounds of utter confusion we decided to give up and play Street Fighter II instead, which remains a stone cold classic after all these years. Indeed, long dormant muscle memories were reawakened as attendees – some of whom haven’t picked up a pad in years – suddenly recalled how to execute a Dragon Punch or pummel their opponent with a Spinning Pile Driver. It was gaming nostalgia at its best.

One game that I’d rather see left in the past, however, is Super Ghouls and Ghosts. This game was pre-loaded on the MegaDrive emulator along with Street Fighter II, and it proved utterly infuriating – but we couldn’t stop playing it. We took to passing the game pad from player to player, and alternately cheering as someone got a little bit further and booing as one of the viciously unfair enemies topped our hero. But for the hours of investment, there was very, very little gain – we barely got anywhere, although my blood pressure certainly advanced a few levels. On the basis of this, I’m fairly certain I won’t enjoy Bloodborne.

ghouls_n_ghosts_vcmm_lg

Super Ghouls and Ghosts – utterly infuriating.

Which reminds me, Bloodborne’s spiritual predecessor, Demon’s Souls, was on sale on the PlayStation store over the weekend for the very tasty price of £3.99. I was sorely tempted to pick it up and see what all the fuss was about, but two things made me stop: first, if it’s anywhere near as hard as Super Ghouls and Ghosts I may end up destroying furniture; and second, I’m avoiding any particularly long games for the foreseeable future. With a little one on the way, I doubt I’ll have time for many 60-hour+ RPGs, and I already have several chunky games to finish.

But on that basis I did pick up Zone of the Enders: HD Collection. Both of the games in this collection are notoriously short and easy, which was the reason I never bought them when they originally came out for the PS2. Yet now it’s the very reason I decided to purchase them – I need games that I can quickly pick up and play in the few short hours when I’m not doing responsible adult things. Also, zoomy shooty mech games are right up my street, and I’ve wanted to play ZOE since it came out nearly 15 years ago.

Speaking of short games, I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, and I can’t wait to play through the rest of the series. TellTale’s episodic format is perfect for time-poor gamers like me, and as an added bonus, Ms. D quite enjoys watching me play them too. I also finished season two of The Walking Dead, which was very good – if not quite as good as the first. It began well, but Ms. D and I agreed that the last couple of episodes dragged on for far longer than they should have.

And finally, when I’ve not been playing through TellTale adventure games, I’ve been desperately trying to get to the end of Xenoblade Chronicles before Junior is born. I won’t lie to you – it’s not looking good. I’ve read it takes 60 hours to finish the main quest and around 100 hours to complete all the side quests too – currently I’m only 12 hours in, and the baby is due in less than six weeks. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the game so far, but will I ever get to finish it? Watch this space…

Xenoblade Chronicles is a fantastic game, but very, very long...

Xenoblade Chronicles is a fantastic game, but very, very long…

18 Comments

Filed under From The Armchair

Amiibo: nice if you can get them

I’ve recently been playing through Xenoblade Chronicles for the first time, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it (well, apart from a few minor niggles, but more on that in a later post). After spending so much time in the company of Shulk and his mates, I began thinking how great it would be to have a Shulk amiibo to put next to Marth, Ike and Link on the mantelpiece. But of course, actually obtaining a Shulk amiibo is easier said than done.

The Shulk amiibo - nice if you can get it.

The Shulk amiibo – nice if you can get it.

Amiibo Shulk has been sold out in every single UK store for some time, and the only way to obtain it is through resellers on Amazon, eBay or similar sites, where it currently goes for around £40 or more. Importing the figure from Japan is slightly cheaper, but it still costs a lot more than the figure’s £10.99 RRP. For a while I seriously considered importing one myself, but even in my throes of mindless fandom, I still couldn’t justify the cost.

I’m sure there are many, many people like myself who actually wouldn’t mind one or two more amiibos of their favourite characters but just can’t get hold of them for a reasonable price. And now, as people cotton on to the fact that their only chance of getting hold of certain amiibos is to preorder them before they come out, the shortages are getting worse. I preordered Robin and Lucina to complete my Fire Emblem set back in February, and it’s a good thing I did – both have been ‘sold out’ for months, even though they won’t be released until the end of April.

If anything, the situation is even worse in America, where amiibo supplies have far, far outstripped demand. This fascinating Wired article sets out the situation over there, warning that the amiibo bubble could catastrophically burst if Nintendo doesn’t do something to deflate it, mostly by creating more stock and ensuring steady supply. This expletive-ridden Gamesradar article gives an idea of the intense frustration that amiibo collectors in the States face every time a new wave is announced.

Yep, I'll take all of these, please. Here, just take my wallet.

Yep, I’ll take all of these, please. Here, just take my wallet.

And speaking of new amiibo waves, there are a couple that caught my eye in the latest Nintendo Direct, not least the utterly adorable Yarn Yoshi amiibo (made of real yarn!) and the Captain Olimar figurine (anything to do with Pikmin is a guaranteed purchase from me). But already I’m stressing out about obtaining these two figures. If previous experience is anything to go by, to stand any chance of getting them I’ll have to check the usual retail sites every day and make a pre-order as soon as possible. Yet these figures aren’t even ‘special editions’! Just thinking about it all is giving me amiibo fatigue…

I hope Nintendo can start manufacturing these things in decent quantities, otherwise many dedicated customers – me included – are going to start giving up on collecting them. Not only that, I’d like to see some better uses for them in games – surely there must be some dedicated amiibo software around the corner? I’m guessing something like Skylanders Trap Team, where the figures are essential to the game. Although of course there’s no point in releasing something like that if the amiibos themselves are impossible to come by…

But enough of this whinging, I’m going to finish with a pic of my newly arrived Toad amiibo. Doesn’t he look happy?

At least Toad's happy.

At least he can smile about all this.

7 Comments

Filed under Opinions and Hearsay

The UK game chart is complete nonsense

For some time now, the UK music chart has combined numbers for streaming with physical and digital sales. The UK game chart, on the other hand, only counts physical sales, and as a consequence it bears little resemblance to the reality of what games are actually the most popular.

Chart1_V21

Courtesy of MCV

This week, trade publication MCV attempted to cobble together their own chart based on a combination of digital sales and physical sales, and the difference between their chart and the ‘official’ one was astounding. For a start, Cities: Skylines was number one and Hotline Miami 2 was number four, yet neither game appeared on the official chart at all.

MCV says that attempts have been made to create a combined digital and physical chart before, but they have ultimately failed – mostly due to a reluctance from publishers to share data. But there seems little point in continuing with the current charts when they’re so wildly inaccurate. In fact, Kotaku UK have taken a stand and vowed not to report the official charts because, in their words, they’re ‘bullshit’.

I agree: and I’d rather live in a world where Hotline Miami 2 beats sales of FIFA and Call of Duty. Which makes me wonder: how have other recent indie games fared against the so-called ‘big’ gaming franchises?

Courtesy of MCV

Courtesy of MCV

2 Comments

Filed under Opinions and Hearsay

Review: Little Inferno

Little Inferno launched alongside the Wii U, but I only picked it up recently in a sale – and what a fantastic little game it is. It’s the sort of thing I imagine Tim Burton would make if he ever turned his attention from films to video games.

Little Inferno

Conceptually, it’s defiantly odd. You’re presented with a fireplace – the Little Inferno Entertainment System – and you can order all sorts of bizarre things to throw into it and burn. Burning things gives you money – hey, why not? – which you then use to buy more things to throw into the flames.

The thing that glues it all together is the intensely weird narrative, which involves the unsettling Tomorrow Corporation, a weatherman in a balloon, and the exceedingly creepy girl next door who sends you more and more bizarre messages. Very little is revealed about the background of the game world or why you’re sat there throwing things into a fire (along with everyone else in the world, it seems), which is all for the good – it’s left to your imagination to paint in the blanks.

The things you’re given to burn are wonderfully strange. They include a ‘sleeping idol’ that emits a baleful, low-pitched drone when you burn it; a clutch of spider eggs; a blowfish; menopause pills; and even the moon, which has its own gravitational field. It’s all very weird.

There are plenty of digs at consumer culture here, along with some knowing nods about the addictiveness of video games (“I just can’t stop staring into the fire…”), but for the most part it’s willfully obtuse, which is fine by me. Little Inferno is very short, but it’s also highly entertaining and pretty much unique – and most definitely worth seeking out if you’re a Wii U owner.

Little Inferno screenshot

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Day one patches: now it’s just getting silly

I just read on Eurogamer that Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is getting a 16 GB day one patch on Xbox One.

16 GB.

That’s actually bigger than the hard drive on my Xbox 360 (that’s right, I never upgraded, and somehow I’ve managed to make it this far through judicious deleting and a reliance on physical media).

borderlands

It’s not much better on PS4, where the day one patch is 8.3 GB. But the astonishing thing is that this game isn’t a brand-new entry in a mega franchise that the publishers are desperately pushing to get out for Christmas. It’s a re-release of Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, the latter of which came out first in October 2014. So why couldn’t this 16 GB of data be included on the game disc?

The publishers say that the main reason is that it’s to include the Claptastic Voyage DLC, which came out too recently to be included on the disc. But they also say that the patch addresses “various bugs” and they “strongly recommend” that all players download it.

So why not just delay the game by a week or two, giving the devs time to add this “essential” patch to the game itself, rather than force players to sit through a lengthy download process when they attempt to play the game? 16 GB will easily take a couple of hours to download for most people, and could even take all night for some people with slow internet connections. And let’s not forget those unlucky few who have download limits on their internet supply, for whom this patch could end up costing a pretty penny.

Why inflict this annoyance on your customers? Is it so important to meet the Easter deadline? Or is the reason more coldly financial – was this game rushed out to be released before the end of the tax year in April, and therefore bolster the publisher’s profit margin for 2014/15?

There’s been a worrying trend for bigger and bigger day one patches recently. Patches are a boon in terms of providing the ability to fix bugs that creep through to the finished version, but increasingly they’re used as an excuse to release games in an unfinished state. And in the case of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, we’re not even talking about a new game.

I’m tired of waiting for an enormous patch to download whenever I play a new game – it’s time that publishers started thinking of their customers more than their profit margins.

14 Comments

Filed under Opinions and Hearsay

Review: Weapon Shop de Omasse

TM_3DSDS_WeaponShopDeOmasseI picked up Weapon Shop de Omasse for a pittance in a Nintendo eShop sale a few months back, and I’ve dipped into it a few times over the past few months. It’s the perfect example of a game with a winning idea that’s let down by poor execution.

The set up is that you’re an apprentice in a fantasy weapon shop, and it’s your job to supply would-be adventurers with the right swords, axes and cudgels for the job. You forge the weapons through a rhythm-action mini game, and the more accurately you time your hits, the more powerful the weapon, and thus the greater the chance that your customers will be successful in their quests.

It’s a neat twist on the old RPG formula, and my initial experience with the game was great, but it quickly gets ludicrously repetitive. New weapons are introduced periodically, but the way you create them is the same, and – most frustratingly – the actual forging minigame feels annoyingly imprecise. It seemed almost random as to whether the weapon would come out ‘dull’ or a ‘masterpiece’. There’s also little room for emerging complexity – new metals and ores are introduced, but they don’t seem to have any impact on the game, and you can safely ignore them with no effect on the gameplay.

One thing I did like was the slightly naff humour of the game. The game was created by Japanese comedian Yoshiyuki Hirai, and with its laughter soundtrack and regular outbreaks of applause and boos, the game felt like one of those ubiquitous Japanese panel shows, where guests pop on, eat something ludicrous or watch an amusing video and then engage in asinine banter. Despite having only the faintest grasp of Japanese, I used to love watching these shows when I lived in Japan – perhaps because they were so different to the TV I grew up on. So if nothing else, the game reminded me of some happy times back in Nippon.

However, despite its best attempts at humour, Weapon Shop de Omasse quickly became unforgivably dull after the first few hours. I stuck with it in the hope that the ending might offer an amusing conclusion, but if anything the game gets worse as it goes along, and the ending is horribly disappointing. Rather than redeem the game, it made me question why I’d bothered to stick with it.

ES2-620x

8 Comments

Filed under Reviews