Spiffing Reads: Castlevania, Underrated Females and Minor Text Fixes

This week on Spiffing Reads, we begin with an eye-opening behind-the-scenes look at a certain 3D vampire series.


“We got caught in a s***storm” (Eurogamer)

This interview with the developers of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is fascinating. It’s interesting to hear how the two LoS games were by far the most successful Castlevania games in terms of sales, even though LoS 2 underwhelmed reviewers. Also interesting to hear the developers’ reactions to those poor reviews, and how much of a shock it was. Oh, and the boss’s evasive reaction to being asked about where the funding is coming from for their next project spoke volumes… A studio stretched too far? After all, self-publishing is a big gamble.


Five most underrated female characters in videogames (Very Very Gaming)

I highly enjoyed this post, especially as I hadn’t even heard of half of the video-game females listed here. It also gave me a hankering to track down the game D, as it sounds batshit mental.


Nintendo raises the banner for premium mobile gaming (GamesIndustry.biz)

The author labels Nintendo’ as a “latecomer to a battle that was lost some time ago” in terms of the companies plans to use premium prices rather than adopt the free-to-play model. But if any company can do it, Nintendo can. And things aren’t as clear-cut as they seem – Nintendo also seem to be embracing in-app purchases, according to some.


Pokémon Go fans are hungry for some more minor text fixes (Polygon)

I love me a meme, and this cracked me up. After Niantic frustrated everyone by dragging their heels when it came to fixing the game’s many technical issues, instead offering up update after update with only ‘minor text fixes’, the Pokemon Go community has taken the phrase to heart. The reddit forum even translates ‘edited’ to ‘minor text fixes’.


Luigi’s Miiverse Has Become A Shitposter’s Paradise In 2016 (Kotaku UK)

Thanks to Very Very Gaming for bringing this one to my attention last week. The normally innocuous Miiverse has something very odd happening on the New Super Luigi U page, where people seem to have gathered to post random nonsense.



And finally, something to get your grin muscles working. “The boy on the right suspects that there is something going on between his girlfriend and his father, but lacks the strength of character to confront them directly.”

Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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Quick Offload: I Can’t Stop Playing No Man’s Sky

Seriously. I just can’t put the damn thing down.

There’s always just one more ridge to look over, just one more animal to scan, just one more planet to explore. It’s one of the most addictive games I’ve played in a long while.


I’ll start out with a plan in mind: say, I want to find some platinum to craft a health upgrade. But while I’m hunting for that, I come across a massive chunk of gold, so I stop to mine that. Then I’ll spot another gold chunk, so I’ll mine that too. Now I’m wondering how much gold there is in the area, so I shoot off into a cave to look for more, and before I know it I’ve spent 15 minutes just wandering the cave networks to see where they go. Then I pop out miles away from my spaceship, and happen to spot a question mark hovering over a nearby lake. So I dive down to take a look, and I find an abandoned building. But on my way back to the surface I spot some fish I’ve never seen before, so I stop to scan them. Then I realise I only need two more animals to complete the set on the planet, so I scan around for some more as I walk back to my spaceship. But my search comes up fruitless, so I decide to climb back into my spaceship and head up to a space station to sell all the gold I’ve farmed. But as I head into space I’m ambushed by space pirates, and my ship is destroyed. I respawn in the space station, and luckily I have the gold in my exosuit, so it’s not lost. While I’m selling the gold, I notice that the selling price of Dynamic Resonators is double the galactic average, so I head into the docking bay to buy up all the resonators I can from pilots who are coming to land. Then I sell them for a huge profit, and after doing this a few times, I have enough to buy a new ship. I wait around for a particularly cool-looking ship to arrive with more slots than my old one, and eventually one that looks like the Vipers from Battlestar Galactica turns up. So I buy it, and it has a more-powerful hyperdrive, and then I’m thinking about which star system to explore next…

And in the meantime, I still haven’t got any platinum. But I’m just having far too much fun exploring to care.

Quick Offloads are short posts when we need to get things off of our chests but don’t necessarily want to waste too many words on them. But please add your words in the comments below.


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Spiffing Reads: Sonic’s Tweets, Biased Game Journalists and Link’s Awakening

Just a trio of articles on Spiffing Reads this week, kicking off with a comeback from Sonic in an unlikely quarter.

How Sonic the Hedgehog’s weirdo Twitter account could bring him back from the brink (Polygon)

Most corporate Twitter accounts are harmlessly banal, and the same was true of the official Sonic the Hedgehog account – until Aaron Webber took over. Now Sonic’s famed ‘attitude’ is very much in evidence, and we get plenty of cheeky digs at other games and companies, such as this zinger on the disappointing launch of Mighty No. 9: “Congrats on the launch, ! It’s better than nothing.” Yowch.

It’s interesting to draw back the curtain on corporate social media and see the attention to detail and sheer strategy that goes into every post. Long gone are the days when a social media manager was just someone doubling up on their day job and firing off the odd tweet.

HOW BIASED ARE GAMES JOURNALISTS? – by Mr Biffo (Digitiser 2000)


Answer: just as biased as everyone else. Mr Biffo has given several takes on this subject in the past, but it’s always fascinating to read his well-formed opinions. Certainly games journalists aren’t any more biased than regular journalists or film critics – but perhaps video game fans are more vocal than most. Well, some are, at least.

Link’s Awakening: Rendering the opening cutscene (KZone)


This is a fascinating look at all the coding tricks that went into making that impressive cut scene that begins The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy. Man, they worked that little grey box hard to pull this off. I’ll admit to getting lost in the technical details about halfway through, but I can appreciate the skill that went into this.

Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.


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Review: Gunman Clive

gunman-cliveIt’s a great name, isn’t it? I can’t think of many video-game heroes with the name Clive, although there should definitely be more. In fact, the only famous Clives I can think of are Clive Anderson and Clive James. But where are all the young Clives? ARE there any young Clives?

And now I’m thinking about a video game starring Clive James. It would see him questing about the Outback meeting B-list celebrities and gently mocking them as he delivers satirical monologues. It would be called Clive James on Video Games in honour of his long-running ITV television show Clive James on Television, and it would feature appearances by Dame Edna Everage, Keith Floyd and Margarita Pracatan. It would be beautiful.


Gunman Clive is not that game. But it is beautiful nonetheless.

It’s basically Mega Man but in the Old West, although that description doesn’t really do it justice. It starts off with the usual cowboys shooting from behind wooden crates, but quickly escalates to the point where you’re fending off bomb-dropping pelicans and giant robots. It’s charmingly bonkers.

The game is the work of one man, Bertil Hörberg, who worked on the excellent Bionic Commando Rearmed – and we even get a cheeky nod to that game with one of the bosses. It’s pretty short – you could probably finish the whole thing in an hour – but it only costs a couple of quid, and there’s a really special character to unlock at the end.


These 2D platformer-y things usually aren’t my cup of tea, but Gunman Clive just nails the controls and level design so well that it became a joy to play. Dying causes you to start again at the beginning of the level, but the levels are so short that it doesn’t cause frustration, and the difficulty curve is spot on. The art style, too, is wonderful, all sepia tones and sketchbook lines that look great in motion.

Yet despite creating a little gem of a game, Hörberg seems to be fairly humble about his achievement. In the gameplay trailer, he describes the game as “a generic oldschool sidescroller” with “weird artsy-looking 3D graphics” and “lots of brown”.

For the record, Bertil, I love brown. More please.


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Spiffing Reads: Metroid Prime, Steve Jobs and the Dreamcast Barber

This week on Spiffing Reads, we start off with a mid-life crisis.


Pokémon Go, mid-life crisis and me, by Ellie Gibson (Eurogamer)

“I will be 40 next year, and I am in the midst of a mid-life crisis. How do I know this? It’s not because my idea of a party is staying in with a good Merlot and my complimentary copy of Waitrose Weekend. It’s not because I sometimes put Radio 6 Music on extra loud, in the hope my cool young neighbours will think I’m still a hep cat. And it’s not because I have multiple sexual fantasies about being trapped in a lift with the tall one out of the Making A Murderer lawyers. Although all these things are true.”

“No, my friends, it’s much worse than that. The other day, I bought a Pokémon Go T-shirt.”

To be fair, it IS a cool T-shirt.


Six Novels That Could Become Great Video Games (Kotaku UK)

If nothing else, this article has now expanded my ‘to read’ list considerably. I’d love to see a game based on the City Watch Discworld novels. And Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks sounds mightily intriguing.


After More Than a Year of Searching, Fans Have Found the Elusive Dreamcast Barber (Kotaku UK)

Remember that old Dreamcast advert where a group of barbers compete at shaving heads in an attempt to sell the world on online gaming? Well, this guy decided to track down the guy from the ad, and ended up finding out all sorts of interesting stuff along the way…


Metroid Prime director on making the game, Nintendo’s influence, leaving Retro (Nintendo Everything)

This is actually a news story on a Game Informer podcast where they spoke to Mark Pacini, who was a key figure in the creation of Metroid Prime. The most interesting titbit is that Nintendo pushed for the scanning system to be included in that game, but Retro Studios were initially resistant, seeing it as more of an action game. How different it could have been…


A TRIBUTE TO STEVE JOBS (Digitiser 2000)

And finally, this made me chuckle far, far too much.

Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.


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Review: Child of Light

child_of_light_artMy first impressions of Child of Light weren’t that great. I’d realised that week that I just don’t particularly get on with 2D platformers any more, and after half an hour of jumping around I was ready to give up after “the same old platforms and puzzles reared their ugly heads”.

But I’m glad I went back to it, because it actually turns out to be a fun little game.

Of course, really it’s not a platformer at all, it’s a 2D RPG, and soon after the point at which I initially gave up I received the gift of flight in the form of tiny fairy wings. This turned out to be a literal game changer, completely removing the need for leaping about – and it made the game much more fun as a result. By drifting lazily through the levels on my tiny wings, I had more space to appreciate the real beauty of the hand-drawn artwork in that game. And it really is a stunner. “A fairy-tale storybook come to life” is the phrase at the forefront of my mind – and in fact the game presents itself as a tale of a fantasy kingdom being retold.

Also, it has the best hair animation I’ve ever seen. Your tresses float along behind you as if carried on some invisible current, an effect that even drew coos of appreciation from the normally cynical Mrs Merriweather.


Speaking of Mrs Merriweather, she did enquire at one point why I was playing a “girl’s game”. I considered the evidence. Yes, I was controlling a princess with fairy wings. Yes, one of the members of my party was an adorably cute mouse called Robert with a tiny hunting bow. Yes, I had fabulous hair. Hmmm.

At that point I did what any red-blooded male would do under the circumstances… and berated her for her narrow-mindedness when it came to gender divisions. I am fully in touch with my feminine side, and it thinks that mouse is  SO GODDAMNED CUTE I COULD JUST EAT IT ALL UP.


Going back to the game, it’s not all hairstyles over substance. The turn-based battle system is pretty nifty, with a well-implemented skill tree that had me carefully considering my strategy and play style as I chose which path to go down. The battle system itself relies on a meter that shows a ‘wait phase’ and an ‘attack phase’ – you can line up attacks at the beginning of the attack phase, but if you get hit between the start and the end of the attack phase, your attack is cancelled and your character gets pushed back down to the wait phase. Of course, you can inflict the same annoyance on enemies, too. It’s certainly not a new system – I’m certain I’ve played a game that used something like this before, possibly Skies of Arcadia – but it works really well.


One thing that doesn’t work well is the game’s insistence in presenting dialogue in tortuous rhyme. It raised a small smile at first, but then when the characters carried on speaking in rhyming couplets after the first few interactions I had the horrendous realisation that the designers intended to keep this up for the ENTIRE GAME. I wonder whether at any point, as the script writers were struggling to come up with yet another rhyme for an awkward word, they said to the person next to them: “Hey, maybe this rhyming thing was a bad idea? Maybe we should just, you know, stop?”

This was probably met with the rejoinder: “NO PHILIP! We’ve come so far, we can’t possibly stop now! I’M GOING TO SEE THIS THING THROUGH TO THE BITTER END, SO HELP ME GOD. Now, what’s a rhyme for ‘attack phase’?”

The game is also a little bit on the short side – roughly 10 hours or so. Reading online, this seems to have annoyed people who picked up the game for full price at launch, but as far as I’m concerned, the shorter the better. My precious gaming time is at a premium these days. (And it helps that I bought it on sale.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some woodland creatures to level up.

Buy Child of Light on Amazon and we get a little cash. Ta!


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I finally got a PS4

Finally, more than two years after its launch, I’ve bought a PS4. Hurrah!

After blitzing my way through my backlog and selling a ton of games, I had the cash to hand. I spotted a sweet deal – a 500GB PS4 with No Man’s Sky, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Force Awakens Blu-ray and and extra controller for £269 – and I decided to treat myself for my birthday (which was last weekend). Hello current console generation, I’m here!


Now, in some ways this is probably the worst time to buy a PS4 – on Wednesday Sony is going to officially announce the much-leaked PS4 Slim and PS4 Neo, so prices for first-gen PS4s are likely to plummet. But in the end I decided that prices probably won’t drop much lower than the deal I got. And anyway, I’ve waited so damn long that I JUST CAN’T WAIT ANY LONGER.

Also, it was my birthday, and I was determined that my treat would be the chance to go and explore undiscovered planets. It was either that or go-karting.

Speaking of No Man’s Sky, I’m having an absolute blast with it so far – I’m currently in the Led Zeppelin II galaxy and I’ve just had my first encounter with space pirates. Which didn’t go too well. Better shields is the next thing on my shopping list…

I’ll post more thoughts on the game later, but safe to say I’m having a whale of a time. My strategy is currently to ping about between the first couple of star systems in order to max out my ship, a bit like this guy who spent 30 hours on the first planet. Even on a single planet, there’s just so much to see – I keep telling myself “I’ll just see what’s over this ridge”, and before I know it hours have passed, along with countless ridges. I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but for the time being I’m in spacehog’s heaven.


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