From The Armchair: False Starts and Fires

ArmchairWhat ho, chums!

As we hurtle down the final furlong of the year, I for one will be grateful for the powerful respite offered by the festive season. The past few months have seen unending turmoil, mostly thanks to my relocation from London to “The McManor” in beautiful Edinburgh. This tumult has been combined with oodles of work-related travel and a punishing editing schedule, meaning that I am, for want of a more gentlemanly word, utterly knackered.

Thankfully I have a fairly quiet January to look forward to, and I have lined up a series of gaming treats to while away the gloomy hours, ranging from Pokemon X to Alien: Isolation. I’m also looking forward to a marathon Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate session with my sister on Christmas Day while the rest of the family digest turkey and slump in front of whatever dreadful film they’re showing on BBC1 (I’ve just checked, it’s Gnomeo & Juliet).

But in the meantime, I managed to sneak in a little gaming this weekend. After a last-minute dash to the post office, followed by frantic cleaning and fevered present wrapping, I miraculously found myself with a little bit of time to myself. And to top it all off, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U arrived in the post that very morning – fate decreed a gaming night.

Sonic, Mega Man and Mario together in a game at last.
Sonic, Mega Man and Mario together in a game at last.

After settling down with Smash, I was initially very confused. But after working through the myriad menus and sub-menus, I eventually found the single-player campaign and joyfully tore my way through Classic mode with a couple of different characters. First impressions are very favourable: the game looks stunning, and it seems to be a big improvement on Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which never really grabbed me. And once I started rooting through all the different menus, I was astonished by how much content was on offer – there are dozens of ways to play the game, of which All-Stars mode is my favourite so far. And then there’s the Amiibo compatibility – training an Amiibo to fight was surprisingly fun, even though really there’s not a lot you can do with them in the game except fight alongside one in online or local multiplayer. But it’s difficult to avoid getting attached to them and start ascribing them with a personality, especially with all the customisation options on offer. And now I want more Amiibos (see ‘Amiibo fever‘).

Little Inferno: it's mostly about burning things.
Little Inferno: it’s mostly about burning things.

After a few hours of pummelling Nintendo characters, I decided to take a break and see what was happening on the Nintendo eShop. Well, a Christmas sale, as it turns out, which quickly prompted purchases of Little Inferno and Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition. Yes, after months of fastidiously whittling down my gaming backlog, it’s suddenly growing again, undoing all that hard work. But dammit, it’s Christmas, the time for unbridled consumer spending!

I loaded up Little Inferno straight away, and the art style and bizarre humour immediately grabbed me. The game itself simply involves throwing various strange objects into a fireplace and watching them burn, but the twisted characters and mysterious plot make it strangely compelling, along with the odd ways in which the objects combust. I’m looking forward to playing all the way through to find out more about the strange world it’s set in.

Haytham: more interesting than Connor.
Haytham: more interesting than Connor.

After an hour of flinging things into a fire I fancied a change, so I loaded up Assassin’s Creed III. I started playing the Wii U version of this recently, and I’m not that far in. So far, my impressions have been decidedly mixed. Barely anything happens for the first few missions, and rather than placing you in the midst of a metropolis that you can explore at your leisure, you’re instead funneled down fairly linear routes in the American countryside. Also, I found Haytham Kenway to be a far more interesting character than Connor Kenway, and it was quite disappointing to find out I’d be mostly stuck with the latter. Then there’s the perennial modern-day bits with Desmond Miles, a character so bland that it feels as if he’s been designed by a committee. But despite all of this, I still quite enjoyed romping through the trees, being all assassin-ey, even if the game takes an absolute age to get going. On the strength of what I’ve seen so far, however, it’s definitely the weakest in the series.

So, dear reader, what are your gaming plans for the Christmas period and beyond? And what games are you looking forward to in 2015?

Toodle pip for now… and Merry Christmas!