First Impressions: Super Beat Sports

Not since SSX Tricky back in 2001 have I played a game that is such pure fun! That’s not to say that this game is as good as that one – Tricky is one of my all time favourites. But every time I finish a song in Super Beats Sports I have a huge smile on my face! The combination of sports and music is a fantastic idea and one that I will be dipping into for ages myself and then over and over again playing with friends and family.2017111214561800-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

The premise is pretty simple in Super Beats Sports – you are whacking balls about the place as you would in most any sports title. Here though the timing to get a perfect strike is determined by you locking into the music, just as you would in any rhythm titles like Rock Band 4. It’s a completely genius idea as you get to play sports through each song but get that feeling of satisfaction from nailing a good performance at the end.2017111313472900-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

There are 5 game modes called wonderful things like ‘Whacky Bat‘ and ‘Net Ball‘ – I’ll look at each in more detail when I come to do a full review but my initial impressions are that they are hit and miss (pun entirely intended). Perhaps as I get more into the latter ones I will enjoy them more but there’s a risk with them that they get too complex and that takes away from the sheer joy of the more straight forward modes. Or maybe I just need to get better!2017111215014800-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

The Boy is loving this too. It’s simple enough for him to pick up and play but still a challenge to get into the groove and nail each shot. The way winning is rewarded also appeals to him – you can collect things like different bats and different outfits and you get them faster the better you do. In multiplayer it’s also been a blast for him to add the interaction to the mix as well – not since we were playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe every day earlier in the year has he had a game to consistently play with lots of other people.2017112117470200-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

There’s still a ton for us to do in Super Beat Sports so look out for the full review. I also haven’t got around to checking it out with motion controls Wii-Sports-style yet either – that will probably be hilarious in multiplayer as well. In the meantime it’s fair to say I am totally smitten with this game, if that wasn’t obvious enough already!2017111111315900-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

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Retro Controllers on Nintendo Switch

One of the many great things about the Nintendo Switch is the flexibility of the control options available. A single set of Joy Cons can be used for single player or split for multiplayer. A lot of the time this works nicely – The Boy and I have spent many hours with friends and family playing 4-player Mario Kart from two sets of split Joy Cons, for example. However, the recent advent of Rocket League on the Switch has revealed that this doesn’t work very well for every game – not if you value the continued use of your hands, anyway! Single Joy Con play is pretty uncomfortable in Rocket League so we needed better solutions. More sets of Joy Cons or the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller are all good options, but also fairly expensive. What we ended up with was getting a couple of great retro options for players 3 and 4, at a fraction of the price.20171127_230108.jpg

Player 3 Controller – 8Bitdo NES30
This awesome looking controller is made by a company called 8Bitdo, who specialise in retro-styled controllers. This one is influenced by the look of the original NES controller, but is fully modern with all of the buttons required, including clickly-sticks and double-shoulder buttons. They were recently updated to include Switch support.20171127_225911.jpg

The first step was to update the firmware via computer and then it was, in theory, ready to go. A word of warning to anyone considering one of these though – I tried over and over to get it to pair up with my Switch and it was super frustrating. Then I popped the Switch into the dock and bingo – it paired up first time. It’s been fine docked or undocked since, but just remember to do that the first time. The functionality and responsiveness are a match for any controller out there and it looks amazing. So far everyone who has seen ours has been wowed and fascinated. It’s only downside is that in order to maintain it’s retro pedigree it’s shape isn’t that comfortable for long sessions – but it does only get used by us for multiplayer gaming, so that’s fine.

Player 4 Controller – GameCube Controller & Adapter
Back in the Wii U days, Nintendo released an adapter to allow GameCube controllers to be used for Smash Bros on the Wii U. Now they have updated the Switch to bring that functionality to current games. It’s better in fact as now the GameCube controllers can be used for any game on the Switch. Thus I dusted off our old GameCube pad and we added a 4th full controller with just the addition of the adapter.20171127_230026.jpg

It can be a little temperamental to this get going – you have to go into the ‘Search Controllers‘ dialog on the Switch, back out of it and then press L+R to get it recognised by the Switch. It also takes up two of the three available USB ports on the Switch dock. Finally it lacks the full quota of buttons compared to modern controllers so you will not be able to play every game with it. But for us, again, it only gets used for multiplayer gaming so that’s rarely a problem – the odd buttons aside, I have remembered what a great controller the GameCube one was.20171127_230008.jpg

Conclusions
The ultimate fact is that this is a great and inexpensive way to add more controllers to the Nintendo Switch. If you love a little bit of retro styling to your modern gaming then these solutions are sure to appeal and be admired by your friends and family members. They aren’t perfect but if you can’t afford a set of 4 Pro Controllers then this is really fun way of making your multiplayer sessions more enjoyable.

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Click here to purchase the 8Bitdo NES30 from Amazon.co.uk:

 

The ol’ switcheroo: First Impressions of FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch

A lot of criticism has come the way of this game. “The gameplay is slow”. “The online features are lacking”. “Story mode ‘The Journey’ is missing” etc etc etc. All of this may or may not be true but all of it is really missing the point: this is FIFA on the Switch! A proper football game I can play on the go! That is unbeatable.2017101217474100-062DD3BC3CF59885A6762E5A30A14CD1
Of course, it is true that this one lacks features compared to the ‘full’ console versions on Xbox One and PS4. I would have liked to have ‘The Journey’ to play through after enjoying the Madden version Longshot’ so much recently. Otherwise, though, all these comparisons don’t really mean anything unless you are making a choice of a football game to play only on your TV. For anyone who has a Switch and would like to play it out on the go this would have to be a demonstrably bad game for it not to be a no-brainer. And it really is not a bad game.2017101008414300-062DD3BC3CF59885A6762E5A30A14CD1
I want two things out of FIFA each year: 1) to play through a manager career until I’ve taken Milton Keynes Dons all the way up the leagues to Champions League winners (isn’t it nice how video games don’t have to be like reality?!) and 2) some fun multiplayer time either with The Boy or online. FIFA 18 nails all that and now I can play online on the TV, or with The Boy on the kitchen table, or career mode on the train to work. What’s not to like here?2017101217345800-062DD3BC3CF59885A6762E5A30A14CD1
Anyway, first impressions of the actual game are good too. As usual there are only small incremental changes to last year, but if it ain’t broke… I mostly judge a football game on whether it leads you to end up attacking in only one way. Some years you end up only trying to score with through balls, or with long shots, or whatever else, because that method just works so much better than anything else that variety isn’t worth it. That is not the case here – I’ve hammered them in from 20 yards out, used quick short passing around the edge of the box and crossed in to head home. It’s well balanced and all the better for it.2017100208175900-062DD3BC3CF59885A6762E5A30A14CD1
I’ll dig further into the game and it’s options in a full review later on but at this point suffice to say: do you want to play a football game, a proper football game, on the go? If so, you will love FIFA 18 on the Switch.2017101118570700-062DD3BC3CF59885A6762E5A30A14CD1

Click here to purchase the game on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:

The Annual Sports Game Merry-Go-Round

Every year in early autumn there is a run of sports games released. EA puts out its latest version of Football (FIFA), American Football (Madden), Basketball (NBA Live) and Ice Hockey (NHL). There are a few others that also compete in the space such as Pro Evolution Soccer or the NBA games from 2k amongst others. Each year reviews of these games are full of references to what has or hasn’t changed since the previous entry and whether or not a full new game can be ‘justified’. However, also each year these games sell really well, so there clearly is a market for the newer versions. As each edition is out now for this year I thought I’d take a look at a couple of the issues surrounding this merry-go-round that the industry has found itself in.25-09-2017_22-10-46

A justified update

Essentially this part boils down to: is a set of new kits, updated leagues (where applicable) and updated rosters with all the right players in the right teams worth the full price of a brand new game? In many ways it is hard to argue that it is; these games have regular roster updates through the season anyway and they have many kits available for each team as it is – downloading some new ones wouldn’t be a problem. But really the issue is not so much should EA and the others publish full new games but can they. At the end of the day, the only reason they wouldn’t do this is if people stopped buying them – which is clearly not the case. Those of us that buy these games year-in year-out justify the updates ourselves!

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If it ain’t broke

All that said, each game is always released to a fanfare heralding the changes and improvements to the game play since the last edition – but is this always a good thing? I have enjoyed each year’s FIFA update either more or less than the previous one depending on the changes made. Some have felt more restrictive – rewarding you only for playing in a certain way – whilst others have felt more open, allowing scoring opportunities from multiple different attacks. Contrast this with recent Madden updates; for the past 2 or 3 years only minor incremental updates to the actual gameplay have been made. When something is working, it makes no sense to change it for the sake of it.

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Multiple games in one

So, the developers and publishers of these sports games have no incentive to make huge changes each year but do want to make a show of having new features in order to compete in a crowded autumn of sports games. What can they do? The answer over the last few years appears to be new gameplay modes. Ten years ago a sports game would have had all the standard cups and leagues, some basic online play and probably a franchise/manager/master league mode for a more in-depth experience. These days sports games are essentially multiple games in one with the addition of modes like Ultimate Team, Be A Pro, story modes and other slightly different modes like Threes in the new NHL. On top of that the online play options are now hugely varied.2017093007194500-062DD3BC3CF59885A6762E5A30A14CD1

Conclusion

For the record, I look forward with bated breath each year to the new FIFA and the new Madden games and snap them up without fail. The chance to play with all the new players and teams without any hassle is enough for me to part with my cash. The decision isn’t so much ‘can I justify paying this money‘ as it is ‘I want that stuff and paying the money is the way to get it‘! As such, I for one am appreciating all the new modes that these games are gathering up over time. Particularly when they are as good as the new Longshot story mode in Madden NFL 18. Look out for more on that in my next blog post!

What about you? Do you look forward to these games, or are they a rip-off? Let us know in the comments below.

Splat Falls Flat

I came into Splatoon 2 not entirely sure what to think. I missed the first one due to not having a Wii U so I didn’t have any anticipation based on that. On the other hand though, it’s a first-party game on a Nintendo console so I definitely wanted to give it a try. Ultimately though, I find myself disappointed and I won’t be playing it any further.2017090818544600-397A963DA4660090D65D330174AC6B04
Initial impressions were good. The basic concept of collecting paint and spraying it about the place is great and the different weapons you’re given to do that all work nicely in their different ways. The Boy also enjoyed it to begin with – he never reached the point of online multiplayer but he tackled the first few chapters of the story and talked with enthusiasm about his exploits.2017090912351600-397A963DA4660090D65D330174AC6B04
Unfortunately, this is as far as it went for us. The game is a one-trick-pony and doesn’t have enough about it to keep it fresh for a long time. The single player game remains almost the same throughout leaving it to quickly become stale, lifeless and repetitive. Any new elements that are introduced just serve as inconveniences rather than new challenges. The boss encounters are decent but the slog to arrive at them isn’t worth it. In fact, after a while my favourite part of the story mode was the various staging areas where finding the entrance to a new level became an interesting puzzle. Lastly, you are given a small amount of lives to complete each level and no way to get more – fine in terms of giving enemy battles more edge but very annoying when you lose them from simply accidentally falling off the edge.2017091108140300-397A963DA4660090D65D330174AC6B04
Multiplayer is better but not great. My favourite mode was Turf War where your team needs to cover more of the map in your colour paint than the opposition within the time limit. The onus on splatting paint took the focus away from the rushed and confusing combat. This is supposed to be Nintendo’s take on the third person shooter but as with a lot of things that try and combine elements, neither ends up being that great. If you want a charming Nintendo game, go elsewhere. If you want a shooter, go elsewhere.2017090819052900-397A963DA4660090D65D330174AC6B04

REVIEW: Super Mario Galaxy

  • Released: 2007
  • Played on: Nintendo Wii
  • Also available on: –
  • Time to get into: 1 Hour
  • Time to complete: 30 Hours
  • Multiplayer: no

All I can say, after finally playing this game just the ten years late, is thank goodness for The Boy and his enthusiasm for all things Mario. It was he who insisted we pick this up. This is a wonderful game and my favourite Mario game ever – in fact, just one of my favourite games ever, full stop. I won’t be too thorough in reviewing this game as it’s been out for so long but if, like me, you somehow managed to miss this the first time around then let me have a few moments of your time to explain why you need to go and fix that as soon as possible!

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The Nintendo Way
Super Mario Galaxy is huge victory for function over form – it’s all about the gameplay. This is the Nintendo way, isn’t it?! The other aspects of the game are all adequate. The graphics are fine, although even in 2007 they weren’t groundbreaking due to the Wii not being built to compete on specs. The story is the same as every Mario game – you know; Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach, Mario fights through various obstacles to rescue her etc etc. Standard, but that is fine. On the other hand, everything about the actual gameplay is spectacular – the level design, the platforming action, and the controls to combine them.

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Levels and Galaxies
The sheer variety of environments you will find yourself in is remarkable. As Mario jumps from planet to planet – sometimes even within levels – you’ll not only find yourself on solid platforms but in water, in the air, on platforms that are sinking into lava and many more. If anything, what’s most remarkable about this is that it never feels overwhelming – the game does a great job of guiding you to what you need to do. Only once or twice did I get stuck and even then when I figured it out it was simply that I had somehow missed something obvious!
On top of all this my personal favourite thing about the levels was how the game messes with gravity. There are a number of levels where different platforms have different directions of gravity. Some even let you influence that gravity yourself. Mario can then move around levels walking on the walls and ceilings as well as the floor. Gravity is clearly an important part of a game called ‘Galaxy’ but the developers have gone so much further in harnessing that to open up new areas for Mario to move around in.

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Actions and Power-ups
Every action that Mario can take feels totally smooth and natural. Running, jumping and spinning quickly all work nicely and the placement and timing of Mario’s moves can give different results, opening up even more options for getting through levels and defeating enemies. Power ups are also brilliant at adding more aspects to the gameplay. Bee Mario can fly, Spring Mario can leap high, Fire Mario can light torches on fire to open up new sections etc.

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Controls and Remotes
Traversing these wonderful and varied levels with these spectacular and varied moves is made fantastic by the control scheme. Super Mario Galaxy combines normal button-and-stick inputs with motion controls on the Wii Remote. It does this almost perfectly! Moving Mario about is usually the domain of the stick on the Nunchuck. The buttons take care of actions like jumping. Finally moving the Remote around is used to gather the collectibles, pointing when required and shaking to get Mario to spin. This combination quickly becomes second nature – if only more Wii games back in the day could have combined Wii Remote motion controls with more standard controls to such great effect.

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Verdict
What a fun game this is! I always looked forward to what the next level would have in store for me. Run, jump, spin, fly, buzz, bounce, skate – every action was a joy from beginning to end. The ultimate platformer.

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First Impressions: Madden NFL 18

Another year, another Madden. Right? Just some cosmetic tweaks that don’t really make much difference and new rosters. Right? Well, yes, that is exactly the case in many ways. However, this year’s Madden may have an ace up it’s sleeve that could propel this edition above the usual yearly touch-up.

When Dez beats his man off the line of scrimmage – don’t think, just throw. from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

The place I normally head to in a new Madden is Franchise Mode. I select my Dallas Cowboys and set about trying to win the Superbowl. In that aspect, nothing significant has changed. The menus and systems are almost exactly the same, allowing you tweak your depth charts and upgrade your players. The game itself is very similar too, although there is a reasonably significant jump in graphical detail this time around which does add something. I’m 4-1 at the moment, so looking good for the playoffs if I can keep it up! So far so good – if you’re the kind of person that picks up this game every year then there is enough here to make sure you won’t feel let down.02-09-2017_09-37-17
However, there is one thing that might shoot this edition up, from a decent update to a top sports game: Longshot. This is a new story-based mode where you play as an aspiring young quarterback trying to get drafted by an NFL team. It’s early days, I’ve only completed the first act so far, but this might well be a game changer. So far I have really enjoyed it – many sports games try and add a story or career mode to hold the matches together but what really sets this apart is how it has tapped into the psyche of a football fan. Every young fan wants to be a player when they grow up and every older fan is looking at the college game to see which kids their team should draft. The story you are playing through is something we watch unfold year after year. It feels real: this is not Roy of the Rovers stuff, and is much the better for it.04-09-2017_23-42-16
Time will tell if Longshot can come through on it’s promise. In the meantime I have a game coming up against the 49ers and I have injuries along the O-Line. Might be a tough one.

Click here to purchase the game on Xbox One from Amazon.co.uk:
Click here to purchase the game on PS4 from Amazon.co.uk:
Click here to purchase a download code for Xbox One from Amazon.co.uk: