REVIEW: Minecraft (Nintendo Switch)

  • Released: 2017 for this version, 2011 originally
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: basically everything!
  • Time to get into: 30 minutes
  • Time to complete: you don’t, really!
  • Multiplayer: yes, both local and online

There seems no point in a standard review of Minecraft, as most of the world knows it well already. Equally I can’t make this a specific review for the Nintendo Switch version as I haven’t really played this game on any other platforms, so I can’t compare. As such, I will basically walk through my experiences with the game and hopefully that will still be interesting for most people, whilst also showing those few people – like me until recently – who haven’t ever ‘got’ Minecraft why they should definitely start ‘getting’ it right away!

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I’ve typically not enjoyed games where there are no, or few, specific goals. Viva Pinata and Animal Crossing come to mind straight away as games that I really tried to enjoy but ended up drifting away from feeling that I needed more purpose. Others I simply never tried. Consequently, I had never been that excited about Minecraft as I expected it to be more of the same. And it is! However, the one thing that it does differently is make the entire environment, not just the activities you can engage in, malleable and moldable.
I really only came back to Minecraft because of how successful it continues to be. It’s available on almost every platform where games are played and is the 2nd highest selling game in history. I kept thinking, all those people must be onto something, no?! My only previous experience had been playing part of the tutorial of the Pocket Edition on Android a few years ago, so when The Boy showed some interest in playing it on the Switch, I decided that now was the time to give it a proper go.

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My first house
I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do in Minecraft, probably because there is no such thing really, but what I have done is basically build bigger and bigger houses for me to sleep in. Given that this is the Super Mario edition of Minecraft the first thing I did was change my character to be Luigi – I’m always Luigi – although in the end I preferred first person view so I rarely see him anymore. My need for some purpose has meant that I only play in Survival mode so the first thing I needed to do was build myself a small shelter. I did this in the tutorial initially but quickly started my own world and this is where I started to cotton on to what everyone has been on about with Minecraft: I built the smallest, most rubbish house in all of history – but it was mine!

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This is one half of what Minecraft does that makes it a step above other exploration/crafting/building/etc games. The things that you build with – ie a block of stone or dirt – are so small that everything you build is authentically yours. To compare it to one of my examples from above – Viva Pinata allows you to lay out your garden however you wish, but you are still bound to the size and the items offered by the game. In Minecraft you have an almost completely clean slate and thus you do get a sense of achievement and progression, simply from completing the things that you set out to build.

The world is your oyster
After expanding that first house I went in search of a village. Even in a video game, community is important! However, even after days and days of searching (and nights and nights at the top of mountains trying to stay safe) I still hadn’t found one. I decided to take the short cut of finding a seed code from the internet where I knew I’d find a village nearby and that made the entire thing more enjoyable for someone like me with a need for purpose. I found a place near some water (it looks like an ocean – I’ve not built a boat yet) to re-build my tiny house and went from there, trying to interact with the villagers and investigating the surrounding area.

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It was now that the other half of what makes Minecraft great started to reveal itself. Now I was settled in an area I started to wonder what I could improve about it. There was a thin strip of sand between the water and the area I’d built my house – I decided that it ought to be a beach! This is the game’s true genius. It’s not just building that it is entirely in your hands – it’s the very fabric of the environment you are in. The only thing standing between you and molding your entire world as you see fit is putting in the time. I started with the beach but from there I’ve built a hill and put a massive house on top with a glass facade so that I wake from my bed in the morning to see my beach. Then I’ve built a huge mine cart track that goes straight through the top floor of my house and around to another area. The phrase ‘the world is your oyster’ has never been so literally true as it is in Minecraft.

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The Dark Side
The last thing I’ve done that is worth commenting on is the actual mining that the game is named for. I was and still am surprised how daunting it is to head underground to where the monsters are. But it’s necessary as that is where all the good stuff is! My cart track works thanks to the Redstone I’ve found underground, I’ve traded a lot of coal to my fellow villagers for Emeralds and I’ve also got some Diamond and Lapis Lazuli tucked away in a chest now for when I figure out what to do with it. As luck would have it after lots of digging I suddenly opened up into a massive cave with lots of these things available. It took me many days and nights (and deaths and trips back!) to gather just the obvious stuff from here. I’m now thinking of finding another area to make a cart track stop at and dig down and down to see what I can find.

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Verdict
This game is spectacular. Where it forgoes achievements, purpose and story it gives you complete control over your activities, outside of the need to stay alive. I really don’t know where this game would ever stop, or how it could ever get boring. I’ve spent upwards of 40 hours already and haven’t really reached very far away from my base area. I’m very much looking forward to the hours of gaming ahead.Review5

Gold Wheels at last! MK8D is done.

Finally The Boy and I have completed Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and collected the Gold Wheels! 2017080820012500-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5See our previous post on Gold Mario (here) for our progress at that point. What we had left to do was beat the ghost set by the staff on all 48 tracks in Time Trial mode. It has taken a long time and a lot of effort but we are there!

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Here we both are in a race afterwards showing off our All-Gold Marios:2017080820160900-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5

The Top 5 tracks that we found the hardest were:
5. Dolphin Shoals
4. Cloudtop Cruise
3. SNES Rainbow Road
2. Big Blue
1. Wario Stadium
Most of them were reasonably straight forward with whatever character and vehicle customisations you liked but there were a few that really made you have to figure out what characteristics you needed to go with to get the best time. To beat our nemesis, Wario Stadium, we ended up with Bowser Jr, the Koopa Clown kart and Roller tyres.2017080820002100-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5

Thankfully it proved to be just enough! The whole process has been a lot of fun – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is such a good game, how could it be anything else?! Now when we play online we can show off our All-Gold Mario to the world!

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Click below to purchase Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:

Or click below to purchase a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe download code from CDKeys.com:

Portability For The Win

Let me be clear about something: I love the Nintendo Switch! It has some great games already but what really sets it apart is the portability. The ability to play ‘proper’ games on the go has changed the opportunities that I have to play and how much I enjoy playing.
Last weekend I was in Brussels with the family. Before the Switch this would have meant a few days without games but no longer. Here we are playing on the Eurostar on the journey there:

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Other confectionery brands are available!

Even once arrived, it was easy to play when we were relaxing between bits of exploring, be it in a sports bar:

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Or even in Starbucks overlooking the Grand Place:

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Mobile games are fine but touch screen controls are restrictive compared to full controllers. The Switch is the best of both worlds and I would no longer consider getting a game that was available for the Switch on any other system. Why tie yourself to the TV when you can have the flexibility of playing anywhere, any time? I reckon this is exactly what Nintendo was aiming for with the console and they have nailed it. Long live the Nintendo Switch!

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Other beer brands are available!

Click here to purchase the Nintendo Switch from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the Switch stand that we use from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase Puyo Puyo Tetris from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase Mario Kart 8 Deluxe from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase a code for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe from CDKeys.com:

Round-Up: Console Controller Comparison

Why does a controller matter?
The controller is an oft-forgotten but key part of the gaming experience. At the end of the day it’s the only thing where the player is physically connected to what’s happening in-game so it really is significant! I’m surprised that more isn’t made of controllers when new games and new consoles are considered and reviewed, so I thought I would collect together my thoughts on the three main console controllers; Xbox One, PS4 and Switch – just looking at the standard ones that some in the box. I believe there are two main things that make a good controller: responsiveness and comfort.

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Responsiveness
The controller needs buttons that feel completely responsive, to remove as much of the barrier between the player’s actions and what happens on screen as possible. Any disparity, such as latency between button press and action, or even just the feeling that the button is harder/easier to press than it should be and the immersion of the gamer in the game is lessened.

Comfort
The controller needs to be comfortable simply due to the length of time that it will be held by the gamer. Even a quick 5 minute thrash around a track in a racing game it a fairly long time to tightly hold on to something like that, let alone the multi-hour sessions that a lot of us get involved in. If the shape, weight or feel of the controller isn’t great it’s ultimately going to hurt!

Controller Comparison: Xbox One

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The Xbox Controller has evolved over the years from the massive ‘Duke‘ controller that came out with Halo in 2002 all the way through to the recently released ‘Elite‘ controller for Xbox One. I believe that the Xbox controller is the best available right now because it really nails one of the above criteria – responsiveness. The basic feel of it in the hand is fine, if nothing remarkable, but every single button, be it face buttons to triggers just feels right in-game. The triggers are smooth for accelerating and braking vehicles and also quick for firing weapons. The shoulder buttons are easy to press for changing settings but also solid for throwing punches and other melee attacks. The face buttons are heavy enough for precision timing without being too heavy for quick button-bashing. They really have nailed it!

Controller Comparison : Playstation 4, ‘Dual Shock 4’

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The current Dual Shock excels in the other stipulation above – comfort. Although I have some issues with the buttons being slightly spongy and their placement being odd (why are the triggers the bottom of the controller? They often catch on things) these minor gripes are made up by the great feel in the hand. The wider size compared to previous Dual Shocks is a better fit and the weight and depth of the controller feels great even after extended gaming sessions.

Controller Comparison : Nintendo Switch, ‘Joy Cons’

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These are a totally different beast from the two controllers above. They are designed for a different purpose as the need for them to be easy to take off and used in multiple ways – on the console, by themselves or together on the grip – is more important than their responsiveness or comfort. In some ways the Pro Controller for Nintendo Switch would be a closer comparison but I really wanted to compare only what you get in-the-box here. What’s great about the Joy Cons actually is that they don’t have to skimp too far in order to achieve their versatility. Whilst in a direct fight they would be third best here in both responsiveness or comfort they actually get remarkably close considering all the things they need to be able to do.

Verdict
All three of the controllers that you get in the box with these current consoles have their strengths. And all three are decent in the other areas too. It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come: 15 years ago I would have been putting down the original Xbox controller and picking up a Dual Shock 2 and not enjoying the feel of either in my hands. With these controllers available today we really are spoilt!

What about you? Which is your favourite controller on consoles at the moment? And which is your favorite ever?! Let us know in the comments below.

Click here to purchase the Xbox Controller from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the Dual Shock 4 from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the Joy Cons from Amazon.co.uk:

In addition, click here to purchase the gGrip for the Joy Cons from Amazon.co.uk:

And lastly, if you’re interested, here is the Pro Controller for Switch from Amazon.co.uk:

REVIEW: New Super Mario Bros 2

  • Released: 2012
  • Played on: Nintendo 2DS
  • Also available on: – (3DS of course)
  • Time to get into: 30 minutes
  • Time to complete: 8 hours
  • Multiplayer: No, although someone else with another console and copy of the game near you can play co-op

I’m not going to labour this review too much for two reasons. Firstly, this game first came out in 2012 and secondly you already know what I’m going to say! Let’s be honest; a) it’s a 2D side-scrolling platformer, so how good can it really be? But then b) it’s a Mario game, so how bad can it really be? It had 4 stars written all over it before I even started and that is exactly where I am at the end as well!

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It’s more of the same… but that’s ok
You know the drill: Bowser and his minions have kidnapped Princess Peach and you are going to get her back. Here you’ll be chasing them down across 6 ‘Worlds’ of varying types facing all the usual different kinds of enemies and other hazards. However old this formula gets there is something about Mario that means it never gets tired! What Nintendo have done to try and differentiate this iteration is an abundance of coins. New Super Mario Bros 2 is all about collecting coins and there are all kinds of mechanics to increase the number available to you. Ultimately this doesn’t really change the gameplay significantly although there is also an additional ‘Coin Rush‘ mode, where you have to dash through a selection of levels quickly whilst collecting as many coins as possible.

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It’s hard… but we’ll make it easy
The most noteworthy thing about this title is it’s odd take on difficulty. Back in the day games were often rock hard – I regularly started games knowing that I would probably never make it through to the end because having to do 30-odd levels without losing all my lives would prove more or less impossible. Compare that with modern day games where after taking a bit of damage you only need to hide briefly to get back to full health. Neither of those extremes is ideal but what this game does to try and bridge the gap is also not ideal.
On the one hand the game doesn’t go easy on you – outside of collecting power-ups (that you then lose when hit), it’s basically a one-shot-kill concept here. Each shell or flame or anything else that you run into will kill you and send you out of the level. As such, particularly when learning each new level to begin with, there is lots of restarting here. Not only that but the game only allows you to save progress every few levels, so if you were to run out of lives on the level before one of those you actually get sent back 3 or 4 levels, not just to the start of that one.
All of this could seem frustrating to your modern day gamer but what Nintendo have done to mitigate it is essentially give you a cop out option. Any level that you have failed at least five times you are thereafter given a White Raccoon power up for Mario. Whilst you can still fall down on levels without a floor this otherwise allows you to sail through each level – busting through each creature trying to get you as if they weren’t there. This even applies to the boss levels. It more or less removes any challenge from the level in question as you can just rush through to the end leaping over the gaps without a care in the world until you see ‘Course Cleared‘.

It’s a free pass.. but that’s not a bad thing
For me, this is a messy solution. It’s basically the same as being given a free pass on any level you are struggling with. I took to trying to ignore the shiny gold boxes until I really did start to get frustrated with a given level, when I did sometimes give in to the temptation. However, my opinion of this changed when I watched The Boy play. For him White Raccoon Mario was not only a fun thing to be given in and of itself but was actually a progress – and thus interest – saviour. He would start to get frustrated if he was stuck, close to the point of giving up on the game entirely but then the White Raccoon box would appear and his enthusiasm would return. For The Boy it wasn’t just level-skipping solution, it was a genuine aspect of the game, just like any of the other power ups. He would probably say it was even his favourite part!

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Verdict
It’s a fairly simple decision whether you want to play this game. Whilst a whole ton of fun, it’s not going to change your world at all so if you are looking for your next great game you can give this one a miss. On the other hand, if you are looking specifically for a game to pick up and play when out and about with your 2 or 3DS, but would like a decent amount of challenge, then this is one of your best options.

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Click below to purchase New Super Mario Bros 2 on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:
Click below to purchase the 2DS + New Super Mario Bros 2 from Amazon.co.uk:

REVIEW: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: –
  • Time to get into: 10 minutes
  • Time to complete: 40 hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local and online

Fans of racing games really are spoilt at the moment. If you enjoy braking zones, suspension settings and tyre wear then Forza Motorsport 6 is the best racing simulation game ever. If you enjoy tyre smoke, dodging traffic and open world racing then Forza Horizon 3 is the best arcade racing game ever. On the other hand if you like being on four wheels (or two!) but prefer boosts, shortcuts and weapons then we now have the best go-kart style racing game ever: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe! It’s takes everything that is good about the series to the max and puts it both in your hands and on your TV on the Nintendo Switch. It’s not far off perfection.

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Recipe
I’ve enjoyed every Mario Kart game that I’ve ever played but for me, until now, Mario Kart 64 was the best. It brought three dimensions to everything that was good about the original and thereafter every tweak to the formula – two characters per kart in Double Dash, motion steering on the Wii, anti-gravity in the original Mario Kart 8 – was fun in itself but didn’t improve the overall racing experience. What Mario Kart 8 Deluxe does so well is bring together the best parts of every installment into one package. The basic racing hasn’t changed since Mario Kart 64, (although it has benefited from enhancements to handing, graphics etc thanks to improved technology) but we now have all the extra ingredients from those other titles in their best format. Take, for example, the two characters per kart from the GameCube version: here we have kept the double weapon boxes, which add additional tactics to the races, but not the double characters, which was complexity for the sake of it. In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe you can choose whether to steer with motion controls like on the Wii, or keep it simple with the analog stick. It’s like Nintendo has been tweaking it’s recipe over time and has finally come up with the perfect cake. If you want to know what the cherry on top of that cake is, keep reading!

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Grand Prix
The main meat of the game is Grand Prix mode. The game has an entire 48 tracks – many new ones (or at least new in Mario Kart 8) and also a ton remastered ones from across all the previous 7 versions of the game. These are split into 12 Cups for you to go and win by getting high enough places to get the most points over the 4 races. For difficulty you can choose from progressively faster speeds of 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, Mirror (which is the same speed as 150cc but with everything mirrored, left turns are now right turns etc) and 200cc. Together these form a good learning curve – 50cc is very straight forward and 100cc reasonably so as well. After that the game decides that you’ve had it easy enough and there’s quite a jump up in difficulty to 150cc and another up to 200cc. It achieves this in two ways: increased speed but also by giving you a generally harder time of it compared to your competition. You’ll never really notice it in action but the catch up mechanic in the game (whereby you are slightly slowed down and given worse weapons at the front and vice versa) get more active on the faster settings. If that sounds unfair: it is. Deal with it!

My speed is my weapon
It’s important if you’re going to play on the harder settings to accept something: this game hates you! Or at least it does if you’re in first place. But this actually makes the game, as it forces you to get better and faster and to play more tactically, adding more depth to an initially simple game. Making sure you are collecting enough coins, power sliding into double weapon boxes and having a solid defense against those attacking you become the gameplay rather simply corners/straights and accelerating/braking. I’ve actually almost completely stopped using the weapons to attack other racers: I use them for defending and tell myself: my speed is my weapon!

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Other modes
Otherwise, you can get stuck into Time Trial mode where there’s a ghost for each track set by the Nintendo staff for you to beat. These are sometimes easy but mostly very challenging and teach you lines and shortcuts you can take back into races. This stuff is important if you want to ‘complete’ the game and get Gold Mario. See another blog post (here) to explain more on him!

You also have Battle Mode. I have never been that bothered by the battling in these games – I just want to race – but again in this game it is tweaked close to perfection. I really enjoy this mode for the first time. The arenas are of a similar ilk whilst each having it’s own unique parts and the different battle types mean that there will be something for everyone. Team games in this mode online are particularly crazy and enjoyable! Shine Thief is my favorite.

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The Cherry
So what’s the cherry on top? There are two more things that this game does better than any other: Auto Accelerate and Smart Steering.
Auto Accelerate should be fairly self explanatory. I’m amazed that no game of this type has instigated this before. In a game where you are literally accelerating the entire time in every race, having to hold the button isn’t ideal for either the players hand or the controllers life span. This is such a simple but hugely wonderful tweak.
Smart Steer is a setting for beginners that means that you can never fall off the track. If you don’t do any steering of your own you’ll trail in last so it’s not a game-ruining ‘cheat’. In addition it does actually slow you down in order to ensure you stay on the track, so once you get good and you start pushing the limits of the tracks you’ll want to turn it off as it then becomes frustrating. The reason it’s so great is: The Boy. He’s been able to really dig deep into the game and compete on the higher speeds because of smart steer. It has quite literally made the difference between this being a brief foray in Mario Kart and it being his favourite game ever. That said, I refuse to use it – it feels like reducing the challenge too much from what it’s intended to be but for making the game inclusive for inexperienced or casual players it’s brilliant.

Any flaws?
If I really wanted to get picky I might ask why you can’t swap your your two weapon boxes to use them in a different order. Or why you can’t edit the buttons to your own preference – particularly in multiplayer when you are only using one Joy-Con, they aren’t that comfortable. Or ponder whether the menu system is a bit uninspiring. But really I’m stretching the point. These are tiny problems in the over context of endless fun that this game offers.

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Verdict
How else to conclude this review but with this: buy this game. Now. Unless you really don’t like this kind of game, for some crazy reason, this is the essential version. The only question is: how on earth can Mario Kart 9, whenever it comes, possibly be any better?

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Click below to purchase Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:

Or click below to purchase a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe download code from CDKeys.com:

Attention To Detail

One of the things I really notice about great games is the little details. I still remember the first time I played Halo on a demo stand in a shop somewhere and was just amazed by the grass – it looked real! More recently in Uncharted 4 if you stopped to look around, so did Nate:

Enjoying the view from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

The game that has struck me with this recently is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Perhaps it is simply the amount of time that The Boy and I have sunk in this title that has me noticing these things but I noticed that after a dunk in some water your character dries out over the next few corners! Here’s Luigi (I’m always Luigi!) just after going through the water:

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And here he is after powersliding around the next turn:

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I love these things in games that reveal themselves over time.

I am not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg – do I notice these little bits of finesse because the game is great or is the game great because of them? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Click below to purchase Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:

Or click below to purchase a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe download code from CDKeys.com: