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.

Review5

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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:

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.

Review4

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:

Mobile Golf: Mario Golf & Golf Zero

I’ve been casually playing two different golf games recently. I won’t get deep enough into either to be in a position to fully review them so I thought a comparison post might suffice.

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I have regularly enjoyed golf games since playing Tiger Woods 2005 – I really think the sport translates better into playing a video game than onto TV to watch (and I won’t go into my ability, or lack thereof, at the real thing!). The challenge to your skill is significant but not under any time pressure – a rare thing in sports and sports video games.

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The two games I’m currently playing are Mario Golf World Tour on the 2DS and Golf Zero on my phone.
Mario Golf World TourHNI_0001 Despite the analog stick on the 2DS this game doesn’t use any kind of motion control, instead opting for the usual press-a-button-as-a-slider-moves-along-the-screen concept. Even so this works well and once you’ve got the basics you find that the things you have to consider – how hard you hit it, topspin, fairways and bunkers etc – are reasonably close to those you’d face in a proper golf sim. Of course this game is not that and it brings all the usual Mario charm to proceedings.

Golf ZeroScreenshot_20170626-125909This game, on the other hand, is about as far away from a golf sim as it is possible to go and still use the word golf to describe your game! It’s a platformer combined with a kind of extreme golf. You end up taking your shots whilst in the air plummeting towards the sea. Really, it defies explanation, so watch this video for an example of what I mean:

Golf Zero from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

I consider both of these games just brief distractions from life and from my main gaming due to their relative lack of depth and repetitiveness. But that said, I would still recommend either game to anyone looking for just such a distraction. Whilst a couple hours spent hunting in an open world or thrashing around a track in a driving game endurance race are fantastic, sometimes a quick ten minutes hitting a small white ball about the place is just what is required!

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?

Review5

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: