REVIEW: Fast RMX

Whilst the overall package isn’t up to the level of other racing games – a fact that is reflected in its price, so fair enough – what Fast RMX does is absolutely get the key stuff right. It nails all the elements that you’d expect from a futuristic racer leaving you with an experience that is a lot of fun in short sharp bursts – exactly what you’re looking for at this price point.2017100218024100-993B0B446253E7FDAAC3C1A7681F46FE
Speed
My first taste of futuristic racing games like this was F Zero X on the N64. I was pretty hopeless at it back then but I was more or less instantly hooked. Since then, I’ve usually given every one I can get my hands on a go, from the disappointing (F Zero GX, or the recent Redout) to the enjoyable (Quantum Redshift, Wipeout HD). However, none of them have ever quite matched that initial excitement – Quantum Redshift was probably my favourite but even then that lent more towards other racing games instead of the relentless breakneck speed and instant reactions that really define these games for me. Fast RMX gets this absolutely right. Even on the slowest speed, ‘Subsonic’, your craft is moving very quickly even before you hit what ultimately becomes the key to winning: boosting. 2017092217584700-993B0B446253E7FDAAC3C1A7681F46FE
Boost
Once you’ve got to grips with the handling of Fast RMX is quickly becomes clear that the key to winning is boosting. This comes to you in two ways. First, you can collect boost power ups around the tracks and use the boost button as you see fit – pretty standard fare. The second way is sections of the track that will boost you along but only if you have your craft in the colour configuration to match. You can switch your craft from blue to yellow and only if you match this with the colour of these boost sections in the track will you actually be shot forward. In fact, a mismatch will actually slow you down. Making good use of these boosts is what makes this game so good – to win races consistently you have to minimise the amount of time between boosting but nailing the sections correctly and using your collected boosts in between. As you can imagine, this just makes the game even faster. A well-executed race on ‘Hypersonic’, the top speed setting, sees you travelling at almost uncontrollable speeds, constantly hitting either the track section boosts or your boost button. Getting this right is an exhilarating and slightly exhausting experience!2017100218043300-993B0B446253E7FDAAC3C1A7681F46FE
Limit
As mentioned above, this is a budget racing game so corners had to be cut somewhere. As the gameplay is so much fun all these shortcoming are to be found in the overall package of the game. For example, little effort has been made to join all these races together into one concept – each ‘championship’ of three races is just there for you to enjoy, they have no connection to each other. Also, the modes are limited with only one attempted tweak to the gameplay, in Hero mode where using too much boost can damage your craft. All this said, I don’t want to labour this point. It is worth pointing out that the game options are very basic but equally worth pointing out that this isn’t really a criticism – just a necessary limitation in a budget racing game.2017100218030300-993B0B446253E7FDAAC3C1A7681F46FE
Verdict
This is the most fun I’ve had with a futuristic racer in 10-odd years and the most exhilarating in its pure speed for 20-odd. It’s not perfect, but given its price, it’s an essential purchase for any Switch owner looking for a quick fix of faaassst.

Review4

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Speeding: First Impressions of Fast RMX and Sonic Mania

There has been a whole ton of speed on my Nintendo Switch recently as I’ve been playing through Fast RMX and Sonic Mania at the same time. I’ve been really enjoying them both despite the eye-bleeding speed that both are played at!2017092017585800-993B0B446253E7FDAAC3C1A7681F46FE
I picked up Fast RMX for my Switch when I got the console but I quickly got distracted by Zelda and then Mario Kart and had kinda given up on it. Not because it was bad but it simply seemed like it’s chance had passed. However, a recent update to bring more tracks and vehicles to the game gave me the kick to get back to it. It’s not a full-priced game but none of the corner cutting has been in the gameplay itself. You speed along some well designed tracks collecting boost power ups (and using them) as well as running over particular coloured sections that, as long as you have your craft in the right configuration (a simple button press), will give you a boost as well. It’s fast and furious and intense right to the end of every race – just what a futuristic racer should be.2017091813403600-1628E0CE3F839127054B0EE36E28E52A
I went back and forth with whether to get Sonic Mania. Although back in the day I was a ‘Sonic guy’ – I didn’t play a Mario game at all until adulthood – the nostalgia I had for it wasn’t enough to make it an essential purchase. As such I wasn’t sure I fancied a retro game when I could just play a modern one with modern graphics and design. I’ll dig into this more at a later date when I’m at a place to review the game fully but the key here is: this is not a retro game. Retro-styled for sure but almost everything about how the game works is thoroughly modern. As such, it’s close to ideal – a great game for newcomers with a heavy dose of nostalgia for those that first controlled Sonic all those years ago.
If you’re considering either of these games then my advice is simple: go right ahead! Both of them are around 1/3 the price of a brand new off-the-shelf game but hold up far better than that.2017092021564200-1628E0CE3F839127054B0EE36E28E52A

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

Fighting with ARMS

I would normally steer clear of fighting games. I’m not totally crazy about them in the first place but mainly I don’t enjoy them because I am absolutely useless at them! And I don’t like to lose. At least not hopelessly.
Even spending a lot of time with them doesn’t improve my skills as it would any other game – I once did get near to being OK at Dead or Alive 2 on the PS2 thanks to playing it relentlessly but that is very much the exception that proves the rule – fighting games are not for me.2017081517364200-5175A9E8354E328724729A6641D0F22FHowever, in the case of ARMS I decided to pick it up anyway thanks to my love of the Nintendo Switch and the fact that it looked like it was trying to do something different. I do think if you like fighting games you will enjoy this. The presentation, from the graphics to the tutorial to the menu system, is excellent. The gameplay is indeed slightly different than most fighting games – the dynamic of engaging your opponent or keeping your distance is gone, in ARMS you are always engaged in battle. Finally the collection of available characters is great, with something for everyone. Don’t be surprised if Twintelle or Max Brass is a playable character in the next Mario Kart or Smash Bros game!2017081517330100-5175A9E8354E328724729A6641D0F22FI’m not going to do a proper review of this game as that would require me to play it at a lot and that would require me to have some skill at it! However, I have seen enough of it to be sure that if beat-’em-ups are your thing then you will really enjoy this and I’d recommend picking it up.

Things were much the same for The Boy – he loved it to begin with on the easiest difficulty but as soon as the game got difficult he really struggled and quickly lost interest. In fairness, he has his young age as an excuse – I’m just awful.2017081522140700-5175A9E8354E328724729A6641D0F22F

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

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REVIEW: Puyo Puyo Tetris (Nintendo Switch)

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: PS4, plus others in Japan only
  • Time to get into: 5 minutes
  • Time to complete: 10 hours
  • Multiplayer: yes, both local and online

My main question coming into playing Puyo Puyo Tetris was whether or not a puzzle game – even a mash up of two puzzle games – could possibly be worth the price of entry. The game is priced as a full title, the same as Breath of the Wild or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Could it justify it? The answer is emphatically: yes! This game takes two good puzzle games and them great by adding competitive play and combining them in different ways. Not all of those ways really work but it’s enough to keep you entertained and engaged for a great many hours.

2017072608415800-27B43DBE1CF53CADD3897FC3CD79185FFusion
As the name suggests, Puyo Puyo Tetris brings both Puyo Pop and Tetris into one title. There are myriad ways to play – from playing one of the games alone as a challenge through to full on Fusion mode (where both types are played at the same time on the same board) versus someone else. Each different game type can be chosen in Arcade mode and there is an Adventure mode that throws each type at you as you go through the story.

2017072708201300-27B43DBE1CF53CADD3897FC3CD79185FAdventuring
Adventure mode was where I spent most of my single player time. This mode is a lot of fun gameplay wise. I can make no comment here on the story or the characters – I found the cut scenes that are before and after every level so insufferable and so easy to skip that after not too long I didn’t really see another one. What I did see was a continuing stream of different game modes and challenges. The learning curve is mostly well handled, although there are the occasional levels that are either far harder or far easier than those around them. All in there are 70 levels split into 7 chapters. I think it’s a good length – it certainly didn’t outstay it’s welcome but I wonder how much further they could have repeated the different games types and kept it from being too repetitive. The only flaw here was Fusion mode. I enjoyed all the other combinations of modes – Puyo vs Tetris or the swap mode where you have one board from each game on the go at the same time and swap over every 30 seconds. Fusion mode puts both Puyo and Tetris pieces on the same board and this doesn’t really do anything but dilute what it good about each. The main aim with Tetris is keeping your lines clean and organised and the main aim with Puyo is long chains that fall into place. Fusion mode doesn’t allow you to focus on either of those things but doesn’t replace it with anything further goal. In the end in Fusion mode, I was just trying to survive the level, rather than trying to finish it.

2017080114372200-27B43DBE1CF53CADD3897FC3CD79185FOn The Line
After playing through the Adventure, I didn’t feel the need to spend much time in Arcade mode – I felt I was ready to go online. How wrong I was! Real people are even more brutally difficult than the hardest levels of the single player game. I think part of this is the seeming lack of proper matching. I was repeatedly matched with experienced and very good players even when I was just getting started – thus I was totally destroyed on a very regular basis. This is odd to say the least – matching players based on their ability is a standard component of online multiplayer games. Perhaps the game just isn’t that popular online and there simply aren’t enough players to avoid this. Regardless, if it had not been for my desire to write this review, I might well have given up online play very early on. The other reason for that is that the game plays out in the exact same way online as it does against the cpu. Most games change their character when you go online – humans simply react differently than AI. But here, given that the gameplay is so restricted anyway by the rules of the puzzles, it’s hard to know if you’re playing online or offline – it feels identical. There is nothing wrong with the online play – it’s easy, quick and smooth – it’s just not that exciting.

2017080114324700-27B43DBE1CF53CADD3897FC3CD79185FVerdict
Ultimately Puyo Puyo Tetris is held back from perfection by the Fusion mode and the slight lack of excitement of the online play. But not many games are perfect and this is still a fantastic title that will eat up hours of your life and keep you coming back for more and more. The desire to play faster and faster doesn’t get tired and the varied modes keep it fresh for ages. It really transcends the ‘puzzle-game’ tag – this is just a really good game, full stop.

Review4

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