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:

 

REVIEW: Sonic Mania

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Time to get into: 30 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 12 Hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes

When I was deciding whether or not to get this game every single review I found said essentially the same thing: ‘if you’ve been waiting for years for a Sonic game to be as good as the original ones on Sega Mega Drive, then this is it’. But the thing was – I hadn’t been waiting. I did enjoy Sonic games back in the day, more so than Mario games as I enjoyed the wild speeds that Sonic got to, but in 2017 I wasn’t bothered about a trip down memory lane. I just wanted to know if this was a good game that I’d enjoy playing right now. Well, ultimately, I took the plunge and I am happy to say – Sonic Mania is great! You’ll enjoy this whether you are looking to recapture your youth or just to play a fun platformer right now. Sonic is back!2017092918161000-1628E0CE3F839127054B0EE36E28E52A

Speed speed speed
My favourite part of this game is still the rush of the speeds that Sonic reaches. Sure, there are sections where more care is needed and these sections are still good. But parts like that exist in every platformer. What Sonic has that is unique are those sections where you are just flying along, on high alert for a need to jump or change direction at any moment; bouncing off walls, taking out enemies and trying to reach 100 coins for a spare life.2017092918161400-1628E0CE3F839127054B0EE36E28E52A

Who’s the boss?
All that said, Sonic Mania still has great variety in what it asks you to do. Just running along at supersonic speeds wouldn’t be enough to engage for 12 hours but the game is well balanced between that and everything else. There are lots of more standard platforming sections, many enemy types to learn how to defeat but the boss battles are where the game really gets creative. Each zone that you play through has two levels and the first boss is typically fairly standard but then in the second you’ll be going up against Dr. Robotnik himself and these are usually tricky, sometimes in the extreme. This can be pretty annoying on occasion, as I found that a few times I needed a few of my lives just to figure out what was going on in the boss battles. There are checkpoints through each level that you return to if you lose a life but if you lose all your lives you go back to the beginning of the zone. As such, losing the final boss battle in a zone means that you have to start right back at the beginning and go all the way through the two levels again. Of course this was standard fare in the 1990s games that Sonic Mania is paying homage to but it seems a little odd compared to more modern games which give us an easier ride with convenient save points most of the time! It’s all worth it though as the boss battles are usually the most fun sections. I certainly wasn’t expecting to find myself playing Puyo against Dr. Robotnik for example!!2017091813390200-1628E0CE3F839127054B0EE36E28E52A

Handbrake
So what is holding Sonic Mania back from perfection? Well, sadly, most of what lets this game down is tied up it it’s efforts to pay tribute to the original games. It’s aspects like the lack of proper cut scenes to really explain the story or the frustrating saving structure described above. I don’t really want to criticise the game for these things as without this fealty to the original Sonic games there’s a very good chance Sonic Mania would never have existed. It is here with us now because a few people who loved the original games were determined to bring them back to life. So it’s not perfect, but it’s almost more lovable as a result.2017100513432100-1628E0CE3F839127054B0EE36E28E52A

Verdict
This is a cracking game. If you are just looking to recapture your youth then you’ll find that here – Sonic Mania is everything that you remember was great all wrapped up in a great modern package. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a fun 2D platformer full stop then this will also hit the spot. I’d venture to say that Sonic Mania is my favourite 2D platformer ever in fact – even beating out all those Mario games from past and present. It’s fast and fun and it’s a bargain. Recommended to anyone.

Review4

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:

REVIEW: Fast RMX

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: –
  • Time to get into: 1 Hours
  • Time to complete: 10 Hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes

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

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