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Archive for February, 2016

YouTube Recap: Throwing Around A Loud Anime Girl

February 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Hello! It’s time for my weekly update on what’s been happening over on my YouTube channel, Bob The Pet Ferret. Read more…

Categories: BTPF YouTube Roundup

YouTube: Channel Anniversary

February 19, 2016 Leave a comment

Some of you who follow this blog will be aware that I have a YouTube channel where I post Let’s Plays (or rather, Entertaining Walkthroughs of Games I Think Are Cool), and sometimes various other things. But I never focus on it too much here. Sometimes I’ll link to a video here or there, but rarely will I put the spotlight on what I’m currently doing. No more! Read more…

Unravel Review

February 17, 2016 2 comments

UnravelScreenshot1

Publisher: EA
Developer: Coldwood Studios
System: PS4 (played on), PC, Xbox One
Released: February 2016

In amongst the usual brand of cynical hype and cringeworthy slogans of E3 2015, there was a rare moment of joy and sweetness. Of all places, it turned up during EA’s presentation, where a nervous developer walked on stage, showed a cute little yarn cat he had tucked in his jacket and then proceeded to show a sweet game about yarn and love and longing. It stunned everyone, including me. I knew I had to play this game.

Unravel finally saw a release this month, and I picked it up immediately. I like puzzle platformers and I like cute things. It’s right up my alley. It’s my jam. And all that stuff.

Unravel didn’t disappoint. I played the first hour on my YouTube channel, where I spent much of my time gushing over the cute animations, the gorgeous vistas and the brain-teasing puzzles. It was, simply, a joy to get my hands on. The game also opens with a heartfelt thank you from the devs which I thought was touching. Read more…

Chronological Game Challenge – Grim Fandango / Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus

February 12, 2016 2 comments

Two more reviews for you today. New reviews may continue to be a little spotty here and there because I’ve not got everything written yet. But of course, I will get stuff up as I write more. For now, enjoy another double edition of the Chronological Game Challenge!

Grim Fandango
Publisher: LucasArts (original) / Double Fine (remaster) | Developer: LucasArts (original) / Double Fine (remaster) | Year: 1998
Original System: Windows
Played on: PS4 (remastered edition)

Goal: Save Mercedes’ soul

Actual Outcome: Led Mercedes into the Ninth Underworld

Grim Fandango is one of those games that for some reason I missed when it first came out. Perhaps it was because at the time the PC was a family one so gaming time was limited, while my PlayStation and N64 were all mine. There’s a chance that the family PC also wouldn’t have been able to run Grim Fandango very well. Either way, it just barely caught my attention but I never got around to playing it.

Over the years, I became very aware of the work of Tim Schafer, now one of the key players at Double Fine, and that’s when I became aware of his work at LucasArts when they were still a thing. And now I’m determined to track down every single adventure game they made so I can experience the joy of them all. And, so it seems, Schafer’s doing the same thing, as each of them is gradually getting remastered and released for modern systems.

As a side note, I bought the PS4 version of this largely to have something to play on my PS4. And then a month later, Sony made it free on PS Plus, because of course they did. Anyway.

Read more…

Chronological Challenge Reviews – MediEvil / Crash Bandicoot Warped

February 10, 2016 3 comments

Oops. I forgot to get more reviews up. Got very distracted in new, shiny things for the main BTPF YouTube channel (check out Ferret’s Firsts with Dragon Age: Origins and Unravel right now!) and this fell to the wayside a bit.

But it’s okay! We’re still here, and we’re still working through 1998. Here are two PS1 games that I absolutely love, and I wanna know if you do too!

MediEvil
Publisher: SCE | Developer: SCE Cambridge Studio | Year: 1998 (EU release)
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: See how far I can get in a single sitting

Actual Outcome: Got up to Enchanted Earth and didn’t fancy doing it, so I moved on

MediEvil

MediEvil is one of those games that probably deserved to be more popular. While the adventures of Sir Daniel Fortesque weren’t a flop, the game didn’t really experience much love beyond a PSP remake that wasn’t particularly great, and a spot on the PS All-Stars roster (which didn’t really set the world on fire). Which is a shame because there’s a lot to love about MediEvil.

Let’s start with the negatives though, because there are a few, and it’s possibly these that led to the game being dismissed somewhat. The game is a little dated now, and even at the time there were games that were a little smoother and cleaner in their presentation. Everything’s angular, and while part of this is a stylistic design, some of the stray polygons that stick out of characters and environments at times are a little too distracting and ugly.

Gameplay, too, has its problems. The controls are a little twitchy, and analog controls are very much mandatory here. Tapping a direction can sometimes lead to our skeletal lead dashing off faster than you want him to, and sometimes he suffers from Mario’s slow turn-around problem. The analog sticks alleviate some of the worst of this, but precision is required, and it can take some getting used to. That said, even when you do get used to the controls, some of the later levels can seriously trip you up, especially where jumping sections are concerned.

And yet, despite these legitimate complaints, MediEvil is a damn fine game with a lot of charm. The central premise is enough to catch attention – you’re a skeletal knight raised from the dead, and while you were believed to be a great hero in life, you were actually a coward that died instantly at his first encounter with real battle. Now Sir Daniel Fortesque must redeem himself by taking down the evil sorcerer he failed to stop 100 years ago.

The game is presented in a part-spooky, part-cartoony art style that feels like the art designer traced Tim Burton’s concept art. Locations go off at weird angles or curve around in incomprehensible ways, while characters are slightly grotesque in their appearance. Aside from the aforementioned issues with polygons, this makes for a really interesting-looking game. It’s a far cry from the incredibly square locations favoured by many PS1 games of the time, and it helps it stand out.

On top of that, the locations are all unique and interesting. While two levels are set in a graveyard, later levels see you exploring haunted woods, a village full of possessed people, a ghost ship, a creepy lake and a hedge maze full of fiendish puzzles. You’re constantly encountering new enemies and challenges, and as a result, the game manages to never feel stale. You wonder what weird and wonderful adventures await you in the next level, and you’re always re-adjusting strategies to battle new enemies and face new puzzles.

Speaking of puzzles, MediEvil is very clever with its puzzle design. Some puzzles span levels, while some of the standalone set-pieces are memorable and interesting. Full completion of the Scarecrow Fields requires carving out a new route using a demonic-looking combine harvester. The Sleeping Village challenges you to not murder any of the villagers, even as they’re trying to hack you to bits with meat cleavers. The Asylum Grounds is a series of brain-teasers set by a stone face with a love of riddles. All of it is wonderful, and even today I smile while tackling these puzzles and challenges. The game is endlessly inventive, and I can’t fault it on this front.

On top of that, the characters who inhabit this strange world are all fantastic. Dan himself is a charming, bumbling fool who manages to pull it all together to save the world. Heroes with exaggerated regional British accents give Dan new tools and weapons while ranting on about their own personal gripes. The witches who provide optional side quests are quirky, especially the Pumpkin Witch who talks lovingly about chopping her children’s heads off (they’re pumpkin plants, calm down). And that’s before we get into the gargoyles, who are the real stars of the show; centuries-old watchers of the world who’ve become cynical and jaded, they offer up advice while simultaneously insulting you at every turn.

MediEvil is flawed in many ways, but despite that I still love it for so many more things. It’s funny, atmospheric, cleverly designed and a blast to play (once you get past some of its control issues). A cult classic.

Crash Bandicoot: Warped
Publisher: SCE/Universal Interactive Studios | Developer: Naughty Dog | Year: 1998
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: See how far I can get in a single sitting

Actual Outcome: Somewhere around the fourth world, I think

With the high praise I gave Spyro the Dragon, what of Spyro’s contemporary Sony/Universal buddy, Crash Bandicoot? He had a game out in the same year as Spyro’s debut (and the two enjoyed a lot of cross-promotion at the time), but how did that one hold up?

Clearly bored of the Crash Bandicoot staples of jungles and ruins, Crash 3 decided to completely change its setting to one of time travel. Of course, Crash being what it is, this isn’t a particularly deep story of potential damage to the space-time continuum or the dangers of being one’s own grandpa; it’s an excuse to get Crash to fly a WWI-era fighter jet and run through Disney’s version of the Arab world. You hop in and out of time periods, seeking out crystals and gems in an attempt to once again stop Dr Neo Cortex from doing whatever nefarious thing he wants to do this time.

Gameplay-wise, this is sometimes a simple reskin of Crash 2 with dinosaurs and medieval knights, but everything just feels more vibrant, more exciting, more fun. Plus, Crash 2 was so much fun on its own that more of the same isn’t really a bad thing. No need to reinvent the wheel, after all.

And yet, that’s not the full story. In addition to the standard levels, there are also a ton of variant level types to play around with. The “ride an animal about” levels are back, although now it’s Crash’s sister, Coco, who takes the reins, and appears to be significantly less abusive towards the baby tiger she adopts. In addition, Coco takes over for a flight level, and jetski levels, and these latter levels are a wonderful addition that I would honestly play a whole game of. Crash gets to go scuba diving and ride a motorbike, which made me wonder if Naughty Dog were planning on making a racing game all along (cue Crash Team Racing!).

The variation in locations and gameplay styles mean that Crash 3 ended up as possibly my favourite in the whole series. It’s pure fun condensed onto a small black disc. Every aspect of this game is something I love – the level design, the art design, the soundtrack, everything.

This is peak Crash Bandicoot. The series would never get better than this. Which is pretty much why this is the last time you’ll see a Crash platformer in this challenge. It was all downhill from here.