My Knee Jerk Reaction to Metroid: Samus Returns on 3DS

Oooooooh this is a good game.

I’m saying this after roughly half an hour of play, but it’s bloody good. It looks and plays so well it makes you wonder why Nintendo bothered making the Switch.

As you might have heard on the latest Simply Syndicated Gaming News, I’ve been determined to enjoy a Metroid game. I tried to like the first one, and I haven’t given up on it entirely, but I’m not enjoying it.

However, I am enjoying Samus Returns, a Metroid game so new, I smudged the print on the box label. So the question becomes, at which point between 1986 and 2017 did the Metroid series become something I enjoyed. I guess I have to finish Samus Returns and start working my way backwards.

I’ve recently had the GBA version recommended to me, maybe I’ll give that one a go next.

Before I finish, it looks like SR still has the save point system, rather than a save whenever you need to system. I hate that system. I’ll just have to live with it.

Now back to the planet to continue hunting Metroids.

My Knee Jerk Reaction to iPhone X

Today is the day I'm officially old. I'm sure there have been other landmarks along the way, but none of them as unmissable as my gut reaction to the iPhone X. I don't like it. Please picture me with a grumpy face.

It's full of magical and amazing technology. It does things that I never imagined I'd see. I don't like it. What exactly was wrong with all the bits of phone that aren't screen?

The thing where it knows what you look like, brilliant. The AR stuff, brilliant. The edge to edge screen, brilliant. I don't like it. Humph.

Honestly I don't know why I don't like it. I don't know what that's about, really. I'm really not a fan of the notch at the top of the screen, but even there I'm sure Apple have thought of a clever way to deal with it. I just don't like it.

Wireless charging? You've still got to plug in the thing that all your devices wirelessly charge from. Grumble grumble.

And the glass front AND back? Even on the iPhone 8? I can tell you right now that thing is not going to survive two years of being Allison's phone.

Maybe I'll like it one day. Maybe I'll wish I had one.

What are they going to do next year? Will there be the iPhone 9 and 11? Will there be the 9 and the X2? What about the year after that?

Moan moan moan.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn for Wii Review

If you’re on a journey through the past of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, it won’t be long before you encounter Kirby. For a character that you can’t help feel was created last thing on a Friday, he’s actually been around long enough to have graduated university and begun to be warn down by the realities of life. Epic Yarn is the tenth Kirby game, and my second, my first being Planet Robobot on the 3DS.

Right away I identified Kirby as low stress gaming, and Epic Yarn is no exception. I haven’t yet worked out if it’s aimed at children, or adults who’ve had a bad day. It’s almost ASMR in game form. The gentle piano music lulls you to sleep, and the calming pastel colours of the cloth style backgrounds give you happy dreams once you’ve dropped off.

If it is aimed at children, I can’t help but feel like Nintendo wasted their time. It’s too beautiful, and too tranquil for children to appreciate. Then again, maybe it could be used to sedate them.

The characters are drawn as if they’re made out of different coloured string. Instead of being a pink blob, Kirby is a pink loop of yarn. This means a big difference in play style from the usual Kirby eating enemies system that most people will be used to. Rather than eating enemies, Kirby unravels them, and can then throw them at other enemies, or the occasional obstacle. All that adds to the calming nature of the game. You don’t kill anything, you simply unwind it. Beyond that, you can’t really die either. As you progress through the levels you pick up jewels, and you lose those jewels if you get hit or fall off something. Apart from that, there’s very little stopping you from completing your goal.

Unfortunately the lack of peril means the game has to challenge you in other ways, and that’s the bit I’m not too keen on. It’s all about the collectables. There are loads of them scattered around, a lot of them being impossible to find on your first run through a level. Very often you’ll be in a situation where you can’t stop moving, and you notice at the last second that you should have turned left when you actually turned right. The only way to fix the mistake is to run through the level again. That gets tiresome quickly.

Luckily the designers thought it would be good to shake things up a bit, and so decided to take advantage of the fact that Kirby was made of string. If he’s just string, then he can be changed into lots of different shapes. Those shapes range from being a single strand of yarn, allowing you to fit into tiny places, or becoming a missile firing technodrome. Something very similar happens in Planet Robobot so at this point I’m assuming it’s a staple of the Kirby games. I’m prepared to learn otherwise as I progress through the franchise. Anyway, the changes in gameplay are a very welcome treat, and always leave me feeling a little sad when they’re over.

There are lots of fun gameplay mechanics that make the most of the yarn and cloth construction of the game world. All the backgrounds are made of cloth, and sometimes have little holes in that allow Kirby to travel around behind the background of the game. It’s another nice thing Nintendo put in there. Backgrounds can sometimes be messed with by pulling zips and buttons. It may well remind you of Yoshi’s Wooly World on the Wii U and 3DS. The only link I can find between the two games is the Wikipedia saying that Yoshi’s Wooly World is a spiritual successor to Epic Yarn. That feels to me more like something a fanboy would put on there, not like something Nintendo would actually say.

There is one gameplay mechanic that I won’t be trying out. It seems Kirby has an apartment, and I can decorate it with all the collectables I find in the game. Apparently this unlocks further levels and challenges, but I’ll never know because I’m not going to spend any time decorating a computer game apartment. Unless it’s The Sims. Or Animal Crossing. OK, so I’m just not decorating Kirby’s apartment. That said, as much as I’m complaining, it isn’t exactly a bad thing that they’ve tried to make the game as big as they can. It does give brilliant value for money.

As I travel back through the histories of big gaming franchises that I missed out on back in the day, I must admit that I was most worried about games only available on the Wii because of the motion controller. I still don’t know how I feel about that thing. I do think it was a good idea, I just miss a regular controller. Epic Yarn lets you off all the complicated Wii control, and works by using the Wiimote in a sideways configuration, just like it’s a classic NES controller. To be fair, games as complicated as Epic Yarn don’t need all that many buttons and would have been ruined had Nintendo tried to cram in unnecessary motion controls. It never occurred to me that this was an option. I’ll just add it to the list of reasons why I feel I was cheated out of the Wii, and that’s a whole other article right there.

Overall, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a cracking little game, all be it a little unchallenging. Making the game harder than it is might well have ruined the experience for adults and children alike. If you have a Wii and haven’t played it yet, I do recommend picking a copy up. You’ll have to get a pre-owned one, but I’m seeing them go for around £10, which while it isn’t cheap, it’s really not all that bad considering the prices some old games go for. If you don’t have a Wii, add it to the list of reasons you have for getting one. Heck, you can get a pre-owned Wii for less that £20 now so I might go as far as to say Epic Yarn is worth the price of the console too. Actually as you’d get both for less that £30, I’d say it’s worth buying a Wii just to play this one game, and that’s before you remember you can also get Super Mario Galaxies and many others that justify the Wii all on their own. I’ll might never play Epic Yarn again, but I’m very glad that I did.

Why I’m No Longer In To Vaping

It doesn't feel like too long ago I was Mr Vape. I was so into it. I still vape, there's no way I'm ever going back to cigarettes, I'm just not all that into the mechanics of it all.

Right up until the TPD date at the beginning of May, I was buying every bit of vaping equipment I could afford to get my hands on. We joked that I could set up my own vape store, but there's no way you buy as much stock as I had if you were opening a new store. The threat of all good vaping equipment going away forever was terrifying and pushed me to stockpile like the zombie apocalypse was coming.

Obviously you can't live you life buying that much vape gear, so it had to come to an end. Pre TPD I was buying anything that wasn't compliant. Post TPD, I decided to take it easy. That included stopping checking all the vaping web stores, and only watching YouTube reviews of products that looked like they might be of interest to me.

After a month or two I realised that I hadn't watched a single vape review because nothing had interested me. Along didn't stop with the TPD, but that event gave me the opportunity to take a fresh look at things and realise that as quickly as the industry had sprung into life, it had hit maturity, and had nowhere else to go.

I can't see myself buying a new mod until many of the ones I have break. Why would I need to? I had many dual 18650 mods that go up to 200 watts. That's all you need. It's just a box for batteries that send power to an atomiser. I don't use temp control, I just need something that gives 50 to 75 watts and goes a day on a charge. That's pretty much every mod you can buy today. It's every mod there'll be next year, and so on. There's just no need to keep adding power, so all there is to do is keep changing the shape of the mod, and add flashing lights.

I even think tanks have become about as interesting as they can get. Liquid soaked into cotton is heated by a wire. There will be no difference between an RDA you'll buy next year, and an RDA you bought last year.

To finish me off, I lost all faith in all YouTube reviewers. How can you review mod after mod, tank after tank, without ever pointing out that it's just more of the same? You might have seen some of my own vape reviews on my blog and YouTube channel. I'd planned on trying to make a go of it. I held off to see how things went with the TPD because it contained some very strict guidelines on the differences between reviewing and advertising a vape product. Turns out that wait was a gift that stopped me pushing ahead with a topic I just wouldn't care about all that much.

So let me say again, I still vape, and if you smoke, I still think you should switch to vaping. I just don't care about the new mod that does exactly the same stuff as the previous 92 mods.

Arms for Switch Review

Reviewers of games, or other technology products, sometimes feel it’s appropriate to let you know that a game was sent to them for free to be reviewed. The idea being that they might be a little biased if people are sending them games for free. Will Nintendo continue to supply them with early review copies if they say bad things about them?

I don’t have this problem, because nobody sends me anything for free. However, I do have a very different problem because I buy my own games. Here I am about to review Arms, and whatever I think of it, I went out and bought it with my own money. I’m not bragging, I’m just trying to point out that this also makes me biased, because I’m tempted to lead you to think that I didn’t piss away £49.99. With that in mind, here we go.

I love Arms! Arms is brilliant! I feel totally justified in dropping £49.99 on it. Except I don’t.

It’s a fighting game, very much like Street Fighter 2. You fight a person, then you go on to fight the next person. There are Grand Prix events, during which you fight ten people in a row. There are ten skill levels for a Grand Prix event, and you have to be on at least level four before the game will let you play online.

So you pick your character, play the single player Grand Prix, and try to beat level ten. Then when you’ve done that, you can pick a different character and try to beat level ten. That’s it. That’s the game. I know I haven’t touched on the multiplayer yet, but for the single player game, this is it. Ten Grand Prix events, for ten characters.

They try to mix things up by adding a couple of mini games into the fights. There’s a volleyball style that has you slapping away at a ball, trying to make it land in your opponent’s half of the court. It’s a nice change. There’s also a round where you’re hitting targets that pop up out of the ground, in an attempt to score more points than your opponent. Again, a nice way to break up the monotony of the single player game.

There’s a way to get different arms for your character. Arms are your weapons, and you have two of them. Who could have guessed. You get these different arms by competing in another mini game which involves hitting targets to win prizes. The important thing to note is that I didn’t say better arms, I said different arms. There’s basically no difference in the effects of the arms, so it’s pointless trying to get different ones.

All that being said, the game isn’t a complete waste of time, and does have more than a few good points.

It looks and sounds beautiful. Once again we are treated to a graphical and musical masterpiece by Nintendo. Arms reaffirms that the Switch is powerful enough to handle some fantastic looking games. If you ever thought that Switch users would be forever trying to justify a graphically inferior experience to that of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, then think again. We are now far beyond the point of graphics being something to worry about. I think the resurgence of retro games, or games, as I like to call them, has done something to help push the idea that 4K 60fps graphics aren’t needed to have fun.

While we’re on the subject, I have to once again point out how important it can be to have on screen characters moving in time to the game soundtrack. It’s difficult to get off the main menu because the music is so good.

Arms was the first game I’ve played with any kind of motion controls. For a while it felt like using those controls was the best way to play the game. Although I’m using the Switch mostly in handheld mode, it still feels like motion might be the way to go.

The main control problem I experienced was one that came from me. Once you make the action, there can be a few seconds for the resulting on screen motion to happen. Not a delay in control, the action starts immediately. I mean that you throw a punch, and it takes a few seconds for that punch to get to your opponent. This can lead to the dreaded button mashing, which always leads to panic and defeat.

Overall Arms is fun, but it isn’t grabbing me. I still have the goal of beating level four so I can play online, but then what? If you’re a student that drinks and lives with five other people, you’ll love this one. If you’re a man pushing 40 who lives with his girlfriend and has absolutely no social life to speak of, then Arms might be worth giving a miss. I’ve heard that there will be free DLC. Maybe that will add something to the game. If anything, I’d say that this game is a solid first game in a franchise. I can see them doing Arms 2, and that game being vastly improved by the lessons they can learn from what came before.

The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds

I'm on a mini quest to play and complete all the Zelda games. After a false start with Twilight Princess on the Wii, I found Ocarina of Time on the 3DS and have been hooked ever since. I think the delay in my discovery is down to them being puzzle games, and me being particularly bad at puzzles, but I'm a grown up now.

There are approximately eight million known Zelda games, and Link Between Worlds is the only one that was created entirely for the 3DS. I say that, but it's based on the third Zelda game, Link to the Past. It uses the same map, and has the same top-down style gameplay, but it uses a fancy new 3D graphics. The two games play very similarly to each other. I've been thinking about this, and I've decided to recommend that you play Link to the Past first. It's an old game that holds up perfectly, and currently has a meta critic score of 95. We could go on all day about whether or not it's better to see the new version of a thing, or see the original first.

Link Between Worlds sees Link fighting to rescue Princess Zelda, who has been trapped in a painting by the bad guy. They introduce a really clever game mechanic in the form of giving you the power to being able to become a painting. That sounds odd, let me explain. Link is trapped in a painting, but manages to escape. That experience gives him the power to become a painting on a flat surface, and move around that surface to reach areas he might otherwise been unable to. It's a really nice addition to the game that makes puzzles all the more interesting.

I must admit that of all the Zelda games I've played, this was probably the easiest. I don't know if that's down to me getting better at the games, or this game is actually easier. I've heard it said that this one was aimed more at children, but I didn't experience anything while playing that would make me think that.

The environment of Hyrule is pretty and welcoming. If you have played Link to the Past, it will be instantly familiar to you. Sometimes it feels like you’re playing in a very small space. It isn't exactly Breath of the Wild when it comes to environmental vastness, but you be constantly surprised at how much they managed to cram on there. It's a fun place to be.

Along with the environment, you'll also recognise the music from Link to the Past. I'm of the opinion that Nintendo is a company that always hits it out of the park when it comes to music, and this game is no exception. I highly recommend that you wear headphones while playing, at least for a while, because the tiny speakers on the 3DS aren't quite up to the task of the cinematic soundtrack.

I managed to play through the game in less than a week, but that's without exploring absolutely everything there is to find. There's plenty of game there, and seeing as you can pick it up brand new for £13.99, you definitely get value for money. Both this game and Ocarina of Time are available as part of Nintendo's Select range. I strongly recommend picking it up, it's a fun game that further cements the 3DS as one of the best gaming platforms.

Making Sense Episode 29. GE2017 -0

Election day is upon is and it's time to make a choice. I hope that I've armed you with everything you need, but I hoped that before Brexit too. These are the last words I have to say on the matter. The next time I speak to you it will either be to say that our nation did the right thing, or it will be to give you my first word of resistance against the Tories.