Posts Tagged ‘platformer’

Game 29: Banjo-Kazooie

Posted: February 14, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 364/1001 according to the list

Genre: Platformer
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo

Whilst Goldeneye 007 may be Rare’s most famous and highly rated game I think it is fair to say that Banjo-Kazooie may be the epitome of what makes a Rare game. It’s cute cartoon visuals and wide array of collectables have somewhat become major features  of their later game such as the already-reviewed Viva Pinata.

Although we appear to have now dealt with most of the games on this developed by Rare we still have Perfect Dark (coming very soon!) and one of the Banjo-Kazooie sequels. It is also a fair bet that we may have to get our hands on Kinect Sports one day when there is an update of the list.

Our Thoughts

So for the past few days, we’ve been playing as a bear with a bird on his back. I cannot help but feel that’s telling. I still have no idea why Kazooie is in Banjo’s backpack. It’s like in the opening sequence… she’s hanging in the backpack on a hat stand and is unable to get out; PETA should be alerted.

To be honest, that bird seems like it’d get lost if you let it go out on its own. I think Banjo needs Kazooie more than the other way round. Well, he does need him for several manoeuvres, but mostly Kazooie seems to enjoy hiding in the backpack and making smart ass comments. As I said, it’s very familiar.

Anyway, this is one of those game mascots where you really do have to wonder how it worked so well. Also, what on earth were the guys at Rare smoking when they came up with it? When the game first came out I thought Banjo-Kazooie was a mutant.

Then there are the supporting characters which work so well. Like Gruntilda (the evil witch who kidnaps your sister) when she interjects random rhyming couplets as you trundle through the hub-world. Also there’s Gruntilda’s sister who also appears in corners and sewage pipes telling us about her sister’s habits. Who seems to have absolutely no other use? She looks pretty in the tutu? I’m glad to hear you lowered your standards even further.

Anyway, then there’s the mole who helps you out teaching you new moves, and over-exciting cauldrons who transport you between places. Bottles is such a sweetie, I do not understand why Kazooie hates him so… I don’t think Kazooie likes anyone all that much. She must love Banjo… despite earlier comments… that sounds wrong

Since this was the other major platformer released for the N64 the comparison really does need to be made. How do you feel this stood up next to Super Mario 64?

I think in a way it works better. It certainly has more character – nicer environments, more colourful and interesting characters, it’s a bit more fun. On the other hand, Super Mario 64 has the tighter gameplay – the mission structure helps you focus on what you should be doing, while Banjo-Kazooie focuses far more on exploration and almost luck to find what you need.

One way which I think this may work better is because of all the collectables. I think it does, it means you have to go out there and find anything. 5 birds, 100 notes, 2 honeycomb pieces in each level and 100 jigsaw pieces overall. As well as mumbo jumbos who appear to talk about bubblegum when you give them to the shaman. It’s weird when you turn into a termite. Yeah, but is of course necessary to solve the puzzle. (solve a few actually) But that’s where the difference lies – Super Mario 64 focuses on missions and completing tasks, while Banjo-Kazooie focuses on exploration.

I guess a lot of people focus on Super Mario 64 because it was one of the first to do most of the things used in Banjo-Kazooie. This game then found a way to update a lot of the things introduced in it. In their own way yeah. This is most obvious with the camera controls. Yeah, while occasionally a bit awkward, it’s far easier to move around and keep focused on where you want it. It’s only awkward when there is a wall in the way, something which afflicts camera controls to this very day. The other annoyance is that there are places where the camera ‘locks’ and you can’t move it at all. While it may help you not get the camera in an awkward position, it also makes it harder to get to an angle that feels better.

The graphics are also a point. They feel more detailed in this game, and while still retaining some cartoony edge, the worlds seem larger because of it. Not only do they feel larger but also lusher. This is helped by a group of interesting enemies that are as interesting as any friendly character. I was just about to mention them. The enemies all interact with you in their own way, even talking with you about how they are about to hurt you. The shark on the second level is a perfect example of this, and he is incredibly annoying as it is hard to kill him. You have to poop eggs on him but he disappears before you can land the final blow. While he is of course guarding one important collectable, one of the dinosaur birds who keep managing to get stuck in a place where they need rescue. I think it’s because Gruntilda had their wings pulled off. And put arms on instead? Ok, she had them plucked. Whatever, either way it’s mean. The way they scream for help makes my heart melt. I know.

This really is one of the games that I was most looking forward to having a go with. I do believe there was a good reason for that. It’s a lovely game with a lot of character and all of it works well together.

Final Thoughts

As said, this is a lovely platformer, at what’s probably the highlight of the genre. It’s funny and cute at times, there’s a lot of character, the collectibles allow for a lot of replay value and finishing the game will, quite simply, take you a long, long time. And those collectibles being required to go on makes it even more interesting. It’s a good game, and thanks to its roots, more interesting and charming than many of its competitors on the list. More games in the series are forthcoming – stay tuned for more!


Game 26: Super Mario 64

Posted: February 5, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 326/1001 according to the list

Genre: Platform
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Heads. I won. It’s time for a little bit of Super Mario 64. Yeah, and I don’t mind. The first real Mario 3D game. The game that moved it from a 2D platformer to a 3D action platformer that’s far more mission based and less linear. It also features far less mushrooms, so it’s a bit less interesting by default.

The Princess baked Mario a cake. Bowser was also hungry, and so he captured her and hid the stars you need to get to him to free the Princess in a number of paintings, inhabited by both the familiar old cast of friends of enemies and a number of new ones.

Our Playthrough

We had the fortune of being able to play a game with all 120 stars found on it (thanks Kat or one of Kat’s brothers), meaning that we had a chance to explore the castle and try out most of the levels and a couple of different missions.

Our Thoughts

I want cake, I wonder what sort of cake the Princess made for Mario. Why does Princess Peach bake cakes anyway? Doesn’t she have Toads to do that for her? It’s clearly more important than ruling a full Kingdom and that’s a proper kingdom, not just a figurehead position. Even though there’s no king we see either. In that way it appears to be more of a principality… like Monaco without the Formula 1. The Mario Kart series? Touché.

It’s a big country anyways. With its tennis courts, kart racing venues and whatever other sports facilities Peach builds in order to scratch that uncontrollable itch of hers to lose weight. Too much cake I venture.

And different lands in several different versions of the RPGs as well, in which she’s as often the damsel in distress as part-time hero. Still, this game keeps the world far more contained, by only taking place in Peach’s Castle and its environment even though there’s no way to get in or out of it except for one pipe that disappears immediately. Apart from the magical portraits; I do love the ripple effect as you jump through them. Are they portals to another worlds, or do you just jump into the painting?

It looks nice, yeah. It all looks nice to be honest. One amazing thing is that this is 15 years old and yet it does not look it quite yet. Maybe it helps that the graphics stayed the same in the DS port. You can tell there’s less polygons, it’s all not as complex as it could be and the environments are quite sparse – you can tell the difference between it and, say, Super Mario Galaxy 2 – but yeah, the graphics work great on the DS’s smaller screens.

Yes, there is definitely a difference I grant you but as a game it really has not aged too badly, especially when you compare it to the likes of Lylat Wars or Dune II. The bright and cartoony looks help a lot with that. True, but you have to admit that a lot of the things this game pioneered already feel very well perfected – the camera system especially.

The camera system bugged me at times. While you can set it yourself and make it better that way, it’s not yet smart enough to always do it automatically. I loved it when you saw the cameraman in the mirror. That’s a cute detail – there’s a Lakitu following your every move. It rarely shows – this and the introduction explanation of the camera are two of the few times – but it makes it a bit more… well, Mario. It does take a while to learn how to control it but once you do it’s actually really well done – even if the C-Buttons on the N64 controller do not feel that natural to use to move the camera. Yeah, you can tell it needed work, but once it works, it works well.

Same with the open world feel of each of the courses. It’s so much better in the Galaxy games, but it works very well here. It feels pretty open, but again, on having to develop it, the boundaries feel artificial at times. One of them is during the giant world, where the water just stops. There’s no real indication of where or why, you just can’t swim any further and the water is darker (similar in a way to Super Mario Sunshine.) I never understood why all the courses appears to be floating… that’s Mario’s world. From the start, there have been endless pits in the levels. Very true.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I am deeply in love with the first Super Mario Galaxy I would happily say that this is the best of the Mario platformers that I’ve played. It’s just so iconic. Some things are done better by other games, and the Mario games have evolved, but this is a good, basic game, missions, open world, 3D… it all works together well here. And there’s a lost penguin! Which you threw away! It throws itself away every time you get hit, jump wrong, or anything like that. I didn’t want to throw it. Likely story.

Final Thoughts

Have we peaked too early? This is widely regarded as one of the best games ever released (if not the best platformer) and we are only 26 games in. Super Mario 64 really is a great game and I would suggest that anyone who is yet to play this to try the DS port. It’s a very good substitute for the N64 version.

Game 6: Super Mario Bros.

Posted: December 7, 2010 by mulholland in Games
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Game 97/1001 according to the list

Genre: Platformer
Platform: NES
Year of Release: 1985
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

It may seem a little bit odd to cover another Mario already but there must be in excess of 20 different games (this could be an exaggeration) featuring this plumber so it’s a good idea to get a few out-of-the-way early.

I say get out-of-the-way but we are talking about the big daddy of them all, the title responsible for the renaissance of console gaming after the money pit that was the Atari E.T. game.

We all know the story about some fire-breathing turtle stealing a princess and then some Italian in a red hat goes off to save her, massacring the Goomba population of the Mushroom Kingdom as he goes along. Then again Super Mario Bros. sold over 40 million copies worldwide and is widely regarded as the most influential game in the history of the industry. However brief that history may be.

Our Playthrough

We decided that the most democratic way was for us to play through this was together using two player. I tried to go through it normally whilst Jeroen made heavy use of the warp pipe cheat. At least this way we get a good look at most of the worlds.

Our Thoughts

The first Mario platformer. Not first Mario game, thanks to the Donkey Kong series and Mario Bros. But the first proper platformer?

Well it definitely made side-scrolling platformers a household name. Not sure there were many before that attempted to do that. Yeah, none that I can think of right now to be sure, and it made Nintendo a household name.

Don’t forget that it saved home console gaming. It’s strange to think that we may not be sitting in a world of Wiis and PS3s if not for this game. I think there were many NES games responsible for it, not this one, but Super Mario Bros. is obviously most closely linked to the console, simply because you normally got the game when you got a NES.

True, and I think it was just able to take the world by storm because it flows naturally and just feels innovative. Unlike Duck HuntYou won’t understand Duck Hunt until you’ve used the light gun to try to shoot the dog laughing at you. I’ve played Point Blank and had similar experiences with various mini-games.

Of course let us not forget that this game originated all the Mario paraphernalia (minus Mario himself). Bowser, Peach, Toads, Goombas, Hammer Bros, Bullet Bills… I could go on. They are such parts of gaming culture that it’s like they’ve always been there. And even some that you keep remembering were in there already (for me at least), like the jellyfish.

As a game, it’s a good game. It’s hard to compare now, really, as the subsequent games improved on the formula, but the original is still fun to play. The graphics aren’t great, it might be lacking in variety, palette swaps may be everywhere. The challenge is there though. It’s unforgiving at times and extremely compelling, even if one level if just the photo-negative of another.

The challenge is there, and you can tell that’s what matters here. As well as the music; it may be crappy in quality, but they’re instantly recognisable. Well just 3-4 notes in and it feels homely. Like an old pair of slippers that you’ve perfectly broken in. Always a pleasure to slip in and out of. And I think that goes for the entire game.

Yeah, there are so many things other games have done better. But the game works, it’s solid, and it’s fun to just play, whether it’s the original NES version or one of the many remakes. And I suspect that, with the way it’s been everywhere, it’s the closest to a shared experience gamers around the world have.

That and Tetris. Yeah, but less face it – would you rather look at Russian buildings or eat a flower so you can start shooting fire (from your nose, if you look at the sprites used for it in this game). Both, then I’d be like Godzilla.

Anyway, I look forward to covering The Lost Levels in a month or so. And Lost Levels will be interesting. Possibly the best example of an early level pack. And a game not released outside Japan until the release of Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES. But more on that once we reach that game!

Final Thoughts

The word classic comes to mind, and I know it’s a word we’re going to use often, but it’s the best to describe why Super Mario Bros. deserves to be in here. Addictive, fun, instantly recognisable, and who hasn’t played it? Worth a look for everyone, not just for historical value, but to see how far you can get and how well you do. And to see why Goombas actually look like mushrooms.

Game 3: Viewtiful Joe

Posted: November 28, 2010 by mulholland in Games
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Game 547/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action/Platformer
Platform: Gamecube, Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

This is the first of a number of Capcom games that we are going to cover. The reason that we chose this one is not because of a random number generator (as is the process with most other games) but because I actually borrowed Viewtiful Joe off of a friend of mine some years ago and only found it in my drawer last week… oops. Still, a few more weeks before I return it won’t make a difference now (sorry Sam, I hope you didn’t buy a new copy)

The story behind this is as old as time. Geek takes girlfriend to cinema, girlfriend is kidnapped by a villain from the film, geek follows girlfriend into film and is given superheroic powers so he can rescue her… wait, what?

It borrows heavily from the tradition of a 2D side-scroller with the addition of cel-shaded 3D graphics as well as the ability to slow-down and speed-up time in order to achieve better combos and generally kick ass more “viewtifully”.

Our Playthrough

Well, there’s not a lot of choice here, the game is straightforward: We played through it for five hours, which dropped us about two thirds of the way through. We went for the easier (‘kids’) difficulty. I wanted to. I couldn’t deal with more. We’ll discuss that later.

Since I had played this before this was left to Jeroen to play his way through… unless it got too difficult and he got upset, then I kicked some serious robot ass. In my defense, my reflexes aren’t as good, I’m not as trained in these sort of games… and I sort of might have been dealing with a mild concussion (all too get out of peeling the potatoes) while playing it which affected a major part of my mood and such. And I’m just not as good as these games.

Our Thoughts

I would like to reiterate that this game was not stolen. That’s your opinion.

Anyway, one interesting game; very fast paced, lots of action, very colourful, and with very good visuals. It makes you feel like you’re in a movie.

It is also fairly difficult for newcomers and they are never afraid to up the ante to make sure that it doesn’t feel like a walkover. That’s very true as well, and I admit I ran up against it relatively soon – the first level is doable, after that it goes up rapidly. It’s a difficulty that is enhanced by the infrequent save points and the large amount of boss-fight strategies that need to be devised.

That’s probably what I ran up against the most. A lot of replaying of certain sections is required, and you have little time to work out strategies without having to go back through half the level because you’re out of lives. It’s a call-back to how older games went, and I suppose shows how gamers are spoiled these days with more frequent saving (helped by the gaming systems making it easier and faster to save).

You do get inundated by grunts but they are easy enough to defeat. Once you figure out the strategy for defeating them …which isn’t that hard. Usually not, no. Especially since they let you know in advance whether the majority of them are about to hit you in the head or the legs allowing you to counter attack. Which can be too late if you don’t have great reflexes which is where I flourish and you come unstuck.

I also have to admit it doesn’t help I kept hitting the rather large jump button when just trying to punch or kick. One thing we haven’t mentioned is the fantastic time effects used for fighting.

Even watching the game being played is a lot of fun due to those cinematic effects. It’s sometimes just fun to jump around whilst in super-slow motion.

You do need to have a will of iron with this game as it will kick you in the shins on many occasions. But if you are happy to get plugging away at puzzles and boss fights this is great. Part of that also requires you to enjoy the game enough that you want to keep trying.

Also, because of the cel-shaded graphics time has been really slow in dating this. It would mostly work now, yeah. And it seems to me that something like the Wiimote could interact quite well with any more sequels. Well it was a critically acclaimed franchise, but the low sales figures have led it to the gaming graveyard.

As so many other games have. But this is certainly a game that could work again a few years down the line, updated, with some new abilities, but the same cinematic gameplay. Replaying this makes me want to check out the Nintendo DS sequel.

Final Thoughts

At times so frustrating that you want to chuck your Gamecube controller at the TV Viewtiful Joe is a fast-paced cel-shaded thrillride. It has well withstood the test of time and is a great way to fight an anthropomorphic shark in slow motion.