Tag Archives: 3D Platformer

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Kenta Motokura

Producer(s) – Yoshiaki Koizumi & Koichi Hayashida

Released in the holiday season of 2017 for the Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey presents players with a return to the open-ended 3D style of play of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, and invigorates the series with new abilities and environments, as well as incorporating elements of classic Super Mario gameplay, such as side scrolling. From start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this title, and whilst it didn’t become my favourite Super Mario game of all time, certainly goes above and beyond many other games in the series in recent years.

Graphics – 9/10

The first thing to say about the visuals is that on a technical level, this is the best that Super Mario has ever looked. Each character and level found throughout the game is wonderfully detailed, and the blending of 3D and 2D make for something particularly special in terms of graphics. Conceptually, the game does fairly well to stand out from the rest of series in addition, which is quite remarkable given the astounding amount of transition the series has gone through over the 32 years it’s been around. After having watched the trailers for the game before it’s release, I was sceptical as to how some of the environments that were shown would fit with a series like Super Mario Bros, but after playing, I was posthumously proven wrong. Each level especially the Metro Kingdom, which I was most sceptical about, adds a new dimension to the series that I hadn’t thought possible beforehand.

Gameplay – 9/10

Much like Super Mario Galaxy 2, the objective of the game is for the player to find power moons, instead of stars, to power up Mario’s newfound ship named The Odyssey to advance from one level to the other in order to reach Bowser and rescue Peach from him. The most standout feature in terms of gameplay is Mario using his new anthropomorphic hat named Cappy to possess certain enemies throughout the game, and thus use their abilities to the player’s advantage. Much like the new settings, it adds another unique twist to the series’ tableau, as well as a new approach to gameplay, which has scarcely been seen in games before. And in lieu of 3D Super Mario tradition, the game simply doesn’t end with Peach being saved from Bowser. After the main game has been completed, there is a plethora of additional power moons to find, as well as additional objectives given to players for completion on a scale never seen before in a Super Mario game.

Controls – 10/10

Since the 3D Mario formula has existed for over 20 years, it would be more than reasonable to think there would be no issues with the controls; and so there aren’t. Super Mario Odyssey plays out as seamlessly as any other 3D Mario game since Super Mario 64, and the way in which new combat abilities and enemy abilities that Mario can adopt are also seamlessly integrated into the rest of the formula.

Lifespan – 9/10

The base game will take players there around 10 hours to complete, but after which, that hardly even counts as scratching the surface. Each level has an amount of collectibles to pick up that is unfathomable compared to every other Super Mario game before it. It will easily make for 60-70 plus hours of gameplay, and an excellent addition to the collection of extremely long games on the Nintendo Switch along with Breath of the Wild, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Skyrim.

Storyline – 7.5/10

Following the usual Super Mario Bros formula, Super Mario Odyssey follows the story of Mario having to save Princess Peach from Bowser; only this time, Bowser plans to marry Peach after stealing various relics from each kingdom throughout the world. Mario is also joined by the aforementioned anthropomorphic hat named Cappy, who is also out to rescue a female anthropomorphic hat named Tiara, whom Bowser has Peach wear in preparation for the wedding. Though for the most part the story is largely unoriginal, especially for anything seen in a Super Mario game prior, what makes the way in which is story is told in Odyssey stand out fractionally more than other Mario games is the projection of emotion found throughout. Mario is portrayed as slightly less of an unstoppable superhero capable of beating anyone he comes across, and is shown to feel the difficulty and hardship of what it is he is setting out do. On several occasions, Mario comes painfully close to rescuing Peach from Bowser before the final battle, but he is shown to suffer setbacks, which visibly frustrate him, and though these are not things that haven’t been seen in games prior to this by any stretch of the imagination, it is something new to the series, which in terms of story, has needed for quite some time. But in terms of depth in plot, it still leaves players wanting much more in this respect. It’s certainly my biggest criticism that I have to levy against this game.

Originality – 8.5/10

With that one main qualm I have out of the way, the fact of the matter remains that this game is the most unique Mario experience released since Super Mario Galaxy 2 in terms of every other aspect aside from story. The settings are outstanding and the gameplay is even more so. In recent years, the originality of this series has been very much hit and miss in my opinion, with me contrasting the uniqueness of games such as Super Mario 3D World and Paper Mario: Colour Splash, but Odyssey could possibly pave the way for more unique Super Mario experiences in the future, introducing new elements to the series, which could potentially be either expanded upon or could be spun off into even more new elements depending on what direction Nintendo want to take it into.

Happii

Overall, despite lacking in story, Super Mario Odyssey delivers players, which is in my opinion, the best Super Mario game since Galaxy 2. And whilst it may not be anywhere near as good as the former, it certainly spells a bright future for the franchise, as well as giving players what is probably the longest Mario experience ever.

Score

53/60

8.5/10 (Great)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch & Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Hidemaro Fujibayashi

Producer – Eiji Aonuma

Our years in development, and released as a launch title for the Nintendo Switch, as well as being the last game to be produced by Nintendo for the Wii U, and met with an overwhelming amount of critical acclaim, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild retains some conventions of the Zelda series, but gives players a much more open-world and open-ended experience than ever before. It also incorporates elements new to the series, such as breakable weapons, cooking food and brewing elixirs, using a variety of different armour sets and a massive variety of things to do and quests to complete, which puts many open world games to shame. Whilst this isn’t my favourite Zelda title (that honour would go to Ocarina of Time), Breath of the Wild has unanimously cemented itself as, in my opinion, one of the greatest video games ever developed, and most certainly worth the amount of praise it has been given worldwide.

Graphics – 10/10

Incorporating cel-shaded visuals reminiscent of games in the Wind Waker series, as well as Skyward Sword, Breath of the Wild takes place in a post-apocalyptic Hyrule, which is mostly abandoned countryside with the exception of a few small settlements and towns, including Gerudo Town, Rito Village, Goron City, Zora’s Domain and both Kakariko and Hateno Village. Despite the devastation that ravaged Hyrule a century prior to the start of the story, the in-game world looks captivating to say the least. Hyrule still retains a staggering level of natural beauty, as well as curious ruins and additional places to explore.

It’s also interesting as a Zelda fan to be able to identify the many different buildings that have appeared throughout the series that now lie in ruins, such as Lon Lon Ranch, the Temple of Time and the Bridge of Hylia. The game’s soundtrack also does extremely well to add to the atmosphere o this new Hyrule, as well as fit in with each respective situation the player may find themselves in, be that either simply travelling throughout the land in peace, or when battling monsters or mini bosses. It’s also refreshing to see that the conceptual design of the series in general has undergone some dramatic changes, concerning elements like Link and Zelda’s conceptual design, as well as the elements of futuristic technology that existed in mass before the events of the game, such as the Guardians, the shrines and the watchtowers scattered throughout Hyrule.

Gameplay – 10/10

The gameplay has also been dramatically changed to give players a Zelda experience like no other since. The main objective is of course to defeat Ganon, but players may choose to either put this off for as long as possible and go off and do many other things there are to do in the game, or they can even choose to go straight ahead to the final boss from the get-go. Either way, players will not be at a loss for how best they wish to approach the game. Players will also not find themselves with a lack of things to do, since there are a wide range of different side quests and collectible items to find, such as building your own house, completing all 120 shrines, finding all 900 Korok seeds, finding Link’s lost memories, filling the Hyrule Compendium and conquering the four divine beasts to name but a few. As far as gameplay goes, it is unanimously the most extensive Zelda game in terms of things to do, and I was thoroughly impressed from start to finish.

Controls – 10/10

In terms of controls, I also didn’t come across any unnecessary complications. The climbing system is actually reminiscent of what a lot of people tend to do when playing games such as Skyrim and Oblivion; trying to find the best route to climb up mountains despite how steep they may be. In Skyrim and Oblivion for example, players do this without the game encouraging them to do so, but in Breath o the Wild, this is actually an integral part of the gameplay, and is widely encouraged. The combat system can also present a welcome level of challenge in my opinion; especially against multiple enemies.

Lifespan – 10/10

With a massive amount of activity to engage in, Breath of the Wild can easily be made to last over the 100-hour mark, which dwarfs the lifespan of every other major entry in the Zelda series, as well as a vast majority of video games in general. Zelda games would generally last a long time prior, but the sheer scale of this game puts every one of them to shame in this respect.

Storyline – 10/10

The place of Breath of the Wild in the Zelda timeline is uncertain, as Nintendo have not revealed that, but the game takes place in the land of Hyrule 10,000 years after Calamity Ganon had attempted to invade the land, but was thwarted by Link and Zelda, with the aid of four divine beasts and futuristic technology developed by the Sheikah race. A century prior to the start of the story, Princess Zelda conducted further research on Sheikah technology and chose four champions to pilot the divine beast in case Ganon were ever to return. Upon Ganon’s return, he turned the divine beasts and the Sheikah technology against Hyrule, using it to ravage the land, while he remained confined to Hyrule Castle. After fighting the menace, Zelda return to Hyrule Castle in order to ensure that Ganon is kept confined there, whilst link is taken to the Shrine of Resurrection to awake 100 years after Ganon’s return, when he is then tasked with freeing the divine beasts, and to finally defeat Ganon, and drive him out of Hyrule once again.

Being the first main entry in the Zelda series to include voice acting, the story is a lot more emotionally charged than ever before, and it offers a much newer perspective on each character, excluding Link, who is still the same silent protagonist. Although the voice acting is a little below par, the game’s story is a welcome departure from many conventions of past Zelda titles; the portrayal of Princess Zelda herself, for me, being the best feature. Players are sternly reminded of the reason why the series is named The Legend of Zelda, since she carries an aura of mystery and beauty, and to a much greater extent than before, a great depth to her character that Shigeru Miyamoto was inspired by in the first place when naming her after Zelda Fitzgerald; the wife of the American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Originality – 9.5/10

Breath of the Wild is definitely much more evolutionary than it is revolutionary in my opinion, which is why I would personally place it beneath Ocarina of Time. Regardless, the game takes the concept of open world gameplay, and introduces a wide range of new ideas and gameplay elements, making it one of the most unique titles of the eighth generation. It seems Nintendo has looked at a lot of limitations in open world gaming, and developed on them, such a in the case of climbing mountains compared to The Elder Scrolls games. I’ve heard people complaining that there isn’t enough in Breath of the Wild to make it seem like a Zelda game, but to me, that’s a reason that makes the game stand out so much in a positive way, since Nintendo have become accused by critics of merely recycling the games, and giving them a new coat of paint; particularly where games for the Wii U are concerned. But to me personally, the departures that this game seem to have taken from the rest of the series are positive ones, and it makes for the best Nintendo gaming experience in a very long time.

Deliirious

Overall, Breath of the Wild is most certainly one of the best games Nintendo have ever developed, as well as being one of the best games ever developed in general. There is a great deal of things to do, the world of Hyrule has never looked so compelling, and layers will be engaged in the story on an entirely different level to anything seen in the series before.

Score

59.5/60

9.5/10 (Outstanding)

Q&A With Twirlbound

In my ongoing bid to cover more Independently developed games and indie developers, and ahead of my trip to London this weekend for EGX Rezzed, this week lead me to discover a  game on Kickstarter called Pine. Pine, being developed by Twirlbound games operating out of the Netherlands, is an open world survival adventure game made in the same vein as the likes of Don’t Starve, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Horizon Zero dawn. Incorporating many of the same gameplay elements from the aforementioned titled, albeit with it’s own unique graphical style and conceptual design, it also incorporates a combat system heavily influenced by Bloodborne, and from the looks of it, requiring a comparable level of skill and caution to master. This week, I had a Q&A session with the game’s creative director Matthijs van de Laar about what gamers can expect with Pine, and what influenced the game’s creation. Here were his answers:

What were the influences behind your game?

We’ve been mostly inspired by the great action adventure games like The Legend of Zelda and Fable – they tend to strike a chord with people that isn’t being struck enough, we think. Only once every few years a game like that comes by, and there’s still so much to explore within that genre. A very physical, natural feeling to the game was important to us – everything should feel grounded and real, with an easy-to-grasp groundwork of physics and interaction. We look at platformers and jolly action adventures for fun, but we look at more serious games for this grounded look and feel. Some of our team members have credits in cinema, and we all have a general interest in movies and TV – which has been a good influence for Pine’s storytelling, camerawork and rhythm.

What has the developmental process been like?

Starting out as a floating idea about 3 years ago, we’ve done an insane amount of research and prototyping. We wrote several theses on the subjects that are tackled by Pine (mainly about adaptation in game design, machine learning and natural environments), and all that knowledge was brought into a bigger game after graduating last year. It was only when we knew we had something that worked and after thoughtful consideration, that we decided to go at it full time. We worked really hard on the next step, which became Kickstarter – this included trailers, but also a lot of groundwork for the game and systems. Maybe cool to show is this 12-week video of that graduation phase:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhLdiLPQ2Ng

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

The idea process. There is such a wealth of ideas among team members that every meeting is a joy. We’re always bursting with inspiration, and seeing those ideas come to life in the form of environments or specifically the species, is really fun to witness. The alternative evolutionary course of Albamare has been a lot of fun to think about, and we’re not even remotely running out of ideas!

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Being only with 6, we have to make really important decisions sometimes. It’s important to keep the game small enough, but make it feel like an adventure that can last. We have a very strong vision of what it should play like and what the focus should be, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with that vision with only the few people we have. The open-world nature of the game has certainly been one of the tougher aspects (e.g. building the island, letting assets stream and simulating the ecology).

How well has the game been received so far?

We’ve always been blown away by the response, actually since the start! For example, we started out with sending out demos only five weeks into the process. We expected a few dozen testers, mainly from our school, but after about 6 weeks we had 3000 testers – people had been sharing it on Reddit and NeoGaf, and we got a lot of good data out of that. Things kept going like that. We went on the Square Enix Collective without any expectations, and became the highest rated project to date. We signed up for the Unity Awards, and in a completely surprising turn of events even won that one! We applied for a small grant and we got it – and now, on Kickstarter, we raced past 50% in 10 days. Like I said, we’re just pretty much blown away sometimes – the demand for a game like Pine seems to be real.

In respect of the game’s theme, do any of the team have any experience of outdoor survival?

Not really, to be honest – we all have been on camping trips before, but no real survival. It’s more about the theme of adaptation, change and evolution for us. We’ve always had an interest in evolution theory, for its beauty and undeniable systems behind it. When we realized these could be translated into a game, the theme took shape even more.

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

We’re currently developing on PC, aiming to bring it to Mac, Windows and Linux. But consoles are definitely in the future vision – depending on publishers and the platform holders’ interest in Pine, we really hope we can take consoles into account early on in the process.

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

The only advice I always give to developers or those starting their own company: it’s all about the people you do it with. If I hadn’t met my co-founder Marc early on in high school already, finding out we worked together really well, nothing would have happened. If we hadn’t had such a good cooperation with my companions, Pine wouldn’t have existed. Like Pixar’s president Ed Catmull says: find people you’re intimidated by, professionally. Find those who are absolutely better at things than you are, that’s the only way you can make something truly great! It’s really about the people and what they bring to the table. Recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses, be honest to each other!

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

Everywhere! More specifically, we’re on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and email:

http://twitter.com/Twirlbound

http://facebook.com/Twirlbound

http://reddit.com/r/pinegame

pine@twirlbound.com

Do you have anything else to add?

Kickstarter is scary, as you’re putting your whole game AND team online, but it’s so cool to see people engage that it’s all worth it!

Lastly, I would like to thank Matthijs for agreeing to our Q&A, and would like to take this opportunity to wish him the best of luck with the remainder of the Kickstarter campaign.

The Last Guardian (PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Japan Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Fumito Ueda

Producer(s) – Fumito Ueda & Kazunobu Sato

Released in late 2016 following a lengthy development cycle, The Last Guardian is a follow-up to Fumito Ueda’s previous PlayStation 2 masterpiece games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. In development since 2009, Ueda was inspired to create the game on the back on fan opinion that the connection between Wander and Agro in Shadow of the Colossus was much more emotionally charged than Wander’s commitment to reviving Mono. Ueda expanded upon this by creating a friendship between a young boy and a towering creature called Trico. Whilst I did experience some difficulties with the game’s controls, as did many other players, I found that The Last Guardian ranks in as second in my opinion of the quality of the three Fumito Ueda games; not as good as Shadow of the Colossus, but better than Ico.

Graphics – 10/10

In my opinion, it was well worth the wait to behold the transition from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4, as within that time, the graphics were given a dramatic overhaul to fit in with the standard quality of that of eighth generation gaming. But I found that both graphically and conceptually; the visuals far exceed the standards of an eighth generation game; in particular, the creature Trico’s features are intricately detailed, with it’s feathers reacting to respective indoor and outdoor environments accordingly, and it’s eyes giving it as much of an impressive emotional and lifelike appearance. The individual environments and dungeons are also something to behold, many of which reminiscent of both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus; many of which interestingly posing the question as to whether or not they are the same areas just in a different span of time, tying the game in with the mythology of the other two games nicely.

Gameplay – 7/10

The object of the game is to guide Trico through many of the different dungeons and environments in order to both solve puzzles and progress through the game. There is also an element of combat to it, as the player is persisted throughout the game by the so-called suits of armour, and the boy must use both Trico and any nearby weapons to defeat them. The game borrows elements from both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to deliver a very unique gameplay formula, with payers having to fend off the suits of armour using multiple combat methods, and the player having to manipulate, and even climb upon Trico in order to reach otherwise impassable areas. The game is better than Ico in that the combat is a lot more intricate than the latter, since players simply had to hit monsters with a stick and advance to the next area, but it doesn’t measure up to the quality of Shadow of the Colossus, since it follows a linear progression as opposed to an open-world one, and consequently, there is less to do throughout. There is replay value to be had, since there are achievements to unlock for playing the game more than once, but what I found in particular was that the world in which the game is set offered more than enough scope for it to be developed as an open world game; especially judging by the opening sequence, which suggests that there were many more guardians in the world than Trico at one point. Nevertheless, what there is in gameplay is enjoyable as well as challenging, and there are a fair few secrets thrown in for good measure to uncover along the way.

Controls – 9/10

As I pointed out, I did have a couple of issues with the controls along with many other people who have played this game; most notably with Trico’s AI. Sometimes, the creature wouldn’t do what I either wanted or needed it to do right away in some given situations despite following the in-game instructions, and on occasion, this would also effect combat. But it doesn’t become as much of a problem as to hinder the flow of the game completely, and for the most part, Trico responds as well as what is needed to most commands given to it by the player. I particular, I do like some more subtle control features, like how the creatures instinctively catches barrels in mid-air when thrown. Features like that give the game a certain charm not found in every title in my opinion.

Lifespan – 6/10

One playthrough of The Last Guardian clocks in at around 10-15 hours, which is yet another improvement on Ico, as that game last only a fraction of that time. For a linear game however, that is about the standard time, which whilst may be fair, isn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary. Personally, I would have been willing to wait even longer if it meant the developers could make the game either last longer, or set it in an open world, which I’m hoping is what Fumito Ueda does with the next game he develops that ties in with the same mythology, if and when he does.

Storyline – 9/10

The story of the Last Guardian follows a young boy and the towering creature Trico in their bid to escape from a huge and elaborate prison. To do this, the boy and the creature develop an intricate and complete understanding of one another, which blossoms into a strong spiritual connection that becomes even stronger throughout the course of the game. Ahead of the release of this title, I had read articles expressing opinions and concerns that the game would not be released in time to fill a gap for games that primarily told stories, and consequently, it would not be as effective as it could be. In response to that, I say the game is as effective in terms of story as it can be regardless of the fact that it has been released after titles such as The Last of Us, Journey and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and despite of this, the game is better than any of those previously mentioned titles in my opinion. Regardless of the fact that there is no minimal dialogue with the exception of the occasional narration, the game is more emotionally charged and elaborate than many other story-driven games on the market, with the addition of offering more in terms of gameplay.

Originality – 9/10

This game in my opinion, is unique in story and gameplay, but most importantly, it’s unique in terms of general concept. It may not be the first game released to do many of the things that it does, following on from releases such as Papo & Yo and Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, but it does these things better than both of these latter games, and more intricately too. I can honestly say that it is unlike any other game I’ve ever played, and one of Fumito Ueda’s most outstanding efforts to date.

Happii

In summation, whilst it does have it’s flaws, The Last Guardian provides a solid gameplay experience, excelling in the aspects of story, gameplay and visuals. It may not be as enjoyable as Shadow of the Colossus was, but it is worth at least one playthrough, and proved to be worth the wait of it’s development cycle, thankfully not succumbing to many of the complications that sometimes come with games that have had lengthy development cycles.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Play Manchester 2016

The beginning of October marked the fifth year of the Play Manchester gaming expo held at Event City venue. With it’s usual and varied blend of retro gaming cabinets, upcoming indie titles on display, and a wider array of new upcoming mainstream releases than last year’s proceedings, Play Manchester 2016 was even more exciting and diverse than in 2015, and just are star-studded in addition with a special panel present that I shall be covering further in the article. First, I perused the various indie games that were on show at the event, and I was impressed with the amount of range of different gameplay ideas and conceptual designs that the new up and coming developers had to showcase.

Snake Pass

snake-pass

The first indie game I came across was a 3D platformer unlike any other. Developed by Sumo Digital, Snake Pass is a game in which the player controls a snake in order to slither around a series of levels and hunting collectible items throughout. Players must learn to take full advantage of the game’s insanely unique control mechanics to reach high places, overcome imposing obstacles and puzzles, and leave no stone unturned, as there are plenty of items to collect through each level, it seemed. What impressed me most about this game, in addition to it’s impressive-looking visuals, was the game’s style of play. With a completely different take on getting around levels and uncovering secrets, it plays out like no other 3D platformer I’ve ever come across. The developer also explained to me various ways that players could choose to play the game, ranging from emphasis on speed, elegance or thoroughness. I personally believe if the developers plan to integrate this idea into the game further, it would most probably add even more replayability to it, but in the state that it was in at the time, it still impressed me very much.

http://www.sumo-digital.com/snakepass/#

@SumoDigitalLtd

Dragon Bros

dragon-bros

Having discovered a greater fondness for side scrolling shooters since I first started blogging, having played more games like Contra and Metal Slug, I was also particularly amazed by another indie game made largely in the same vein, but with a very interesting twist on conceptual design. Dragon Bros, developed by the aptly named Space Lizard Studios, the game is insanely action-packed, filled with breathtaking pixel art and seemed a lot more accessible than the like of Contra; especially the first three games in the series. For me, Dragon Bros was my pick for the best indie title on display at this year’s proceedings; it was the most fun and addictive game, as well as the most interesting in terms of conceptual design. Though comparisons can be drawn between it and Bubble Bobble, since the main characters are two dragons coloured both green and blue, it takes place in a much different kind of world reminiscent of science fiction rather than the cutesy fantasy settings of the former.

http://spacelizardstudio.com/work/dragon-bros/

@SpaceLizardSt

Mao Mao Castle

img_0475

Another game on display I become insanely addicted to, and have been playing frequently ever since the show, is Mao Mao Castle. Created by Asobi Tech, the game is an on-rail free-to-play browser game requiring the player to take advantage of various different mechanics to rack up as many points as possible to attain the highest score possible. The story centres around a cat with supernatural abilities trying to find a way home to a levitating castle in the skies. Reminiscent of the 8-BIT era, it takes influence in terms of conceptual design largely from the varied works of Studio Ghibli; made even more obvious by the fact that the developers had a plushy of the Cat Bus from My Neighbour Totoro perched on top of the projector used to display the game. Usually the game is controlled using a PC mouse, but the version on display at the show used motion controls, and plushies were up for grabs for anyone who could rack up exceptionally high scores. I managed to win one of the three available plushies, and have been racking up higher scores ever since. I highly recommend this game, as it excels in gameplay above even many mainstream releases, as well as it stands out amongst indie games. The link to play is below:

http://aso.bi/maomao/

Unbox

unbox

Another 3D platformer with a difference came in form of Unbox developed by Prospect Games. The player must customize and control their own box-shaped character, and have a wide range of different gameplay modes to choose from, include four-way multiplayer competitive modes, challenge modes, an adventure mode, and even a kart-racing mode; all of which can played to unlock new outfits for their box character, and to attain a wide range of collectibles like in Snake Pass, or most 3D platformers meeting industry standards. Just as unique as the former, it provides an extremely different take on the genre compared to games such as Super Mario 64, Jak & Daxter and Banjo-Kazooie, but also coming with possibly an even greater amount of variety in gameplay and potentially more replayability. Though it may not be as revolutionary as any of the aforementioned titles were at the time of their respective releases, it’s certainly an evolutionary title, and did stand out os one of the better games on display at the event.

http://www.unboxgame.com/

@ProspectGames

Sub Level Zero

sub-level-zero

Another one of my favourite games on display at this year’s Play Manchester was Sub Level Zero; a lovingly crafted Roguelike shooter reminiscent of the classic game Descent developed some of it’s devout fans at Sigtrap Games. Procedurally generated, and with a map system heavily influenced by the Metroid Prime series, which I found to be particularly impressive, as well as surprisingly easy to interface with, Sub Level Zero also has a heavy influence on player character development, with upgrades for grabs, as well as a wide variety of different weapons to use during combat. In lieu of Roguelike tradition, it also offers a fair bit of legitimate challenge, like the likes of Rogue Legacy and Ziggurat. One of many games in display taking advantage of Virtual Reality Headset technology, this game also did extremely well to further alleviate what scepticisms I previously had with the idea back when I first tried the Oculus Rift last year at Play Blackpool. I found that it was a great deal of fun with the addition of VR technology, and made me believe to a greater extent that the concept will be able take off in time.

http://www.sigtrapgames.com/sublevelzero/

@SIGTRAPgames

Hyper Sentinel

hyper-sentinel

The last indie title I tried out was another space-based shooter reminiscent of the arcade classic Defender. Hyper Sentinel, developed by Ian Hewson, son of industry legend Andrew Hewson of Hewson Consultants who appeared on a panel at last year’s Play Blackpool show, it centres on not only shooting down various enemies that appear on-screen, but also collecting power-ups and defeating a boss at each level; normally in the form of a giant spaceship, somewhat reminiscent of Bosconian. Though it may not have been the most unique title on display at the event, with it’s influences blatantly obvious, it does o well to stand out from the game of it’s inspiration in terms of conceptual design, and was also quite fun to play too. It certainly presents as much of a challenge as the arcade classic, and is a must-try for any fan of the arcade era.

http://www.hypersentinel.com/

@HewsonJoystick

Tekken 7: First Impressions

tekken-7

One of many different upcoming AAA titles that were available to try out at Play Manchester this year was Tekken 7. After being sorely disappointed by the previous game, with it’s less than impressive conceptual design, many characters coming across as far too generic, and it’s almost impossible difficulty level at times, I was quite relieved to see how much the seventh game improved on the sixth in every aspect. I was also impressed to see how fluently it plays out in comparison to even the original trilogy of Tekken games, with moves being much easier and less frustrating to pull off. Also, like what Capcom have done with the advent of Street Fighter V, and what NetherRealm studios did with Mortal Kombat X, the developers have seemed to branch out conceptually in terms of character design, but in a way that still makes the game feel like it belongs to the series without them being too generic in design. Akuma from Street Fighter is also a welcome addition following relatively recent crossovers between the two series’. It also makes me excited for what additional characters Capcom may decide to add for when they will inevitably update Street Fighter V.

WWE 2K17: First Impressions

wwe-2k17

The main attraction on show in terms of AAA releases however, as officially announced by Paul Heyman of the WWE, was WWE 2K17. Boasting new wrestlers, a new submission system and the inclusion of Goldberg on pre-order, it marks the fourth WWE released since the publishing rights were acquired by 2K Games, and features all the usual gameplay modes synonymous with WWE games, such as the Triple Threat match, Fatal 4 Way, Royal Rumble and of course, the career mode; as well as the facility to create wrestlers. It is without a doubt the best looking WWE game ever developed, but in terms of gameplay, it did take me a little bit of getting used to; especially since I haven’t played a WWE game since the sixth generation, about the time when I grew out of it as a kid. Regardless, especially after getting used to the submission system, and being able to thoroughly enjoy the game for what it is, I was pretty satisfied with how the newer developers have managed gameplay in comparison to classic WWE games like War Zone, Attitude and Wrestlemania 2000. Though the Attitude era remains my favourite time of the company’s history, it was good to see how the WWE video game formula has been worked upon and handled in a way that works extremely well after so long.

The Tomb Raider Panel

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In terms of guest speakers, however, the main attraction was the assembly of and talk with many of the developers of the original Tomb Raider from Core Design to commemorate the franchise’s 20-year anniversary; many of the panel not having seen each other in as many years. The panel consisted of Jeremy Heath-Smith, the game’s executive producer and co-founder of Core Design, Natalie Cook, who was the original character model for Lara Croft, Richard Morton, who was the lead game, level and environment designer for every game up to Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, Gavin Rummery, who was the lead programmer for Angel of Darkness, Heather Gibson, another level designer for the first two games, Andy Sandham, who designed levels and wrote the scripts for the third game, as well as The Last Revelation and Tomb Raider: Chronicles, Murti Schofield, who wrote the story of Angel of Darkness, Nathan McCree, who composed the original soundtrack for the first two games, and finally Stuart Atkinson, who worked as an artist on the second game. The panel were also to be joined by former Eidos Interactive CEO and industry legend Ian Livingstone, but he unfortunately had to pull out due to ill health. Regardless, I would like to take this opportunity to wish Mr. Livingstone a full recovery.

The panel proceeded to provide an in-depth analysis of how and why Lara Croft was designed the way she was, and how the games themselves were designed the way they were and in what manner, and how both Lara Croft and Tomb Raider gradually went from a unique video gaming idea into a cultural phenomenon, and how it has managed to have such a profound effect on the industry as it has. Questioned were also raised by the audience concerning the reboot of the Tomb Raider series from Crystal Dynamics, and also about the degree of influence Naughty Dog took from Tomb Raider to develop their own Uncharted series. The team responded quite sternly in their answer to the Uncharted question in particular, commenting how many of the various gameplay features were heavily inspired by Tomb Raider, and the long-time Tomb Raider fans in the audience responded fittingly with an astonishing round of applause. Though I may personally prefer Uncharted to Tomb Raider, mostly due to the better start that Uncharted had in terms of controls, credit is due where it is due, and the team deserve props for helping to pioneer one of the most memorable video game series of all time, and so there response was justified in my opinion. Uncharted may have homed the great gameplay concept, but Tomb Raider established it, and has contributed a great deal to the popularity that gaming garnishes today. Especially with the recent release of Rise of the Tomb Raider on PlayStation 4, the talk with the panel was an appropriate reflection on where Tomb Raider has gone, where it is going now, and where it could go in the future. It was extremely exciting to sit in on an extremely insightful presentation, and the made 2016’s Play Expo proceedings all the better for it.

Overall, Play Manchester 2016 was a thrilling experience, and would like to take the opportunity to thank the organisers at Replay Events for the making it the best event it could possibly be, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them next year.

 

Pierhead Arcade: First Impressions

pierhead-arcade

As a bonus, before I headed out to Manchester, Mechabit Games, a Liverpool-based developer, also invited me to try out the latest game they have been working on. Mechabit, who developed the RTS game Kaiju Panic, which was on display at Play Manchester 2015, and won my personal choice for best indie game of that year (shameless plug is shameless), have been working on a virtual reality game called Pierhead Arcade; a collection of interactive fairground games based in a virtual reality amusement arcade. After only having limited experience with VR gaming beforehand, I saw as an excellent opportunity to finally get hands on with the technology involved, so to speak. I wasn’t disappointed.

As I outlined in my Play Blackpool 2015 article, ever since I first heard about plans from of the industry incorporating virtual reality into gaming, I had a great deal of scepticism following the ill-fated release of such platforms as the Nintendo Virtual Boy, and early examples of motion controls before the Wii, such as the Nintendo Power Glove. Since first trying it, and going on to briefly trying it again at different expos, my scepticisms were gradually becoming all the lesser, as I slowly learned to understand how it could work if problems I would encounter would be fixed, such as blurry screens etc, and if there was adequate developer support for these platforms. But now after having seen games such as Battle Zone, and then having seen how much indie developers are beginning to support the platform along with mainstream developers, I now believe this may very well could be a future of gaming that could establish itself as here to stay; provided that developer support will continue, as what is looking increasingly likely, since the technology was on display at other major gaming expos this year, such as E3, Gamescom and EGX.

Pierhead Arcade itself not only takes advantage of this potentially successful technology, but presents players with an astonishing amount of variety, with games like Whack-A-Mole, Shuffleboard, Binary Dash and Skeeball to name but a few. The objective is to earn as many tickets as possible that can be cashed in for prizes, much like in most amusement arcades. There are also a couple of extras in the game, such as a claw machine, and a reception desk with various toys that can be played with, such as building blocks. Overall, the variety is staggering, and the game will make for hours of fun. I may do a full review of this game in the future, I would recommend that VR gamers try it out. Following up Kaiju Panic was always going to be a challenge for Mechabit in my opinion, but with this title, I’d say they’ve done a particularly good job of doing so.

In summation, I would like to again thank the organisers at Replay Events for providing me, as well as countless gamers across the country, with truly memorable experiences at the various Play Expo events this year, and I hope that you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Yoshi’s Woolly World (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Good-Feel Co.

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Atsushi Kono & Naoya Abe

Producer(s) – Etsunobu Ebisu, Keita Kawaminami & Takashi Tezuka

The first Yoshi game to be release on a home console since Yoshi’s Story back in 1998, Yoshi’s Woolly World stays true to the core mechanics of all the other Yoshi games released throughout the years, but also provides a level of challenge unseen in most other games on the Wii U. Whilst this game isn’t as creative or unique as Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for example, It’s certainly a stern effort from Nintendo, and certainly goes above and beyond it’s Nintendo 64 counterpart.

Graphics – 8/10

Deriving influence from the Wii game Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the scenery and style of the game is made up of cloth and woolly textures, which look extraordinarily realistic; even against video games developed in more advanced hardware than the Wii U. The many different worlds found in the game, in lieu of the franchise’s tradition, also have their own themes and elements similar to any Super Mario game. Whilst it may not be as varied as Yoshi’s Island, which had much more menacing locations as well as innocent-looking ones, it still quite a bit of variety about it compared to most other games.

Gameplay – 8/10

The mechanics and the objective of the game is more or less identical to that of both Yoshi’s Island and Yoshi’s Story; clear each level and fight the boss at the end of the world, rinse and repeat. What makes Woolly World different from the others, however, is not the level of challenge involved in simply clearing each level, but the challenge of completing every level to 100%. The secret levels in particular can prove extremely testing to clear. Nintendo wanted gamers to be able to explore every nook and cranny of every level to find every secret, but they certainly didn’t make doing that easy. But this isn’t to say that the game is inaccessible. For those who are having too much trouble with it, there is simplified version that can be played instead to suit both parties of gamer; something I think should be done with every other video game that can be considered overly hard.

Controls – 10/10

Since this game plays out identically to every other previous Yoshi side scroller, there are no unnecessary complications with the control scheme. However, I did think it was somewhat interesting to be able to move Yoshi around in 3D environments throughout each overworld. It made me think about what may have been if Nintendo and Argonaut Games had still been in partnership with one another throughout the fifth generation of gaming, and that if a 3D Yoshi game had been released instead of Argonaut breaking off and making Croc: Legend of the Gobbos out of what ideas were left from the previous project.

Lifespan – 7/10

To complete everything in the game will take around 15 to 20 hours, which whilst being about the average of most side scrollers on the Wii U, is still fairly impressive. Classic side scrollers could only be made to last a fraction of that timescale, but their respective franchises have been kept fresh with the inclusion of new side quests and additional curricular activities; and Woolly World is no exception. I’ve highly anticipated this game since it’s announcement at last year’s E3, and I was satisfied to see that it lasts this long.

Storyline – 6/10

The plot of the game, again in lieu of Super Mario tradition, is very straightforward; Yoshi must rescue all the other Yoshis after being unravelled and scattered by the wizard Kamek, and must then take the fight to Bowser Jnr. The story of Yoshi’s Island was a little more interesting, since not only did it put players in the shoes of another character from the series, but it also explored the origins of Mario himself. But unfortunately, Woolly World doesn’t have very many interesting elements like that, and consequently, makes much less of an impact in terms of story.

Originality – 6/10

In addition to having an unoriginal story, the game itself is also somewhat unoriginal, bar the inclusion of a much longer lifespan, and a heightened level of challenge. The art direction may be much different to that of the rest of the Yoshi games, but of course, the same developer used the same visual gimmick in Kirby’s Epic Yarn. It may look very good and very realistic in this game, but it’s been done before. I don’t think recycling boss characters helped matter either.

Happii

Happii

However, despite what it lacks in both story and uniqueness, Yoshi’s Woolly World makes up for in its gameplay above all else. It’s still a very enjoyable experience, and I recommend it to anyone with a Wii U. It’s certainly a better exclusive than many Xbox One games, and will prove a challenge to any fan of the platforming genre.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Wario World (Nintendo GameCube)

Developer(s) – Treasure

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Kouichi Kimura & Hitoshi Yamagami

Producer(s) – Takahiro Izushi & Masato Maegawa

Release somewhat late into the GameCube’s shelf life, Wario World provided a different take on what players had seen on that in particular console, but not so different to what they had already seen on past systems. I have played much worse games, but this is the first and last Nintendo game that Treasure ever developed, and understandably so.

Graphics – 7/10

One aspect I don’t think I should criticize too much is the visuals. There is some diversity present in both level and boss designs, and the enemies and characters that can be found throughout the game are not as generic as they seem at first glance. To list a few examples, the five Spritelings to be found in each level (in itself a reference to the Jinjos in the Banjo-Kazooie series) closely resemble Pikmin, the fact that the Cractyl enemies are purple flying dinosaurs can be seen as a homage to Ridley from the Metroid series, and the Magon enemies found from the very first level closely resemble Bowser from the Super Mario series; the fact that there is a skeletal variation of the Magon would seem to clarify this even further.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

The game is a 3D platformer, but not made in the same vein as what was popular at the time; but rather made to be much more linear, and as a result, I think it suffered. I is enjoyable for a time, but it could be argued that it is far too easy; even for a Mario game, and even to complete it to 100%. Its level of difficulty made obvious to me by the fact that there are even the Magons in the first few levels don’t attack the player. However, it is interesting to be able to identify different influences the developers took to create the game’s play; not just from Nintendo games. For example, the level and world layout is very similar to the first three Crash Bandicoot games, and the ability to spin enemies around and throw them hearkens back to the strategy of defeating Bowser in Super Mario 64.

Controls – 10/10

Another thing I shouldn’t complain about is the game’s control scheme. Although it is an easy game regardless, it could have done with no complications in terms of controls, and thankfully, there are none.

Lifespan – 4.5/10

As a 3D platformer made in the same vein as classic Crash Bandicoot, the linearity of it unfortunately made for a particularly and disappointingly short experience of about 5 hours. Particularly from Nintendo’s point of view, I imagine that it would have seemed like a particularly underwhelming experience, since many other games released on that system, including 3D platformers, were made to last considerably longer, and provide much more entertainment.

Storyline – 6/10

The story of the game follows Super Mario antagonist Wario, who is on a quest reclaim his riches after they are turned into monsters by the evil anthropomorphic black jewel, which Wario had recently acquired. The only good thing I would say for it is that it is slightly different to most other plots across the Super Mario franchise, since it tells a story from the point of view of evil ass opposed to that of good, but it still can be seen as nothing overly special and pretty mundane.

Originality – 4/10

Although the game does have its charms here and there, in lieu of Nintendo tradition, it’s still bland enough and far too packed with recycled elements for me to be able to legitimately call it original; especially in terms of gameplay. After pioneering the 3D platforming genre with Super Mario 64, and then going on to make a ton of successful games in the same genre, it seems to me that with this game, Nintendo were actually going back on themselves; something that they rarely do. Nintendo had always pioneered themselves as innovators, but it’s evident to me that innovation wasn’t a watchword at Treasure during development.

Niiutral

Niiutral

In summation, Wario World isn’t the worst game ever developed, but it’s certainly not one of the best either. It was below par by any level of standards ever set by Nintendo, and gives testament to the fact that not all developer collaborations can work out well.

Score

38/60

6/10 (Average)

The Hobbit (Xbox, PC, PlayStation 2, GameCube & Game Boy Advance)

Developer(s) – Inevitable Entertainment, The Fizz Factor & Saffire

Publisher(s) – Sierra Entertainment

Designer – Chuck Lupher

Producer(s) – Jaime Grieves

Amidst the newfound popularity of the Tolkien mythos surround the Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, and amidst an ongoing dispute regarding the rights to the Tolkien license, with multiple games based on the books and films being developed at the time, The Hobbit was released to mixed reviews from critics, who cited the gameplay as being uninspiring, and it’s failure to appeal to younger gamers. In the industry, licensed games have for the most part been generally frowned upon, and seen as simply being a modern form of shovelware, with the owners of their respective licenses simply releasing games to coincide with films for the moat part. However, there are a elect few license games, which go above and beyond what is expected of them, and end up offering some legitimately enjoyable gaming experiences. In my opinion, whilst The Hobbit may not be among the best, it’s certainly not among the worst, I find.

Graphics – 6.5/10

On aspect that the game falls short on somewhat, is the visuals. Whilst they may have looked fairly impressive at the time, they don’t hold up nearly as well on a technical level as many other games of it’s kind do, such as Final Fantasy X and Metal Gear Solid 2 to name but a few. Like the game based on the first volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy developed by WPX Games & Surreal Software, it largely conforms to the same conceptual design as in the films, but there are a couple of standout elements that did fairly well to separate it from both the initial Peter Jackson film trilogy and the aforementioned game at the time of it’s release at least (before the Hobbit film trilogy came out years later as well as Lego The Hobbit), such as locations like Lake Town, Mirkwood and Erebor.

Gameplay – 7/10

For the most playing out like a traditional 3D platformer, the game also has a few little side quests thrown in for good measure during the first half of it; like the previously mentioned Lord of the Rings game. Most notably involving completing the tasks for the dwarves before the party departs for The Lonely Mountain. There is also a small stealth aspect, which fits in fairly well with the tableau of the story of Bilbo Baggins being hired as a thief, and which I moderately enjoyed. Stealth can be quite a tricky aspect to pull off in games, as it can eliminate fluency if it requires players to play through the same area a certain amount of times, but for the most part, it’s done fairly well in this title in my opinion.

Controls – 10/10

As far as 3D platforming in this game goes, I had no gripes with it whatsoever; which in all fairness was to be expected I think, as the genre had well and truly took prominence at this time following the release of games such as Super Mario 64 and Jak & Daxter. Combat and stealth are also both handled adequately well, and there are no unnecessary complications with the game’s control scheme present to add any kind of unwarranted level of frustration.

Lifespan – 6/10

The game can be made to last an average of 8 hours even taking in the completion of side quests throughout the course of the game, which whilst isn’t great by any means, is still fractionally longer than the game based on The Lord of the Rings license, which can be made to last around 6 to 7 hours. As the game conforms to a very linear progression, it wasn’t expected to have a great lifespan in any case, but I cant help but think that with a little bit more imagination on the developer’s part, it could have been made to last at least a little while longer; certainly the first part of the game set in the Shire.

Storyline – 8/10

Depicting the events of the classic children’s novel written by JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit follows the exploits of Bilbo Baggins of the Shire, who is persuaded by the wizard Gandalf and his band of 13 dwarves to accompany them on an adventure to retake the dwarven city of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. The story itself isn’t an issue at all, since It’s enjoyable in any form that it’s told; be that through a game, a film, or most notably of course, the classic book. The biggest problem I had with it, however, is the voice acting is quite lacklustre, even by video game standards at that time, and thus, it’s much more difficult to take seriously than in other forms of media the story has, or would be told in.

Originality – 6/10

The game does retain a slight element of uniqueness, as it incorporates the aforementioned stealth element, which at this point was only really seen in the Sly Cooper games. However, for the most part, it plays out like most other 3D platformers that were released before its time, and consequentially, I don’t think it can be considered either evolutionary or revolutionary. The stealth mechanics in the Sly Cooper games were much more sophisticated than in this title, and in terms of normal 3D platforming mechanics, it fails to stand out amidst many of the classics in the genre that had been released prior.

Happii

Happii

In summation, despite it’s lack of originality and less than satisfactory voice acting, The Hobbit is nevertheless a fairly enjoyable gaming experience, and shouldn’t be entirely overlooked. Whilst the visuals may not hold up to this day on a technical level, and whilst more could have been added to increase the game’s longevity, the developers did a good job for the most part, and it’s certainly worth at least one playthrough; for both fans of the Tolkien mythos and the 3D platforming genre.

Score

43.5/60

7/10 (Fair)

Super Mario Sunshine (GameCube)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Yoshiaki Koizumi & Kenta Usui

Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto & Takashi Tezuka

Following on from the immense success of Super Mario 64 back in 1996, Nintendo released Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube in 2002, and went on to receive overwhelmingly positive critical acclaim, with many publications giving it a perfect score, and Japanese website Famitsu also giving a near-perfect score; one of very few games at that time to achieve such an honour. Personally, however, although I can understand why critics and players alike appreciate this game to the extent that the do, with it presenting a new and outlandish style of play that had never been seen in a Super Mario game prior, it seemed like too much of a step down from Super Mario 64, and there were fundamentals that I feel the developers didn’t handle as well as they should have done.

Graphics – 7/10

In terms of conceptual design, Nintendo were at least able to break away from many of the normal conventions there were within the series at that time, and take it to an entirely new setting with new types of supporting characters, very effectively expanding the mythos of the entire Super Mario universe; something that arguably needed to happen for some time prior to the release of this game. It was also the first time at FMVs had been implemented in a Mario game, which helped it to showcase what kind of graphics the Nintendo GameCube was capable of processing in it’s early shelf life.

Gameplay – 5/10

After the prolonged success of 3D platforming games on the Nintendo 64, Super Mario Sunshine was Nintendo’s attempt at bringing something new to the table, introducing new gameplay mechanics in the form of Mario’s new companion, F.L.U.D.D; a water hose which Mario must use to clean areas of land in order to get around and to use a weapon against enemies and bosses. The problems I had with this game, however, is that there are a number of game-breaking glitches throughout, which made me believe that it was left unfinished overall. It was highly unorthodox by Nintendo’s standards, making this game one of the first true signs of weakness I personally witnessed within the gaming industry. Yoshi’s Story did little to impress me when I was a kid, but I naturally expected much more from a Mario game, and unfortunately in this instance, my expectations were not met.

Controls – 8/10

Another way in which Nintendo could be seen as going back on themselves in this instance is in the game’s control scheme. It ultimately plays out almost identically to Super Mario 64, but the new mechanics can take some getting used to at first, and even after this, I found them to be somewhat unresponsive at times. Overall, it was a little dissatisfying to see this after Nintendo had pioneered such a sophisticated control scheme with Super Mario 64.

Lifespan – 8/10

One good thing I can say about this game, however, is that for those who may not experience as much of a problem with it as I did, there is certainly a fairly lengthy experience to be had. Lasting just as long as any 3D platforming Mario game, around 30 to 40 hours time can be clocked, which is pretty impressive. In general, it surprised me how such long games could be stored on mini discs when I first started laying the GameCube. I saw it with both Wind Waker and Metroid Prime, but his game is yet another shining example of this.

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story of Super Mario Sunshine takes place on a vacation island called Delfino, in which an unidentified figure has been vandalising large sections of the resort. Once Mario and company touch down ready to take their own vacation, Mario is immediately and wrongfully identified by the Delfino authorities as being the vandal, and is sentenced to clean what mess has been made with the aid of F.L.U.D.D. At first it seemed like a positive change from the damsel in distress story that had become synonymous with the series even at that point, but overtime, that’s exactly what it unfolds into, overall making it not much different to any other Mario game.

Originality – 7/10

Despite Nintendo unwilling to provide a great deal of uniqueness in terms of story, I do respect their willingness to have tried something new in terms of gameplay; which after all, is much more important than the former. There would be many more 3D platformers released throughout the sixth generation of gaming that would blow this title out of the water in my opinion, such as Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank, but this game was able to at least stand out among these others to the extent that it did.

Niiutral

Niiutral

Overall, Super Mario Sunshine is my least favourite 3D Mario game, but it’s by no means the worst game in the franchise overall. There are gamers out there who hold this title in much higher regard than I do, and this is understandably so, but to me, there were far too many faults I found with it to be able to call it a classic game.

Score

41.5/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD Tokyo

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Yoshiaki Koizumi

Producer(s) – Takao Shimizu & Shigeru Miyamoto

The official 3D platformer in the series since Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube, Super Mario Galaxy presented players with the most innovative Mario game since the days of the Nintendo 64, and has since become a cult classic, and is considered a must-have game for anyone who owns a Wii. It is indeed a very unique game, and makes for one of the better titles on the Wii overall, even at the time of its release, I did have one or two issues with it, which prevented me being able to personally consider it to be one of the best Mario games of all time.

Graphics – 9/10

The conceptual design of Super Mario Galaxy is also unlike any other Mario game to have ever been developed prior, introducing players to a world made up of standalone galaxies and traversable planets. There is also a wide variety of new characters and setting, which have since become stables of the series, appearing in the likes of Mario Karts 7 and 8. On top of that, there is also extremely effective use of lighting and textural detail; indeed, its factors like that, which makes the final cutscene one of the most breathtaking I’ve ever seen in any video game in general.

Gameplay – 7.5/10

Playing out very similarly to Super Mario 64, but going unanimously beyond the quality of Super Mario Sunshine, it involves simply traversing each stage of the game to collect as many stars as possible, and thereby ultimately reaching the last boss. There are a good few stars to have to collect with the added incentive of being able to play as Luigi once this is done, and then being given additional objectives afterwards. There is also a ton of new power-ups for players to take advantage of in order to progress through the game, such as the ability to transform into a bee, or even one of the boos.

Controls – 9.5/10

Normally, when video games try to incorporate a new or unique control scheme, it usually becomes a question of trial error, such as in Lair or Sunset Overdrive. But it’s surprising to see how little issues there are in Super Mario Galaxy is, considering how different and off-the-wall it is compared to not only other Mario games before it, but other video games in general. There are one or two issues regarding the camera angle, but they don’t become anywhere near enough of a problem to render the game unplayable by any means.

Lifespan – 6/10

The one thing I was disappointed by, however, was the game’s lifespan. To do everything will take an average of roughly 20 hours, which taking into account things like larger level designs than Super Mario 64 and more to play for than in Super Mario Sunshine, seems that evermore underwhelming. It wasn’t until three years later when every single issue I had with this game was addressed in the sequel, including lifespan, but I don’t think the game should lose out on too many marks, since it does last considerably longer than many other mainstream releases.

Storyline – 7/10

Although the story follows the same basic premise as most other Mario games (Mario must save Peach from Bowser and job done), it does have a few things differentiating it from other Mario games. The basis of the game’s story involves Mario having to travel through outer space through various portals within an observatory occupied by new character Rosalina and her companions, the Lumas; a race of people resembling stars. It makes for settings and characters very different from anything else seen in either most Mario or most other Nintendo games for that matter, and the fact that the basic objective remains the same also remains forgivable as well.

Originality – 9/10

Super Mario Galaxy is undoubtedly one of the most unique games on the Wii, and one of the most unique titles of the seventh generation in general. Introducing gameplay mechanics that gamers may have thought couldn’t possibly work otherwise, it was popular enough to spawn a second game, and did extremely well to expand on the Super Mario mythos even further. It could be argued that a lot of the ideas in this game stemmed from the cancelled Sega Saturn game Sonic Xtreme, but I think this game would have been more impressive if the latter had been released anyway, since it takes advantage of an entirely new control scheme and way of playing games.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Super Mario Galaxy is indeed a must-have for Nintendo Wii owners, and one of the better Mario titles in recent years. Though the sequel would arrive some time later and blow this game out of the water in my opinion, this was an extremely good starting point, and remains something that players come back to again and again.

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)