StarFox Zero

star_fox_zero_naDate Completed : June 16th, 2016

I never played the original StarFox but I did play the ever-loving-snot out of StarFox 64 back in my college days.  It ranked with Goldeneye, Mario Kart and Smash Bros. for most played game cartridge.  Unfortunately every StarFox game since StarFox 64 (with the exception of Starfox 64 3D which was a remake and doesn’t count) has been in the range of mediocre to awful.  I wasn’t setting my hopes too high for StarFox Zero and when Nintendo bundled a second game (StarFox Guard) in for no additional cost I began to suspect that once again we would have a dud on our hands.

I thought StarFox Zero was a new game in the StarFox series but I had heard rumors that it was a remake of StarFox 64.  It turns out that it’s both new AND a remake.  It’s a reboot of the StarFox Universe with some new mixed in.  The first mission on planet Corneria  will be extremely familiar to anyone who has played StarFox 64 although halfway through the mission it switches into new content.  It’s a bit lazy storytelling-wis but I can appreciate that the world these anthropomorphized animals live in doesn’t lend itself to many story options.  Rabbits, Foxes, Birds and Frogs living together in harmony in a world where there is nothing to fear except giant floating Gorilla heads?  This stuff doesn’t exactly write itself.

So, how is the gameplay then?  Early on Nintendo marketed StarFox Zero as a game that would use the Wii U Gamepad to great effect.  The only effect however is that it makes it incredible difficult to play.  The motion controls do not improve the experience whatsoever and switching between the TV and second screen is incredibly disorienting.  I’d often be piloting myself into walls or buildings with my kids yelling at me that I was near death.  I attribute all of my failures on this game to poorly implemented controls, and not any lack of skill on my part.  It has been said that there is a difference between ‘challenging’ and ‘being hard to play’.  StarFox Zero is the latter.

The only parts of this game that I really enjoyed were the parts where I wasn’t piloting any of the new vehicles, or looking at the gamepad (Essentially only the parts that played like StarFox 64).  It’s a shame because this game really presents itself well, and my kids really enjoyed watching me play it.  If you are not the one stuck fighting the control scheme StarFox is a lot of fun to watch.  If Nintendo released a patch that fixed the problems with the controls I would recommend this game.  In it’s current state I suggest you pass on it.

It’s worth noting that the game also came bundled with StarFox Guard for no additional cost.  I haven’t tried Guard yet and I’m not even sure what it’s about.  It may add a little more value to the whole purchase if you’re on the fence about it, but after playing the main game it’s hard to get too excited about anything else that came in the same box.

Is it fun: Meh
Score: 5/10
Length:  5 hours
System: Wii U
Genre: Action / Rail Shooter




Uncharted 4 : A Thief’s End


The Intro Screen

Date Completed : June 4th, 2016

It looks like the Olympics are on once again which means that my wife will be commandeering the Television for two weeks.  During the Winter Olympics 2 years ago I was able to take the opportunity to complete The Last Of Us but this time around I think I’ll start by getting caught up with my blogging.

I spent the first few hours playing Uncharted 4 taking screenshots of everything. This is the first PS4 exclusive game that I’ve played on my PS4 and it looks fantastic.  It took awhile but eventually the ‘Wow’ wore off enough for me to focus on playing like I would any other Uncharted game.


Don’t Sneeze!

Being a long-time fan I already knew the drill and I set myself up with a spoiler-free walkthrough that detailed all of the hidden treasure locations.  I played all three of the previous game without the assistance of a walkthrough and each time I regretted it.  The hidden treasures are squirreled away pretty deep in some cases and I’d rather be experiencing the story than exploring every nook.

One of the things that really stood out for me was the bantering.  Characters engage in bantering with each other and it comes off as perfectly natural.  I never observed any ‘repeat’ conversations – I can’t imagine how much voice work must have been recorded to make this game possible.


Lots of back-seat driver banter through this section…

The game plays exactly like the predecessors, with the notable exception of rope/vine swinging mechanics.  I thought that I’d enjoy the vine mechanics more but in practice I didn’t find a lot of opportunities where it made much of a difference.  I usually went with my go-to strategy of charging down my enemies with guns-a-blazing.

So, how does the game rank in the grand scheme?  I’ve really enjoyed every single Uncharted game but when I think back on previous titles I think I enjoyed them all for different reasons.  The original Uncharted had a small cast while later games had much more cast members with seriously over-the-top action sequences.  I think Uncharted 4 manages to recapture some of that small cast vibe while still including great action.  Thinking back on the games I think that Uncharted 4 may be my new favorite.  Here’s my official ranking, if you’re keeping score:

  1. Uncharted 4
  2. Uncharted 2
  3. Uncharted & Uncharted : Golden Abyss (Tie)
  4. Uncharted 3

The game is too violent to let the kids watch but sometimes I let them sit in the room with me between action scenes.  Some of the language in the bantering sections could get questionable but the kids didn’t seem to have noticed.  Whenever bullets started flying I’d kick the kids out of the room.


Sometimes you’ve gotta push a wagon.

Occasionally my wife wandered in while I was playing and she seemed at least somewhat interested in the story.  The storytelling is one of the elements that has elevated the Uncharted games above other similar games.  This game continues the tradition, and being Nathan Drake’s last outing they take every opportunity to please long time fans in every way.

I didn’t purchase this game – I borrowed it from a colleague.  This game is a lot of fun and I can see myself plaything through it again but it’ll have to wait until I have access to another copy!

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  20 hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Action / Third-Person Shooter

Dead Space 2

Dead-Space-2_LIMITED_US_ESRB_PS3Date Completed: May 9th, 2016

I pre-ordered Dead Space 2 because the PS3 ‘Limited Edition’ included a free copy of Dead Space Extraction and I was lead to believe that supply of ‘Limited Edition’ versions would be ‘Limited’.  According to Wikipedia launch date was January 25th, 2011 so I’ve been sitting on this game for over 5 years.  The current price on eBay for the ‘Limited’ version is between 5-10 dollars, or roughly a 92% discount.  Since performing this calculation I’ve been wondering what kinds of things my 2011 self would have done with that money if I’d waited to buy the game until I was ready to play it.  I think the honest answer is that I would have blown it all on some random junk on eBay and my life wouldn’t be any different than it is now but I suppose we’ll never know for sure.

Unfortunately the release of the Dead Space games coincided with the arrival of children in the family so I’ve been unable to play Mature games with any regularity for many years now.  I played Dead Space 2 in short spurts for over 5 months sneaking time whenever my wife went to bed early or the kids happened to be elsewhere.  Most sessions were about an hour long which was usually enough to complete a chapter (of which there are 15) although some chapters took longer.

I don’t play many games that are especially gory so I was a bit shocked at first when I started the game.  When your main character dies the animation is as horrifying as possible.  Rarely if ever was my head still attached to my body after an encounter with necromorphs (Space Zombies).  Some of the evil space zombies cause you to vomit yourself to death, detonate your body into half-a-dozen pieces or simply impale you multiple times just for the fun of it.  I was a bit uncomfortable with the level of gore at first but eventually I became desensitized and began to find the extended death scenes more irritating that horrifying.  I died A LOT and some of the death animations are quite long.  If I suspected that I was on a collision course with a lengthy death animation scene I would often find a way to kill myself quickly so I wouldn’t be forced to see myself slowly mutilated.

I was constantly out of ammo and health through the entire game.  In one memorable scene I had 4 bullets to kill six enemies and no way to restore an earlier save point.  Getting through this section alone may have doubled my total play time.  After slogging through about half the game I resorted to using a walkthrough so I could find all of the hidden diamond semi-conductors ($$$) and buy some ammo.

Dead Space 2’s gameplay isn’t particularly unique or mind blowing but it is fun.  What I’ve always enjoyed most about this series is how your character appears to be going slowly insane while plowing through a story full of wacky cultists and space zombies.  Dead Space 2 builds on the story of the first game in a very satisfying way and while I don’t consider this to be one of my ‘go-to’ genres I really enjoyed the game.

The last thing I want to mention is that I think I triggered a bug in the final shootout and somehow managed to beat the game when I should have died.  I replayed that last battle many, many times because I rushed the last chapter and didn’t have enough health or ammo left at the end of it to make a decent go of it.  I decided one more try and then I’d give up for the night and re-load my previous save and then something weird happened and suddenly the credits were rolling.  It may not be the normal way to beat the game, but I’ll take it!

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  18 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Third-Person Shooter


Mega Man 9

Megaman9coverDate Completed: July 28th, 2016

I don’t remember when Mega Man 9 came out but I do remember that it came out before trophies were a requirement for the PS3 and it did not support them.  I had hopes that they might be patched in after the fact but that never materialized.

I’ve played enough Mega Man games to know how they play out but this one is different.  IT IS HARD!  All Mega Man games are challenging but this one seemed to be unusually unforgiving.  I played the game all the way to Dr. Wily’s stage and eventually I got to a part that I couldn’t get past no matter how hard I tried.  Being stuck is no fun, so I took a half-decade break from my save game.

My two sons have been getting interested in Mega Man games.  All of the previous 6 NES titles still hold up as fantastic games and I was surprised to see that my younger son was even able to play his way to some of the bosses.  My older boy purchased the Mega Man Collection for his 2DS and my younger son has been playing Mega Man virtual console releases wherever he can.  With all of the Mega Manning going on in the house I decided that maybe it was time to go back to my old save file and finally finish the game.

I had forgotten everything about Mega Man 9 in the several years since I had played it, fortunately YouTube walkthroughs quickly reacquainted me with all the tricks I needed to get past the parts that I had been stuck on in the past.  It took a few tries (and a lot of energy tanks) but success!  I finally righted a great wrong and my save file is no longer incomplete.

When I first bought the game my brother-in-law once remarked that ‘they’ should make more games like the classic NES games that we all know and love.  I’m happy to say that in the years since we’ve seen lots of classically styled games get released and classic gaming has a bright future ahead of it.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ??
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Action

Animal Crossing : New Leaf

animal_crossing_new_leaf_box_art_north_americaDate Completed: 11/25/2013

You may have already noticed that this review is being published two and a half years late.  I generally don’t write a review until I’ve gone through the process of ‘retiring a game’ which involves placing it back into it’s packaging and either listing it on eBay or placing it on my “I might want to play it again but probably won’t but I will keep it anyway” shelf.  In the case of Animal Crossing I never retired the game because the game never ends.  I’ve checked in to my town a few times but I haven’t played the game regularly in awhile now and I think it’s finally time to do my write-up.

I bought my wife a copy of the predecessor of Animal Crossing : New Leaf (known as Animal Crossing : Wild World) before I heard that New Leaf was going to be a thing.  I thought it was the kind of game my wife would enjoy  and as it turns out she really did get into it and I was surprised to find I sort of enjoyed watching her play it.  A few months later I heard that a 3DS update to Animal Crossing was coming so as soon as it came out I bought my wife a copy.  I never intended to purchase a copy for myself but I noticed that everyone I met on Streetpass had been playing Animal Crossing.  Various video gaming news sites were also publishing vast amounts of Animal Crossing propaganda and I eventually caved and bought myself a copy as well.


My house may resemble a gothic cathedral. 

My wife wasn’t emotionally ready to leave her old town behind so I ended up starting in on New Leaf first.  As I’ve mentioned numerous times before anything Norse related is automatically awesome.  I decided to make my town as ‘Norsey’ ( May Thor forgive me for using that word) as possible.   I named my town ‘Alfheim’ after the home of the Light Elves in Norse mythology and I designed my town flag to look like a Viking longboat.


My town flag

After arriving in town and being installed as the new Mayor you are free to pursue any activity you want.  You can go fishing, dig for fossils, collect bugs, plant orchards, commission buildings, decorate your home or engage in various other activities that the average person wouldn’t expect to be fun.  It would take a lifetime to describe all the activities so I won’t do that here.  The one I engaged in most was bug hunting on Tortimer’s Island because that was the quickest way to earn massive amounts of Bells (which is the in-game currency of Animal Crossing).


My wife and I during a visit she made to my city. 

Once you’ve fully upgraded your house and paid off your home loan there really isn’t anything specific left to do in the game.  You can continue to develop your town as you see fit but after putting countless hours into the game I finally just phased it out of the gaming rotation.


Based on my actual T-Shirt.  I’m so creative.

Animal Crossing was a surprise to me and I think it was worth the experience.  It’s not the kind of game I usually enjoy but it’s well done and very ‘Nintendo-ey’ in execution.  The game oozes adorable charm out of every orifice and I wholeheartedly recommend it.


Relaxing in the town square.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ?? (lots) hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Simulation



Zelda Picross

tpprincessDate Completed: April 22nd, 2016

At long last Nintendo finally unveiled their new customer loyalty program and one of the first rewards made available was Twilight Princess Picross.  It costs 1000 platinum points which thanks to Miitomo are easy enough to collect, although it did take me several days of answering inane questions and changing my hat.

My wife is a Picross fan but hasn’t played much since Picross for the original DS.  I told her about the freely available Pokemon Picross but she doesn’t understand Pokemon and couldn’t get into it.  When this game became available I told her it was the Picross experience she’d been waiting for so I badgered her into playing Miitomo so she’d be able to get the 1000 points necessary.

For being free you get quite a bit of game.  There are 45 puzzles each of which can be played in either Picross or Mega Picross mode.  There is also something called Micross which is a giant mural where you in small bite-sized 10×10 squares.  After you finish all of the puzzles your accumulated time shows up on the home screen.  My wife and I have been competing for scores but I think she’s cheating because she’s winning at the moment.

Each puzzle took me 5-15 minutes so according to my calculations I’ve put about 15 hours into it.  Since each puzzle is so short it’s easy to play for a few minutes at a time.  I usually run a puzzle or two before bed.  Not bad for a free game!

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  15 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Puzzle


81F1bAGK1aL._SL1500_Date Completed: March 13th, 2016

Puppeteer is one of the many games that I owned on disc that Sony made available for FREE to Playstation Plus subscribers before I got around to playing it.  It often seems that there isn’t much of a point to paying for Playstation games anymore.  Between Steam sales, Humble Bundle and Playstation Plus I own more games than I’ll ever have time to play in my lifetime.  Fortunately most of them are crap and I don’t want to play them. But I digress.

Puppeteer is definitely not crap.  I was immediately struck by the high production values and melodramatic story.  The characters are instantly likable and the presentation is absolutely fantastic.  The entire game presents itself as a puppet show and the scenery appears as sets in a play.  The story is a suitably over-the-top fairy tale and was very enjoyable for myself and my children.

You play the role of Kutaro, a headless puppet intent on overthrowing the rule of the Moon Bear King and reclaiming his head.  Kutaro has stolen Calibrus, the Moon Bear King’s magical scissors that are the only weapon strong enough to defeat the Moon Bear King’s generals and return peace to the Solar System.

The game tells a very entertaining story and my kids very much enjoyed watching it.  Since Kutaro is headless he has to find various objects in the game (such as bats or gingerbread houses) that can function as heads and each of these objects has a short description on the collection page.  My younger son insisted that we revisit the list of heads after each level so he could see the collection and watch the head actions.

The only problem with Puppeteer is that the gameplay itself is a bit lacking.  The difficulty level makes me feel like it was targeted towards a younger audience, but the complexity of the controls (nearly every button is used for something) was far too advanced for my kids (ages 7 and 5) to be able to play on their own.  The gameplay isn’t boring, but it’s not terribly interesting either.

The game consists of 7 Acts that each contains 3 scenes.  Each scene is about 30 minutes long, and the game automatically saves between scenes.  This was a bit of an inconvenience because I didn’t know how the save the game and I usually sat down to play it right before dinner when I didn’t have enough time to complete a scene.  It took me 4 tries to finish the first scene but after that I knew not to play unless we had at least an hour free.

Overall I enjoyed the game a lot.  It’s a memorable experience with high production values and I was able to enjoy it with the whole family.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  10 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Platformer / Action