The last Paper Mario game I played was Thousand Year Door on Gamecube. I remember liking it, but that was a long time ago. So when I decided to grab The Origami King, I wasn't really sure what to expect, as the series has changed a bit over the time since that Gamecube game.
I've played a few hours now, and it's... okay?
I mean it looks fantastic. The HD visuals of the paper and stickers and everything is gorgeous. Nintendo has definitely perfected that aesthetic. And honestly the writing is really good. Like genuinely funny, which is a rarity in video games.
But as an "RPG"...? Ugh. And I'm being fair here, I think. I went into the game knowing that Paper Mario games are RPG-lite at best. But still. This feels so so shallow to me. There's no XP, which means that quickly random battles felt pointless to me. Things just feel really limited, which is not what I'd really like to see in a Mario RPG.
The battle system is fairly crappy. It's turn based, which is good. There's a sort of rhythm thing going on that adds some extra oomph, I guess. But the whole spacial puzzle of moving enemies around? I'm not into it at all. I find it tedious and annoying.
The bigger issue I'm having is the flow of the game. Like, it's super hand-holdy most of the time. And extremely linear. I'm constantly being told I can't go somewhere I want to because "hey, don't you think we should be sticking to our objective?" Yet, other times the game is bad about telling you where to go.
I just finished finding four stones to open up the Earth... something. Now, in this area where the four stones were, is a giant stone tower on top of a mountain. I assumed THAT was what was going to open up. But every time I tried my travel mate would say "shouldn't we go find the Earth (thingy)?" and I'm like, I thought that's what I was doing. It turns out I needed to backtrack to a different area to open it. So it's just frustrating because momentum is constantly being stopped to tell me things I don't need to know, yet when I do need a hint, it's vague.
So far this is turning out to be a rather charming game that I just don't really enjoy. But we'll see. I'll play through this Earth whatever dungeon and see if anything changes for me.
I've now played through the first dungeon and beaten the first major boss of Origami King, and I'm still pretty underwhelmed. Again, the art and writing is top notch. But the gameplay? Kind of boring to me. I'm just not sure how long I can really stick with a "just okay" game like this.
As a fan of RPG's, I found it disheartening to only see my HP go up after playing the game for several hours. And the battle system? Not for me! I feel like the entirety of the battle system is like being forced to do Rubik's Cube puzzles while a stopwatch ticks down. Just not my kind of RPG. Y'know?
So I'm in a weird spot. I don't hate this game, but I don't really like it either - at least I don't actually like PLAYING it all that much, even if I can see what they did successfully.
It's crazy to me how ubiquitous Fortnite is with gaming these days. Like when I was a kid if you said you played video games, you pretty much just meant NES. Or you might have used "Nintendo" as another word for "video games" as a whole. About a decade ago it seemed like Minecraft was the game that every kid played. But for the past few years it's been Fortnite. To the point that the game is pretty much a platform within itself. It doesn't really matter if you play it on console or PC or phone or whatever. You can play the game, or you can go watch a DJ set or whatever. It's weird.
I can also remember when Fortnite (full title, just vanilla FORTNITE) first came out as a stand-alone retail game that nobody paid any attention to. AND THEN I can remember when Fortnite: Battle Royale launched as a free mode of the full game that was there to rival PUBG. Honestly, in my mind, this Battle Royale would do "okay," as PUBG was the hotness, but this game was free. But I didn't really think it'd last. I thought it'd be something people played for a year or so until the next new fad came along. But who even remembers PUBG now? And yet, who can even escape Fortnite? Somewhere along the way vanilla Fortnite was forgotten, and Fortnite Battle Royale dropped its subtitle and became like... the biggest game in the world.
Me? I've never been into it. I tried it ONCE with my friend and his two kids. They were all super into it. So I thought I'd play along. But what happened was I hopped into a game with them, and his kids yelled at me for fifteen minutes. They yelled at me for not knowing which gun to use; for not knowing where to go; for not knowing what to do. It wasn't a great learning experience for me, so I wrote it off.
Another time, I thought I might look into the game again on my own, and I crap you not - I logged in to find that the entirety of Fortnite had been sucked into a black hole. The servers were down and a whole new 2.0 edition of the game was soon to come along. The intrigue passed, and I didn't bother to play it.
Anyway, here I am attempting once again to visit this game and figure out what it is exactly that makes kids love it so much. I think a lot of it has to do with the social aspect, so I'm at a loss there. While kids might enjoy hopping into this game to give them "something to do" while they virtually hang out and chat, that's not anything I'm interested in.
But I don't really know what I'm doing. I have ZERO interest in crafting stuff in this game, so I guess I'm approaching it from the very straight forward last-man-standing kind of thing. This is just going to be The Hunger Games for me.
So with limited time last night, I jumped into a game. I parachuted into an empty building, found a rifle and then set off into the world. I climbed a tall mountain where I found a... chair? I legit just hung out up there alone for a good five minutes or so. I could hear gunfire and I could see the player count go down. I just walked around the mountain top, looking for anyone who might try to come on up.
I was told that only 50 players were left, and weirdly this did actually "feel good." Then the storm circle shrunk, so I headed down the mountain. I found a small shack, and a sniper started firing at me from the east. I knew I couldn't hit him, so I had to hide on the west side of the shack. Then bullets flew at me from the west. I turned to see someone across a small lake firing at me with a rifle. So we danced a bit and fired back and forth. This is not an excuse exactly, well it kind of is, but I was playing the game handheld and I don't find the Joycon analog sticks all that precise. So I went down. I think I'd fare much better with the Pro Controller.
At any rate, I finished at like #38 or something. That's not really good. I mean, that's like a 62%, which is a failing grade. I still don't really "get" this game. Oddly, I find that matches tend to ping-pong between boring and stressful. But I am still curious. I mean, I'm a lifelong gamer, and this is the biggest game on the planet. So I'd like to at least say I gave it a fair shake and could tell you WHY it's not for me. So I'll probably give it another go.
Alright, so I think I now get the allure of this game.
Literally my fourth time ever jumping into a match, I got a victory royale. I can't even tell you how stressed out I was by the end of the game, but it was an awesome feeling to win it. And I mean, I really don't even know what I'm doing a lot of the time. But it turns out that - yes - playing with a Pro Controller makes a big difference for me. And I'm having fun just kind of experimenting. That first win involved me flying around in a helicopter, which I didn't even know was a thing until I stumbled upon it.
And now that I've gotten a bit more comfortable, and played a few more matches, I'm not even feeling stressed out playing this. I'm just having a pretty good time. I've also found that my preferred way of playing is by filling in a squad. Doing this just makes more sense in my brain because of my love for team based competitive games.
And after I switched over to squads, I got two more wins which was awesome. The last win had just six players left at the end. Me and my teammate were camped out around a big rig, which was maybe a bad spot. To our right was a house in the distance. I used the sniper rifle to zoom in and could see two dudes on a roof building something. I sniped one, but the others ran off. Suddenly my teammate was gone. I have no idea who hit him. The storm started closing in, so I kept zooming in with the sniper rifle and could see two players running toward our direction in the distance through the storm. I hit one hard. He went down. His teammate tried to carry him, so I hit him.
Now the storm came in tighter, and I'm pushed into the center, barely hanging on to the edge of a cliff. That's when a bullet zips by my head from below. So I jump down, switch to a machine gun in mid-air, land RIGHT NEXT to the dude - and I can feel it. This moment, we're the last two and this is it. Maybe it was beginner luck, but I managed to hit him before he could hit me. And it felt awesome.
I honestly don't think that I'll be one of those guys that plays Fortnite all the time. But I get it now. I get why people are so into this game. And I can now say that I at least enjoy it. It'll probably be one of those games that I keep installed forever, and play random matches once in a while when I'm not sure what else to play. Good stuff. It only took me like three years or whatever to figure that out.
I hate to say that I'm hooked on Fortnite. But I truly am. It bumped its way up to my #12 most played Switch game, which is pretty impressive. And I've had to remind myself that I'm a grown-up, and don't care about cosmetic things in games, so there's no reason to buy the Darkfire bundle through Best Buy for $30 just to make my character look cool.
But yeah, I can now totally see why this game is such a phenomenon. Each match I play is like its own little mini story I could tell. Each Victory Royale I get is so sweet. Each time I wind up in second place is crushing and rewarding at the same time.
Probably my biggest revelation was switching over to Squad Fill. There's something I really prefer about playing cooperatively. And when you end up with good teammates, it makes such a difference. A squad that sticks together, works together, shares loot, watches each other's backs... it's a recipe for success. Good game, this one. But I didn't need to tell anybody that. It's been a gigantic hit for years. I'm just now figuring out why.
I'm still plugging away at Fortnite on a fairly consistent basis - a sentence I'd never thought I'd type. But it's true.
Currently the Halloween event is going on, and that's been pretty fun, I guess. The premise is good anyway: when you die, you turn into a "shadow" and can still kill dudes, and basically you're part of a gigantic shadow squad. But I will say that I miss the standard Fortnite. The Halloween event is unique, but I'm kind of done with it already and look forward to a return to the normal matches.
The first Mario Maker was one of the main reasons that I wanted a Wii U. When I finally got around to playing it, I thought it was a neat toolkit, but it didn't really hold my attention as a game. It was fun to mess around with with my wife. But to actually sit down and play it myself, I just couldn't seem to enjoy it much beyond the fun little Nintendo made "event" courses. In my mind, it was a cool piece of software, but not exactly a great game.
Super Mario Maker 2 is apparently a whole different beast. As it turns out, there's a legit Story Mode. This is 100 new Nintendo made levels. You guys.... I've played about twenty of them so far and in my mind this is THE BEST 2D Mario game that Nintendo has published since... jeez. I don't even know. This is better than the entirety of the New Super Mario Bros series for me.
Part of what makes these levels so compelling is that each one feels like a unique and compact experience. In some ways it gives me NES Remix vibes - which is a game that I adore. Rather than do the usual NSMB thing where it's like "okay, this is the ice world so we'll do all the ice levels now..." it's a free for all where each new level is something surprising. It's as if Nintendo is freed from its own limitations and the creativity is flowing.
Bouncing from something like a SMW style ghost house to a throwback Mario Bros (no "Super") single screen puzzle platformer is kind of great. And I love that there's a hub world that lets me choose which level to play next, leaving some more difficult ones if I want to come back and retry them later (I'm looking at you "no jump" level).
I'm 40 levels into the story mode and loving every minute of it. I can easily say that this game surpasses the NSMB series in every way. And I haven't even touched the build mode. Nor am I sure I even will. I think my wife would enjoy the build mode more than I do. But me? I'm just in awe of the quality of these story mode levels.
I also appreciate that I was able to skip a level and come back to it later with fresh eyes and more patience. I was on level 30 before I went back and completed level 15. It was great. My progress wasn't impeded, by level 15 stayed in my list of unfinished levels as a reminder to go back to it when I was ready.
I think if I had known about the story mode earlier, I'd have had more reason to get MM2 instead of sticking with the original for so long. But then again, I was never that impressed with the NSMB games, so I couldn't have known just how good this story mode was going to be. I'm super impressed, and this is probably the first time since Super Mario World that I've felt COMPELLED to continue playing a Mario game with such glee.
The story mode continues to astound me. I'm over 50% through now, and still having an absolute blast. Each new stage is like a pleasant surprise. Some I breeze through, others are quite challenging. SOME even require some serious thought, which is welcome. One minute I'm in Bowser's flying clown car playing a make-shift Mario shmup that feels like a throwback to Super Mario Land; the next minute I'm in a single screen puzzler trying to bounce off clouds to collect coins without getting hit by Bullet Bills. It's... pretty great. Nintendo has really cracked the code with this game and seemingly remembered that variety is the spice of life when it comes to a Mario game.
I've got the castle 91% complete in the story mode, and loving it. It's interesting to me how the game is laid out in a way that you could kind of tackle it however you see fit. Meaning, you could play easier levels leisurely and get less coins so it takes longer, or you could play harder levels and rush through. I guess I've done some combination of both.
My wife and I were huge horror fans when we first met. We're still fans of the genre absolutely. Though we seem to find less time for movies in general, and I THINK our tastes have grown tamer since we became parents. But back in 2009 when we finally bought our Wii, the games we bought with it were New Super Mario Bros Wii, Punch-Out, and House Of The Dead 2 & 3. Funnily enough, it wasn't the new releases we played as much as The House Of The Dead 2, a port of 1998 arcade game.
And looking back, over the past 11 years it seems like House Of The Dead 2 remains one of our most played and most revisited Wii games. Oddly, we weren't as into House Of The Dead 2, though Overkill is pretty ridiculous and fun.
But there's something kind of perfect about HOTD2. The setting, the music, the awful voice work, the silly dialogue, the non-sensical plot... I still don't follow what's going on to be honest. I just know that I don't want to suffer like G did.
Thinking back, I don't think we got a chance to play this game over the past two years, though. It had become an October tradition for a long time. But last year we had a newborn in the house. And the year before my wife was going through intense "morning" sickness as the time. So it just didn't fit into our schedules.
We fire up the Wii over the weekend while baking some cookies and letting the baby nap. I'll admit, we were rusty. Our accuracy wasn't great. I think the best we did was hit like 51%. But still, the muscle memory was there and we seemed to know what to expect in every level. We made it all the way to the last level on one attempt, which is not too shabby given how long it's been since we last played.
The House Of The Dead 2 is a total classic. At least in our house.
Sometimes the new hotness is tough to resist. And there's been a lot of talk about Hades lately. The review scores are through the roof. And truth be told, I tend to like myself a solid roguelike. I've lost so many hours to games like Spelunky and Downwell and Dead Cells and so on. And given the sort of spooky nature of Hades, I figured October was an ideal time to give it a go.
The best way I can sum up Hades is if Diablo and Dead Cells had a baby. It's an isometric game with tiny little enemies and dungeons - much like Diablo. But it's very action oriented and has the same sort of procedural generation and weapon unlocks and perks that you'd find in Dead Cells. In summation, it's good stuff.
Now, it hasn't QUITE sucked me in the way that either of those games did. But it is definitely a solid game, and has that sort of "one more run" thing going for it. That's for sure. It's also a lot more story focused than the majority of roguelikes I've played are. Like there's legit dialogue and all, and the NPC's remember your decisions from run to run. And that's the brilliant part. See, you're trying to escape Hades, so each time you die, you go back to the beginning. The loop actually makes sense. Each death is actually part of the story. Kind of brilliant.
I've only played an hour or two so far, but I can see myself sticking with this for a while.
The more I play Hades, the better it gets. I've unlocked more weapons and perks; I've gotten a feel for some of the weapon selection and which in-run perks to use to suit my playstyle; I've gotten more comfortable with certain enemy patterns. Perhaps most importantly, I'm always feeling a sense of progress. I've now made it to the second floor more than once, only to lose a battle (just barely!) against the Hydra.
It actually reminds me that I haven't played many 2020 games this year. It's kind of odd, because I generally keep up on a lot of new releases that interest me, but this year has been a weird year, of course. A combination of the pandemic and FOMO lead me to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which I enjoyed for about a week and haven't really thought of since. But I don't know. I've been delving into a lot of older and cheaper games, I guess. Plus having a young one in the house has made it harder to keep track of all the new cool stuff coming out. So I guess what I'm saying is that by default Hades is looking to be one of the best games I've played this year, for whatever that's worth.
I'm definitely hooked. There's some good things this game does. For instance the dark weapon thing... when you choose which weapon you want to use for a run, one is glowing dark. This means that THIS weapon will give you extra drops for using it this run. So always pick this one. Right? The thing that's great about this is that instead of choosing one weapon to master and then getting stuck in a rut, I'm experimenting way more. I hated the shield on my first attempt with it, but now I love using it with the right power-ups.
I had an awesome run last night where not only did I make it to Elysium for the first time, I made it all the way to the Theseus boss battle! Woah. I'm making solid progress on this one and having a really good time.
So during October I always try to find some Halloween themed games for my wife and I to play. Though this year it's been tougher for us to find the time to play games together. Our daughter turned sixteen months and we're tired, y'all. But tonight after the baby went to bed, we decided to hook up my Retron 5 in the kitchen, and fire up The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare - a game that fit the theme well, given that we're doing our annual binge of all of the Treehouse Of Horror episodes of The Simpsons.
Anyway, I knew nothing about this game other than I vaguely remembered it existed. It's a single player game so we planned to do the old pass-the-controller thing between lives/levels. Oh, I should start by just pointing out that this game LOOKS excellent. Graphically, it's about as close as you get a 16-bit game to looking like a 1992 cartoon. So kudos.
You start out in a hub area that's basically Evergreen Terrace, I guess. And you... just walk around? And a bunch of stuff tries to kill you. First impressions were that - MY GOODNESS - everything feels janky. You walk really fast. EVERYTHING moves really fast. And everything wants to kill you. I mean literally the mailboxes were some of the most aggressive things coming at us right away. Making it worse, the hit detection is HORRIBLE. Just wow.
So we just kept walking around, getting hit by stuff (mailboxes, statue heads, BUSES) and wondering when the actual levels would start but we couldn't figure it out. We googled it and apparently you need to find homework pages and JUMP ON THEM to enter levels. We saw those pages, but tried to collect them and nothing happened. Didn't realize you needed to jump on them - a task which wasn't always easy given the wonky controls.
So we did that and tried a couple of levels. One level was based on Indiana Jones (I guess?) and had you jumping on a lot of platforms in an isometric view. It was almost weirdo Q-Bert or something. And we died quickly. So we tried another. This time we were sucked into Itchy & Scratchy's house and UGH you have to hit them with mallets. But WOW the controls are terrible. I had so much trouble figuring out when I was lined up to hit them, or which was I was facing, or if I was close enough. Even worse, the animation to swing the mallet took forever. So we died again. It was at this point that the game froze up and... honestly, we had just had enough.
My wife and I said - in unison - "well, they can't all be winners." So oh well. It's a bummer, though. The game looks good, and the premise of nightmares offered up a good bit of possibility. But sadly, it's just such a poorly programmed game that we couldn't enjoy it.
If you've played the first 34 Mario Bros games then you know what to expect from this one. Kidding.
I downloaded this (silly) timed SMB game on Switch. To celebrate the series' 35th anniversary, Nintendo has created Super Mario Bros 35 - an attempt to turn SMB into Tetris 99. And as much as I love Tetris 99, I just can't see the appeal of SMB35.
So it works like this - you play SMB against 34 other people. When you kill an enemy, it goes onto someone else's screen. And so it turns into a last-man-standing kind of game. That's all well and good - and people seem to like it - but it just don't click with me.
For me, Tetris is a prime example of a competitive game. But a side-scroller like Mario? That just feels like a single player experience to me. To be honest, I didn't even love playing New Super Mario Bros in co-op. Nevermind playing AGAINST people.
Look, I applaud Nintendo for trying to think outside the box. It worked with Tetris 99. And this kind of experimentation led to other games that I do enjoy like NES Remix or to another degree, Mario Maker. But Super Mario 35 just feels like a curio to me. One that I doubt I'll remember by the time it exits the eShop in March.
I was deeply into Rocket League a few years back. I initially got it on PC when I was doing a weekly game night with some friends. They lost interest quickly, but I kept at it and it became one of those sort of EVERY NIGHT kind of games. Then after a while a buddy of mine became interested in playing it on Xbox One, so I grabbed a copy there and got into it AGAIN. When it was announced for Switch I figured I'd pick up a copy at some point. But now... it's FREE.
I just got in a PDP JoyCon grip thing that makes the JoyCons feel beefier - like a real controller, plus adds better triggers, AND it came with these stupid little nubs to put on the analog sticks that I CAN'T BELIEVE really do make a huge difference. And I wanted a game to test this thing out on. So I fired up Rocket League.
For whatever reason I decided not to link my old Steam or Xbox accounts, and just start fresh on Switch. It was like hitting the reset button. But my goodness. It's all coming back to me. (And now that horrible Celine Dion song is stuck in my head).
The first match I played online just to test this controller out, my team won 4-1 with me scoring 3 goals. Yeah. I love Rocket League. It seems so simple - SO SILLY - it's soccer, but with cars. Yet... it's amazing.
I feel like I'm going to get sucked right back in.