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Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight is probably among the best purchases I’ve made this year and is easily one of the more memorable experiences. It’s pretty sad when a $15 download title is just so much better and so much more enjoyable compared to a lot of hyped “triple-A” titles that have come out this year. I’ve actually spent more time playing Shovel Knight and other stuff like Papers, Please than I ever put into games like Watch Dogs. That’s mainly because Watch Dogs just wasn’t very good, but it also seems to be a growing trend with all of these big budget games turning out to be boring and uninspired while the smaller, and often independent, games shine so much brighter. I suppose it’s something that has been going on for a while now, but I never really took a whole lot of notice until recently. Anyway, enough about all of that and onto Shovel Knight!

shovel-knight-levelThe whole concept of Shovel Knight is ridiculous and awesome or perhaps just ridiculously awesome. I mean, a knight that goes around fighting people with a shovel is just hilarious in its own right but the idea opens up some interesting gameplay ideas. Personally I would have loved to see some more elements that involved digging and some interesting secrets and puzzles to go along with it but at its core Shovel Knight is an action platformer first and foremost. I want to compare it to something like Mega Man but I don’t actually have a lot of Mega Man experience. Shovel Knight might actually be closer to, a lot closer actually, Duck Tales–even down to Shovel Knight’s ability to bounce continuously on enemies and certain objects with his shovel. There’s a lot more to it than that, however. In addition to bouncing and swinging your shovel you can also collect and buy various relics and upgrades throughout the game. There’s a wide variety of optional sub-weapons that you can acquire that not only help in defeating baddies but also provide some additional help in the platforming department by granting you the  ability to walk and travel over spikes or flight a short distance.

The overworl layout of Shovel Knight looks somewhat similar to Mario Bros. 3. All of the levels are connected by paths and in order to progress you need to defeat bosses to unlock the way through. There are also a few optional side areas where you can gather some extra treasure and even some wandering bosses. A few towns are also available and you can talk to NPCs and buy upgrades there. Each of the actual levels are themed to a specific boss like Mole Knight, Plague Knight, Propeller Knight, etc. This is what reminds me a little bit of Mega Man, especially since you get the option of a few levels at once and can tackle them in any order. Sometimes this can even prove to be helpful if there is a handy relic in another level that might make things easier for you later on.  The game is actually pretty difficult and you will die at least a few times be it from enemies or platforming. At the end I had 85 or so deaths so maybe I just suck. When you die you lose a portion of your acquired treasure and go back to the nearest checkpoint you reached, which can sometimes be pretty far away. Some of the treasure you lost will remain at the spot of your death in the form of floating bags and if you are able you can regain some of it. The higher treasure amount you have, which is what you use to purchase stuff and acts as somewhat of a score, the more you lose.

shovel-knight-bossMy first run at Shovel Knight lasted around 8 or so hours and that was only at about 97% item completion. A new game + option exists which lets you carry over all your stuff into a harder version of the game and right now I’m working through that. A form of achievements also exist called Feats. Some of them are fairly easy while others are just straight up crazy. I mean, complete the game without dying? Don’t fall into a single pit? That’s just crazy but that’s another cool aspect about this and games like it. You can really make it as hard for yourself as you want by trying to beat the game without getting any relics, by destroying the checkpoints for money, trying to beat it in under 90 minutes, etc. All of which also have an attached feat.

Shovel Knight is a fantastic game and one that I wish could just keep going on and on without end. If you have a Wii U, 3Ds, or PC then you really need to check it out. The visuals are incredibly charming and the sprites are just awesome. The music is catchy and there is actually a lot of good variety to it. Plus the game is just loads and loads of fun. Support Shovel Knight and maybe we will get a sequel if we are lucky.

Post-E3 Thoughts

E3 is over now. Or it was over a few days ago or something. It’s kind of weird because this was one of the first years in a long time where I didn’t stress out that much or feel like I had to be on top of every single bit of news. Other than the conferences I haven’t really watched all that much either. In all it feels like a pretty ho-hum year with not a lot of really surprising or exciting things announced. Really it felt more like “Hey, remember this game that we talked about for the past year or two? It’s still coming!”

NINTENDO’s Event

I’m a self admitted Nintendo fanboy so I’m probably not the best source for unbiased opinions. Nintendo isn’t above my criticisms, though. I was in the theater for the E3 conference years ago where they debuted Wii Music. That was some weird shit and the whole event was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

I was mostly happy with what Nintendo showed us this year but the only really new things that I’m interested in are Toad’s Treasure Tracker and Kirby & The Rainbow Curse . I am very excited about stuff like SSB, Hyrule Warriors and Yoshi’s Wooly World but we’ve already known about those games. The new Zelda game looks great but we were shown pretty much nothing. The open world style does sound pretty cool though. Splatoon was an interesting new announcement as well. The concept is very interesting and I really dig the colorful presentation but Nintendo doesn’t seem to do too well with new IPs. I would have really liked it if it was somewhat Mario themed with the squid people maybe being bloopers since that’s what I thought they were originally.

Unfortunately there were also a lot of things missing this year. No news on the Metroid front, both 2D and 3D, as far as I know. I also haven’t seen any mention of SMT x Fire Emblem or whatever it’s called. I was REALLY hoping for a Majora’s Mask remake for 3DS like they did with Ocarina of Time but that didn’t happen. Seeing Majora’s Mask in A Link Between Worlds now just feels like a huge troll maneuver.

I’m not entirely sure what to think of the Amiibo stuff. Usually I’m a sucker for this figure stuff as evidenced by all of the Skylanders and Disney Infinity stuff I have, not to mention all of the posts I’ve made about them, but I’m not really sure how they are implementing this. Take Super Smash Bros. for example… You can scan a figure in but I’m not entirely sure why. As far as I know it doesn’t unlock an otherwise unobtainable character. According to the website you can scan it in and fight against it, team up with it, or watch it battle other characters. To me that sounds like the Computer Players that already exist in SSB. Does this mean that they are taken out? That wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. They do look really cool, though.

Other Games

Here I’ll just list off some other games that caught my attention this year.

Disney Infinity Marvel Super Heroes 2.0 – I’m really excited about this game and all of the cool new Marvel figures. What’s really neat is that the new adventures are supposed to be bigger than the ones in the original game. Not only that but the characters have a lot more abilities that differentiate them from each other along with, from what I’ve heard, different upgrade paths. I’m a big Marvel fan so this is a no-brainer for me. If they do Star Wars next I’m pretty screwed.

Shadow of Mordor – I’m super excited about this game and can’t wait to find our more.

The Witcher 3 – I really enjoyed the first two games and the newest looks amazing. This was probably one of the top games of E3 for me, if not THE top.

Arkham Knight – Big Batman fan and I haven’t been disappointed with the series yet. The Batmobile looks really snazzy.

Evolve – This looks really awesome but it also looks like something I will be horrible at if I’m the monster or whatever. Kind of like Battlefield vehicle disease, if you know what I mean. (They’re unkillable when you face them yet are made of wet toilet paper when you pilot them)

The Halo Collection (Or whatever it’s called) – I’m not a huge Halo fan but I do enjoy the games. A collection that includes games 1-4 seems like a great value, especially when 1 and 2 were given an update treatment. I also haven’t played 4 so that’s a bonus.

Destiny – Very interested in this game and from what I’ve seen it looks great. I wish I was in the Alpha, though… -_-

In Conclusion…

So yeah, there were a lot of really cools games this year but most of the really interesting ones are games we knew were coming. Usually I pick my favorite game from the whole show but I’m pretty torn. Witcher 3 looks amazing but Disney Infinity 2.0 is calling to me on a deep level. I’m not sure I can choose between the two. What was the coolest game you saw?

 

Picking up the slack – Wildstar, Tropico 5 and Caverna: The Cave Farmers

So Keen has been pretty busy lately and hasn’t been able to post much at all. He hasn’t even gotten any Wildstar impressions up yet and we can’t have that. Until his schedule clears a bit I will have to pick up the slack.

WILDSTAR

I didn’t get Wildstar so I should probably mention that upfront. I don’t really know what to say about the game so I drew some pictures in MS Paint to illustrate what I imagine the game must be about.

chuan SpaceCop SpaceCop2F SpaceCop3 Space Cop4

So yeah, close enough I imagine.

TROPICO 5

I put several hours into this game and I’m still not entirely sure if I’m playing it right. This is my first Tropico game so I don’t really have much experience when it comes to being a dictator and unfortunately life experience doesn’t quite translate. The tutorial seems to teach you the very basics of the game and not a lot more. Everything else I’ve kind of picked up on my own. Basically, from what I understand, I want to make my people love me and re-elect me in spite of how I badly I treat them and that’s something I can really get behind.

I like how you can create your own dynasty and there are various ways for you to funnel funds into your secret bank account. You can use those to better your dictator benevolent ruler and the rest of his dynasty. I’m also a fan of these kinds of economic games and trying to maintain balance while expanding and through difficult times. I don’t know if it’s quite as deep as Anno 2070, which I love, but it is very amusing and the theme is hilariously fantastic. The little kernels of knowledge about real world dictators on the loading screen are fascinating to read.

Caverna: The Cave Farmers

We’ve had this one on pre-order (restocking pre-order) for MONTHS and now it finally arrived! Caverna is a board game where you play as a family of dwarves and do stuff like mining and expanding your cave. Apparently it’s made by the same guy who did Agricola and is essentially Agricola 2 or whatever; I have no idea since I never played Agricola. I’m excited to test this one out with Keen and anybody else I can rope in. We haven’t played a board game in a while so this should be fun. I’ll make sure to do a more in-depth post after our first playthrough or two.

Other Stuff

I’ve still been plugging away at Mario Kart but mostly by myself which really isn’t a whole lot of fun. Trying to 3-star some of these cups is ridiculous. I can not count the amount of time I’ve come in 1st on the first three races only to get screwed in the fourth by a last minute blue shell or a bunch of red shells stuck up my tailpipe. I’ve even had a few computer opponents swoop in at the last possible second to steal my victory. The randomness is hilarious and fun when you are playing with other people but when you are by yourself it is truly maddening. I was constantly feeling like I needed to flick somebody in the eyeball.

Watch Dogs is another game that I’m trying to play but I haven’t given it a whole lot of time so I will have to get back to you on that one. So far I’m hearing a lot of negativity about the game and that always gives you something to look forward to.

Anyway, that’s all I got. Hopefully Keen will get a Wildstar post up soon ’cause I’m mentally tapped out. So… What are you guys up to?

Having a blast in Mario Kart 8

We just got our copy of Mario Kart 8 in the mail yesterday and I’ve already logged a ton of time. Keen joins in when he isn’t playing Wildstar (or Wild Star? I have no idea) and when he isn’t distracted by his personal life. I mean the nerve of some people, right? Mario Kart just came out! I’ve put more time into it than Keen has so I can’t really speak for him but I’m sure he will chime in down by the comments sooner or later. I’m just going to overview what I like, and don’t like, so far after playing.

wario-dk-mario-kart-8COOL STUFF

Anti-Gravity Racing – The new anti-gravity gameplay is pretty sweet. When your kart crosses over special lines or during certain parts of the course the anti-grav will kick in. Your wheels turn sideways and start to glow blue and you find yourself riding a wall or completely upside down. For most of these areas you can’t really tell that you are upside down at all, or at least I can’t. Keen swears he can tell but I think he is full of crap. The times when it really does feel like your perspective is crazy are the side paths that let you optionally drive on the walls.  Another neat aspect to the anti-grav is how it changes some of the driving mechanics a little bit. Bumping into other players and special bumpers will give you a speed boost.

New Items - Along with the classic stuff like bananas and shells is the addition of some cool new things. The Piranha Plant will chomp at nearby enemies and items and I think you might even be able to get a small speed boost out of it. The boomerang lets you throw out a huge projectile either forward or backward that returns to you (x3 I think). Then there’s the really cool horn/speaker thing that you can even use to defend yourself from shells, even blue, or just blast it at other racers. There’s probably a few more new things that I’m not remembering but you get the idea.

New Racers – In addition to most of the classic cast you can now race as Shy-Guy, Lakitu, Rosalina, Baby Rosalina, Metal Mario, Pink Gold Peach or something, and every Koopaling (Iggy, Ludwig, and a bunch of others than I can never remember the names of).

Fun Tracks – The levels are very well done in Mario Kart 8. I don’t think there is a single one that I don’t like. After 8 games they still manage to come up with some fun and interesting ideas. My only real complaint is that some of them aren’t longer. Along with 16 new courses you also get 16 retro courses that come from the previous games across tons of different platforms. They have been given a very pretty visual update and even feature some minor tweaks to make use of the new gamepaly mechanics like gliding and anti-grav.

Controller Support – Mario Kart 8 supports pretty much every controller configuration on the Wii U. Gamepad, wiimote, classic controller, Wii U Pro controller; it’s all available. You can even steer with the gyro controls if using the gamepad or wiimote. I think I have one of the Mario Kart Wii steering wheels around here someplace so I’ll have to check that out. The reason this is appreciated so much is that with the Wii U you are usually put into a situation where somebody gets to use the gamepad and player two gets screwed and has to use some crappy control scheme. A surprising number of games don’t support the classic controller and that’s just messed up.

The Visuals! SO PRETTY! O_O – Best looking Mario Kart ever. First Mario Kart in HD. Performance is also flawless. Not much else to say, really. [Read more...]

Wolfenstein: The New Order

I just finished the new Wolfenstein game a few minutes ago and figured I should write down some thoughts before I forget most of what happened. Not that it was necessarily a forgettable experience but I don’t always get to choose what information I retain. There were a lot of really cool parts to the game and overall I found it to be a pretty good for a FPS. I never actually played the original Wolfenstein so I imagine that all of the nostalgia and throwbacks are completely lost on someone like me. I should also mention that I played the Xbox One version, which supposedly looks the same as the PS4 game. Just throwing that out there.

wolfenstein-robot-dogPresentation, Story & Visuals, Etc.

The game begins with you on a plane that is under fire. You play as BJ Blazkowicz and are apart of a strike force that is raiding some Nazi-run location and trying to kill Deathshead, I think his name is. I wont go into any further spoilers other than to say that near the end of the first mission you are forced to make a decision that will put you in one of two timelines. So far I’ve only played through the game once so I don’t personally know how big a difference there is. I did search around and it seems that there is really only some minor changes and that the overall story is largely the same which really just makes it feel like a missed opportunity where they could have done something really interesting. [Read more...]