Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

We have been playing a lot of the new Donkey Kong lately and both of us are loving every minute of it. There aren’t a lot of couch co-op games anymore so it’s always nice to find one that we can both enjoy. Here are some of my thoughts about the game:

krankyThe Good Stuff

The overall presentation is fantastic. Everything from the theme, the visuals, and the music is just top-notch.  The frigid viking animals that show up to cause trouble are immensely more interesting than the little totem people in Donkey Kong Country Returns. I would like to see the return of the Kremlings and K. Rool but these guys are more than welcome for now. As I mentioned before, the music is just fantastic and easily one of my favorite parts. There is a nice mix of the classic DKC stuff along with some new pieces.

The gameplay is immediately familiar to anybody who has played the classic DKC games or Returns. You can roll to gain speed and take out baddies, jump on their heads, grab vines and barrels, and ground-pound. They seem to have gotten rid of the blowing mechanic from Returns but honestly I doubt anybody will miss it. You can also play the game completely waggle free with the gamepad or Wii U Pro controller. The forced waggle of the previous game was a major detraction. They also seemed to add back deeper water levels and mechanics, including a breath meter and and some new aquatic moves. (more…)

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Super Mario 3D World

super-mario-3d-worldKeen and I have been playing the new Mario game off and on since it came out and whenever we can find the time. The short of it is that we both really love the game and we think it’s great and all that. I’m sure anybody that comes across our site knows about Mario games and how they work so I’m not going to bother going into that and rather I’m just going to highlight some of the things we like and don’t like.

The Gameplay

3D World’s platforming mechanics are great. The game is kind of a blend between classic side scrolling games and the newer 3D games. Several of Mario’s signature moves are available like the long jump, backflip, side flip, wall jump, roll, etc. The only things that I really find missing is the triple jump and the ability to grab onto ledges. That last point might kind of defeat the purpose of this kind of game, though, since it’s more about getting through a platforming level rather than exploring one. It all seems to control very well, though, and for the most part any time you die is going to be directly tied to your competency level and not the fault of the game.

There are four playable characters initially: Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach. Each character actually controls fairly differently, too. Mario generally seems to have the best handling, Luigi can jump higher, Toad is faster, and Peach can float a bit mid-air. Pretty much the same kind of stuff you might remember from SMB2. Unfortunately, Yoshis don’t seem to have made it into the game, which is a bit of a bummer. There is an additional unlockable character but I won’t spoil that in case some people get bothered by that kind of thing. (more…)

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Rayman Legends

Keen and I picked up Rayman Legends a few days ago — it’s crazy fun! Usually Keen is pretty awful at console games but he is, surprisingly, not so bad at this. He’s actually getting better over time. Who knew? Anyhow… just dropping by to throw out some thoughts about the game.

rayman legendsSo Pretty…

This game looks nuts. I don’t think too many games use the hand-drawn graphics style these days but it looks fantastic and runs totally smooth. We’re playing on the Wii U version, arguably the definitive version, and it looks great. I can’t imagine the visuals being any different on the other systems, though. The game isn’t quite as nice looking on gamepad-only play but it’s still good. It’s unfortunate that there’s no online multiplayer, though, ’cause I’d love to see how the game runs with 5 people playing at once.

I Bet There’s A Secret In That Bottomless Pit

Running through levels together is a blast and looking for all the collectables is actually something we’re doing together. Usually Keen can’t be bothered to collect everything or doesn’t have an interest but there have been several instances where he says “Let’s replay that level I think I can get them all”. Playing co-op is great because usually I’ll be the first person to run off an edge or into a hazard in search of hidden stuff and I have the fortune of having the more cautious player to reel me back in.

So far from what I can tell the game mechanics are the same. You run, jump, slide, etc. We haven’t unlocked any new abilities yet, if they even exist. Even so it’s an incredibly fun game and the levels are really well done. Especially if you love trying to speed through them. We actually really love the music-themed levels. As you run through, all of your actions (i.e. jumping, sliding, hitting) are timed to the music and beat. It’s really thrilling and we find ourselves humming the tunes even when we’re not playing. (more…)

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SteamWorld Dig

Steamworld Dig LogoI don’t remember exactly how SteamWorld Dig came to my attention, but as soon as I watched the trailer it had my interest. SteamWorld Dig, available for the Nintendo 3DS eShop, is sort of a cross between Spelunky and Metroid set in a sort of steampunk machine world inhabited by robots. You continuously dig down looking for rare minerals to sell while trying to avoid falling rocks, spikes, various enemies, and other hazards. Along the way you can obtain special powerups that will help along in your adventure. It’s a really fun concept that works rather well.

Initially you are only given a pick which starts things off slow. You can dig one space down, up, left and right. If you get to the very edge of a block you can hit a space two over but for the most part that’s the extent of your reach. You wont be able to break some of the harder dirt until you start to upgrade your pick and rocky blocks require a drill to get through. There are also some blocks that cannot be broken at all. They are mainly off to both sides to limit your horizontal traversal but are also sometimes used to support doorways or specifically designed puzzle areas. Mixed in with all of these are gem blocks that will reward you with valuable ores and gems which can be sold in the town above. Up there you can spend your money on upgrades to your pick, armor, and other powerups you find along the way.

You will have to make regular trips back to the surface because you are only given a few inventory slots initially, and your light source has a limited burn time. As it runs out the area around you gets dimmer and dimmer until you can no longer distinguish what is in the earth around you. You are still able to see a little bit and could keep digging if you really wanted but you risk not being able to see valuable ores and you could easily cause your own death by causing a rock to fall on you or by striking an explosive barrel. To make traversal easier you can buy ladders and torches but not really in high enough quantities to benefit you over a long period of time. You can also buy a teleport pad which is immensely useful for instantly getting back to base. However these require special orbs that you don’t come by often and are also used to upgrade yourself so you really have to decide where your resources are best spent.

My favorite aspect of the game is your ability to use steam to power your various functions. Your little robot dude will find pools of water underground which he can suck up and store in his tank. With that he can power is steam drill, steam boost, and steam punch. Each use takes a portion of your tanks so you will have to manage your supply until you can upgrade to a higher tank capacity. It creates a fun power-management aspect of the game. You can’t refill your tanks at town so you have to keep an eye out for water.

Every now and then you will come across a room which you can enter. These are the rooms which will hold the various powerups you can get and are usually designated so on your minimap as where to go next. There are other unmarked rooms which contain just ore or orbs but they seem to be entirely optional. These rooms usually offer most of the platforming that you will come across along with some puzzle element. There are usually one or two secret areas as well which lie behind inconspicuous blocks and usually keep a valuable gem or orb cache.

The whole game will take you probably anywhere from 7-8 hours on your first go depending entirely on how many upgrades you want to max and how much money you earn. You can actually get rated at the end of your run in categories like Time, Deaths, Money, and Orbs. I think I got gold in orbs and Money but bronze in the others. What can I say, I like to take my time and collect stuff. Plus I died a whole lot. Anyway, it’s a great game and easily among the best – if not the best — of the Nintendo 3DS eShop.

SteamWorld Dig: 4.5 out of 5. Must Buy!

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Handheld Gaming

I've been investing most of my time lately into various games across the 3DS and Vita. I actually haven't turned on any of my consoles in a while and haven't…

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