As an ICT and Computing teacher I come across a lot of students that are gamers. The vast majority are either X-Box or PlayStation lovers and have a bit of a chip on their should when it comes to Nintendo. This seems to stem from the thoughts that Nintendo make kids games and that the graphics are not very good. I try to explain it is about gameplay but they have none of it. This frustrates me, but what frustrates me even more is that if you mention games like Mario Bros., Zelda, Mario Kart and Smash Bros. they think they are great games. Also most used to own a Wii and enjoy playing on it. Now I know that I am not a first person shooter aficionado but I can see the merits of different gaming systems, why are youngsters so close minded? To release my frustrations I have written another bad poem entitled ‘Nintendo Fan Boy‘. You can read it in my collection ‘Bad Poetry You probably never want to read‘ on wattpad. I hope you enjoy the irony in it.
Computer games are one area of life I have had to sacrifice for family, work and other hobbies. When I do end up buying a game it is generally played sporadically in any half an hour I have spare. Very few games now get me wanting to come back and play again and again unlike the old days when I could not wait to get back onto the game once more. Whilst I have liked recent games I have purchased, including Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8 and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (yes I am a bit of a Nintendo fan boy!), none have really given me that buzz I used to get as a teenager. I bought Luigi’s Mansion 2 on release date but it has been sitting in its cellophane wrapper waiting till I got time to play. Other games have been elevated above it due to my gaming preference but this summer I finally got around to starting it. At present I am about seven hours into the main game and I am thoroughly surprised, maybe it is that thing I have mention so often where you do not expect a lot and thus get more than you bargained for.
The original Luigi’s Mansion was quite an easy game with a clever control system for hoovering up ghosts, this was limited as it was all that the Gamecube could handle at the time and thus it was quite quick to complete. The novelty of the game, playing as Luigi and having to light up areas and hoover up ghosts, made it an instant classic but it was clear a sequel was always going to be more of the same and probably not very exciting. Whilst it was a classic when you delve into the mechanics it was not really the sort of game that set the world alight (if you pardon the pun!). That is probably why it has taken so long for a sequel to appear.
Enter the Year of Luigi and we got Luigi’s Mansion 2, yes there are the same functions of shining a torch on a ghost and stunning them then sucking them up but there is so much more substance. Having different mansions and levels within the game gives a clear progression, especially as you can go back with new equipment to collect secrets such as gems and coins as well as capture Boos. What I have found really clever, though, is the puzzles in this version. For instance, in the original you could suck up water, ice and fire but in this version you have to interact with objects such as pulling cobwebs onto a fire to set off a chain reaction or using a special light to find hidden objects. One of my favourite puzzles so far was using a bucket to set off a switch, however I needed to fill the bucket full of slime first so it was heavy enough to activate the switch, which added a little bit more thought to the game. The ghosts are harder to catch as well, moving a lot faster than those in the original. There also seems to be clearer differences, some ghosts hide and you need to find them whilst others wear items that need to be hoovered off them first. There are even ones that spit dirt at you that you need to avoid as you suck them up. Further to this there is more of a scoring system. Rather than just the amount of treasure you get rated on health lost, ghosts hoovered up and speed of completing a level. These make you want to go back and retry levels to not only find more secrets but also to beat a previous rating. This adds replay value which the original game did not have and makes it overall a lot stronger. Finally, and possibly the cleverest addition, is that of multiple mansions with their own unique twists and styles. It is like playing a Mario Bros. game where each world has a theme. The puzzles are based around these themes and as such that makes the game more enjoyable and the puzzles a lot cleverer.
All in all I am loving Luigi’s Mansion 2, it is a clear step up from the previous game in the series and that is something I have struggled to say with so many games in current series that are being churned out. I think only Animal Crossing: New Leaf (which I reviewed previously) and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword have done that in the past five or so years. Even games such as A Link Between Worlds and Super Mario 3D World were a little disappointing when compared to their predecessors. If you have a 3DS and are worried that Luigi’s Mansion 2 is just like that Gamecube game you played years ago then don’t worry, sometimes you need to wait for a sequel and that is most definitely the case for Luigi’s Mansion 2. Basically, get out there and buy it!
Due to my hectic lifestyle (or rather work as I call it), I tend not to play too many computer games. This is shown by the fact that I have played ZombieU for three hours since Christmas and Luigi’s Mansion 2 is still in its lovely cellophane wrapper. Recently, however, I decide I would purchase Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the 3DS (I’m not a Nintendo Fan Boy I tells ya!). Unlike the other games I have recently got, I felt Animal Crossing was more pick up and play as well as being the sort of game you could leave for a week then easily come back to. I wasn’t expecting too much as the previous Animal Crossing games have been rather samey with just a few extra features. They have felt like upgrades rather than new games. Right, so I am now designing a t-shirt with sleeves as well as a body section and have a cafe under the museum. Hardly worth forking out another thirty quid for. Safe to say I went into this one not expecting much, but three days in and I am loving it. And it is all down to one simple fact. They have locked down a lot in the game. You still have all the stuff from before, but now you need to earn it. The cafe, Shampoodles, upgrading Nook’s store, the Happy Room Academy. All these are unlocked as you accomplish different goals, giving the game an achievement feeling rather than an aimless wandering vibe. Further to this, the idea of being mayor adds a new dimension, not that it is much more than deciding on what projects to build. The great thing is that what you want to build is again based on how far you have got and even better is the fact you need to care for your town or you will get bad approval ratings which means you cannot start building any projects in the first place. Rather than getting annoyed with the citizen for asking you to help only to get a poor t-shirt you would never have bought from the shop in return or pulling up endless weeds for no apparent reason, you know now that with every weed and every successfully aided citizen your approval rating goes up and so does the ability to make your town your own. There is also this strange thing about the game, unlike something like Pokemon that frustrates me every time I start a new iteration and play pretty much the same game again, Animal Crossing feels like a new beginning and I happily catch the same bugs and fish I have in previous versions.
Nintendo have also added some little features such as having bottoms as well as tops to your clothes and being able to customise the outside of your house. Another annoyance they have ironed out from Let’s Go To The City is the time it takes to get to the shops. Endless boring loading screens and Cap’n’s tedious stories disappear, instead it is just a quick jaunt over some train tracks (there are no safety warnings about level crossings though….tut tut Nintendo!). Another feature I am guessing will come in later on is the Nook’s shop upgrading. This used to leave me frustrated as you had to wait a day before you could sell anything. But now we have Re-tail instead of the recycling point in the main area of the town which I guess means I can still sell my stuff there. So far the new version is the first that feels like a new game and I am yet to discover the diving suit, re-emergence of the tropical island or how street pass mode works.
For once I am wanting to play a computer game when I get home rather than write, read a book or watch a film. I really hope the enjoyment continues and there are lots more surprises in store, for instance the catalog at Nook’s store is not there so I am hoping that appears when/if the shop upgrades. Now all they need is to place in the update I have always wanted, getting a sports stadium and being able to play one-off games and tournaments against other towns. They could have something like three on three games and you select the villagers you want on your team. If they set aside a whole day when each game was on you could play anytime on that day but also have specific online tournaments at certain times. You could even buy upgrades to play more sports i.e. you choose to start with football then when you upgrade you get swimming, next upgrade you choose baseball and so on and so forth. Actually you might want to scratch that one as I will probably end up getting addicted and start thinking I am hedgehog and talking in little beeps!
I was never one to jump on the Angry Birds bandwagon, as a man who is turning 30 next year I feel a little embarrassed to mention my interest in computer games. I think it is actually quite sad that I won’t admit who I am some times, in fact computer games is the only thing I tend to hide. Right, it’s out there on the internet I can now go into a corner and weep in shame!
Anyhow, back to the irate avians. I had played crush the castle games on the internet in random periods of boredom so when Angry Birds came out a few years back I thought it was just another boring rock flinging type game. But those guys at Rovio had other ideas! The marketing executives took a somewhat stupid move in my opinion and decided to give Angry Birds Seasons away for free. Finding it on the app store I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. In my opinion games apps are only for short-term play when your waiting for someone at the train station, have five minutes free before you need to leave the house, are on the toilet or are waiting for the wife to try on the sixteenth pair of jeans that day whilst you stand in that awkward imaginary sheep pen around the changing rooms whilst men hide behind smart phones trying not to make eye contact. But clever, smarmy, smart arsed Angry Birds had other plans. Damn it with its array of different locations each with unique and beautiful designed background art, each with different sorts of blocks and fiendish design. Damn it with its large array of different birds with varying abilities which continues to expand. Damn it with its clever hardness curve that starts easy but builds up to rather difficult. Damn its choice of levels so if I get stuck I can move to a different world and come back later. Damn it with its star system that makes you want to go back and complete levels with three stars. I want a life but you sir, you just wont let me! I even hate it when my wife says, ‘are you playing Angry Birds again?’ I feel like a scolded child, I feel like I am somehow doing something wrong, and worst of all I feel like I have been demoted to the lowest common denominator like I am a contestant on Big Brother or am appearing on The Only Way is Essex. In short it makes me feel dirty.
That is the things about Angry Birds, it is absolutely amazing. It takes a simple genre of game and makes it not only aesthetically pleasing but clever, difficult and diverse. I am constantly playing levels wanting a certain type of bird but not getting it only to take a step back and look at how my current menagerie could solve that dilemma. I can really see why it is such a big hit.
But then you see I though that was it, one free game that I play on a bit. I have times where I play it a lot, I have times where I don’t play it at all. Then Rovio hit me with a bombshell, they raised my annoyance. It was as if they looked straight into my chest grabbed my heart and started manually pumping it so the blood went round my body really fast. Yes you knew Rovio, you knew I was a Star Wars fan, you knew that despite Lucas making Episodes 1 and 2 I still love it, you knew that I was happy with the galactic world in spite of the Disney fiasco (actually not a bad thing in my opinion), you knew I’d buy it. It just kept flashing up, that little banner when I was on Angry Birds Season….’buy angry birds star wars, buy ANGRY BIRDS STARS, BUT ANGRY BIRDS STAR WARS!’ It was only 69p, I should not be annoyed. But marketing doesn’t work on me! Actually what is really frustrating it that it does but I know when it does. I could feel it taking over my body and I was aware. There I was on the app store, ready to download, oh wait I’ve got a new phone, I need to re-register my credit card details before I can purchase, I’ve won. Yes, no 69p loss for me. The next stage was a blur, my credit card was in my hand, what was I doing? 69p gone, but I tell you something it was worth it! I though Seasons was good but Star Wars is amazing! Little red Luke Skywalker bird with his lightsabre, Black Obi-Wan bird with his force push, Yellow Han Solo bird with his laser shot and big hairy Chewbacca bird. And the space levels with planets with gravitational pull, oh I’m in heaven.
I still don’t think it is right. I don’t want my phone to take over my life, but at least I know what all the fuss is about even if I feel like a hypocrite. Like the man who doesnt eat cake and the next minute is tucking into a slice of victoria sponge who the person who says wrestling is stupid and not real then is caught watching WWE Smackdown (that has actually happened to me). All I really want to say is that Angry Birds is not as good as everyone says, it’s better and it blows all my principles out of the water and thus makes me angry and overjoyed at the same time. Lets just hope they don’t bring out Angry Birds Pirates of the Caribbean or that’s another 69p I’m down!