switch

REVIEW:Celeste

It has been my experience that platformers fall into two main camps: the light-hearted, Mario-esk and relatively easy to play type, and the ultra hardcore, pay-attention-or-you-die type of games such as Super Meat Boy.

Celeste, the new game from mattmakesgames (now more than just Matt Thorson who originally started it), falls into this second camp. It is designed to challenge you, in a similar vein to something like Dark Souls: Celeste demands your attention, requiring timing and finger dexterity to get through its levels. If that proves too much, it has an innovative ‘assist mode’ that can help, and it is genuinely refreshing to not feel like your getting a gimped experience because you just don’t have the skill to play as is.

The setup of the game is thus: Madeline wants to climb Celeste mountain. She is completely unprepared for this, as the mountain has a power she has never encountered before, but attempts it anyway. It sounds like a fairly mundane thing, pulled straight out of eighties NES games, but actually the story has a nuance few games attempt.

It deals with mental health in a way few games even attempt, let alone actually pull off, though to the conclusion to that does feel like the optimistic and ‘perfect’ - for want of a better word - solution. That doesn’t mean that the game is anything less than great, I just found it to stumble at the end a little bit.

The minute to minute gameplay is your fairly standard affair of run and jump, avoiding obstacles, though you can also cling to surfaces and climb them. This is governed by a stamina meter that drains, but if you jump off and land on a flat surface it is refilled instantly, as is the air dash you are given at the start of the game.There isn’t really any enemies to take out, instead just about everything that isn’t a flat surface will kill you. It’s not even a case of it will take some health off, you hit the wrong thing and boom, you’re dead, and death comes swiftly and often.

So often, in fact, that after around twelve hours with the game I had died 3089 times. I never said I was good at this type of game, and as I sat staring at that number after the credits rolled, I realized that not one of those was the games fault. Each level is perfectly designed, with the solution and everything you need to achieve it staring you in the face, it is just a matter of whether or not you actually see it.

This is compounded by Strawberries. Each level has a set of collectible Strawberries to get, but when presented with a screen with one of those in it, it can quickly become a case of just saying “Hell no!” and moving on. This isn’t because these screens are badly designed, on the contrary, they are some of the most diabolical sections in the game, but it is a case of whether or not you can be bothered throwing yourself at the problem until you figure it out, dying over and over until you collect that tasty fruit.

Thing is, those collectibles make no difference to the game, they really are just bragging rights for completing tough sections, so if like me you get to a point where you just want to get through it, don’t feel bad for skipping them, it makes no difference to the story or anything. The collectible that does change things are the B-Side cassette tapes in each chapter. These will re-mix the level for a harder challenge, but to be honest, by the time I got to to the end I had gotten everything I wanted out of the game.

I mentioned at the start the games assist mode, and it really is great. The games designers wanted a set experience, and think it should be played without assist mode turned on, which is fair. However, not everyone is of the same skill level, so with assist mode on you are granted the ability to make things easier in a number of ways.

This might be increasing the number of air dashes you are allowed from one to infinite, making Madeline invincible, increasing how quickly the stamina meter runs down and a number of other things. It affects nothing in the story or game, it is purely a way for people to experience the game regardless of skill level. The developers were smart to put this in, it opens the game to a larger audience and gives them a chance to actually complete it.

I actually ended up turning assist mode on, I just found the game that touch too hard. All I did was increase the number of dashes by one, so I could do it twice before having to land to refill it. As I said, I still died over three thousand times and I gave up on trying to get all the strawberries, but I got through the game and it made it just a little bit easier. I didn’t find that it compromised the designers intent, Celeste is still a brilliant platformer that proves challenging even with a little help. It might not be what the experience they intended me to have, but I still enjoyed the game.

In fact the only issue I really found with the game was the last bit of the story, which for me was just a little bit too optimistic when dealing with mental health. That’s not to say such things don’t happen in real life, but the struggle is much harder than what is presented here, despite the mystical underpinnings of the story. As I said though, few games even attempt this and Celeste does a brilliant job, it just doesn’t stick the landing for me.

Everything else is brilliant. The art style is very 16 bit, but has bells and whistles that could only be dreamt of in that era, the music is awesome and the gameplay is as close to perfect as a platformer can get. I played it on the Switch, and it really is the perfect game for that system, as I played for longer than I should have lying in bed at midnight, or just sat on the sofa getting lost in a challenging section.


If you want a great platformer with a story that is more than ‘stomp on these things’, Celeste is the game for you. It plays brilliantly, looks and sounds great and has plenty of meat to sink your teeth into.

Review: Splatoon 2

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When the original Splatoon was announced, everyone was, frankly, confused. Nintendo? Doing a shooter? A collective WTF went up from fans and games press a like. However, as people started to play, get a feel for it, it became apparently that the house that Mario built was actually onto something.

The genius of that original game is that while yes, it is a shooter and an online one at that, it didn’t attempt to follow the path of the giants such as Call of Duty or Battlefield. While you can kill members of the original team, that is not the point. Instead, covering as much of the map as possible is the way to victory, at least in the regular battle mode.

Matches lasted just three minutes, lending the game a snappy feel. It was the shooter people who don’t like shooters should play and became an instant hit upon its release, this was due to pitch perfect gameplay and the fact it was an original IP from Nintendo.

Fast forward a couple of years, and the portable/console hybrid known as The Switch needs games. So what do we get? New IP? Of course not, we get the sequel to Nintendo’s first ever shooter and it is just the game the system needs.

Splatoon 2 is, and this especially applies if you didn’t play the first game, a must buy. The same core mechanics and pitch perfect gameplay see you running and swimming around various maps trying to cover everything in your team’s colour or compete in the more objective based modes once you unlock ranked battles.

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To be honest, this is all the game needs. The gameplay is so good that while, yes very little has actually changed in terms of what you do, frankly it doesn’t need to, it is always fun playing matches and it's an online game where by default voice chat is disabled which means that the b.s you might have dealt with before goes away almost instantly.

The game's biggest problem is that those that still have a Wii U hooked up and a copy of the original might find it difficult to justify buying a new console to play a sequel with so little new things to do, and those that already own a Switch but played the original might find it tough to pay another chunk of money for what is essentially the same game.

The changes that are there, such as new weapons, clothing, the ability to change hairstyles are cool but don’t fix fundamental problems with the design. You still have to back all the way of of the lobby and return to the main hub to change weapons and gear for example, but I never found it so bad that it was a huge deal, and in that particular instance you tend to find the best weapon for you and stick with it no matter anyway.

The new Salmon run mode, this game's version of a horde mode, is only open at certain times for some insane reason that no one can quite figure out and frankly, is something you have played a thousand times before. The single player is good and has some great looking boss battles, helped by the bump to 1080p and 60fps, but is the same format as the first game.

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The changes made to how certain weapons work and how that would affect the deeper strategy of a match will only be really relevant to the hardcore players who spent hours with the first game, learning all the secrets and wanting to translate to the sequel. The casual crowd might be disappointed with a graphics bump and a couple of new weapons and maps.

So far, this is the only way that you can still view anything resembling the old Miiverse from the Wii U, one of the more intresting aspects of the platform. It is relegated to thought bubbles above peoples heads in the lobby, but is a fun throw back none the less. 


Ultimately, Splatoon 2 is a better looking rehash of the first game. The could have called it Splatoon HD  and added in the extra’s in as a bonus to get people to invest and it probably would have worked well for them, but that isn’t to say it isn’t a great game anyway. The gameplay that made the first so good is still intact and sees it through, but I can easily see why people might be reluctant to invest in this. I think it’s great, it just has some strange quirks that are annoying but not unassailable.

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

How do you update a 30 year franchise? One whose tropes have been copied innumerable times across a million games. One where various entries frequently appear on “Best game of all time” lists and whose structure helped form a large part of the language of video games.

The answer seems to be ‘make it bigger and throw that structure out’. Breath of the Wild (BotW) forgoes the formulaic nature of previous games and sets you on a path, but crucially, how to get to the end of that path is up to you. One of the first quests you receive is “Defeat Ganon”, and from that point on your are pretty much on your own.

The designers have taken what works from other open world games and cut away everything but the very core, crafting something that has all the familiar elements but doesn’t fall into various open world traps. There is almost no ‘jank’, where the systems interact in unexpected ways the game isn’t prepared to really handle.

It does however contain towers which allow you to expand the map, but rather than filling it with these towers so they become a grind, there are only a few, one per very large area. Once you activate one, the area unlocked isn’t suddenly filled with icons to check off either, which is actually a brilliant decision.

The trap here is that such things can become a check list very quickly, making exploring the world a slog and dumbing down the excitement of thinking you will find something new and unknown around every corner. BotW does this excellently, at no point did I feeling like it was a grind to play, and I knew that there was always something waiting to be discovered.  

Those discoveries came in various forms, from enemy encampments to small villages, stables or one of BotW’s greatest achievements, a Shrine. The shrines provide bitesize pieces of gameplay outside of travelling around the main world, each with a various hooks that may or may not utilize one or more of the new powers given to link at the start of the game.

Link is the proud owner of the Sheikah Slate, basically a modern day tablet that allows him to access the shrines and towers, but also grants him a few powers such as magnesis, stasis, cryosis and remote bombs. The shrines might have you using magnesis to lift up and carry metal boxes around to make paths or activate switches, or they might have you use stasis to stop an object, smash it with your weapons to have it build up a charge, then launch it into a hole, or any number of combinations.

Each one is only a few minutes long and can net you weapons, armour and shields, along with the main prize: an orb that allows you to purchase heart and stamina metre upgrades, and with a hundred and twenty to find and beat, you build up stamina and health quite quick. Some of the shrines are straight up combat arena’s, tasking you with defeating a fairly powerful enemy, but these are rarely very tough and give you access to some of the most potent weapons in the game.

Those weapons range from boomerangs to single handed swords to massive bone clubs, each with its own damage rating and durability. Yes, they will break on you, which for some will be a massive point of contention. However, weapons are not hard to come by, every enemy drops at least one and it isn’t a challenge to find a fight, so this doesn’t actually prove much of a detriment, though it can be frustrating to burn through weapons in a shrine trying to get a ball into a hole to activate a switch.

The combat itself is fast and satisfying, never getting old no matter how many times you beat the snot out of a bunch of Bokoblins. It can be annoying to have your weapons break halfway through a fight, but you rarely, if ever, get to the point where you have no weapons at all, so making your way around the world and fighting everything is always a pleasure and never a chore.

The point of traversing this open world is to, as previously stated, defeat Ganon, or in this case, Calamity Ganon, an entity that has taken over Hyrule Castle 100 years previously. The story is an interesting take on the Zelda format, but it boils down to the same thing every single entry in the series has: rescue the princess, defeat the bad guy and save the world.

The story portions weren’t super interesting, but it is probably the most interesting version of the tale to date. The voice acting (yes that's a thing) is actually pretty good, and the writing is decent, but after a couple of hours with the game, it's not something I cared about, I just wanted to go tool around the world.

You can actually complete the game without doing this, that quest to defeat Ganon is completable almost from the second you get it, with speed runs of the game already coming in at around forty minutes. My play time is currently over seventy hours and I haven’t by any stretch of the imagination done everything.

That is the beauty of it, it allows you to finish quick or take your time, and both are perfectly valid, though it's my opinion finishing it in forty minutes does the game a massive disservice. Every inch of it is perfectly designed, but probably the most ingenious thing BotW does is climbing.

It might sound stupid, but you can climb pretty everything at anytime. No upgrades or new kit required, Link can just climb stuff until his stamina runs out. The stamina metre, depending on what you’re doing and if climbing how steep the wall is, doesn’t run out after 2 seconds so getting up mountains isn’t too much of a challenge after a couple of upgrades, but it seems that getting stamina upgrades rather than health is more important in the early stages.

More games need to do this, it adds to the feeling that the game actively wants you to explore its world and discover its secrets, from the random Dragon’s floating around the skies to hidden villages and shrines, you can literally go anywhere you want, it just might take some preparation to remain there for a period of time.

This preparation comes in the form of cooking. Around the world are various herbs, plants, fruit, spices and meat, as well as critters and monster parts that allow you to cook up various dishes. You can eat them without cooking (except for the monster parts and critters), but by throwing on the old apron and chucking a few things a cook pot you can get meals that increase your maximum hearts, let you move silently, temporarily increase stamina, refill your stamina meter or allow you survive longer in the games harsher climates, such as mountain tops.

This is a very cool mechanic and you can carry plenty of meals at once, the only problem with it is that cooking pots are only located in villages or stables, so you might have to head to one of those then back up to where you were if you run out. It's not a huge thing (like all the problems with this game) but it can be vexing.

The critters and monster parts create elixirs rather than meals, but do pretty much the same thing, it's just less likely you will receive hearts back from these, and you can’t brew attack boosting or damage reducing elixirs, but they prove useful nonetheless.

Ultimately, Breath of the Wild is the open world game to play if you don’t like open world games. While it is not absolutely perfect, it is so close it's scary. The frustrating elements of other similar games have been carefully analyzed and discarded or refined to near perfection, the concept of ‘Open world Jank’ is completely absent and all the systems at play work together to create the emergent gameplay that is a stable of the genre but with that feeling that the game just broke for no reason at all.

Nintendo have redefined what an open world game is, while simultaneously giving the best Zelda in years, one that revitalizes the series in a way no one expected. Playing on the Switch (it's also available on Wii U) makes this even better, as you can literally take it with you and play anywhere, and since the game has so much to see and do, it is the perfect launch game. To be honest though, it's a damn near perfect game, if you want or own a Switch or Wii U, this should be on your must have games list without question.