Embarking on an Odyssey


Super Mario Odyssey CappyWell of course I purchased Super Mario Odyssey as a Nintendo Switch owner.  Probably the game I’ve been most hyped about all year.  So what’s it like?  I wouldn’t say I have the vastest experience with Mario games and haven’t owned all of Nintendo’s systems.  However I enjoyed Super Mario Sunshine on the Gamecube and dabbled in Super Mario World from time to time in it’s various incarnations although always found that particular entry overly difficult.  Odyssey however is the first fully free roaming Mario game in a while and on picking up the controller I was pleased at how fluid and natural the controls felt (helped I’m guessing by the game’s 60fps).  Graphically it’s varied, colourful and highly-detailed even if the worlds don’t quite have the wow-factor of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, that other AAA Nintendo Switch game this will inevitably get compared to, which is unfair as the games couldn’t be more different.  Odyssey’s main plot is simplistic and typical Mario-fair.  Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach and this time is planning a wedding.  It’s Mario’s job to rescue her and prevent the wedding by chasing Bowser’s flying ship across various kingdoms dotted around the globe.  In each kingdom there are a number of ‘moons’ to find to power your hat-shaped space ship known as the ‘Odyssey’ and this is where the game delivers it’s inspired gimmick. 

Mario Odyssey

A talking hat named ‘Cappy’ befriends Mario after Bowser wrecks it’s home, and chooses to help Mario in his quest because his own sweetheart, a tiara has also been kidnapped.  Cappy can be used during the game in a variety of ways, to either break boxes, platform to higher levels or possess in-game characters to help solve puzzles and further traverse the environments.  It’s a great addition to the Mario-formula and makes for endless gameplay opportunities, but does come at a cost.  You feel slightly over-powered with it and your ability to possess enemies can make the game rather easy, meaning it’s quite possible to breeze through the entire game despite how huge the various kingdoms can be.  Yet that would do the game a disservice as exploration, finding the moons and all the secrets, collecting outfits or souvenirs for your ship is where the meat is and the game greatly rewards players who go off the beaten track and search every nook and cranny.

I’m enjoying my time with Super Mario Odyssey but at this stage, a fair portion into the game I don’t feel it has the depth of Zelda to clock in 100hrs plus, but realise this is a very different but equally polished experience that will keep me coming back for a good while yet.  Does it deserve the wealth of accolades it’s had, the myriad of 10/10s?  Maybe not but it’s still a brilliant game that, if you have a Switch is an essential purchase.

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Watch Dogs … room for improvement?


This is the last post I’ll be writing on this heavily hyped and popular game now I have had more time to really get to grips with it.  So there are a few things I’ve noticed and a few things I wish had been implemented better … or at all.

Ubi Soft have done a great job with this recreation of Chicago and its a blast to explore, especially with all the extra side missions and wealth of people and things going on. What did puzzle me was the amount of bus shelters – but not a single bus! Also why aren’t there any Taxis in this city? Just seems like a complete oversight by the developers. Also strange that Police seem to be absent for the most part until you do some sort of crime. Shouldn’t they be on patrol anyway?  Then the pedestrians which at first glance are well done and individual, it soon becomes apparent that there are a ton of repeated lines of dialogue like ‘what is going on in Chicago’ and ‘she has a crazy perfect ass’ but spoken by different pedestrians and in different areas of the city. A tad lazy for an apparent next-gen experience.

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The weather system is at first impressive and I can’t fault the thunder / rain effect. Even the slight smoggy look at certain times of the day is impressive, but wouldn’t it be cool if there were other effects catered for, like snow? As seen in The Division, but perhaps time of year is a factor, so a wintery sequel? Hmm.  Building interiors lack some detail and I think they could have had a few more areas you can go inside and explore. It doesn’t feel as interactive as GTA V and that was a game on last-gen hardware. Oh and why is this city, like many open world games completely unpopulated by children and animals? I get it, we don’t need to see a child run over by a crazy gamer or shot at point-blank range, but hey – not very ‘real’ either, is it? Couldn’t it be implemented so that such incidents would have a much bigger impact on your reputation compared to regular pedestrians? Just a thought.

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The cash system is far too generous. I haven’t once during the time I have played, lacked money – I either pick it up from fallen foes, steal it off pedestrians or its just plain given to me … lots of it. Makes the whole buying weapons, pills, clothing part of the game a bit boring if its so easy to come by. Oh and as for weapons, getting hold of high powered items like the grenade launcher, very early on, makes many of the missions rather easy. Shouldn’t such hardware get unlocked the more I progress, or as I have mentioned, wouldn’t more of a lack of cash make such cool weapons worth ‘saving up’ for etc… with cash earned perhaps during side quests? I actually had the grenade launcher around the start of the game. On the subject of weapons, how about customization and individual weapon mods, like perhaps a silencer on a sniper rifle…?

The game has some very cool ideas though. The way you can hide in your car following a police chase feels very cop thriller territory, and the story itself, whilst very serious in tone, has the feel of a cool high tech TV series or a movie, with characters that feel real – to me at least. I love profiling pedestrians for some of the weird job titles etc. Also getting hacked during my game is very clever and fun to track down the hacker and blow him away…lol. Some have said the driving is a bit off. I disagree. This depends on the car you use, and feels believable to how real world cars react, as in over-powered ones spin out very easily etc. The bikes are awesome, by the way.

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That extra six months of development, I do wonder where it went . . was it getting the core gameplay principals just right, or adding silly (but fun) diversions like digital trips and cash runs? Personally the time given to such mini games could have been better put to use on limiting the repeated dialogue, giving us buses and taxis to ride (not just trains…) and general polish (yes the game has bugs…). Oh and don’t get me started about the radio… firstly no stations and no DJs? Granted this is Ubi Softs first stab at this sort of GTA-like game, but really? It’s been a stable mate of this style of game for years.

So for the inevitable WD #2 I hope we don’t just get more of the same, but Ubi Soft dedicating themselves to delivering a fully immersive, open world experience with all these little details intact – believe me they matter.

A milestone reached


After starting this blog back in 2007, I never really did it to become all that popular … I wrote for my own love of writing and my love of movies, games and just getting my opinion out there.  However in recent months and with the involvement of other blogs that I follow, there has been a growing interest here in what I am posting.  That is such an amazing thing to me, that someone would actually want to read my stuff, let alone come back time and time again.  So with a recent milestone reached of 250 followers here and that’s not including those that still visit but haven’t clicked the subscribe button, I want to express my gratitude and sheer joy of having you all on board.  It makes writing this not just a hobby I love, but also something I am doing for an awaiting community – something I never thought possible.  Please continue to comment, like and read my posts and I will promise to continue to post interesting, fun and informative reviews, as well as whatever else comes to mind.

Thank you so much for the support!

Craig.

Home Entertainment Setup 2013


Thought I’d post a few pictures of my current home entertainment setup.  You’ll find various folks posting things like this or even doing Youtube videos, and I have often found it enjoyable to check out other people’s gear and how they have things laid out.  Feel free to post your comments and even link to your own setups if you have them anywhere as I would love to see what you fellow movie / tech lovers have to watch your stuff on…

Living Room Setup:  Samsung 40″ LED Television, Sky HD Satellite Service, Pioneer 3D Blu-ray player, Cambridge Audio Amplifier.

Bedroom Setup:  Samsung 26″ LCD, Samsung Laptop, Kindle Fire HD, Apple Ipod Nano.

Bedroom Setup (cont): Sony Playstation 3 Slim, Microsoft XBOX 360 Slim, Sony Audio Centre Amplifier, Toshiba DVD Player, Onkyo CD Player.

Home entertainment and movies, video-games, technology etc have always been a passion of mine and over the years I have built up a very acceptable setup, with access to services such as Netflix, XBOX Live, Sky and various movies and TV on-demand at my fingertips.  It all greatly adds to my viewing and gaming fun, and makes running this blog / website a real pleasure.

Note:  All images taken with the Sony Xperia SP.

L.A. Noir – impressions


This was one of my big hopes for 2011.  Rockstar Games’ much anticipated cop adventure game, borrowing from the likes of Grand Theft Auto as well as movies like L.A. Confidential.  The hype surrounding it made a big noise about the revolutionary facial technology that can put real actors into a game world, and the prospect of playing a game that is less about running around with a gun, and more about investigating crime scenes and interrogating witnesses, certainly made me sit up and take notice.  So what is the game actually like to play?

You are ex-war veteran Cole Phelps, starting out as a beat Cop who quickly rises through the ranks, going from Homicide to Vice to Arson.  At first it feels ver much like GTA in the large open world (you get a fully re-created Los Angeles to explore) and being a good guy instead of a criminal is refreshing.  Once you get into the meat of the game, searching crime scenes etc, it’s very unique and interesting, and looking for clues is quite unlike anything out there, that I have played at least.  Also sitting down and quizzing witnesses or suspects is done well, with a system where you must ask questions, which are based on the evidence and clues you have found, and going by what answers the witness / suspect returns, you can choose between believing them, doubting their honesty or calling them a liar.  At first this is tricky to get to grips with, but once you understand what the game is asking of you, getting the job done and putting criminals behind bars can be very satisfying.

Graphically this is impressive, especially as far as the characters and various people you meet are concerned.  The technology is very good, even if the odd recognisable face (did I just spot Matt out of Heroes?) can look a little weird.  The city although very detailed pales in comparison to GTAIV for things going on and stuff to do, and can’t hold a candle technically to Mafia II either.  Also the game suffers quite badly from frame-rate slow down, and it’s obvious that the game world isn’t fully realised with many repeated lines of dialogue from pedestrians and a fair few bugs.  But it creates a great atmosphere of 1940s America though, and for that at least, it does what it came to do.

My main gripe with the game is the repetitiveness of the cases.  I am about half way in, and so far nearly every murder has been a woman and the investigations have constantly resulted in the same on-foot or by car chase, which is nothing we haven’t seen done many times.  Ok, the on-foot stuff is fairly slick, but when you’ve done it five or more times in a row, it gets boring very quickly.  I feel overall that this is a game with a great technology behind it and some good ideas, but for my money at least, it just doesn’t feel very well realised and lacks the variety and compelling story to make it much more than bargain bin fodder.  The kinda game you won’t regret buying cheap or trading-in for, but it’s not one I’d recommend at full price.