Welcome to wee-views!
Those who’ve been following me on Twitter will already know my life’s been pretty hectic these days.
My wife and I now have a gorgeous baby girl, my first book is due for release in March and I’m juggling a 9-to-5 on top of all that.
As a result of this, the number of reviews I’ve been putting on the site has dropped dramatically: there just aren’t enough hours in the day any more to play these games.
Well, actually, there are. There just aren’t enough hours to finish them. And that’s where wee-views come in.
The general rule for reviewers (or at least the rule I’ve always followed) is that you should always complete a game where possible before writing the review.
That way, if there are any odd quirks near the end of the game – a sudden rise or drop in quality, some brilliant post-game content, a game-breaking bug, that sort of thing – you’ll be in a position to mention it in the review and deliver a comprehensive, complete verdict with all of this in mind.
The thing is, after 12 and a half years of doing this, I’d like to think I’ve got a fairly good grasp now on whether a game is good after a few hours of playing it. Granted, there will always be those “you need to put some time into it before it gets great” situations, but those are fairly uncommon, especially with the smaller non-triple A games I tend to play and cover on the site.
Wee-views are mini reviews where I make it clear – both in this intro and a ‘how much I’ve played’ section in each wee-view – that the verdicts I’ve reached are based on me playing enough of the game to decide what I think of it, but not necessarily playing it to completion.
If you aren’t keen on this idea, don’t worry: I’ll still be doing ‘proper’ reviews of bigger games and the like. This is just a way for me to help advise you on a wider range of new games with opinions that are generally going to be fairly accurate rather than spending a long time trying to beat a single game.
Put it this way: if you’re at school / at work / in the pub with a mate who has a game you’re interested in, and you ask them “is it any good?”, you can pretty much guarantee they won’t reply: “I can’t say yet, I haven’t finished it.” They’ll always tell you what they think, even though they haven’t seen the credits. That’s the idea here.
So there we go, that’s wee-views. Let me know what you think of this first batch and your opinion on the concept in general: that aside, let’s get cracking.
Sega Ages: Sonic The Hedgehog
Sega / M2
How much I’ve played – Beaten normal mode, played the first three zones in Mega Play mode
Sega Ages is a new series of premium retro releases by emulation legends M2, who were responsible for the immaculate Sega 3D Classics range on the 3DS.
As a massive Sega fan, I aim to review every Sega Ages game on the site eventually. I’ve already downloaded and will soon be reviewing Thunder Force IV and Phantasy Star, the two other games currently out.
It makes sense to start with arguably Sega’s biggest ever game, though: even if it’s a game that’s been re-released more times than a compulsive burglar.
As is the case with M2’s releases on 3DS, the emulation here is absolutely flawless, with not a single stutter or missed frame in sight.
The spin dash from later Sonic games has been added too, as has the drop dash from Sonic Mania (where pressing the jump button while you’re in mid-air makes you do a quick rolling dash as soon as you hit the floor).
Other than that, the main game is more or less as it always has been: the addition of a new ‘Ring Chain’ score – which tracks your longest combo of collecting rings without taking a hit, even across multiple levels – is a nice touch but doesn’t really add much.
The main thing here for Sonic fans, however, is the option to play the Mega Play version of the game. Mega Play was an arcade board that let people play Mega Drive games in arcades, and the Mega Play version of Sonic is tweaked to make it harder: no extra lives, time limits and the like.
Playing the standard version is still better since the Mega Play version only has four zones (even though it does deserve praise for skipping the Marble Zone, which is shit: don’t @ me).
The big question then is whether you mind dropping £5.99 on a perfect version of Sonic, or are happy to wait for Sega Mega Drive Classics, which hits the Switch next month for £29.99 and will include an ever-so-slightly less perfect port along with 52 other games, meaning it works out at around 57p instead.
Picture Painting Puzzle 1000!
How much I’ve played – Completed a few of the 15×15 puzzles and ten of the 20×20 ones
Although Nintendo’s probably the company most think of when it comes to Picross games (well, specifically developer Jupiter, with Nintendo publishing), there have been a bunch of other Picross games released over the years – mainly in Japan – with various other non-P-word names.
Take Hudson Soft’s Illust Logic, for example, which featured as an honourable mention in my list of the 30 best DS games. Look in the main list, though, and you’ll see a lovely wee puzzle game called Pic-Pic, by developer Success.
Success has a lot of previous experience in the puzzle game field – with Pic-Pic being just one example – and Picture Painting Puzzle 1000! is its latest offering. In this case, however, it’s little more than basic Picross.
And I mean basic. Of the 1000 puzzles on offer here (hence the name), a hefty 608 are either 5×5 or 10×10 grids, which are always incredibly easy for Picross fans.
368 of the remaining puzzles are 15×15 – which is a bit more like it, but still won’t trouble hardcore Picross players – while a mere 24 (that’s just 2.4% of the puzzles available) are nice meaty 20×20 puzzles.
The controls are fairly clunky: you can either use the touchscreen – which is okay but gets far too inaccurate when it comes to bigger puzzles (which therefore have smaller squares) – or use the analogue stick and buttons, which is more accurate but time-consuming.
Bizarrely, you also can’t use buttons in handheld mode: you either need to use the touchscreen or remove the Joy-Cons and play in tabletop mode. Which is a bit piss.
This is very much a case of quantity over quality, and while I’ll continue playing to beat the other 20×20 puzzles I haven’t done yet, there’s no way in hell it’ll keep my attention long enough to clear many of the 15×15 ones, let along the 600-odd 5×5 and 10×10 ones that are far too easy to be entertaining.
Go with Picross S2 instead, which solves all the issues of its disappointing predecessor.
How much I’ve played – Unlocked all the modes, played for 3-4 hours
Last year I reviewed Party Golf, an indie game made by a group of Australian students and their teacher. I firmly believe it’s one of the most underrated multiplayer games on the Switch, so Party Crashers had my attention as a result.
This time, instead of a side-on golf game, we’re looking at a racing game, with the aim being to get so far ahead of your opponents that they go off the screen, losing a round.
Think of it as a neon, polygonal version of Micro Machines and you’ll have the right idea. And, as was the case with Party Golf, I had an absolute blast playing this one.
There’s an obscene array of options you can choose from that let you customise absolutely element of the game, meaning you can sculpt your own house rules to every minute detail.
Or, if you aren’t up for the hassle that entails, there’s a Quick Play option that lets you just jump straight into either Elimination, Race, Time Trial or Battle matches (though you need to play some of them a number of times before the others are unlocked).
While I enjoy this one too, it’s worth pointing out that as a multiplayer game it relies more on the players having a similar skill level than Party Golf did.
While Party Golf’s simple controls – aim with the stick and press a button to hit the ball – meant people of all abilities could play, with Party Crashers everyone really has to be at least half-decent at racing games.
That aside, I’ve had fun with what I’ve played of it, though $15 may be a bit steep for some.
EuroVideo Medien / Z-Software
Switch, PS4 (Switch version reviewed)
How much I’ve played – Cleared 30 of 50 missions
I’ve been waiting for a new Pilotwings game for years, and while 3DS launch game Pilotwings Resort scratched the itch a bit, the fact it was all set on Wuhu Island – which had been overused by then – meant it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.
Since it doesn’t look like a follow-up is going to be parachuting in any time soon, Pilot Sports is keen to fill that gap with its own take on arcade-style flight sim goodness (though it’ll set you back £30 for the privilege).
There are four different disciplines to learn here – light plane, jetpack, hang gliding and skydiving – and they mostly control as you’d expect (though aiming the jetpack can take a little getting used to at first).
Missions are generally time-based, meaning you’re awarded medals based on how quickly you finish them. Occasionally, though, you’ll get a high score mission, where the aim is to keep the timer going as long as possible by flying through rings and building up your points.
I had a decent time with what I’ve played of Pilot Sports, but elements did feel slightly off. The character design is woeful: there’s a selection of different pilots to choose from but they all seem to have the same face (even the men and women), which looks really poor.
The performance is also iffy: it’s got an uncapped frame rate, which means it’s aiming for 60fps and hits it on rare occasions, but more often than not chugs and sputters a fair amount, which is distracting in a game about something as supposedly relaxing as flight.
Oh, and hang gliding is always terrible in these sorts of games, and it’s no different here. Hang gliding should be banned from flight sims.
Timber Tennis: Versus
Crunching Koalas / Digital Melody Games
Switch, PS4, PC (Switch version reviewed)
How much I’ve played – Put a couple of hours into it
Four years ago, Polish studio Digital Melody released a much-loved mobile game called Timberman, where the aim was to chop down trees while avoiding obstacles.
Timber Tennis: Versus, as the name suggests, is a tennis game using similar sprites to those in its lumberjack-themed mobile title.
As far as tennis games go, it’s incredibly basic. Rather than being able to run freely around the court, you only get to move left and right to one of five spots.
You also can’t control the direction of your shots. You simply have to move to where the ball’s going, wait for your guy to hit it, then wait for it to come back. There are power-ups in there too, but they just make things more frantic without ever actually improving things.
It may have the typically well-designed pixel graphics that are apparently a prerequisite for 95% of indie games these days, but this plays less like the 16-bit games it visually imitates and more like a Game & Watch title instead. And not a good one.
Save Me Mr Tako! Tasukete Tako-San
Nicalis / Christophe Galati
Switch, PC (Switch version reviewed)
How much I’ve played – Around three hours’ worth
If they were handing out awards for accuracy when it comes to indie games with ‘8-bit’ graphics styles, Save Me Mr Tako! would definitely be a strong contender.
Whereas most retro-inspired modern games would never have been able to run on the systems they’re imitating, if someone told me this was an unreleased Game Boy game I’d completely believe them.
It even lets you switch palettes with the shoulder button, Game Boy Color style, and has Super Game Boy-type borders. Annoyingly though, it also carries over some less welcome elements from that era.
It looks fantastic, and its chiptune music sounds 100% like it’s coming out of a Game Boy’s speakers (though, if we’re getting nerdy, they apparently added an extra fifth sound channel to handle sound effects). But it’s difficult, and not in an endearing way.
There are a lot of cheap deaths in this game, either down to enemies appearing too quickly to be able to deal with them or dodgy collision detection. The fact that only one hit kills you (unless you equip a special hat which lets you take a second hit) and extra lives are rarer than good Andy Parsons jokes on Mock The Week makes it even more frustrating.
There are many old-school platformers out there that are bloody hard, but the best ones find a way to make that compelling and encourage you to keep going. Mr Tako just annoyed me, and I’m not sure I’ll find the motivation to put up with the frustration enough to finish it.
Review code for each game was provided by PRs, except for Sega Ages: Sonic The Hedgehog and Picture Painting Puzzle 1000!, which I bought myself. The opinions in my reviews are in no way influenced by how I received them.
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