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Hands-On: Mario Maker

August 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Mario MakerIt’s something that every Mario fan has thought about at least once – wouldn’t it be great to design your own levels? I mean, how hard can it be? In a year where Nintendo have finally given their mascot a break from a new tentpole release, this year’s Mario presence comes in the form of Mario Maker; the game that will finally answer the question as to how much work goes into creating a Mario game.

And to help you in answering that question, Nintendo have created the simplest and most effective toolset to create the levels of your dreams. Using the Wii U GamePad and more than a handful of nods to the SNES Mario Paint interface, Mario Maker presents you with a series of tiles, each offering an element from the original NES classic. Simply drag them onto the stage, and you can dive straight into a test environment. It’s an incredibly intuitive system, which has the added benefit of giving you the chance to test and fine tune levels as you go.

The demo I played gave me free reign as to the design of the stage – the only limit, as the old cliché goes, was my imagination. Naturally I opted to add the ever popular Hammer Bros in first, then another one on top. And another. And then wings to the bottom one so the whole pile of Hammer Bros started flying as they approached.

Diving straight into the action by the simple tap of a button instantly showed up a problem – it was physically impossible to get past them. Back to the drawing board, Mario Makerand few modifications later, it was very playable, albeit a simple case of dodging a few stray hammers and making a break for the flag.

After 10 minutes I’d taken out the floor of the stage, added in pipes, rising platforms, piranha plants, mushrooms and an almost impossible leap of faith that took a lot of skill to achieve. The result was a challenging level of my own creation, born from just a few Hammer Bros jumping up and down. Read more…

Hands-On: Splatoon

August 5, 2014 Leave a comment

SplatoonWhile the rest of the world seems obsessed with the shooter genre, Nintendo has constantly stuck by its family-friendly image – something of a relief to many of us. But with children being exposed to violent games at such a young age, it falls to Nintendo to offer them something comparable on the Wii U. The answer? An ink-based shooter starring squid people. Welcome to Splatoon.

The biggest surprise from Nintendo’s E3 ensemble, and one of the biggest hits on the show floor, Splatoon is Nintendo’s answer to the shooter genre. An 8-player online, team-based shooter that doesn’t promote gritty realistic violence. And it is absolutely brilliant.

Controlled with the GamePad, Splatoon is instantly accessible, and instantly entirely new. While the standard analogue controls remain, with triggers being used for shooting and grenades, the fine tuning of your aim is taken away from the right trigger, and replaced by motion controls. While many shooter fans may cry foul, the option to turn off these motion controls is available, but one I would not recommend. Splatoon is very much a rapid, reaction based shooter, and the ability to aim using your controller adds a huge amount of precision.

The aim of the game is to douse the map in as much of your team’s ink as possible, while stopping the opposition from doing likewise. This causes a huge change in how you approach the game. While points are scored for kills, it is far more beneficial to get ouSplatoont of danger and start inking the opposition’s colour away, rather than getting into a drawn out battle. And this is where Splatoon’s master stroke comes in – squidding.

Each of the Inklings (the squid characters you play as) have the ability to transform into a squid, and with it, hide in your team’s ink. It is this mechanic that transforms Splatoon from a simple inky shooter, into a tactical game of skill. With the ability to hide in your ink, battles can changed, with once invisible enemies popping out of the opposition’s ink at a moment’s notice. It makes for a hugely challenging mechanic, and one, as the demo progressed, that I began to see the ingenuity of. Read more…

Categories: Hands On, Wii U Tags: , , , ,

Hands-On: Yoshi’s Woolly World

July 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Yoshi's Woolly WorldThere’s one word that can summarise Yoshi’s Woolly World – adorable. Created from a mixture of wool, fabric, and all sorts of arts and crafts materials, Yoshi’s latest adventure feels like a game you could create physically given you had enough time. Strip away the brightly coloured worlds and fluffy exterior though, and Woolly World reveals itself to be largely the same as previous Yoshi games – run, jump, eat and throw things all in the name of collecting smiling flowers. It’s a tried and tested concept, and one that has become Yoshi’s staple over the years, but off the back of the indifferently received Yoshi’s New Island, it’s a concept that is in danger of becoming stale. But if you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, what do you do? A new lick of paint is the answer.

Mechanics aside, it is hard to not instantly fall in love with Yoshi’s Woolly World. Partnering with Good Feel Inc. and borrowing the woollen themes of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Yoshi’s latest adventure oozes charm. It’s no mean feat creating an entire world out of fabric and upholstery, but it’s a challenge that the design team have completed in what appears to be relative ease. Every world is created top to bottom with stitched and knitted elements – Yoshi's Woolly Worldbe it the woollen Koopa Troopas and Shy Guys, to the balls of wool that stand in for Yoshi’s eggs, everything feels like it is fresh out of a knitting box.

Presented in HD, the game looks absolutely gorgeous, and the art style also allows for a bit of a remix on some traditional Yoshi themes. Woollen balls replace Yoshi’s eggs, while elements of the landscape can be unravelled to unlock secret areas; alternatively, ledges can be knitted to provide an alternate route. The woollen theme also allows for some cute animations for Yoshi himself, with his nose squishing up against heavy objects, and his knitted legs turning into wheels when he runs fast.

During my demo, I tackled three levels – two set in what appears to be the opening world, with another set in the sky. While the first two levels felt the most like ‘classic’ Yoshi’s Island with added woollen challenges, the level in the sky offered the first of Yoshi’s Woolly World’s new mechanics – cotton wool birds. Yet another riff on the crafts theme, these birds replace wool balls for the level; when thrown, they leave a path of cotton wool, which is fortunate as the level is largely comprised of empty space. Perhaps more importantly, despite its look, Woolly World offers up a decent challenge, especially when compared to Yoshi’s recent games.

Yoshi's Woolly WorldWhile there’s still plenty of time until Yoshi’s Woolly World hits stores, my playtime with it left me with the feeling that this is going to be the best Yoshi game since the original on the SNES. Aside from its adorable presentation, the developers have taken the woollen theme to heart, and created inventive, and fun, puzzles around the knitted world they have created. With 2-player co-op and amiibo support included, this will surely be another platforming hit for Nintendo.

Hands-On: Hyrule Warriors

July 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Hyrule WarriorsLike many of you, I’m a huge Zelda fan, but having never played a Dynasty Warriors game, the idea of a crossover had me worried. We’ve seen first hand the problems with overexposing a brand with the recent influx of Mario titles, and with The Legend of Zelda attaining almost mystical status due to its infrequent release schedule, the idea of a spin-off based on another franchise was seen as a bad idea to many.

Thankfully, my fears were put to rest as soon as I picked up the game. Say what you will about the gameplay depth of Dynasty Warriors games, but one thing is clear right from the start of Hyrule Warriors – there is a deep love and affection for the franchise in this game.

Be it the NES Zelda-styled loading screen, or the wealth of characters from different time periods available to play as, there’s a real knowledge of the franchise in here, and while Aonuma has decreed Hyrule Warriors non-canon, this feels like the team-up crossover we’ve been waiting for. Hyrule Warriors is The Legend of Zelda universe’s Avengers.

But no amount of fan service will make up for poor gameplay, and this is where personal taste will come into play. While Hyrule Warriors looks like a Zelda game on the surface, the gameplay is anything but. Based around a given battlefield, the aim is to cut your way through swathes of enemies (and we’re talking thousands here) as you make it to areas, known as Keeps, that bolster your defences (think Star Wars Battlefront but with thousands of battle droids). Beating the boss of that keep, a giant Moblin or aHyrule Warriors Lizalfos for example, earns your side reinforcements. And that’s the extent of the gameplay.

Of course, the battlefield exists while you are in it, so there will be times you are called from your path of destruction for a more focussed task. In my demo, set outside Hyrule Castle from Twilight Princess, I was called away to protect Impa, collect bombs to clear a pathway, and ultimately take down the stage’s big bad, King Dodongo.

There’s also an element of skill in the battle itself, albeit against a mindless army that seems less interested in attacking you than watching you kill their friends. Special attacks, and charge attacks, are built up using a magic meter, and items can be found and equipped on the battlefield (which can also be charged, resulting in a giant bomb for example).

While the roster continues to grow, my demo only included time playing as Link and Zelda, with a sword and rapier respectively. While both control similarly, there’s a distinct difference in their abilities. Link is far more of a brawler, with his sword unsurprisingly being most effective at close range, requiring you to really get in amongst enemies. Zelda however, had a much larger range with the rapier, and special moves such as light arrows allowed for a more tactical approach to battle.

Hyrule WarriorsThe demo I played was just a snippet of the finished thing, and while this section did seem more about the spectacle than the tactics, there are definite hints at a more in-depth game beneath the surface. For Dynasty Warriors fans, it’s the same gameplay but with the classic Zelda touch. For Zelda fans, it’s a love letter to the franchise and a way to celebrate everything about it in a new format. And that seems like as good a reason as any to give it a go.

Thank You and Goodbye

June 27, 2012 6 comments

Notes from the Mushroom Kingdom

In October 2010 I started writing for Nintendo Okie, and now, almost two years later, my time here is at an end. It has been an amazing couple of years for me to work with everyone here and to have been part of such a wonderful community, but as of today my articles are returning to this side of the Atlantic as I will be joining Nintendo Life.

And I could not have achieved this without Nintendo Okie. When I first got in contact with Tony in the Summer of 2010, I had recently shut down my own personal Nintendo site after three failed re-launches and was looking for a way to hone my writing and reach out to a wider audience. Tony’s ad for writers across the world caught my eye, and we eventually settled on the idea of two articles a week – these would ultimately become the weekly Euro News Round-Up and my editorial piece, Notes from the Mushroom Kingdom. Read more…

Rayman (3DS VC) Impressions

June 25, 2012 Leave a comment

After years sidelined by the insane antics of the Rabbids, Rayman finally returned to our screens last year with the superb Rayman Origins, a title that not only managed to challenge Nintendo’s crown as the platforming king, but also look fantastic while doing it. The game has since appeared on multiple platforms, with the 3DS release arriving a few weeks ago, albeit to a mediocre response thanks to a poor port being produced. Nonetheless, Rayman’s popularity is at an all-time high, and Ubisoft are naturally keen to capitalise on this.

And what better way to excite the fanbase than to give them a rare opportunity to play through one of Rayman’s first adventures again on 3DS? Thanks to the 3DS Virtual Console, this opportunity has been made possible, allowing Rayman’s self-titled Game Boy Color adventure from 2000 to make a re-appearance and remind fans just what made Rayman such a classic a decade ago. But does this 12 year old platformer still offer the excitement that Rayman Origins can now provide? Read more…

Categories: Reviews, Virtual Console

Euro News Round-Up: Week Ending 23/06

June 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Euro News Round-Up

After a lacklustre E3, we’ve been waiting for a big news reveal, and here it is! This week’s Nintendo Direct had individual presentations across all 3 of Nintendo’s major territories, and Europe got its fair share of big news, with some exclusives thrown in! It’s a big Round-Up at last!

Nintendo Direct Europe Round-Up

Taking place at the rather unfortunate time of 5AM BST, this week’s Nintendo Direct saw NoE President Satoru Shibata take to the stage, or in this case, Nintendo’s German Manufacturing Plant, to unveil the latest news from the company.

The big news was of course the 3DS XL, the giant brother of the current 3DS model, which like the other reasons does not come packed in with a charger or dock. Like the 3DS, the XL has no price point, which has begun a bidding war online, with £180 currently being the leading bid. The new system will be out on July 28th in Silver, Blue and Red.

Nintendo also revealed a handful of new release dates, while reaffirming New Super Mario Bros 2‘s release on August 17th. Also confirmed during the video were FreakyForms Deluxe and New Art Academy on July 28th, Pokemon Typing Adventure with free keyboard in September and surprisingly, Inazuma Eleven Strikers on Wii on September 28th.

Also confirmed were Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask coming to 3DS this Christmas, along with Animal Crossing 3DS and Fire Emblem Awakening arriving in early 2013.

On the eShop, Nintendo are currently running a 20% sale on the top 10 games to celebrate it’s anniversary, so be sure to check that out this week before they go back up in price. And finally, a Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games card book will soon be available to download as the Olympics nears.

Nintendo UK Boss Leaves

Nintendo UK’s David Yerton has stepped down as the company’s General Manager after 20 years in charge, with NoE President Satoru Shibata taking temporary control while the UK arm of Nintendo look for a replacement. I’d like to join Nintendo in wishing him the best in the future after helming the company for almost as long as I’ve been alive!

This Week’s Downloads

Mutant Mudds – 3DS eShop – £8.10
Mutant Mudds gets the infamy of being the second most expensive game on the eShop, but thankfully happens to be a worthwhile download for the rather expensive (and random) price point of £8.10.

Save the Furries – WiiWare – 1000 Points

Goooooal Europa 2012 – DSiWare – 500 Points

3DS & Wii Charts

A good entry for Heroes of Ruin at #5

3DS Chart
1. Super Mario 3D Land
2. Mario Kart 7
3. Mario Tennis Open
4. Mario And Sonic At The London 2012 Olympic Games
5. Heroes Of Ruin
6. Kid Icarus: Uprising
7. Nintendogs + Cats: Golden Retriever
8. Sonic Generations
9. FIFA 12
10. Rayman 3D

Wii Chart
1. Mario And Sonic At The London 2012 Olympic Games
2. Mario Kart Wii
3. Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure
4. Mario Party 9
5. Zumba Fitness
6. Zumba Fitness 2
7. Wii Party
8. FIFA 12
9. The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword
10. New Super Mario Bros Wii

And finally…

We come to the end. Regular visitors to the site no doubt saw on Friday that I will be leaving Nintendo-Okie next week, and with me will go the Euro News Round-Up. It’s been a privilege to provide you all with the latest news from Europe over the past 2 years, and except for some Christmas breaks, I’ve managed to get the Round-Up out to you every week. I hope you’ve found this little glimpse of gaming life in Europe educational if nothing else, but more than that, I hope you’ve enjoyed a weekly look at what’s happening across the Atlantic. And with that, the Euro News Round-Up comes to an end! Thank you to everyone who read it over the past 2 years.



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