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pierrot
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by pierrot Sun Jun 02, 2019 4:25 pm

I played Episode 1 of Xenosaga back when it was released in the US, and thought it was kind of fun, but not great. Someone gifted me Episode 2 a few years later. After playing the first 30 minutes or so, I noped the hell out of it, and "payed it forward." I'm surprised that you're able to marathon these games like this, Elkin. I'm also curious if Episode III is really any good, or just more of the same.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by ElkinFencer10 Sun Jun 02, 2019 7:04 pm

pierrot wrote:I played Episode 1 of Xenosaga back when it was released in the US, and thought it was kind of fun, but not great. Someone gifted me Episode 2 a few years later. After playing the first 30 minutes or so, I noped the hell out of it, and "payed it forward." I'm surprised that you're able to marathon these games like this, Elkin. I'm also curious if Episode III is really any good, or just more of the same.

It's taken a lot of stubbornness, willpower, and Red Bull. And to address your curiosity about Episode III, here ya go, but the tl;dr is yes, it's MUCH better than I and II.

MrPopo wrote:So you might have noticed this already, but Xenosaga Episode III FINALLY explains a bunch of the shit that has been tossed at you. Whether or not you appreciate the payoff is another thing, but at the very least you should be less in the dark about what's happening by the end.

Can confirm. I still think it felt a bit rushed and shoehorned and, therefore, still consider it to be bad storytelling, but credit where credit's due, they do at least finally wrap up MOST of the loose ends.

pook99 wrote:I've never played any of the xenosaga games so I appreciate these reviews. I loved xenogears on ps1, but my friends tell me if I am going to play another xeno game it should be the one on the wii and the switch sequel.

I agree with your friends. Xenoblade Chronicles (the first on Wii, X on Wii U, and 2 on Switch) are all FANTASTIC games and FAR superior to Xenosaga.

Games Beaten in 2019 So Far - 30
* denotes a replay

January (12 Games Beaten)
1. Army Men 3D - PlayStation - January 1*
2. Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished - NES - January 4
3. Mega Man - NES - January 6
4. Mega Man 2 - NES - January 6
5. Mega Man 3 - NES - January 6
6. Mega Man 4 - NES - January 7
7. Dr. Discord's Conquest - NES - January 7
8. Mega Man 5 - NES - January 26
9. Just Cause 3 - PlayStation 4 - January 26
10. Mega Man 6 - NES - January 27
11. Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight - Vita - January 27
12. Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space - PlayStation 2 - January 27


February (2 Games Beaten)
13. Earth Defense Force 5 - PlayStation 4 - February 2
14. Fallout 76 - PlayStation 4 - February 3


March (4 Games Beaten)
15. Octopath Traveler - Switch - March 2
16. Resident Evil 0 - PlayStation 4 - March 9
17. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered - PlayStation 4 - March 10
18. Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade - Game Boy Advance - March 30


April (3 Games Beaten)
19. Moemon - Game Boy Advance - April 5
20. Yoshi's Crafted World - Switch - April 10
21. Wargroove - Switch - April 26


May (8 Games Beaten)
22. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen - Switch - May 5
23. Battlefield V - PlayStation 4 - May 9
24. Timespinner - PlayStation 4 - May 12
25. Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain - PlayStation 4 - May 17
26. Shenmue - PlayStation 4 - May 19
27. Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht - PlayStation 2 - May 26
28. Team Sonic Racing - Switch - May 29
29. Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse - PlayStation 2 - May 30


June (1 Game Beaten)
30. Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprache Zarathustra - PlayStation 2 - June 2


30. Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprache Zarathustra - PlayStation 2 - June 2

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After a little over a week of marathon gaming, I've finished the Xenosaga trilogy with the completion of Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra (which translates to "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," arguably Nietzsche's most well-known book). In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzche describes the concept of the Übermensch which, while literally translating to "superman" or "above man," refers to mankind's outgrowing or going beyond traditional Judeo-Christian morals and ascending, for lack of a better word, to a higher morality. I don't know enough about Nietzsche's other works to know how fitting the previous games' subtitles were, but this one fits this game's theme and tone pretty well. I'd heard from a couple of friends who've played the series that Episode III was hands down the best of the three games, and I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. It's still a very flawed game in a lot of ways, but unlike the first two games in the trilogy, I never found myself bored with the actual gameplay in Episode III.

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Xenosaga III picks up a few months after the events of the second game, it's immediately clear that the developers put in the extra effort to make this game something good. The game's first environment hits you with catchy piano jazz background music and a fun and reinvigorated combat system that blended the polished mechanics of Episode II's combat with the relatively easy to understand combat system of Episode I. There are still some nuances to learn, but it's a marked improvement in both entertainment and lasting appeal over the previous two games' combat. That theme would continue throughout the game as far as quality is concerned; pretty much everything about Episode III took what was good about the first two games and capitalizes on that while shedding most (not all but most) of those games' biggest issues.

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One of the things that bothered me most about the Xenosaga trilogy is the storytelling, and while that was improved in this game along with everything else, it still leaves a lot to be desired. A huge amount of the story is just outright told in narration, and while that may not seem like a bad thing at first, the way it's done totally contradicts the writer's adage of "show, don't tell." I know that they had three games to tell a story they'd planned to stretch out over six or seven games, but still, the storytelling continues to leave a lot to be desired. This game does a better job of explaining lore concepts and filling in gaps than the previous two did, but it still leaves a lot either unexplained or only vaguely implied. Given that the story is always my primary motivation when playing a new game - especially with that game is an RPG - this continued to be a point of contention with me all the way up through the end of the trilogy.

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One aspect of the storytelling for which I do need to give credit where credit is due is the character development. I still have some complaints with that, but this is the only one of the three games that really made me FEEL things for the characters outside of a couple of isolated incidents. I was sad for Canaan. I was happy for Virgil. I celebrated with Allen. I wanted to pimp slap the shit out of Shion. Regardless of what it was that I felt, I felt, and that's something the other games had never been particularly adept at making me do. Episode III still, of course, had the ungodly long cut scenes that were an absolute bore, but at least the characters felt more fleshed out this time around.

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Xenosaga Episode III is absolutely the most competent game of the trilogy, and it's definitely the only one I'll look back on with any fond memories. That's not to say that the previous two games were bad, but damn, they were a slog to get through. Because of that, though, as good as parts of this game were, I'm not sure I can say that it's worth playing through the whole trilogy to get to. Yeah, on its own, Episode III is definitely a game worth playing, but most people aren't going to want to play the last third of a trilogy without the playing the first two parts, and the first two games are just okay and pretty decent, respectively, and I'm not sure the time commitment to get through those two are worth it just to play this one. If you do decide to go through the Xenosaga trilogy as I did, though, at least you can take some comfort in the knowledge that the trilogy ended well and actually did save the best for last, unlike a certain other space RPG trilogy we all know (looking at you, Mass Effect 3).
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by prfsnl_gmr Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:48 pm

Amazing work, Elkin. In total, how many hours of the trilogy were gameplay and how many were cutscenes? I’ve read that this series has movie-length cutscenes, and I’m curious just how much content is actual gameplay.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by ElkinFencer10 Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:08 pm

prfsnl_gmr wrote:Amazing work, Elkin. In total, how many hours of the trilogy were gameplay and how many were cutscenes? I’ve read that this series has movie-length cutscenes, and I’m curious just how much content is actual gameplay.

Overall, I'd say I spent roughly 90 to 95 hours with the trilogy, and of that (let's say 90 hours just for the sake of easy math), I'd guess probably 25 hours got spent on cut scenes.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by prfsnl_gmr Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:41 pm

Thanks for the reply! That’s a lot of hours of both gameplay and cut scenes. Awesome work, Elkin!
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by ElkinFencer10 Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:08 pm

prfsnl_gmr wrote:Thanks for the reply! That’s a lot of hours of both gameplay and cut scenes. Awesome work, Elkin!

I came. I saw. I beat the games. Now I'll avoid JRPGs for at LEAST a week.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by ElkinFencer10 Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:34 pm

Games Beaten in 2019 So Far - 31
* denotes a replay

January (12 Games Beaten)
1. Army Men 3D - PlayStation - January 1*
2. Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished - NES - January 4
3. Mega Man - NES - January 6
4. Mega Man 2 - NES - January 6
5. Mega Man 3 - NES - January 6
6. Mega Man 4 - NES - January 7
7. Dr. Discord's Conquest - NES - January 7
8. Mega Man 5 - NES - January 26
9. Just Cause 3 - PlayStation 4 - January 26
10. Mega Man 6 - NES - January 27
11. Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight - Vita - January 27
12. Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space - PlayStation 2 - January 27


February (2 Games Beaten)
13. Earth Defense Force 5 - PlayStation 4 - February 2
14. Fallout 76 - PlayStation 4 - February 3


March (4 Games Beaten)
15. Octopath Traveler - Switch - March 2
16. Resident Evil 0 - PlayStation 4 - March 9
17. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered - PlayStation 4 - March 10
18. Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade - Game Boy Advance - March 30


April (3 Games Beaten)
19. Moemon - Game Boy Advance - April 5
20. Yoshi's Crafted World - Switch - April 10
21. Wargroove - Switch - April 26


May (8 Games Beaten)
22. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen - Switch - May 5
23. Battlefield V - PlayStation 4 - May 9
24. Timespinner - PlayStation 4 - May 12
25. Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain - PlayStation 4 - May 17
26. Shenmue - PlayStation 4 - May 19
27. Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht - PlayStation 2 - May 26
28. Team Sonic Racing - Switch - May 29
29. Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse - PlayStation 2 - May 30


June (2 Games Beaten)
30. Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprache Zarathustra - PlayStation 2 - June 2
31. Gato Roboto - Switch - June 3


31. Gato Roboto - Switch - June 3

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"Do you trust me?" It all started with a text. When I read it, I thought, "Yes, flake, I trust you, but that question in isolation creeps me out...What do you want?" He then said "Download Gato Roboto on Switch. You'll love it." By this point in our friendship, he knows my gaming tastes pretty well, so I took his advice and immediately downloaded the game and fired it up. I was a bit put off my visual style at first - it looked like Undertale, and I loathe that game from overexposure the same way I came to loath Five Nights at Freddy's - but I stuck with it because of the weight flake's recommendations carry with me. I'm extremely glad I did, too, as the game turned out to be a short but extremely rewarding experience.

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Gato Roboto is basically a bite-sized Metroid clone...if Samus Aran were a small cat. Forewarning - I hate cats, and my specific word choice will reflect this prejudice. A space marine type dude was on a patrol mission and picked up a security signal from an abandoned research facility, so he went to investigate. Because cats suck, his pet cat steps on the control panel and causes the ship to crash, pinning the pilot and leaving him unable to perform his investigation. As any logical person would in this situation, he sends his pet cat - who has a radio in her collar, for some reason - to find a mech suit and complete the investigation in his place. From there, you play as the stupid ass cat in a dope ass mech suit and try to determine the source of the security signal.

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When I say that this is a Metroid clone, I meant that in just about every way from gaining rockets to supplement your regular blaster down to having to shoot doors in order to open them. "Metroid clone" is not meant as a pejorative, though, as doinksoft took most of the things that made the original Metroid great and replicated it...but cuter. Gato Roboto is an extremely short game - my playthrough clocked in at just over three and a half hours, and that's with spending around 45 minutes on one boss - but holy crap, is it good. It's absolutely worth the price of admission. I downloaded it at the tail end of the release sale for just under $7, but even at the regular price of $8, it's totally worth the asking price.

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Visually, the game is extremely simplistic. The visual style is monochrome pixel art reminiscent of 8-bit games from the 80s, but a nice touch is the ability to unlock additional color filters by finding cassettes hidden throughout the game. I never used any of these filters personally being rather partial to sharp contrast the black/white color scheme gives, but you can unlock filters like a softer grey/white, a bubblegum pink and white, a green and white, etc. It's nothing that changes anything other than the color, but it's definitely a nice little bit of customization and an incentive to explore a bit. Exploration is, after all, the bread and butter of Metroid style games.

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The game's soundtrack is extremely fitting for the setting, keeping a somewhat but not overwhelmingly dark and ominous feel but staying in the background, never stealing the spotlight from the action. During the boss fights, I often completely blocked out the music despite having my soundbar turned on. That may sound like a criticism, but I mean it as high praise; a game's music should, in my opinion, be like garnish, there to accentuate the game's tone and action but never taking center stage, and the fact that I found myself blocking out the music entirely during high-intensity scenes indicates that the balance was struck perfectly there. Be it in a boss battle or casual exploration, the focus is always kept on the gameplay with music to provide accompaniment and nothing more.

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Gato Roboto is an extremely short experience, and while a three to four hour time to beat may seem unduly short to some and serve as a turn-off, I must recommend that those people reconsider. Yes, it's a very short game, but it's also an extremely affordable game, and most importantly, it's an extremely enjoyable game. This is the perfect game to fire up and play through on a flight, a train ride, or a morning commute (assuming you're not driving on your commute; I do not condone playing Switch while driving). The game is fairly generous with save point placement, so dying and losing an hour of progress isn't a concern. The only frustration I found in that regard was having to go through the dialogue for each and every boss attempt, but for that to be my biggest complaint is a pretty big accolade for the game. Whether you play on Steam or on Switch (pssssst, play on Switch), make sure you check out Gato Roboto. If you're a fan of old school Metroid, I can promise that you won't be disappointed.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by ElkinFencer10 Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:03 am

Games Beaten in 2019 So Far - 32
* denotes a replay

January (12 Games Beaten)
1. Army Men 3D - PlayStation - January 1*
2. Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished - NES - January 4
3. Mega Man - NES - January 6
4. Mega Man 2 - NES - January 6
5. Mega Man 3 - NES - January 6
6. Mega Man 4 - NES - January 7
7. Dr. Discord's Conquest - NES - January 7
8. Mega Man 5 - NES - January 26
9. Just Cause 3 - PlayStation 4 - January 26
10. Mega Man 6 - NES - January 27
11. Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight - Vita - January 27
12. Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space - PlayStation 2 - January 27


February (2 Games Beaten)
13. Earth Defense Force 5 - PlayStation 4 - February 2
14. Fallout 76 - PlayStation 4 - February 3


March (4 Games Beaten)
15. Octopath Traveler - Switch - March 2
16. Resident Evil 0 - PlayStation 4 - March 9
17. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered - PlayStation 4 - March 10
18. Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade - Game Boy Advance - March 30


April (3 Games Beaten)
19. Moemon - Game Boy Advance - April 5
20. Yoshi's Crafted World - Switch - April 10
21. Wargroove - Switch - April 26


May (8 Games Beaten)
22. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen - Switch - May 5
23. Battlefield V - PlayStation 4 - May 9
24. Timespinner - PlayStation 4 - May 12
25. Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain - PlayStation 4 - May 17
26. Shenmue - PlayStation 4 - May 19
27. Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht - PlayStation 2 - May 26
28. Team Sonic Racing - Switch - May 29
29. Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse - PlayStation 2 - May 30


June (3 Games Beaten)
30. Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprache Zarathustra - PlayStation 2 - June 2
31. Gato Roboto - Switch - June 3
32. Katana Zero - Switch - June 4


32. Katana Zero - Switch - June 4

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If you look up "stylish" in an encyclopedia, you'll probably find screenshots of Katana Zero. Well, not literally, but it would be a totally apt example to use because this game absolutely oozes style. It takes Hotline Miami, mixes it with Shinobi, and throws in a pinch of Vindicators and Strider for good measure. In short, it is, as the young people would say, "Devolver Digital af," and if that doesn't convince you to download it, you need to reassess your gaming priorities.

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Katana Zero has you play the role of an anachronistic samurai (or shitty cosplayer, depending on who you ask) with mysterious time-manipulation powers as you assassinate your way through the city at the commands of your psychiatrist. If that sounds bizarre, it is. The game makes absolutely no sense at first, and that's entirely by design. There IS a very well crafted and very well executed story to be found here, but the game's storytelling is like an onion; there are layers upon layers, and you don't start to see what's really going on until you peel back several layers. It's one of the most well delivered stories I've seen in a game like this in a good while, and it was that slowly blossoming story that kept me coming back for more level after level. Without spoiling the story, it involves vivid nightmares, a government conspiracy, and a enigmatic past war.

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The gameplay shows its Hotline Miami DNA with its one-hit-you're-dead mechanics and the requisite careful planning for each step. Like Hotline Miami, you will die a LOT, but with each death comes new understanding of the obstacles that level presents and better equips you to overcome them. You'll fight the same dozen or so enemies repeatedly throughout the game, but because of the diversity with the level layouts and items you can find to help you overcome the game's challenges, this never once felt repetitive or monotonous for me. The game's colorful pixel sprites and the GRATUITOUS blood that covers the walls in your wake make for a visual presentation every bit as colorful and loud as Hotline Miami's, and that's a VERY positive thing.

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Like the visuals, the game's soundtrack fires on all cylinders from start to finish. While there's a bit of stylistic diversity from track to track, it pretty much falls between house and drum 'n' bass, genres that fit the visual style perfectly. Devolver Digital strikes a difficult balance between musical energy and staying in the background with the soundtrack. It perfectly accents the action and colorful style of the game without distracting players from the action taking place on screen. One small but very nice touch that I absolutely loved was that the soundtrack was incorporated into the game's levels; at the start of each stage before you take control of him, your character puts in earbuds and turns on a walkman. What you hear is what he hears. It's a small touch that a lot of players probably wouldn't even notice or think about, but I absolutely love small flourishes like that.

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Katana Zero is a top tier game in every way. The visuals, while simple, are colorful and oozing with style. The soundtrack is absolutely perfect for the game's visual style and tone. The levels are all unique, compelling, and challenging without being unfair. The story is riveting and revealed little by little over time, a piece here and there just often enough to keep you hooked. Almost everything about this game is superb. My only complaints are relatively short length of the game - my playthrough clocked in at about six hours - and the parts of the story and world that were only minimally explored. I've heard that there are a few secrets and an ending I haven't seen, so it's possible that my second complaint is actually addressed in content I just haven't seen yet, but still, regardless, it's an exceptional game. It's not a perfect game, but it's VERY close.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by BoneSnapDeez Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:35 am

elkin the absolute madman
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by marurun Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:39 am

  1. Blaster Master Zero -- Switch
  2. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! -- DS
  3. Steamworld Dig -- Switch

It is with some embarrassment that here, halfway through the year, I recount for you the second and third games I have beaten in 2019. Parenting is fucking hard, and I'm not very good at juggling 3 identity skills (parent, librarian, and gamer). Still, I've been slowly hacking away, and progress is happening.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!

I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this game. I remembered reading ages ago that the original Mario vs Donkey Kong was a fun, if flawed, game, and so I picked up this, one of the later sequels, for my Together Retro month (March). That I didn't beat it until May is beside the point. Shush!

Donkey Kong visits Mario and Pauline's theme park, Mini-Land, but because he's visitor 101, he doesn't get one of the mini-Paulines given to the first 100 visitors. So in a fit of jealous rage he kidnaps actual Pauline. Mario, rather than running to the rescue directly, sends his wind-up minis to do the job for him. (Is this canon? What on earth is Mario's career these days, anyway?) Mini-Land Mayhem, it turns out, is an interesting twist on the Lemmings model of action puzzlers. You have a small number of wind-up mini-Marios that walk in a straight line, turn around when they hit a wall or each other, can jump up small steps, and automatically hop into warp pipes. The goal is to get all the minis safely to the end of the level.

Unlike Lemmings, where you assign various powers to the Lemmings and have a certain percentage that must make it out alive, all the minis must make it through the level. Minis can be destroyed (instant game over), captured (and freed), or simply fail to make it to the exit before either the level time or exit timer run out. That last one is particularly devilish. Once the first mini to reach the exit enters, the exit is now active, and rapidly begins to tick down on a timer. This means that you can't have any stragglers running around elsewhere in the level while someone is exiting or you'll never get them to the exit in time. Every mini to subsequently exit the level resets that exit activation timer, but the timer is short enough that if you don't have everyone headed to the exit in short order that accommodation will only do you so much good.

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Instead of assigning special abilities to the minis, you use the DS touch screen and stylus to manipulate elements of the levels themselves. The first world introduces you to girders (red, of course, just like classic arcade DK), which you draw between connection points. You get a certain number of girder "units", each unit representing a character/tile-width of distance, and in some levels your minis can pick up more, for placing multiple girders to serve as bridges, ramps, and walls. Each of the 8 worlds introduces a new mechanic which it mixes in with previously introduced mechanics throughout 8 levels and the boss fight. New mechanics include things like conveyors (placed just like girders) and movable springboards and warp pipe entrances and exits. There are a few new hazards in the levels, like wind-up gorillas that scoop up and capture or simply toss your minis, and a few old enemies (fire piranhas, shy guys, and moving fireballs right out of the original arcade game). One of the 8 levels in each world is a special level where, instead of several Mario minis, you have 1 mini each of several different characters (Mario, Peach, Toad, Luigi, DK) which you must guide to their own specific exit. Every boss level save the final boss is a throwback to classic arcade Donkey Kong, where you have to navigate your minis up a girder structure to key points where they can activate attacks against Donkey Kong. While doing this, Donkey Kong will occasionally stomp and disable random girder connection points or drop barrels down onto parts of the level, where they burst into fireballs and start wandering around aimlessly.

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There are multiple ways, typically, to get your minis to the exit and complete the level, but if you want full marks and a trophy, you have to achieve a minimum score threshold. Points are earned by getting coins and medals, picking up all the level elements like extra girder and conveyor units, destroying necessary destructible walls, and clearing out key enemies. Points are also awarded for time remaining on the clock, so fast traversal and optimal path planning are key to earn that trophy. Each level has a medal in the level, and you can earn additional medals for earning each level's trophy and earning score benchmarks in each world's "bonus" level, in which you use girders to direct minis into sorting boxes for points. These medals can then be used to unlock Special and Expert challenge levels. And once you beat the game you can unlock Plus mode, which are all the levels of the game but retooled to be more challenging. Instead of having all Mario minis, you have the varied minis which must reach their own exits, but on every level, not just one per world.

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But that's not all! There's a Construction Zone in the game in which you can use the DS touch screen and stylus to design your own levels, up to 160 can be stored, and also share the levels via wifi with others. The Construction Zone is very much a precursor to Mario Maker.

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This is a mammoth game that is, oddly, very easy to pick up and play. Each level only takes a few minutes to master, and you can save and put down the DS after each level. Some of the levels are easy and some are quite hard, but even a very hard level is short and will only frustrate you for so long. And having so many short levels means you'll have lots of "AHA!" moments as you find the solutions you were looking for. This is a fantastic game for fans of puzzlers, and also for folks without long stretches of game time or even folks with ADD/ADHD. The sheer amount of content combined with the pick-up-and-play ability makes this a rewarding and accessible package. It helps that the levels are thoughtfully designed and the music is super-happy, carnival-style renditions of classic tunes. In addition to being good for time-challenged gamers, this would also make a great secondary game for someone trudging through a long RPG or intense action game. It's like break-time, a quick diversion to let you refocus.

This game is highly recommended for almost anyone kind of gamer.

Images were shamelessly borrowed from Nintendo World Report's image gallery for Mini-Land Mayhem.

Steamworld Dig

Steamworld Dig is an indie game that's been on quite a few platforms at this point, of which the Switch is only the latest. It's a little like Terraria + Castlevania 2. You are a robot with a pickaxe and you've inherited your uncle's mine. You quickly find your uncle's robot body and it's up to you to... mine for valuables? You start out in a rather empty town themed like the wild west. You use your pickax to dig down a square at a time, mining ever downward. Once you pass certain depth markers dirt becomes harder to dig through. The way you get around this is by cashing in your minerals and gems and buying upgrades to your equipment. You start out with a very small backpack and a pickax you can use to dig dirt and attack enemies, but you eventually pick up a drill for breaking some kinds of rocks, dynamite for exploding things, and steam-powered jump boots. Upgrades allow you to break through tougher dirt with fewer swings or less jackhammer time, store more minerals in your pack, and expand your health, light, and water resources. There are also consumables to help you in your mining, like ladders and the aforementioned dynamite, and also teleporters to jump you back to town.

Let's talk about light and water. When you start out you have a little solar-powered lantern. It has a very short light radius and runs out very quickly. When you dig around underground your light helps you see around you. When your light runs out it's hard to see the tunnels and dirt and you have to go back up to town to recharge. Upgrades expand your light radius and capacity, allowing you to stay in the mine longer. The other key non-life resource is water. Water is used to drive the drill and for a pressure-driven high jump. You do not recharge your water in town. Instead you find pools of water that you stand in to refill your tanks. And those pools drain as you refill (they do fill back up between play sessions, however), so you can't really waste water. Upgrades that affect water include larger water tanks and greater drill efficiency.

The layout of the mine is randomly generated (to an extent: there are small bits that feel curated), meaning a different play experience can be had every time. Mobility is tough. Your jump is pretty puny, but you have a wall jump much like Mega Man X. This is extremely useful, since the mine is vertical. But since most of the floors are destructible, you can get into situations where there's not a convenient wall to climb and so you must keep going down. Digging therefore also has a strategic element. You have to leave adequate dirt to provide a manageable path back up in case the next pipe or teleporter back to town is still far away (and your resources too slim to survive to find it).

There is ultimately a final boss, and there is a story that slowly develops, but it's mostly told through environmental storytelling and chatting with the bots back up in town, who really don't know all that much. As you mine more minerals and gems, new merchants come to town to sell to you, and each bot in town has a different robot "voice" sound as they burble at you while their text displays. The game definitely has a lot of personality. Music is mostly environmental and atmospheric and not so much melody-driven. The varied game elements, the dark mine, the varied tile sets, the music and sound, everything comes together well to set a coherent tone. Compared to some of the indie stuff that's out now, including this game's sequel, Steamworld Dig 2, the game can feel a bit rough around the edges in a few places, but it's priced well, is a good, manageable length, and manages to keep things interesting and compelling enough to carry players to the end.

I recommend Steamworld Dig for folks who want something relatively simple in concept with a gradual power and ability curve, especially for anyone who's been reading great stuff about Steamworld Dig 2 and wants to have the backstory before diving in. I don't think Dig is for everyone, but if you're amenable for something a bit new (digging, collecting, vertical levels, gradual upgrades, but NO building or constructing) I think this is a fun diversion at a very good price.
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