Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Crash Bandicoot 2 - Intro + Turtle Woods

You know, there are some games that I'll play for Super Game Fighter that mean something extra to me. This is one of those games.

Just imagine being five years old. Your gaming experiences beforehand had been 8-bit Sonic games for the Master System and the Super Mario Land games for the Game Boy.

Then your older sister gets a Playstation for her birthday. You barely know what a Playstation is, but everyone's super excited about it for some reason. Being five, you get a little bit excitable too.

They put the disc in, you hear that iconic opening jingle for the first time. You look over at your sister, holding the controller in her hands - it had so many buttons! And then you turn back to the television to see this...

Just imagine being that little boy, about to play the Playstation for the very first time. Going from the games of old, to this - it is something I'll never experience again.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this was it. The first Playstation game I ever played, and possibly the reason I'm here as a gamer today. I had always liked games, but Crash Bandicoot 2 was just so amazing looking compared to anything else I had ever played. To a five-year old mind, this was as close to real as it got. Over time I commandeered my sister's Playstation and adopted it as my own. By this point she had managed to accidentally break this game, so I never could play it until a few years ago when it became available on the Playstation Network.

But this game put me on the path of becoming a gamer, much before Pokémon and Final Fantasy entered my life. It will be a hell of an experience playing through this game and finally, sixteen years later, beating it. But if there's one thing I can guarantee, is that we're going to have some fun.

Unlike the previous game, there is a fair amount of story and dialogue in the game - though never more than a minute or two at a time. I'll transcribe what they say on here for the meantime, but I am playing with the idea of including all the cutscenes and dialogue in a video at the end of updates. We'll see. For now...let's get to it.

We see what happens to Cortex immediately after the events of Crash Bandicoot 1, falling to his inevitable and painful death...pah, as if! Crash Bandicoot works on cartoon physics and as such, a fall from above the clouds is merely an inconvenience to Dr. Cortex. In fact, crash lands inside a cave where he finds...

*Cue Cortex's evil laugh* ...the Master Crystal!

We go aboard Cortex's space station, where he's joined by a new character...

Meet Doctor N. Gin!

"But Doctor Cortex, to reach full power, we need not only your Master Crystal, but also the remaining 25 Slave Crystals on the surface. How do you expect to retrieve them when we don't have any earthbound operatives left?"

Cortex: "You fool! Do you think I'm unaware of the situation?! If we don't have any friends left on the surface, then we'll need to find... an enemy..."

I wonder who he could mean...surely not...

Here we see the elusive Bandicoots in their natural states. It is a little known fact that Bandicoots are found either sleeping, or typing away at a laptop. Isn't nature awesome?

Meet Crash's sister Coco. 

Coco: "Crash? Crash! Crash, my battery's fried. Make yourself useful, big brother, and bring an extra battery for me."

This seems just a little familiar. Welcome to Crash Bandicoot 2: Quest for the Battery. I guess the Outback is full of laptop batteries? I wonder if they grow on trees? Regardless, it's time for an adventure! Crash can still do all the stuff he could before like run, jump...

...bouncy crates still hold ten Wumpa Fruits.

The Aku-Aku masks also make a return - they grant Crash an extra hit he can take before he dies. Collecting two grants him a second extra hit and a third will make him invincible for a short duration of time.

The game still throws lives at you, though with one little improvement - your life counter is also saved when you save the game, meaning you won't lose your lives every time you leave the game. This is rather handy. In fact, you could say it is a...LIFESAVER.

Crash clearly didn't appreciate that joke and is currently banging his head off the ground in reaction. No, wait, this is just showing off a new move in Crash's arsenal, the bodyslam. Just jump, press the circle button and he'll slam himself to the ground, breaking boxes in his path. In fact, there is a new box we'll see soon that can only be destroyed with bodyslams.

Hey, what's this?

What is going on?

This place looks a room of portals. Hmm...I wonder who's behind this?


Cortex: "Well, well, well. If it isn't Crash Bandicoot. Welcome. I apologize for the crude means used to bring you here, but I'd rather expect a written invitation to be turned down. I need your help. Surrounding you are a series of five doors. Through each door lies a well-hidden Crystal. The Crystals look like this."

"Bring me the crystals, Crash. That is all I can say for now. We will speak again."

Well he seems trustworthy! 

I just cannot wait to help this kind man who tried to kill us a year ago! We'll start with level 1, it seems like a good place to start! (though you can do any of the five levels on this floor in any order).

Each level will start with us being beamed in like this. It is a little known fact that Crash Bandicoot was initially considered for a role in the recent Star Trek films, but sadly lost the role of Spock to someone else. Shame, I definitely get the sense that Crash is a wise, intelligent man.

This is like the level we were abducted from, except it is raining. Now on the ground there is an access to a special type of bonus stage. I ignored it. I'm terrible at them. It's like regular bonus stages, but harder. If you're going for the clear gem in this level, you need to go through this to destroy all the crates. I'm not going after all the gems because I guarantee I'd still be here six months from now trying to find every bloody crate.

These bonus stages are okay with me though.

It's a return to the side-scrolling platforming seen in the original game's bonus stages. Just break all the crates, collect all the fruits and you'll normally get a good two or three lives out of it.

Reach the end and the platform will take you back to the level, while your loot gets absorbed into your totals.

Mud is annoying, especially when there is crates in it. The mud takes away a lot of your momentum and speed, and for some reason I find it very hard to jump on top of the crates to break 'em.

I always feel a bit offended when I play Crash games...I feel like the developers are telling me "Hey, nerd, get a life!". But why do I need to get a life? I HAVE NINE! I'm like a cat!

These pits are easy enough to deal with. I have a triple Aku-Aku mask on in this image, but my usual technique is to spam the spin button.

Get close and spin as they come out of the ground and they won't be an issue.

The crystal will always in the level, which means it is possible to complete the level without collecting the crystal. However, remember when Cortex said "Through each door is a well-hidden crystal"? Yeah, he's lying, the crystals are pretty much always in plain sight. 

The iron gate symbolises the end of the level!

If you break all the boxes in the level you will find your gem here. But for the first level, there is a second gem you can get. Apparently the way to get it is to finish the level without breaking any crates. That will grant you the blue gem.

Look how triumphant he looks! Crash is as elegant as always.

The rooms getting darker, Crash is looking confused, Aku-Aku hasn't got a character can only mean one thing...


Cortex: "Well done, Crash. I knew I could rely on you. Now listen carefully. These holograms are hard to maintain. During the course of my intellectual pursuits, I have come across a force that threatens to destroy the world. Crystals are the only means of containing it. The fate of the world is at stake. It is imperative therefore that you bring them to me!"

Coco interrupts...

Coco: "Are you there Crash? Crash? Crash? Are you there Crash? ... Are you there Crash?"

No, he isn't. He's taking a break and so am I! See you next time, where we'll beat the rest of the warp room.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

52-Week Challenge - Game #3 - Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine

Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine

Developers: Compile, SEGA
Publisher: SEGA
Released: December 1993
Console: SEGA Mega-Drive (Genesis)

When this game popped up as the next one for the challenge, I must admit I was absolutely dreading it. I've tried to play this game before and I struggled majorly - I'd never gotten past the third level of Scenario Mode. How on earth was I going to beat all 13 levels? it turns out...I'm very good at doing the same over and over until I get the results I want. But first, the game itself. It was a reskin of Puyo-Puyo for North American SEGA consoles, it was released on the Genesis as well as the Master System and Game Gear consoles. The characters were based on the early 90s 'Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog' cartoon.While it is featured in many Sonic compilations, it does not feature Sonic anywhere in the game. 

I'll be playing the 'SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection' version on the PS3, which is a straight-up emulation of the Mega Drive game (this is why the following images have borders). There is no extra to be earned, but merely beating the game is worth a gold trophy. 

The story is as follows: Robotnik has kidnapped the citizens of Beanville and is turning them into robots, because that's what he does. It is up to us (yes, US!) to destroy his Mean Bean Machine and free the beans! In order to do this, we must defeat his twelve lackeys.

I would say this is a fun multiplayer game, though it's been years since I have played against a human. Exercise mode is basically training and options is self-explanatory. What we're interested in here is the Scenario Mode. This is where we'll play against the computer and pray for a win.

The first stage is against 'Arms' here. He is too easy, you really shouldn't fail against him.

This is what the board looks like. If you've played Tetris before, you'll know that you absolutely do not want to the beans to overflow out of the top. That is Game Over. You want to bunch together four of the same coloured beans...

...which causes THIS to happen...

Now, you'll learn pretty quickly that this won't be enough to beat most of the levels. Setting up combos, or a bunching together a higher number of beans, will be the key to beating the game. Why? Well, other than getting you extra points, it also does something to your opponent's board...

See those clear beans? They will drop onto your opponent's board when you bunch together beans. If you just clear four beans, you will only occasionally get one clear bean. A combo of two groups can give you roughly a whole line of clear beans, while a combo of four or five will cause three or even four lines of clear beans onto your enemy - most times this alone will grant you a victory. 

If your opponent reaches the top of their board before you do, then you will win, be given a bonus depending on the time it took to win and you move on,

This is Frankly, and he can be rather tough if you're not experienced with this game. I had forgotten about nearly everything, so it took me an embarrassingly long time to win. 

This was only the second level, but these images tell the story of my general experience playing this game - almost constant failure. I had to learn quickly the various tricks and I had to learn how to create combos, or else I would never finish the game.

It still wasn't enough. By the last few bosses, the speed the beans drop is insane. I don't have the reflexes to keep up...the computer does. My one tip for the level 10-13 bosses is simply to NOT go for combos, and just try to survive. Eventually, an opportunity will arise to get a decent combo. It's all about luck and that really frustrated me near the end. I'm sure a skilled player would be able to manage, or at least one with great reflexes, but I am neither. Still...I managed to EVENTUALLY get to the final boss who is...of course...

Dr. Robotnik, or Dr. Eggman as he is called these days. This is insanely difficult, and it was a stroke of luck that granted me the victory here...

You can get rid of the clear beans by clearing a group of beans next to it. Sometimes this will accidentally set up a combo for you. In this case, it set off a chain reaction of four groups, and victory was inevitable.

The beans are free, and so am I of this game. It was hard, but I'm a stubborn bastard and I kept going until I won. Games where I have to rely on luck really frustrate me, but I will happily play this game against another human one day. Not only that, it gave me a shiny gold trophy for my efforts.

Now, when Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine started to frustrate me, I decided I would start on the next game of the challenge, just in case I couldn't beat it. I was expecting something equally as frustrating, or something as long as New Vegas. But for once, the Fortune Cookie feature on Backloggery was incredibly kind to me - giving me a nice relaxing game of...