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100cb01

I wasn’t planning on doing another demo overview so soon, but at least it’s for a different platform.

Two things make this a good idea for me:

One, I would love to have what is basically a portable book which can hold various things I might want to read.  Palm and Pocket PCs have been around for several years, but they don’t have many uses, and are not designed for long term viewing.  Another option is the Sony Reader.  I saw one of these in Waterstones and was very unimpressed.  It apparently uses no power when it’s just holding a static image, and whilst this is very impressive, it results in noticeably slow transitions.  Add to that it just didn’t feel right, I know nothing would measure up to an actual book but it felt quite user-unfriendly and at ~£215 it’s very expensive.  This idea is also attached to my wish for a full featured PMP (Portable Media Player), a single device that has multiple uses.

Two, creating new uses for a gaming device.  PC gamers have had this for years, in fact if you add up the time I spend on forums and blogging it would equal my time spent gaming.  Web browsers are an idea, but I’ve never found anything that can match up to a PC browser.  Plus gaming machines are usually either on a TV screen, okay for a bit of viewing but not for spending a long time surfing, or a portable device, where the resolution is too low.  Following on from my previous point it would make sense to use a portable gaming device as a viewer, picture, video, book or otherwise.

Despite that rather positive outlook I went into this trial with negative feelings.  Could a DS really work as a book?

For those who don’t know, the Wii provides downloadable demos for the DS, it basically becomes a wireless access point.  I really like the fact that the Wii can provide demos, I have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of the various ones on offer, and new ones are added every so often.

When the demo first started it asked me which orientation I wanted to use.  This was great, I’m left-handed and it could have been a quite uncomfortable experience.  Plenty of DS games have done this, but some developers still forget so it was a nice surprise to see the option.  Before starting the actual book I decide to take a peek at the other options that are available.  First are the font settings, there is a choice between two font sizes, Small and Large (more on that later) and you can show or hide the remaining pages in the book.  I’m not quite sure why you’d want to do this.  Next are the button settings, there are several choices on offer but I don’t see the benefit, if it were set for right-handed then the arrows would be used, whereas I had the option of changing the action buttons.  There are only two functions you can set, next page and previous, you can change these around but I don’t see why you would want to.  You can also assign the L and R buttons to do this job.  Lastly was the option to change the orientation, nice and easy if you’re sharing the DS with someone.

100cb02The only book on offer in the demo is Romeo and Juliet, although it is the complete text.  In the full version there is a scrolling menu of books.

Now for the actual book.  Before you start reading you are taken to a menu with a picture of the cover on one side, you are given the options to read ‘About the Book’ and ‘About the Author’, I though this was a nice touch.  When you read for the first time, it runs through a tutorial (skippable) which covers the basics of navigating through the book.

100cb03You can either slide the stylus from one direction to the other, or simply tap the edges (as well as the buttons I mentioned earlier).  The book goes through a nice page turning animation, it’s nice and quick so it won’t disrupt your reading.  Touching the top will  bring up the menu and touching the bottom will put up a scrollbar, which you can use to quickly move through the book.  This is also where bookmarks show up.

100cb06This is one of the best features, it’s slightly awkward in that you have to go to the menu to place them, it would have been nice to be able to press a button or insert them from the scrollbar menu.  You can set three bookmarks at any place in the book, once placed you simply tap the bottom of the screen, then tap which bookmark you would like to go to.  100cb05They appear on the left or right hand side, depending on which direction they are from your current position.  This would be a great system for either people sharing, or if you are in school or on a course.  It would be great for bookmarking quotes.

Now for the actual font, I actually found it a bit difficult to read, the letters were slightly blurred around the edges.  This could just be my eyes, but it would have been nice to be able to change the font so that it would suit individuals better.  Also, even though I had it on Small, I still thought the lettering was too big, it only fitted a few sentences on both screens.  I know the DS has a low resolution but I would have thought it could go a little smaller.  (Might even lose the blurring.)

The full list of books:

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
Emma – Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Shirley – Charlotte Bronte
Villette – Charlotte Bronte
The Professor – Charlotte Bronte
Dombey and Son – Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Martin Chuzzlewit – Charles Dickens
Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott
Rob Roy – Sir Walter Scott
Waverley – Sir Walter Scott
Othello – William Shakespeare
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
The Tempest – William Shakespeare
Merchant of Venice – William Shakespeare
What Katy Did – Susan Coolidge
What Katy Did At School – Susan Coolidge
Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
Kidnapped – Robert Louis Stevenson
The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson
The Call of the Wild – Jack London
White Fang – Jack London
The Water Babies – Charles Kingsley
Westward Ho! – Charles Kingsley
Lord Jim – Joseph Conrad
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens
Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
Under the Greenwood Tree – Thomas Hardy
Tess of the d’Ubervilles – Thomas Hardy
The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
Taming of the Shrew – William Shakespeare
Macbeth – William Shakespeare
Winter’s Tale – William Shakespeare
Much Ado About Nothing – William Shakespeare
Henry V – William Shakespeare
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Lorna Doone – R D Blackmore
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte
Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte
Sons And Lovers – D.H. Lawrence
Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
King Solomon’s Mines – Rider Haggard
Tales Of Mystery And Imagination – Edgar Allen Poe
Adam Bede – George Eliot
Mill on the Floss – George Eliot
Silas Marner – George Eliot
Middlemarch – George Eliot
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
The Woman in White – William ‘Wilkie’ Collins
The Moonstone – William ‘Wilkie’ Collins
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
The Casebook Of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
The Old Curiosity Shop – Charles Dickens
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Bleak House – Charles Dickens
Hard Times – Charles Dickens
Barnaby Rudge – Charles Dickens
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
The Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens
The Turn Of The Screw – Henry James
The Aspern Papers – Henry James
Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell
Titus Andronicus – William Shakespeare
The Merry Wives of Windsor – William Shakespeare
Midsummer Nights Dream – William Shakespeare
Anthony and Cleopatra – William Shakespeare
All’s Well That Ends Well – William Shakespeare
Comedy of Errors – William Shakespeare
Richard III – William Shakespeare
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
Vanity Fair – William Thackery
Barchester Towers – Anthony Trollop
Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Little Lord Fauntleroy – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll
Through The Looking Glass – Lewis Caroll
Loves Labours Lost – William Shakespeare
Timon of Athens – William Shakespeare
King Lear – William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar – William Shakespeare
As You Like It – William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night – William Shakespeare

Overall I think this is a good idea that has lots of future potential.  I could see this working well for comic books as well as literature.  The DS screen or the developers decisions (probably both) sadly makes the font too large, reading a couple of sentences at a time would really take the enjoyment out of it for me.  The selection of books is very good, I personally wouldn’t enjoy reading many of these, but I don’t disagree with the selection since they are clearly ‘Classic’ books.  I hope they release more versions with different selections (Sci-Fi please :mrgreen:).  If you wish to read a number of these books then I could easily see you enjoying this, but we don’t yet have a replacement for real books.

Pictures taken from Amazon UK.

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Time for another Wiiware game.

After purchasing Golden Axe I haven’t had much time to spend on the Wii, and so I hadn’t purchased anything else from the Wii shop channel.  There are a couple of other classic games I want to get (Donkey Kong Country and probably one of the Streets of Rage) but I was also intrigued by this game.

mlak01With a monster title, and a rather high price tag, MLaK is a management game set in the Final Fantasy world (specifically the Crystal Chronicles storyline).  I have to admit, I’ve never really played a Final Fantasy game, except for the FFVIII demo.  I know the basics, randomly generated combat, tons of stats and whiny kidults.  MLaK does not follow the standard FF design however, instead it has a go at city management.  You play the young King *insertyourname*, along with his bodyguard and admin. officer you arrive at an old castle, having escaped from the Miasma of the previous games, and start rebuilding your town.  There is a loose story, but it’s nothing to really worry about, and you don’t have to know the previous storyline as the basics are mentioned anyway.

mlak02When you first arrive, you have to go through a series of cut-scenes.  These have traditional JRPG conversations, over-the-top and slightly strained; it’s not awful though, and after you pass the start you get much more time between cut-scenes.  As you enter the castle grounds, you come upon a talking Crystal who gives the young King the power of architek, the ability to create buildings.  At the start you can only place houses, but as you proceed through the game different types of buildings can be constructed.

As you move more and more people in, the younger members of the family offer to work for you.  This is the main focus of the game.  As you can’t take part in combat yourself (you are the King after all) you instead send out adventurers into the wilds to explore, defeat evil and bring back precious elementite, used for constructing buildings.  Every adventurer has there own set of stats, which upgrade over time, so it still has the RPG base of previous FF games.

mlak03The basic routine of a day starts off with reading the reports from yesterday.  Firstly the Adventurers reports, detailing what the adventurers did the preceding day, it goes into a lot of detail.  On the front page it splits the adventurers up into the areas they were active in, two options for each adventurer, view their exploration report or their personal information.  The exploration report break down what they did throughout the day into groups.  If an adventurer passes through several areas it has one entry for each, with a summery of their performance, you can then go even deeper and see how individual battles played out, right down to attack rolls and hit points.  This is the way a lot of things in MLaK are, simple and quick to understand on the surface, with lots of detail hidden out of the way.  After the Adventurers reports, comes the Financial report.  There are only two types of resources, elementite and gils (money).  This page simply shows you how much went in, how much went out and what’s left at the end.  After you have read the reports, you can issue bequests.  You never control the adventurers directly, instead you have to instruct them on what to do.  If you want them to do a specific task, such as defeat a boss monster, then you have to put a message on the bequests board.  Every morning the available adventurers gather around the board waiting for you to decide who will go.  You start out with only one board, I felt this really limited the amount of actions you could carry out.  There are plenty of spare adventurers, but you have to wait till the following day before you can make more progress.  If you don’t send an adventurer on a specific mission, you can either tell them to Rest or Gain EXP.  If you tell them to train then they will go off on their own.  Progress is slow at the start, but apparently you can build more boards later on.

mlak04The World Map comes up when you want to issue a bequest.  Your castle is in the middle at the top, then there are dots surrounding it.  These dots represent areas that your adventurers can operate in, each one a level higher than the last.  Clicking on a dot shows you the missions that you can complete in that area.  The first one is to explore the area, once this is completed you will know the location of the area boss, whom you can defeat for lots of resources and access to buildings\expansions.  The World Map could have done with some kind of zoom.  I assume later on the whole screen will be filled with dots, this means they are packed tightly together and are sometimes difficult to select.

mlak05After the morning briefing the game goes into the castle grounds.  The graphics in this game are really good for a Wii game, and excellent for a downloadable title.  The castle grounds are large, and the people are well detailed.  The only slow down I encountered was when buildings were being built as it involved lots of whizzy effects and then only when I tried moving at the same time, the rest of the time it ran very smoothly.  First stop is the bequest board I’ve already mentioned.  Any adventurers who are capable of going out, if they are badly injured then they are forced to rest for a day, arrive bright and early.  Each one of them has a bubble above their head, giving a rough indication of whether they have enough experience to complete the bequest.  You talk to each of them in turn, deciding whether they should go on the bequest, carry out some training or rest for the day.  Sometimes when they have had a lot to do, they come to the board in the morning even though they’re tired.  I haven’t had the need to send someone out in this state, but I would assume they would perform fairly badly.  Then they all set off either to the exit or to buildings that sell equipment.  As you work through the game you obtain more buildings, the first one being the Weapon shop.  You go into the shop and can pay the shopkeeper to research new weapons.  This gives the adventurers a better chance of defeating enemies, armoured enemies require more advanced weapons to defeat them.

mlak06For the rest of the day you can do pretty much whatever you want.  Talk to your people, recruit some new adventurers, or place buildings.  The castle grounds are already set out, there are special areas marking where you can construct things, it leaves a lot of choice, without letting you accidentally block off areas.  You stand near a patch of land, press the minus button or shake the wiimote (the only use of the motion controls) and along comes your administrator, Chime.  She asks you what building you would like to construct, you press the movement stick to cycle through, then choose the place and direction you want the building to face.  Whizz, bang, pop and the building is magically created.  Early on you don’t have much elementite to build with, and most of it needs to be used on houses rather than the fun stuff, but the pace is kept up pretty well.

MLaK offers a good choice of controllers, the wiimote and nunchuk, classic controller and GC pad can all be used.  Moving the King around the city seems a little on the speedy side to me, I’m sure it will come in useful when the city spreads out but at the start everything rushes past pretty quickly.  The music is very good, but there are only a few different tracks, most likely due to the developers problem of squeezing what they could into a small package.  Another victim of this cut-down is the sound effects, compared to the sound quality of the music, general sounds are of a very poor quality sounding flat and slightly grainy.  It doesn’t detract too much, but it’s still a bit annoying.

I’ve quite enjoyed playing MLaK, the non-interaction mechanic is the main draw for me, I’d like to see more games take this approach.  Hinterland was good but I wanted my people to do more, the only way to make progress was to use your own character.  I feel that there is plenty of room for a game with lots of autonomy, where you guide rather than control.  The only problem I can foresee with MLaK is longevity, how long will it be able to hold my attention after my town is full?  Does the game end there?  I will do a follow up at a later date to let you know.

It’s pretty expensive (1500 Wii Points), even by Wii Shop standards, and I have yet to see any possible benefit from the DLC.  Overall though I think I would recommend it, but only to people who like stats and\or city management games.  It’s laid back gameplay is the sort of thing people either love, or hate.

As with Golden Axe, screenshots courtesy of IGN.

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I am currently flush with Wii Points.

I hadn’t bought much from the Wii Shop Channel, Mario Kart 64, Zelda LttP, one of the Street Fighters and World of Goo.  There were plenty of classics I wanted another go at, but it was always a bit too expensive.  A few days ago however I was pointed to an online store that had the 2000 points cards for a little under £10.  If you buy direct from the Shop Channel it costs £7 for half that amount, so I snapped up two cards and started pondering what to get.

Golden Axe

goldenaxe1I remember playing this many moons ago on the Sega Megadrive.  Golden Axe is a rather simple game, a port of an arcade game it’s designed for short bursts of play, and unlike a lot of multiplayer games, bringing in a second player multiplies the fun by a factor of two.  A side-scrolling hack-and-slash, you pick one of three characters to take on a quest to destroy the evil Death Adder.  The characters include a Conan style barbarian, an axe wielding dwarf and a female warrior with some pretty powerful magic.  On your journey to Death Adder’s castle you have to deal with his many minions.  There are only a few set designs of foe, but their colour changes as they increase in difficulty.

As well as swords and axes, the characters also have their own special magical abilities.  These are powered by bottles, one bottle allows you to use the first power, when you have enough you gain access to the next most powerful ability, but once you cast your spell you have to start from the bottom.  This can result in only seeing the more basic magic, especially with the sorceress, who it is well worth saving up for.

goldenaxe2Along the way you encounter mounts, in the form of giant lizards and dragons.  The enemy are riding them originally, but they are easy to knock of and then you can ride them yourself.  I remember playing two player several years ago with someone and we were constantly fighting over them, knocking each other off.  This is typical of this style of game, you either play fairly or declare open season on each other.  Since you can’t usually kill each other it comes down to stealing health and power-ups.  Great fun.

Progress can be quite challenging, with only a set number of continues.  Whilst playing it I came across some skeletons, I seemed to remember they were quite challenging, but the first few fell easily, however I was about to be reminded of why I thought they were difficult.  On the later levels if two can get on either side of you, your health can quickly disappear.

goldenaxe3At the end of every level you make camp and little thieves come along, if you have a lot of magic bottles then they will take some of them.  You then wake up and have to chase them around the screen, each time you hit one they drop a bottle.  Later in the game some green ones come along who, instead of dropping bottles, drop some meat that will increase your health.

I enjoyed my first play through, I didn’t make it to the end but got pretty close so I shall be trying again.  After a while though I only see myself playing it with other people, which will take a lot of playing to get old.  As usual with arcade ports, particularly in the SNES\Megadrive era, reviewers often bash them for not living up to the originals.  I have never played any of these games in an arcade, and I can easily understand why they can’t live up to them, so this doesn’t bother me.  One thing though, apparently the enemies screams were not part of the arcade original.  These unfortunately cut-out the background music and attacking sounds, it can be a little jarring, not enough to spoil my fun though.

This is mainly a game for nostalgia, fond memories of playing it in the past.  Players who are new to the game are less likely to get enjoyment out of it, except if they are looking for a good co-op game.

As screenshots from console games can only be obtained with a capture card (which I don’t have) I’ve had to copy from IGN.

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Wii Motor Sports

Now a little something about the Wii.  I know it’s not everyone’s favourite console, especially xbox360 and PS3 fans, but I find it fills a nice hole in my gaming wants.

I don’t know how I missed this, it’s apparently been around for quite a while.  Wii Sports finally has a sequel!

Sort of, the next game in the series is Wii Motor Sports.  Details are quite sketchy at the moment with only an Aeroplane section officially
announced.

Could easily have been Pilot Wings Wii.

Could easily have been Pilot Wings Wii.

The few screenshots available suggest Mii usage, something sorely missing in a lot of Wii games.  They don’t suit all games, such as ones with a big story-base, but it’s nice to think you are actually the one in the game sometimes.

No official news on what the others sports might be, time for a little speculation.  I’m going to assume five new sports, same as the original.
Since it’s motor sports my thought are 2-3 car based games.  There is one for the air, so one for the water would be reasonable.  Probably powerboats, sailing would have been my other thought but since it’s motor based I don’t see many more options.  (Some further research shows that it may be Jet Skis.) Either Formula One or Off-road for the first game, and Go-karting for the second, are likely candidates for the car games.  Motorbikes are also conceivable as they were in Mario Kart Wii.

No news on Multiplayer yet either.  This was on a lot of peoples wish lists for Wii Sports 2, and since Nintendo have got there feet wet now in online games it’s quite possible.

No release date currently, although it seems it might be coming out this year.

Thanks to Pvt. Michael J. Caboose on the WiiTalk forums for bringing this to my attention. 🙂

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