Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker Wii U Review

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Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo Group No.2, 1-Up Studio
Platform Reviewed: Wii U
Release date: 03/01/2015

From the moment the announcement was made that we would have a game dedicated to the charismatic little fellow, I was eager to give Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker a go. For me, the Toad levels were one of the highlights of Super Mario 3D World and proved to be a welcome and satisfying change of pace. Charming and delightful perspective puzzles, where the goal was to navigate small maze-like arenas in search of an increasingly elusive star. Setting out to plunder the Mushroom Kingdom, Toad is accompanied by Toadette. The game is their relentless pursuit of treasure, but is there enough on offer to warrant a full release for the likeable duo?

The first thing to strike you is just how beautiful the world looks. Just like a Pixar movie, each character model feels solid and saturated in colour. Personality oozes from every screen with such whimsical charm. Every asset is perfectly placed and it is an absolute pleasure to explore every level, which is something you will be doing a lot of.

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As previously mentioned, the objective is to navigate the many pitfalls and traps of each level in order to reach the star, but there is more to it than that. In order to progress past certain chapters, a set amount of gems need to be found, there are a maximum of three in each stage and it can prove quite tricky to find them all, particularly later on. You will often find yourself re-visiting stages just to collect these gems. There are also challenges specific to each level, whether it is to complete a stage completely unseen or unscathed or to collect a set amount of coins, they can be quite imaginative and very tricky, especially as you progress.

Understanding the layout of each given stage is a must and either by moving the right control stick or using the gyro inside the Wii U pad the camera can be moved in almost any direction. The movements are smooth and effortless and the camera glides and swoops with relative ease. It’s not perfect however, not being able to disable the gyro can cause sudden camera movements if you move the pad abruptly. It’s a shame, but due to the fact the gyro is needed for certain levels it is somewhat understandable.

WiiU_CaptainToad_101014_SCRN01All the charm and bright colours would be a loss if the level design wasn’t up to the job and thankfully Nintendo have excelled themselves once again. Whilst most of the stages are relatively short, the attention to detail and the sheer amount of variation on offer is quite staggering. From haunted castles to infested gardens, runaway mine cars to caves flooded with lava, the Mushroom Kingdom is well represented with all its wonderful diverse landscapes.

The Wii U controller’s features have been well implemented without feeling overused. Whether you’re tapping the screen to move blocks or freeze enemies, blowing on the mic to raise platforms, or spinning around the room whilst aiming from cannons. The arrangement of the levels means it never feels like a gimmick and it is an excellent way of making each challenge feel fresh.

Some familiar power-ups also make a welcome appearance, for some unexplained reason, Toad has lost his ability to jump and our heroes will need some help if they are to pillage the land successfully. The ever present mushroom is on offer for those who have been shrunk due to taking damage, the old two hits and your dead mechanic is alive and well. There is a mighty pickaxe – for when the need to smash blocks becomes absolutely necessary. My personal favourite is the double cherry, which duplicates whoever collects it. The goal here is to navigate the maze whilst controlling multiple incarnations to reach a platform which is only activated when a set amount of characters are standing upon it.

WiiU_CaptainToad_101014_SCRN36Like the perfect guest, Toad does not outstay his welcome. With 64 levels and some bonus ones for those who may have a save file of Super Mario 3D world on their Wii U, there is just enough content on offer to hold your interest. It will take roughly six hours from start to finish, more if you collect every item and pass every challenge, and this feels long enough. The difficulty has been perfectly paced and despite a few moments of frustration, there is genuine satisfaction to be had, especially when you reach that gem that first looked impossible.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is another example of why Nintendo, when they get it right, have that certain something, an X-factor, which makes their games feel special. Creative level design, confident and bold presentation, wonderful composition and familiar much-loved characters are all handled with such care and expertise that is difficult not be charmed by them. Whilst the price point maybe a little too high and the main menu is a little drab there is still plenty of the magic here that makes Toad a welcome addition to anyone’s collection.

 

Score: 9/10

 

Reviewer: Ian 

 

Halloween Special: The Most Frightening Moment in Games

village_headshot_1399630550The writing team at Frugal Gaming each take a look back of their favourite horror games and the most frightening moments within.

Is yours there?

Have they got it wrong?

What’s Yours?

Ian (MrBadDog) : Silent Hill 2. Pyramid Head First Encounter

SDCCRPT-06Walking down a narrow hallway, the all-consuming darkness broken only by the light of your torch, you approach a door. Whatever maybe waiting for you on the other side surely can’t be as depraved as what you have already witnessed, twisting the handle you slowly venture forth; how wrong you were. The sight you behold has changed everything, you will never be the same again.

 A demonic figure struggles for control over two mannequin creatures, using his hips to push them against what appears to be a kitchen surface, the sexual violence is merely suggested, but it’s there. Horrified and afraid you hide in the only place available, a small closet. Hastily closing the door behind you, you’re are compelled to watch as this savage and frightening being slowly drags a lifeless monster behind him.
As it gets ever closer to you it appears to sense your presence, dropping the now unimportant, with outstretched arms it approaches you. The light darkens as his shadow fills the narrow openings in the door. Terrified you pull out your gun and fire aimlessly into the dark. The bullets seem to do little damage, just enough to slow his movements. Then, suddenly, all is quiet. It is gone. For now.
Whilst this scene is relatively short, the violence depicted here has stayed with me ever since I first played it all those years ago. The sound of the mannequin’s screaming and squirming is genuinely haunting. The power with which Pyramid Head enforces his will is very intimidating, his apparent invincibility is terrifying and the moment he senses your presence and slowly edges closer to you hiding place is horrifying. I have played a vast array of horror games over the years and with absolute certainty this is the most emotionally crippling scene I have ever witnessed.

Adam B (Bwortang) Aliens ZX Spectrum 1987

aliens01I had a very sheltered life in the 80’s; my experience of horror was limited to knowing of a possessed angry doll called Chucky, and a bald chap with pins in his head. In the early 90’s my exposure hit +11 on the horror scale, in 1991- at the age of 11, I was further exposed to the movie ‘Alien’ at a birthday party; you can imagine how the chest bursting scene went down.

Weeks later for our next hit we saw the 1986 sequel ‘Aliens’. Two weeks past before we then acquired ‘Aliens’ on the ZX Spectrum.

We were actually there, on LV-426 on a bug hunt to locate the mute colonists, As Ripley and Co we set off with limited ammo, motion sensors and no map, the room numbers were non sequential and coloured in bright colours of blue, purple and red. The walls gunked with an unknown substance, we set off through Hadley’s Hope until a blip noise on our motion sensor, which instantly aligned our pulse rates meant an alien was in the room. The intensity of the blips increased as our sweat glands went into overdrive as we frantically scrolled left or right in the corridor trying to locate the alien before the Xeno turned and faced you, with your imagination providing visions of the infamous second mouth & the inevitable ‘Game Over’ for that character; on screen static then filled the screen. Let it be said I never survived for more than 5 minutes.

 

James Hodgson: Super Mario Bros 3.
6_psd_jpgcopyFor my scariest moment in gaming, I was going to write about Bioshock or Fallout 3. Modern masterpieces in tension and suspense. But to be honest, nothing even close to scaring me as much as Super Mario Bros 3 did for the original NES.

I remember sitting there with my dad, way past my bed time, as I watched him face off against Bowser. We were a team, me helping him through the earlier levels and watching him play as the difficulty increased and the extra lives became sparse. Days had been spent getting to this moment. The simple save function meant the console had to be left switched on, and a ‘Game-Over’ meant the game would reset to the start of world 8, a minefield of tricky and horrible levels.

There were no guides or FAQs, no Youtube tutorials. Just me and my dad, facing off against the king of the Koopa clan. I can remember how tense I felt even to this day. Nothing is as scary as the pressure of an end boss, and it still remains as the greatest, most terrifying final stage I’ve ever faced. Even if I wasn’t allowed near the controller.

 

James Holland: Resident Evil 3: The Nemesis.

art_7I could have picked so many moments from the original Resident Evil games on the Playstation, but the scariest part of any of the games had to be the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3. This guy was unstoppable and a constant menace throughout the game. The other games always felt as though there were safe areas where you could take a breather and think about your next move, but the introduction of the Nemesis changed all of that, he would smash through walls and could even follow you through doors; something that just didn’t happen in the games before.

Encounters with the Nemesis gave you two options and you had just seconds to choose from, normally it would be flight or fight with flight being the best option. Even when you put the beast down, it would then get back up and chase after you with its signature roar. The Nemesis also carried a rocket launcher, so he could attack you from range as well as from up close. He pursued you through the whole game, you never felt safe and he was an underlining presence that ensured you would always need plenty of health and ammo, just in case you ran into him. Even with so many games in the Resident Evil series, I will never forget the terrifying encounters I had with the Nemesis, most of them were precluded with the monster slurring the word Stars……

Chris Purdy: Condemned: Criminal Origins

xenon001-image14For a game that delivers an absolute master class in how to deliver a truly tense atmosphere throughout it’s entire story, picking a scariest moment has been a difficult thing. In the first ten minutes alone you investigate a sickening murder scene, watch your colleagues get shot and experience getting thrown head first out of a window. The real stand out moment for me came in the first chapter while tasked with exploring an abandoned building and trying to turn the power back on. It’s not what I saw, or experienced first hand, but rather what I heard that made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle back in 2005.

Floorboards creaking, the sounds of thumping footsteps from above and objects being knocked over or smashed to pieces all let you know that you are not alone. The ambient sounds that follow, chase and harass you throughout the game add more to the feeling of terror than any cheap jump-scare or fashionably bloody cut-scene ever could.  The sounds stay with you long after playing the game, and even now nine years later the memories still set me on edge.

Karlos Morale: Sanitarium – PC

sanitarium-banner149936There was a rhythmic thudding, as though part of some great machine; bang, bang, bang. Mostly mechanical, unnatural and yet seemingly with a wet sounding, organic component. Relentless and perfectly timed. I looked about me for the source of the sound and was appalled to see a man banging his head against a brick wall – with every stroke, blood spattered out from the centre of the blow. Again and again he struck and I stood still – mesmerised.

I try to speak with the fellow – to makes sense of what I’m seeing – but there is nothing. I wear pyjamas like a patient in a hospital and my head is bandaged; evidently I am not the only one who is sick.

After meeting some other people and solving a puzzle or two I am enveloped by the wings of an angel. My adventure begins.

 

Rachel Ellis: Alien Isolation – The Xenomorph.

AI_LAUNCH_SCREEN008_1411636911Alien Isolation is a fearful experience; the atmosphere within Sevastopol is intense from the moment of arrival.  Upon hearing the slightest noise of something scuttling in the vicinity you’re given the impression that your hunter can appear at any given moment. By the time you’re pitted face to face with the colossal creature, you’re already in the position to spend the foreseeable future shaking in a corner praying he doesn’t turn your way. The Xenomorph stalks you throughout the desolate space station, if you wander into his line of vision; you’re as good as dead. More often than not you will be hiding under desks or in containers in a hope that it’ll save you, but that’s not always the case. The Xenomorph is a formidable enemy whose unpredictability makes him utterly terrifying.

Mario Kart 8 Review

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Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo

Platform: Wii U

Nintendo’s financial woes and marketing failure of the Wii U have been well documented, but at time of writing the console has received a 666% sales boost because of the release of Mario Kart 8! Some might say that Nintendo turned to the Devil for this turnaround, the same Devil that allows you get hit by three red shells just before you cross the finish line. Fortunately, this is the kind of jerky review that points out that 666 is not the original number of the Devil and it’s actually 616, so you can rest assured that the Wii U you bought (probably this week) is not evil. The point is; a lot more people have a Wii U now because of this game, and they would all feel pretty stupid if Mario Kart 8 had come out and sucked.

Well it’s a good thing it doesn’t suck then! For the initiated, it’s another Mario Kart, and that’s probably all you need to know. Only this time there’s mostly gimmicky but still exciting anti-gravity tracks in it that twist the tracks around and let you drive up walls and stuff. It also feels great, it runs at 60 frames per second in 1080p, the weapons have been rebalanced a bit, they brought back the coins system so the game can punish for getting hit without taking your weapon away which really sucked in Mario Kart Wii. The online matchmaking is a little thin, and you’ll probably end up watching another race for a few minutes before you actually get to play one, but when you actually get into a race it runs smooth and good times will follow. It also still has Moo Moo Meadows in it, yea I bet you love Moo Moo Meadows you sick freak.

MK8_201402_04So that’s you guys covered, if you already like Mario Kart and have a Wii U there’s nothing anyone can say to stop you buying Mario Kart 8 even if it did suck. You can close this tab right now and go play your videogame and have a gay ol’ time.

Are they gone? Alright, by now I should be left with the slightly less hardcore Nintendo fans who might actually be interested in what someone has to say about Mario Kart 8. If you’re still reading this I’d guess you own at least one book and probably go no longer than three months between haircuts. While we’re all here, let’s talk about the philosophy behind Mario Kart for a little bit.

Mario Kart is a game that punishes you for succeeding at it and rewards you for failing. Say what you will, but rocking a track on Mario Kart 8 in 1st place for the majority of the time will reward you with no action happening on the screen and item boxes will only give you bananas and coins and other boring stuff that makes you wish you had just got nothing at all. Meanwhile, at the back of the pack all the noobs will be crashing into each other, getting Bullet Bill pickups and Golden Mushrooms and other such goodies.

The nature of the items that you get while near the back of the pack have always intrigued me. Of course there’s the infamous Blue Shell, which will crash along the track and unavoidably explode the player in first place. And there’s the one that really gets me, the lightning cloud that shrinks and slows down every other racer on the track. The ideas behind this seem to be that if you suck at the game or aren’t doing well then the best way for the game to make up for this is to allow you the opportunity to screw over as many of the other players as possible. If this isn’t making you cringe yet, I’ll add that this is the exact sort of design philosophy that made them put tripping into Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

MK8_201402_01The theory seems to be that Mario Kart 8 always expects a specific amount of fun to be had, but this fun is constantly divided up and split between the players regardless of skill or how much they actually care. Trailing along at 10-12th place the entire time is no fun at all for a lot of people, so Nintendo’s solution is to build a game where the person in last place is always in a position where they can irritate the person in first place. What Nintendo want to happen is have a game where the entire pack of players are constantly changing position or “rubber-banding”, so most players will get the thrill of being in first place and being under pressure as well as experiencing the chase from the back of the pack. It’s not necessarily a terrible idea, but it undermines any sense of finesse or skill that could be applied to Mario Kart 8, and whenever you do that in a videogame it’s particularly guaranteed to lead to frustration every now and then.

Just in case you’re confused, I just wasted three paragraphs and potentially a couple of minutes of your life explaining that Mario Kart 8 is a party game and not a competitive one. Specifically the kind of party game that feels like it would be too much of a shame for anyone to be left out. Not that I want to start sounding like some socialism-fearing American right-winger, but when you start spreading the fun in this fashion you put a limit on the fun that one individual can have.

For example, when I’m running through the single player Grand Prix events to unlock stuff and learn the tracks, I can’t help but be annoyed that I have to perfect all the events on 50cc as well. Gosh darn it Nintendo, it’s Mario Kart 8, and you already suckered all the newbies in with motion controls on the Wii version, stop making everyone play on 50cc. I basically have to do it first because jumping straight to 100cc or 150cc first then ducking to the slower mode would feel so gross I’d probably puke all over my nice new gamepad screen. At least this would probably set off the touch screen horn so there would be a comedy sound effect to accompany it.

MK8_201402_02A lot of people will defend Mario Kart 8 for a lot of the things I’ve been talking about. They are after all, definitely deliberate choices on Nintendo’s part and not just bad (and absolutely not lazy) design. Mario Kart 8 is multiplayer focused, and getting screwed over by a red shell seconds before you win is great banter for a party situation with friends. But then again, it still happens when you’re playing the game stag and are being expected to get 1st place on every course for full completion…and in this context it’s just frustrating.

Don’t take this review as a dismissal of Mario Kart 8 or anything other than a recommendation. It’ll need more time to settle into my system, but in all honesty this could be my personal favourite Mario Kart yet; it is a perfectly polished piece of entertainment that knows its target audience and caters to it. I just can’t shake the feeling that I could be having more fun with it than I am, and so could a lot more of its hardcore followers. A lot of Nintendo products are being harmed by their pre-tense to create something that grandma and your little cousin who chews the wallpaper can play with you…when the vast majority of Mario Kart 8’s players just want to play a great racing game with their friends.

I wouldn’t worry about it though, it’s still got Moo Moo Meadows so every thing’s cool.

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