Galaxy, Geometry, and G...uh, G...er, The Swapper.

I had been hoping to get this blog written last week, but as is often the case, some of these games took longer to complete than I thought they would. Which, when you're like me and you have more time than you do money (thanks unemployment and still living with my dad), that's not a bad thing. Far from it, but that's neither here nor there.

Super Mario Galaxy 2.

I know I usually prefer to use in game images, but this one looked nice.
I know I usually prefer to use in game images, but this one looked nice.

This is a game that I've felt bad about not playing for years. When it first came out, way back in 2010, it came out relatively close to Red Dead Redemption. At least close enough that when I was deciding what game I wanted to get to play when I got back from college for the summer, I had to pick between the two. And I picked Red Dead, which, honestly, I don't regret at all. What I do regret was that I didn't get around to playing Galaxy 2 that year, which I could have easily, but didn't.

And, as more time passed, the game slowly faded from my mind. At least until the Wii U came out, then I kept hoping Nintendo would do what everyone else was doing, and release an HD version of the two Mario Galaxy games (even though I had played the first, it'd have been worth it). But that didn't happen, because for whatever reason, Nintendo hasn't felt like re-releasing any games other than Wind Waker in HD. But no one understands what Nintendo does, so I'm not surprised.

But then jump forward to the most recent Nintendo Direct, where it was announced that certain Wii games were being released on the Wii U eShop, with Super Mario Galaxy 2 being the first one. Of course I was excited, because the prospect of games like that being put out digitally and in HD had me very excited. I was, however, quite saddened, initially, when I played it, because it certainly wasn't in HD. Sure, it was only $10 because I bought it in the first week, but I feel like for the normal price of $20, Nintendo should have put in the effort to upscale the game to HD. It just looks terrible. Sure, the art direction and everything is as good as it always is in Nintendo games, but it's a blurry mess, and that's a bummer. I got used to it, but seeing Nintendo do the absolute bare minimum for this is, while expected, still a bummer-ass bummer.

It's a good thing that the game itself is pretty darn good. Great, even. But as great of a game as it is, there's also not really a whole lot to write about it. The platforming feels good, the level design is great, great music, great art, and there's neat new power-ups, like turning into a ghost. There's a lot of levels where Luigi is just chilling at the start, and you can switch to him and play the level as him instead. After you beat the final Bowser level, you can switch to Luigi whenever you want between levels, and just play everything as him.

In fashion with the other, recent Mario games, there's some extra/hard levels to be unlocked after "beating" Bowser. I wasn't able to get access to all of them, because I got to a point where I needed 110 stars, and only had 105. And the remaining stars aren't really ones I wanted to put the effort into getting. They were mostly things like, "Play this level again but now you only have a max of one health!" Those aren't fun. They're cheap, lazy ways to extend the length of the game.

Actually, it might not even be that, I feel like it's because Mario games "have" to have 120 stars. So, they did as many normal stars as they could, and sprinkled in filler ones like that as needed. There's two separate stars for a box destroying "minigame" where a robot gives you a fire flower and asks you to destroy some boxes in a certain amount of time. That's no fun, especially when I have to shake the Wiimote every time I want to throw a fire ball, and I can't tell if Mario isn't throwing a fireball because there's a limit to how many fireballs can be out at a time, or if it's because the controller isn't registering my shaking it. It was probably more the former, because I never really had any obvious instances where the motion controls were clearly not working, but it still wasn't fun.

But I have to reiterate that when this game is good, and when it works, it's damn good. And that's the vast majority of the time. I just don't have as much to say about the good parts of the game as I do about the parts I didn't care for. Because, like I said, it's another Mario game, and I wrote about a great Mario game last year (3D World). I suppose I could try to compare this to the other games, or come up with some arbitrary ranking of the games, but what would the point of that be? It's a great game, and if you like Mario games (3D ones specifically), you should play it. If you have a Wii U, you have no excuse, because you can download it for $20. I know I was saying earlier that for that price its should be in HD, but really, this game is worth 20 of your dollars (or equivalent foreign money) even if it's a bit blurry. Play this game.

Oh, and Yoshi's in it too, I guess. He's actually better used than I expected, with things like the ability to glow in the dark and inflate himself, just like a balloon. It was also nice to have a "new" game in which I could jump off of Yoshi mid jump, and send him plummeting to his death whilst I made it at the last second. Haven't had a chance to do that since I jumped on the Yoshi-hate bandwagon because of Giant Bomb.

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Also, the couple of screenshots I tried to embed before I went with that promotional art were tiny like this one, but this time I was too lazy to go with something else.

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions.

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There's a bit of a story as to how I came about playing this game too, but not as long as Galaxy 2's. So, this game came out last year, I thought it looked neat, but didn't play it because I had other things to do, and was secretly waiting for it to go on sale. Then the 10% off code weekend for PSN, and I had nothing to buy. This coincided with my internet friend @krummey peer pressuring me into buying an American flag exo skin in CoD: Advanced Warfare, which despite being $2 and clearly a waste of money because it's a first person game and I'd only ever see it in menus or briefly when I died, I wanted to get it anyway (because I'm an idiot). But, 10% off or not, it was under the $5 mark, which is the lowest you can charge to a credit card from PSN. I was looking for something to buy, so I could tag that onto, and someone reminded me that Geometry Wars 3 exists. So I snapped to it, and bought that game and that skin. The 10% off almost covered all of the skin too. Almost.

Thankfully, I ended up loving Geometry Wars 3, even if the reason I bought it is very stupid (I don't regret the exo skin, it's stupid in the way I like CoD being). I was initially a little upset that the game played more like Geometry Wars 2 than 1, because of the Geoms thing (little green things that fall out of enemies when they are destroyed that increase your multiplier, each one increasing it by one), but I quickly got over that. Which I probably would have in GW2 too if I had played more than the demo for that game. I like how it makes the multiplier get so high so quickly, which makes the scores absurd. Things like how the equivalent of the "1,000,000 points without dying" Achievement in the first game is now "10,000,000 points without dying." I dunno that that means there is a 10x bigger thing going on in this game, but that's a good example of the difference. Or that my highest score in the original was around 400,000, I think, whereas in this one (at least in the Classic Evolved mode) it's over 16,000,000.

I got rank 51 on this level. That was cool.
I got rank 51 on this level. That was cool.

That's not just because of the multipliers either, that's because I've put more time and effort into actually playing better at this game. One reason is that I paid $15 for this game, rather than $5, so there's the "get my money's worth" incentive, but the other is the competitiveness of beating friends' high scores. While I had friends back in the day that also played Geometry Wars 1, this was a case where, for whatever reason, their scores were so much higher than what I was doing that I didn't think I would ever match them, so I didn't put in the effort. Not so here! Apparently the only two people on my friends list that played this new game (@aurahack and @rmanthorp) and complete scrubs at Geometry Wars 3, so I was able to beat their scores on...everything? I think everything.

I also felt the need to try to get three stars (based on score) on every level in the Adventure Mode. Oh, by the way, there's an Adventure Mode too. That name is a bit misleading, given that it's just 50 levels with various shapes to the level, enemy patterns, objectives, etc. I didn't end up three starring all of them. I got about halfway into it, decided I wanted to try to finish it for the blog I was going to write today, and decided to storm through the rest of it, three stars or otherwise (you need at least one to progress on each level). I did get three stars on some of them, but I didn't obsessively replay them like I had before then. Couple tries, maybe, but then I moved on. I was able to finish it, and overall, that mode is a lot of fun. Definitely play it if you have the game.

There's some really neat uses of the games mechanics in that mode. The sorts of things that are hard to describe in a blog without going into way too much detail about a lot of the things in the game, but when you play it, you can tell that the developers had some fun coming up with these things, and put a TON of time into crafting the levels. Things like, one level where there's these two walls moving up and down, with a gap that you can pass through, and the walls occasionally turn red, which means they'll kill you if you touch them. There's one part a decent way into that level where the two walls stop in the middle of the screen and close, during which enemies start flooding in to the top half whilst you're in the bottom half. Then "Super State dots" (as I call them) appear on the bottom half for the Mach Fire super state. (I should have explained super states. Basically, they're formations of dots that when you shoot them all, you get a temporary power up, with everything from a shield, to spread fire, to shooting hella shots hella fast like Mach Fire.) Then the walls open up, and you can just chew through the enemies as they pour in. Lots of fun little moments like that peppered through the Adventure Mode that make it feel like it's more than just something tacked onto the core mechanics of the game.

Which, if I haven't made it clear, are rock solid. The game is an absolute joy to play, and I'm going to keep playing it regularly. I'm pretty sure I've played it every day since I've bought it, and I always start by warming up in Classic Evolved mode. Which, I should explain that Classic has different rules (sort of) than Adventure Mode. I've done a poor job of writing this stuff in a coherent, organized manner. Anyway, Adventure Mode has different upgradeable Drones that help you out, and those have supers that can be selected independently. My favorite go to combo ended up being the Attack drone (that fires in the direction you do) and the Homing super (which shoots out a bunch of homing shots). You have a limited number of supers per level, depending on the level. Some of the other ones were useful too, like the Turret super, which blankets the area with shots, or the sniper drone, which shoots on its own and in the direction of long distance targets.

Anyway, the various Classic modes don't have drones or drone supers. There's five of them, Evolved (which is just playing Geometry Wars-ass Geometry Wars), Deadline (infinite lives, but there's a timer) Pacifism (poorly named because it disables shooting, but you still have to kill enemies), King (where you can only shoot whilst inside bubbles that keep enemies out, but the bubbles don't last long), and...Hm...I swear there was another one, but I don't remember it. Oh well! Evolved is the best one of them anyway, obviously.

There's also a bonus level where enemies appear in groups shaped like the PlayStation buttons (or the Xbox buttons if you played there, I assume). That's silly and fun. The credits, likewise, are a silly level where you destroy the names of the developers. That was cool.

Geometry Wars 3 is a great game. If you've got that Geometry Wars itch, this'll scratch it, and scratch it really well. Unless you're so stubborn that all you will accept is the original Retro Evolved but on a new console. This ain't that. It's better, I think. Anyway, you should play it if you like these sorts of games.

Here's that CoD skin I paid $2 for. Yup.
Here's that CoD skin I paid $2 for. Yup.

The Swapper.

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Speaking of games that people should play, you should play The Swapper! I know Klepek had been saying that for A LONG TIME, and then Ryckert was even saying it, so I knew I had to play it eventually. Luckily, it was free on PlayStation Plus. It might still be, as of this writing, if you missed that. Go redeem that now and play it. Or pay money for it. It's one of those games that is inexplicably on everything (it's even on Wii U, for crying out loud), so you don't really have any excuse.

But, what is The Swapper? I don't really want to say too much about the game, because it really is a game that everyone should experience first hand. I can still talk about the core mechanics, which you probably know already but you've read this far into this blog, so bare with me. You can create clones of yourself, and swap between which one you can clone out of. They all move and jump when you move and jump, and most of the puzzles in the game revolve around getting the one you control to a thing you need to collect. There's often colored lighting in your way (blue that prevents clones from being created, red that stops swapping beams, and pink (it's probably supposed to be purple, but it looks more pink to me) that stops both).

And, well, that's the core of the game. It's a "Metroidvania" sort of game where (aside from a little bit in the beginning and the end), you can explore anywhere. Unless you don't have enough of the orb things to get past a locked door (those orbs are the things you get from completing puzzles). There's traversal and such between puzzles, but that's about it to the game. There is a story, with some good voice acting, but I don't want to spoil any of it. Again, you really need to experience this game first hand, because it's a special kind of game that's just so good that you should play it.

Or at least try to. It gets kinda hard in spots. Like, REALLY hard. There was one puzzle in particular that had me stumped for so long that I eventually gave up and went online for the answer (I believe you have to solve all the puzzles in the game to beat it, because I did all of them and had the exact number of orbs needed for the final thing). The worst part was that the thing I didn't think to do in that puzzle was something that I had basically done in a previous puzzle earlier in the game. I felt like a dummy then.

The open ended nature of how you do things in the game isn't always for the best, though. Unlike a game like Portal, which is completely linear, and can scale accordingly, this one lets you do stuff in different order, which can lead to things like playing a ridiculously hard puzzle, and then one that you breeze through easily. Of course, like any good puzzle game, the ones that one person finds hard won't be the same as someone else (though someone on Twitter did agree that the one I was stuck on was the hardest one in the game). Which is also why when a friend (Larry from that podcast I did) asked me how long The Swapper is, I couldn't really give him an answer. I feel like it's the kind of game that a brilliant genius could do in no time flat, but it took me a long time because, you know, I'm not stupid, but I can't figure out everything instantly. It's a fairly short game, though, which is nice in this case. I felt myself longing for more, which is often better than thinking there's too much (not that I don't also like it when huge open games have way too much content, mind you).

Oh, and the look of the game. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that everything in the game was physically modeled (in clay) and then put into the game Mortal Kombat style. Just, you know, much higher resolution and everything. And I think it looks gorgeous. Unique style that fits the tone and mood of the game perfectly. Music fits too, and you know I'm a sucker for colored lighting, which as I said, this game has LOTS of. Even if it is there to block my progress.

However, I did not like the game's zero gravity parts at all. Luckily, they're few and far between, but I think the game would have been better off without them. Dead Space 2 this is not.

And with that tiny and out of nowhere "paragraph" out of the way, I think that's all I have to say about The Swapper. You really should play it. It's fantastic.

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Anything else?

Should I bother linking to that podcast again? It was a GOTY thing, I imagine that if you were going to listen to it, you would have by now. I was on another one that was anime themed, which was pretty stupid. I'll link to a thing that has that in it, because that's easier and I'm lazy. ANIME.

My friend (Larry) and I recently acquired a website domain. We will try to get it working as an actual website with an RSS thing for my podcasts...eventually. Neither of us really know what you're doing, and Bombcast ads or not, I don't think it's worth spending more money on given how stupid it is. I won't reveal the name of the website yet, but it's one of those things that I think was worth it. Or, will be worth it. Anyway, stay tuned for that. Eventually.

And games? Well, I still have inFAMOUS First Light to play, and there's new PS+ games coming soon. I've already played Transistor and Yakuza 4, so it'll be a light month for me, but you should play those games if you haven't! I'd probably play Thief if it was the PS4 version, but I really don't want to be playing the PS3 version of a mediocre game I didn't really want to play in the first place at this point in 2015. I will, however, try out Apotheon and play ample amounts of Rogue Legacy. Unless I end up hating it, or something.

Oh, and I started playing A Link to the Past yesterday. See, I had...Well, there's a story behind that one too, but the short version is that I started in high school, but didn't get super far into it (like, a couple dungeons? I remember beating a hard sand worm boss). And after talking about Zelda games with someone on Twitter, I decided to go back and give it another shot. All I've done so far is the opening "dungeon," and I managed to die twice in that, so it should be a smooth ride. But I'm excited to give it another shot, because I don't remember much about it, and so many people do consider it the best Zelda game, and in some cases, the best game ever. Or, at least some people's favorite game ever. Exciting!

But that's it! Thanks for reading, as always.

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