King Boom Boo

1 07 2015

King Boom Boo

Back in 2002 when I first received my GameCube, for the first couple of months I only had one game (Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee). For the first few months to a year of ownership of the console I spent a lot of time in GAME and Gamestation looking at games to possibly purchase. One of the games I kept an eye on was a game I had played before on the Dreamcast which belonged to one of my brothers and was one of the first games he had for it. The game was Sonic Adventure 2 and was originally a game made exclusively for the Dreamcast. Sometime after the Dreamcast had stopped being produced however, Sonic Adventure 2 was re-released onto the GameCube as Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.

Sonic Adventure 2 (Sega - 2001)

When I first got Battle, I instantly began to play it and could easily recognise the levels I sometimes played on the Dreamcast, as well as later levels I remembered seeing my brother play. My progress on the game was slow, but I was a younger gamer at the time, (not as lightning fast like when I play now). While playing the hero side of the story, I knew about an upcoming boss level for Sonic where he goes up against this big Egyptian style statue called the Egg Golem. I remembered seeing my brother play that level, the one thing I did not see, was the boss level directly before it.

Hourglass

After completing one of Knuckles‘s treasure finding levels (one where I had to find keys to unlock a door in Eggman’s base), I expected to go up against the Egg Golem. Instead I was surprised to come to a sudden boss level involving a Giant Ghost. The boss was called King Boom Boo: The King of Ghosts and he was a hard one. The level involved a round room with a pillar in the middle. The ghost himself had big eyes and a large multi-coloured mouth and tongue. Behind him there was a smaller ghost with an egg timer/sand timer/hourglass. Taking on the boss and defeating him was easy in theory. You basically had to attack the little ghost with the hourglass behind King Boom Boo, which would cause a timed door to open. This would then cause King Boom Boo to disappear into the ground, where you dig him up, hit him as many times as you could before the door closes and the sun goes, causing King Boom Boo to grow back to normal size again. Defeating him though was a hard one. It was similar to chasing someone round a room, and when you turn another way, so does he. In fighting King Boom Boo, the first thing you needed to do was to get away from him and his blue hand fire-ball attack (and later his tongue attack), before getting behind him to strike at the smaller ghost, the only thing is though that he quickly turns around to come at you again. For several attempts which I remembered span over several weeks, I was unlucky, but there was a clue as to how to strike at the little ghost.

GameCube

 

When he had enough of chasing you, King Boom Boo would then breathe fire, preventing him from turning round. You could then use this to attack the little ghost and attack King Boom Boo. Getting him out of the ground is then not so hard as sometimes he’s on the floor, and others he’s on the pillar and you just need to climb up there. Getting more than one hit on him is hard though. King Boom Boo after he is dug out of the ground is large, cumbersome and slow, therefore easy to hit. After you hit him once though, he gets smaller and quicker, meaning that if you too were slow, you probably weren’t going to hit him again. I once did try going the other way, but he saw me and turned round (which was rather funny). In the end though it came down to several more attempts getting in 1 hit at a time, luckily though the boss levels have a health bar at the top to show you how much health the opponent has left. So after several weeks and attempts, I finally beat the wretched ghost, and the game saved successfully so I did not need to do it again. Up next though was the Egg Golem (which is another story for another time).

Egg Golem

Despite how long it took and how hard it was; King Boom Boo remains one of my favourite and most memorable boss fights of any video game I have played. I still have the game to this day (and have yet to complete the third story), same copy and everything, but I now look forward to the ghost boss level as I consider it a mid to late milestone for the Hero Story. I look forward to it because I know what I am doing, and it gives me another opportunity to listen to the Fantastic soundtrack, plus; it’s a nicely designed, well thought out boss level and I was surprised by it, for only then to have it followed by yet another hard boss level. Possibly more though, I remember it fondly because it took me so long to complete it, and to this day, look forward to enjoy and remember such an experience like that again in video gaming – and for now, I know just where to get it.

GENEPOOL (I also remember seeing King Boom Boo in an episode of Sonic X).

 





Capturing A Snow Leopard……….On Camera

24 06 2015

Snow Leopard

A few weeks ago, me and my Mam had a day out at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park (or South Lakes Safari Zoo as it is now known) in Dalton-in-Furness. It’s not the first time we have gone there; we’ve visited it a lot with family and friends for roughly over 10 years now. It is a brilliant place that has different species of animals on show and even has some breeds live in the same enclosures. One of the key stand out features of the zoo though is its feeding times. On several occasions I have seen the animal talks and feedings and once hand fed a Lemur.

Racoon

The star attraction of feeding time is quite possibly the big cats. Animals like African Lions, Sumatran Tigers, Jaguars and many more get fed in a rather interesting way; by placing big chunks of meat atop large vertical poles. The idea is that when the animals are let out of their houses, they climb up the poles to get the food, meaning that they have to work for it, and helps to keep them fit. Over the last few years the park itself has been in a state of expansion with new areas and enclosures being built, with plans to introduce new species. This past visit, I was mostly caught up in looking at the new species with animals I had not seen before like the Giant Anteater, Sri Lankan Leopards, Arctic Wolves, Hornbills and (very briefly) Tayras.

Hornbill

One of the exhibits I took a shine to though was the Snow Leopards. The Snow Leopards aren’t really all that new; the last time I went to the zoo in July 2013 they had just arrived, but this was the first time that I had really seen them active instead of asleep. They were residing in the enclosure that the Lion’s used to occupy (the Lions now having a brand new enclosure). The enclosure was more of a rocky environment than one of grass and trees like it used to be. When we arrived at the enclosure, we were able to spot one of the Snow Leopards rather quickly, and as we went round onto the viewing platform to look down inside the enclosure (and opposite to the Arctic Wolf enclosure) we could spot another one, nicely blending into the rocks.

2 Snow Leopards

As the day went past, we looked at some of the other animals and enclosures, but discovered that due to the new species and ever-growing zoo, that feeding times for animals had been moved around. Wanting to watch the Arctic Wolf feeding (as we had never seen it before), we went down to the enclosure to watch, but it turns out they weren’t feeding them on that day (despite being given a leaflet which said that they were). What they were feeding though were the Snow Leopards. It wasn’t anything new really, other than it being a new species, it was the same routine as with the Lions and Tigers; shimmy up the pole. There was a lot of people round so getting a view was hard, but I was able to see them climb the pole and eat the food.

Snow Leopard Eating

I then had an idea. As it was, the animals were given two servings of food, and so I thought that if I could wait around a bit, I could potentially capture a video of the Snow Leopards climbing up the fence. My camera does come with a basic recording feature, so I set the camera to it and waited. The thing was, the animals were eating rather chewy bits of meat and did take some time to eat their meals. So while I waited, I occasionally glimpsed at the Arctic Wolves and marvelled at how bushy the Snow Leopard’s tails were.

Arctic Wolf

Sometime later though, not too long though, the cats decided they had had enough of their first servings, and proceeded to have their seconds. I quickly got my camera ready and was just able to get a video of them climbing up the poles, grabbing the food, then jumping off and begin to munch away. I was quite relieved as I wondered if I was actually going to get it. When we got back home, after uploading my photos onto Facebook, I then uploaded my video to YouTube, and it came out quite well. In the past I have been able to get pictures of the big cats eating, but I think this is the first time I got a video. I now just need to do it for all the other big cats (and possibly the other animals too).

GENEPOOL





Shadow The Hedgehog: The Final Word

17 06 2015

Shadow The Hedgehog (SEGA - 2005)

Several years ago, I used to collect Official Nintendo Magazine, I still have them actually. It was back when I was a big gamer and played on mostly Nintendo consoles. Eventually though, maybe two years ago, I just stopped collecting them, I don’t think I actually had a proper good read of one for a year before that. Anyway, the magazine continuously changed every few issues to keep it fresh and one of the magazine sections that stuck around for a while was a readers section. This was where anyone who wrote letters in, or (more commonly) from the online forums would get a say. When it came to the online forums, ONM used to show a pie chart of percentages of what people talked about most that month, and one of the most commonly featured topics in the pie chart was a lot of people showing their support for a spinoff game of the Sonic the Hedgehog series; Shadow The Hedgehog.

ONM Magazine

I never actually looked into those topics on the forums, my forum footprint overall was pretty low; however it always interested me to see people defend Shadow the Hedgehog. I remember first reading about the game and being a fan of the Sonic series at the time (and also my liking for the character of Shadow), I was excited about it. I remember even getting a copy of it for my GameCube when it was first released, and remembered hearing friends and other people talk about their opinions for the game, where the result was normally positive. One thing I did not understand though, was why (roughly) 25% of the readership of the magazine wrote on the forums every month just to defend a specific game. The other percentages used to talk about new stuff or current games and opinions; so why is another talking about one game in particular? I mean, what was so bad about Shadow the Hedgehog in the first place. When I originally played it, I thought it was quite fun. I played it quite a lot and really got into it. Ok, it wasn’t like it had no flaws at all but I thought it was OK. With the game being nearly 10 years old now, I thought I would reminisce a little by looking back at it and giving a more hindsight view on what I thought of the final product. While the post may say “The Final Word”, this probably, more than likely, won’t be the last time someone talks about this game, but due to the interest in people defending the game, I thought I would give and highlight my thoughts on the game, then hopefully come up with some overall rating for it (I probably won’t do this again in the future as it probably won’t work).

Shadow

1. Setting – Shadow is a hedgehog (like sonic, but black in colour) who has something of a mysterious past that comes back to him in flashbacks he doesn’t relatively understand. For the most part he is a loner and only cares for himself and some mysterious girl called Maria. One day, an Alien Invasion by a race known as the Black Arms suddenly happens. At first he doesn’t care, but is then approached by the races master; Black Doom who says that if Shadow can bring him the Chaos Emeralds, he will reveal Shadows past. The alien invasion setting then sets the game up for the player to take shadow on a story plot that allows the player to take different routes and discover and play different levels while also discovering Shadows Past. The games’ setting is pretty interesting and as its core point of storytelling goes, it’s pretty cool; however it’s all over the place. One moment you are fighting off an alien invasion, the next, you are nowhere near the invasion, to doing something that happened 50 years previously, or fighting a completely different enemy altogether. Because you are not too sure of where you are supposed to be, it feels more like a game without story than a game that sort of promises to tell you a story while discovering it yourself at the same time. While it is interesting to discover new things and experiences other bits, for a story telling adventure, it’s a bit poor. 2/5.

S4

2. Gameplay Part 1: Storytelling – The game offers you choices of routes to take from level to level, meaning the game is not linear. In fact the game uses a story tree which allows players to pick a route to take and follow it to where it goes. To do this, they have 3 choices of mission per level (as far as I know, I didn’t get as far as the end of each story side). One route choice will take the player on the hero path, another on the dark path, and the other on the horizontal normal route. If the player goes down the normal route that just comes to the point of reaching the end of the level for the other 2 though it usually requires completing an in game goal or completing the level in a certain way. So it could be activating or finding things in level, or it could be defeating so many enemies to destroying something. Relatively simple……….in theory. It’s one of the larger issues I have with the game. The problem is, that while it sounds relatively simple; some of those side missions can turn out to be rather complex. Some are easier than others but when it comes down to either finding so many of one thing, or collecting the other, finding them in the first place can be very irritating, especially when there is only one left, and while you may get to the point of certainty knowing where it is, finding it at all again is tricky. Keeping it to those routes to get to new levels can become even more irritating if you accidently end up doing a level you may have already done once before, and when you play levels over and over again, it gets really boring. Then even if you are successful in completing the mission correctly to go onto the next stage, you may end up taking on one of the games various random bosses, which is tedious unto itself. It is a rather inventive and exciting way to play a sonic game as it is not linear and the choice of routes can be quite fun (as well as add replay value to find more levels), but in turn, is annoying. 3/5.

S1

3. Gameplay Part 2: Core Gameplay Mechanics – The games striking main feature is that the lead character gets to wield a gun. Possibly thinking; that without something extra or different, it would look just like a normal Sonic game; the developers gave an already anti-hero character his own choice of weaponry. The game bolsters a huge selection of firearms with some different per level, and while Shadow doesn’t necessarily have to use them, it does add something else to the game. Most times guns are just picked up from fallen enemies, and depending on the enemies and area will vary the choice of available firearms. I find it’s a lot like Half Life in that respect with the amount of different types, but when there is in some cases little variation it can be a bit repetitive, but not necessarily boring. The inclusion of a gun though doesn’t really seem to provide much though, as there are lots of shooting games on the market and the only thing that’s different with this one is that it’s in a Sonic game. Shadow does not necessarily need a gun however, he is powerful enough without. I think it’s more of an image thing than anything else, but I would rather him have a gun he can keep than having lots that do not last very long. After that though there isn’t much except for regular abilities that sonic can use in previous games. The only other one that stands out is in the 2 power bars that can be built up during levels. These are filled up when attacking certain enemies or doing other things of note. One is a hero bar, the other is dark and when one has been filled up it can be used. These are actually quite useful as one allows you to travel huge levels of distance in the game making the levels shorter, while the other works similarly to the Team Blast feature in Sonic Heroes where you can wipe out huge numbers of enemies that are currently on-screen. It’s a very nice feature which is also something a little bit different to other games. 4/5.

S3

4. Visuals – Visuals come down to 2 points, cinematics and in game. The cinematics look terrific and add an extra special something to the story telling side of the game. The cut scenes and in game visuals however, which use the same graphics look rather basic and can put a sour note on the games look. For the most part the visuals don’t look that bad, but when considering that the visuals for some cut scenes don’t use the cinematic look, it just looks basic as if it was done half-heartedly. The cut scenes are nicely done in what they are trying to say and set up the levels well, but compared to what is achieved in the more cinematic cut scenes, they could be better. The opening cinematic though is fantastic and really helps to set up the feel of the whole game. 3/5.

5. Bosses and other Characters – The boss levels are not exactly varied. My experience mostly ended up with me takin on mostly Dr. Eggman in boss matches that were quite hard. The only other boss levels I had were against the black bull alien thing and the heavy dog, both of which were still pretty hard. The end boss for all my attempts was the Egg Dealer which was a lot more simple (and enjoyable) but weird. It was the case that once you knew how to defeat it, all you needed to do was just keep hitting it with your homing attack. The other thing about it was its choice of when to enter the game. One of the last levels on a route of the tree was the black comet where you would expect to find some kind of alien monster to fight. No; for some reason it was Eggman. It made more sense when I was in Eggman’s base, but not on the comet. Apart from the Egg dealer, Boss levels were pretty weak, if it was not for the choice of music to go with them, which ups the score for it a little. As for the use of other characters in the game that you randomly meet on the way in some levels, I think it’s rather pointless with the only good new character being the commander of G.U.N. (and some allowance to Black Doom, but only a bit). 2/5.

Omega E-123

6. Levels and Multiplayer – The levels in the game were nice and varied if but a bit dodgy. It’s sort of all over the place with areas depending on the routes you take. However the choice of levels and the things you can do in them are a relative improvement compared to the storytelling side. The levels are designed in strange combinations with some being like classic Sonic levels (platforms and lots of running), while others are like mazes and slow routes with lots of fighting. And then you have the completely weird ones like the circus based world, and a couple inside computers. The colouring of the levels is sometimes bright and sometimes dark but with plenty of variation. While the things you can do in the levels are really up to the story direction, the levels are much better in contrast. Multiplayer I did not get to play much of except on one occasion, however it was weird and fun to experience. 4/5.

S2

7. Soundtrack – For all the game’s up and downs, there is one thing that does not disappoint: the game’s soundtrack. While the levels, characters, missions and bosses are constantly in a state of mismatch, the one thing that does work is the choice of music to the game level. While some levels are similar to one another, great care has been taken to make the soundtrack work and meet the feel and look of each level. Added to this is the soundtrack for the boss levels, cut scenes, characters, cinematics and even the credits; which altogether makes something that works at a consistent rate, and not only that is both enjoyable, and memorable at the same time. I will probably go more into certain pieces of soundtrack in a later post, but particular ones to look out for include the opening cinematic theme (I Am… All of Me), Digital Circuit, Sky Troops and the end credits theme (Waking Up). 5/5.

So, that’s the game in essence, so now to work out its score. So ‘add the numbers together and then divide by the number of categories.’ 2 + 3 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 4 + 5 = 23 ÷ 7 = 3.285714285714286. So to round it to a reasonable number, I would say it gives Shadow the Hedgehog as score of 3 making it something of an average game of highs and lows. It has great gameplay mechanics, interesting levels and a fantastic soundtrack but is somewhat hindered by everything else.  It’s not completely Pants, but it’s not really Great either. You might be able to see something else in it than I didn’t, but altogether; that’s what I think f Shadow the Hedgehog. It will more than likely still be debated for some years to come, but for now, it’s somewhere in the middle (plus I have other things to do).

Vector

GENEPOOL





King of Tokyo

10 06 2015

King of Tokyo box

King of Tokyo is a dice rolling game for up to 6 players released by IELLO and designed by Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield. In King of Tokyo, players take on the role of one of several giant monsters (who happen to not look like any other monsters in particular) who are fighting for ultimate control of Movie Monster paradise; Tokyo City. The first monster to reach 20 points, or alternatively, be the only one with any remaining health, wins to become the true king of Tokyo (but not King of the Monsters, that title has already been claimed).

King of Tokyo bits and bobs

The game comes with a large collection of components including a small board, power cards, character cards, character pieces, stands, tokens and little green cubes. The game is set up with the small board (a picture of Tokyo with the locations Tokyo and Tokyo Bay on it) placed in the middle. Players then choose which monster they want to be: Giga Zaur, The King, Cyber Bunny, Meka Dragon, Kraken, Alienoid, and take the corresponding character card/board, piece and stand. The character boards themselves have two rotating dials on them. One representing health (starting at 10) and the other representing point score (starting at 0). Players then put their character pieces in the stands and place them near the board. The way the game works is mainly through its dice. 6 black ones with green symbols on them (and 2 extra green ones with black symbols on them). On a players turn, they roll all 6 dice, and compare the results. If they want to they can re-roll any number of dice, if still not happy, they can re-roll one more time. After that, they are stuck with what they whether they like them or not. If players roll a claw, this counts for an attack. If a player is the first one to roll a claw, they take Tokyo. If players roll a heart, they can heal themselves. If they roll a lightning bolt, they get some energy. If they roll 3 of any number, they score points equal to that number (so 3 3’s equals 3 points), plus any extra of that number equals one extra (so 4 2’s equals 3 points). Simple right, well yes in theory, but it’s a little bit trickier than that.

King of Tokyo dice

You see, when a player’s monster is in Tokyo, they can’t heal, so rolling hearts is pretty pointless. Also, when someone is in Tokyo, if they roll a claw or any number of claws, then they deal that much damage to every monster outside of Tokyo, however, monsters not in Tokyo that roll claws, only deal damage to the monster currently in Tokyo; so if you are in Tokyo and are taking too much damage, you might want to yield Tokyo to the monster currently attacking you. If you decide to do so, you still take that damage. Yielding Tokyo though presents another problem. When you take Tokyo you get a point, and every time it comes round to your turn, you get an additional 2 points if you are still there. So players (or monsters) will have to decide when they have taken enough damage to yield or to hold Tokyo for a bit longer to attain more points.

King of Tokyo energy cubes

Monsters though do have options and opportunities. When a player rolls a lightning bolt they get a little green cube. These can they be used to buy power cards. Power cards have special abilities, some more complicated than others which can help you, or hinder you if someone else buys them. Some cards are permanent, while others are one use only. These power cards range from things like dealing additional damage, poisoning, growing an extra head, getting bigger, get bonus health, reduce other player’s points, coming back to life and deciding to become an omnivore. Alternatively, players have the option to spend 2 energy to wipe out the current selection of three cards to reveal three new ones and then choose from them.

King of Tokyo power cards

King of Tokyo is a nicely designed game. The monster character cards deliver a nice way to keep both score and keep an eye on the health statistics. The use of dials is also more aesthetically pleasing and easier to use rather than having a card and using a small wooden cube. The artwork for Tokyo and the Monster characters is simple but effective. The little cubes are a wonderful addition. Their clear plastic see-through look makes them that little bit more special and thanks to them being all the same, there is no need to worry about general currency values. The power cards are also cheap which means they can be bought relatively quickly if the right dice are being rolled. The power cards also deliver an extra dimension to the game meaning that those who want to bide their time to get stronger can, while those who just want to roll point numbers and claws can too. It is also very easy to understand and does not rely on confusion between hit points and defence points when rolling claws, instead just saying you get hit, and how much health you subsequently lose. Additionally, I also like the many references to Monster Movies, many a time I have played this and have gotten into noting the references from the creatures and power cards and just enjoy reliving the memories of watching them. I am also always discovering new things. The power card deck is so big and has so many different cards in it, that every time I play it I am discovering new powers and abilities. I like that.

King of Tokyo monsters

The game though I find does have one little disadvantage. It’s more of a rule that I still don’t understand no matter how many times I have played it; that being the area of Tokyo Bay. Tokyo Bay is used when playing with between 5 and 6 players. The idea is that there is another area of Tokyo, but I don’t understand why it is there, what the advantage of it is, how you get there and how you stay there. I can see the advantage of having two monsters in Tokyo, but this just leads to which monster attacks who when rolling dice. Having a second monster in with more players would also mean two monsters gaining points, but then how does one remain in Tokyo Bay if they are ousted by someone fleeing Tokyo. I just don’t understand the point of having it on the board, and subsequently since, don’t include it when I play it. I also find it hard to understand the part of the rules booklet that explains it.

King of Tokyo board

While I do find the inclusion of Tokyo Bay confusing and or somewhat disappointing, it is a minor glitch in what is generally an easy, and very fun game. I just like the idea of being a Giant Monster and fighting for control of Tokyo (like a certain Giant Monster of whom I am a massive fan of). The game’s mechanics of dice rolling are nice and easy to just pick up and play, the character/monster cards are very easy to use and the addition of power cards are easy to understand and acquire (except for the batteries one). The artwork is terrific and the use of the monster stands are brilliant. The designer could have just used the cards as counters, but instead provides the stands to give a third dimension to both look and gameplay. When added to the board the monsters look huge. King of Tokyo is a game I rank among my favourite board games and is one I feel that everyone should try at least once. It’s not just its theme, but also how easy it is to play and how much enjoyment I have always managed to get out of it. I just can’t get enough out of being a Giant Monster and thrashing Tokyo, it’s so much fun.

Cyber Bunny vs Giga Zaur

GENEPOOL





3 Years To Go

8 06 2015

Godzilla (Legendary Pictures - 2014)

GENEPOOL








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