Thursday, April 15, 2021

New Pokémon Snap (NSW) Overview Trailer

Nintendo has shared an in-depth overview trailer for New Pokémon Snap, a game heading to the Nintendo Switch at the end of the month. Get ready to take your best shots by watching this trailer, focusing on all of the unique elements of this Pokémon-capturing (on film) game--from branching paths to personalizing and sharing your photos, to name just a couple of features presented in this trailer.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Stitchy in Tooki Trouble (NSW) Review

Stitchy in Tooki Trouble launches tomorrow on the Nintendo Switch eShop. In the meantime and on the eve of the game's release, SPC has a review of the game for your reading pleasure. 

A scarecrow's journey that is short and somewhat sweet

Platformers are in great abundance on the Nintendo Switch ("great abundance" might even understate the situation on the Switch), and no matter what kind you're into, there's plenty of competition. Of course, there is Nintendo's stable of platformers, featuring Mario, Kirby, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong, with the latter being notable as an inspiration for the subject of this review: Stitchy in Tooki Trouble. A game developed by Polygoat, Stitchy in Tooki Trouble has some similarities to Donkey Kong Country, but only on the surface level and not as deep as the recently released Kaze and the Wild Masks (which SPC will cover when the physical release launches next month).

Regardless, when you're a platformer on the Nintendo Switch, it becomes difficult to separate yourself from the competition, especially with how strong said competition is. While Stitchy in Tooki Trouble serves as an incredibly competent and more importantly fun 2.5D platformer, it's hard to recommend over other, more proficient platformers on Nintendo's hybrid console.

While the difficulty does pick up after the first world, I never felt TOO challenged by Stitchy's adventure.

Stitchy the Scarecrow's adventure starts out simple and quick: a band of Tiki-like enemies approach the farm he's resting at and pilfer all of the crops from the farm's fields. Stitchy surprisingly comes to life and finds himself eager to go on a platforming journey to get those crops back and deliver some justice to the Tooki tribe in the process. 

What follows is a series of three worlds featuring an assortment of platforming challenges. There is everything from swinging from ropes, deftly leaping from platform to platform which are undulating due to the ocean waves, sliding along icy floors and platforms, running from rising as well as pursuing lava, blasting from cannon to cannon in a Donkey Kong Country-style barrel sequence, and speaking of DKC, riding mine carts on a hazardous track, complete with death-defying leaps requiring utter precision and quick reaction times. 

Shiver me timbers. I think I'm getting seasick with these uneasy waves!

The three worlds take place in a forest, a winter tundra, and a factory filled with lava. Each world consists of ten starting levels with the tenth being a boss battle. Boss battles are enjoyable enough, but there is a lot of waiting to deal damage to the boss in the process as they repeat rather simple patterns that need to be avoided as they linger in the background. Nevertheless, these battles employ some clever ideas. 

There is an eleventh bonus level in each world, and these are unlocked by collecting all three Tooki totem pieces in each world's nine pre-boss levels. They aren't too difficult to discover their locations, as every level is incredibly linear with occasional secret areas. However, these are seldom off the beaten path. More often I was faced with missing a totem piece due to having only one chance at it, such as needing to bounce off an enemy's noggin to gain extra height to reach the platform where the totem piece rested. If I missed, I either restarted the level or intentionally perished. The latter didn't really matter, as lives are prominent due to gaining one for every 100 ears of corn collected. These are handed out like... um... ears of corn at a state fair. Okay, not the most creative analogy, but you hopefully get the point anyway.

Ears of corn are to Stitchy as coins are to Mario and bananas are to Donkey Kong.
Collect 100 for an extra life!

Aside from collecting all of the Tooki totems in the game, there is also optional stars to obtain in each level as well. These don't involve collecting anything. Instead, they're purely speed running through levels to beat specific times. You can earn up to three stars in each level--including boss levels--for beating the game's target times. This is the most challenging aspect of an otherwise breezy game, and even then, it didn't take me that long to accomplish.

No, Stitchy in Tooki Trouble is not a lengthy platformer by any stretch. In fact, I got 100% on my save file in about three hours without having too much trouble. That isn't to boast or brag; it's merely to state that the level of difficulty in Polygoat's game isn't that strong. However, for children and less experienced platforming game players, I can see a lot of entertainment and challenge coming their way, which is fantastic, as Stitchy in Tooki Trouble is overall a well crafted game. It was just for me an incredibly short and breezy play.

Stitchy gets back in gear by collecting a heart to add to his health.

Stitchy of Stitchy in Tooki Trouble fame does not have a large move set to him. He isn't as well stocked with his repertoire of moves like Mario or even Donkey Kong in the Donkey Kong Country games. All he has to his credit is a jump, a double jump, and a ground pound-esque slam. The controls are simple to learn, but no, they're not tough to master at all, going against the cliché phrase. This simplicity and sort of slowness of Stitchy's movements might bore more seasoned players, but again, for the younger crowd and less experienced players, it's might work for them.

Despite my brief and breezy time with Stitchy in Tooki Trouble, I did find myself enjoying the game. There are some well executed ideas and concepts presented in Polygoat's title, and it looks and sounds pleasant as well. Veterans of the platforming genre won't find themselves tested too terribly much from Stitchy's adventure, aside from perhaps certain time trials, and the short length of the game is another glaring issue that might make a purchase less than ideal. For everyone else, there is a lot to like about Stitchy in Tooki Trouble. Just don't expect anything too a-maize-ing. (Sorry, not sorry.)

[SPC Says: C+]

A code was received by SPC from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Best Levels in Gaming History - Volume 22

Spring has sprung, and with it a new season featuring more of the Best Levels in Gaming History! We've reached the 22nd volume (wow!), and there's no signs of stopping. Whether they be actual levels, missions, maps, or even this time around, golf courses, these sectioned-off portions of games are some of the greatest ever. We've got a packed list of franchises represented this time around--we start with Spider-Man, move on to Sackboy, Crash Bandicoot, and Yooka-Laylee for some platforming fun, and end things by checking in on our backswing with some Mario Golf. 

If you have some time to spare or are simply yearning for more great gaming levels, then no look further than every installment of Best Levels in Gaming History right here with these convenient links:

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four
Volume Five
Volume Six
Volume Seven
Volume Eight
Volume Nine
Volume Ten
Volume Eleven
Volume Twelve
Volume Thirteen
Volume Fourteen
Volume Fifteen
Volume Sixteen
Volume Seventeen
Volume Eighteen
Volume Nineteen
Volume Twenty
Volume Twenty-One

Hold onto your web-shooters - Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS5, PS4)

Our opening Best Level in Gaming History is also the adrenaline-pumping opening to Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, "Hold onto your web-shooters". After the events of the original Spider-Man game from Insomniac, Miles Morales has taken on the mantle as a second Spider-Man and has the original Spider-Man as his mentor. The two are entangled in a mission to oversee the transport of a convoy of R.A.F.T. prisoners who had escaped in the previous game. A helicopter malfunction results in a crash and the escape of several prisoners, including one rambunctious member of Spidey's rogue's gallery, Rhino.

While Spidey takes on Rhino, Miles focuses on the brawn that are the more manageable prisoners. Here, players learn the ins and outs of the most basic of combat: punches, kicks, web-shooting, evading attacks--that sort of thing. After two mobs of enemies, with the second batch having long-range weaponry in the form of guns, Spider-Man wrestles with Rhino, as the latter charges through the city, with Miles pursuing. 

Eventually, the three make it into a mall, where Miles takes over the Rhino-riding duties, weaving through stores, displays, and avoiding taking damage. The fun goes from the top floor straight to the bottom floor, and the rampage continues, even blasting through J. Jonah Jameson's Christmas-themed podcast set, much to Jonah's dismay and utter rage. 

The chase continues through the city streets, causing much more unintended collateral damage, but it ends when Rhino smashes himself, with Spidey and Miles in tow, into a flammable tank, which explodes upon impact. After Miles takes care of some crowd control of the escaped prisoner kind, Spidey #1 finds himself on the receiving end of Rhino's offense, leaving him unable to move. It's Miles' turn to shine, armed with an unknown and mysterious new electrical power that courses through his body, Venom Power, Miles does battle with Rhino, ultimately defeating him.

Between the amazing set pieces on display, whether it's the carnage on the streets or the rampage through the mall, the intense action, great and amusing dialogue, or how seamlessly everything happens (whether on PS4 or PS5), the opening mission in Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales starts the game on an insanely impressive note. And the entertaining ride only gets more enjoyable from there.

Flossed in Space - Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5, PS4)

Let's move on from one PlayStation Studios game to another, this time with Sackboy: A Big Adventure, a game that was runner-up on SPC's Games of 2020 list. For good reason, too, as the Sackboy's Super Mario 3D World-like platforming adventure was a masterclass of wonderful design, enjoyable and accessible platforming, and abundant imagination. So many of the levels could be selected from the game and represented for this type of article series, but if you've played Sackboy: A Big Adventure, then you probably already know what level type is most worthwhile.

This obvious pick is any one of the music levels featured in the game. These levels take a licensed track from popular music, such as Britney Spears' Toxic or Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk, and almost seamlessly syncs the running and jumping action on screen with the music. It's similar to Rayman Legends' lovely music levels, though these in Sackboy are not levels you just run like there's no tomorrow. No, in Sackboy, you play these levels at your own pace. 

Really, any of the five or so music levels featured in Sackboy: A Big Adventure could easily be selected for this volume of Best Levels in Gaming History, but I'll pick my personal favorite, featuring Foster the People's Houdini. The level Flossed in Space, an obvious but still clever riff off of Lost in Space, features a copious amount of portals that warp Sackboy to and from destinations, moving platforms, and a stupendous intergalactic space theme that is all complemented beautifully by the backing music. Part of my love for this level stems from the actual song, which is quite the bop, and another part is just how well executed the transitions between portions of the song are. It's an overall incredibly fun, sensationally original level that oozes with personality, much like the overall adventure of Sackboy itself.

Off Beat - Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time (Multi)

On the subject of 3D platformers, let's turn our focus to a much more difficult game. While I didn't necessarily love Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time for several reasons--as you can read in my review--there is no question or hint of denial on my end that a multitude of levels within the game are abundantly packed with creativity and genius. My pick for my favorite level within Crash 4 comes from the New Orleans-inspired music level Off Beat.

Off Beat starts out innocently enough with a vertical climb of boxes and platforms to the rooftops, and this is where the real fun begins. Complete with rising and lowering block platforms with mischievous faces painted on them, ghosts that bugle out and drop painful-to-the-touch notes from their trumpets, helpful bipedal cannons that assist Crash by blasting him across the city skyline with ease, and even a parade featuring familiar Crash characters and even a Spyro the Dragon appearance, Off Beat is a level that is hardly one-note. It's fun to run through, features limited "gotcha" moments that I felt plagued this game throughout its adventure, and is just jam-packed with creativity.

Cliffside Quest - Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (Multi)

From 3D platforming to 2.5D platforming, we turn to the wildly charming, clever, and well executed Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair from Playtonic Games. While Yooka-Laylee was a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie that didn't quite stick the landing, with Impossible Lair, Playtonic successfully nailed its take on the Donkey Kong Country-style with some insanely ingenious additions as well.

The levels in Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair are pretty much all wonderfully well done, but nearly all of them are somewhat linear affairs. That's what makes the Cliffside Quest level so unique in Impossible Lair. The premise is simple: Yooka and Laylee are greeted with a statue of villain Capital B., and inside a protected shield is a bee, essentially the "goal" of the level. However, in a "so close, yet so far" type of scenario, Yooka and Laylee need to track down six gems that are scattered on all corners of this nonlinear level in order to unlock the shield and complete the level.

Whether in its springtime version or its frozen variant, Cliffside Quest has myriad platforming challenges to take on, and most of these are relegated to specific rooms and chambers. There are climbing challenges, where Yooka and Laylee must avoid killer lasers as they climb, there are enemy gauntlets, swimming situations, and much more to track down all six gems to satisfy the conditions of clearing the level. It's a scavenger hunt of sorts, and one that is enjoyable in either variant of this atypical, untraditional level in Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair.

Mario's Star - Mario Golf (N64), Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS)

We wrap up this 22nd volume of Best Levels in Gaming History with a first. Yes, in the 21 previous installments of Best Levels in Gaming History, we've never seen a golf course ever represented. Time to give the game of golf its proper due with some representation, and why not with Mario Golf: Super Rush for the Nintendo Switch fast approaching!

One of the most creatively designed courses in Mario Golf history comes from the very first Mario Golf for the Nintendo 64. Mario's Star is the ultimate course in that game, and what makes it so creative in its design is how each hole is essentially art of famous Mario characters and enemies comprised of things like bunkers, water hazards, rock, fairways, greens, and more. As you can see in the attached photos, the noble and honorable Princess Peach gets immortalized in this course with a striking portrait (and one hard hole of golf, might I add!).

It's more than a gimmick, though, which is much appreciated. The designs lend themselves well to a challenging round of golf, but one that is ultimately fair in its difficulty. Mario's Star would reappear as one of the six downloadable courses in Mario Golf: World Tour for the Nintendo 3DS. In fact, every course in the aforementioned DLC are courses from Mario Golf for the N64 that have been remixed, remade, and mostly renamed for World Tour.

Monday, April 12, 2021

New Pokémon Snap (NSW) North American Advertisements

Ahead of the game's April 30th release date, New Pokémon Snap has a pair of commercials to advertise this Pokémon-capturing (but on photos this time around instead of in balls) game. Can you believe that we're finally getting a sequel to Pokémon Snap, and that it's less than three weeks away? It blows the mind. Regardless, enjoy these two new ads below!