WarioWare: Get It Together!

I'm not fond of the outlet these days, but this Polygon review reflects most of my feelings here. In brief: This installment of WarioWare puts the franchise's stable of characters front and center by having them finally star in the minigames themselves as controllable characters, each moving in their own unique way and boasting their own special abilities. While you choose the party of heroes that will tackle each level (from an eventual pool of 20), the choice of character for each individual minigame is randomized. This spotlight role for Wario's primo bunch of friends/employees/victims is way overdue, but leads to one of the game's big problems: Having to remember both how the random pick of main character controls within a couple seconds and how a particular game plays in the next couple adds one layer of complexity too many for this game structure. (In addition, some characters are, inevitably, just poorly suited to certain minigames because of their movesets, giving progress - through the game or, in particular, toward certain additional goals - a frustratingly heavy element of randomness.)

My other complaint here is the dearth of unlockable toys & games & weird stuff, replaced by presents you give the characters to unlock additional palettes and art for them. The art is neat, but I miss stuff like the full version of Dr. Mario reskinned with Wario or that lyrical paper plane game. (There are a bunch of local multiplayer games, but if you're solo, you're restricted to three very simple bonus titles.) This was worth trying, and the result is fine, but it's a solid third (behind the original and Touched) of the three WarioWare games I've played. (If you have multiplayer partners readily available, of course, it's a different story.)

It still delivers its share of warm & fuzzy moments, though!

How could you hate a game that celebrates both Halloween *and* mint chocolate chip ice cream?!

Centipede: Recharged

I have another review from which to cadge for this title - my own, from Steam:

So some mobile devs saw Pac-Man Championship Edition and said, hey, we've seen that "vaporwave" art the kids love, and Atari doesn't care what happens to their IPs nowadays, so let's churn out a knockoff! Whereas Pac-Man CE & DX iterated on and blew up the original's gameplay in supremely satisfying ways, though, Centipede: Recharged didn't really care about that "gameplay" thing and as such broke the original in several ways.

Namely: a) The playfield is way larger than the original, yet your shots have been slowed and take too long to travel the playfield to control the increased enemy hordes. b) Aiming is extremely persnickety, and shots have to be pinpoint accurate to hit - good luck with that, given that one of the few ways this game is faithful to the original is the trackball mechanics and the attendant slipslidy movement (analog stick only here; sorry, no d-pad). c) The mushrooms take more hits to kill and are freaking impossible to get rid of given the slower shot speed and tiny hitboxes, leading to numerous scenarios where I am unloading and unloading into a centipede that's right in front of my face and not hitting it, because the first segment I hit turned into the Masada of mushrooms, the Krak des Chevaliers of mushrooms. d) The playfield never clears out the garbage that accumulates, and the devs like to spawn scorpions every five seconds that spawn adamantium poison mushrooms that you're not able to hit reliably over the super-wide playfield. Hey, everyone's favorite part of Centipede is when all the enemies are bunched up on the bottom third of the screen, right? That's what everyone loves.

You do get power-ups - you pretty much have to be running a power-up constantly to survive - but they're not as fun or satisfying as, say, the screen-sweeping laser beams or giant ghost-squashing Pac-Men of Pac-Man 256. By far the most useful are the explosive bullets, since their AoE nullifies the aiming/tiny hitbox problems and will help get rid of the 256,000 poison mushrooms littering your screen 60 seconds in. Ditto the spread gun, though the smaller 3-shot variant still tends to miss a lot. The railgun is useless. Side cannons have potential but can't hit due to the aiming. Rapid fire actually should have been default shot speed - see, that's the thing with these "'70s arcade games reimagined" projects: you have to go bigger & bolder, on both the enemy side and the player's. You can't leave the player less equipped to deal with things than they were in the original.

Also: the fun sound effects and changing palettes of the original are completely absent. WTF?

I used "mobile" at the top as shorthand for "cheap and thoughtless," but Recharged really is designed for mobile sensibilities - given the length of the average game and content available, you're really not expected to be spending more than an hour & change on this. I'll probably continue to screw around with Recharged, because I love Centipede and will continue trying futilely to get mileage out of this broke-ass version and am fundamentally stupid. Those smarter should just get Atari Vault and hit up the rock-solid originals instead.

ETA: Yeah, came to my senses and asked for a refund. Every death is cheap. This game just really frustrates attempts to have fun with it.

I'll just add to the above that while it's somewhat moot, as the game doesn't seem to be selling well, all the negative reviews sound like the authors have been avidly tracking Centipede developments since 1982, while all the positive reviews sound like they're Google Translated from paid Amazon shills:

Negative review:

While the sound is a passable evolution of Atari 3xBlotz chip output, I will not be giving this game a positive review until it adds trackball-accurate mouse support!

Positive review:

Games are fun! Many games are released on Steam every week, and this is one of them!

Resident Evil (GameCube)

Long story: I wanted to replay Silent Hill 4 for the Halloween season and hauled the giant 27-inch 30-year-old CRT in the spare bedroom up to the TV stand only to discover that the lasers in both of my PS2s are dead. (I also discovered, demoralizingly, that I've lost of bit of muscle with COVID-era gym weight room abstention, since I stumbled under the weight and damaged the edge of the TV stand. I had to use the out-of-service air conditioner as an intermediary platform to haul the thing up there.) I don't want to give Konami money for the GOG version, so what to do?

Well, emulate, obviously, but in the meantime, the CRT is up there, and my GameCube still works, so looks like it's time to crack those copies of RE Remake and Zero I bought so long ago.

However: I'm almost through the first time with the mansion, and I'm frankly having a miserable time. The game reduces your resources to the barest of bones - I think Jill's gotten like 3 magazines in the entire game thus far - while increasing the durability, proliferation, and tenacity of numbers of your enemies: zombies can take up to 15 goddamn handgun bullets to kill, are constantly bursting through doors, and will inevitably turn into nigh-invincible Crimson Heads before you can make your way through the hordes back to your oil flask and lighter to burn their bodies even if you *do* down one. I haven't even gotten a shotgun yet. Barry did try to fork over the grenade launcher, but due to the inaccessibility of the item boxes thanks to the zombie-packed hallways, I had full pockets and had to leave it near Forest's corpse. It wouldn't have helped anyway, as I'll need to save every single grenade for Yawn, who, if the pattern holds, will take 98 shots and a napalm bomb.

The upshot of all this is that the focus of the game has gone from conserving resources and judiciously picking your battles to dodging nearly every zombie. This is not only a near-complete redefinition of the skills you need to get through the game but also no fun, since Jill's directional movement is now very loosey-goosey, making it extremely hard to pinpoint the direction she's headed or dodge. (My GameCube controller might be at partial fault here, as the analog stick has a little more give than I believe it should, but the tiny D-pad is only the slightest of improvements.)

Granted, the environment looks great (if a little dim), but I can't indulge in one of the basic joys of survival horror, exploring my deliciously spooky environment, for fear I might set off a trap or lose the last of the precious resources keeping my run from being utterly bricked. It's like the game is fragile. I'm afraid to engage with it, lest everything break. Don't touch that doorknob; you might trigger a zombie attack! Don't go through this hallway again; you'll waste your items, and you'll never get refills! I realize survival horror rests on tension, those moments when you are overwhelmed, when you are, to quote Kimimi, "two doors, five bullets, and three zombies away from a save room." But when you're several doors, no bullets, and 17,000 zombies away from everything, always, the survival horror cycle of mounting tension-crisis-release that, say, the PS Clock Tower illustrates so well is replaced with an utterly exhausting monotone, as welcome as a siren screaming for hours on end. REmake's constant game-bricking threats prevent you from trying stuff - from doing something, anything - and it's just utterly no fun to have to go on numerous dead-end scouting runs in preparation for making like ten minutes of actual progress.

Also, I note that the music has been near-completely excised. Perhaps they thought it would clash with the remake's more realistic graphics, or maybe there were issues with the composer, but the score was so integral to the character of the original game that this can't help but hit as real galaxy-brain thinking.

Looking back through my notes on my run of the original RE, I see I got really frustrated during the return to the mansion and the ammo-sponge nature of the Hunters, so I can't see my opinion of the game markedly improving in the future. So this is going to have to be like Castlevania IV, where I devote a set, short, joyless period of time to it per day to grinding through it.

Man, what is it with me and aggravating Halloween gaming experiences? Last year, it was the extremely frustrating Original Mode of Castlevania Chronicles. Maybe I'd be better served by doing a run of Chris's campaign on the original instead.

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