Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Other Stuff Monthly #14!

So, a while ago, I discovered the Japanese youtuber Crafty Transformer, who makes cool mechanical weapons and machinery (mostly recreated from videogames and anime) out of cardboard. Coupled with my ever-increasing love of tokusatsu, it's made me think "I want to make cool things too". At some point, I also became aware of the subject of today's post, a Japanese children's book entitled Saikyo Kosaku Craft Wars.

The book contains instructions on how to make various toys out of household objects, a long-standing tradition of kids' media the world over, of course. The gimmick here though is that all the items are tied into various stories that are told alongside the instructions. Of course, I can't read the stories, but they're accompanied by some really awesome artwork, and the instructions on how to make the things are mostly diagram-based anyway.

There's two basic types of thing to be made from the instructions in the book: weapons and armour for kids to use themselves, and smaller-scale spaceships and monsters and things. I'm really just interested in the weapons and armour, to be honest, to learn the bare basics, then figure out ways of making them bigger, better, and more mechanically complex. There's swords, shields, guns, claw-gauntlets, and so on. Regarding the guns, there's non-firing guns that just look cool, a bazooka that fires a missile made from paper cups, and a magic blaster that shoots a puff of air. I haven't even started to attempt making anything from the book yet, and I've already been thinking of ways to make the last two more powerful than the book's blueprints.

As, like I said, I haven't made anything from the book yet, there's not much more to say. It's a cool little book with some really amazing artwork in it (which was actually the main initial thing that caught my attention). And, you know, it's been pretty hard to get stuff for these monthly posts what with the ongoing boring apocalypse.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Maniac Racers Advance (Game Boy Advance)

Also known as Motorcross Manaics Advance, this is the second sequel to that orginial Game Boy pirate cart classic, Motorcross Maniacs. (The first sequel was on Game Boy Color, and I might also feature it here someday. Shame they didn't carry the sries onto Nintendo's later handhelds, isn't it?) In case you never played that game, it was a slightly platformy racing game, where you were a little motorbike guy doing laps around crazy tracks full of ramps and loops and such,  all with a strict time limit, and an opponent racer who was so inept that they might as well have not shown up. Maniac Racers Advance is very much a sequel to that game, buidling on its ideas while still having a similar feel.

The main thing you had to worry about in the original was nitro management, and that's the same here. Using them at the right time means getting round the track faster, being able to collect more of them, and being able to take optimal routes, as each course has a few different routes to take, kind of like the stages in the 2D Sonic games, only here the only method of jumping you have is nitro boosting off of ramps. You can also hold left or right to rotate in the air, the main pruose of which is making sure your wheels meet the ground at the correct angle when you land, but you can also show off by doing lots of flips during particularly long jumps, if you are so inclined.

Obviously, the biggest change compared to the original is the graphics: Motorcross Manics was released very early in the Game Boy's life, and like most games of that time, it had very minimalist, functional graphics. By contrast, Maniac Racers Advance looks amazing! The stages take place in a variety of locations, there's a bunch of character to pick from, who all have appealling cartoony designs, and everything's big and colourful. The characters are of course another big change, though they all feel identical to play despite having different stats. You now race against three opponents instead of just one, and once you get past the novice courses, you really do have to do your best to come in first!

Even with that in mind though, it probably won't take more than about an hour to finish the game and unlock everything. That's fine, to be honest, I'm a big proponent of shorter games, but in this case it does feel like something's missing. Maybe it's the fact that most of the tracks are repeated a fair few times over the course of the championship mode? I can't quite put my finger on it, but once I finished the game, I was left asking "is that it?". There are a couple of bonus modes, like one that has you running over zombies, and another where you're wheelying over frozen penguins in a lab to collect stars, but they don't have a lot to offer, either.

I think I can recommend this to anyone with fond memories of the original, though. It might only be an hour long, but it is a good hour, and the feel of the boosts and the midair rotation is  as good as it ever was. It just looks a lot nicer here than it did before.