Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Mahou City (PC)

So, like a previous game I've covered here, Panic in Nakayoshi Land, Mahou City is a magical girl-themed Battle City clone. Though as far as I can tell, the magical girls in this case aren't from any existing property (though there's homages to a few existing magical girls in the very silly 2001 A Space Odyssey-homaging intro). You play as a girl with a cannon-lance weapon, and you go around mazes shooting other, similarly armed girls. Also, you've got a base to protect, and the game instantly ends if it gets shot. Instead of the militaristic eagle emblem of Battle City, it's a big fat yellow bird sitting on a nest.

All the Battle City hallmarks are present: destructible walls, enemies without AI that move and act completely randomly, power-ups that also appear at random, and most importantly: fun, simple action that manages to be compelling despite the heavy reliance on randomness. It even adds a few elements, like power-ups that give you a four-way shot, or shrink you down so you're harder to hit.

There's also some presentational changes, though they range from pointless to being of an actual detriment to the game. The pointless includes the addition of two extra camera angles: on low down, close to your character, and a first person view, which also changes the controls to a swivel-and-move arrangement. Unfortunately, they're both much worse for playing than the default bird's eye view camera, though they can make for some nice screenshots. The cosmetic change that's of active detriment to the game is that the Bomb Attack power up, that kills all enemies present in a stage when you pick it up, is now preceded by an unskippable animation of an airship flying in to carpet bomb the area. Actually, there is one bit of flair I feel ads to the game: the big explosions every shot creates are very satisfying.

There's also a few technical problems this game has, like the aforementioned intro being unskippable every time you load the game, or the fact that it doesn't save high scores after you close the program. All in all, though, if you like Battle City and clones thereof, this is one of those, and it's as addictive as any other. Even if it's also the hardest Battle City clone I've ever played, and I can only get 5 stages into it. Anyway, it's available from the dev's website for free, so you might as well give it a try, right?

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Simple 2960 Tomodachi Series Vol. 3 - The Itsudemo Puzzle - Massugu Soroete Straws (Game Boy Advance)

I'd previously written off the Simple 2960 Tomodachi series, assuming that it was just a bunch of untranslated visual novels like the Dreamcast's Simple 2000 DC series. I happened across some screenshots of this one recently, though, and it turns out I've been wrong all this time, and the GBA Simple games have at least one cute puzzler among them! In fact, looking at the list of titles, I have no idea where I got my previous assumption from, as it's clear that none of them are visual novels at all. But anyway, this is The Itsudemo Puzzle ~Massugu Soroete Straws~, or The Anytime Puzzle ~Line Up the Straws~, and it's pretty good!

The game presents you with groups of stars connected by lines, and you move your cursor thing around, pushing stars up and down the screen so that the connecting lines become one straight line, either horizontal or diagonal. Do it multiple times in quick succession for more points, of course. There's a totally unimportant story about an apprentice witch who I think is trying to hold back the dawn for as long as possible by arranging the stars in the night sky into straight lines? That's what seems to be happening in the main mode, anyway, as the moon scrolls across the screen and the sky gets lighter as time starts to run out, while going in reverse when you get more time while clearing lines.

Other than the main game, there's also a time attack mode, in which you attempt to score as many points as possible in three minutes, and a free mode, which just goes on forever until you quit via the pause menu. Oddly, even the free mode has a high score table, though the nature of the mode means it really just measures the player's tolerance for boredom (though playing free mode did help me figure out little techniques here and there to improve my game, like any good practice mode should).

There's not much more to be said about this game! It's cute, it's fun, and unlike a lot of Simple Series games, a real copy of it can be found for next to nothing online if you're lucky. It's recommended!