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September 30, 2016

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (Part 5)

Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

We’re getting closer to the final battle by the minute. The Mushroom Kingdom still seems fairly safe right now, and only a select few are aware that the Dark Star is on its way to regain power and destroy the world. You still have all the time to do all the side-quests you want. I’ll cover the end of the story and then talk about those.

No villain is too cool to use stars in battle!
After fighting Peach’s Castle, which had been turned into a mecha by Fawful, Bowser enters and finds Fawful who’s seeking the Dark Star. Fawful has had enough of Bowser, and Bowser has had enough of Fawful, it’s time for settle this for good. It will feel so great to punch that little face and smash those glasses to bits! As it turns out, Fawful is impervious to Bowser’s punch and fire breath due to his vacuum propeller hat. It can also heal him and attack by itself. A time comes where Bowser can inhale the hat, allowing the Mario brothers to battle it. After all, this fight is not gonna get anywhere as long as Fawful has this thing to rely on. Hell, even after the vacuum propeller hat is defeated, Fawful can still be a pain. He’s an amazing battler, I’ll give him that.

When Fawful is destroyed, the dark energy in him turns him into some kind of little black critter with his signature spiral glasses. This thing manages to escape, and finds the incomplete Dark Star Bowser. It gets inhaled, and thus Dark Bowser becomes complete. Oh, crap.

Bowser follows through the path opened by Dark Bowser and confronts it, first in a battle of fire breaths, and then  in a spike ball battle – you control Bowser in spike ball form against Dark Bowser, and you must deal damage to it five times before it deals damage five times to Bowser. Dark Bowser then flees and Bowser follows, scaling a tower and then getting to his enemy.

No, I won't make the joke "FUCKING BUBBLES".
The Nostalgia Critic and his memes can go die in
a fire for all I care. (The character, not the actor,
though I don't care much for him either.)

September 26, 2016

Slight change in schedule

Alright, so, I know I've been doing that a lot in the last few weeks, mostly because of a hectic personal schedule, but I might need to switch things around a bit again.

Not a major change, mind you. Let's just say I ran into a bit of a roadblock with my review of Super Metroid. It's difficult to write... mostly because I have to play the game. But it's a fairly long one for a player who has never played it before, so I'm literally discovering it for the first time.

Add to this that I don't always have time to play it on the Wii in my living room, and we've got a pretty sad situation where I can't progress as much as I would like in a review of a game I am playing. Don't worry. That review will happen, But I might push it back a bit. Part 5 of Bowser's Inside Story will happen as planned this Friday, but the next Friday I will instead post my review of The Beginner's Guide. A two-week delay should give me enough time to finish the review. ...I hope.

(Also, I'm sorry, but I'm so busy I don't have time to make a Halloween special this year. Sorry. I will probably find something else to do instead.)

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (Part 4)

Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

So, in Part 3 we got the first Star Cure, and we learned that the second one is in Bowser’s Castle. Alright then! We fast-travel to Bowser’s past residence, now controlled by Fawful. Bowser can’t find a way into his castle’s basement, but we do find the buffet again – and Bowser can use it to fatten himself up and open the Flab Zone for Mario and Luigi again...

Oh, there IS a way. But Bowser has to stand in one very
particular place and stay there while Mario and Luigi
are visiting the area. It's kinda dumb. Also, it's
more railroading.
Oh yes, here’s another thing I don’t like about this game; many of Bowser’s zones are useless. They find a use when a particular situation pops up (Bowser started pushing something with his arms, or using his legs, or he’s in danger and needs a power boost to grow giant); then, some zones open for a quick mini-game. Even worse, Bowser has many areas that are basically 2D dungeons; that would be fine and good, except as you know, the game combines Bowser’s gameplay with the brothers’ story. As a result, even those are blocked, most of the time, and you can’t go there unless Bowser is in a very particular part of the Mushroom Kingdom, activating something in himself to open that zone. The Flab Zone can’t be accessed, since the platforms are too far from each other for the brothers to climb to it, unless Bowser gorges himself in Fawful’s buffet in the Castle. The Energy Hold is blocked by Boo blocks unless Bowser is behind the machine in the Tower of Yikk, smashing the button to make the blocks disappear. The Pump Works can only be explored if Bowser is drinking water from the Sea Pipe Statue. Want to escape to the Mushroom Kingdom? That’s the only way this can be of any interest since Mario and Luigi can then go around, find pipes, and end up with multiple portals to and from Bowser’s body. Said body is a bore except when plot-relevant things happen, and of course, Mario and Luigi are in Bowser’s body to do the work when actual plot events happen.

Again: Thanks to this boss for immediately stating
the strategy required to beat it. Goddammit, it's like
they don't want the players to think and try stuff!
Was this made with young kids in mind?
In his ex-Castle, Bowser finds his way to the basement – by pushing a large statue off a balcony, which is made harder by a group of Bowser’s mooks pushing the statue the other way (And of course the mini-game in Bowser’s leg is harder this time around). Bowser then explores the basement and finds his treasure room, traversed by train tracks. The train shows up and its passengers mock Bowser… then the train continues on its rails, with Bowser trying to stop it, so Bowser gets pushed by it into a rock. We stimulate Bowser’s ass again (Goddammit!), and we get the third Giant Bowser battle. This train is too small to be punched, so you’ll need to use the fire breath, which is done by blowing in the DS’s microphone. As if that wasn’t tricky enough, you have a timer for this battle, you need to defeat the train before it reaches a bridge – or else Giant Bowser will fall and lose. Once the train is defeated, Bowser returns to his castle, and readies to open the safe in which he put the Star Cure… but he doesn’t remember the combination.

September 23, 2016

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (Part 3)

Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

At the end of Part 2, we had Bowser fattened up by his own minions hypnotized by Fawful, then stuck in the floor. And now Mario and Luigi need to go into Bowser’s Flab Zone to save him. Time to go into Lipids Land!

There is something oddly pathetic and adorable all at once
in Bowser being stuck in the floor of his castle.

Apparently Bowser has a queen of his own fat inside
him, and that queen owns badges. I've stopped looking
for sense in that franchise.
Flab Zone is where Mario and Luigi finally find Princess Peach. Only problem, she gets attacked by a weird monster made of bubbles. Even in Bowser’s body, she finds a way to get kidnapped! It’s like she has the Easily Kidnapped Syndrome. Can’t ever escape it. Can somebody stamp her Frequent Capture Card? Thus, the brothers continue their journey and, on the way, learn about Badge Pieces. The Mario brothers will later be able to collect more badges to use in-battle, but for now all the badges can do is heal some of the brothers’ HP. There are two pieces: Luigi’s piece indicates the badge’s ability, and Mario’s piece indicates how well the brothers must perform in every attack for the gauge to fill. Hm? A gauge? Yeah, you can only use the Badge Ability when the gauge is full, and it’s filled up when the brothers do Well, Great or Excellent attacks on the enemies. The higher the request for the gauge to fill up, the higher the reward. Badges can be changed in the Start menu. Yup, another gameplay element that required a tutorial, because of course it did. At least I didn’t mention the Lipid Queen that gave them that thing… Oops, now I did.

Further away in the Flab Zone, Mario and Luigi encounter zones with tornadoes. This reminds them of their Superstar Saga adventure, where Mario could jump on Luigi’s head and the two would play Helicopter across a room, often getting a boost from a miniature tornado. Yup, we get another tutorial! And, of course, we can’t skip this part, so we have to learn (or re-learn, if it’s your second or third or fourth of fifth time playing) how to Helicopter.

I would show the top screen more often, but right now
it's either an empty space or Bowser still being stuck
in his own floor.
We can now use this newfound ability to reach further places, and as it turns out, this ability is needed to find our way to the end of the Flab Zone. There, we save Princess Peach from the bubbles, by using the Helicopter move to blow them away. However, the bubbles are back with a vengeance. They become a creature known as Alpha Kretin, formed by six bubbles linked together. The fight is split in two parts; Alpha Kretin, where the bubbles take a red or green color and each bubble can only be harmed by the hero of its color (how convenient that so many opponents like the colors red and green in the Mario & Luigi series!). When all six bubbles are turned blue, the beast dissolves into a single Kretin that summons five weaker clones, known as Beta Kretin, and the Bros. must focus their attacks on the main one. This lasts for a few turns, then Alpha Kretin reforms. Really awesome boss, one of my favorites in the game.

Headcanon, it's a rogue Ztar that transcended the
Mario Party series and became a deity-like
being of evil.
...........................Hm, nah, scratch that.
After this battle, Mario and Luigi try to find a way out of the Flab Zone for the Princess, but Fawful puts his next plan in motion; he needs Peach, so he uses a ray to pull her out of Bowser. Magically, I hope, because physically, I don’t want to imagine where the Princess would pass. Waiter, a dose of brain bleach, please! Realizing this, Peach explains that Fawful is after the Dark Star, an artefact of evil hidden deep beneath the Mushroom Kingdom.

Ah, there we go! Give me a second to cross off that point on my list… “Obligatory endgame trinket that the bad guy is looking for, the whole reason there’s a plot to begin with, something of immense power”. Check! I knew this was goddamn coming. It’s in every single goddamn Mario RPG. Cue some bullshit mythology that has never been seen before in the Mario series and will never be seen again, and then we find out that Peach is the only one able to break the seal keeping the Dark Star hidden under Toad Town. Mario and Luigi keep looking for a way out, Peach follows them… and is subsequently taken out of Bowser’s body by Fawful. Nice, even in the most improbable place where Peach may be, somehow somebody’s gonna kidnap her. Chronic Kidnappee Syndrome, that’s what her problem is. Stamp her card again. That makes seven, I think she gets a free coffee now.

Much help you turn out to be, Midbus.
Art by BrokenTeapot on DeviantArt.

The Mario & Luigi series rarely misses an
occasion to delve into good ol' cartoony slapstick.
Kaboom in 3... 2... 1...
After which Fawful and Midbus, with the Princess in their clutches, shove Bowser on a conveyor belt and flee, while Bowser is forced to run like crazy to evacuate his extra weight. And somehow, he catches on fire and loses all of said extra weight. Then, while he’s on fire, he lights up a Bob-Omb that lights up more Bob-Ombs and he gets blown out of his castle into an abandoned underground mine that doubles as a railroad construction site… You know what, I’ve learned long ago to stop questioning what the Hell is going on in some Mario games, and while I rarely put that lesson to use, I believe here I don’t have another choice; I can’t question what happened, it’s too stupid.

Venturing into the tunnel, Bowser finds Monty Moles trying to dig with a machine. Bowser accepts to help them after hearing the tunnel would have been used to connect Peach and Bowser’s castles, making it easier to kidnap her (Ha! As if it wasn‘t already easy enough! By this point, it can’t actually get any easier!). Bowser uses his legs to give the machine a boost, opening up that region inside him to the Mario brothers, and the two give Bowser enough power to push the machine for 90 seconds, tearing a very long underground path that goes all the way from the cave to the tunnels under Toad Town. Yay? There, Bowser explores around, and when he walks into the room that keeps the Dark Star sealed, he gets zapped and faints. Well, that was anticlimactic.

Mario and Luigi could normally run around while
wearing blue shells in New Super Mario Bros., but
let's conveniently ignore that for this game's puzzles.
This causes something else to open up in him: The Pipe Yard, which is where all the pipes Bowser inhaled are kept. They can still take the Bros. to where they originally led, too. You know what that means: We can go back in the Mushroom Kingdom! Hurray! Let’s not even question the physics behind this, let’s just get out of Bowser’s body. On their first venture outside, Mario and Luigi find a big shell block and hit it, spreading shell blocks all over the Kingdom. Paratroopas show up and get angry that we broke the block, but then they decide to teach the brothers how to use the shells to access new areas. TUTORIAL! This is based on the blue shell from New Super Mario Bros. A pretty fun thing to add to an RPG, to be honest. Mario dons the shell, then Luigi whacks Mario with the hammer. Something to break blocks and activate levers and stuff. Cool. After the tutorial, we get a whole new special move, too. Yay! With this newfound ability, Mario and Luigi get through Toad Town Caves.

Unfortunately, Fawful is already ahead, and gets his little toady green hands on the Dark Star before flying off. The Toad there explains that Fawful wants to take over Peach’s Castle. We have no choice, Mario and Luigi have to leave the caves and find their way to Toad Town. We would like to visit the town, too, but all the paths are blocked – railroading, my old enemy, you strike again! Not like going to Peach’s Castle helps in any way, since Fawful quickly summons large Dark Star blockades. Thankfully, then Toad Town opens. See? This game blocks all the paths before plot-relevant scenes happen. It’s an extremely annoying trend. Heading into the town, we see bloated Toads… Oh right, the Blorbs, we were forgetting about that.

We can visit Toad Town a bit. Many stores are reserved to better heroes… even though Mario and Luigi are the only heroes around. See, all three characters have ranks. Mario and Luigi have Mushroom, Shell, Fire Flower, Shine and Star Rank, with a bonus Rainbow Rank earned at Level 40. Bowser also has ranks: Bronze Boss, Silver Boss, Gold Boss, and the last one, Final Boss, is also gained at Level 40. Each rank gives perks, but it mostly allows Mario and Luigi to shop at fancier, richer shops. Basically another way to slow down your progression by not letting the Bros. get into the shops with the best equipment, which require either the Shine or the Star rank to enter. The first three ranks unlock an equipment slot for the brothers or Bowser, though, so you can equip up to three items at once.

Ah, Dr. Toadley, such a medical show drama king.
Then again, most medical drama series have the
sense toi not feature fertune teller doctors.
The brothers go in the hospital and fake being sick to be brought to Doctor Toadley. That Doctor seems more like a fortune teller than a respected doctorate holder. Then again, the Mushroom Kingdom is a land of quirks. Bowser then shows up, awoken from his shock-induced slumber. A battle ensues, and it’s a VERY hard one. Bowser has his own stats, not the stats he currently has when you’re playing as him, though he has attacks that can be pretty hard to avoid. Once he’s defeated, he faints, and then the brothers learn from Toadley how to save the Kingdom from the Blorbs: Star Cures. Those are three legendary items that, when put together, will allow the brothers to cure the Blorbs affecting so many Toads, and as a bonus, these things are powerful enough to break the barriers now blocking the way to Peach’s Castle. Phew! “Plot trinket in many pieces to collect during the second half of the adventure”? Check. This game follows all the clichés of the Mario RPGs despite trying to be different. The Star Cures are owned by three Sages hidden across the Kingdom. Bowser gets up and leaves, having eavesdropped on the discussion, to look for the Cures, but Toadley has more to reveal afterwards. We get to see the first Sage… and it looks like that Birdo worm we fought in Bowser’s body, which means… we need to go stick ourselves into Bowser again. We find a pipe that brings us into the turtle-dragon.

Ah, pollen allergies, my old enemy.
Back in Bowser, Mario and Luigi chase the worm but soon meet impassable Boo-like barriers. We go back to Bowser, who explores around and finds more of his minions to save. But how to get to them? There are giant rocks blocking the way! Bowser soon find a ship and tries to send it there, but he’s allergic to the flowers. Turns out, the Mario brothers inside him have to make him sneeze, and the resulting gust will be powerful enough to propel the ship. Guess what? TUTORIAL! Another mini-game where the brothers must send pollen in the sides of Bowser’s nose, then punch at those parts to make him sneeze.

Christ, I’m so tired of tutorials. And many of them cannot be skipped, either, so you have to slog through each of them, just wishing Starlow (or the current tutor) would just shut up already so you could move on! Oh, and of course, this mini-game is annoying as shit. Helicopter Mario and Luigi are controlled by the stylus, when they would be a LOT simpler to control with the directional pad. And of course, you have to do it THRICE. The third time, it allows Bowser to save a submerged tower by blowing enough air on its propeller to raise it.

Only problem, that tower ends up attacking Bowser, so we need to trigger Giant Bowser once more. You know what that means: We have to go play in Bowser’s ass once more. Christ, there was no way to not make this sound dirty. Yep, mini-game time again. Urgh. The Giant Bowser battle (mostly) makes up for it, thankfully. Yes, giant Bowser is awesome. I will never deny that. However, as cool as they may be, they sacrifice much of the RPG strategy, leaving only punches and fire breath to be used. When defeated, the opponent, known as the Tower of Yikk, lands nearby while Bowser shrinks back to his normal size.

Don't you love it when a game spoils a boss's strategy for you?

Meanwhile, Bowser wished he had a sudoku book
to pass the time.
Bowser visits the tower and meets a hologram inside a book of Yikk, the founder of this tower, who explains that he owns a machine that can make ghosts, such as the Boo, visible and invisible. A Boo-Ray machine, if you will. Yikk, if this thing doesn’t play films, I’m not interested. Activating the machine causes a ray to go through Bowser’s body, causing some Boo blocks to disappear and others to appear. The brothers find the worm, but it hides in a space which then closes off, and can only be opened with the pieces of a star, which they must now recover. The next part thus involves a lot of puzzle elements as Mario and Luigi make their way around five sections of Bowser’s Energy Hold, to find the star pieces, with Bowser occasionally slamming the button on the machine. So while the brothers do this long task, does Bowser just wait there, spinning his thumbs? That’s out-of-character for a beast like him…

While on this adventure, Mario and Luigi learn how to drill the ground; TUTORIAL! Luigi jumps on Mario, then the two jump into the ground while spinning. This also existed in Superstar Saga and was used to uproot Beans; here, the Beans make a comeback, but they’re only a little side-quest, mostly when the Bros. are visiting the Mushroom Kingdom. Hopefully this is the last tutorial we get in a while. Soon the star is assembled, a quest which can take anywhere from a half-hour – if you’re quick – to two hours (because it’s a freaking maze in there). Mario and Luigi use the star to open the door towards the boss.

Mario and Luigi have completed this part, but the dungeon is far from over! The next part sees them use everything they’ve learned so far, and they find their way to the end… They encounter the worm and after failing to catch it again, the brothers find out that the worm talks, and it tells them that it is, indeed, a Sage, but that it won’t give them the cure unless they can beat it in a battle. See, it wants toi know if they're strong enough, since the worm has no idea who they are. Because yes, that makes sense; a freaking SAGE of the MUSHROOM KINGDOM has never heard of the freaking MARIO BROTHERS who have saved it maybe a HUNDRED TIMES!

That's really pushing it... A sage, too...
Though, at least there's a nice gimmick to this boss.

So, here’s a boss battle with the creature, grown larger and able to use magic; and when the battle is over, the creature, known as Wisdurm, evolves into a pretty butterfly – her true form – after which she gives the brothers the first Star Cure. Following this, the Mario brothers find a room where they toy around in Bowser’s body again, giving him the ability to ground pound while in his shell. Oh great, another tutorial coming. Anyway, thanks to this, Bowser can now press giant pink switches around the Mushroom Kingdom, opening new paths! Bowser leaves the Tower of Yikk, and encounters a Goomba general (one of the three mooks he helped earlier on). After Bowser explains about the Star Cures, the Goomba says that he believes there’s one in the basement of Bowser’s Castle. Alright then, let’s go!

Well, I think this has been long enough, how about we continue this in Part 4?

September 19, 2016

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (Part 2)

Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

Part 1 felt like one long tutorial, with some bits of story thrown in; most bosses had one purpose, teach Bowser or the Mario brothers some tricks in-battle. And then, so many elements of the Mushroom Kingdom, and even elements inside Bowser’s body, that were there to only provide more tutorials… I swear, we had more freedom in Superstar Saga. At least, the teachings were spaced out, the new powers were unlocked as the adventure went. Here, there are so many things that the player must be taught that it feels like an endless stream of teachers.

"Si, si! I dink ze dog houzz I order was two smoll for
Broggy. Pardonnez-moi, I must ask you for your coins."
Well, past the screen of the beach where we fought the Sea Pipe Statue, Bowser encounters Broque Monsieur again; he lost his dog Broggy, which is also a block-like creature, except with ears, an angry face, and a spike collar (Broggy-tested, Bowser-approved). Broggy then attacks Bowser and we get – God damn it! – another tutorial, this time on how the turtle-dragon can use Y to hide in his own shell to deflect attacks coming from upwards. We also learn how to use the fire breath, in order to fight off enemies who might be impervious to punches. This is a short boss battle, and when Broggy is defeated, we can move on to the next part of the Mushroom Kingdom: Dimble Wood. After solving a quick puzzle, we find, guess who? Broque Monsieur again! He has set up shop in the forest and will happily sell you chicken (Bowser uses those instead of Mushrooms to restore his health – I approve! Chicken’s good!), while Broggy has an armor shop. Yup, the block dog has a shop too. This is the Mario & Luigi series, don’t question it. Before we can leave, Broque Monsieur gives Bowser another quest: Catch 15 blocky kittens in the Mushroom Kingdom. These things, called Blitties, are trapped inside the large enemies that Bowser battles during his adventure, and the way to catch one is to inhale it when it’s freed from its living prison. If given all these Blitties, Broque Monsieur will let Bowser use Broggy as a special move!

Using Goombas to kill
a Goomba. How cruel.
After this, Bowser ventures deeper into Dimble Wood. Talking about special moves, we now discover what Bowser’s special moves are; he frees a bunch of Goombas who have been imprisoned by Fawful, and when he gets attacked by evil trees, he uses the Goombas to attack. Bowser’s special moves are touch screen mini-games; they all require the stylus and great precision. With Bowser’s first special move, Goomba Storm, a wave of 20 Goombas run up on the screen; you tap them so that Bowser can set them on fire. The missed Goombas will run head-first into the enemy, while the flaming Goombas are tossed upwards and fall down on the opponent like fiery rain. That’s pretty badass.

Stimulate those muscles!
Gee, just how many roots
are keeping that carrot so
firmly into the ground?
Further away, Bowser meets three of his Generals who escaped Fawful’s takeover of Bowser Castle. They brought a giant cannon with them, and they decide to aim it at the Castle – as if that won’t do even more damage! – but there is one problem… They forgot to bring a Banzai Bill. Bowser is a relatively decent leader despite his generally irritable attitude, but he only chooses to go look for a giant bullet after Starlow convinces him to. On this quest, Bowser soon discovers a garden held by a family of Wigglers. Venturing into the garden, we find a giant carrot. Thinking it would make a good projectile, Bowser uproots it – and once again the Mario brothers need to stimulate his muscles to give him the necessary strength to pull this off and pull it out. However, Bowser’s troubles aren’t over as he meets the Wiggler-in-chief of the place, who’s angry his great-great-multiple-great-wiggling-Grandpa’s carrot was pulled out. Wow, if this carrot has been growing for generations, does that mean you’ve never ever had a drought or a winter around these parts?

Guess playing Tetris with Tetrads made of carrots
will be another day.
The Wiggler states it has a Banzai Bill around, but first it orders Bowser to eat the whole carrot. Why? Because if it’s uprooted, it has to be eaten. Old Wiggler family rule. Um… Can I clean all the ground off first? Do you at least have some ranch dip to go with that thing? No? Well, screw you. Yes, that’s what I would say, but the game chooses otherwise. As Bowser grabs a small bite, his stomach (called Gut Check) activates, and the brothers go there. We enter a mini-game where we must destroy Bowser’s bites of the carrots to help him digest it faster, and use enzymes to make the many bites quickly disappear – as long as you can remember which bite had an enzyme. Christ, another mini-game with multiple rules. With a tutorial longer than the actual playtime!

So, in the next minute, we complete the mini-game (which is unskippable, because of story bullcrap, and you’re pretty much stuck until you complete it), and the Bowser asks for the Banzai Bill. At first, the Wiggler claims he doesn’t know what Bowser is talking about. Then, it gets angry at the turtle-dragon for “contaminating” the garden, then pulling out the carrot and eating it. Granted, pulling it out wasn’t smart… But YOU were the one to make me eat it, you little asshole! Now, with all due respect, jackass Wiggler, I cordially invite you to fuck off. But of course, because this is a Wiggler and we can’t have a Mario & Luigi game without a boss battle against a Wiggler, we end up fighting that stupid caterpillar gone red with anger.

God damn it, why is there always something like this in the Mario games to piss me off?

Wigglers are, without a doubt, some of the most badass
insects of the Mushroom Kingdom. So many of them are

Wigglers may be badass, but there are other bugs in the
Kingdom who are even MORE badass.
This Wiggler, like many bosses in the series, combines puzzle elements to its fight, as Bowser needs to turn back to yellow all of its segments, except the head, if he wants to be able to deal any damage to it. Once defeated, the Wiggler leaves, but hands Bowser the Banzai Bill first… which, for some reason was in the same hole Bowser pulled the carrot from. I… I… *sigh* I won’t even bother asking any questions. While he leaves the garden, Bowser suddenly feels a lot of pain in his stomach, so we head into the Nerve Cluster to see what’s wrong. Mario and Luigi enter this bony place and soon encounter a large worm-like creature… with a Birdo face, because why not. That thing reveals itself stronger than Bowser’s anti-bodies, and keeps jumping to cause more pain to the Koopa! Gotta kill that thing, it seems. It’s a pretty tough battle, because this thing, known as Durmite, can suck the ground to regain energy, use a stream of white web to trap and chew on either brother, and summon Bowser’s anti-bodies to help it in battle.

When Durmite is beaten, it becomes a teensy-weensy worm and flees. Chasing after it, the brothers wind up attacked by Bowser’s anti-bodies (known as Biffidus) and end up lower inside the Nerve Cluster. Yeah, those are not the only nerves that are being played with around here… Mario and Luigi also find in there Doctor Toadbert, and Luigi activates something that opens a way out of the Nerve Cluster for them and gives Bowser a boost in power – now when he punches while moving, he can give a powered punch that can destroy even stronger stones! Thank God this wasn’t a three-minute tutorial!

With this newfound ability, we make our way back to the clearing, where we stuff the Banzai Bill into the cannon and fire it up towards Bowser’s Castle. I can’t help but have this nagging impression that something’s gonna go wrong… I mean, it’s not like the Castle can avoid that bullet, right?

…Holy shit inside the castle Midbus ordered Goombas around and they activated stuff and the Castle rose up like a rocket and the Banzai Bill completely missed it dammit I knew we should have used a Missile Bill those never miss but at the time of that game I think Missile Banzai Bills didn’t exist yet and now the Castle is flying towards the forest and now it’s over Bowser and his three Generals and SPLAT

No, of course it’s not really the end. Come on, this is Bowser we’re talking about, the guy who routinely comes back from crushing defeats at the hands of Mario and possibly Luigi, the guy who came back from more lava pits than one can count, the guy who got crushed by his own castle multiple times already. The guy who would not even stay dead after being thrown into the SUN. Only comic book supervillains have that luck. And, ostensibly, Ganondorf, but whatever.

Gotta give it to Fawful though, he’s an incredibly good villain. Ranks right up there on the Pantheon of the smartest Nintendo villains. The origins of his takeover don’t entirely make sense, but afterwards, he is always many steps ahead of Bowser. Upgrading the castle, using it to fight, brainwashing most of Bowser’s army, taking Mario and Luigi (mostly) out of the picture… and of course, he got himself a lackey with physical power that rivals that of the turtle-dragon himself. Cackletta was nothing compared to this. We still got to learn whether he’s after something greater, because it's a common trait of Mario RPG villains to be seeking an ultimate source of magical power, but till then, wow, I’m impressed. The only reason Fawful can’t go “Checkmate” is that Mario and Luigi are manipulating Bowser’s insides in ways that the spiral glasses savant couldn’t ever predict and tossing a spiked shell spanner into his plans. Definitely a better villain than Dimentio if you ask me.

By the way, how do we get out of this situation? Mario and Luigi head into the zone that opened, the Rump Command. You heard that right: The plumbers will save their enemy’s ass… by doing stuff in Bowser’s ass. Christ, the double entendres will become inevitable. In Canadian French, it’s even worse, the zone is called “Cul-de-sac”. It normally means “Dead end”, but it also literally contains the word for “ass”. Not butt, not bottom, not rump, not bum or booty, not any of the family-friendly terms… No, no, the word “ass”. They got away with using a dirtier word on an all-ages product. Still, you gotta wonder how much it must hurt to pull out such a huge deus ex machina out of Bowser’s, well.... bum. Alright, let’s get to the bottom of this and have some butt action! ….Goddammit! I’m not doing this on purpose, I swear!

And of course, every opponent Bowser faces in this mode
will be a building or a vehicle. Never another giant
living creature. Missed opportunity there, Nintendo.
In Bowser’s rump, Mario and Luigi have to ride an adrenaline river on boats and shoot at the red, green and blue adrenaline bubbles to stimulate Bowser and give him the power to survive being crushed by his own castle. We get informed of this by, what else? Another tutorial. Oh, this mini-game gives power to Bowser alright. If your definition of gaining power is to grow giant, then Bowser’s definitely got power now. He’s as big as his own castle! This is one of the main draws of this game: The Giant Bowser battles. Part-action, part-RPG, with the DS held at 90 degrees. All the action is done by tapping/rubbing the screen or blowing in the microphone. It’s very innovative. I’ve been raging at tutorials, but for this one, you actually need it. Anyway, Bowser gets to beat up his own castle, and fends off its troops. At the end of the fight, the Castle flees, and goes back to its original position. Poor Bowser, he almost demolished it, and his guarantee just ran out! Once the castle is gone, Bowser returns to his normal form.

The battle opened up a path, which Bowser can now use to go towards his castle. He hurries through a field, then reaches his domain. Of course, to make sure Bowser can’t come into the castle, Midbus orders the mooks around to make the castle take flight again; thus, Bowser has to explore the area to find a way to shoot the castle down. In this area, there are dozens of Chain Chomps possessed by Fawful-looking worms. Fawful really did hypnotize all of Bowser’s army! Worse even, there are Fawful patrollers flying over them, and in a battle they’ll call more Chain Chomps, so you HAVE to inhale those patrollers and have Mario and Luigi beat them, if you want the battle to end.

Basically, we're turning Bowser into the Hulk,
and future fights against him be damned!
...If he gets too powerful, we're so screwed.
Despite Bowser’s exploration, he can’t find anything to shoot down the castle. That’s when Midbus decides to gloat and pull out a giant cannon from Bowser’s Castle, to shoot at the turtle-dragon and kill him. However, thanks to Mario and Luigi meddling with Bowser’s arm strength inside him (that mini-game, again? It’s starting to be annoying), Bowser grabs the giant bullet and tosses it back to the Castle, taking it down. Talk about a villain's tactical suicide. On our first steps into the castle, the turtle-dragon is welcomed by four Goombas who present to him… the Fawful Theater! Because Fawful’s quirk is to have a theater or something while he’s doing evil stuff. Eh, I’m not against villains with theatrics. After all, what separates a good villain from a bad one? PRESENTATION! Although, that’s not the kind of theatrics I was thinking of… I guess everybody needs a pastime. After chatting with some of the minions – who have all been brainwashed – Bowser sees the doors to the Theater open. He goes in but sees there is no empty seat. No worry! The Goombas will make a throne appear in the room! See, Bowser is a VIP here. You can tell something fishy is about to happen…

The show starts, and Fawful presents his guest for tonight’s show: Bowser himself! The King gets thrown onto the stage, then Midbus shows up, then a cage falls on the two of them – preventing an escape. This is it, Bowser versus Midbus.  The boss battle we had been waiting for! It’s a hard one, as Midbus has some very strong attacks, all of which can be pretty hard to avoid if you don’t know the tricks. Thankfully, once you’ve learned the patterns, he’s fairly simple.

Never trust a Boo. Even if they're on your side.
When Bowser has won, Fawful shows up to command a standing ovation from the minions watching the show, but Bowser tries to get into a fight with him. Fawful, having planned that, claims that the prize for the turtle-dragon's victory is none other than a buffet! So Bowser is redirected to the dining room, where numerous gigantic plates full of food await him. Thus, Bowser starts eating, and eating, and eating… When he’s full, he tries to stop, but the Boos guarding the entrance start force-feeding him. More food, more food, more food. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so fucked up! They completely fatten up the Koopa King, with an endless stream of food… The Boos only stop after Bowser has become such a gigantic slob that he can barely walk.

Phew! It’s just that. For a moment, I was afraid we’d get a rerun of the Yoshi’s Island TV ad.

Seriously, who the fuck thought it was a good idea to show this in an ad for kids?

Bowser has become too heavy for the floor he’s on, so he falls through and winds up stuck in it. He contacts Starlow to help him…

I think that’s where I’m gonna stop for today. How about we continue this next Friday? Sounds good?

September 16, 2016

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (Part 1)

Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

I didn’t know which Nintendo DS game to go to, so once again I asked the Google+ Community. The game that was chosen above any other? A Mario & Luigi game. I realize I have only reviewed one Mario RPG so far, and it’s Super Paper Mario. On the side, I still have three Mario RPGs in my collection: the first Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars on the Virtual Console, and this one, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story.

The Mario and Luigi series is an unconventional type of RPG, in that you control the brothers in-battle, making it possible to inflict more damage or to avoid enemy attacks thanks to action commands. It’s technically possible to beat the game without ever taking any damage. Of course, it requires some good timing, and some attacks are easier to avoid than others. The attacks that cannot be avoided can be knocked back with the Mario brothers’ hammers. It’s a great idea, and when it first came out, such a concept was pretty much unheard of. This series started with Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, which brought the plumbers in the neighboring Beanbean Kingdom, and pit them against evil sorceress Cackletta. From that point on, each new Mario & Luigi game would have a new gimmick: In Partners in Time, Mario and Luigi team up with their baby selves to defeat an evil greater than anything else they’ve ever encountered. The fourth game in the series, Dream Team, focuses on Luigi and has the brothers facing the nightmarish sorcerer Antasma both in their world and in the dream world. Last but not least, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam has the brothers release Paper Mario from his book world, along with all of the creatures from it including, lo and behold, Paper Bowser, who proceeds to team up with the real Bowser to conquer both worlds.

Bowser’s Inside Story is, however, the third game in the series, and features three protagonists: Mario, Luigi… and as you may have guessed, Bowser himself. More so than the Brothers themselves, this is Bowser’s story, and he is the one to do most of the heroics in the outside world. I’ll get to that soon enough. Now sit down, because I will be telling you this story: The weirdest spin on the Fantastic Voyage that has ever been put to screen.

It was a nice day in the Toad village…. UNTIL EVIL CAME! Oh, wait, no, not evil. More like a disease that inflates Toads into giant spheres, like balloons, with no cure that we know of yet. This new disease, the Blorbs, starts affecting more and more Toads, who become incapable of living normally. And I’m pretty sure there’s an inflation fan out there who’s very very happy right now that Nintendo addressed his fetish. To find a solution, Peach and Toadsworth contact Mario and Luigi, because apparently scientists aren’t trustworthy in the Mushroom Kingdom. The brothers arrive, along with Starlow, a new character to the franchise. Starlow is the Navi of the Mario series; tries to be helpful, but ends up being more of an annoyance. Still, she has more of a personality than Navi, so there’s that… Mario and Luigi finally arrive, with Luigi still in the process of putting on his shoes and overalls. Heh, still better than being dragged by Mario with rope all the way from their house to the Castle, like what happened in Superstar Saga.

September 9, 2016

Steam Pack 1

So, now that I have a Steam account, I can discuss games that are available to the entire Steam community. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy these games. I simply hope these quick reviews either encourage you to try these games for yourself, or convince you to never try them. Once again, fairness is my rule; I have to be honest with the games I’ll be reviewing. This means that if there’s something I don’t like, I’ll point it out, regardless of the game’s current score. Same if there’s something I enjoy. Take my opinion with a grain of salt; it’s just my opinion, and it’s not like I nearly have enough influence to sway large crowds to the way I view these games. If any game deserves a longer review, I will reserve a whole post (or multiple posts) to it.

AdVenture Capitalist

Not much there is to say about this one: It’s an Idle game, so basically you can leave it running in the background while you’re doing something else, and that’s pretty much the only reason this game will rack up more playtime than any other game in your collection.

Novemseptuagintillion? That's... 79illion!
You start on Earth; you are a new hopeful young investor, and you start building your empire with lemonade stands. Then, once you get richer, you get to sell newspapers. Over time, you become the owner of car washes, pizza places, donut shops, shrimp boats, hockey teams, movie studios, banks and oil companies. Every upgrade to each investment gets more expensive, so as time goes on you end up having to pay millions, even billions or trillions to get more money from each investment. After a while, you might start collecting Angel Investors; those appear to you after a while and will join your “team” when you reset. Each angel gives a 2% cash bonus to all investments, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but at 50 Angels, you already double your profits. Not to mention that after a while, you’ll also end up with millions, billions, trillions of angels… while you’ve reached decillions, undecillions, duodecillions in cash… Yeah, all clickers do that. They reach crazy numbers, all the way to the goggle (1 followed by 100 zeros). It went that way with Cookie Clicker, it went that way for Clicker Heroes (except for that one, the characters’ Damage also went crazy high).

This trtip to Mars better be worth it.
It cost me a freaking trillion, after all.
After you’ve collected a few trillions, you can unlock the Moon and Mars. They need 72 hours to open, though. However, once they’re open, you now have access to three Idles in one. The Moon has a slower rhythm in the rise of investments, mostly due to the bizarre way some investments increase in value later on. Meanwhile. Mars appears to start slow but rises very quickly after a moment, so chances are that you’ll finish Mars first, then the Moon, and finally you’ll be left to complete Earth.

There’s a bunch of ways to have the investments rise faster: Buying tickets, each approximately 1000 times more expensive than the previous one. You can convert 10 tickets into a Golden Ticket, which will add a X7 multiplier to one investment. If all of a planet’s investments are boosted that way, you can pay more tickets to boost the whole planet even further. Then, if you’ve got money to waste, you can spend some of your real-life cash to get much-needed boosts through Gold Bars. But of course, that’s only if you really want to… Like a lot of free-to-play idle games where buying with real money is only an option, a time comes where the game doesn’t pick up enough speed unless you do grab some real-life cash.

Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean you have to
stop making money. Many companies make MORE
money around Christmas anyway.
Of course, because three idles in one aren’t already addictive enough, AdVenture Capitalist’s developer, hyperhippo, will often release special events that may allow you to get more free gold bars, more money, and so on.

As addictive as this game may be, you know it’s an idle clicker game, so no matter how long you spend playing this game, there will never be much of an actual payoff. You can hope for one, but the truth is that you will probably never get any. But it goes with the genre, so you should be expecting that. It’s really something that you can only see as a little time-waster, or something to run in the background while you’re doing other stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you prefer actual games, then you should just skip this one.

Current price: Free-to-play. (Pay-to-win?)

Adventurer Manager

For a town with a castle, it's pretty damn empty.
In this retro-styled pen-and-paper tabletop RPG recreation, you are given the task to rise an army of heroes and send them on various quests. Everything has to be taken into consideration: The positions of your characters in battle, their endurance, their class (spellcasters and archers at the back, smashers and fighters at the front!), the perks you obtain by upgrading your castle, the power of the monsters encountered, the equipment, the special moves, the stats… It’s a LOT of stuff to keep in mind. This emulates pretty closely the feeling you’d get from a regular tabletop RPG. However, in this case, you have no limit to the number of adventurers you can have – although you can split them into multiple teams and send them on various missions.

At least there's quite a bit of adventuring to do here.
The 8bit art is pretty good, but sometimes confusing. Since everything is done in the same style, it’s often difficult to know where every character is. Another problem I’ve run into when playing is that the content of the window seems to be bigger than the resolution on my screen, so in the case of a full enemy party, the last enemy is slightly out of the frame.

I should also say that not many things are explained to the player. You can hire as many adventurers as you want, but you have no say on their original stats, and you can only choose whether you want a man, a woman, or if the gender doesn’t matter (I always pick that option, because all the adventurers in this game are nondescript enough. For the record, my highest-level character is a bearded dwarf woman, and she kicks all asses). On top of that, many stats are abbreviated, and you might not always know what each stat is, or what they affect in the game.

That's one overbearing enemy there.
It’s a pretty tough game to get into if you’ve never played tabletop RPGs, and even if you have, sometimes you might not be sure how to get everything to go as it’s supposed to. The game saves automatically, so don’t be afraid to lose progress. A lot of effort was also put in the game when it comes to the 8bit sprites of the characters, as all unlockable characters have sprites that change when you add or remove equipment from them.

All in all, this game isn’t terrible, but I’m afraid I am not accustomed enough to all these factors, and I don’t find a lot of interest in it. Some interfaces could have been polished or ameliorated. The RPG elements are alright, and so is the Management Sim aspect, but the two combined might not be to everyone’s tastes.

Current price: 4.99$ USD

Airscape: The Fall of Gravity

Pits? They are the least of your troubles.
Let's just say we won't run out of laser-roasted squid
on our plates anytime soon.
A little family of squids gets abducted from their calm reef by aliens. Next thing we know, an orange one finds itself able to live outside of water, with a helmet filled with water on its head, and it must navigate dangerous levels filled with booby traps, mines, and hateful robots. Would all be fine and good, if this squid didn’t have only one hit point… but don’t worry, we have endless reserves.

Take the elastic gravity of Mario Galaxy and apply it to a 2D platformer where the screen rotates with the character. Add to this water sections, a lot of parts requiring timing and precision, and you get a devilish little game that will be a joy to play – as long as you don’t get fed up with the difficulty, anyway – and a pleasure to watch. This game looks great. The octopi are well-defined, the opponents look very alien. The soundtrack is pretty cool, too; the current level theme gets drowned out a bit when the character goes underwater, which is a neat idea.

It's all an elaborate death trap. The robots are not
enough? Here's lasers! Not enough? Here's missiles!
Not enough? Suspended mines!
There’s a part of puzzle to this game, as you have to retrieve up to three spheres in every level, some of which are fairly well hidden. There are timers on some of those spheres, so even if you, say, manage to save yourself with a checkpoint, if you don’t get to that sphere in time, you’re better off restarting the level. As a One Hit Point Wonder, you have to avoid every single thing on the way. Some reviews call this game the Dark Souls of platforming, and… I freaking believe them. Holy crap this game is hard. To borrow the catchphrase of the Dark Sould community, you damn better Git Gud. You can easily die upwards of a thousand times here, if you aim to beat the game’s 60+ levels. And of course, you also need to find all the secret levels… Of course, you don’t need to rely on a single squid, you can unlock four more as you progress, and each of them has a special ability; as an example, the purple one can hover.

To reach these floating islands, you have to pass under
the lasers below, avoid a lot of robots... Just wait, later
levels also have fireballs!
You can play this with your gamepad or your keyboard, so that’s nice. Arm yourself with a lot of patience and determination, because you won’t be beating this one anytime soon. Especially if you attempt to get all spheres and find all hidden levels!

It’s a good game, even though I’m pretty sure I will never be able to beat it. It’s a cool idea that is well-executed – all you need is the motivation to carry through after all the lives lost. I would say that the scree always spins to follow the change of gravity of the octopi, and that could be dizzying for the player – or sickening, perhaps. There’s a lot of material to keep a player busy here. Looks great, music’s nice… perhaps a tad too expensive, if you’re not sure you’ll play it long enough to justify the price, maybe you should wait for a reduction.

Current price: 9.99$ USD


It's like a more complex form of the light-redirection
puzzles in some games.
A music game unlike any other! Auditorium is truly a unique experience. In this puzzle game, each level has a stream of unheard music coming out from an area, like a wind of notes. You are given circles with arrows in them, and when these circles touch the stream, whatever notes met that circle will go in the direction of the arrow. You need to bring that stream of notes into containers, which will play the music as it passes into or near them. You can’t change the directions of the arrows, but you can move them around at will and resize the circle around them, affecting the beam of music slightly… or drastically.

Soon enough, we are introduced to colored bubbles and colored containers, and the music must be colored in those bubbles before it passes into the containers of the corresponding colors. Most of the puzzle is, where do I place these, and how big must I make them? Also, what are those new bubbles? As it turns out, after every set of 5 levels we get a new gameplay mechanic, which you must then adapt to. Bubbles that make the music spin around? Sure. Unmovable dots that split the music stream? Eeyup. Bubbles that speed up the music stream to make it reach its destination faster? Indeed. Double-color containers? Yep. Portals? Why the Heck not?

And all this time, a world’s music never ends. The musical tracks add themselves to the mix as you fill the containers. The only way to get the whole orchestration of the tune is to complete a level. There are 15 worlds in this game, and it’s an experience more than anything else.

One of the advantages is that since many puzzles have more than one solution, sometimes you can find a solution that omits one or another of the bubbles, and yet the end result still works. Unfortunately, for many of these puzzles, you will need to do some mind gymnastics to figure out where the flow is going to pass. Let’s see, the flow orbits around in this bubble, will get into that colored circle, then hit that container, only to go into a portal and hitting the other side, another color bubble, to a container, then it’s back in the portal, then that thing will speed it up, and then this one will send it back and I just went cross-eyed.

By world 7, this is what the playing field looks like.
The puzzles are incredibly well thought-out and complex, forcing you to think outside the box frequently. The downside is that sometimes you need excellent precision when placing the bubbles. Every pixel seems to count in some puzzles. The visuals are wonderful, so much color speeding left and right and around the screen. And the resulting music is simply fantastic. You earn that amazing orchestral track.

The game contains over 60 levels, so if you feel like trying something unique, go ahead and play this game. It doesn’t have any additional modes, and if you’re really smart you can beat it in 3, maybe 4 hours. It’s a neat game to play between the bigger, more famous titles.

Current Price: 6.99$ USD

Alright, so these were four games I wanted to talk about but couldn’t dedicate an entire post for. I’ll be making more Steam Pack articles later on. Next week, I will finally release that long review of Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. Be sure to tune in!