Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Review

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Nintendo and Sega coming together to celebrate the Olympics during the heights of the Nintendo Wii and DS crazes yielded the very successful launch of an arcade sports franchise. It’s one of the most successful Nintendo exclusive franchises that I ignored until now. 

I’m a fan of Mario. I like the idea of Sonic. But I’m ambivalent to the Olympic Games. So it will take a bit more to convince me to check out one of these games. What sold me on Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was the title itself. The Summer Games were headed to Tokyo next year and having just spent a wonderful time there in 2018, I thought it would be fun to revisit it virtually. I also figured it would be another fun party title.

I didn’t play any more events with the fiancée since the preview but I sank a good half hour into the Football event. It’s been a long time since I played Mario Strikers so I feasted on this little tease of a high definition Mario football. There was just enough depth to draw me in and keep me wanting.

The Story Mode and Quick Play modes gave a brief introduction to each event. Most events were easy enough to pick up and play while others offered “Advanced” techniques to liven things up a bit. Table Tennis offered different shot choices. Football had through passes and chip shots. Then there were Dream Events which took events like skateboarding and karate and turned them into competitive multiplayer events. Skateboarding Dream Event was essentially transformed into a Mario Kart-lite with usuable items and rings to collect.

I enjoyed the idea of the Story Mode. I liked the idea of Tokyo 1964 Olympics being represented in a 8-bit and 16-bit 2D style while 3D renditions were used to depict the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Interspersed between the two eras were trivia facts of the two Olympic Games, Tokyo, and tidbits about Nintendo and Sega’s iconic characters. I haven’t kept up with Sonic’s growing cast of characters — I didn’t even know Dr. Eggman Nega existed — so this was a solid primer. I learned lots which was not something I predicted going in.

I expected the story to serve as a framework to facilitate Olympic events and it succeeded in that regard. What I didn’t expect was how dialog heavy those story moments were. The pace wasn’t as plodding as Puyo Puyo Tetris’ but the down time between events were often longer than the events themselves.

I never owned an NES before but I felt the 2D events were appropriate for that era of console hardware. Pattern recognition and quick reflexes served as the requisite skillsets for both the 2D and 3D events with the 3D events requiring analog fine tuning for some mini-games. However, since all games can be played with a single Joy-con, controller complexity was kept at a minimum.

Having visited Tokyo late last year and loving it. I found the interactive map and sightseeing filled me with nostalgia. Like the Olympic events themselves, I found Sega captured the spirit and essence of each location and attraction well. I was hoping check out the highest point of the Tokyo Skytree’s observatory but alas they only rendered the grounds surrounding it.

Rounding out the offerings is a multiplayer mode that I found difficult to find matches for prior to release. Splitting 24 events into their own separate multiplayer hoppers on top of having ranked and unranked of those modes cannot possibly be conducive to finding opponents. When I finally found a match (it was the Football event), it was a sluggish experience with unresponsive controls. Needless to say, but this game may be best experienced locally.

Technical issues cropped up during the skateboarding Dream Event as well but every other event performed as I hoped; silky smooth.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is a celebration of the Summer Olympics 2020 through the lenses of Tokyo, Sega, and Nintendo. It’s a collection of mini games that have will entertain not unlike a Mario Party title. I came away with it pleasantly surprised by the breadth on offer. The Olympic events themselves were well realized while other included mini-games like the Dream Events and Game Room games were iffy. I would love to see the Table Tennis, Rugby Sevens, and Football events flesh out more with more play options like tournaments but I know that’s a big ask. However, I figured asking for Sega to flex more of its arcade styled chops is never a bad thing.

Ratings Guide

Verdict:
I liked it

Untitled Goose Game Switch Review

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House House’s Untitled Goose Game’s greatest feat was how they disguised a stealth game full of environmental puzzles into unsuspecting Switch owners. It looks like a goose mayhem simulator but make no mistake, Untitled Goose Game is a stealth game. It’s just very forgiving and full of charm.

Many questions surround the white goose’s desire to collect things but there is no question that the goose is a nuisance. Bless the citizens of this village for not shooting their harasser. They are content with shooing the goose away or ignoring it. As a result, there are no frustrating deaths or the need to save scum; just try again.

Like most stealth games, there are tried and true ways to approach each puzzle. Most involve creating distractions. Sam Fisher can throw bottles and cans. Solid Snake can knock on walls. The goose honks.

Untitled Goose Game is an open village game gated by objectives. Finish enough of the objectives and the village folk will trigger an event that unlocks the next area. Most objectives were open ended with multiple solutions. One of the earliest objectives was to get the gardener wet. The most obvious solution at the time was to lure the unsuspecting gardener to the sprinkler and then turn it on. Later on, I discovered I could grab one of this valuable belongings and have him chase the goose into the canal.

It’s very tough to account for the imaginations of players but I generally found House House to have done accounted for a majority of my whims. There was one instance that I thought should have worked but upon further reflection, I doubt a closing garage door can actually snap a broom stick in half.

House House’s Untitled Goose Game was short, sweet, and left me with the desire to revisit it one day. A new game plus opened up after the end credits with a revelation that this goose is an ongoing nuisance. New objectives with new ways to harass the citizens of this village opened up but I had my fill for now. Not overstaying your welcome and leaving me wanting more is not easy to pull off but then again, a stealth game starring a goose is no easy feat either.

Verdict:
I loved it

Ratings Guide

Into the Breach [Switch] Review

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I never mentioned Subset Games’ FTL before but it’s one of those games that I visit and revisit every so often. I bought it first on PC but I felt it was a better fit on a portable device like the iPad. Fortunately, I didn’t need to double dip with their second game, Into the Breach. It’s available for PC and the Nintendo Switch but I didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger for the portable option when it went on sale. 

Into the Breach may resemble a strategy game like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics but it’s very much a puzzle game with rogue-like mechanics. It’s intriguing, unexpected, and a natural fit for the studio who brought us FTL.  

A squad of high powered mechs punching giant bugs sounds gratifying but that’s superficial compared to the gratification of a well-executed setup. Pushing an enemy into the path of another enemy and watching it get annihilated by its own ally’s attack makes me feel like I just pulled a fast one over the bugs.  

It’s not readily apparent at first but thanks to limited reset options, increased familiarity with the game, and a lot of trial and error, opportunities for those kinds of setups began to surface. Different squads (unlocked with an in-game currency) offered different playstyles and ways to subdue the giant bugs threatening innocent lives. My favorite included a jet that smothered enemies with a cloud of smoke that prevents them from attacking. I eventually won with this killer squad in large part to this one unit. 

In my quest for that first win, I strategized and optimized my way through all the islands. I found early islands more tricky than the latter and eventually found a path towards victory. Sometimes, a few hundred innocent lives need to be sacrificed in order for me to get that upgrade point. The fate of humanity’s future was in the balance. 

But once I attained that victory, the desire to push forward and unlock new squads for new challenges drained away from me. I was elated by the victory, I enjoyed pushing giant grasshoppers into the water, and disintegrating beetles with electric clouds. But despite the good times, I didn’t feel the need to jump to another timeline. Saving one future was enough for now. 

Verdict: 
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee

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Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee was made for people like me. People who only played the first couple of games and believe the original 151 are the most memorable Pokemon to date. I’ve tried Pokemon Sun/Moon but found it too slow and too talky for a Pokemon game. All I wanted to do was to drop in, set out, and catch Pokemon. Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee gave me that and then some. 

I felt it was a satisfying remake of the first generation Pokemon titles (Pokemon Yellow specifically), it evoked the classics while making smart improvements along the way. The most notable alteration was replacing the random wild Pokemon encounters with Pokemon Go styled catching. Catching them required me to run into them in the world, sedate them with berries before using the right Pokeball and throwing technique to catch them. Fortunately, there were still a handful of Pokemon which required the classic style of weaken before catching.  

I found the visuals to be simple but very charming. I don’t know if it was a conscious decision to not push the Switch to its limits but I and the Switch’s battery welcomed it. Playing the game in portable just felt right. It was nice to see the game hold up on the big screen but Pokemon will forever be a portable title first for me. It was also strange that the Pro controller wasn’t a viable option. I get the appeal of playing one handed with a single Joy-con but sometimes I just want to relax with a proper controller.  

New features like two on two battles, categorized bags, and expanded stat pages were welcomed additions. I don’t know if those were taken from the recent games but they didn’t overcomplicate or deviate too far Pokemon Yellow. It’s that smart blend of old and new that made Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee a joy to play.  

Verdict: 
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

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