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Mega Man 11

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The original Mega Man was the first game to almost break us. The year was 1988 (or thereabouts) and your heroic writer was a burgeoning nerd in an era when such people were generally called “unco” and were punched a great deal. Mega Man was the latest game we played on our beloved Nintendo Entertainment System, a deceptively simple platformer starring a robot boy with a shooty arm. As MM you’d make your way through various levels, all with specific themes (fire, scissors, bombs etc.), and fight a boss that was the culmination of said theme. Once you beat the boss you’d flog their power and move onto the next one. It sounds pretty simple in retrospect but at the time that was a staggeringly clever gameplay mechanic. One boss was giving us the roaring shits, however, as time after time we tried and failed to beat them. Eventually we called the helpline on the back of one of the many Nintendo magazines and they told us whose powers us should use to beat the boss. It was a profound relief and a glorious triumph once implemented.

Thirty years later, with three decades of challenging game experience rattling around inside our bonce, we figured the latest iteration of the game, Mega Man 11, would be a negligible challenge. We’ve played through the Dark Souls trilogy, survived Alien: Isolation and platinumed Bloodborne. This would be a piece of piss, right?

Friends, it was not a piece of piss.

Mega Man 11 basically has the same plot as the rest of them. Ubiquitous antagonist Dr. Wily is back with a bunch of brainwashed robots and it’s up to you, blue, to kick their arses and steal their toys and eventually face Wily himself. This time you’ll have the advantage of the Double Gear system that briefly allows you to slow time, boost your damage or use both at once, although you need to be careful not to overload the fiddly tech. The title offers that classic Mega Man-style gaming. Themed levels, loads of secrets, clever bosses and platforming that will on occasion make you want to primal scream at the moon, begging for an end to the horror. See, Mega Man 11 is challenging. To the point where we found ourself notching the difficulty down to [weary sigh] Casual. And hell, even then we didn’t exactly fly through the levels! We try to tell ourselves it’s because we haven’t played an MM game for years, but part of us knows it’s likely that our old man reflexes aren’t what they used to be.

The thing is, Mega Man 11 – despite or perhaps because of the learning curve – is an enormous amount of fun. It’s bright, it’s colourful, the weapons are cool and the feeling of satisfaction you get when besting a beastly boss is as satisfying now as it was way back in 1988. If you don’t like platformers, or prefer your games more forgiving, then you should probably look elsewhere but if old school gameplay with new school presentation is your thing, Mega Man 11 will have you doing the robot.

 
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Dark Souls Remastered

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Everyone can remember the moment a FromSoftware game really clicked with them. Maybe it was in Demon’s Souls back in the day, perhaps one of the Dark Souls trilogy, or a nightmarish section of PS4 exclusive Bloodborne that finally pushed the dubious player over the pain threshold and into the strange, utterly compelling zone of total immersion, Zen-like concentration and frequent couch-punching frustration. So much has been written about this series now it’s become a memed cliche (“[X] is the Dark Souls of [Y]!”) to even discuss the game’s difficulty and demands placed upon the player, so we’ll spare you the usual spiel and assume you know that challenge plus amazing level design times dense, obtuse lore equals Soulsborne games.

While Dark Souls II has already been spectacularly remastered (with new content) in the rather glorious Scholar of the First Sin edition – and Bloodborne and Dark Souls III are too recent to need it – the original Dark Souls hasn’t been prettied up since its 2011 release; that is until this very moment.

Dark Souls: Remastered brings the full game and DLC to consoles (where it was desperately needed) and PC (where, thanks to modders, its a little less essential). So how does the now beloved classic stack up seven years later? Very well, but with some qualifications.

See, while Dark Souls remains an absolute pearler in terms of clever, intricate level design the actual moment-to-moment combat feels a little sluggish compared to the likes of Bloodborne or, more importantly, Dark Souls III. The third chapter in the Souls trilogy may not have been the mind-blowing revelation of the first game, but it improved the fighting mechanics to a spectacular degree and it’s a little hard to go back, at least initially. If you give Dark Souls: Remastered an hour or two, however, you’ll probably find yourself feeling the old magic once more as you uncover a cleverly hidden shortcut or triumph over a particularly dickish boss. Some minor quality of life tweaks (like being able to use multiple items) and improved multiplayer has been added, not to mention a mostly consistent 60fps on consoles, which is certainly a welcome addition. However, while the graphical improvements and tweaks are noticeable – you won’t be mistaking Dark Souls: Remastered for the beautiful-looking Dark Souls III anytime soon, which seems like a missed opportunity.

That said, console players on XBOX and PS4 (with Switch slightly delayed but still on the way) who are Souls fans should feel comfortable knowing this is the best version of Dark Souls available for their respective systems. And those who’ve never played the first of this iconic trilogy owe it to themselves to check out where the madness began… at least until the Demon’s Souls remaster. Please, FromSoft?

To slightly bastardise the aforementioned meme, Dark Souls: Remastered is the Dark Souls of Dark Souls remasters – consequently you should probably check it out.

 
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Rime

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Rime feels like a fairy tale, or some half-remembered dream. You play as a small boy who wakes up on the beach of a mysterious island. You have vague memories of a boat crashing into rocks and falling into the sullen depths of the sea but it’s all fragmented, confused.

Once you leave the beach you’ll soon come to a series of puzzles that you’ll need to solve without hints, save for the occasionally cryptic help of a magical fox companion. The puzzles get harder, and the stakes higher, and you’ll slowly solve the mystery of who you are and what secret the island holds.

Rime is an attempt to ape the dream-like quality of the excellent Journey and the clue-free puzzle solving of games like The Witness. It’s certainly a laudable goal, and when the game succeeds it’s mellow and cathartic. The problem is, stretched over a six-hour playthrough it feels a little thin.

Journey succeeds so well because you can knock it over in 90 minutes. The Witness succeeds, and frustrates, because its puzzle solutions are increasingly obtuse. Rime, on the other hand, never really ratchets up the tension. The puzzles get a little harder, sure, but it’s ultimately a series of repetitious climbing or exploring followed by samey puzzle-solving.

It is charming, mind you. The animations, the music, the art style are all top notch… but one can’t help but feel there’s something missing here. Perhaps it’s the slightly clunky controls, or the fiddly camera but ultimately, you’ll probably persevere just to see the ending.

The ending, which we won’t spoil, is sure to be divisive and it certainly makes a statement, it’s just a pity the game before it feels so familiar and executed better elsewhere. Rime is… fine, but a little rote and while it has its charms they don’t extend for the length of the entire experience.