I'd really enjoyed the two previous games I'd played by developer Neckbolt (i.e. solo developer Niklas Hallin), namely the adventure game Yono and the Celestial Elephants and the puzzle game Wolf Sheep Cabbage, so much so that I went ahead and bought his earlier game, Belladonna on Steam. The game is a short point-and-click adventure (a complete leisurely playthrough only takes about an hour), but as with Yono it has a lot of charm. The game has an interesting setup where you wake up as a recently reanimated corpse, and although I don't usually care for point-and-click adventures much due to the oftentimes obtuse puzzles and logic, here the puzzles are all pretty straightforward. The game's story is related via journal entries that you collect as you progress, and there are hints of philosophy, although nothing nearly as deep as Yono. The story and setting aren't nearly as rich as Yono either, but as an early effort there's still a lot to enjoy. The graphics, sound, and progression are all pretty good, and although the main character's voice acting isn't ideal, it was nice to have all the dialogue recorded. All in all this was a nice, quick, and entertaining (if not particularly unusual) game, and it helps fill in the gap for Yono fans as we wait for more from Neckbolt Games.

Another blast from the past. I'd played Space Invaders a couple of years ago, and although I've played and loved its competitor Galaga since I was a kid, I had never really played Galaxian, Galaga's predecessor.

Galaxian followed Space Invaders by a year, and from the modern-day perspective it feels like exactly what it is: a bridge between Space Invaders and Galaga. Like Space Invaders the game features a single screen and you have to shoot down enemy aliens. Galaxian innovates in many areas, most notably by having the enemies drop down individually instead of en masse to shoot you. There are four different types of enemies worth different point values, and enemies are worth more when you shoot them as they're attacking vs. while they're in formation.

Since Galaga is so well known, it's virtually impossible to compare Galaxian to it. As with many sequels, Galaga really perfects the template presented in Galaxian. You're limited to only one bullet onscreen at a time (a restriction that the enemies don't have, which seems kind of unfair), and so the game requires a level of precision that Galaga doesn't. Galaga's graphics are much better, and the addition of numerous features, including enemies flying onto the screen, tractor beams for the "boss" enemies that provide a fun ship-capturing and recovery mechanic, and bonus challenge stages every few stages, really elevate the game to a higher level.

Overall Galaxian was an entertaining look at the path to Galaga, but not too memorable otherwise. I played the version of the game included in Namco Museum Megamix on Wii, which also includes Galaga's successor, Gaplus, and I'm looking forward to finding out more about that game and the others in that collection before too long.

I've played the original Mario Bros. quite a few times over the years, especially since it's made an appearance in the original Super Mario Bros. 3 as a little extra, the GBA Super Mario releases, and more recently, the first NES Remix game. I had a copy of the original NES cartridge, and gave it a closer look than I have before.

The game is typical classic arcade goodness. The jumping is a bit stiff (although not nearly as bad as the generally frustrating Ice Climber), but the game is meticulously designed. There are only three types of enemies (Shellcreepers (turtles), Sidesteppers (crabs), Fighterflies flies)), but they all have unique movements, and the progression of levels is smooth. The stage layout itself doesn't vary, and there are only twelve unique "phases" (i.e. stages), but things get pretty hectic once the number of enemies in a stage increases. The game also has several hazards, namely red and green fireballs and "Freezies", blocks of ice that coat part of the stage with ice, making the ground slippery. The game has two difficulty levels and also has a 2-player mode, in which you can co-operatively progress through stages, or purposely try to trip up the other player.

As with games of the era, getting through the first twelve stages isn't that challenging, but there's plenty of challenge in shooting for a high score. This was a fun blast from the past and fun seeing all the connections to Mario games, such as Freezie and the POW block, and at some point I'll have to try out the original arcade version, which was released on Switch last September.

Check out some before they were "super" Mario Bros. links:
- Entry on mariowiki.com
- Review at NintendoLife
- PDF of the manual, at replacementdocs.com

I've been posting semi-regularly with updates about my journey through the Dance Dance Revolution series, and I suppose it was only a matter of time before I tried out the Karaoke Revolution series. Like the DDR series, the Karaoke series is also published by Konami, but otherwise the two series don't have much in common at all. The Karaoke games were developed by Harmonix, who went on to develop the hugely successful Guitar Hero and Rock Band games, although the first entry in the Karaoke Revolution series was one of their earliest games.

I played the first game in the series, simply called Karaoke Revolution, and released on PS2. Harmonix's lack of experience shows, as the interface and graphics (most notably the character models) are pretty basic even considering when it was released (late 2003). Along with selecting songs you pick a character, outfit, and venue, and the crowd reacts according to how well you're doing. You're given a rating for each phrase of the song, and as you'd expect from a rhythm game, you earn combos by getting a sequence of high ratings. The vocal detection seems decent, although there's a bit of a lag as the game recognizes your pitch, and to get higher scores it seems like you have to sing a little bit ahead of the soundtrack, which is kind of annoying. It'll be interesting to see how the recognition technology improves in subsequent games of this series and its competitors.

The game has several difficulty levels (the harder the mode, the harsher the judging of your pitch-matching), and the songs are also given a difficulty rating (one to three). The song list is divided so that there are four in a venue and the venues progress from a small club to a giant stadium. All the venues are unlocked to start, and each song also has target scores for you to earn gold and platinum medals, although the only unlockables are some outfits, a few songs, and some behind-the-scenes videos (basically just the developers singing some of the songs). There's also a versus mode and a karaoke-only mode (i.e. no scoring). As with the DDR games, the song features mostly covers rather than original songs, but I don't have a problem with that as the covers are good facsimiles of the originals and you're singing over them anyway. The song selection is definitely of its time, but even though I'm a pop music ignoramus, I knew at least one of the songs in each venue. For the songs I only half knew I could basically fake my way through the verses and then sing on the chorus, so the game should be an okay way to learn some new songs as well.

Overall the game was pretty enjoyable, despite the subpar presentation. I'll probably dip into a couple more games in the series before trying out some other karaoke-type video games, but I think it's pretty safe to say that I don't think I'm in danger of becoming as big a completist of the series as DDR (especially since there are country and American Idol editions of the game, haha.


Anti-social geezer that I am, I rarely play party games, but 1-2-Switch, one of the launch titles for Switch, is unusual in many ways. For Nintendo a mini-game collection showcasing the unique capabilities of a new system is hardly a surprise by now (see Wii Sports for Wii and Nintendo Land for Wii U for example). But 1-2-Switch explores new territory by providing a set of mini-games that encourage you to ignore the screen altogether and focus on your opponent instead.

The set of 28 mini-games has a decent amount of variety, and as in those other games they do a good job of showing off the capabilities of the new system. Not all of them are memorable, however. Still, at its best 1-2-Switch reaches the level of silliness of classic Wii party games, such as WarioWare: Smooth Moves, where it's as much fun seeing your friends' actions as attempting to win yourself. The game feels much more limited than Smooth Moves, though, as the game is entirely focused on multiplayer and even then doesn't provide much motivation for more than a few sessions with the same group. Medals for getting target scores for the mini-games that are playable solo would have been a worthwhile addition, and more mini-games with even more variety would have improved the overall package as well. It's a little disappointing that the game isn't part of the WarioWare series since it's so obviously indebted to it, but it's understandable since the developers wanted to shift your attention away from the screen. The controls work great for the majority of the mini-games, and the video clips with live actors demonstrating each mini-games are entertainingly silly and cheesy.

The official website of the game includes suggestions for livening up your 1-2-Switch party, some of which would have been nice as added options within the game itself. Although it's easy to dismiss this game as being a shallow experience, with the right group of friends this could be a lot of fun. At the original $50 MSRP the game was a little hard to recommend, but now that it's possible to find a user copy for a bit cheaper it's much easier to recommend this as a fun game to introduce your friends and family to Switch.

Party on the go with these 1-2-Switch links:
- Review at NintendoLife
- Nintendo Treehouse demonstration of the game
- Nintendo Minute episode showing off the game
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Entry on Metacritic. I liked this quote from a user-submitted review: "If you like eating fake sandwiches, you'll love this game."