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For my "exertainment" gaming I've been taking a break from the Dance Dance Revolution games and I went back to the Just Dance series for a change, in particular Just Dance 2 on Wii. I'm surprised it's been some four and a half years since I first posted about the game. Reading my old post I'm surprised I spoke so positively about it, because although I did have a very positive impression of the game overall, I did have some frustrations with it as well.

Perhaps my surprise is due to my current experience coloring my judgement of the game, though. This time around I focused on getting the highest rank (scores over 100k = 5 stars) in the songs I played, whereas last time I'd been content just to get the 4 star ranking in all the songs. Getting the highest rankings generally takes a lot of trial and error, even when you've adjusted to the fact that the game doesn't want you to match the hand movements of the on-screen choreography; instead you're expected to keep your hand as a fist holding the Wii remote. There were quite a few songs where even after many repeated attempts I was still unable to figure out how the game wanted me to perform some of the moves. The game categorizes songs into three levels on the "sweat" meter, and oddly enough getting the top ranking on the sweat level three songs is way easier than on the sweat level one songs. The reason is because there are many more movements, so if you can't figure out what the game wants you to do for one or two sections you can still make up the points in the other sections. For the lower sweat level songs you really have to be able to get "Good" or "Perfect" ratings on pretty much all the moves, and there's little room for error. This requirement for perfection is frustrating in games in general, and pretty darn frustrating in this game in particular.

That said, the game was still fun overall, and so far I've been able to get the highest ranking on just over half of the game's 44 songs. This time around the choreography didn't bother me as much as last time, i.e. it either wasn't quite as cheesy as I remembered, or my tolerance for cheesy choreography has increased. It surprised me that the most recent iteration, Just Dance 2017, was not only released on Wii, a system that hasn't seen a game release in quite some time, but that that version of the game was the best selling of all the platforms it was released on, at least for its first week. I enjoyed my time with this game enough this time around that I actually picked up its immediate sequel, Just Dance 3. I'm really not expecting much from it in the way of innovation, but at least it'll be nice to have a new set of songs to sweat to (and look like an idiot to, haha).

Just dance again with these Just Dance 2 links:
- Some relevant links can be found in my previous post about the game
- Review at IGN
- Entry at Metacritic

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I'd been super impressed with how polished and enjoyable Image & Form's 3DS release Steamworld Dig was, and so was keeping tabs on their follow-up, Steamworld Heist. The game is set in the same universe as Dig, but has completely new gameplay. Heist is a 2-D strategy game, but the view is like a side-scroller rather than the typical grid-based top-down view of games like my beloved Fire Emblem series, etc. The game is as polished as Dig, and in it you command an army of sharp shootin' steambot space pirates (who can also get up close and personal with melee attacks). The gameplay involves gunfights across various space vessels (many of which are procedurally generated), and there's a slew of weapons and items to equip. I tended to go for the weapons with laser sights, because with them it's much easier to pull off tricky ricocheted shots, but there are a number of other worthwhile weapon types as well.

The steam mechanics recall the sadly ignored Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. (by Intelligent Systems and also for 3DS), but the they definitely don't feel redundant. Both games feel less precise than the more-traditional strategy games in that you have to not just position yourself correctly, but also execute your attacks with good aiming and timing. Heist has the added issue that you don't have all of the info about the enemies' movement ranges, etc. at your disposal, but otherwise the game mechanics work pretty well.

The game is divided into three worlds, and I got through the first world pretty quickly and without a lot of effort. I started playing around with using other characters (each with their own character-specific abilities and bonuses) and making use of the adjustable difficulty settings and so was enjoying the game more, but the strategy doesn't change much at all from map to map. The game isn't as immediately gratifying as Dig and things started feeling repetitive even before the halfway mark. There are gameplay goals to reach in every level (pick up all the loot, no deaths, etc.) and they give incentive to replay levels, and there's a built-in level cap so you can't grind to breeze through the harder levels.

All in all I enjoyed my time with Steamworld Heist, but despite its polish in both presentation and gameplay it didn't hit the heights of Dig. The game is coming out as a physical disc for Wii U with the DLC included and the remastered Steamworld Dig in a little more than a week, which is nice to see. I may pick this up again at some point, but this is case where I was happy to play this game, but I'm more looking forward to seeing what the developers come up with next.

Pull off these Steamworld Heist links:
- Official site
- Official trailer
- DLC trailer
- The game is also available on Steam
- Guide, on Steam with details on collecting all the hats and weapons
- Page on Miiverse
- Review at NintendoLife

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I generally don't pay that much attention to smartphone games since they tend to be pretty disposable, but when I started noticing kids wearing Five Nights at Freddy's t-shirts (not to mention the huge amount of other merchandise, including toys, figurines, board games, and even books!) I figured it was probably time to find out what all the fuss was about. I'd also seen Star Fox Guard compared to it, which was another motivation for checking it out. I picked up the Android version, although it's also available on iOS and PC, including Steam.

I wasn't expecting much, so I was pleasantly surprised that the game is actually well designed. You're tasked with keeping watch over security cameras and not get attacked by a group of possessed and bloodthirsty animal mascots, and the gameplay is simplistic but addictive, and the setup is fun. The story, such as it is, is entertaining, and the graphics and sound effects are also good (although the jump scare when you lose is rather too loud, especially since you'll be seeing it a lot). The game goes by at a decent pace for the first four nights, but even though I felt like I had more or less mastered the game mechanics, the fifth night seemed too luck-based and I ended up having to abandon it. I enjoyed the rest of my time with the game, though, and I really enjoyed the uniqueness of the game, so it didn't drop in my esteem too much overall. It seems like the follow-ups add more variations to the game mechanics at the expense of simplicity. I'm not too interested in checking them out, but I have a free copy of the second game so I'll probably play through that one at least... eventually!

Two nights of fun with these two Five Nights at Freddy's links:
- Entry on Wikipedia
- According to an analysis by YouTube the game is one of the most popular video games around the globe

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One more 3DS game! Being a Nintendo completist can be a chore sometimes, and Pokemon Rumble Blast for 3DS is a case in point. I played the first game in the spin-off series a few years ago, and even though I found it to be completely mindless and insipid, I figured it was time to slog through the next entry.

The 3DS entry is basically the same as its predecessor, except that instead of being limited to the generation I and IV Pokemon, this game lets you catch all of them (up to the point it was released, anyway). As before, The Pokémon Company's take on a beat 'em up is completely mechanical and uninspired, with levels of two types: linear paths to a single large boss 'mon, and arena "free for all" brawl challenges. The environments are basically interchangeable (although they did add a couple new ones, like a castle setting and a treetop setting, for a very slight change of pace); the attacks aren't particularly distinct; and the toy Pokémon are still blocky and generally unappealing. This time around there's a modicum of a story and various town hubs (although again, they're bland and pretty much interchangeable). The arena challenges to mix things up a bit, as they have different requirements for entry (e.g. only use Pokémon of a certain type are allowed), but otherwise they too are pretty mindless and same-y.

Only the youngest and/or most die-hard of Pokémon fans are going to actually want to pour in the hours required to "catch 'em all". The Pokémon Company followed this up with a Wii U downloadable game focused solely on arena battles, and the free-to-play Pokémon Rumble World, also on 3DS. I've played both, and Pokémon Rumble World is easily the most engaging of the lot, but that's really not saying much. I'm sure I'll get around to playing both of those and giving them a closer look eventually, but for now I'm happy that I get to cross this one off my completist list.

Shake these Pokemon Rumble Blast links:
- Official site. Includes a complete listing of where to find every Pokemon in the game.
- Entry at Bulbapedia, which includes passwords
- Entry at howlongtobeat.com
- Page on Miiverse
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry at Metacritic

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Another 3DS game, and just in time for Halloween. The original Luigi's Mansion for GameCube was among the first GameCube games I played. In many ways a game with Luigi in the starring role was a dream come true, and although I enjoyed the game overall, it took me a while to getting around to finishing it and it didn't really wow me.

Fast forward to ten years later, and history repeats itself. Luigi's starring roles are still few and far between, so I was looking forward to seeing how Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon for 3DS, the sequel to Luigi's Mansion, developed the gameplay from the original. The game does add some new elements and includes way more collectibles to track down, secrets to uncover, and medals to earn. Unfortunately, a lot of those secrets end up being the "rub up against every wall a la Doom" variety. In this case, it's scan every nook and cranny with the scan mode of the Poltergust, which I found gets pretty dull pretty quickly. There are several mansions to explore this time around, although they're not wildly different. There are a number of gems to collect, but the game doesn't make it clear which gems can be collected in which missions. Similarly, the game doesn't make it clear what the requirements for earning the gold medals for each stage are. I found the combat and puzzles to generally be pretty simple and mindless as well.

Those are a lot of negatives, and it took me a long time to get through it as I had to keep setting it aside and picking it up again. The game looks great, though, and is very charming and atmospheric. Luigi has a lot of comedic physicality, including a lot of frightened reactions and slapstick humor. The game also has a multiplayer mode, which can be played over Wi-Fi. I tried it out but it seemed pretty throwaway so I didn't end up spending that much time on it.

Apparently I'm in a minority in my reaction to the game, as the game was released to rave reviews. I'm still a big fan of the man in green and think Nintendo's Year of Luigi was one of the coolest things they've ever done, but I'm still hoping that Luigi will get more chances to shine beyond this side series.

Discover these Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon links:
- Official NA site. The official UK site includes a PDF of the instruction manual.
- E3 2011 trailer
- E3 2012 trailer
- In-depth Nintendo Direct look at the game with Miyamoto. The standalone version of the segment includes a funny bit with Iwata (R.I.P.) and Miyamoto.
- Page on Miiverse
- Iwata Asks feature
- Review at NintendoLife
- Developer interview at NintendoLife
- Developer interview at IGN

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