Whoops, I accidentally forgot to write about this game. Pilotwings, for Super Nintendo, has been on my list of games to play for a long time. It's often mentioned when looking back at launch titles, and it seems to evoke a lot of nostalgia for people who grew up with it. It's also gotten sequels on N64 and 3DS (launch titles for both of those systems as well), and it's also gotten a lot of recognition in the recent Super Smash Bros. games in the form of stages, music, etc.

This blog has a thorough look at all the different modes of the game, but basically the game is divided into two halves each consisting of five levels, a "normal" mode in clear skies and a "hard" mode that introduces adverse weather conditions. The four different types of flight are light plane, skydiving, hang gliding, and rocket belt, and even almost 20 years later it's still impressive what Nintendo was able to achieve in terms of 3D effects on a16-bit machine. The game successfully conveys the sense of flying, and as with many Nintendo games it's fun to just spend time flying or gliding around without even trying to accomplish the actual goal.

When it comes to actually buckling down and attempting to get through all the challenges, though, there's definitely potential for a lot of frustration. There's a big gray area between blind trial and error and actually developing skills, and it often feels like with this game the balance leans much more towards the former than the latter, particularly in the skydiving and hang gliding modes and in landing in general. Of the four the plane flying was the most fun for me, and then the rocket belt, and skydiving just felt like a chore since it doesn't feel like you have much control at all. In the end I was able to get through all of the normal mode, but by that time I had had my fill and didn't have any interest in tackling the harder levels. Overall I had fun with this game and I was happy to get to know this bit of Nintendo history, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the sequels compare.

Wow, has it really been almost a decade since I've played a Dreamcast game?? I'm glad I finally dusted off the ol' dream machine in order to check out Crazy Taxi, one of the platform's biggest hits.

The game predated the Grand Theft Auto games, but they have a similar feel. You drive around a fictionalized US city at breakneck speeds causing mayhem with traffic and causing pedestrians to dive desperately out of the way. In this game you're collecting fares, and the constant pressure of the clock threw me off at first. Coming in with few preconceptions I was surprised that the game was so arcade-y, although it makes sense since the game actually did start life in the arcade. Playthroughs are pretty short, although with enough experience and skill you can collect fares continuously, as successfully completed fares refill your time slightly. The city is pretty big, and its hills and streetcars clearly bring San Francisco to mind. It's fun to just drive around and careen through the roads and down hills, but it's only through trial and error that you'll get higher scores as knowing the town's geography, where the best fares are, and what the fastest way to get from one point to another are essential.

The game has two maps for you to tackle and a mission mode. The mission mode teaches you some moves that apparently are essential for getting high scores, but despite practicing them a decent amount I never really mastered them. Even though I never got very good at the game, it's the kind of game that is good in short bursts for more-casual players. The amount of product placement is a funny sign of the times, and the licensed music from Bad Religion and The Offspring (unusual for the time) also definitely help make the game more memorable. Overall this was a nice bit of history and it's easy to see why it was such a hit back in the day, although I don't think I feel any need to pick up any of its sequels.

Blind Men is a visual novel that had sparked my attention a while back because it's one of only a handful of LGBT+ video games that has had a mainstream release. It's available on Switch, but I ended up getting it via itch.io's great BLM support bundle that ran earlier this summer. It's going to take a lot of effort to sort through even a fraction of that bundle, but Blind Men was the first one I tried out, and it was also the first game that I livestreamed on Twitch and made a Let's Play for on YouTube. My laptop is too old to really produce a quality livestream and, as with my blog, I don't have any great ambitions for it, but livestreaming does provide a good motivation for me to play some of the hundreds of games I've bought on Steam or otherwise have wasting away on my laptop.

Anyway, as for the game itself, it's pretty cute and fun light BL fluff. You play as Keegan, the nephew of an evil villain who is applying to join a society of evil villains. Keegan has to prove himself by pulling off a great crime, and the story revolves around his attempt to steal a famous diamond. In the process he runs into two possible love interests, Sergei and Hunter. The two are complete opposites, with Sergei being a laconic Russian military type and Hunter being a flirty James Bond type. The art, music, and story are enjoyable, although the script (translated from the original Spanish) had a ton of grammatical issues that apparently have been patched since. Also, after two playthroughs it becomes difficult to tell where the story branches, although there are guides online to help out.

The romance is pretty minimal and really only hinted at, and the game ends before the story really develops, but I didn't mind it being short and sweet. The developers have said they're not opposed to the idea of revisiting the story, so it may very well be that we'll see more from Keegan and his love interest at some point in the future.

I've come across a few people online who play the Picross games obsessively, and I can sort of see why. Picross is predictable bubble gum for the brain, and it is satisfying to play through some puzzles every once in a while, but I'm definitely not someone who feels compelled to finish every single Picross puzzle I come across. I assume Jupiter Corporation, which has been responsible for all the Nintendo-published Picross games since the original Mario's Picross on Game Boy, have made quite an easy profit, and versions for 3DS and Switch abound, including My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which I played a few years ago.

I rewound the clock a bit and spent some time with Picross DS, I think the only Picross game released for that system. The core game is pretty much exactly what you would expect and the touch and button control options work fine, but there are a few frills included. The completed puzzle has a little animation; there are a few different music tracks for each mode; and there are some daily missions with unique modes, such as having you fix errors or hiding some of the numbers you would normally need to solve the puzzle. There are also some throwaway little minigames included for the heck of it. You can also create and trade puzzles with friends, and there were some official downloadable puzzles and a versus mode that, of course, are no longer available since the DS's Wi-Fi services shutdown a long time ago.

The puzzles vary in size, and it's a little awkward to zoom in and out of the larger puzzles, but there's not really any getting around that. One annoyance is that for the easier puzzles you can't turn off the feature that tells you if you've made an error, which is something I always prefer to do without. In general there's a wide variety of puzzle images ranging from fruits to animals, and near the end of the game, Nintendo characters. Overall this game has a few more features than the other Picross games I've played, although none of them are essential. Picross DS is a little less compelling in the "theme and fun" category, so I'd still have to give some of the other games in the series the edge, but this is a worthwhile game even years later and Picross fans should enjoy it.

I was motivated to spend time with Pokemon Rumble U because I knew that its smartphone follow-up, Pokémon Rumble Rush, was due to shut down this past July, just a little over a year of its initial debut. The Pokémon Rumble series has been one of the lamer Pokémon spin-off series, and I for one wasn't too sad to see this iteration go.

Yet again this game recycled the same beat-'em-up formula as its predecessors and featured the same blocky Pokemon "toys" for you to use in battle and try to "collect 'em all". The game was most similar to the second 3DS game, and at its core it had you travelling to different areas (in this game, "islands") to encounter and try to catch area-specific Pokemon. The main new feature was that you could come across ore that you have to refine in order to get a boatload of upgrades, the main one being "Power Gears" that upgraded a Pokemon's stats (most of which were by Pokemon type although some boosted certain types of attacks and some were only usable by specific Pokemon), and "Summon Gears", which enabled you to summon a specific Pokemon for a powerful attack. An update added a "Battle Royale" mode that had three of your critters to auto-battle against another team. The game was designed as a mobile game and had all the hallmarks of one, such as including daily missions, and the in-game currency was used to increase storage capacity of both your gears and your Pokemon, and also to increase the speed of refining ore. Its other main use was to enable you to visit more locations (via "Guide Feathers"), and although the main areas originally cycled through every two weeks, at the end they had all of them available all the time.

Overall Pokemon Rumble Rush was a harmless but forgettable smartphone entry in this mindless Pokémon spin-off series, and The Pokémon Company seems to be continuing to try to find its next big hit. Although I originally dimissed their later smartphone effort, Pokemon Masters, I've still been keeping up with that game more or less and it has come a ways since its debut a year ago and has recently been rebranded as Pokémon Masters EX (not to be confused with "Pokemon Master SEX", which I heard was trending on Twitter and refers to something quite different). I'm still not wholly convinced that even with the renaming that that game is worth spending that much time on, but I'm guessing with all these updates it's doing reasonably well, and I'll probably still keep up with it and so will probably have to write another post about it at some point.