Scotch Corner – It’s A Me!

Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 13th October.

 

Legend Of Zelda Link’s Awakening (Switch, £49.99)

NINTENDO know that nostalgia, if handled right, can be big business — just look at the TV ad for their latest title Legend Of Zelda Link’s Awakening.  It shows a 30-something going into his loft and finding his old Gameboy with a copy of the game.  Cue a wave of warm fuzzy nostalgia.  But it’s a dangerous game to play for the firm, as supporting a 26-year-old game with just a few touch-ups may not land well with fans.  But Nintendo are not new kids on the block, so we have a reworked from-the-ground-up version of what many call the greatest game ever made.  Legend Of Zelda Link’s Awakening for the Switch takes the core joy of the original and refines the whole thing, while keeping the story and all the key events that made it a hit in the first place.

We see our hero Link being washed ashore on an island called Koholint Island and, upon awakening, he is told by a wise owl he must go on an epic quest to crack open an egg that sits atop a mountain by finding a bunch of instruments . . . yes, things were a lot simpler back in 1993.  If you’re old enough to have undertaken this journey before, odds are you’ll be hit by digital déjà vu as this game mirrors the original, with only a few changes along the way, but for the most part it’s a carbon-copy in terms of layout.  It has to be said that everything has been passed through a filter that makes it all look like a tale of toys come to life — everything has a lovely shine to it and an almost plastic vibe helped by there being a soft-focus blur around the edges of the screen.  All of which takes the level of charm and fires it through the roof.  There is also a real feeling of Nintendo embracing its history as well as you’ll spot nods to the likes of Mario, Kirby and Animal Crossing on your adventure.  These range from totally new gameplay elements to little winks and nods such as Yoshi dolls for example.

As for the general gameplay, things have been brought up to date with a number of quality of life improvements such as being able to stamp locations of interest on your map like you can in Breath of the Wild, plus with the Switch having more buttons than the Gameboy, overall control is far better as you don’t need to juggle items in the same way anymore.  On the downside, there are next to none — beyond that we did get a bit of slowdown and framedrop when exploring the over world, but this is likely due to the map being one huge area now and not lots of tiny ones spilt up.  And the new dungeon creator mode falls a bit flat really due to a lack of options to share your creations as well as other limitations.

Legend Of Zelda Link’s Awakening is an incredible retelling of a true classic title that holds a special place in a lot of gamers’ hearts — and for the 30-something age group, this is very much a system-seller.  It is slick and well done.  If you’re a fan you’ll remember why you love it and if you’re new you’ll some find out why it’s just so special.  This is a must-buy if you have a Switch as it’s a joyful adventure and something truly special.

Score: 5/5

The Voice of an Icon

IT is a fair bet that Charles Martinet has been responsible for many hours of gaming fun in your house — but you have never heard of his name.  However, when the 64-year-old Californian speaks, a galaxy of gaming icons will come flooding into your mind because Charles voices Super Mario as well as Luigi, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, and Toadsworth to name a few.  Charles was one of the massive highlights at MCM Glasgow — the largest comic convention in Scotland — where he met fans and talked all things Mario.  He told me that the Italian plumber is actually based on a character from Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew!  He said:

“I can honestly tell you when I auditioned for the role I had never heard of Mario or Nintendo.  This was back in 1991 but I just had no idea.  I crashed the audition really.  I was at the beach and a friend gave me a call and said ‘You got to go do this’.  I was like ‘There is no way I could ever crash an audition, I am a professional actor… where should I go?’.  I have no idea why but I left that beach and I caught the guys just as they were leaving.  I asked ‘Can I read for this?’ and there was literally a moment of maybe not, but he went ‘Alright come on in’.

They set the camera back up and he said ‘You’re a Italian plumber from Brooklyn named Mario in a videogame but we are going to do a real-time animation system so you’ll have these things glued to your face.  When you talk it’ll make the character move and talk too’.  So I thought an Italian plumber from Brooklyn would be like ‘Hey, get out of my face, am working here’ but I was ‘No, no, I’ll do something more fun’.  By great circumstance I had just played Gremio in Taming of the Shrew who was a nice Italian guy.  I thought ‘I’ll do that’, but I know nothing about videogames beyond Waka Waka but I was like ‘I’ll just make things up about food’.

I heard ‘action’ and I said: ‘Hello, am a Mario, let’s make pizza pie together.  You go get some sausage and I’ll get some spaghetti and then I’ll chase you with the pizza and we can eat the pizza’.  I thought for sure the guy was going to say cut, but he never did so I just started making up pasta and games and kept going until I hear ‘Stop talking, cut.  There is no tape.  Thanks, we’ll be in touch’.  I thought that was the end of it so I went back to the beach, watched the sunset, and here I am 28 years later — still going ‘Yippee’ and it’s really a joy.”

Capturing the Mario magic is a tough gig. Charles insisted:

“Every time is different and I never know what’s coming.  I get a call to come up and play in the sandbox and we have some new toys. I love diving right in.  Whether we record in Seattle, LA or Japan, sometimes it’s like two weeks before it’s released or two years or more.  It’s amazing how much goes into making a game really.  I have no idea how many lines I would say for a full game.  We do four-hour recording sessions and it’s just a celebration of the character where we have ideas from all the team and we are always trying to stay impeccable so it all sounds right and the joy is real.”

Despite making the characters his own over the years, Charles insisted he had no favourite lines.  He added:

“I love them all.  Whether I got a line like ‘Let’s a go’ or ‘Mario time’, you get a wonderful smile.  For me, it never gets old or boring and every time it’s different.  So to pick a favourite line is like picking a favourite game.  Do you know the guys at the Guinness World Records said congratulations a while back because I have the world record for being in 100 videogames, which was marked by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and there have been a few more released since then.”

Charles was also delighted to be back in Scotland.  He said:

“I’ve been to Edinburgh and Glasgow and I’ve been to a few conferences here.  I’ve also been lucky enough to see Billy Connolly when I’ve been here in the past.  It’s a great country with wonderful people and great food.  And it’s great to meet and see the fans but what I love seeing is their surprise when I go ‘Yippee’.  It’s great fun.”

Untitled Goose Game (Switch and PC, £17.99)

EVERY year an indie game rises above the pack to be an instant smash and when it comes to Untitled Goose Game it’s been a long time coming.  Aussie-based developers House House have crafted a beautiful vision of an English countryside village but it’s under siege by a true force of evil… a goose.  In terms of story there isn’t much to go on beyond that you are a goose who is a grade-A pain in the butt and a total a*****e to the point the game could have easily just been called A*****e Simulator 2019.  It’s true slapstick and there are no hidden depths.  You simply emerge from a bush with one goal — to bring terror and fear to the small nameless village through stealing things, being a pest and flat out just honking at people.

It may all sound a bit strange and, well, yes it is — but if you think of Hitman and, instead of killing targets, you’re driving people nuts then you’ll have a rough idea of how things work as you sit in wait for the perfect time to strike.  And strike you will, from soaking a gardener with a hose to terrifying a child into a phonebooth.  You’ll soon have the rule of the place but just as you’re getting into the swing of things it all ends too soon.  You can complete the core goals in less than two hours, then unlock bonus objectives which see you having to redo the tasks in a set time limit.  That does add some replayability to the game, but you’re really just going over old ground.  And while it lasts, the game ranges from easy fun to challenging puzzler that needs a bit of thinking to complete get going, beyond just honking for victory.

Graphically, things are charming but simple and music is sparingly used but it can really ramp things up when an old man is chasing you to get his slipper back.  Yes, you read that right.  Untitled Goose Game is a joy from start to finish, though those looking for a real challenge may feel let down as it maybe has more of a tech demo feeling than full-blown release in many ways.  But regardless, there is a perfect Sunday’s afternoon fun to be found here which will leave you hungry for more.

Score: 4.5/5

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £24.99)

PLAYTONIC’S first game Yooka-Laylee was a true love letter to a lot of the team’s past.  They had worked at Rare and were obviously keen to keep the memories alive.  But this is not just a rehash.  The British studio have really mixed things up for their second outing.  Because if Yooka-Laylee was inspired by Banjio-Kazooie, then the firm’s newest game, Yooka- Laylee And The Impossible Lair, is very much inspired by Donkey Kong Country — which was also developed at Rare.  So gone is the 3D adventuring.  Instead, it is replaced with a more-focused 2.5D platformer where timing is everything.

The tale sees our two heroes — Yooka the chameleon and Laylee the bat — returning.  They have to help Queen Phoebee fend off the evil Capital B.  Expect the signature puns from the first game — they are also back in force.  Capital B has taken her kingdom and built a devilishly hard gauntlet of traps called the Impossible Lair and you have to overcome them.  So far it’s pretty similar to the first outing, but in an interesting twist you can tackle it at any point in the game — but, word of advice, don’t do it too early.  This is no cake walk because it’s the longest level in the game and has absolutely no checkpoints so failure at some point is almost a certainty.  But, fear not, you can recruit the queen’s guards.  They act like a shield during your assault on the lair.

You can get the guards by completing a level and the more you finish the better your chances because there are 48 to find along the way.  From there you platform your way across a number of colourful levels with lots of challenges and hidden areas that never really get old.  Each one brings a new element to the gameplay.  Beyond that there is a fresh over world, which you can explore when you’re not running though levels.  It adopts more of a top-down 3D vibe and has lots of secrets and puzzles to crack.  There is also a tonic system which can rise or lower the difficultly of levels as well as adding fun effects to each run.  This is a well-built title that changes the core direction of the original — and it is fair to say that it is a move in the right direction.

Score: 4/5

I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

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