PAX Australia 2019

The sign at the entrance to PAX Australia has always said two simple words: “Welcome Home.”

While, for the most part, PAX can be a solitary affair, that doesn’t stop there being some sort of camaraderie in that isolation – a shared loneliness as it were. Sure, there are heaps of groups and likeminded gamers using the opportunity to get together for some face-to-face Dungeons and Dragons, or spending the time simply hanging out and playing some card games, but there’s also quite a few people ‘going stag’ and balancing their need to just chill out and enjoy gaming alongside their innate hatred of … well, people.

2019 was an absolutely crackin’ affair … but because of time, inclination and just general can’t be botheredness, I’m not going to write a post on it.

Instead – make the effort to book a ticket for PAX 2020. You won’t regret it.

Cloud Crash

One word: Yikes.

Full disclosure: I haven’t played Borderlands 3 yet, and while I’m sure as a game on its own it’s worthy of all the praise it’s getting, I’m also a stickler for doing things in order, and so once I’ve cleared Borderlands 1 and 2, and yes I know there’s a Pre/Sequel in the mix there somewhere, then, and only then, will I pick up the third incarnation.

(Second disclosure: this philosophy also works for the Gears of War series, but I did play a round of multiplayer last night just to grab an achievement for a Microsoft Rewards challenge – I’m still a Gears’ story virgin).

More importantly though, I wanted to use this as an opportunity to talk about the cloud. It seems in this instance that the issue with the Borderlands 3 saves is unique to Epic Games and the PC version, but that being said, the other services are not without their own flaws. It’s taken nearly two weeks to finally get back into Gears POP! after Xbox Live failed to let players connect, and who could forget the great Sony outage a few years ago that saw them shower us all with ‘We’re Sorry’ stuff.

The cloud is brilliant, but not perfect. Xbox, I’m my humble opinion, is the closest to the most successful cloud provider in the gaming space so far – given that I have come back from over twelve months off a game and be able to pick up where I left off. PlayStation relies on a subscription to PS Plus, and because I’ve let that lapse, I’m fairly certain my save games have gone as well.

Kiss those Vita saves goodbye.

I’m not sure how Nintendo’s service works, but in general, what we’re seeing here is an absolutely glaring need to ensure that cloud services don’t just form an ‘added extra’ to your platform, but are integral. Microsoft, to their fault, were not backward in their cloud first marketing when it came to the Xbox One, and while they were ahead of their time and that message didn’t quite land up against the more robust PlayStation offering.

Now half a decade later we see what that looks like when played out in living rooms …

… and the cloud.

God help Stadia.

Pokémon Rumble Rush

I make no apologies for my love of Pokemon, and when its a game that links in with The Pokemon Company, as well as my Nintendo Account, then I’m philosophically obliged to give it a red hot go.

I’m not sure what void this game fills, but it’s a fairly mindless romp into the world of Pokémon. It’s possible that, down the track, there might be integration with the Pokémon Bank and the other Nintendo titles that use the Nintendo Network. I love to see this sort of integration in mobile gaming, and I’m optimistic to see how Xbox does more of it in the coming months with xCloud, and not to mention iOS updates to allow for use of the Xbox and PS4 controllers.

Time will tell if developers pick up and support it, but I shall remain optimistic!

Super Mario Run 4-3 Danger High and Low

We’re back underground now, and this was a fairly ‘bouncy’ level (my kind of level). There’s some elements here that need more work to master – like the bricks which seem to hide some of the coins. The trick is to be the ‘big’ version of your player character who can then jump and break the blocks … but the pace of the game (it is a ‘run’ game, after all) means there’s a need for both timing – perfect timing – and not to mention actually finding a mushroom to promote yourself to the ‘big’ version.

Super Mario Run 4-1 Cutting-Edge Spire

A lot of vertical movement in this level. Up, up, up and away! This level has echoes of the ‘Luigi’s Mansion’ session from earlier, though there is more of a puzzle-solving element to the whole section, rather than just being spooky for spooky’s sake.

I actually needed a few tries with this one – more so to time my attempt at special coins rather than survival. There are a few tricky sections towards the end – with big, circular saws there that require some vigilance, but they’re not insurmountable. If you’re willing to sacrifice some coins or collectables, you can jump your way to freedom easy enough.

Super Mario Run 3-4 Fire Bar Castle! Youch!

Well, we’re up to the level three boss, and this time … it’s Bowser again! (Or is it?)

It turns out, no, it’s not – and while I didn’t realise that Bowser had such magical shape-shifting capability, it turns out that, well, he does, and this time he turns into a turtle.

The combat in this one is a bit more challenging. Turtle-Bowser jumps and shoots fireballs at you now, and I’ll admit, I stuffed-up my timing a few times with this one and got bubble’d back a notch or two. In the end, it turns out just some clever timing and running underneath Bowser while he’s in the air is the easiest way to clear the boss, but you have to balance being in position when he jumps versus not being in the way of a fireball that he shoots at you.

More luck than strategy I suspect.

Super Mario Run 3-3 Shell Me the Way!

This level is all about the Turtles – and not the Teenage Mutant Ninja variety. Some clever (and run-of-the-mill) mechanics here make it easy to use the turtles to knock-down enemies, which is quite satisfying when they get a bit of a run-on.

The other element to this level is trying to navigate some tricky coins, which are reachable only through some height and ‘bounce’ based challenges. It seems that these mid-to-later levels are good at introducing challenge that requires an excellent mastery over the timing of Mario’s et. al. jumping.

And now I’m concerned about my mastery of the English language … how does one use a plural when applying the et. al. suffix to a sentence?

Super Mario Run 3-2 Bullet Bill Barrage

This introduced some new enemies into the mix – the form of ‘red bullets’ which essentially ‘shoot’ at you after a brief moment of hovering, as opposed to the black bullets which come at your slowly and steadily.

What surprised me about this level was how essential height was to a full completion. While I tried to stay as high as I could, I noticed a few coins that I missed simply because I was sitting too low in the level. Part of this is a matter of practice and timing – it’s not the first time I’ve mentioned needing to masterfully practice the art of jumping on bullets – but it’s also knowing a little bit about when-and-where those coins are going to pop up.

Much, much more practice needed on my part before getting anywhere close to complete on this level.

Super Mario Run 3-1 Big Spiny Blitz

If you like guys in clouds dropping coins on your head the whole time – then have I got a level for you. I’m not really sure what the intention is here, either perfectionists are going to run into trouble if they seek to get ‘every’ coin, or maybe I’m just too impatient to even try, but in any case – I tried to disregard coin-dropping dude for the most part, and just get to the end of the level.

After all, this is a very busy level.

The titular ‘big spiny’ in the level makes several appearances, and they aren’t necessarily difficult to beat, but when you get an invulnerability star, they are quite satisfying just to run through. For the most part though, they are there as an obstacle to clear, but far from insurmountable.

Super Mario Run 2-4 Airship Cannons…Fire!

Time for the next boss, and there’s a lot going on at once in this level. There’s cannons, there’s bad guys, and there’s a fairly busy world in general as you push towards the second boss in the game.

I, surprisingly, didn’t die a lot on my push to the end though. It’s possible that I got lucky, but, more likely, is that the game mechanics are designed to get you through the levels on their own, but you need to put in the effort when it comes to coins, collectables and other feats to get the better score.

As for the boss itself, well – remember how much I love wall-jumping and backflipping? Well, this is the boss for me! This really just requires you to time a wall-jump perfectly so you can bounce on his head three times, and because I’m a sucker for a good jump, I threw in a few bonus bounces as well. This was a very satisfying bad guy to beat.