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For the month of February (because it's short and stuff) I plan to not just play, but complete, a game every day of the month. While I have a few plans for it, here's the deal. Every game I complete in February, I will have begun in February. I might begin a game in the beginning of the month, but complete it later. However, that won't work for EVERY day, so I'll have to have plenty of shorter games for every other day. Which I do!

That won't make it any easier though, and I'm really not sure I can do it. But, we shall see! This list will keep track of the games I've completed (which, if I haven't completed them this year yet, I'll also add them to the regular completion list).
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1. Video Game: Mega Man [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:1205]
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Well, it is technically the first day of February (at least in the US), and so I have begun! I figured I'd start out with this as I have beaten this one far less than the others, and it's also shorter (for an easy start!)

It took me 1 hour, 48 minutes. Started at midnight, ended at 1:48. I was surprised at how much I remembered, and also how short the game actually is. With 6 stages, some of which are very short, and only three Wily stages, it did not take long to cap this off. I even remembered all the boss weaknesses, except that I got Fireman and Iceman mixed up.

Amazingly, only 8 continues used. Only one was used in the main stages (and that was on Fireman, ugh, what a crap), then one on Wily stage 1, 4 on stage 2 (man that clone was a pain) and 2 on stage 3.

I'm feeling I'm off to a good start!
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2. Video Game: Mega Man X [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:215]
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Oh man, I almost failed at this and had to play something easy... I started it on the first, played through about 2 hours and finished all the intro bosses. Then I said, OK, I can leave the final stages for tomorrow, since I figure they probably work like the other Mega Man final stages, where you have to do all of them at once.

So I come back, and I'm like, OK, lets finish this. Well, I can barely scrape past the first level. I spent a severe amount of time on this, and I can't figure out what the problem is. So I take a break from there, take a look around, find a second bonus tank, a few hearts, and the 50% damage armor. OK, this should be good. But... I STILL have insane amounts of trouble with that level. In particular, when I finally survive the Vile fight, I can't seem to make it up this one ridiculous vertical section. So I'm trying all sorts of different things, and then, at one point, I'm switching between weapons to get the homing missile. Purely by accident I continue holding the fire button when I leave (because I got used to that when I'd try to charge up the new super-shot). Then, when I finally release it, I shoot crazy stuff everywhere! What the... holy crap! Did my new power up let me charge all my special weapons?

Of course it did. But I didn't really get that from the explanation, I just thought it powered up my regular charge even more. After some more playing around, I managed to figure out the best way to use this stuff, then made it to and eventually beat Sigma.
Time to finish: ~7 hours

Blurgh. But now I know.

Other than that little flub, though, I think it's a great game, and considering how I feel a lot of nostalgia for the original Mega Man games, I was surprised that I enjoyed this so much.

(The NES Mega Man music is better though!)
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3. Video Game: Portal [Average Rating:8.66 Overall Rank:3]
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Today I replayed Portal (this was the third play). It had been quite a while since I'd played it, so things were still a bit unfamiliar to me, but nothing caught me by surprise. Ah, if only I could regain that sense of wonder as I fire my first portal, the delight of my first piece of cake, and the utter horror as the platform slides into the fire. But alas, it cannot be, so I'll just have to live with it for now.

That said, my main intention was to do this new achievement. The ??? Achievement. Normally I don't care about achievements, but this one promised a little extra puzzling to go along with the puzzles I'm already familiar with. It certainly did that, so I felt it was worth the added time. I didn't QUITE finish it, but I got 21/26... parts of it. However, because of my desire to just play, rather than to speed through it, I took approximately 4 hours (according to Steam anyway).

Possibly the greatest puzzle game I've ever played.
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4. Video Game: Ikaruga [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:422]
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Welp. I wanted to play VVVVVV today, but there was a slight problem, that being that my computer that it's on is busted right now and the download link is no longer usable. Gotta figure out some way to get it. So, I looked through my game library and realized I hadn't played this in a LONG time. So I did!

Now, if you've unlocked Free Play the game is pretty easy to beat, and lets face it, I'm not going to beat it on 3 continues. So, my stipulation was that I couldn't use a continue until level 3, and I have to play on Normal

With this stipulation, I beat it 3 times. I really wish I could have kept track of my continues, because it was pretty bad later. I also tried really hard to get a decent score, but the best I managed was an A+ on level 1. Some highlights were beating the Metempsychosis mini boss with only one death, beating the level 3 midboss without dying, and using only one continue on the final boss (but 5 lives ) I still think the final boss is actually easier than some of the previous bosses (particularly, the level 4 boss), but whatever. I re-ignited the thrill of classic top-down shooters. Now if only I could turn my TV vertical and play that version of the game... man, that'd be sweet.

If you're interested, my final scores (before using continues) were:
4585970
3879950
3741690
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5. Video Game: Marble Madness [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:1632]
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Wow... This was nasty. As a child I'd never finished this one. The final level, which I could get to fairly easily, started off with these floating islands which you couldn't really get perspective on. You were apparently supposed to jump from one to the next... but I could never figure out how. Many years later, it turns out that all this time there was a "speed up" button that I should have been using the whole time, and which, without it, I couldn't make it past that part.

So I come back, thinking I can finally cap off that beast from the past. What I didn't count on, was the game being HARD. The controls are tricky until you get used to them, there are some nasty traps (the incomprehensible slide in the beginner level comes to mind) and the time limit is brutal. Not to mention, once I got past the impossible part, I discovered that the final level is pretty horrific. It took me several dozen times just getting to it before I could finally finish it off. It has sliding ice that you can't move when you're on it, weird ridged spots, nasty enemy placement, and a final section with disappearing floors that was almost always the death of me. But, in the end, with much perseverance, I managed to trounce it soundly and can now remove this one from my list of unfinished games!

As a fun note, the player name I used when I finally beat the game was "Butt". My second highest score was "JrButt". "ButtSr" didn't make it into the rankings, sadly. I figured, I'm playing it because I did as a kid, so I might as well act like I'm that old again!

Other names included "Chris", "Rumpus", "Oops" and the ever classic "Loser". I don't know why I wanted to enter a different name every time, but it asked and I had to keep trying.

Heh, now that I've beat it once, it's like, no problem "Rub" just finished the game with 76,180 points. Woo!
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6. Video Game: Cool Spot [Average Rating:5.81 Overall Rank:4443]
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Well, I finally went back and did it. It's been ages since I've played this, so it needed doing.

Some comments:
I definitely noticed the nostalgia factor playing in a bit. While the level design is solid in general, some of them have... quirks, that give them unfortunate elements. One is the train level, which, in theory, is fine. Well designed and good concepts, but for one thing: the background is constantly moving in a fashion that can make it almost impossible to tell where you're jumping when you jump into open air. Most of the time you do those jumps, you can just go as far as possible and it's OK, but it's a bit of an eye strain. Another issue is that some of the levels provide no really indication of which way to go. It's a bit of a maze, where you need to explore all the dead ends to get your best possible output, but you aren't sure which one you need to travel down first to be able to make the time limit.

Also, it's REALLY hard. I restarted twice before I finally made it through the third time.

Except, I should note that the REASON I restarted was not because i failed totally... in the first three levels, it is easy to get the continue, and I had them, but the reason I restarted anyway was because I was going for the ultimate achievement, the Hard/No Continue challenge. If you beat the game on the hardest difficulty without using a continue, you get a special bonus screen which, back when the game was new, you were told to take a picture of it and send it in to 7Up, and you'd win a special prize! I'm pretty sure the contest is over by now, but the screen still exists in the game, and lucky me, I got a picture of it!

It was REALLY close - I ended the game with only one extra life left, and frequently throughout the game I was on that brink. I also had to do the final bonus level 3 times before collecting the last continue. (The way it works is, you collect 99% or more of the spots in the level, you get to go to the bonus level. There are 6 levels and you can find continues in each one. You HAVE to collect them all for the bonus screen.) In the end, though I just eked out the win. I even collected 100% on all the levels but 2, the level "Radical Rails" which is possibly my least favorite level just because it's the least interesting to look at (but has awesome polka music) and the final level, because I just didn't care at that point. I wanted to cap it off!

Anyway, I'd have posted this earlier, but I took the picture and then spent time trying to find my cable for my camera or see if my laptop would take an SD card. I DID find the cable, but right now it's downloading way too many images. When it's done I'll upload that pic for the gallery.

Gotta say, even factoring in the nostalgia, I still love this game! If you get a chance and enjoy platformers I highly recommend this (at least for Genesis. Never played the SNES one).
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7. Video Game: Mega Man 2 [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:78]
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What, are you surprised?

Beat this for the umpteenth time. As usual, played on the "difficult" setting. I used a bunch continues on stages because... it's just been so long, and I totally forgot how tough some of these levels were.

Oh yeah, I also power-shotted my way through those levels. My favorite challenge, since the bosses (except for wood man and sometimes quick man) all have pretty reasonable patterns that I can get around. Wood man is nasty because I have to avoid EVERYTHING until he gets to my side of the map, and if he touches me it's like half damage, and quick man is, well, just so damn fast and the level is shaped stupid. The only other one that can be tricky is air man sometimes if he throws one of those unavoidable patterns at you. I DIDN'T use the power shot for boss rush section though. And amazingly, I didn't use a single continue in the last levels (though this was mainly because I saved the easy levels for last, and saved up 4 life tanks and a bunch of lives)

Still love this game, second favorite classic Mega Man behind 3. Which I may or may not play tomorrow.
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8. Video Game: Mega Man 3 [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:258]
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Well, I said I'd do it and I did.

You know, looking back, I feel not that I was underrating the difficulty of the other Mega Man games, but overrating the difficulty of this one. I'm not sure what it was that held me back last time I played (maybe it's because I haven't been playing a ton of these types of hard platformers), but I mostly breezed through this. Some of the robot stages were tough, but the wily stages were a breeze, and the final boss, sad to say, was so simple because I remembered his weakness. That said, I feel that the game is still my favorite because it pushed itself mostly past that hurdle of MM2, in which bosses were unbeatable without extremely careful use of your weapons (you know who I'm talking about, Crash Wall).

Again I beat the masters at the beginning only using the power shot, and to my amazement I learned a new strategy!

Spoiler (click to reveal)
With Snake Man, you can easily avoid anything he does by getting on top of the center platform almost immediately, and then jumping over him when he jumps onto it. His snakes are ridiculously easy to avoid anyway, it's just his odd jumping pattern that used to give me trouble, but as long as I get to that center part before he does, I can do it
without taking any damage.


Shadow Man and Needle Man still gave me the most trouble, although Needle Man is not as impossible as I remember him being back in the day. The only thing that really gave me trouble was the fact that I couldn't predict how far his jump would take him. His needles were easy to avoid, but if he jumps towards me I need to be really on the ball to avoid him. Shadow Man is just nasty as crap.

Should note that this one has some of the worst names: Hard Man and Top Man come to mind, and if you mention them together, Hard Man and Snake Man can bring to mind some double entendres.
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9. Video Game: Alan Wake [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:417]
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Over a period of a week or so, I finally finished this off. There was a lot of good and mediocre things about the game, but I definitely felt it was worth playing.

Good:
I really got a kick out of the story. I'm assuming it's meant to be fairly ambiguous about certain things, such as
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Is Alan really real? and at the end of the story, was the town completely destroyed?

and the fact that they didn't make those clear (or at least they weren't clear to me) makes it an interesting story. It also was fairly self-aware, which was pretty cool, since it's also meant to be rather serious. I really liked the aspect of your character questioning the world around him, as it's definitely an unsettling one.
In the gameplay, there were some things that may or may not have been intentional - for instance, sometimes I'd be wandering around and I'd think I see something move, but it was... just a branch? Maybe? What was it? Or perhaps an outline resolves itself so that at first it looks like a silhouette but turns out to just be some rubble that, when you look at it, it doesn't look like a person at all. I'm not sure if the game itself was playing these tricks on me, or if it was my mind, but some of it was very good. The fact that I wasn't sure if it was me or them tells a lot about how good they were at creating these types of unsettling environments.
And speaking of which, the environments them self were pretty breathtaking. They really went out of their way to make this enormous town have a lot of style and look real. It's a small town, but in a pretty amazing location, and even in the dark, I loved looking around at the sights.
The voice acting was pretty well done as well... the main characters were good, though some of the side characters seemed a little off... but maybe it was on purpose? I don't know, but it didn't detract from it.

The not-as-good:
The game sometimes did a poor job at building tension. Some of the worst stuff is the way they include things like the radio shows and TV shows, but these stifle the action so much that I stopped caring about them. I never felt like they were a much-needed break from the excitement, but rather something to totally distract you from moving on. A neat environment thing, but kind of hurt the flow.
Additionally, music cues based on enemies often failed to bring anything either. It was kind of like, if you had a radar gun that played music instead of bleeps, as you got closer and closer to an enemy encounter the music or sound effects get stronger, and when you finish, it just sort of dies of. There were almost no sections that kept a constant tension, except for one where you just had to run from something, but even then, the threat was obviously present, and you weren't creeping through a forest, worried about when and where the next attack is coming from. The music WAS excellent though, I really just wish I could have heard more of it
It also would frequently cut away from your direct location in slow-motion to focus directly on the enemies that are attacking you. Sometimes this worked great, and sometimes it just served to take you out of the moment.
With all that said, there WERE a few really cool moments where you're weaponless and have to survive, and those were done very well.

One last thing that seemed off to me, as you collect the manuscript pages, you can read them, and I often felt they were a bit amateurish. They never really struck a chord like some horror writers do. That wasn't a huge distraction, but because of the nature of the story, it felt like you were missing an important part of the plot if you DON'T read the manuscript.

So my question is, has anyone played the DLC? Do you recommend it or no?
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10. Video Game: Mega Man 4 [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:1108]
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Well, I didn't plan on this one being next, but then I wasn't really sure WHAT I was going to do next. With Alan Wake down, I really wanted to find a game I haven't finished that would take a few days. I did, but then I realized I needed to do something else.

That said, I've been down on this game as the start of the weaker games, but this one's still pretty good. It DOES give you a charge shot from the beginning, which is slightly weak, but I think they planned the stages around it (some of which are really hard). There are some awesome stages though - in particular Ring Man's stage and Bright Man's stage are really well made and fun. I just wish the bosses hadn't been pretty weak. If they weren't almost impossible to fail to (I'm looking at you, Toad Man), they're really fast and cheap (Ring Man). Some of the Wily bosses are a mixed bag too. There's a pretty weak one that's just some moving walls that sometimes stop and shoot at you, and a really easy one with some robots walking around a room with spikes at the bottom. Then there's the second to last Wily, of which the first form you have to try to get hit, and the second form has this obnoxiously small hit box that you have to jump exactly right and release your shot to hit him. Aaaaand, of course they bring back the final boss with only one weakness, but at least this time you have a stage where you can grind that away for a while.

No matter, it's still fun and worth playing every now and again, just nothing like 2 or 3.
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11. Video Game: Mega Man X2 [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:1263]
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Ugh.

Maybe it's the lack of nostalgia, maybe it's seeing so many that I recognize the flaws, or maybe I'm just Mega Man'd out, but I was not satisfied with this. The game started off great - tougher stages, at least in the form of more instant death spots, and some cool bosses, but for every good thing, it seemed like there were two more flubs that they somehow included that X didn't have. The biggest one was this horrible sequence with a direction-switching platform that was just poorly controlled, even if it had some clever stuff in it. It also had this annoying hidden area right after that section that was FULL of instant death spikes, but if you died, you start after the moving platform section with no platform to get into the hidden area, so you have to go back to the beginning of that section and do it all again to get that platform in place. I wasn't sure if there was anything important in there, or just extra lives, but I eventually gave up trying because it was so nasty.

And speaking of nasty, some of the bosses were horrendous. One of the worst was the monkey robot that hurls a spiked ball at you at seemingly random places which does a ton of damage and is extremely hard to avoid. Every time I killed it was through pure luck, especially when the fight has the appearing and disappearing blocks that get in the way. The final boss was also pretty terrible.

And speaking of the final boss, whose idea was it to add those stupid 3D-esque polygon fights? I just know one of them saw StarFox and said, we need THAT ugly thing in our game... but in neon colors!

Additionally, I think maybe one or two of the songs were at all memorable. The first X had a couple songs that grew on me, but nothing like that here. Very disappointing.

And the last thing - the boss names were ridiculous! "Wheel Gator" is a real winner, as well as "Bubble Crab" and "Overdrive Ostrich". And then there's my personal favorite: "Wire Sponge"?!? Come on guys, who was writing these? It's either a weak animal or a stupid adjective. I suppose the strongest one is "Flame Stag", but still... nreh.

Overall, the final stages felt more like an ordeal to survive than a challenge to overcome, and it left me feeling more glad I'm done than excited about winning. And from what I hear, they only go downhill from there, so I probably won't be playing any more Mega Man games. Except, er, maybe NES 5.
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12. Video Game: Sonic the Hedgehog [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:555]
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Had to get out of Nintendo territory, sooo, I moved into Sega's classic platformer.

This game amuses me now, because, while I don't think a game's attitude towards itself should affect how good the game actually is, Sonic promises something that it not only doesn't deliver, but actively prevents you from having. That thing being speed.

See, the funny thing about Sonic is that it's a platformer. So lets say Sonic's width is about 1/10th the screen width. That means at any point in time, you can see only 10 Sonic-lengths ahead of you. Along with that you're in the center of the screen, so you're really only seeing half a screen (or 5 of yourself) ahead of yourself. Lets assume you move a screen a second. This means that at any given time you have about a half a second to react to any upcoming obstacles. This is a ridiculous expectation even if your obstacles aren't enemies or spikes. There are tons of places where just a regular old wall gets in the way. Not to mention how slow it is to move through water.

Then there are the power ups, a double edged sword. The invincibility encourages recklessness, but then traps you since it doesn't protect you from squashing, drowning or bottomless pits. The speed powerup is even worse. You move so much faster than normal that you can't see anything coming. I pretty much always avoid them.

Then, speeding through it, the scenery is pretty fantastic. It's got a great style that is unique and fun to look at. I don't really WANT to speed through. Can't I enjoy the scenery? That clock ticking sure doesn't bother me

In the end, it's an extremely well made platformer. The controls may seem a little slippery, but they're consistent and they quickly feel right, unlike some other controls. Really the weakest thing is the bosses (which are done much better in later games), but it's still pretty fun.

Wonder where that other emerald was hiding in the first game though.

Edit: One thing I wanted to add - a game that does "speed" well that's not a racing game would be Canabalt. Canabalt is a fun little filler that gives a real sense of speed and is purely about avoidance, not fighting enemies or collecting things, and the wide horizontal format of the game combined with the small size of your character who is on the far left of the screen makes this work a lot better here. Also - what the hell is happening in the background?
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13. Video Game: Cave Story [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:329]
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Ah yes, an amazing game - the first time I played through it I was blown away by it. The second time? Still fantastic!

There's really so much good to be said about this. It really captures the 8-bit style and chiptunes that NES lovers can get behind, and does it with fantastic environments, great character design, and a style that I certainly never get tired of. The environments are unique and varied and the music always feels right.

It also captures the feel of a classic action platformer done right. My closest estimate would probably be kind of like Mega Man crossed with Metroid, a bit of exploration and a bit of special weapons for blasting things. And the controls are impeccable - the character does what you want and it always feels just right. Of course, UNLIKE an NES game, the wide areas of the game move extremely smoothly, even when tons of enemies, items and shrapnel are flying around the screen. This is probably one of the biggest reasons this game would never have worked in that era - imagine the slowdown when there's experience piling up during some of the big fights, or even in a particularly large room!

And, of course, it's a challenge. I do enjoy a good challenge, and this delivers it. Bosses have well-defined, but tricky patterns, and level design is made so that you rarely, if ever, feel tricked into a cheap death. Although, if you don't like a challenge and just want to play through to see style they've created, there's an easy difficulty (at least on the WiiWare download) that can let you go through.

But it's got even more! There are many secrets to be found, and multiple endings to achieve. On this second playthrough I found something I never even knew existed, the Nemesis weapon, which was hidden cleverly, but definitely findable if you pay attention to your surroundings. But to use this weapon, you must give up another, and the choices you make define how you'll play with those weapons. There are a variety of hidden weapons you can find, and each gives you a different way to play based on its abilities.

I'm almost positive I haven't found the best ending yet (I KNOW I'm not a "true hero", but I'm working on it), but for the most part the elements for things are there, it's just a matter of figuring out how to find them and use them to your benefit. I might just do a quick playthrough of this again, just to try a few new things!

So yeah - if you love NES style games, platformers or tough games, you can't possibly pass this up. Still one of my must plays.
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14. Video Game: Mega Man 5 [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:1327]
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There's a reason I usually stop at Mega Man 4 - this one is pretty bad, for Mega Man.

The bosses are pretty much all easier with the charge beam than whatever it is their weakness is (and for the record, unlike the first four games, I had no idea what their weaknesses were and didn't even bother figuring out, except for Crystal Man), the levels are pretty uninspired (with the possible exception of Gravity Man's stage, which is pretty cool), the music is forgettable, and the game overall falls flat. By far the worst Mega Man game I've played.
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15. Video Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:333]
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Well, this game is in pretty much every way superior to the original. Better, longer levels, better music, more variety, and while it still has that weird image problem of implying speed and not letting you have it, it has a few levels that really let you have the speed without harming you too much for it. The best levels for it is the Chemical Plant zone - you get flung around at incredible speeds, and often if you are about to get into a tough situation, it'll stop you from going any further. It's hard to explain how it does it, it just needs to be experienced, but if I remember correctly this was the best the series ever was, and I still really enjoy it.

It's also harder. The emerald levels are easier to come by, but they're much harder than the first game (unless you have a second player controlling Tails, which unfortunately makes the game boring for the second player). You've got two options: Play with both Sonic and Tails, and when you're in the emerald levels you just barely control Tails, and while he can pick up more rings, he is also way more likely to get hit with ring-losing bombs. On the other hand, it's way harder for Sonic to collect all the rings he needs alone. (As a note, the best thing about Sonic 3 is that the bonus levels are the best in the series). The levels are also harder, especially the final two levels. The final boss is two fights in which you are given no rings at all, which means one hit kills. Luckily you can... mostly deal with the patterns fairly easily, but it's quite tough.

This game is so fun, I plan on playing it again soon. I was only one emerald short this game (I tried to play through it yesterday, but lost all lives and gave up on trying to finish it), so I really want to see if I can finish that off.
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16. Video Game: Braid [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:115]
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It's been QUITE a while since I've played this, and I had forgotten many of the tricks. While some of the initial discovery was lost, there I still occasionally got that feeling of excitement of solving a puzzle that initially looked impossible (ESPECIALLY in World 5, with the shadow). I was going to try and get a 45 minute run for the achievement, but I was way too out of practice (much like with Limbo) and quickly decided not to try so hard and just relax and enjoy the ride. It's still quite enjoyable, although I have a feeling that forgetting a lot of the puzzles helped a lot.

One of my top XBLA picks! If you love puzzles, this is the one. The feeling of solving these puzzles for the first time... you don't forget that, and the best puzzle games will give you that feeling.
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17. Video Game: Ecco: The Tides of Time [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:1939]
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Don't mind me - instead of following through with my significant and important plan to beat a bunch of video games, I went out and socialized. Although, if you want to go by College Rules, I haven't been to bed yet, so it's still yesterday.

In any case, I finished this game, which is, in comparison to the first Ecco game, quite pleasant. It has some difficult segments, but it never drives you as mad with difficulty as the first game did.

While I can't say the game is a total masterpiece, it's a nice, enjoyable time (again, unlike the first game which was a lot more frustrating). It's definitely a unique experience; the music is relaxing when needed but can work up some tension, the locations and enemies pleasing and varied (although I now realize that the aliens look quite a bit like xenomorphs, so much so that I wonder if it's a coincidence at all), and the controls smooth and responsive. There are a couple times when maybe certain things could be explained better through either gameplay or flat-out explanation, but I think that's at least a little bit of a sign of the times.

While the modern Aquaria might be a much more full gaming experience, I still say this one is quite fun, and I'll most likely pull it out again in the future.

Oh, one thing I want to add - the 3D ring sections - so lame! I'm not sure why they even included these, but the game probably would've been better without them. Luckily they're short and infrequent enough to not hamper my enjoyment, but they're definitely the weakest part of the game.
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18. Video Game: Rez [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:308]
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This is a game that I never ever get tired of, no matter how many times I see the same levels and patterns and hear the same sounds and music. It just doesn't get boring to me.

If you haven't played this game, the basic gameplay is a third-person shooter where you hold the "lock-on" button until you've locked onto up to 8 targets (or the same target 8 times if it takes multiple hits) and release to fire. You are on a set track, but have some freedom in your visual range. It sounds simple and almost boring, but the way it's done is visually and aurally stunning. You are mostly travelling through wireframe-looking areas which shift and mutate in bizarre fashions, but can also take on more complex landscapes. The enemies are meant to be viruses, part of a giant takeover of an enormous computer system in this virtual world you are travelling through, and as such come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and in patterns meant to surprise you and visually attract you. Then there are the bosses: enormous deathtraps sent to remove you from the system with clever patterns, attractive designs, and a level-clearing challenge.

And, of course, there are the sounds. As you gain certain items (or get struck by enemies), you may change your form to a higher (or lower) existence, changing the depth of the music and the sounds you make when firing. And the music and sounds of this world combine with the sharp digital environments to create something that is just utterly breathtaking. I simply can't get enough of these worlds, ESPECIALLY world 5, which just drips with style. The design of the levels, enemies and patterns here is just top notch, and I will play this game repeatedly.

And you should, because it'll probably take you a while to realize
Spoiler (click to reveal)
The bosses have multiple forms depending on... How well you've done? Or if you've beat them before? I'm not even sure about this. And I believe you have to finish level 5 in max form to face the final gauntlet.

But if you're like me you won't even care, because you'll really just want to play it for the sake of playing it.

Edit: as a note, you really should play the HD remake of this on XBox Live Arcade... It cleans up the sounds and visuals and looks a LOT better on an HD TV than the PS2 or Dreamcast version. For 10 bucks, you really can't pass it up. Seriously, buy this game somehow. It's brilliant!
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19. Video Game: Auditorium [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
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Here's another one I was hoping to have finished hours ago, but instead it took me... yikes, almost 5 hours to finish?!? man, this was a crazy one.

Anyway, if you've not heard of Auditorium, it's a clever puzzle that requiring you to pass sprays of various colors of light over matching hot spots on the playing field. You do this by using the various circles containing manipulating icons in them. You can change the circle's location and diameter, allowing you to cover a wide variety of spaces.

What it adds, however, is a musical reward: every time you saturate one of the spots with it's required color of light, it plays a new track in the song that is the theme of this set of levels. It's usually a dreamy, piano-focused tune, and beating the level rewards you with the full track and a nice light show that you created yourself.

This is great on paper, and in fact, when I played a short demo waaaay back when it was being developed, I enjoyed it so much, and saw so much potential in it, that I donated to them. Later, this earned me early access, and full access to the game instantly upon release.

So how does it stand up? Well, it's complicated.

At the start, it's simple, teaching you the ropes, leading you along with a decent difficulty curve without beating you over the head with things (I love a game that can do that!) It introduces new manipulators (my word, not theirs) occasionally, and rather than telling you what it does, they leave it up to your experimentation (though it's usually fairly obvious anyway). All these elements are fantastic and well done.

Then it starts getting to the later levels.

First, one thing to know is that you're not playing on a grid here. Everything is in a continuous space (including the manipulators' diameters), and you can place them on basically any point in the screen. This turns out to be a double-edged sword, however, as puzzles that are complicated may be made easy, sometimes even by total accident, if you happen to put the manipulator in just the right spot. In fact, I've done levels where one of them sat alone, unused, as the lights sparked in victory and the fanfare played. On the other hand, sometimes the lack of a lockable grid makes other puzzles extremely hard if there is one very specific solution that is just extremely hard to find. I know even when I was almost positive I had the right setup, it took some careful manipulation to actually get the pieces in the right spot. (In fact, I'd say I spent about an hour on the final two puzzles alone because of this very thing!)

Nevertheless, it is a puzzle game, and the level designs are very good and more than a few times I experience that spark of ingenuity igniting my brain as I figured out the clever solution to a tricky puzzle, and this is always a good thing to see in a puzzle game.

But... There are other issues in the game that are extremely unfortunate.

The first is related to the fact that it's a browser game. This is perfectly fine, many a browser game have I played and enjoyed. This particular one was made to be played in full screen, and so that is how I played it. Unfortunately, a few niggling details hampered the play because of this. First, despite choosing the highest quality, in full screen it has some noticeable pixelization that I swore didn't exist for the demo. A minor issue, but definitely one that I feel like they should have been able to deal with for such a simply rendered game. Second, there was a fairly sizeable button in the top right corner that would exit full screen if you clicked it. This could get in the way when (additionally, because I use two monitors, when I clicked to close to the right side of the screen, it'd sometimes lose full screen as well). Finally, even in full screen I sometimes had trouble resizing manipulators. There seemed to be a margin of error, and the only way to be sure to get the right one is to click on its center icon, then try to change its diameter.

But there was more. Unlike some games, the light in this game isn't a continuous beam, it's a slight spray of particles. This is most likely to make up for the inaccuracy of the continuous playing field, but it leads to its own problem, tied in with something else. To complete a level, every hot spot has to have a fairly continuous stream of light passing over it. In the original demo, this win condition allowed for some error, but it was pretty rigorous. In the final version however, it appears they relaxed the requirements a lot. For a couple of the harder levels I can understand this, but this unfortunately led to a couple disappointing victories on earlier levels where I was just moving the pieces around experimentally and suddenly the puzzle was over.

And, one last bit of misfortune. I am pretty sure that after they released the first browser version, they added a few more levels. However, that doesn't excuse the fact that, at least when I just played it, several of the later levels were frequently missing tracks from the music! Essentially, lighting up the hotspot added nothing. This was particularly frustrating on some of the later levels, where even if you were making progress you got no reward, and I would often find myself sitting in silence as I tried to figure out the solution. One of the best parts of the game to me is hearing the sounds swap in and out as you activate one spot but lose another, and that final sync as they all come together to create a full music and light show... along with being frustrating in harder levels when you barely feel as if you're making progress, it also makes the game lose that unique experience of building something by solving the puzzles.

But, you know what? Even with all that, I still recommend this game. I'd particularly say the iOS version, as I believe that is the cheapest, but the PSN or browser-based one is still worth getting. If you're a fan of puzzle games, you really will enjoy this.

EDIT: Apparently the issue with the tracks not playing is a problem with it just not loading the tracks. While this is not actually broken and is surely related to some caching thing or other, it's still a flaw of the browser version and remains unfortunate. (I just went back and tested some levels that I noticed this problem in and managed to get everything to play soooo...)
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20. Video Game: Super Mario Bros. [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:210]
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Well, I finally finished another of my fun self-imposed challenges - a full run of Mario, no warps. This doesn't include regular pipes, though I didn't use any of the beanstalks because I couldn't remember which was which. (OK, I remember ONE of them)

Anyway, it took me four attempts at about 40 minutes an attempt, putting me at just over 3 1/2 hours per total. That game is HARD, and while at first I felt a bit of it was the controls, after a couple of games, Mario's physics felt quite natural. I definitely agree that 2D platformers have come a long way, and that many games are much better, but this really isn't just a piece of history; it's still quite fun and engaging, and I was honestly surprised by that. My continued play wasn't just out of my own stupid devotion to this silly challenge, but rather out of genuine enjoyment. Of course, what's really neat is seeing that origination of a very simple idea. While Extra Credits covered it a lot more thoroughly, the basic gist is that this is one of the few platformers that really uses its conventions to give an excellent risk vs. reward challenge. Should you get more coins, but at the risk of falling into a pit, or do you not really need that extra life to finish the game? The fact that the mushroom and extra lives move force you to make snap decisions when they start rolling towards a pit, and even the placement of several blocks can make it tricky to get the fire flowers. And of course there's always the star, which can encourage you to rush forward destroying all the enemies you can... but are traps waiting for you if you move to fast?

One of my favorite examples of this is a really cool sequence in world... either 8-1 or 8-2, where a springboard launches you into a 1-up block which travels across a long unreachable platform with a bunch of pits and jumping koopas underneath it. You've got a visible, immediate timer running, and a decision to make as to whether you think you can make it past that gauntlet fast enough, or just let it pass and then move on. If this was a modern game, this section would be part of a checkpoint where the music suddenly gets really intense and your character makes a snarky one-liner as he chases after the treasure before it goes over the waterfall, but here it's just another part of the game. And it works, it really does. You can see the origins of modern platformrs here. This is truly one of the classics.

Some interesting things I noticed though. There are only two fully underwater levels, 2-2 and 7-2, and they are both followed by a horrible land level where cheep-cheeps run rampant. The curious thing about that is that 2-3 and 7-3 are identical except that 7-3 adds some enemies to the already nasty setup. This is the biggest failure in my eyes - those additional enemies make it a little trickier, but they really aren't significantly harder. It's the random flinging cheeps that make the level awful.

There's also the fact that at it's heart, Mario is actually a patience game, especially when it comes to the castles. There's almost always a fair pattern that you can watch for to time your escape if you don't have fireballs (or if you're up against unbeatable enemies), and your best bet is to watch and wait for that right moment. This is especially necessary in the final levels, where much to my dismay I did not keep fireballs to the final boss. Nevertheless, I managed to finish it (what really did it was getting there with *crown*2 lives), avoiding both the hammer brother and Bowser's ridiculous attacks. The fact that there's a timer ticking, even if it's a long one, makes you have to move, but it's not so short that you need to rush. I will say that the random aspects make timing that stuff pretty hard, but I found that i often got a feel for what was going to happen and could manage to avoid danger fairly well.

A couple stats: On my final game that I won, I had 36 total fireworks (not trying to get any, just having them happen), but one game I got a total of 32, which is of course the total number of levels in the game. And of course, there are 8 world, 4 levels per world, and 32 levels total, all of which are powers of 2. The most lives I had was 12 (or *crown*2), and the most I lost in one level was when I lost 7 lives in level 5-4. I had a bad round... There are only two fully underwater levels, 2-2 and 7-2, and only 2 fully underground levels, 1-2 and 4-2.

Hm, I thought I was keeping track, but maybe it was closer to 50 minutes an attempt.

Edit: Played through today again with warps - having beaten it and knowing the levels I made it through both quests in a matter of minutes. Now it hardly seems challenging anymore
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21. Video Game: Mega Man 9 [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:1094]
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Well, I'm pretty disappointed - I didn't want to play this one, but I couldn't finish the other game I wanted and I got rather annoyed with it (for the record, the game was the Lost Levels version of Mario 2). Unfortunately, I also misjudged my skills here - I fought all the masters with only the starting weapon, but I should have saved that time for the wily stages, which I forgot just how nasty they were, especially the final boss. It took me somewhere around 6 hours to finish this and in the end I had to brute force it with energy tanks. I'm not happy, but dangit, I'm so close!
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22. Video Game: Katamari Damacy [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:101]
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Welp, John called it. After my MM9/SMB2 debacle, I needed something soothing and non-platformy. This was it. It took about 4 1/2 hours to complete every mission (at least to whatever amount I happened to reach on the first attempt), and it reminded me why I spent so much time with this game ages ago. While I still think the sequel, We ♥ Katamari, is superior, it would also have taken a long time, and besides, if I play that, I'm going to roll up more roses.

If you haven't played it, Katamari Damacy belongs to the small and rarely-expanding "collect stuff, get bigger, collect larger stuff and get even bigger" genre. You push a sticky ball around, the katamari, and anything you touch of a certain size or smaller gets attached to it. The larger the ball gets, the larger the objects you can pick up. Your goal is often a certain size, but sometimes it's certain objects or, in one case, you have to estimate if the katamari has reached a certain size. The gameplay is simple enough, but what makes it is the goofy worlds. The world layouts are always amusing if you pay attention; for instance, in an open-air market, a man in a bear suit is worshiping a salmon in front of a semi-circle of wooden bear statues, or perhaps a sumo wrestler is fighting a giant squid on top of a small island. Or maybe it's a trail of teddy bears in flower pots riding around the lawn, or a golf man putting eggs, candy and light-bulbs into a hole watched over by several crabs hanging off the flag. Or perhaps some batteries are just in a row in front of a radio. Hopping. Or any number of other situations you could imagine, or couldn't.

Of course, everything makes a sound, whether it's a digital bleep, or cries of "Oh nooooooooo" as you roll up a schoolboy, or the wrestler who declares he is the strongest, even as you absorb him into your ball. And after you've collected them, you can read a fun little blurb about it. It's got tons of silliness in it, and that's not even to mention the ridiculous cut scenes and the King of the Cosmos' wicked bender, followed by his masterful parenting in making his son replace all the stars he broke. It's all light-hearted fun in a well-designed world, and I'll probably play it a bunch more in the near future. It does a great job at keeping me relaxed.
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23. Video Game: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:449]
Chris
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Well, I'd been wrestling recently with my agonizing dilemma of whether to focus entirely on my significant and worthwhile goal of playing way too many video games in a month or having a social life and being a human being, when
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suggested to me that I could combine the two to make the world a better place. So, today we played co-op Ninja Turtles on the SNES while swapping old war stories and pictures of our grade-school gaming calluses.

While I played the TMNT games in the arcade (and some on the NES) a bunch, I hadn't played this one before, but the muscle memory set in soon enough and I was punching anthropomorphic animals with the best of them in no time. It's full of ridiculous phrases (Neon Night-Riders?!?), terrible and unnecessary voices, and weird inconsistencies. My two favorites of these are 1: One minute, Krang is the size of the statue of liberty, but later you fight him when he's the size of you, and 2: If you've been sent into a time warp you'll never return from, why did he send all his cronies after you anyway? Shouldn't you just moulder away in the primordial, eh-heh, ooze? I bet that by sending his guys to take care of you, he accidentally left the time portal open, and that's what let you return to defeat him! Evil is often its own downfall, you know.

But whatever his irrational reasoning was, the game is still pretty amusing (and of course, great to play with two players). Despite teeming with cheap attacks and some near-unavoidable environment traps, it's actually not all that hard (again, especially with two). We had to play through twice to complete it, but it took only about half an hour each time, and of course, knowing where the horrible traps were helped get us through a lot safer the second time. Supposedly, the final boss is a lot harder with a single player, but with the two of us he fell incredibly quickly and with only one casualty (because instant death attacks are what they are).

So remember, next time YOU get stuck in a time warp from which there is no return, bring anything that explodes and make sure to kick shell! (or, you know, whatever equivalent colloquialism you might care to use)
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24. Video Game: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:618]
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On a suggestion, I decided to give this game a try. I had played the first Mario Land game before, and remembered how weird it was - exploding koopa shells, fireballs that collect coins, sphinxes, airplane battles and submarines?

In any case, I was hoping for something better, and at least in that it delivered. It's interesting because it takes a few ideas from Mario World, but has so much other bizarre things going on. The gameboy cart likely makes the size of the world have to be smaller, but it puts some pretty neat ideas in there. The final castle is pretty fun, and there are a few secret passages that are fun to search out, but the rewards for doing so are pretty flimsy. The boss fights are OK, but I've always felt that Mario bosses were weak. However, there is also very little challenge to the game. This isn't entirely a bad thing, but it gives me little interest in playing it again.

A couple other things that were curious - the run-speed seemed almost indistinguishable from the regular movement speed, and the fact that you could jump higher just by pressing up while jumping made the feel of playing the game a lot weirder. There was also a pretty useless slot machine that let you win extra lives which were pretty unnecessary since I ended the game with almost 60 lives anyway.

This game would be much more interesting if it had been made before Mario World, but since it came after, it just seems a little odd. But, the gameboy isn't able to hold those full NES games, so I can see why it got to where it is now.
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25. Video Game: WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames! [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:637]
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I finished this well yesterday but spent too much time socializing and doing crap to post it.

Warioware is primarily known for being a game consisting of a plethora of "microgames", which are essentially 5 second games (if that) meant to test how quick you are at performing the tasks it sets for you. It often seems simple, but it throws a lot of goofy stuff your way, and in rapid succession, such that it's easy to get flustered and goof up even the easiest of things. It's kind of hard to explain it - it's really just a stream of different objectives that are constantly changing and speeding up, and you have to keep up with them one at a time.

It's also... weird. There is generally a theme for each level, so one is "sci-fi" and most of the games involve things like ships flying through space, or aliens trying to catch humans under a glass, while another is "sports" and most of them are things like making a ski jump, or "skating board" as they put it. Conveniently, each game has a character associated with it, and a goofy little story meant to rationalize your need to play all these games.

While I can't say anything about the game is deep at all, it's incredibly fun to play, and what's even better is that it really matches the portable system by being easy to pick up for a few minutes and put down again and it doesn't have to get you sucked into it if you don't have the time.

There are also bonus games to be unlocked which appear to be based on how well you do, but honestly, I'm not clear on that. It doesn't matter though, as most of the endgame stuff is all single games that just go on forever until you get beat severely by them and not super exciting. You can always pick and choose your favorite games and see how far you can get, but I feel like that has limited appeal.

I'd say that, at this point, this game is sure to be very cheap, and if you find it and like quick, silly challenges that don't take much of your time, definitely pick it up.
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