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When the Sonic Team decided to release a sequel to the 1996 Sega Saturn favourite Nights into Dreams they would have been better off calling it Nights: Journey into Frustration!
While waiting for the game to load (which takes quite a while) I opened the instruction book to discover there are no less than four controller schemes to choose from, and three pages of moves you can make, each one slightly different depending on the controller you decide on. Hmm. I settled on the traditional Wii Remote and Numchuk and was slightly happier when I realised there was a training mode to help me learn the moves.
I selected the character of Will and watched a delightful movie about his dreams and how he arrives in Nightopia (the place we humans go to when we're asleep). The story was cute, the graphics impressive and I had high hopes.
Entering Nightopia I was introduced to an Owl (my guide) and a strange he/she character called Nights - the guy/gal the game is named for. Nights looks like a jester, sounds like a girl, and is apparently sexless, but has some funky moves that I need to master to save Nightopia from the threat of the Nightmaren.
Nights looks like a jester, sounds like a girl, and is apparently sexless.
But I thought you were Will, I hear you say. Apparently Nights has a special power and when you touch his hand you morph together - cool trick huh? A little while later, having learnt how to fly through golden rings and collect glowing blue orbs, I'm told by the Owl that I'm ready to face the Nightmaren who have captured Nights and locked him in a cage. Oh yeah, and I'm Will again. Confused? I was!
So I wonder around a nice looking field, picking up blue orbs and generally looking for clues and people to talk to when suddenly -- I'm dead.
It appears there's a three-minute timer and when times runs out you've had it. By the second (ok the third) attempt I realise that Nights and his cage are just five or six steps in front of me and that when I climb into the cage I morph with Nights; it seems the real mission is to fly around Nightopia capturing the enemy and locking them in their own cages.
This time I fly around, collecting orbs and unlocking chests full of treasure; I can see the bird I'm supposed to be catching but he's very elusive.
Once I've died a few times and the air starts turning blue Lee looks the game up on Google; 'it's a race' he says 'you just have to fly to the right and catch the other bird - there's a track icon on the screen so you know how close you are'.Now, why couldn't they have just explained that in the first place? Ok, so I'm guiding a character round a track, picking up gold rings and chasing an enemy, which means it's a bit like Sonic the Hedgehog, and I was good at that game (one of my favourites of my youth); so maybe it's not so bad after all.
I set off again, gliding Nights through the rings, collecting the orbs, and eventually I catch the other bird and lock him in his cage - Hooray!
If I could have tossed the whole Wii out of the window at this point I would have.
The excitement and sense of achievement is short-lived when I find out I have to catch another bird, only this one is more tricky and the timer runs out before I get a glimpse of his feathers. Frustration returns. You have to go all of the way back to the beginning!
You'd think capturing the first bird would create a save point, but no, each time you run out of time you go right back to the start of the level; even if you've completed the round and are facing the boss.
I wanted to review this game for you so I stuck with it, but believe me if I could have tossed the whole Wii out of the window at this point I would have done. Instead I took a deep breath, counted to ten and tried again. Eventually I completed the level and defeated the boss; who is actually easier to defeat than you would think given the difficulty of the actual levels.
I haven't got anywhere near completing this game yet, I'm stuck on level three where you have to fly through fifteen gold rings consecutively, which unfortunately sounds much simpler than it actually is. The controls aren't intuitive and I can only play for about 10 minutes before hurling the Remote across the room.
The game does have one redeeming feature: a two-player mode where you can race against someone on your own machine or a complete stranger somewhere in the world. Of course I'm so bad at the game I haven't been brave enough to face an invisible contestant who'll probably just leave me for dust!
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: