Batman: Arkham Knight Review

I must admit I’m a little bit blind when it comes to superhero games. I played the two excellent Spider-Man games on PlayStation 1, and had goes here and there of other games, but that was about it. I missed Batman: Arkham Asylum entirely, and only got its sequel, Arkham City, because I had preordered a Wii U and didn’t fancy my chances at enjoying Zombi U or Nintendoland very much. The latter was fine, Zombi U was pants, but Arkham City… wow, that was a great game, even with the goofy Wii U tablet controls crowbarred in.

I missed Arkham Origins as well due to it being released as a “last-gen” game – I only really jump back a console for the odd truly special game, like South Park: The Stick of Truth. But when Arkham Knight was announced for the current generation, I figured it was worth diving back into the world of Batman. Here’s what I thought about it, having completed all of the game’s main and secondary missions and activating Knightfall.

Pleasing

What a beautiful, immersive rendition of Gotham City. Arkham Knight uses the heft of the upgraded console hardware effectively. Everything’s more detailed, rain and other such effects are absolutely gorgeous – the world gels and is a joy to navigate. I didn’t get sick of it despite the hefty playtime I needed to complete the game to Knightfall level.

I was worried to hear how prominent the Batmobile was in Arkham Knight – I loved Arkham City and would legitimately have been happy with Arkham Knight if it simply stuck a few extras onto the formula and called it a day. But the Batmobile sections weren’t just good – they were excellent. The Batmobile is a well-equipped, highly powerful vehicle which handles beautifully, is versatile, and is great fun to play with in every instance the game uses it, from races, to enemy unit destruction sequences, and in all the little unique bits like Riddler trophies and missions.

Speaking of, there was a ton to do, and it was for the most part a heck of a lot of fun. The main missions involving the Arkham Knight were great, but any game that gives me an open world and a massive clean-up job of fun distractions is very much my thing. Make some of those things lateral-thinking riddles and we’re onto a winner here. There were perhaps a few too many Riddler trophies, but since you can unlock map locations by taking down specific marked informants, it wasn’t a massive hassle.

Batman feels good to play with as well. I’ll get onto the niggles I have with some of the actions he can do, but the ability to propel yourself around the map using your retracting hook, gliding about the place and springboarding yourself with the Batmobile is satisfying in the same way the previous games, and other ones like Just Cause, achieve. On top of that, the game’s combat system is great too – very simple, very gratifying. And very Batman.

Frowning

The control scheme, although fine once you’re used to it, is ridiculously convoluted. Gadgets, actions and controls for everything are all over the place, with even some of the more mundane actions being a chore to do. If you are presented with a destructible wall you want to progress through, you have to: hold a button to open your gadget wheel, push your stick left to select your explosive gel, let go of that button, move up to the wall, push another button to spray it with gel, back off a little, and then push yet another button to detonate the gel. All for an action which realistically could have just been a single button to punch through the damn thing.

Although I completed the game on PS4 and it ran great on that, I also got the PC version cheap for a later second playthrough. It appears to have since been patched and now works well, but my first attempt at playing it was met with a glitchy, laggy mess, not dissimilar to Mortal Kombat X, another 2015 WB release. I hope WB and its devs, going forward, can take more care in their launch PC ports and not just end up fixing them months later when, shockingly, they’re met with backlash as PC players complain in droves about their new games being unplayable.

I know Batman has a massive library of villains, but Arkham Knight feels like it’s trying far too hard to squeeze as many of them in as it possibly can – and it can be detrimental to the game’s story and logic. Arkham Knight is an interesting, brand-new villain, and I really wish the story could have used that character as a singular focal point. Unfortunately, the Arkham Knight is the co-main-villain of the big story with Scarecrow. And they’re cultivating a gas that turns everyone into the Joker. And Batman has been infected, so the entire game contains Joker hallucinations. Harley Quinn naturally gets involved too. So does Poison Ivy. And there must be 20 or more other villains that appear in the various side missions of the game. The entire events of Arkham Knight supposedly take place during a single Halloween evening – it almost becomes comically nonsensical how many different villains Batman is taking down in such a small time span, and makes you wonder what the hell Gotham’s police dept is there for.

Overall

Arkham Knight truly feels like the best kind of sequel anyone can hope for – it keeps everything that made people fall in love with its predecessors and adds a wealth of new stuff, including some fundamental additions, to make it a fresh game in its own right, potentially drawing in new fans without alienating more than a few old ones that are completely allergic to vehicular combat.

But if it gets a sequel, don’t preorder it on PC.

4s

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Bully (aka Canis Canem Edit) PS4 Review

Bully, called Canis Canem Edit in UK thanks to one Jack Thompson (remember him?), is, put simply, my favourite game of all time. Since I first got it in 2006, I’ve now played it in various forms and on various formats four times: twice as Canis Canem Edit on PS2, once as Bully: Scholarship Edition (now taking the Bully name in UK thanks to Thompson having lost his job by then) on Xbox 360, and once also as Bully: Scholarship Edition on PC – that was the first playthrough of the game I 100%ed it.

Now I’m most of the way through playing it again, once again as Canis Canem Edit but as an enhanced PS2 classic on PS4. Here are my thoughts on the game as it currently stands, where it’s aged in the decade it’s been around, how the PS4 port is, and what I miss and don’t miss from the enhanced Scholarship Edition.

And I’m calling it Bully from now on. As visually pleasing as the UK alternative name – Latin for “Dog Eat Dog” – is, Bully is more concise.

Pleasing

Goddamn I still love this game. I genuinely believe that Bully is the purest, most condensed Rockstar game out there. I adore Rockstar, but I can find fault in the Grand Theft Auto series, the Red Deads, the LA Noires etc because of how much downtime there can be in them at times, how the mission formats can become a tad stagnant, etc. It’s not a problem in anything Rockstar does in my eyes, but there is room to distill and refine them – with Bully, there’s barely any of that.

The mission variety is exceptional, and missions are very unique. Bully is a Rockstar game without any characters dying – it has classroom hijinks, petty crimes. As a result, Bully doesn’t contain one too many shootouts, or one too many of anything. In one mission, you’re in a scrapyard trying to guide your friend towards an electromagnet to attract a clique leader’s bicycle as he smacks you with a plank. The next, you’re fighting the Bullworth Bull in an empty swimming pool. Then you’re sneaking through the girls’ dormitory, stealing their knickers to sell to the perverted PE teacher. You might be breaking into an insane asylum to sneak out the alcoholic English teacher, or taking covert pictures of the people stealing the preps’ boxing trophies, or guiding a pair of incontinent nerds through a Fun House at the carnival, triggering obstacles to knock out the jocks pursuing them…

I honestly have to stop myself reeling off more examples, because I’ve only touched the surface of the missions contained in the game. You can take almost any mission from Bully and have an experience incomparable to any other mission from the game… and often incomparable to any other mission from ANY other game.

Alongside missions, the game offers classes, which are all, except Shop, great fun too. English is a minigame where you get six letters and must make as many valid words as you can from them, Chemistry is a rhythm game-esque button-to-the-beat minigame, PE is a mixture of wrestling and dodgeball minigames, Photography is as you’d imagine and Art is a fill-in-the-picture game I’ve seen before but don’t know the original name for. Shop is the only duff one – you either have to rotate your left analogue stick in the indicated direction or repeatedly tap the indicated button, doing this eight times. The game seems very quirky on how it registers these – especially a problem for stick rotation, because the game shows the stick rotating slowly, but if you do it anything but VERY fast, it will fail you. There are five of each class, and every single one grants you a small but useful perk, such as health bonuses for kissing people, access to faster BMXes, free prank items and weapons, new fighting moves, and more.

And speaking of classes, Bully is, in general, a better experience than Scholarship Edition. On top of some glitches in the enhanced version (including a savage one that can stop you reaching 100% by stopping errands from appearing, which I got in my playthrough), to put it bluntly, all of the classes in the new one were bad. Maths was an easy multiple choice minigame, Music was a drumming minigame that seemed to have a very odd opinion on what constituted a successful or failed strike, Biology’s a dissection minigame that is hellish to play on a controller but probably easy with a mouse on PC (it’s like join-the-dots with a strict time limit), and Geography literally just relied on you knowing the exact locations of countries and US states on a map – if you don’t, you’d better have an atlas to hand. Bar Geography (which I’ll get to later), the other three had really bad new perks too, since there was nothing else the game could really offer. But this is a review of the original Bully, so you don’t have to suffer any of that!

Side missions in Bully, for the most part, are cracking. Delivering papers is remarkably fun, BMX and go-kart racing are excellent, and errands offer yet more variety in stuff to do, such as taking a picture on someone’s cheating spouse, catching a corrupt police officer breaking the law, and dressing up as a box of french fries (you heard me) to deliver hot food to customers. You have a carnival which is entirely interactable, from the minigame stalls to the arcade cabinets to the rideable rollercoasters and ferris wheel – in 2006, it was so nice to have a game with a funfair that teased you with amusements before making it clear that it was all just for show. Heck, even games as new as Grand Theft Auto V gave you a pier with flashing lights, shops and amusements, and then let you interact with the drinks machines and f*** all else.

I’ve mentioned games’ “feel” before, and Bully has that in spades. The aesthetic of Bullworth Academy and the town it resides in, the ambient soundtrack with its catchy, undeniably “schoolish” tunes, and the variety of schoolmates (all of which are named and unique) really do add so much to it. You can get lost and immersed in the world of Bullworth, and you can feel part of it. The way the game threatens to confine you to the school itself but then, at the head of Chapter 2, show the school gates slowly opening and offering you to explore further, and then how unique and interesting all the other parts of Bullworth are as well – the residential areas, the carnival, and later on the dilapidated New Coventry area and the grim factories and trailer parks of the perfectly-titled Blue Skies.

Frowning

Bully has aged. Although it’s visually aged, that’s not much of a problem. But there are areas in the game where we’ve since evolved as game developers and learnt better how to do things, and I imagine these are things that would irk people coming to Bully for the first time in 2016 or later.

For one, to save the game you must find a registration book. Initially, there’s one in your dorm and one in the headteacher’s reception area. You unlock more as the game progresses, both within and beyond the school’s walls. It’s an irritating, archaic way of doing saving, and annoying to have to keep turfing back to the nearest book to save when you’re used to autosaving and quicksaving being ubiquitous in modern games.

Another one, a PS2-era Rockstar favourite, is that dying or being arrested in a mission will fail it entirely, forcing you not only to do everything again – even if you were 15 or 20 minutes into one – but also to getting to the marker to trigger the mission in the first place, which can be the other side of the game world in some cases.

One other area it has aged, actually something fixed in Scholarship Edition, is that to 100% the game you have to collect a bunch of different things. And some of them are very hard to find – not GTA hard, but still, when you’re on 74 of 75 rubber bands and the game hasn’t given you a single hint on where the last one is, it can get irritating to then scour the internet for a map of one and check every single location until you find it. This was fixed in Scholarship Edition as completing the new Geography classes unlocks markers for them on your map.

The arcade machines can honestly go and do one. If you’re looking to complete the game’s main story and nothing else, you don’t have to encounter them at all. If you want to complete all of the missions but not necessarily 100% the game, you have to beat one of the nerd’s highscores on Consumo. And to 100% the game, you have to be #1 on Nut Shots and Monkey Fling.

Monkey Fling sees you eat bananas and throw the consequent poo at spiders, which take one of your three lives if they land or crawl onto you. It’s the closest of the three minigames to being playable, but doesn’t manage it – if you get the highscore first try, you’ll already never want to see the game again. It gets worse from here. Consumo has a ridiculously high highscore set on it (so much so that I dare you to resist knocking the bastard that set it out afterwards) and is an ultra-simple game in which you have four-directional movement and must touch some things that float across and down the screen but not others. For about 20 minutes. And that’s if you win it first time. It’s the slowest 20 minutes ever.

The worst minigame by far is Nut Shots, which is difficult AND tedious. It’s a side scrolling shooter. Shoot 10 bees, you encounter a bat. Shoot 3 spawned bats, you encounter an eagle. Rinse and repeat. Three lives lost, you’re dead. You have to go through at least 7 eagles to pass the highscore, which means you also have to go through 21 bats and 210 bees. The bees shoot at you, with their bullets being difficult to spot thanks to the dazzling, ugly background, and the bats fire a massive wave of sonar that becomes very difficult to dodge if you’re really far to the left (since it grows as it moves). I absolutely hate Nut Shots with a vengeance, and it’s mandatory to get 100%, as well as a trophy on PS4. I’ll bundle this in too – the PS4 also has a trophy for destroying 300 bottles at the carnival’s shooting gallery. The shooting gallery is janky, unpleasant, and tiresome – expect to hit about 5 bottles total in each of your first several 2 minute tries at the minigame, before your body oddly adapts to the crapitude of the chore that is the shooting gallery.

Overall

I know the Frowning section is quite big for a game I consider my all-time favourite, but it’s such a small portion of what is, besides that, an absolutely incredible experience. I don’t know if I can ever put into words what exactly, at the end of the day, brings it from being a great game to my personal slice of interactive heaven, but to me, Bully just has it – the X factor, the je ne sais quoi, the intangible quality that, while flawed, and possibly now aged enough to detract new players, makes it my favourite game of all time.

I would kill for Rockstar to release a Bully 2, but if it ever occurred, I would be scared of it. Scared that, despite modernisation (which believe me, I am not against), it might lose whatever it is that makes the original what it is in my eyes. I desperately want it, but at the same time, I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving Bully. And I’m happy that the PS4 trophies have given me a reason to play it again.

5s

Fallout 4: DLC / Season Pass Review

Fallout 4 has now received six DLC packs, supposedly the only six it will receive. Having played through them, built with their workshop items and completed their stories, here are my general thoughts on how they were, and whether the Season Pass is a good purchase.

Please note: I am a huge fan of the workshop and building in Fallout 4. If you couldn’t care less about that, very little of the DLC is likely to appeal to you. Also please note: spoilers are afoot.

Summary

Automatron gives you a short story in which you have to take down the Mechanist, an evil character that is creating deadly robots in their hidden factory. Wasteland Workshop expands the Workshop to include stuff like animal cages and cage fighting, enemy traps and the like. Far Harbor adds a new series of quests set on an all-new island with new enemies, guns etc. Contraptions Workshop lets you create machines to automate the creation of things. Vault-Tec Workshop lets you build vaults and gives you a new Workshop location, a massive, sprawling underground cave that was intended to be Vault 88. And Nuka-World introduces another new location, an old Nuka-Cola theme park now overrun by three raider cliques.

Pleasing

It was great to have new places to explore and new things to do. Far Harbor and Nuka World each added several hours of new missions, in new locations. Nuka World particularly felt very much different to the base game – but it was still in keeping with the theme in general.

I loved, with Automatron, the ability to create custom companion robots, and the versatility of the creator. I found it was especially useful for creating sentry bots for each of my settlements – for extra comedy, I could then give them cutesy voices and have them work the hospitals until the base was attacked.

Memorable quests and characters littered both DLCs too – I particularly enjoyed helping an avid Nuka-Cola fan into completing a pre-war Nuka World contest, which led to a hidden mini-vault containing the depressed, disembodied, but mechanically-kept-alive head of the founder of Nuka-Cola. And who could forget the bit in Far Harbor when you hack into the all-powerful leader robot’s brain, turning Fallout 4 into an unexpected Minecraft-esque light-bending puzzle game?!

The integration of new content into the Commonwealth was good too, though it could have gone further. It was fun to see the enemies from Automatron start cropping up in random encounters, and choosing to side with the Raiders in Nuka World and systematically overthrowing every single one of your own settlements was interesting.

Many of the smaller additions to the Workshop were really, really good – arguably things that could have been in the base game, but very much welcome and added perceived value to the Season Pass. Neon lettering, electrical logic gates, armour/clothing mannequins to display collected one-off apparel, and a general boost to the variety of all things available to build were excellent and really helped in improving the number of possibilities with bases.

Frowning

Far Harbor ran like crap on PS4. I swear I was hitting 10FPS in some places – generally the foggy locations. Far Harbor is a very foggy place.

Contraptions Workshop is almost hilarious in how useless it is. Its concept conjured up thoughts of automatic drilling and excavating machines, resource miners… heck, even just being able to assign settlers to go and keep scavenging copper and feeding it into a machine, giving you a Cookie Clicker-style exponential resource generator and making it never again that you run out of something when building something big. Haha, no. Contraptions Workshop does not have anything to GENERATE resources. All it can do is suck up resources you already have and create things that, frankly, aren’t necessary – maybe a gun generating machine would have been good in Fallout 3 when they kept jamming. But in Fallout 4, you’re going to have a modded, beautiful gun, and your settlers can be tossed the guns that a few dead enemies dropped. I couldn’t think of a single legitimately useful function for anything in this pack, what a waste.

Vault-Tec workshop was so, so promising, until the build limit reared its ugly head. It provides the cave which just seems like it’s begging for you to create a massive, beautiful custom vault within its confines. But the build limit caps out when you’ve only just added the basic vault walls and floors… to about a QUARTER of the entire actual map. There’s a big part of me that loved making my own places but really wanted to be able to make my own community, and this DLC seemed like it was finally going to provide that, but nope – ran out of space before i could ever do it, and like with other locations, 10 people plus your charisma stat is the maximum number of settlers you can have. Bah. The DLC is great for the stuff it gives you, but crashes back down to Earth with how it throttles you beyond that.

Nuka World felt so great for a while, but the way it wound down, I fiercely hated. To turn on the main power for the theme park (which feels like the final goal), you have to take one of two drastic measures, neither of which feels particularly good – either completely eliminate the Pack, the Operators and the Disciples from Nuka World, or guide those three raider groups into either a hostile, or persuasive, takeover of one of your settlements in the Commonwealth. While they’re Raiders, and Raiders are dicks, killing them all after they provided such an entertaining set of quests for Nuka World felt bad. And having their presence leak into the Commonwealth in a way that I didn’t want to happen wasn’t great either.

Speaking of Nuka World, I also didn’t like how the game handled certain events with the three cliques. You give each of the five zones of Nuka World to one of the cliques – I gave two to the Pack, two to the Operators, and one to the Disciples. From then on, the Disciples treated me like complete shit. I wanted to evict them from their one place and give it to a different clique… but I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell them to shut the fuck up (despite being Overlord), not an option. If I killed or injured one, every single Disciple… and every Pack and Operator member, AND my second in command, ALL permanently turned hostile on me, killing off every raider quest I had.

Overall

Every piece of Fallout 4 DLC felt like it could have done more with what it did. Every pack, to varying degrees, had a lot that I expected upon first hearing about them, but that they didn’t deliver. Automatron would have been cool if synths (even just Gen 1/2s) could be made with the station. Wasteland Workshop could have added a little more. Far Harbor and Nuka World should be easier to jump to from the Commonwealth – having to double fast travel or use a boat or train to get to their locations is a faff. Vault-Tec should have found a way to ease the building limit, even if it meant segmenting off the building area a bit more and loading the place in segments.

I feel like I got £24.99’s worth out of all of it in total – that’s what it cost me before they announced a price hike to £39.99. I don’t feel like I got £39.99’s worth – but that might be impacted by how the base game alone cost me that amount, and I got hundreds of hours out of it.

Fallout 4 deserved a little more love, I think. There is good fun to be had, and useful extra content to come from all of the DLC. But having left the base game feeling like I’d had the time of my life, to leave it this second time now feeling dissatisfied and disappointed bums me out.

2s

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst Review

I loved Mirror’s Edge. A lot. But, seeing how the game failed in sales – how it was half price within a month. and a pittance within six, I’d written it off as one of those one-off experiences alongside Bully, Brutal Legend, Psychonauts, Sunset Overdrive and many of my other all time favourite games. So when a reboot/sequel was announced, I was over the moon.

Summary

Faith Connors is being released from jail after a two year sentence, and must take down evil benevolent leader Kruger and his daughter. Or something. But we’ll get to that. Faith can parkour her way through a freeform world (rather than the original’s more linear levels).

Pleasing

Boy oh boy, it’s good to have.a new Mirror’s Edge. It’s not like I’ve touched the original in a while, but Catalyst just felt natural immediately. The formula still works, parkour remains immensely satisfying to perform, and nailing a line squeaky clean is nothing short of ecstasy.

The world presented in Catalyst looks and feels great. The city of Glass is a futuristic, shiny, clean level. You can look off of the edge of a building and see city dwellers bustling at ground level – for as lonely as you are on the rooftops with a smattering of delivery people and Kruger security as all your company, it feels truly alive. All of the beauty of Glass is complemented by an absolutely exceptional ambient soundtrack that brings everything together.

And for all the simplicity of the game’s presentation, its expansive map, that expands as you progress through the story, is visually varied from location to location is quickly easy to learn and navigate without referencing the map more than needed.

Collection elements and side quests keep you busy parallel to, or beyond, the story, unlocking extras for the online segments of the game (which I cannot comment on as I didn’t touch them) and new skills for Faith.

Story missions were memorable and enjoyable. The final mission particularly was, although a little bit set, breathtaking, seeing Faith escalate an epically tall skyscraper as it gets systematically destroyed. And the story? Well…

Frowning

The story is bad. There’s no two ways about it. Faith makes silly decisions which are unavoidable. Icarus is insufferable. Noah is tolerable if generic, and Kruger is as vanilla a villain as you could get. Rebecca is perhaps the best written character as she has a couple of actual two dimensional motives, but… don’t get Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst for the story.

My other issue, which stopped me gunning for a 100% completion, was that I found the running side quests to be very difficult. I managed to complete the main story without too many resets, but the running side quests are clearly designed and balanced for those people who like to continuously repeat and perfect their runs tens or hundreds of times. It is satisfying to do this I’m sure, but it’s not for me, especially because the fragile deliveries had someone repeat the exact same snippets of dialogue in every attempt.

Overall

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst was absolutely great. Skip the story cutscenes and the strict timed runs and you’re left with a joyous world to explore, trick around and experience at your own pace – something that I’ve been missing from my gaming life since Skate 3. The slight lack of focus compared to the tight original Mirror’s Edge is made up for by the successful open world elements and the higher quantity of content.

4s

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

It’s been five years now since Uncharted 3 came outand capped off an absolutely stellar trilogy of games. A trilogy that is now a quadrilogy, thanks to the latest instalment, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Did it live up to the quality bar set by the last two?

Summary

Uncharted 4 takes place in three different points in time, all of which focus on Nathan Drake’s interactions with his brother, Sam, a new character to the series. The earliest point in time shows how Nathan was pushed onto the path of thievery by Sam, a midway mission has them escaping a prison prior to the events of Uncharted 1, and the rest, the bulk of the story, is about Sam returning into Nathan’s life after the events of Uncharted 3, having married Elena and replaced his criminal treasure hunting life with a steady and legal job retrieving cargo from sunken ships.

Pleasing

There is so little wrong with Uncharted 4 that it’s not even funny, but let’s start with the graphics. The game looks mind-blowing. It’s stunning quality-wise. Furthermore, nearly every chapter introduces you to a completely different setting – from forests, to mansions full of people, to dilapidated castles, to caves, to boats in the middle of the ocean, to muddy island gulches, and everywhere inbetween – and nails everything on the head.

The attention to detail with how Uncharted 4 is presented is breathtaking. If you slide down a stony hill, you can see all of the rocks you dislodged form a tiny rock slide. You can see your footprints in the snow. The car you can drive, because you can now drive in Uncharted, will get splattered with the mud you drive through. All of the effects are the kind of detail the series was famed for on PlayStation 3, but with the extra heft of the upgraded console behind it.

None of the graphics would matter if Uncharted 4 wasn’t fun to play, but – surprise! – it is. If you weren’t keen on the original trilogy, number 4 probably won’t be your cup of tea either. But it takes the familiar shooting and obstacle traversal of 1-3 and splashes in new, neat touches, all of which work really nicely. You have a grappling hook which can be used in set places to swing yourself around. You receive a makeshift climbing pick around halfway through the game which can be planted into soft cliff faces to aid in climbing. There are now even pushable crates and other objects which you can freely manipulate in order to reach higher paths or unblock lower ones. Tall grass that can camouflage you in enemy encounters is another neat addition to the game.

The story and presentation then complement everything else beautifully. Uncharted 4’s story isn’t of the calibre of a high-end film plot, sure, but it does its job beautifully. It features some wonderful throwbacks to the original trilogy (if you haven’t played those, I’d recommend playing them first – they will enhance your experience with U4) without affecting how their events played out, it adds extra dimensions of depth to Nathan, Sully and Elena from the pre-1-3 events, lets you see the continuation of their story post 1-3 and Sam’s inclusion makes complete sense.

And, as you’d expect from Uncharted, the presentation is great as well. Sam accompanies Nathan for the majority of the game, and the two will bounce dialogue off each other at everything they see, do, and experience. It never actually gets grating, and some interactions will be genuinely funny. I got particular fun out of driving into, and destroying, all the cairns in the gulch level – Sam will berate Nathan for doing it, but as he does, reveals that he dislikes the word “cairn”. Nathan naturally plays on this, and the dialogue between the two keeps escalating the more you find and destroy them.

And of course, even with the game being as long as it is, there’s plenty to go back to. You can jump back to the start of any chapter you’ve already played and find any treasures, optional conversations (new to the series) and journal entries (also new to the series, essentially little mostly-optional clues to proceeding through the game). Also new to the series, you can jump to any enemy group encounter and replay those too.

Frowning

If I have one issue with the game, it’s that some of the enemy encounters in the late game become a little grating. One sees you standing on top of (or dangling off the edge of) a car elevator as waves of enemies attempt to kill you, the person you’re with, and the car. They can pretty quickly destroy the minuscule amount of cover on top of the thing, and pretty quickly you’ll find yourself out of ammo – but it’s difficult to get to a vantage point on solid ground without at least one angle having enemies with a clear shot at you, as it’s an open area and enemies appear a full 180 degrees around you.

There are a couple of other encounters after this that are frustrating as well, including one where two minigun-toting heavy units both absolutely wreck you if you don’t have a full arsenal of grenades and access to an RPG – they also appear after you’ve already mowed through several enemies, and if they defeat you, the respawn point makes you redo the grunts. All of this while Nathan reels off the same lines of dialogue again.

Overall

But they’re such a tiny fraction of Uncharted 4, a game that is otherwise absolutely stuffed to the brim with memorable moments and incredible fun. I can’t recommend this enough to anyone, and really hope that this isn’t the end – they could make Uncharted 5 and 6 and have them essentially be expansion packs to 4, and I’d still pay full price, and I’d still love them – it’s one of those few games where I really, really wanted more when the credits rolled.

5s

inFAMOUS: Second Son Review

I’ve already finished inFAMOUS: Second Son once already, soon after it came out. Completed it on Normal difficulty and with Evil karma.

This is a review of the game as I’ve seen it just this week, having now completed it again on Expert difficulty with Good karma.

Summary

inFAMOUS: Second Son sees you play as Delsin Rowe, a graffiti tagger with a cop brother that’s part of a tribe a little while away from the city of Seattle. In this universe, there are conduits or bio-terrorists, depending on whether you like or hate them – people with special powers based on basic elements – smoke, paper, concrete etc. As your anti-conduit brother arrests you for your latest speight of vandalism, a sequence of events takes place that gives Delsin smoke powers.

As you meet Augustine, the benevolent leader of an authority that is looking to permanently imprison all such people, you find yourself chasing her into Seattle, acquiring new powers and slowly breaking down the presence of the authority she leads, the DUP (the “Department of Unified Protection), in the process.

Pleasing

First of all, the game is still absolutely gorgeous. The way the game looks fairly realistic as a base and then splices in all these complex, bright superpower effects is absolutely gorgeous – find yourself performing a superpowered, neon-fuelled run during a rainy night and the reflections on everything are heaven. Second Son also runs at 60FPS, only really dropping when the particle count hits the tens of thousands – you can, strangely for a console game, circumvent this a little by toggling an in-game option to cap proceedings at 30FPS, but it’s nicer to keep it unlimited.

The powers feel fantastic. The smoke dash, which lunges you forward, is a great start, the comet drop feels powerful, and shooting through vents is great. When you gain Neon and can start running at high speed and up walls, that’s something else. Video gives you the ability to use satellite dishes as glorified cannons. And the post-game Concrete is like a greatest hits compilation. It was only the minor attacks I wasn’t all that fond of – all of the small projectile attacks felt a little bit flat. They had no real audible punch, it sounded like you were blowing air at people.

While the game contains story missions, at its core it’s one of those open world games filled with little side activities to do – these are what bring down the DUP presence in areas. And pleasantly, every single activity is good fun – no ultra-hard, ultra-tedious minigames stand in the way of you achieving 100%. There’s one where you get to see through the eye of a hidden camera and must locate it by finding what it can see. Another is about tracking down a hidden conduit by a single picture you’ve been given. The most interesting is a graffiti minigame that has you hold your controller at a 90 degree angle with one hand, shaking it to rattle the spray can, aiming with motion controls and spraying by pressing down R2 with your index finger. The rattling and spraying sounds come out of the controller’s speaker too. It’s almost like that one minigame validates all of the quirky stuff that the PlayStation 4 controller can exclusively do.

It’s a good-length game too. There’s enough substance to it to maintain interest, but not too much to outstay its welcome. The story missions are varied and interesting, there are around 10 of each side mission, and while there are a lot of shards to collect around the map, any potential boredom of doing that is helped by the continuous stream of power improvements you can spend them on.

And the world fits all of this very well. While you start off in a wooded section with the tribe’s house, and the game almost threatens to be a shaky Uncharted ripoff, the city of Seattle is fun to look at, full of minute details and throwbacks to Sucker Punch games of the past. It’s full of life, with pedestrians, DUP, vehicles, street musicians, sign twiddlers (it gives you Evil Karma if you kill them – odd), gang members… it’s a great game world.

Frowning

Perhaps the biggest disappointment I found when playing inFAMOUS: Second Son for the second time was the continuous sense of déja vu. It constantly promoted to me the power of my choices, and how I was fundamentally altering how everything took place. Well, no. It’s less like there are two distinguishable paths, one for good and one for evil, and more like a path that is 95% both and with the odd fork that splits into good and evil, quickly converging again. One such choice lets you either kill a recurring character or allow them to escape Seattle – your choice affects approximately 30 seconds of cutscene and then they’re never seen or mentioned again.

It’s not just the story either, the way you play the game is virtually identical. Some powers are visually red or blue depending on if you’re evil or good, and the odd power is locked to one side – good gets a couple of exclusive healing powers while evil gets improved offence. But really, it’s all much of a muchness.

My biggest frown for the game? The bosses. They are terrible. In one, you have to leech powers from a collection of sources in a room, which then leaves it almost pitch black. You then have to shoot, for what feels like about an hour, at the boss, who emits light. In another boss, you are sucked into TVs and fight a giant digital angel – incredible concept, but it again outstays its welcome, with the boss taking an absolute ton of hits and continuously moving around the space, forcing you to take a break, recharge your powers, and haul ass across the course.

Perhaps the worst boss happens directly after a major plot point. The game dulls all the sound effects, makes things blurry and has Delsin continuously angrily screaming at the boss as revenge for what they did, but the boss yet again is an attack sponge – it completely kills all story tension as sympathy for Delsin quickly turns into boredom for how many hundreds of attacks you’re having to launch.

A minor thing to add to all of this is, particularly in Expert, it can get a little frustrating if you choose to escape from enemy gunfire to regenerate health. Delsin is really good at “helpfully” sticking to ledges because the game thinks you’ve fallen off it repeatedly. I took quite a few deaths to being low on health and accidentally magnetising to grabbable objects.

Overall

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with inFAMOUS: Second Son for my inFAMOUS: Second Run! It has a lot of problems, but none of them are game breakers. Bosses, while long, do end eventually, and there’s only ~4 of them in the whole game. Between these, the story is interesting, missions are fun, the world is great, and you get to enjoy all of this as a superpowered human being that admittedly is a bit of a dick at times.

It’s also massively cheap to pick up a copy nowadays. I suspect that there are millions of PS4 owners out there that bought their console after Second Son came out and missed it completely – if you like your sandbox games, here’s one you can grab for a fraction of full price.

4s

Forbidden Moonfruit

As of this month, Moonfruit have stopped free accounts from being a thing. Which means that the final glimmer of pre-2009 NAL (short of delving into The Internet Archive at least) is now done and dusted – my website from between 2006 and 2008 was with Moonfruit, was free, and had been dormant and available since 2008.

I still have access to the website for now, it’s just not live unless I pay them. I’m not paying them.

But here are some joyful, memorable quotes of a version of me perhaps less mature or perhaps just immature on a different plane.

“Some stuff about me…
I like PS3.
I don’t mind Wii.
I don’t like Xbox 360.”

Aah, a more innocent time when I couldn’t just buy all three of the bastards and laugh maniacally like the responsible, financially sensible adult I am now. Also a time before Yahtzee Croshaw, be it accidentally or purposefully, infected the world with “PC Master Race”, a group of people that somehow managed to out-sad excessive console fanboys.

I only disliked Xbox 360 at the time because my friend spent the year and a half between his getting his 360 and me getting my PS3 not shutting the fuck up about it. It’s a fine console now I have one, although it’s probably still my least favourite thanks to how badly it ages – mine is an original unit, and having the 20GB hard drive, the antiquated component cables for HD and the addon to enable Wi-Fi is irritating. Wii gets away with its stupid foibles because most of its content was unique to it. And MadWorld rocked.

“I hate using text speak.
I hate seeing wronged punctuation.”

#teenagegrammarnazi

“I think Bill Gates is a moron.
I think the same of Richard Branson.
I think Kate Moss is hideous.”

#teenageedgelord

“My favourite actor is Jack Black.
My least favourite is Andie MacDowell.”

Fair play on Jack Black, might not put him in first any more but I do still enjoy me a silly comedy film. No idea on the latter choice, I’ve never seen a film with her in. I think she might have been overexposed in adverts at the time, so that might have been it. Not sure who I’d pick now. Probably Jim Carrey for favourite and Adam Sandler for least.

“I am 50% English and 50% Scottish.
I created the alias of NAL when I was six.
I like amusing facts.”

Fair play, unlikely to change.

“I hate console fanboyism.”

A smidge hypocritical given the statement at the top. Dumbass self.

“I like cutesy platforming games.
I’m not a fan of violent games (excluding Grand Theft Auto and Elder Scrolls games).”

The former’s still very much true (and 2008 me would have been disappointed by the landscape of that genre for like six solid years), but because of that bracketed disappointment, the latter changed. MadWorld, Mad Max, Fallout 4, Mortal Kombat X and many more have been games since 2008 I’ve fallen in love with, all of which are pretty damn violent. And that’s the tip of the iceberg.

“I’m a flange fan.”

#teenagerandom

“The shortest time taken to make a game is 24 minutes, with Floccinaucinihilipilification.
The longest is Gamanstake: started in February 2006, ended in July 2006. (it wasn’t constant working though…)”

Both beaten since – 10*2 took me 20 minutes, and Innoquous 5 was on and off for three years.

“The game getting the best public reception is r!!!dicule.
The game getting the worst is The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.”

I’m struggling to imagine this world. The Boy in the Plastic Bubble was shit, but it was better than r!!!dicule. And in 2008, r!!!dicule was easily surpassed by games I made after it – Elemence AuX and Rockit for two. Maybe I wrote this the day after r!!!dicule came out and never updated it – then I can pretend all this embarrassing crap was 9 years ago, not just 8!

“The only games ever to have had real inspiration for their creation are Up Shint Creek and Blokkeid (which later became Elemence).”

Yep nope! Ne Touchez Pas was inspired by Flywrench by Messhof, Innoquous by every GM game before it that had done gravity flipping gimmicks but all in really gammy, nasty ways, ExecutioNAL and TimeStop were PARODIES… the list continues!

“I have also won the following things:- a brick game, £50, a yoyo, £1,000, £500, a £10 gift voucher. Furthermore, in a game of hoopla at a féte once, I won every prize on display in ONE GO.”

Sudden recall of that last one! Can still remember the pissed off look on the vendor’s face when I essentially shut their stall down in one go. Hoopla champion!

“Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny is an absolutely fab film, and you must watch it.”

My opinion on the above hasn’t even remotely changed. LONG-ASS FUCKIN’ TIME AGO IN A TOWN CALLED KICKAPOO, THERE LIVED A HUMBLE FAMILY RELIGIOUS THR… whelp now I have to watch it again

“The worst three films I have EVER seen are:
3rd worst: Kung Pow
2nd worst: Dude! Where’s My Car?
WORST!!!: Picking Up The Pieces”

Sadly no longer true. I’ve now seen Movie 43 and inAPPropriate Comedy.

But now we’re into the top 10s!

“THE TOP 10 SONGS OF MINE OF CURRENT
1. Dario G – Sunchyme
2. Toto – Africa
3. Royksopp – Remind Me
4. Groove Armada – At The River
5. Alannah Myles – Black Velvet
6. Harvey Danger – Flagpole Sitta
7. Moby – Porcelain
8. Fischerspooner – Never Win
9. Lo Fidelity Allstars – LoFi’s In Ibiza
10. Frankie Fame – See Through You

Not a vast amount of changes, and an adequate amount of appreciation for the stunning Grand Theft Auto III original soundtrack too. I now cite my absolute favourite tune as Röyksopp – Eple (if that means nothing to you, listen to it – you’ll probably recognise it) because it’s the rare track I find it physically impossible to get sick of. So I’d definitely swap Remind Me for Eple on that list. Fischerspooner remains a firm favourite, but I’d pick Emerge now. And I’d swap a few of the tracks for other ones – Black Velvet, Lo-Fi’s In Ibiza, Africa, See Through You and Flagpole Sitta would be out and some stuff like His Majesty King Raam, Me And You, Unfinished Sympathy, Atlas and Eve of the War would be in.

“My Top Ten Current Favourite Films
1. Sin City
2. The Warriors
3. Pleasantville
4. Phonebooth
5. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
6. The Green Mile
7. Road Trip
8. The Truman Show
9. Robots
10. Hot Fuzz”

Not many changes here either! Pleasantville’s jumped to #1, Phonebooth wouldn’t be on the top 10 and Robots DEFINITELY wouldn’t be on the top 10 (what I ever saw in that film, I don’t know – it’s watchable, but nothing compared to a half-decent Pixar flick). I’d also probably demote The Green Mile, and shuffle Road Trip down – it would still be in my top 10 but probably only just. I’d then let Fight Club, 21 Jump Street, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, WALL-E, Inside Out, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, Pulp Fiction, Scott Pilgrim vs The World and The World’s End duke it out for the remaining spaces (The World’s End perhaps knocking Hot Fuzz off the list).

“The Blackadder Order Of Brilliancy (best to worst)
1. Series 3
2. Series 4
3. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol
4. Series 2
5. Back & Forth
6. The Cavalier Years
7. Series 1”

Even something I wouldn’t expect to have an opinion on, I still have! Series 2 should be above Christmas Carol, and Series 1 should be above The Cavalier Years and Back & Forth.

“My Top 10 Ever Albums
1. Moby: Play
2. Keane: Hopes And Fears
3. Scissor Sisters: Scissor Sisters
4. Groove Armada: Vertigo
5. Moby: 18
6. Kaiser Chiefs: Yours Truly, Angry Mob
7. Fatboy Slim: Palookaville
8. MIKA: Life In Cartoon Motion
9. Dido: Life For Rent
10. Fischerspooner: Odyssey”

Yeah, this is all wrong now. A vague mockup of my list now would be:

1. Röyksopp: Melody AM
2. Massive Attack: Mezzanine
3. Röyksopp: The Inevitable End
4. Lemon Jelly: lemonjelly.ky
5. Fischerspooner: #1
6. Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds
7. The Fratellis: Costello Music
8. Battles: Mirrored
9. Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells
10. Nero: Welcome Reality

Anyway, it’s about high time I allow that era of my past to disappear now. Bless it, it was so silly, but it was fun to reminisce.

…BUT YEA THERE WAS A BLACK SHEEP, AND HE KNEW JUST WHAT TO DO
HIS NAME WAS YOUNG JB AND HE REFUSED TO STEP IN LINE
A VISION HE DID SEE OF FUCKING ROCKING ALL THE TIME
HE WROTE A TASTY JAM AND ALL THE PLANETS DID ALIGN…

dah dah dahhhhhh

NAL’s Double Cross Sequence

I Googled it. Nobody else has made this sequence up before. So it’s mine. I’m naming it after me. You heard it here first.

I call it NAL’s Double Cross Sequence, and it goes like follows:

5, 21, 45, 105, 405, 525, 945, 945, 2205… (as far as I’ve calculated).

And the description I’ve given this sequence is as follows:

For each term t[n], t[n] is the lowest number of squares that can be arranged into n different cross shapes with rotational symmetry of order 4.

Or in mathematical terms:

For each term t[n], t[n] is the lowest solution to n=w²+4(w*h), where w and h are positive integers, which can be expressed with n different pairs of w and h values.

Or in image terms:

21crosses.png

That’s a graphic representation of t[2], or 21. You can arrange 21 squares into two different cross (or plus) patterns which have branches of equal thickness and length. For the formula w²+4(w*h), the thin, large cross has a width of 1 and a height of 5 (counting only squares used beyond the central “square”), and for the stubby chubby one, a width of 3 and a length of 1.

1²+4(1*5) = 1+4(5) = 1+20 = 21
3²+4(3*1) = 9+4(3) = 9+12 = 21

I’ve taken to calling 21 the first Double Cross number for that reason. 33 is the second one (1,8 and 3,2). The lowest even Double Cross number is 60 (2,7 and 6,1).

The first Triple Cross number is 45 (1,5; 3,3; 5,1) and the first Quadruple Cross number is 105 (1,26; 3,10; 5,6; 7,2). The first Cross number outright is 5, which is simply a width of 1 and a length of 1.

The one choice I made in defining the actual sequence was that the chosen number could contain MORE than n sets of widths and lengths. This is why 945 is both term 7 and 8 in the sequence – it can be written in 8 different ways, but there are no smaller numbers that can be written in exactly 7 different ways – 2025 is the smallest case.

What purpose does this serve? None that I can tell. Hooray for casual mathematics! But it’s neat how the sequence works – that the differences between terms can fluctuate, even being 0 in some cases. And how it’s (I would assume) totally possible for a term to be even, but they tend to be odd every time. Even the divisibility by 5, and even 105 – I’m not mathsy enough to explain it, but I like it.

If you want to tit around with it further, here is a copy of the Excel spreadsheet I used to calculate the first nine terms of NAL’s Double Cross Sequence. Sheet1 contains the raw values for pairs w,l, and Sheet2 contains the quantities of appearances of given numbers. You’ll need to expand Sheet1 in both directions to get accurate readings in an expanded Sheet2, but it’s all formulaed up!

Matt Parker’s “Share the Power” Puzzle

In response to Matt Parker’s “Share the Power” puzzle video:

The problem is as follows: Sort integers 0 through 31 into two sets of 16 numbers so that each pile, when totalled, results in the same value. Not just for the base numbers, though. They also have to result in the same total if you power every number by 2, 3, and 4. (Watch the video, because Matt Parker’s entertaining!)

I like mathematics. So I watched this video, and decided I was going to solve it the best way possible: by making a program that randomly checks answers to the problem until it finds the correct solution. Because nothing I do makes sense.

Here is my program. It’s made in GameMaker 7, because retro. Here’s the entire code, found in one object:

 

Create event:

//Initialise a list holding values 0 through 31
global.Checklist=ds_list_create();
for(i=0; i<=31; i+=1) ds_list_add(global.Checklist,i);

//Initialise five "report" lists:
//0 = the string of numbers being tested on a given iteration;
//1-4 = the true or false status of the total of n to that power
for(i=0; i<=4; i+=1) {global.Testlist[i]=ds_list_create(); Found[i]=0;}

Iteration=0;

//Turns true if an answer is found
Ended=false;

Step event:

//Stop testing if we found the answer
if( Ended ) exit;
repeat( 200 )
{
Iteration+=1;
//Clears the top value of the reports when there's over 10 of them
if( ds_list_size(global.Testlist[1])>=10 )
{ 
 for(j=0; j<=4; j+=1)
 {
 ds_list_delete(global.Testlist[j],0);
 }
}
//Shuffle the values so we're trying a new one
ds_list_shuffle(global.Checklist);
//Report the actual values from group 1 that we're checking
var str; str="";
for(i=0; i<=30; i+=2)
{ 
 str+=string(ds_list_find_value(global.Checklist,i));
 if( i<30 ) str+=", "; 
}
 
ds_list_add(global.Testlist[0],str);
//Check the totals for each of n^1 to n^4
p[0]=true; p[1]=true; p[2]=true; p[3]=true; p[4]=true;
for(j=1; j<=4; j+=1)
{
 var pile1; pile1=0;
 var pile2; pile2=0;
 
 for(i=0; i<=30; i+=2)
 { 
 pile1+=power(ds_list_find_value(global.Checklist,i),j);
 pile2+=power(ds_list_find_value(global.Checklist,i+1),j); 
 }

 if( pile1!=pile2 ) p[j]=false;
 var str;
 str="FALSE";
 if( p[j] ) {str="TRUE"; Found[j]+=1}
 ds_list_add(global.Testlist[j],str); 
}
//Terminate the checking next step if we've found the answer
if( p[1]==true && p[2]==true && p[3]==true && p[4]==true )
{
 Ended=true;
 break;
}
}

 

Draw event:

draw_set_font(font0);
draw_set_halign(fa_left);
draw_set_valign(fa_top);
draw_set_color(c_black);
//Draw the results
for(i=0; i<ds_list_size(global.Testlist[0]); i+=1)
{
 draw_text(20,10+(i*50),ds_list_find_value(global.Testlist[0],i));
 
 for(j=1; j<=4; j+=1)
 {
 draw_text(20+((j-1)*120),10+(i*50)+20,ds_list_find_value(global.Testlist[j],i)) 
 } 
}
draw_text(20+(120),10+(11*50) ,"Iteration")
draw_text(20+(120),10+(11*50)+20,string(Iteration))
for(j=1; j<=4; j+=1)
{
 draw_text(20+((j-1)*120),10+(12*50) ,"n^"+string(j)+" Found")
 draw_text(20+((j-1)*120),10+(12*50)+20,string(Found[j])) 
}

 

And that’s it! 200 times per step (should be 12,000 per second but it lags because it’s compiled with an old GameMaker) it shuffles the numbers into two piles, checks each of n^1 through n^4, and if all four return true for a single set of numbers, bam! Winner!

Well, it would have been if I hadn’t, impatiently waiting for my program to spit out the answer in mere minutes, I hadn’t googled 32 factorial. If there is only one ordering of the numbers that results in a pass in all four categories and my program was doing one check per second, turns out I’d be sitting here for a few quadrillion millennia  waiting for my mythical answer.

So I altered the code a bit to up the count to 5,000 60 times per second (which is laggy, but y’know…), with it dropping that number if the FPS is too low (which it is).

And as I sit here writing this, the new program is on iteration 5,500,000. It has found a total of 83,000 combinations that work for n^1, but only 8 for n^4. And of course, none that work for all four.

Optimisation time!

First, I made the code early-out if any of the tests fail. I then reversed the testing order, so n^4 goes first – since n^4 fails significantly more often, it means less redundant code is run.

And then I realised there was another nice optimisation I’d entirely ignored.

If each of the two half-piles of numbers have to total the same, then the total of BOTH piles would be twice that. And since all of the numbers in both piles are set, I could work out this total! So I chucked Excel open and found that:

0^1 through 31^1 = 496;
0^2 through 31^2 = 10416;
0^3 through 31^3 = 246016;
0^4 through 31^4 = 6197520.

So for a valid solution, I only have to check one of the two piles for half of the above values (248, 5208, 123008, 3098760).

By now, the new program is checking over 100 iterations in the time it takes the original to check 1. I was figuring this might be my special way of solving a problem – turns out the profoundly lazy way is also the ridiculously lengthy way!

While it’s running, I decide to rewatch the video just incase something lurches out at me. It’s at this point I see this:

Untitled-25.fw.png

In both of Matt’s previous examples, for each eight numbers, the first, fourth, sixth and seventh go into pile one; the other four go into pile two.

Please don’t let it be this easy.

I repeated the pattern… n^1 passed, n^2 passed… but n^3 and n^4 were slightly off.

That was doing: unnuunnu (assuming in the screen caps above, the upper is “un” and the lower is “unnu”). uunnnnuu made n^3 pass as well, but n^4 still failed.

A real mathematician, at this point, would probably be laughing in my face. I should probably be working this out for real.

But then I found unnunuun.

And all the numbers aligned.

So Matt Parker, if you happen to be reading this,

Set 1: 0, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 15, 17, 18, 20, 23, 24, 27, 29, 30
Set 2: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 11, 13, 14, 16, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26, 28, 31.

I didn’t see the pattern you laid out in plain sight. And as a result, I made a piece of software. A piece of software that is both ridiculous and redundant. A piece of software that has gone through 47 million iterations checking random groups of numbers for a solution, and has yet to find a group that satisfies n^4 and n^3, let alone n^2 and n^1.

Thank you.

And damn you.

ADDENDUM!

I’m still looking at this trying to work out what’s going on. I did notice one thing though:

unnunuun

The Us are in positions 0, 3, 5 and 6, and the Ns are in positions 1, 2, 4 and 7, in the final “pattern”.

This is exactly the same as the alignment of numbers in the sets themselves. Which is pretty… FRACTAL

Maybe for 0-127 and n^1 to n^6, the answer is unnunuun, where every U is itself an unnunuun and every N is an nuununnu?

My brain hurts.