I am really unsure about this. A series of cardboard boxes that you build into shapes to use as equipment for games… riiiiight.

I mean yes, it’s different. It’s certainly innovative. Nintendo don’t lack for creativity and imagination. The trouble is, are these kits going to stack up (sigh) against the increasingly powerful and detailed games that Sony and Microsoft attract to their consoles? After being burned by the experiment that was the Wii U, Nintendo tried again with the Switch and have enjoyed considerable success – are they about to squander it by being too elaborate and clever with their theme?

Let’s return to Hyrule for the second part of the DLC for Breath of the Wild – this time, we’re going to delve into memories and face some fiendish trials – with twists.

Whilst I was skeptical about download content for Breath of the Wild (the history of DLC is that usually you need to buy it in order to have a complete game experience, or even to simply complete the game), Nintendo wisely ensured that their DLC merely enhances and adds to the game. If you decide not to bother with the DLC, you can still thoroughly enjoy everything Breath of the Wild has to offer. For me… I wanted the extra experience. The first half of the DLC added a Master Mode (for those pyschos who want an extra challenge) and the Trial of the Sword, which I am two thirds of the way through (more on that another time), as well as adding several new pieces of equipment, such as masks. One of these, Majora’s Mask, would prove most useful for the first part of the Champions’ Ballad.

Now, it goes without saying that there will be spoilers ahead. If you don’t want to know anything of this, stop reading. If you want to follow my adventure as it unfolds, read on!

It all begins simply enough. I was contacted by Princess Zelda, who asked me to return to the Shrine of Resurrection. A quick teleportation later and I’m right back where the game started, wondering what’s in store. Zelda spoke to me again, speaking of how strong I’d become and of the chance to awaken yet more power. A four-pronged trident – the aptly named ‘Obliterator’, appeared, as a gift for me.

Except, this is a Zelda game and things are never that simple. When I took hold of this weapon, my hearts – previously maxed out, were reduced to just one quarter of one heart – in short, one hit from any enemy and I’d be dead. Therein lay the key feature of the Obliterator – it could kill any enemy with one hit, but if you got hit, even once, you’d die. The map directed me to certain points, scattered around the Great Plateau, with a number of enemies – thankfully straight forward ones (no Lynels or Hinox to contend with here!) to fight. Killing the enemies would reveal a shrine – one with a slightly different appearance.

I decided to clear all the enemies and reveal all the shrines before tackling the shrines themselves – a combination of Majora’s Mask (that convinces enemies you’re not a threat) and the Stasis ability of the Sheikah Slate allowed me to clear the baddies without too much trouble – though I ended up using quite a few Ancient arrows to take care of a Wizzrobe that was loitering in one particular area. Once all the foes had been slain, it was time to dive into the shrines.

At this point I still had the Obliterator in hand, so I was still vulnerable to the slightest injury. It was therefore prudent to be careful when crawling through the shrines. The very first one was pitch black and involved both lasers and Guardians – once again Stasis proved my friend when fighting, whilst it was important to be nice and cautious when moving around all the traps that the shrine offered up. There was also a surprisingly easy combat trial and a trial involving using Magnesis to grabbing a specific orb from a bunch of random orbs and spikey balls that kept rolling down a couple of platforms. Once again this proved quite straight forward, but the worst trial was still lurking.

I’d actually had a couple of goes at this trial, before deciding to move on for a bit. It would not be wrong to say this was probably the toughest trial so far, with the idea being to use Magnesis and Stasis to make my way over spike pits, spinning cogs and moving platforms – with spikes surrounding them. Finally, for an added ‘thrill’, there was the pursuit – a wall of spikes pursuing me as I navigated other spikes. Yay. I don’t mind declaring this the most annoying trial thus far, but eventually I got through it and was able to move on.

Upon stepping out of the shrine the Obliterator in my hands shattered, sending four different bolts of light in different directions. Four unique pedestals appeared, signalling the next part of my journey.

I decided to start with the champion whose beast I’d conquered first – Vah Ruta, with the Zora.

Well, I’ve had about a week to sink my teeth into Mario’s latest adventure, so what do I think so far?

So far, so good. There are obvious comparisons to be made with Mario’s other 3D open-world adventures, some of which I have enjoyed and others, not enjoyed, but where does Odyssey stand in the hierarchy? It stands pretty tall.

As is by now fairly normal for Mario’s 3D outings, Odyssey introduces a gimmick, a means of helping the player, albeit a fairly novel and interesting one. In Super Mario 64 you didn’t really have any extra gimmicks, aside from new jumps and leaps. In Sunshine (urgh) you had the soaker, in Galaxy you had the power to throw gems to stun enemies, but in Odyssey you have the power to take over certain enemies and use them to help you out. This gives rise to a pretty wide range of abilities, all of which serve a purpose, existing to help you progress, rather than being included for the sake of it.

For example, it can be pretty fun to throw Cappy (your latest companion, who is quite literally a hat) and take over a Bullet Bill, but it soon becomes clear this is actually more than just fun – you’re going to need to in order to destroy certain walls and move on through your quest. At times you’ll take over Podoboos (the odd name for the fireballs that jump around in various Mario games) in order to traverse particularly fiery or hot lakes. You can take over Goombas (who are firm-footed even on icy terrain), Hammer Bros and all sorts of creatures, all with their own useful traits.

Graphically the game is gorgeous, reflecting the increased power of the Switch over its predecessors, offering big, detailed and varied worlds, ranging from deserts to a beach world, to New Donk City (which offers up an incredible nostalgia treat for the player), to a world devoted to lunch. The soundtrack is unobtrusive, letting you get on with the game.

As you can see, there are passages within the game that recreate the original Super Mario Bros – these sections are absolute gems and a clever touch.

My only, tiny complaint so far is that it’s pretty easy, though Mario games aren’t necessarily aimed at experienced gamers, but rather, are intended to be accessible for everyone. That being said, whilst I’m flying through the main quest, I am very far off finding all the power moons (this games key collectible), having recently learned that there are 52 in the beach world alone – I have found enough to move on to another world, but finding all of them will be a major quest in itself.

All in all, I am finding this game to be a cut above Mario’s previous open world adventures. It is full of secrets, so many in fact that it reminds me a little of Super Mario World, and I would quite happily put Odyssey up there with the best of Mario’s adventures. 9/10.

I’ve mentioned in the past that Super Mario World is one of my all-time favourite games and it is easily my favourite Super Mario game. It woul be remiss of me to fail to mention its beautiful sequel, Yoshi’s Island.

Story wise, it’s the tale of how various Yoshis take baby Mario through a perilious world to re-unite him with baby Luigi. The various multi-coloured Yoshis have to traverse various worlds, facing off against the dasterdly Koopa wizard Kamek, who pops up from time to time to turn ordinary enemies into huge bosses.

The mechanics of Yoshi’s Island are very different from the first Super Mario World, which is hardly surprising as you’re no longer controlling Mario but instead an enemy-eating, egg-throwing dinosaur. The ability to turn almost any bad guy into a weapon to then pelt at other bad guys is ingenious, giving the player plenty of scope for tackling the various obstacles that show up. However you have to beware, for whilst there is no time limit to complete a level, should you be hit by an enemy or trap, baby Mario will float away from you (did I mention you’re carrying Mario on Yoshi’s back?), and if you don’t retrieve him quickly enough, Kamek will swoop in and you lose a life. Therefore, you can’t be too reckless.

I can only lavish praise upon the gorgeous (certainly for the time) graphics. Yoshi’s Island was released a few years after Super Mario World, so benefited from the experience of the designers, who devised amazing levels with terrific attention to detail and depth. Moreover, the creativity of the levels was equally impressive, with the bosses being delights to face and the challenges faced at various points being devious and clever.

I don’t think this game gets the recognition it deserves. It’s easily one of the best titles to ever come out on the SNES, and a rewarding experience for any Nintendo fan. 9/10.

It’s home Grand Prix time! And as it normal for the UK, the elements would play a role. The practice sessions took place in dry conditions but the Met Office was forecasting a 90% chance of rain come the start of the race – without rain during practice runs it was guesswork as to setup and tyre performance. It was also a gamble as to whether to start on inters or full wets – what would the weather do?! A brief opportunity did arise to do testing but the erratic performance of the precipitation rendered the information more or less pointless. It was, for me at least, a case of trusting my gut. With the forecast changing and hinting at prolonged rain, I went for full wets on both cars.

The choice proved correct. The rain fell for a considerable length of time, saturating the track. I opted for a two-stop strategy for both drivers and away we went.

From the beginning it became clear this was a three-tier race – those who had not run any wet weather practice, nor attempted a wet weather setup, languished behind everyone else, not aided by being on inters (which the game defaults to). Then came a second group – which my cars were attached to, along with the Drivezalot boys and one other. Then we had the leaders, who peeled away quickly. Once Drivezalot’s Morales had gotten ahead of a car in front of him he too began to pull away – leaving the rest of us to scrap for the lower points places. At one stage I had both cars in the points (yes, Taylor was keeping a reasonable pace for once), there was to be a new variable late on, and a miscalculation.

With only a few laps remaining the rain suddenly stopped, which would work in Thompson’s favour as he would gain a few places by sticking to wet tyres as others pitted. Thompson would claim 7th place – not a bad effort. Taylor was running in the points but I had underfuelled him; a last lap stop dropped him to 12th. Still, a third consecutive points finish keeps me hitting targets and staying comfortably clear of relegation.

In the title race, a Black Arrows 1-2 provided a lift to them at a time where other teams had been threatening. However, it was J Smith and not Thompson who won. J Hill of Mopar completed the podium. Those who kept on wet tyres were the ones who benefited here.

A race that doesn’t exist in F1 anymore, Turkey features a famous and long, fast left-hander as well as several bumpy regions of track. Playing on F1 2009 on the Wii (am I showing my age?), Turkey was a race I quite enjoyed, as it was quite challenging.

Practice threw up an odd variable – rain. Turkey isn’t associated with wet weather, yet the early presence of water meant being conservative with practice runs – I proceeded on the assumption that later in the day it would be dry. I was right. Qualifying saw Schumacher on pole with D Thompson behind him and the Drivezalot pair of Schneider and Morales just behind them. My best effort was 11th, from G Thompson, nearly a second down. The race translated to fairly long runs on medium tyres, with Thompson running the hard and soft compounds at some point, and Taylor sticking exclusively to mediums.

This resulted in Taylor languishing, finishing 15th, but Thompson once again took ninth, so after two races out of the points, I’ve now had two races back in the points. It’s still some way from where I want to be, but I’ve changed my approach to how I develop the car, in the hope of leaping forward a little bit.

Race winner? Dudek of 221op, some nine seconds clear of his teammate Bliss, who was some 12 or so seconds ahead of Morales. Black Arrows still lead the constructor’s race on 198 points to 221op’s 132, but recent form suggests the second half of the season will provide some close racing and a tight battle. In the driver’s standings, D Thompson still leads, but his advantage has been cut to 23 points, with Dudek in hot pursuit. The stage is set for some intrigue.

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Apologies readers, for this review is a little later than planned (life interferes sometimes!). Monaco, the land of glitz and glamour (albeit not for us players!) brought a second consecutive win for G Papandreou of Mopar. The surge in teams getting competitive for wins and podiums is a sign of how good this league is – no one can rest on their laurels, even for an instant.

My abiding personal memory of this race is that I halted my recent slide by collecting points for ninth – and for a time, had hoped to catch Smith of Black Arrows, but he was always lurking just out of DRS range. Sadly, this post won’t be more detailed, as I am battling a cold and my memory is therefore hazy (I was also distracted by Star Trek Discovery), but the rise to form of Mopar… plus the improvements by other teams… would they continue?

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The European leg of the season begins with Spain! This was yet another poor race for me – the hard tyre let me down and my cars were too heavy, leading to yet another failure to score points or hit my target. Cest la vie. It was however an interesting race in other ways, featuring a different winner, and J Smith of Black Arrows finishing ahead of his normally quicker teammate Thompson, who didn’t even make the podium. Instead Panpandreou of Mopar took the win, albeit by a slender margin from Smith, with Mopar’s J Hill completing the top three. For a long time I’d thought the Drivezalot boys of Morales and Schneider might take podiums; where I could I’d look at how the leaders were doing and those two were in the thick of things. Instead, real life intervened, leaving the team to fate. There were still points to be had, but the signs are there that Drivezalot are going to be competitive.

I wish I could say the same for me. I haven’t registered points for two consecutive races, so I need to bounce back.

After five rounds, the driver’s championship looks like this:

The constructor’s standings are:

Hot and dusty Bahrain was the venue for round four of the championship, and given the heat, tyres would take a serious punishment here. Harder compounds would fare better (at least, in theory), staying cooler in the intense temperatures. Nonetheless, short stints on the soft tyre were in order for several teams, and I used softs for Taylor’s qualifying, which saw him start 11th, albeit he was more than a second down on pole sitter Schumacher of RBHRT. However, as we have seen, starting on pole is not a good measure for who will end up winning. Instead, the race threw up some expected results, and some new faces in the points. It was also, for me, an unmitigated disaster.

For whatever reason my cars just weren’t quick around here. Despite long runs on the hard tyre yielding positions in the points at one stage or another, come the end of all the stops Thompson and Taylor were firmly in the midfield and there they would stay. Thompson was catching a few cars ahead, but would have needed several more laps to actually move higher up, much less get into the points. The only positive for me is that Taylor looked a lot better relative to Thompson, finishing ten seconds behind his teammate, as opposed to half a minute or so.

It won’t come as a surprise to learn that D Thompson of Black Arrows won yet again, extending his championship lead and that of his team’s. What we did get were the first points of the season for the Drivezalot team, which is pretty pleasing as the manager of the team is someone I’ve raced against for a few seasons, and we moved to this league together, so it would nice to continue our rivalry. C Morales took fifth for Drivezalot, comfortably beating his previously quicker teammate L Schneider, who finished ninth.

What this all means is that after four races, Black Arrows are on 140 points, 78 points ahead of 221op. Already we’re looking at almost two one-two finishes for Black Arrows’ closest challengers, combined with few or no points, to close that gap. In the driver’s championship, D Thompson is on 93 points, 41 points clear of Dudek. Again, that’s more than a race win. I’ll do a comprehensive table after round 5.

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