February Gaming

Games completed this month

Managed to clear a couple more games this month, thought it might be worth an update.


header-1Spec Ops: The Line (PC)

As suggested in my January post, I finished this at the start of February. Another one to tick off the 2017 list, I was pleasantly surprised by this. It is perhaps a bit less polished than some comparable military shooters, but the story was ambitious and had something to say. In places it was clunky, and some of the bigger twists were sort of spoiled for me by being late playing it, but if you’re a fan of this style of shooter and haven’t played this yet (or just bored of Call of Duty) it’s definitely worth a play.


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Game of Thrones – Telltale Adventure (PS4)

I managed to stick with this much better following Batman. It’s the worst of the Telltale games I’ve played, but still engaging enough. Part of the problem with it is just how well it does “Game of Thrones”, it’s just so bleak! Easier to recommend if you’re a fan of the show more than a fan of Telltale games, it comes with the same warning you’d give to someone just starting to read the books or watch the TV series. Don’t get too attached to anyone!


Also played in January

70009b60d454b028ef60886bd20b2ae2Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One)

A decent promotion in Game, combined with my remaining store credit saw me picking both this and Shadow of Mordor on Xbox One.  I had intended to play Tomb Raider on either PC or PS4, but couldn’t argue with the price.  I’ve put 20ish hours in so far, and am about 70% through apparently.  Really enjoying it, have noticed a few bits of slowdown but nothing has really damaged the experience.  Looks likely that I’ll finish it in March and be able to move on to something else. Feeling good about continued progress towards that 2017 target!


headerAssault Android Cactus (PC)

Really good twin-stick shmup that deserves more attention than it received. I have been dropping in and out of this for a while, but over the last few weeks I have focused a bit more on the story mode.  I’d hoped to clear it during Feb but finding the last boss to be tricky! I have limited patience to just keep retrying though so I’ll be lucky if I even manage to clear it during March. We’ll see.


maxresdefaultOvercooked (Xbox One)

Finally got a couple of friends together for a decent session on this, made some good progress and we’re starting to gel a bit as a team. Well we were, until the alcohol being consumed hit Peak levels, and our skills went into decline.  Hopefully we can get another go at this in soon.


Mega Drive & Saturn stuff

I’ve now got a new (to me), modded Japanese SEGA Saturn, so have been dabbling quite a bit with that. Planning on picking a Saturn game to settle into when I’m done with Tomb Raider. I’ve got a few ideas so optimistic that’ll turn out well for a future update.

I’ve also been spending a bit of time with the Mega Drive again, mostly just playing a few shmups. I’d quite like to get a 1cc on Super Fantasy Zone on my actual hardware, as I’ve only previously managed to do it under emulation. If I’m successful I might see if I’m capable of any others…

January Games Progress

I’m off to a pretty good start with the games from my 2017 post, so thought I’d do a bit of an update. If I manage to continue this kind of progress, I may do monthly or bi-monthly posts, but we’ll see.

Games completed this month

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Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm (PC)

Really enjoyed this, I think I’ll probably be playing the other expansion, Legacy of the Void sooner rather than later, but I may also go back and mop up some achievements from the Wings of Liberty campaign first. This month I’ve also had a good time playing some of the co-op missions with a buddy too, so will be doing more of that.


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Mortal Kombat XL – Story (PS4)

Never been a real Mortal Kombat fan, always preferred Street Fighter. However, the Injustice fighting game was surprisingly good fun, and MKX seemed to build on that so thought I’d give it a go. Injustice also had the most enjoyable story mode I’d played in a fighter too, and MKX does a decent job of living up to it.  It’s also about a million times better than the travesty of a ‘cinematic story mode’ that Capcom patched into Street Fighter V, I had the misfortune of playing through that as well this month. (SFV is still the best 1 v 1 fighter you can play with a mate in the same room, but it’s hard to recommend for anything else)


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Real MYST: Masterpiece Edition (PC)

After years of promising myself that I’d play through MYST again, I finally got round to it. The Real MYST engine held up nicely, and it was great to be back in that setting. Was also nice to finally see the Rime age that had been added. When I finished I thought I’d get stuck straight into Riven, but unfortunately that really doesn’t run well on my machine. I’m considering watching a play through for the story, and picking up with MYST 3 after.


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Telltale Batman (Xbox One)

Possibly the buggiest Telltale game I’ve played to date, but I still enjoyed it. The Batman licence  is a good fit for a game in this style. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy one, doesn’t seem as suitable, but we’ll see. This has got me over my Telltale burnout though, and I’ve now gone back to my Game of Thrones save I’d previously abandoned, and just played episode 3. Maybe I will see the end after all.


Progress against 2017 goal

I’m going to count my MYST play through against the entry for Riven, as it was half the plan anyway, and it’s probably important to keep the motivation going while I’ve got it. So along with Starcraft 2: HotS and Batman, that’s 3 down from my initial 9.  Pleased with that, I’ve also put in a preorder (against my better judgement) for Yooka-Laylee, so that’s one from the other list that will be happening.

Also played in January

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Diablo 3 Anniversary event (PC): Had a lot of fun with this, enjoyable to spend some time in classic Tristam, and pick up some new pets and transmogs. Managed to net all but one of the achievements, couldn’t bring myself to be farming rare monsters. Yawn.


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Sonic Dash 2 – Sonic Boom (Android): I’m not entirely sure why I’m playing this, aside from Hearthstone I don’t play many mobile games. I also played quite a bit of the original Sonic Dash. Part of the interesting thing here is that I got both games via Amazon Underground, where all in-app purchases are free, but it still tells you how much they would have cost otherwise. I pretty much buy upgrades for all the characters and unlock anything offered when I fancy, then look back and am fascinated/horrified by how much that would have cost. If I’d been paying real money I’ve already gone over £600.


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Spec Ops: The Line (PC): From the 2017 list, I’ve been enjoying this, making use of my Steam Link and an Xbox One S wireless controller to play it on the big screen in the lounge. Think I’ll probably finish the campaign within the week, so I’ll have at least one more to scratch off in February!


downloadBanjo Tooie (Xbox One): Also from the 2017 list, having a bit of trouble getting back into this. I was tempted to start over since it had been so long since I touched my game save, but decided 9 hours was too much progress to lose, so I’m persevering. I’ve mostly got it sussed, still a couple of worlds where I’m unsure which jiggies I’ve got already. Hoping to wrap this one up before Yooka Laylee arrives!

2017 in Games

Looking at the year ahead, I thought I’d make plans for another attempt to tackle some of the gaming backlog.  I failed entirely last year at making a dent in those titles I’d planned to play, although I did attempt a few that I gave up on.

The games I did manage to complete in 2016 were:

  • Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox One)
  • Walking Dead S1 & S2 (S1 on XBox One and S2 on PS4)
  • Life is Strange (PS4)
  • Wolf Among Us (Xbox One)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4)
  • Alan Wake (Xbox One – X360 Backwards Compatibility)
  • Doom (PS4)

I’m pleased I managed to even finish this many, considering my penchant for games tourism, and that I spent most of 2016 playing Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Diablo 3 and a couple of months of WoW: Legion. (Blizzard can you hear me?)

For 2017 I’m planning a slightly different approach.  I’ve chosen 9 games I intend to play through the year from my collection (or recent releases I’ll be pick up when I’m ready to play), and a further 3 that may get released during 2017 which I expect to demand my attention. As ever the goal for the list is to help me decide what to play next, instead of doing the usual “stare blankly at my steam library for an hour then give up and go to bed”.

Here’s the front 9:

  1. Forza Horizon 3 (Xbox One)

I’m about 18% through this already, like with the second game I’ll just keep playing till I decide I’m finished. (Who has time for 100% on an open world game?)

  1. Rise of the Tomb Raider (PS4 or PC)

One I haven’t bought yet, but will pick it up on sale when I’m ready to play. I loved the last game, but heard the Xbox One version of Rise has some issues, so will pick up the more recent PS4 or PC port.

  1. Riven (with a possible play-through of realMYST first) (PC)

Has been on the backlog for 100 years or so, I really want to get back into this world.

  1. Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm (PC)

I originally had Starcraft 2 on this list with the intention of finally finishing the campaign I started in 2013. However I went back to it this week and discovered I was 4/5 of the way through. I knuckled down and finished it, and while my enthusiasm is up I’m gonna try to play this first expansion. (Have already bought the other expansion so might as well crack on!)

  1. Telltale Batman (PS4)

I’ve made a small start on this, enjoying it so far. I’ve kind of gone a little cold on the Telltale model lately so I’m hoping this drags me back in.

  1. Murdered Soul Suspect (Xbox One)

This one originally passed me by, but I’ve since heard good things that have made me want to play, so I’m gonna give it a go. It helps that it was free on Xbox Games with Gold.

  1. Gears of War 4 (Xbox One)

Another one I haven’t bought yet, I’m planning on playing it co-op with my buddy (Hi Ross!) when we’ve played through 1 or 2 of the Halo games on the Master Chief Collection first.

  1. Banjo Tooie (Xbox One/N64 – Rare Replay)

One from the backlog. I will go back and see this through, dammit.

  1. Spec Ops: The Line (PC)

Another I’m intrigued about through listening to other people. Seems really interesting for a shooter and it’s about time I played some of these bargains I’ve acquired on Steam.

Games I’ll buy and play if they actually come out this year…

  1. Life is Strange 2

I adored the first one, hoping the sequel is as good if not better. Also hoping for another great soundtrack.

  1. Yooka-Laylee

This looks to be a great spiritual successor to Banjo & Kazooie, but I do think there’s a good chance we won’t see it till 2018…

  1. Sonic Mania (maybe Project Sonic 2017 as well if it isn’t dire)

I’m all in for Sonic Mania, the trailers look great, I can’t wait.  I’m sceptical about Project Sonic, but it sounds like it’s following the Generations model, and that was a decent enough game so fingers crossed!

As well as the games above I expect to still be playing the usual suspects throughout the year:

  • Overwatch
  • Hearthstone
  • Diablo 3
  • Healthy dose of shmups
  • Whatever multiplayer my friends drag me into

It will be interesting to look back in 12 months and see how my year in gaming turned out, but I’m optimistic I’ll get through at least a few of these. Maybe.

Top 5 games 2016

Now seems as good a time as any to do a round up of the gaming year, and squeeze one more blog post into 2016.  Here we go for my Top 5 games of the year.  As usual its reverse order and I’ll throw a couple of ‘almost made it’ titles on at the end.

5) Doom

Surprisingly not the only first person shooter in the list, but the Doom reboot is superb.  Manages to play like all the great 90s FPS titles and not feel dated.  It’s brutal, but the campaign is a joy.  I haven’t touched the multiplayer, so can’t comment on that, but if you’re looking for a good single player shooter, definitely give it a go.  (I do find it interesting that some of the best single player shooters in recent years have been remakes of Wolfenstein, Doom and Shadow Warrior… maybe the sky isn’t falling?)

4) Forza Horizon 3

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that this title alone managed to shift a few Xbox One consoles. Most of what I said about Forza Horizon 2 in my 10 reasons I own an Xbox One post still applies here, but even more so.  It’s gorgeous to look at and a joy to play.  I’m still assured that the first game in the series is the best one, but until I get chance to go back and play it properly myself, I’m happy to state that Forza Horizon 3 is one of the best racing games I’ve ever played, and easily the first title I’d recommend to someone looking for a current generation racer.

3) World of Warcraft Legion

Although not so much a game as an expansion pack, I’ve played plenty of games with less content than this expansion.  This made my list this year as it has been my favourite expansion so far, with only Wrath of the Lich King coming close, and with Legion, World of Warcraft is the best it’s ever been.  (Yes I played Vanilla WoW too, shut up.)

2) Life is Strange

This is also a sort of cheat, as the individual episodes came out in 2015.  However, it got released as a complete retail edition in January this year and I didn’t play it till after that, so I’m including it anyway.  I loved Life is Strange, and am eagerly looking forward to the sequel.  It’s the best single player game I’ve played this year, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story (and great soundtrack) to their games. It’s also the best ‘Telltale’ style game I’ve played, which seems to have kind of spoiled me for their stuff, oops.

1) Overwatch 

Think this is top of a lot of people’s lists this year, and not without good reason. It’s just so much fun! My love for Blizzard is well known, and Overwatch just shows that they can just as easily turn their brand of developer magic to fresh new I.P. It looks lovely, the voice acting and sound design are excellent and it has entirely reawakened my love for multiplayer FPS in a time when Call of Duty and friends had pretty much run it into the ground.

The only criticism I have for Overwatch at all, is simply that I don’t manage to play as much as I’d like, so I’m not getting better.

Other mentions:

Worms WMD: This was really close to making the list, the best worms game since Armageddon and a complete return to form. Still hilarious, and still only has Bomberman as competition for best local multiplayer game.  (Mario Kart lingers in third place for me, looking nervously at Overcooked)

Street Fighter V: Before it came out, I really expected this to make the list. Where it counts, SFV is a fantastic game. Within the fights themselves, SFV is the best 1v1 I’ve ever played. It’s an absolute joy and I play with my buddy (and long term Street Fighter nemesis, the Ryu to my Ken) whenever we get chance . However, the shortage of single player content has been widely reported, and although we were happy with the streamlined package, the knock on effect in terms of sales have decimated the online scene.  Street Fighter IV was wildly popular, and as such it was quick to get a game online and there were plenty of opponents at all levels for matchmaking.  The limited sales of SFV however mean that it takes ages to get a game, and the only players to match with are the real hardcore, and it’s difficult to have fun if you can’t get evenly matched. Disappointing. If more of my friends would get Xbox Ones, I think I’d move over entirely to Killer Instinct.

 

 

All-Time Top 5 Arcade Puzzle Games

A good arcade puzzler is second only to a fighting game for a bit of 2-player versus. Like those fighting games, I’m not much good at these either (although I’m not entirely terrible at Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble). That doesn’t stop me giving them a go though, and I like to play a variety so at least I’m not always losing in the same way.

Here we have my Top 5, in reverse order as usual. Many of these games came out on a multitude of platforms, I’ve just put the versions I play in the title.

5) Zoo Cube (GC & GBA)
A bit neglected as I hardly ever manage to play it with anyone, largely because no one else seems to have heard about it. I enjoy the GameCube version, but have probably spent more time with it on the Gameboy Advance. It’s pretty unique as a puzzler, with falling shapes coming towards your cube from 6 directions, and you having to rotate the cube to match the abstract animal shapes appropriately. The GameCube version supports 4-player, but I’ve never found myself in a room with 4 people who knew how to play…

4) Baku Baku Animal (Saturn)
The second animal themed puzzler on this list, Baku Baku Animal does at least follow a more familiar pattern. Blocks containing animal heads or food stuffs fall from the sky, match the animal to its food to clear the blocks and send more blocks to your opponent. Bright, cheerful and very SEGA!

3) Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (Saturn, PS3, PSP)
Recognisable characters from Capcom’s Street Fighter and Darkstalkers games line up to puzzle each other to death. Big combos on the gem matching front see your character giving the opponent a bit of a kicking in the middle of the screen. If you like the art style of this one, it’s worth also picking up Pocket Fighter, which is a 1 on 1 fighting game in the Street Fighter style, featuring the Puzzle Fighter versions of these characters.

2) Bust-a-Move 2 / Puzzle Bobble 2 (Saturn and anything else I get my hands on)
This held the top spot for a very long time, and may well claw it back in time. The Puzzle Bobble franchise is iconic, often imitated never bettered. Taking it’s characters and design from the Bubble Bobble series, the game is a joy. Fire coloured bubbles up the screen, matching 3 or more of the same colour in order to make them disappear, the more you get rid of at once the more you send over to your opponent to ruin their day. Or more often, you slightly miss your shot, frantically try to repair the damage your own ineptitude has caused while your opponent gleefully sends over more bubbles to add to your ever descending wall.

1) Puyo Puyo Tetris (PS4)
Probably cheating slightly, this is exceptional value given that along with the crazy Puyo Tetris mode (where you’re matching Puyos and making Tetris lines), it also includes arguably the finest versions of both Puyo Puyo and Tetris standalones too. The genius stroke here is when you play a versus match up, each player decides what to play. When competing with my girlfriend, I generally play Tetris against her Puyo Puyo, which gives me an almost fighting chance before my inevitable demise.

Although Puyo Puyo Tetris is still a Japanese only release, it is well worth importing. The menus are all in Japanese but there are plenty of excellent fan-translations online to help you navigate them, and even translations for the entire story mode should you be that way inclined.

Other mentions:
Dr Mario and Columns both almost made the list. Dr Mario missed out because I am entirely useless at it to the point of not enjoying myself even trying. Columns would have made the list if I was working just on childhood memories, it just doesn’t hold up today.

Book review: Lisey’s Story – Stephen King

Lisey's StoryLisey’s Story by Stephen King
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I didn’t actually finish this book. I am finished with it though. I made it through 270 pages, that seemingly dragged on forever. Almost, but not quite, half way and I’m calling it.

I have enjoyed a lot of Stephen King’s books, his character development has always been second to none. In the past I have been disappointed with the endings to some great stories from him, but have always forgiven it because the journey was so damn enjoyable that I didn’t care about the destination. (Fwiw I really appreciated the divisive ending to the Dark Tower series, because it felt like Stephen was reflecting this too)

However, for me Lisey’s Story falls dramatically short. Maybe it has a great conclusion, and I’m doing him a disservice, but I won’t find out. I have found it impossible to care about any of the characters so far, and the general mood has barely even made it to creepy. We’re treated to repeated uses of made up words (‘smuck’ is by far the worst offender and has been widely addressed by other reviewers here) and a variety of tedious cliches from the lead character’s past.

When I enjoy a book I find it difficult to put down, I look forward to getting back to it, and I have a sense of loss when it’s over. In this case I’ve struggled to pick it up, and I’ve been wishing it was over for a while. Sometimes you just have to allow yourself to let go and move on.

View all my reviews

Top 5 Light Gun Games – (Playable on a HDTV…)

A favourite genre of mine growing up, my love for light gun games started with the SMS port of Operation Wolf. A genre most at home in the arcade, the home ports ran right through the various consoles over the years, peaking in the 32bit era, then almost dying out when we all (well not all but you know what I mean) started ditching those giant CRT screens for nice new flat ones.

For me the greatest thing to come out of the whole ‘motion control’ run started by the Wii, was those developers using the Wii pointers and Playstation Move controllers to bring back the Light Gun shooter. The Playstation 3 also had a couple of other gun peripherals, but the decent games are either PSMove compatible or exclusive. This list is simply my top 5 of the games to be played on these systems, then I’ll round it out with a summary of the others I know of for the gen. I think a follow up post might cover my favourites from the CRT days.

So in reverse order:

5) Dead Storm Pirates (PS3)
The least deep (haha) of the games in this list, it’s a no frills port of the arcade game, but it is still great fun to play with a friend. I believe you can get it on its own from the PSN store, but it is also included on the disc with the PS Move version of Time Crisis Razing Storm (more on that at the end) which is now picked up very cheaply.

4) Resident Evil Chronicles HD Collection (PS3)
A double pack containing HD updates of Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles from the Wii. Probably not worth getting again if you did complete them on the Wii, but if you’re coming at it fresh, then this is the version to go for. These are actually my favourite Resident Evil games, I always preferred the story to the game play of the main series, and my favourite memories of the early games is still watching other people play rather than playing myself. Be warned though, these are pretty tough!

3) Dead Space Extraction (PS3)
Ported from the Wii version, everything seems pretty much the same, but the graphics have had the usual polish. I understand it’s a prequel to the main Dead Space trilogy, but I still haven’t got round to playing those…

2) Ghost Squad (Wii)
Most of the Wii gun games made it to PS3, where Sony’s console received superior versions. However Ghost Squad was never ported, and is now the sole reason I still keep a Wii hooked up. It’s a port of the SEGA arcade game, and for me as close as they’ve got to recapturing the magic of Virtua Cop. A whole host of unlockables has me regularly going back to this, and it’s always a joy to play with a friend.

1) House of the Dead Overkill (Wii & PS3)
This is superb and quite possibly my favourite Light Gun game of all time. The soundtrack is amazing, some really funky tunes. The writing is often genuinely amusing too, although the dialogue is definitely not for children. The PS3 version has an extra level, supports 3D TV’s and also hilariously anaglyph 3D, shipping with a couple of pairs of the old red & blue 3D glasses. I originally played it through on the Wii, but switched to PS3 when that came out. It’s definitely better played on PS3, but both versions are solid.

Also worth mentioning is the excellent Typing of the Dead Overkill which came out on Steam. This is a typing game using all the levels from the House of the Dead Overkill, in the same way that the original Typing of the Dead on Dreamcast was based on House of the Dead 2.

I never got round to picking up gun attachments for my Wii, and happily play Wii games with just the naked wiimotes, on PS3 however I can recommend the official pistol grip attachments shown in the photo, they do make a difference.

Other mentions:
The Shoot (PS3) – Feels a bit like a tech demo, but it’s mildly entertaining. Worth grabbing for the £1 or £2 it can be found for now.

House of the Dead 2 & 3 (Wii) and House of the Dead 3 & 4 (PS3) – Really good ports of the arcade games, annoyingly HotD 2 never got ported to PS3, but it’s nice to be able to play it on Wii and not worry about finding room for a CRT to hook up a dreamcast…

Time Crisis Razing Storm & Time Crisis 4 (PS3) – Razing Storm is dreadful. However, Time Crisis 4 is a nice arcade game, and this disc also containing Dead Storm Pirates makes it pretty good value just for the two other games.

Link Crossbow Trainer (Wii) – Originally bundled with the bizarre official lightgun attachment for the Wii, this is a surprisingly fun short game. It’s good to play but I’d put that plastic attachment in the bin straight away. Pistol grips are the only way to go if you do want a gun style holder.

Gunblade NY & LA Machineguns (Wii) – I still haven’t played this, they weren’t great arcade games, so I haven’t bothered picking up this double pack of the ports, but may still grab them at some point.

Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack (Wii) – This is a triple pack of the ‘classic’ FMV games, the first two games are also available on the PS3. They’re very hard to recommend as they really haven’t aged well. The Nostalgia is strong though, and I loved the first game with the gun back on the CDi…

You may have noticed that I haven’t included Child of Eden in the list, despite it being in the photo. While still a “Rail Shooter”, it’s not quite the same, having more in common with Rez and the Panzer Dragoon games. Perhaps a blog for another day.