I haven’t posted on this site in almost two months. It’s very easy to get out of the habit of posting and it’s incredibly frustrating when you’ve had such a good run leading up to this break. This is something I do in my spare time as a way to relax, yet it’s not completely without ego. Of course I want people to enjoy what I write and love it even more when people get in contact with me about the game or topic in question. However given that I don’t have a huge audience it’s very easy for the negative or even silent voices and opinions drown out the positive. Once you allow the negative voices to take over, your passion for writing will drain away and your posts will dry up.
I’ve also chosen a difficult blogging style as conversational, thought pieces don’t always flow as easily as say, a news blog. Unless I have some strong feelings or I recently completed a game, I don’t have anything to write about.
This is me, forcing me to write about anything as a way back in. Thank you for sticking with me through the desert. Hopefully this isn’t a mirage. I think I might be dehydrated.
Rayman Origins was released on PS+ for the vita last March and it’s taken me until this month to actually come back to it and beat the game. Like my blog I started out playing this for hours on end. Marvelling at how much I was enjoying myself at this beautifully put together platformer before putting it down and having no idea why.
The vita has become my platform for platform games over the last year. The short levels and bright graphics are a perfect match for mobile gaming as are the controls forgiving enough for the occasionally fiddly Vita controls.
The plot, such as it is, gives you (Rayman and friends) the task of rescuing all of the Nymphs (Fairy women who give you powers), Electoons (Pink things which give you access to inaccessible parts of the map) and Lumines (Gold things that add up to Electoons if you collect enough.). These inhabitants have all been taken and need to be rescued to allow Rayman and friends to get back to stamp collecting or whatever they do with their time.
During the game you’ll unlock different characters although they appear to just be different skins for the original four. After flipping the characters around during the early part of the game I found there seemed to be no benefit to changing, so while it’s a nice addition I completely ignored this part as the colour of my character makes no difference to me. Hopefully I didn’t miss the “Awesome ability” skin which makes the later part of the game easier.
As you progress and rescue Nymphs you’re given new abilities like mêlée attacks, dive attacks, hover ummmmmm attacks and swimming. This gives the game some replayability as you won’t be able to reach certain parts of the earlier levels without the abilities that you gain later on.
The level design is excellent throughout. The art is beautiful and show off the Vita’s stunning screen. The animation is superb. Every part of the screen dances and the levels really sing when you find yourself in the zone. Collecting lumines in the correct order and hitting sections of the world as intended bring a new level of interactivity to the game.
I found the difficulty level to be just about perfect. Each power is eased in over a couple of levels before the real tests are handed out. Towards the end of the game you will face some incredibly hard levels. It’s not on Super Meat Boy levels but it will make you grip hold of your vita extra hard in order to stop yourself from spiking it into your wall. The chase sequences are my most loved/hated part of the game due to this difficulty spike. It really forces you to trust your abilities in order to keep up with your goal. No second guessing when it comes to your jumps or using the hover to save you. You will spend a lot of lives trying to catch that little chest but the sense of accomplishment is massive when you finally reach your goal.
While looking back on this game after completing it I couldn’t think of a reason to say anything negative about it yet I couldn’t build up loads of enthusiasm for it either. It is well designed, but not as well designed as Super meat Boy. It is charming but the world created doesn’t match Guacamelee in terms of character. This is probably the reason that I couldn’t be bothered to change the look of the character I was playing with. I’m a massive sucker for costume packs in games and have spent real money to make my digital avatars look “cooler”. Rayman is a great character but he doesn’t allow the player to imprint themselves onto him as well as others. Rayman does everything well and you should play it. Just don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel the urge to complete it in one go cause it took me a year and two holidays to do the same.
Xbox, PSN and Twitter @Urbundave
Or as I like to call it, Minecraft that hates you. Last months PS+ release on the PS4 is a little indie developed game that was released on PC last year and everyone was all WTF this game makes me ROFLOLMAO.
I’ve never got into Minecraft as the openness scares me and would suck all of my free time away considering its apparent lack of direction. It seems all I needed was the loosest of motivations within a game world for me to be sucked into one that used many of the same mechanics as Minecraft.
You start out playing as Wilson, an inventor tricked into making a machine that transports him into a cruel, sparse world all by his lonesome. Now you’ve got to survive and you know, “Don’t Starve”. This top-down-2D-sprites-on-a-3D-plane game is full of big detailed sprites that fill the screen with charm while reminding you just how thin the line between life and death is in this game world. Each game is played in a randomly generated world with a finite amount of resources and animals that you’ll have to discover for yourself in each new game file.
You have to create an axe to chop down trees to create a fire to cook food and create light and then make a farm and run from hounds. There is ALWAYS something to do in this game due to how deep it is as a concept. In terms of world building this stands near the very top of all games I’ve ever played in this regard. Everything is there for a reason within this world even if you have no idea why for a long time. Don’t Starve will not help you in any way as you start off. No tutorial, no help menu, just trial and error. The menu layout is excellent serving as your only help in the early days, highlighting each item as you collect the correct ingredients.
You’ll eventually find a spot that you want to call home and build a camp so that you can stockpile food and other items. Should you spend all of your time just harvesting food and building fires in order to survive, but in a boring way, you will notice that your sanity level drop. Images, creatures and voices appearing out of thin air. Eventually attacking you as your mind starts to fail you. Don’t starve forces you to find a middle point between staying safe and exploring which keeps you invested when other games would get boring.
You’ll find yourself carving out a space for your food producing structures, building cookery pots and drying racks to make nicer food, building tents to keep you going through the harsh winter. You’ll keep this up for many hours and you could easily spend entire nights on one save game perfecting your camp. One mistake though and it’s all for nothing. One mistake and not only is your character and progress dead, your save game is gone as well. No take backs, no retry’s just defeat and a massive sense of loss.
This is one of the main draws of the game but also its main problem in enabling a long relationship. Only having one life makes you care about each choice and keeps you cautious and tense the whole way through. It also causes you to wonder whether it’s all worth it when you have to start from the beginning again in a new world that you don’t know.
This is the point I’ve reached with the game. After keeping my character sane after digging up some games looking for an essential part for my fridge, after using my Beefalo herd to protect me from the increasingly difficult hound attacks, after building and maintaining my farm for over 77 days I stumbled on a group of spiders and they killed me in about a second. Like that it was all gone and I felt empty. That is both incredible game design for bringing out that emotion, but also my biggest barrier to starting again.
You should play this however. I recommend playing while listening to the Game of Thrones audio book. The harshness of Westeros lends itself to the world of Don’t Starve perfectly. Brilliant and magical but maybe a little too brutal.
What games have made you hit a wall and tested you with their harshness?
XBL, PSN and Twitter @Urbundave
Every gamer has a few sins that they need to admit and deal with. Some are worse than others but I thought I would start the process by admitting my crimes before you get involved and discuss your own.
I have never completed or even owned a Zelda game.
One of my friends had Zelda: A link to the past for their Super Nintendo and I watched them play it for an hour of so during a stay at his house when I was about 11. I helped with the puzzle solving and joined in the discussion as the game played out in front of me. It was the first time I’d seen a Zelda game in real life and I couldn’t have cared less about it or any that have come since.
I’m not interested in fantasy based fiction in general (Lord of the rings also has no pull) so Zelda games are at a disadvantage with me. The only reason why I feel bad about this decision is that I feel a phony when talking about games due to my complete ignorance of one of its most well loved series.
I completed my first Pokemon game after my 19th Birthday
My sister had been playing the Pokemon games since the start but while I had a Gameboy, I had moved over to PC games by the time the series took off. That is until one spring when it took hold of me and both helped me through the break up of my first relationship by giving me a distraction and hindered my revision towards my college exams because of it’s addictive quality.
I thought nothing of looking after my team of fictional creatures, aimed squarely at those almost a decade younger than me, for hours on end. I did realise how embarrassing it was however as I never mentioned that the game I was currently playing stared a yellow, electric rodent.
I played Street fighter using only fierce punch for months.
Street Fighter is my favorite gaming series and this fascination started off poorly thanks to my lack of coordination. I would go to arcades a lot when I was a kid because I was able to as they still existed back then. Occasionally I would see Street Fighter two and be mesmerized by the graphics and the simplicity of it and the Dragon punches. Those Dragon punches were and still are the coolest thing a human character could do in a video game. To this day I would give up many, many limbs to be able to perform a leaping uppercut to a bad guy’s mouth while people stopped and watched in awe.
I got the game with my SNES one Christmas and tried to perform the move only to find that the forward, down, diagonally down and a punch button combination too complicated for my 10 year old hands. With practice I was able to pull it off with some consistency as long as I used the light or medium strength but that didn’t cut it.
I wanted the full Dragon punch but due to the SNES controllers design I could only achieve this by placing my right hand over my left hand to press the hard punch button, my left thumb controlling the dpad.
Yes I was only able to perform heavy punch attacks which left me with hardly any mix up options but when Vega took a full force dragon punch to the face, it was worth it.
Guitar Hero 3 was one of the reasons my wife and I got married.
I had picked up Guitar Hero 3 during the January sales once I realised that I could use my house mates Xbox 360 to actually play games on. I hadn’t really played games for a couple of years beforehand, other than WWE games occasionally or Pro Evo when friends came over. Guitar Hero 3 pulled me back into games hard and I haven’t looked back. This led to a discussion at a meeting I was taking part in with my then friend and her flat mate about this guitar playing game I’d just picked up.
Of course it sounded so awesome that they wanted to come around and try it out and they played through a small selection of songs and loved it. So much was their enjoyment that they got together and bought it for themselves and from that point on we would play Guitar Hero all the time. This led to us spending more time with each other and eventually getting married.
We probably would have reached that point any way, Guitar Hero 3 sped up that process massively.
My favorite Nintendo gaming franchise is Super Punch Out
I don’t think that any one game can help the Wii U at the moment. It’s got no momentum and if a Mario Game can be outshone by a below average PS4 launch title then something other than games is needed to make the Wii U a success. The one thing that would make ME buy a Wii U however is most definitely a new Super Punch Out game. No one else will buy it as it’s a simple pattern recognising, puzzle game with a boxing skin put over the top of it and that’s not enough for most people. I would be instantly transported back to playing the original on my friends NES and thinking it was the hardest game in the world but still loving every second.
So that’s some of my gaming sins. Let me know yours and I’ll try to not judge.
XBL, PSN and Twitter @Urbundave
While watching dozens of hours of Chuck over the Christmas break and getting burnt out on the constant will-they-wont-they story line I realised that I needed a distraction to stop myself from losing my mind. Yes Chuck is a brilliant example of geek entertainment, with more call backs and references to other material per minute than anything preceding it. I do not however have the capacity to go through 5 seasons in just over a month without some burnout. My wife however would not stop watching so to keep the peace I thought I’d show my vita some love while Chuck, Sarah and Casey saved the world over and over.
Guacamelee was that love receiving game and I’m very happy I chose it. A side scrolling platformer in which you play Juan. A regular guy that’s killed in the first minutes of the game by an evil spirit, given a second chance as long as he is possessed by the spirit of a Luchador. Thankfully the Luchador in question is not Rey Mysterio and you’re tasked with saving the girl and the world while using your new fighting/ mobility powers. It’s a throwback to old Metroidvania games of yore and reminds you of why those games are loved so much.
The presentation is beautiful in its art style and fantastic music. Visual jokes and references to pop culture may date the game in 10 years time but right now it adds to its considerable charm.
The game play however is where Guacamelee really shines. The world is so carefully created in order to take you in and around it over and over once you unlock its many different powers. Each power unlocking a considerable chunk of the world until the entire map is open to you. Only then does the real challenge of Guacamelee become apparent.
There are very tough sections in this game. Maddening, frustrating and almost impossible. It almost pushed me to the point of giving up when searching for some of the harder to find collectables yet it kept me coming back until I’d reached my goal. You will probably find yourself looking up videos of people completing sections in this game just to prove to yourself that it’s possible. Thankfully the charm of the game makes you want to continue and it’ll actually make you laugh during the most difficult platforming sections much like a particularly offensive, yet hilarious comedian hell bent on making you cry through sadness and laughter at the same time.
Along with the platforming, the combat is just as satisfying but much easier. I would shake in fear when faced with certain amounts of platforms knowing my palms would soon become covered in sweat and the structural integrity of my Vita would be tested. When faced with a room full of enemies I would just smile at the possibility of a huge combo. The amount of moves available make the combat constantly enjoyable as you take down enemies with piledrivers and frog splashes.
The story is not amazing but serves to keep you motivated enough. There is one point however that hit me hard emotionally and made me pause from my intense playing session. It’s not a big or necessary part of the game but it is so sweet that I hope you complete this tiny section to see how little a writer has to do sometimes to really make you think.
This is an excellent example of a VITA game. It fits the form, style and portability of the Vita and I hope we get to see a lot more just like Guacamelee.
It seems that January is the month in which I play crazy challenging platformers in some kind of self flagellation ritual to welcome in the New Year. Last year was Super Meat boy and it took me a whole 12 months before I put myself through the torture/satisfaction again. I wonder what January will bring next year.
We finished Chuck as well and I also recommend that as it’s all on Netflix. Just don’t start following Adam Baldwin on Twitter. A Gun toting conservative Republican can be an entertaining character in a television show. On twitter it’s just stressful and hinders your enjoyment of their performances.
What platformers have you forced yourself to complete recently?
What celebrities have you stopped following due to their radically differing political views?
XBL, PSN and Twitter @Urbundave
After years of reading lists from magazines and websites I finally have a space and a reason to write my own. My list is taken from the games that I’ve played over the year so I’m not constrained by release date. I just have to have played, completed and written about the game for it to qualify.
In reverse order we have.
This surprised me the second time around. I had been bored the first time I had played through this atmospheric third person horror game and the harder game setting mixed with repetitive combat pushed me away. Spured on by a new focus and blog I decided to change the difficulty down and suddenly the story, setting and characters shone like Alan’s trusty torches.
One of the free games I got through PS+ during my console-less two week holiday. It is pretty much perfect as a hand held game and you should play it if you haven’t. It doesn’t get much better in a racing game than that and gives you a reason to ignore your brother in law while on said two week holiday.
Tower defence games are ignored by a huge majority of gamers. They think it looks boring and pointless or complicated and not worth the time. It’s a huge shame because the pleasure of working out the correct sequence of towers and mowing down hundreds of enemies while relaxing at the end of the day has no match. Defence Grid is an excellent example of this and was probably ignored by many when it was given away for free. PLAY IT.
The best new generation game currently available. It may not be the most graphically impressive of the bunch but it is filled with fun and good game play so I’ll let it off. The amount on screen at one time is at the same time impressive and scary. If you have an Xbox One you have no reason to not pick up this game and spend dozens of hours killing zombies in dozens of ways.
While it may cause motion sickness, it’s still a brilliant example of writing and characterisation making a game a must play. The protagonist Kat is charming and funny without any recorded dialogue. The animations and writing create a rich world in which you’ll spend dozens of very enjoyable hours. Still free with PS+ on the Vita and a must play if you own the system.
Flower has been around for years but its release on the PS4 came at the perfect time for me. This game really stands on its own because of its simplicity, beauty and style. You don’t need to be going through any emotional trauma at the time to appreciate it. It really helps though.
The first game I played this year had such an impact on me. SMB showed me the importance of tight controls while seems to be a lost art currently. A game in which you have no one to blame except yourself…….. annoyingly. SMB is the best example of a simple idea, done well, can over shadow games with huge budgets and staff rosters.
This could be the best example of a First person shooter available to play on any system. The mechanics work really well and the guns are satisfying. The world is open and a joy to explore. It’s challenging yet forgiving. The story is as over the top as the 80’s action movies that it’s lampooning which informs the vivid look and colour scheme. The length of the campaign is just right and fills you up just like the little bears porridge. Because it’s so good it’s difficult to sum up in a small paragraph so please go and read my actual review.
Nobody’s giving GTA any love in their end of years honors and while the accountants at Rockstar probably don’t mind I don’t think we should be so quick to discount the best example of an open world game ever released.
The level of detail in such a huge world is remarkable and testament to the time spent creating the world. There are times in which the characters don’t make sense and the difference between how the player watches them and how they play them can be jarring. I still had a huge amount of fun this autumn and I’m still intrigued about what GTA online will become over the next year.
The feeling I had when I finished Bioshock was nothing like I’ve experienced in any other game and that’s the main reason I call this my favourite game of the year. Two intense days after release where I smashed through the excellent campaign lead me up to THAT ending and I couldn’t have been happier. I enjoyed the combat, possibly due to my love of the Bioshock series. But this is my list and nothing could top that experience this year.
So there you have it. A wildly irrelevant list of games that I like that no one else will be able to connect with as they’ve probably played games that only came out this year. Regardless, please feel free to let me know what you think and if by some twist of fate you’ve played all these games, let me know where I’ve gone wrong.
XBL, PSN and Twitter @Urbundave