613th played so far

Genre: Platform
Platform: Xbox 360/PSP/DS
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Metanet Software/Slick Entertainment/Silverbirch Studios
Publisher: Metanet Software/Atari Inc

Did you know that N+ is utterly ungoogleable? I don’t think I need to explain why, but it’s frustrating when I want to write these small bits.

N+ is a platformer, stylized, with very few unnecessary elements, based on a Flash game just called ‘N’.

Our Thoughts

N+ is not a gorgeous game. As stylized as the graphics are, they are not that pretty, just functional. It gives you a reason to focus purely on the platforming. On theĀ  whole, that platforming feels as focused.

The game starts of challenging and keeps being difficult, with short levels still taking some time to complete, especially if you want to collect the optional coins.

I quite enjoyed the time I spent on it, but the game was difficult enough that after short burst I lost the focus I needed to keep going.

Final Thoughts

Decent and very straight forward platformer… but man, it’s tough.

612th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC/Xbox/Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Gray Matter Interactive
Publisher: Activision

Wolfenstein 3D is certainly a notable game. It was amazing to see 3D done at the time, as a first person shooter. Horribly dated now, of course, but the technology was amazing at the time. On the other hand, setting it amongst nazis reviving Hitler, the subject matter felt edgy at the time, but now feels unnecessary.

Returning to that castle, then, we go back to the nazi theme (which I’m not convinced of), but in a modernised setting that looks more like what we’ve grown used to. The question is, does that make it better for us?

Our Thoughts

I’ll be honest, as much as it is meant to be the point of the setting, the nazi imagery of this game feels mostly unnecessary and not something needed here. The game spends a lot of time trying to set this up as necessary – turning them into monsters – but it never quite worked.

Even so, while set in a castle, these days a good way to create a large integrated setting, this is no System Shock 2 and it instead creates several levels (with associated secrets) and an outdated feeling score at the end of each level. It’s a weird throwback.

The castle is designed to be somewhat realistic – perhaps except for some lengthy staircases that seem to have heavy stuff dragged up and down them for the levels to work. It feels like work has gone into it.

Final Thoughts

This game is a decent enough shooter, but feels outdated in places and I feel the setting doesn’t do it any favours. It never connected with me and became middle of the road because of that.

611th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: Irrational Games/Looking Glass Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts

System Shock is an influential shooter, in part because it further develops the open world setup that we will in the future encounter in the Ultima Underworld series, but also because it leads into the environmental story telling exemplified by spiritual successor Bioshock. Many other games draw from it and the Thief series by some of the same developers again create this sense of place.

The first isn’t on the list, but the second game is the one often cited as really standing out. I am genuinely excited about starting to play this.

Our Thoughts

Despite the hours I feel I have already spent playing this, I want to go back and play more and more of this. This game has such a sense of setting that just walking around was interesting. Add to that a multitude of paths around the ship the main game takes place on, stealth or combat, and you get a complex enough game that encourages exploration. While the ship is divided in levels, they connect in different places, making it a technical restriction and slight progress blocker but still doing its best to create a more connected world.

Although listed as an FPS, System Shock 2 has RPG elements in a way Deus Ex has. You get some choice in what aspects of your character you develop, buying upgrades from a few different consoles. It makes for a decent system that isn’t too complex or in depth, but causes enough blockers along your path to make you want to research and go back.

The experience is in the small parts too. Playing on easy, dying respawns you as long as you’ve activated a machine for it on the level. It can be a race to reach it, but once you do, it creates a great base for for exploration. It allows the game to be tough and challenging, while staying in character. You’re not just reloading a save game, making it feel like you’re always making progress. It also leaves you with a difficulty that seems higher than the game could otherwise afford to be.

Final Thoughts

I need to get back to this ship and see more of it, see where SHODAN leads me.

The perfect way to do a shooter, tell a story and get me engaged.

#121 Super Sprint

Posted: 16th June 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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610th played so far

Genre: Driving
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1986
Developer: Atari Games
Publisher: Atari Games

While earlier we played Portal 2 for its appearance in Lego Dimensions, Super Sprint instead appears in the game as a not-really-cameo. Nevertheless, I’ve probably played the game more that way than I ever would have otherwise. If nothing else, it’s a nice bit of continuity.

Our Thoughts

Super Sprint isn’t a very complicated racing game. Top down, the track for each round fits on a screen and you race around like Micro Machines. That setup is pretty straight forward, and one of the big delights in this is how the different tracks appear. There are eight of them, with a lot of different turns and some nice action with tunnels, bridges and closing doors. It creates a nice increasing set of challenges.

Then, from the second round on, the tracks get more difficult, having more hazards added so the challenge isn’t just enemy AI, but also finishing on time with the track in the state it’s in.

What pulls the game further along is the car customization. It’s limited – acceleration, grip and top speed increases only – but adds an extra challenge in grabbing the wrenches that allow you to upgrade them. I’m not quite sure how it would have worked in the arcade – you would have had to struggle to keep up – but it’s a nice idea to add some more options to the game.

Final Thoughts

Super Sprint doesn’t look very fancy, but its simplicity really makes for a better game and I’ve enjoyed diving into it a lot. There is just enough variety to keep things interesting, while the challenges escalates enough to keep it interesting.

#56 Planetfall

Posted: 12th June 2017 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , ,

609th played so far

Genre: Interactive Fiction
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1983
Developer: Infocom
Publisher: Infocom

It feels like the arcades dominate these early years of gaming, and my mind, when seeing a title like Planetfall, automatically assumes it’s some action gamer or shooter once again with a space theme.

The space theme is still there, but instead we get another Infocom adventure. That’s a good thing – even now they’re still good story writing for games, and they were amazing compared to everything else that was put out in the day. Will I be able to survive the puzzles?

Our Thoughts

So it did, and although some puzzles were clear – making it out of the spaceship where you start to a relatively safe space is quite manageable – this game adds a hunger and sleep mechanic. I suppose it’s sensible that it does so, but it’s another puzzle to solve that makes itself more difficult by the long term inplications if you don’t quite get it – it can create dead ends that you can’t get out of with a restore, especially considering how far away from the solution you can be considering distance.

Still, it makes for an interesting experiment, and I can see why you would try it. It suits the difficulty these games tend to go for, and it’s something where if I had the time, I would probably enjoy diving into it repeatedly.

For this playthrough, however, I’ll admit that I grabbed a walkthrough after my first few tries. That created some odd back and forth to work around inventory limits, but at least showed me how to get past the nutrition limits.

What I got at that point was that the story, so far at least, might not have been that amazing. The real value is in the game’s worldbuilding, taking you through a weird alien castle (with some odd injokey rooms) and having you explore the base. For that, it’s good fun at least, even if it feels like a lot of work to get through.

Final Thoughts

I am really intrigued by interactive fiction, but at this point the game feels quite harsh and unsuited for the casual exploration I like to do. It’s a nice world to dive into, just with some flaws.

#619 Unreal Tournament 2004

Posted: 8th June 2017 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

608th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Atari

One of my big early FPS experiences was the first Unreal game, one of the early games in the genre to play with story telling and audio logs. It was a new experience that I wasn’t used to and inspired me.

Sadly, that didn’t end up on my list, but as is often the case, it’s the multiplayer in the series that really made a dent, and (in the vein of Quake III Arena) got its own series of games. This is the sequel to the first in that series, for whatever reason.

Our Thoughts

So despite the game having a clear multiplayer focus, Unreal Tournament‘s single player goes beyond a bot tutorial designed to get you into multiplayer as quickly as possible. It takes you through an actual tournament – getting you to qualify and then (presumably) winning it. It’s not just on rails, but you earn money based on performance. It gives you some choices and direction, which really helps sell it as a good experience. Sure, there’s no real story, but there’s some real progression.

The shooting, then, is pretty decent. It’s nicely chaotic, set up to just throw many players in there, and the levels are large enough that it’s more than just a firefight. There’s a bit of exploration, but mostly the different levels and areas split up the fights quite nicely.

Final Thoughts

A multiplayer focused FPS is what it is, and for my style of play that comes down to the bots you play against. Here, they feel like they have a bit more personality than normal, they have some interesting strengths and bring what feels like a nice bit of variation.

I doubt I’d keep up with multiplayer – and I have no real interest to submerge myself in it – which means the game lacks some longevity for me, but it’s been working well enough so far.

607th played so far

Genre: Stealth/Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Playstation Portable
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: SCE Bend Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

It’s time to start covering some more stealth games – Metal Gear Solid had filled our quota for a while, while we added here and there, but now it’s time to actually catch up on it again.

I’ve not played any games in the Syphon Filter series and, to be honest, outside of this game I didn’t really know it existed. This makes it a completely new experience for me – assuming it works for me in the first place.

Our Thoughts

I’ll be honest, Logan’s Shadow is fairly forgettable for the most part, the idea of a stealth infiltration of a boat feeling fairly repetitive. What didn’t help is that the game didn’t seem to leave much room for stealth… for me it really mostly played as a shooter. I probably missed tricks along the path, but it didn’t matter much if I just shot everyone I encountered.

So I don’t think I quite got the game, both in making it more interesting and getting the gameplay. It sounds like the plot is a high point, which I couldn’t really get to anyway, and the cover system doesn’t seem to make it stealthy to me.

Beyond that, the game plays fine, pretty much as you’d expect, with too many options for me to always remember (although I did manage quite well, so I guess it’s just the appearance of it, rather than it actually being too much).

Final Thoughts

This game is fine, I suppose. Not as stealthy as I was expecting, but there seems to be a lot to it anyway – I guess it could get better, it’s just a shame the start feels like a scenario I’ve seen quite often by now.

#1008 Portal 2

Posted: 31st May 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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606th played so far

Genre: Platform/Puzzle
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2011
Developer: Valve Corporation
Publisher: Valve Corporation

I’ve been simultaneously looking forward to the sequel to Portal, and been holding off on it as a possible final puzzle game. In the end, the determining factor was that we got Lego Dimensions (part of the series that started with Lego Star Wars), got the Portal pack, and felt we needed to play the sequel to understand the references. We just had to go for it, helped by getting Peter to play it for Before I Kick.

Our Thoughts

Portal 2 feels distinctly different from the first game from the start. The first game starts off in a clean room, takes you through crafted, clean areas that look very designed and contained. This starts breaking down near the end, but that’s part of a tonal shift and a clear change in the game. The second starts with the facility breaking down, and while the clean rooms are there, they’re not as clean.

It continues like that. The game starts off feeling the same as the first, with signs that things are breaking down, following the same beats with some alterations. Then it breaks down, and the second half of the game takes you away from the clean Aperture Science into the history of the company and its other off beat products.

It leads to a lot more interesting puzzles, with repulsion and speed up powers allowing for far different areas. Unfortunately, they also create more open worlds where a few times I got stuck not because I couldn’t figure out the puzzle, but because a panel seemed too hidden or the precision required was a bit much. One incident requiring you to shoot a portal at long distance through bars comes to mind as being particularly fiddly.

It’s the writing and storytelling that becomes more impressive. The original Portal was fairly simple – one character, really, set up through voice acting and only visible at the end. In the sequel Wheatley shows up in the first scene. He is a part of your journey through the game, while GLaDOS, defeated before, ends up taking a different route as well. Some of the later revelations regarding her personality are especially interesting.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to say whether I really think Portal 2 is better than Portal. It expands the story and mechanics, breaking down the aesthetic to create a new, interesting setup. It removes the focus of the first game, which repeated far more concepts (except the boss fight at the end, which felt less a part of what the game was anyway). On its own, however, there were a lot of interesting puzzles here, and an interesting world to walk through.

605th played so far

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: AlphaDream
Publisher: Nintendo

I’ve been holding off on covering the Mario & Luigi series for a hwile until we started running out of Mario series games a bit… I really love the Mario RPGs and these are the ones I probably have the most affinity with. We’re covering the three games in the series that were out at the time the first edition of the book was released, and that means starting at the first game that paired Mario and Luigi in a single RPG.

Our Thoughts

There is something special about Mario RPGs. They are fairly light and funny, but the gameplay systems go surprisingly deep cmpared to what you’d expect. The timed attack and defense are still here in this version – more noticeably than in other games as the damage values are higher and some enemies expect you to use them, which requires quite a bit of memorization. Both hammer and jump attacks exist, like previous games, and of course it matters for the enemies. But having two brothers on the field at one time, you get a bunch of strategy that the single character(ish) Paper Mario games do not have.

While Super Mario RPG had a party, it played like a standard Square RPG, with limited interaction between party members beyond the likes of buffs and multi member attack. Superstar Saga takes this further, by allowing the brothers to combine attacks (with multiple button prompts), as well as requiring observation to see which brother will be attacked. The last turns into a bit of puzzle, moving the defense system beyond just the right timing into getting the right button press as well as the right time. It’s not too difficult if you know what you’re looking for, but it can take some time to make the connection.

The brother interaction, then, really makes for some unique combat situations, but the neat thing is that it applies to the world as well. Several barriers need to be crossed by the brothers working together, jumping one after the other, and the game delights in creating new situations where their powers need to work together. This is even more special once you get specific powers, and have things like Luigi squashing Mario with his hammer so the latter can fit through small holes. They really reward exploration and backtracking without feeling forced or limited. Furthermore, a lot of the powers feel a bit slapsticky, which adds to the light tone the game has throughout.

The story is partially standard – save the Princess’s voice after it has been stolen (and later save the Princess herself). It takes place, at least initially, without Bowser as the main protagonist – a nice tradition of many Mario RPG games to give a different antagonist – and moves you to a new kingdom mostly populated by green bean creatures. You still encounter many known enemies, but by avoiding having too many Toads, the game again creates a unique atmosphere. It also delights in its own wackiness, not making it (somehow) too serious an adventure and through that creating a story that’s far more memorable. It avoids a lot of the standard Mario story tropes (and allows them back in later when they fit better) while introducing a new cast that feels just as worthwhile to play. Of course a lot of it is restricted to cameos in later games, but here’s it’s just good enough.

Final Thoughts

Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga starts a subseries that feels unique enough to have its own voice and niche. It still feels like Mario, and especially like a Mario RPG, but it doesn’t force in what it doesn’t need, and creates its own additions that create a far more interesting world. For me, I prefer the Mario & Luigi series to the Paper Mario run because of its weirdness, and this game shows best why this is the case.

#425 Faselei!

Posted: 23rd May 2017 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , , ,

604th played so far

Genre: Strategy/Role-Playing
Platform: Neo Geo Pocket Color
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: Sacnoth
Publisher: SNK

Faselei! is a game that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find out more about, but one that’s quite tricky to do so. Released for the rather small Neo Geo Pocket Color, this strategy game doesn’t have a Wikipedia page and never seems to have been that big – despite being, it seems, one of the most notable games of the system.

To find it on the list is, to say the least, interesting. Obviously, with the little research I can do, I’m not quite sure why, but I’d like to find out. A strategy/RPG is my sort of game, so I have to give this a try.

Our Thoughts

Faselei, at its core, plays like a tactical RPG. In fact, in look and feel during the battles it mostly reminded me of Advance Wars, which doesn’t have RPG elements itself, but the initial impression worked as well. The turn based aspects feel quite differently developed, however, which is where the strategic part becomes interesting.

Rather than having a limit on move and attacks like a lot of these games have, keeping the pools separate and always giving you stuff to do with multiple characters, here you control one character with a bunch of actions per turn. These actions are turn, move forward, use an equipped weapon or other (often more situation specific) actions. You define these beforehand and everyone’s actions take place at once. It requires a bunch of planning and prep, making combat even more tactical and all about predicting what should happen. It’s a different challenge, and despite the limitations, I did enjoy it.

Sadly, I found that I became useless quite early on. Your ammo is limited, which left me running around trying to get my ally to kill the opponent instead. In part this was because I was supposed to equip between missions. I thought I had done – but I apparently failed to do so two missions in a row. I also found it hard to predict what to get versus when to save, so I suspect I never would have had enough ammo anyway, but it made the game quite difficult to get going.

The RPG elements themselves are fairly weak in comparison. You can buy upgrades and improve yourself, but I hadn’t found it to be strong for the sections I played. It seems to mostly be there to add flavour to the strategy. Not that I mind – it actually works quite well for me here.

Final Thoughts

Sadly, some interface or balancing issues meant that I aborted my playthrough a bit earlier than I really wanted to. I was still imporessed with what was there, considering how dense the content was and all the options that were present. I would love to see this game remade – it seems perfect for a mobile device and a bit of cleanup would make it perfect.