#233 NBA Jam

Posted: 24th February 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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582nd played so far

nbajam

Genre: Sports
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1993
Developer: Midway
Publisher: Midway

My knowledge of basketball is probably summed up best by saying that the podcast Pistol Shrimps Radio actually teaches me things about the game, and that the most exposure I’ve had to it was through the Michael Jordan classic Space Jam. I absolutely dread the newer NBA 2k10 that’s on the list, based on how I tend to find new sports game impossibly difficult to get into.

Older games tend to fare a bit better, being less complex, so I hope that will pay off today.

Our Thoughts

NBA Jam is, indeed, a lot more accessible and so a lot more fun than other sports games like FIFA 2010, closer to something like ISS Pro Evolution. The big advantage is that it’s 2vs2, where you play with one character and the other is AI controlled. You don’t need to fight to keep track of who’s who, and don’t need to deal with control jumping around. It’s simpler, but because of that easier for the layman.

It is a decent – simple and fun – sports game. Because there aren’t many players, tactics don’t get complex, and getting to the basket and throwing is tricky, but not that difficult. It is mostly very playable.

Final Thoughts

Sports games tend to work as they should, and it’s often difficult to really point out the differences – this lets you play basketball, and it’s simpler because it’s with less players. That saves it for me, but, as always, not really following the sport means that I don’t get as much enjoyment out of it as others would. Good in the genre may sound insulting, but it works here.

581st played so far

godofwar

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: SCE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

The last time we visited Kratos, in God of War 2, Peter probably played more of it than I did. It’s down to experience and familiarity with the controller, as well as general frustration tolerance.

Now that the blog has moved more towards me updating it (although in this case motivated by Peter wanting to play as well), this runthrough might be slightly more interesting – and because of that probably a more authentic ‘me’ experience.

Our Thoughts

I’ve had some sweary experiences during this game – not quite noticing the signposting for some pbattles, and some errors throwing you back a bit further than seems justified – but mostly being annoyed at my lack of skills. QTEs aren’t always my thing, while this series really relies on them.

Despite that, after all, I kept going. A large part of that was because there were a bunch of set pieces I wanted to get to. The series thrives on these, and doesn’t disappoint. Normal battles set you up for amazing setpieces, the big ones go over the top – but in a good way. The main disadvantage is that the attention on QTEs sometimes mean bosses don’t quite have the same battle setup, but it doesn’t really matter for them.

Exploration and puzzle solving is encouraged – the puzzles aren’t that difficult to solve, but exploring them leads to plenty of useful collectibles. Mostly, still, of the “make this bar longer” kind, but that’s most of what you need.

The settings themselves add to it – all (for the extent I played) based on Greek and Greek mythology environments, which helps the whole feeling. The enemies are mostly appropriately grotesque, with a lot of thought put into making them roughly respectable and matching the description while also making them feel ‘evil’.

Final Thoughts

God of War  isn’t difficult, but it’s challenging enough for me – I’m glad I’ve gotten more used to the controller, as that makes these games a lot better. Character advancement is fine, but this game interests me more than its partners in the genre like the Devil May Cry series.

#809 Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts

Posted: 16th February 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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580th played so far

Banjo-Kazooie_Nuts_&_Bolts_Game_Cover

Genre: Platform
Platform: Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Microsoft

Moving around the canon of Banjo-Kazooie a bit, for various reasons, Nuts and Bolts feels like a late entry for a 3D platforming hero – the genre seemed to be forgotten about around this point. This game draws on some additional influences, mainly advertising a vehicle building game that I’m sure will be useful later. Let’s see whether that works.

Our Thoughts

As the name implies, this game places a heavy emphasis on building vehicles. You get a bunch predesigned, but are encouraged to build your own (which probably is better than the pre-created vehicles). The various levels are accessed in a way to many other of these platformers, themed areas that slowly unlock as you finish missions elsewhere. We saw it in Super Mario 64, but many others have done it since.

Pretty nuch all of these missions require the use of vehicles. Luckily there are plenty of styles – light and fast, heavy and slow, and some that can fly – to provide enough variety, but I felt the limits of this system sometimes – I was hoping I could get a bit of platforming out of it each time.

Still, the vehicle parts provide you with plenty of collectibles to look for, and at least the gameplay makes for an interesting game, a nice mix of a driving game and a 3D platformer of sorts. There are still some odd touches – and I certainly struggled with some of the “grapple thing and drag it around” setups – but it’s a decent idea.

Final Thoughts

I’m not sure I’m quite as much on board with this game as with other platformers. The driving makes for a nice change as an interesting way to change the formula, but it feels a clumsy at times and a bit repetitive. A world I want to explore, but it’ll take some time.

#332 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Posted: 12th February 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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579th played so far

Castlevania_SOTN_PAL

Genre: Action
Platform: PlayStation/Saturn
Year of Release: 1997
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

Most of the Metroidvanias we have played so far have been Metroid, rather than Castlevania. We have previously played Super Castlevania IV, the first on the list chronologically, which was a good 2D platformer in an open area.

This is the next one on the list, although, looking at Wikipedia, several games came in between. And of course in the series chronology, it comes somewhere in the middle. Still, it’s a series I’ve been wanting to play more of. Here we go.

Our Thoughts

One of the things I didn’t realise is that in 1997, tutorials weren’t quite as common, and I didn’t check a manual beforehand. So it took a while before I figured out save games and weapon use. That initially made my life more difficult, I had to figure it out as I went along. Not always that well – considering that I struggled with the intro fight, that was meant to be the recreation of the final fight of the previous game.

Then you re-enter the (reconfigured) mansion, fighting enemies along the way (plenty with trickier ways of attacking, not just a straight up ‘kill them’) and rather quickly gathering power. There’s an experience mechanism involved, so you level up to become stronger which led to some early grinding.

That was because the first boss already was tricky for me to defeat (guide writers disagreed, but I’m not a great platform gamer – as we knew already). I needed the extra health to survive some more attacks. Then there was figuring out the strategy – who to attack first, and how to get them stun locked, something that felt a tad cheaty, but was needed.

Then, of course, I failed to find a place to heal, and got a game over running around like a headless chicken trying to find one… It got me a lot deeper in, but the game really relies on you backtracking and finding different places to go. It’s a lot of fun, I just panicked unnecessarily. There was so much more mansion than I could fit in my head – I’ll need to get a map up in the future.

Final Thoughts

I think this game was a bit too difficult for me, in large part because I’m not used to the genre and struggled with my reflexes and recognising enemy behaviours. At the same time, interactions that appear in the rooms were interesting from the start and I would love to explore when I get more abilities. I’m sure future games will be just as appealing.

578th played so far

Psn_everyday_shooter_icon

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up/Music
Platform: Playstation 3/Playstation Portable/PC
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Queasy Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Time for another twinstick shooter, this one with a musical bend (again, we’re catching up on some music games here). It’s meant to generate music based on what you shoot during the game.

Our Thoughts

Everyday Shooter doesn’t feel like a big game. As a shooter, it’s interesting to a point – there is some variety in the enemies, with big things that stick arround and require plenty of shots, as well as a lot of bullet hell style waves.

And if it wasn’t for the music, it feels like that’s all it would be. Nothing notable really, in my mind. I’m not sure it even looks that inspiring.

It’s the music that makes this interesting. Like, say, Chime or Lumines, your actions on the playing field changes the music that plays, in this case modifying it based on the enemies you hit. It makes for an interesting effect, creating more meaningful effects and giving additional feedback on your actions.

Final Thoughts

Maybe it’s because I feel I’ve played enough of these shooters by now, or maybe it’s because this one just wasn’t as memorable, but Everyday Shooter didn’t leave me with a great impression – certainly not a game I’d rush back to. I enjoyed it fine, I suppose, but wouldn’t necessarily seek it out again. It’s a bit too minimalist for my taste.

#896 Bit. Trip Core

Posted: 4th February 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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577th played so far

Bit_trip_core

Genre: Action/Music
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Gaijin Games

The Bit. Trip series of games is – as far as I know, a set of small games that rely on rhythm game mechanics inside a bunch of other game genres. Bit. Trip Core is the second in the series, after Pong-based game Bit. Trip Beat and before endless runners, shooters and more. They share the rhythm mechanics, as well as the retro aesthetics. For this, we get closer to standard rhythm games.

Our Thoughts

The basics of this game resemble most other ‘standard’ music/rhythm games: squares fly to a line and you have to press the appropriate button at the right time. The difference here is that instead of it being one dimensional – often a straight line leading to the action point – it’s two dimensional here. The hit areas are laid out like a cross, similar to a d-pad (up, down, left, right), and obviously each direction corresponds to one on the controller.

It mostly means that you’re paying attention to more of the screen, as you have to see when each hit comes in, what the order is (especially when there are different speeds of the blocks) and they play around with blocks moving back and forth. It’s never playedd unfairly – they don’t change direction on you – but they require very quick reaction times. It’s incredibly difficult to keep up with, but the game has plenty of forgivement mechanics build in. Do well enough for long enough and the mistakes will be forgotten. Do badly and first you go to the ‘Nether’, which is a black and white stripped down version of the game. You lose the cool visuals and music, but let’s you focus. On the other hand, if you do really well you get rewarded with more sound and visuals – which are also just as distracting. And all of this flows naturally, which makes it feel even better.

As said, the aesthetics are ‘retro’ – in that they’re mostly blocky, Amiga style (Adventure as we played it is actually a pretty good reference). It’s more refined than that – the background are a lot more detailed and colourful, assuming you do well enough, and of course the music sounds better than what you could do in those days, but your UI and gameplay elements follow that trend. That simplicity aids it, focusing the gameplay and allowing everything to flow out of that instead.

Final Thoughts

This game plays really well. It intentionally looks the way it looks – it wouldn’t win prices for it, but it works for the gameplay. It plays really well, though, slowly increasing the challenge (and teaching you different block types along the way, giving you some time to get used to it before throwing it into the more hectic mix). In fact, one downside is that there is no explanation at all, making starting the game more difficult than it should be, but after that it really does work out well and you want to see what more is coming.

576th played so far

Psn_super_stardust_hd_icon

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Playstation 3
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Housemarque
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Time to go in for another shooter. Super Stardust HD is a remake of the 1994 Amiga game of Super Stardust, itself a sequel, that has you flying around destroying asteroids and enemies across different levels.

It looks like the upgrade has made more changes than just a graphical upgrade, but those are the ones interesting to explore now.

Our Thoughts

Let’s start with the most interesting upgrade. The original game played out on a standard rectangle screen. Here, however, the game has changed to take place around a planet – moving around in circles, looping as you would expect them to. It’s pretty fast paced and means that danger can keep coming from all directions. Things spawn behind the planet, making reacting more challenging.

It makes for a more frantic version of Asteroids at first, firing at rocks to destroy and get rid of them. Rocks have certain weapons they are weak against, and as you collect those from drops, the game can switch automatically for you to make killing them easiest. Then later, enemy spacecrafts come in and hunt you down, making it even more tense as you’re not just dodging set courses, but need to avoid more actively – can’t just clear your way by shooting ahead.

Changing to the spherical playing field enhances the graphical upgrade as well. It creates a slightly different look that works quite well, making the game feel more 3D than known shooters like this have. It’s enough to make it feel modern.

Final Thoughts

Super Stardust HD is a strong shooter. The update makes this a new game in its own right (based on Youtube videos of the original Super Stardust) that feels fresh, slightly more challenging without going too far. Fun to play around with – at least for this type of shooter.

#976 Torchlight

Posted: 27th January 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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575th played so far

TorchlightRetailBox

Genre: Action/Role-Playing
Platform: PC/Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Runic Games

I’m not quite sure why I’ve taken so long to try Torchlight – other than there being so many other games to play for the list. It’s a Diablo related game, heavily streamlined compared to the awkwardness of the first in that series – we’ll see what the sequel brings us later.

So once again, we’ll be delving into many dungeons, kill things, loot and see where the story takes us.

Our Thoughts

Torchlight is addictive. There are plenty of quests to keep following, through plenty of dungeons with a lot of loot to collect. While the latter two provide a lot of short term push, the quests added a lot of the push for me. The dungeons are more varied than I got from Diablo, showing not just standard mines, but also libraries and more constructed fortresses. It’s a fun loop that kept drawing me in.

There are a bunch of improvements that, it feels, the game may have made to the genre. For one, you don’t have to keep traveling to town to sell things you don’t need. You just give them to your pet and send them off to sell it for you. It is a nice thing that simultaneously satisfies packrat instincts and stops you taking unnecessary trips. Shortcuts do open up, of course – and a spell allows you to put your own in – but outside of quests it doesn’t feel quite as urgent.

There are plenty of powers and abilities to play with, and more as you gain AI controlled characters helping you. As you level up you gain and improve skills, the options depending on your chosen character type. It isn’t revolutionary, but is done well and plays nicely.

The game looks good too. Of course you get repeat areas, but they look interesting and there are some big set pieces that don’t get repeated (or don’t do so often), with views of different levels that make it feel more like a together dungeon, even if it won’t match up in reality. They feel distinct and a treat when you see them.

Final Thoughts

Torchlight is a good roguelike RPG, a major improvement on Diablo, although it has had a lot of time to actually reach this point. It’s a good upgrade in graphics and the gameplay is a lot of fun.

In fact, it’s the set pieces that feel unique where the game shines, together with the amount of polish the game has put in. It really makes the game feel like it offers an amazing experience.

#496 Battlefield 1942

Posted: 23rd January 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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574th played so far

Battlefield_1942_Box_Art

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Digital Illusions
Publisher: Electronic Arts

There are four games on this list that are from the Battlefield franchise, with this one being the oldest. It’s another franchise of military shooters – the Call of Duty series coming from the same lineage. Not that that feels like a good thing to me.

Our Thoughts

Playing this single player, as I usually do, I’m not sure why that mode was really in the game. The game is very multiplayer focused, with the singleplayer ‘campaign’ just consisting of a multiplayer map where you take one side and work alongside bots through scenarios and the like. It makes for some compelling shooting, but not much of a story.

It was a fun experience. I was fully aware that I wasn’t getting the full experience, but there were some interesting challenges. The first map was the most boring – just an equal three bases vs three bases, try to conquer more of them sort of thing. Because it was a mirrored setup, it was pretty simple. Later maps changed that, leading to more interesting situations. For example, one required you to march forward and conquer bases the other team was holding, while the third I played had you defending an island while the other team kept coming in. It was still about conquering and keeping bases, but it went more creative to create more interesting situations.

The game looks fine for its age as you do that, a bit dated, as you would expect. It’s functional, really, which works in a way that it directs you to your goals. The levels feel fairly large, done in a way that makes you actually feel the scope. It feels to revel in it sometimes, not needing to hide transitions through corridors or similar. It’s a pretty decent and fun setup.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think I really got the Battlefield experience. Not in a way that would let me seek it out again, but in a way where I could just blast things and have fun running around. The sort of release you often say you get out of an FPS. Good for a few hours really.

#937 Left 4 Dead 2

Posted: 19th January 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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573nd played so far

Left4Dead2

Genre: Survival Horror/Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: PC/Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Valve Corporation
Publisher: Valve Corporation

We’ve played Left 4 Dead a few years ago. We quite enjoyed it then, and it feels like zombie media still haven’t gone out of fashion. The sequel creates new stories in a similar setting – with an updated engine and some more experience.

Our Thoughts

Sure, Left 4 Dead 2 really just gives you more Left 4 Dead. At the same time, it adds something to it. While a lot of the game is still traversing levels, there are parts where it feels more open (even when it isn’t) with the game guiding you in the right direction. It’s good. I can’t say for sure how well it’d work in multiplayer – I was doing single player with bot companions, due to my eternal annoyance with and fear of multiplayer – but here it made for a fun experience.

All the annoying zombies made a return, with less of a tutorial than I played in the first game – but I believe it might include enough of the first to serve that. Beyond that, it’s nice micro storytelling – not necessarily creating a big story, but the dynamic enemy behaviour that’s still present creates plenty of moments even if it’s not a conventional narrative.

It looks refreshed too. Brighter and cleaner, with larger open sections in the game that give the impression of more options, and more customized, interesting environments that invite more exploration – sometimes leading to some more items, helping with the scarcity.

Final Thoughts

I’m not quite sure when I’ll get back to the game, or if I ever will. I’m not quite invested enough in shooters for it, and there are other zombie games higher on the list. It’s well executed though, and I can see how Left 4 Dead 2 could get incredibly addictive and fun to play.